Wednesday, October 30, 2019

The Kitbashed X: Separated at Birth?

Above: A monorail suspiciously similar to the Alstom Citadis Spirit cruises the mean pylons of Radiant City in Mister X: Eviction
The Confederation line woes continue, and it looks like some city officials are getting even more desperate: Transit chair chides commissioners for speaking out about LRT chaos. It isn't the city councillors and transit commissioners looking for answers that're the problem, it's the LRT itself. It gives me no pleasure to say that because I'm a supporter of LRT, and railed urban transit in general, but what we're seeing, and riders are experiencing, is far from good and needs to be fixed. I have a feeling testing may have been skimped on, but on 6 November, the LRT head is supposed to report on what is causing all these problems, and what's being done to fix them. Stay tuned.

Monday, October 28, 2019

Add action to your railroad layout....

The great workshop cleanup continues, and in the process I'm carefully examining any Tyco boxes I still have around in the hopes of finding more clues about E. L. Moore based kits.

The lower box (which contained a 62' Pepsi boxcar bought at North York Hobbies for $3.98) dates from 1976, and the upper one (which contained a Tyco 50th anniversary 50' plug door boxcar bought at George's Trains, also for $3.98) is probably the same vintage. Nothing E. L. Moore related on these boxes, but that Factory kit, product number 940, looks interesting.

One more thing about Tyco, Vince sent me this amazing link, Faces at the Tyco Factory in 1976 Hong Kong. I've scoured every image looking for anything E. L. Moore related, but no dice.

Sunday, October 27, 2019

From the Time Machine's Glove Box: A Not So Gran Turismo

As I continue to clean up and reorganize the workshop things keep getting delayed as I find stuff I'm compelled to stop and reminisce about. I found the old box for Revell's Gran Turismo kit that I built up many years ago. I lusted after this kit as a kid, but never found one in a local store, so dreams of building it were shelved. Well, shelved until 10 or so years ago when I found a 1997 re-pop at a hobby store. I built it up and posted it at retroDynamics. I learned it was tough project and I don't think I could have been successful if I had built it as a kid. Even the box says: Some Modeling Skills Helpful If Under 10. Let me tell you, they're also helpful if you're over 10 :-) Here's the post from retroDynamics in all its glory.

I think Revell first released this kit back in the early ‘70s. Well, all I know for certain is that I first saw it in their 1974-75 catalog. For some reason I wanted to build that kit, but could never find it in a local store. This one I bought a few years ago at a hobby store in Montreal. The instructions have a 1997 date, so it’s no doubt a re-pop from the original molds.

Back in the ‘70s I had a love / hate relationship with Revell kits. I loved the automotive subjects they produced and I built a few: Porsche 911, Datsun 610, 1955 Chevy, 1955 Chevy panel van, and probably some others that have slipped my mind. And there were a few I wanted to build, but never did: the Gran Turismo, Spark Bug, Barris Rolls, among others.
But, I hated the quality of the kits at times; back then their quality seemed to be always hit-and-miss. Sometimes the bodies would have warps and molding imperfections that were difficult for an inexperienced modeler like myself to correct; the tires were always two-piece affairs that had to be glued together, but struck me as not being very ‘tire-like’ for some unknown reason; chrome plating seemed brittle; parts had fit problems; and so on. Well, this Gran Turismo is no different. In fact, it’s probably the worst I’ve encountered, and it’s so bad that I’m glad I didn’t attempt this build as a kid.

Look, I’m not dumping on the kit, it’s just that, if you’re going to build this one, it’s good to know it’s a product from a different era that hasn’t aged well. I found that the parts are not crisply molded, have fit issues, have lots of flash that needs cleaning up, are peppered with circular dimples from the molding process, and need a more thorough than usual cleaning with soap and water to prep them for painting. On the other hand, it’s a relatively simple build with few parts and lots of scope for trying out some of your own ideas, which I did.

The first thing I did was strip all the chromed parts in SuperClean. The plating was terrible: a bit flakey, non-uniform, and very toy-like. Usually it’s clear sailing once this step is done. Not so this time. I jumped into assembling the engine and chassis, but every single part required extensive cleanup to remove flash from molding and burrs from the parts trees.

Even after all that work the parts still looked blobby and misshapen. This bugged me and I’m not even close to being a stickler over the crispness of moldings. So, instead of carefully cleaning, pre-painting and gluing up assemblies as is my usual approach, I decided to switch to something more aggressive: very, very basic parts preparation and then straight to gluing. I figured I’d build it up fast and try and tune-up the look to something not too horrible with some broad brush painting supplemented with some detail and weathering washes.

