Friday, February 21, 2020

Sliding back wall

I built-up a sliding back wall for the highrise.

It's fairly to make. There are 3 layers: there's an inner piece of black mat board, a middle layer of 0.100" styrene strips to act as a spacer layer, and an outer layer of black foam board. There's a track on the back ends of the side walls - it's those white strips in the photo - made from 0.080" square styrene that the back wall slides into. In the photo the wall is partially slid up to reveal the lobby and lower floors, but the