The body was another story. It wasn’t too badly molded. It was fairly crisp in appearance and wasn’t warped. I sprayed it with Krylon Hammered Nickel Silver. I like the results, although the fit of the lower body panels isn't that great.

The sorry state of the parts was a great incentive to do some customization. I replaced the wheels and tires with items from a Revell Honda Civic kit. The seats are also from that kit. They had to have their floor mounted seat-adjustment moldings ground off to fit on the floor pan, but the seat adjustments won’t be seen as missing-in-action once the seats are installed.

For reference, the kit allows you to install either a VW or Corvair engine; I chose the Corvair. Not that it’ll make much difference to the final look.

Don’t look too closely at what I’ve done with the wheels and tires – it’s not very realistic; it’s just an expedient approach to fixing a problem with getting the wheel-base to look right.

But, after all my grousing I still like how this kit turned out.

Ok, well, even after the rushed final assembly and misalignment between the body and chassis that resulted, I’m still happy with the build.

Back last Sunday I looked around and saw that the project was just about done, and I figured a little concentrated effort on my part would finish it off. It did, but as usual it took me longer than I thought: a few minutes here-and-there all throughout the day meant that it didn’t get finished until the early evening.

One thing that didn’t turn out quite right was gluing the body to the chassis / interior. I did a few trial-runs, and on the last fateful one I applied some superglue to the appropriate parts and went for it. Ooops. In my haste some misalignment occurred and it couldn’t be corrected. In some views – pure front and rear views – it’s very noticeable, but not so much in others. I accepted it and went on with attaching the little windshield and taillights to finish off the project.

The Gran Turismo is some sort of kit-car, or maybe even a dune-buggy, so it looks a little insubstantial compared to other car models. To me it has a squished Honda del Sol or Pontiac Fiero look to it. Not too bad, but the box art gives me the impression of a somewhat more sleek and streamlined vehicle.

If I came across another Gran Turismo kit I’d buy it just for the body. I think when combined with a more conventional chassis and interior bucket it might build up into an interesting little sports car.

In the end, I’d say if you have a sentimental attachment to this kit as I did, give it a try, but be warned that there’s lots of tedious work ahead. Now, if I could just find one of those old Revell Spark Bug kits…………

Saturday, October 26, 2019

Standing desk for hobby bench

Over the last few months I've been looking for some sort of desk frame that could be adjusted to either a standing or sitting position to replace my workshop hobby bench. I've found the 45" height of my layout to be quite comfortable to work at, and thought an adjustable standing desk might also be good for general hobby work.

In the end I bought an adjustable desk frame from Lee Valley (catalog item 00580.37) and attached a recycled 2'x4'x1/2" pressboard top. The frame has a manual hand crank that allows the top to be lowered to a sitting position, or raised up a standing position that's well above the top of my layout.

I also replaced the frame's stock foot pads with locking casters (Lee Valley item 00K27.40) so the table can be rolled around to wherever it's needed. The casters are probably not rugged enough for general workshop use, but the frame is well within their load carrying capacity. For lightweight model building work these casters are fine, but I wouldn't sit or stand on this desk, or subject it to hard use.

One benefit I see is it should make working on the Elizabeth Valley RR somewhat easier as I've had a problem with finding a good stand for it while I'm fiddling with it. Now I can crank the desk up to full standing position and work on it with the same ease as the OPL.

Friday, October 25, 2019

5 Days of LRT Delays

CBC television here in Ottawa is reporting that there has been a delay in the LRT system everyday this week. They seem to be happening far more frequently now that full operation has been underway for a few weeks. 

Whenever I hear about more system delays my thoughts go back to this video from September when the system was still more-or-less brand new, but even then was having issues. Mr. Manconi's tone, he's the top guy responsible for the LRT, explaining how he and his team will dismiss out-of-hand reported problems, is somewhat condescending, and seems to foreshadow where the system is today. "Let the system relax": it does seem a little too relaxed, and commuters are paying for it. LRT is getting a bad rep and, so far, deservedly so.

Thursday, October 24, 2019

From the Time Machine's Glovebox: Light Ray Blues

Before I started on the E. L. Moore series, the most viewed series here at 30Squares was the multi-part pulp novella, Light Ray Blues

Light Ray Blues was posted as two series, with part 1 of series 1 published in September 2012. Series 1 turned out to be the most popular of the two. Here's Part 1 of series 1, and part 1 of series 2.

These days the all-time, most viewed item is the Index to the E. L. Moore models posts
*The non-existent pulp magazine cover over there was created on the PULP-O-MIZER.

**There was also a pulp fiction / E. L. Moore mash-up short story where I tried to get the best of both worlds in One day in July of 1967.

Sunday, October 20, 2019

First attempt at a sign for A&A's

It was surprisingly difficult to find what I thought might be suitable colours for A&A's main sign. I finally settled on some Tamyia red and orange in spray cans.

I sprayed the backs of the sign pieces with appropriate colours, but the application turned out a bit mottled - even after some test pieces suggested the paint would go on clean and smooth. Clearly, I didn't properly clean the surfaces.

Also, there was some overspray on the front surface - which I wanted to remain paint-free and glossy - where I didn't fully seal the masking tape. 

Basically, I need to cut 2 new pieces and try again.

Cross section through the street

Just a little elaboration on the track inserts post. You'll probably need to click on the image to see the large view, but this is an end shot of the 4' Ocean Boulevard street panel. Basically, the track is attached directly to the panel with pins and glue, and then 1/8" foam sheet is used to bring the base for the street and sidewalk nearly up to the level of the rail head. The road surface is a layer of 0.010" styrene brought close to the rail head and glued to the foam. The sidewalks on either side are 0.040" styrene, and the curbing is 0.040" x 0.020" strip. On a track strip, those inserts are inserted between the rails, and between the track strips I've inserted a length of 0.040" styrene sheet. Although, in retrospect I'd now probably use 0.030" because I've had issues with streetcar wheels riding up on the centre strip.

Saturday, October 19, 2019

Lunar Postal Ultravan

Because even on the moon it's important to get your mail delivered on time :-)

I'm cleaning out the workshop and came across some old model kit boxes I should have thrown out years ago, but couldn't. One was for this MPC Ultravan from 1976. 

Years ago I built it into a lunar postal office delivery truck when I was on a fictional - and wild - space vehicles kick. Clearly the moon dust has been hard on the windshield, and I hope those tires are solid and not filled with air! 

Thursday, October 17, 2019

Some E. L. Moore TYCOKITs

I was cleaning up the workshop a bit, and just before tossing out this old TYCOKIT version of the Speedy Andrews' Repair Shop box, I noticed out of the corner of my eye what was printed on the back: a visual list of some of the kits that were for sale at the time. 7 of the 18 listed, or 39%, are either from the E. L. Moore Original 9, or derivations based on them. I'm guessing this box is from the '70s as it doesn't have a UPC.

Also, I'm pretty sure the Arlee Station shown is based on Rob Corristan's October 1967 Railroad Model Craftsman article.

Wednesday, October 16, 2019

Simple street track inserts for a simple track plan

Geoff was asking me if I could talk a little about the track inserts I've used to simulate the paving around the streetcar track on the Ocean Park Loop. That's fairly straightforward, but it opens up a few deeper questions into streetcar layout planning. I'll start with the how-to, and then discuss a bit why I chose the method I did.

Making track inserts

That's an untrimmed track insert over on the right. It's just a few glued up pieces of styrene.

The bottom piece is 0.010" styrene cut to a width of approximately 13 mm. It'll sit on top of the track's moulded on spike heads (I've used standard Atlas code 100 HO scale track).

The apron that's glued on top is 0.030" styrene. I've scored lines across its width to mimic the joints on the TTC streetcar apron you'll see in some parts of the city. 

Two additional parts that're missing in this view are pieces of 0.030" x 0.020" styrene stock that are glued to the sides of the apron to simulate the other side of the girder rail. They're painted a weathered steel colour along with the exposed portion of the 0.010" base.

Now, one thing about the insert's dimensions: the groove in the 'girder rail' for the streetcar's wheel is way too large and isn't prototypical. In fact the groove is close to the width of an automobile tire, so any motorist driving along the road would get quite a shock if they strayed over the rail :-) This was done deliberately so old, not so refined streetcar models could run on the track as well as finer scale modern pieces. 

Once the glue and paint are dry, the piece is inserted between the track rails and glued in place. 

Be sparing with the glue because too much will deform the 0.010" base - I learned this the hard way, and had to do some judicious painting to try to hid the deformations resulting from too much glue. You can see the pockmarks in the base from the spike heads on this section of track. 

For the apron sections external to the rails I simply pushed pieces of styrene up against the rail's outer edge. Be careful to make sure the top of the styrene is below the rail head or streetcars will ride off the rail and stop dead. You see all that nasty white coloured strip in the above photo? That's where I came back in with my Dremel to grind down some uncooperative styrene until the streetcars ran smoothly. The piece needs to be smoothed, painted, and weathered. 

Curved pieces are trickier. A lot of measuring is required to get things to fit properly.

And what about switches? There aren't any. This is just one big loop.

I'm not doing myself any favours by showing all this raw, unfinished work, but I thought it might be interesting to see a mid-project view before every little piece is sanitized. And there's a lot of sanitization, cleanup, and painting refinement to be done as I continue to work things out. The goal is to make the track more or less disappear into the road, and make the buildings and scenes the focus of interest. The digital camera exerts a stern, uncompromising inspection of elements that are going to be forced into the background.

One last thing, on the old Lost Ocean Line I used Walthers street track inserts. They were ok, and don't require the work the of the above inserts. For me though, they looked a little too railroady for streetcar operations. For street-running locos, they're probably fine. I don't know if these are made any more. That box is a partial set of leftovers and pieces salvaged from the old layout.

Thoughts on streetcar layouts

Why I chose this approach is driven by decisions made while thinking about what I want the Ocean Park Loop to be. A few of the points I touch on here I wrote about late last year in What's the Intent, but here I elaborate on a few regarding streetcar layouts.

Also, I'm going to make some sweeping statements here, some substantiated, others wild - apparently the internet is optimized for the wild ones, so I'm finally on trend about something :-) Look, these are raw thoughts, so dismiss as necessary.

Back in the '40s, '50s, and '60s, people like Bill Schopp, Paul Mallery, and many others were building far more sophisticated HO scale street car track work than I'm doing. If high fidelity, realistic track work is what you're after, I recommend reading the classic material in the old hobby magazines. Also, the Electric Avenue street track produced by proto87 looks like great stuff, and may revolutionize streetcar layout construction.

Over the decades the magazines seem to have had a common theme for why a model railroader might want to dabble a bit with streetcars, trams, or trolleys: the vehicles run in tight spaces, often on small radius track, and are electrically powered. These too are features of a typical model railroad, so it seems that model conditions match the prototype, meaning truly representative engineering systems can be built in miniature. So, projects in street track building, overhead wire installation, and trolley building are opened up and can be quite realistic. This is interesting, and although it sounds logical, I'm not inspired by it. 

For me, none of the usual is of much interest - but, don't get me wrong, I respect the craftsmanship that goes into that work, and the models are often stunning in their sophistication. But, each individual has to find what interests them, and not rely on suggestions about what should interest them. What holds my interest has to do with the places I've travelled to on the streetcar, the ride experience, and a little speculation into what could be. Places and ride are the main things. The intricacies of track, overhead, and operations aren't. For me, a long, snaking loop of track is just fine for watching streetcars roll through interesting places. And that's what the track on the OPL is, just a big loop because my interests are elsewhere.

I'm not into operating, and any 'layouts' I've made are more-or-less just big dioramas with trains and streetcars that move through scenes. To me, I use the layout / diorama as a setting for my buildings, and for staging scenes to photograph. Trains and streetcars usually are only run on special occasions, like Christmas when we have people over. I've found that with a streetcar layout, even people who are normally bored by trains and related things seem to perk up when they see buildings, cars, places and other miniatures of things they're familiar with. Me too.

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Please fence me in

This is the park loop scene from above. It's funny how I spent so much time thinking about the rather mundane elements of this little area.

For example, there are 4 different types of fences, all deliberately selected. I figured there needed to be a fence to separate the streetcar loop from the rest of the park. An old fashioned good neighbour fence was used for most of the span, but it seemed that a more utilitarian pipe fence was needed at the passenger boarding area. Then the residences along Mortimer Avenue whose backyards abut the park need their own fences to mark off their properties, but they also need to reflect the idiosyncrasies of their owners and eras when the buildings were constructed. So, although no prototype is being strictly modelled, prototype concerns need to be addressed.

Well, I need to wrap this up and get some coffee. Unlike Bob's Country Bunker, we've only got one kind of music for you this morning, Western, and one of the best. Take it Gene!

Fences & Trees

I realize that in classic model railroading one should add details like fences and trees much later during layout construction so they don't get in the way of more basic construction tasks and become damaged. However, I wanted to see if the scene I had in mind was going to appear, so I went ahead and added a few key items to the park loop to assess how it was coming along. I went ahead and added a couple of trees and some fencing. After the trees were planted, and I stood back to have a look, the scene popped, and I had a feeling things were headed in the right direction. No doubt the scene will change as time goes on, but I think things are headed where I want them to.

Sunday, October 13, 2019

From the Time Machine's Glovebox: In Praise of Cheap & Cheerful Kits

This post got its start in the same way a lot of others have: an interesting discussion with Vince.

Well, ok, there was also another reason. The Art Curren post got me thinking that cheap and cheerful kits once had a place in the hobby. Some people bought the kits, built them as intended with varying degrees of skill, and put them on their layouts, but others, like Mr. Curren, used them as convenience items for kitbashing structures that were more to their own liking. And his preference, if his "Stratchbuilding"-with plastic kit walls in the June 1977 issue of Railroad Model Craftsman is anything to go by, was for the readily available E. L. Moore plastic kits that had been on the market for a number of years by that time.

At this blog I've built a few of those E. L. Moore kits, but more from the straight out-of-the-box perspective, than with a kitbashing intent. They aren't the most high fidelity kits, but with a little work, they can be rather attractive.

My first builds here at 30 Squares - Ma's Place and Speedy Andrew's - were the subject of this 3 part series: Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3.

What got Vince and me talking was that as well as the kits directly made from Mr. Moore's RMC articles, there's a whole other set of cousin kits that were manufactured based on the parts from the original 9 (there's a list of The Original 9 over at my Wikipedia article). Speedy Andrew's over there - really, an auto repair garage, not a surf shop - is one. You can see it's based on Ma's Place. I think it would be quite a lengthy investigation to track down the entire lineage of kits as the molds have changed owners, and the kits have gone in and out of production over the years.

It turns out, unbeknownst to me at the time, I did buy and build a couple of E. L. Moore kits back in the '70s. Ok, I knew I bought the kits, but I didn't know who designed them :-) That one is the Ramsey Journal Building that I tried to convert to a Home Hardware. A lot of the parts are now missing, but it was a semi-sensible conversion, although very basic on execution.

A couple of years back I bought this kit at a swap meet with an eye towards getting the parts I needed to restore my Home Hardware. I think I paid a loonie for it.

You can see the indications on the AHM kit that this was designed by E. L. Moore are long gone on this Tyco version.

Good thing I didn't pay too much, because it looks like the original owner took Art Curren's advice to heart and used the walls to build something else. Luckily, the walls are what I have, and it's the other parts I need.

Also back in the '70s I built E. L. Moore's Village Smithy kit. And, again, back then I didn't know about the E. L. Moore connection. I think somewhere along the line I cannibalized the kit to make something else, hence the missing parts. 

I have bought a few more E. L. Moore kits in this century. Over there is the W. E. Snatchem Funeral Parlor which interestingly enough, the manufacturer left the W off the sign, so no one will get the joke if they're not in-the-know - like you are :-)

I was so happy when I found an intact kit of the Molasses Mine. It was the subject of a build post and I was also lucky to see the original.

But, the rest of the kits I've bought over the last few years are still in boxes. That one is the sister project to W. E. Snatchem:  The Grusom Casket Co. That one apparently was for the German market because those red boxes announcing the kit was designed by E. L. Moore are in German.

I bought that AHM version of Grusom's because this Pola version I bought about 6 months earlier didn't have all the walls - half were missing. I didn't check the kit when I bought it, so my fault. Once again, someone was using the kit's parts to make something else a la the Art Curren philosophy :-)

I was more cautious when I bought this Busy Bee Department Store kit and opened it soon after it arrived. I was lucky to see the original this kit was based on back in 2015.

Just to prove that I opened it, I did an unboxing video.

Finally, I have this kit of E. L. Moore's Schaefer Brewery - retitled by Model Power - awaiting my acquisition of a second so I can build Art Curren's Perry Shibbel Fruit & Produce Co-Op that you can find in his 1988 book, Kitbashing HO Model Railroad Structures. I've studied the plans a bit, and it turns out I think Shibbel's could be built from a single kit with a strategic substitution of styrene brick sheets here-and-there.

Even from this small selection of E. L. Moore designed kits, you can see the masters have been owned by a few companies over the years, so compiling a list of them all, and their derivatives, would be challenging.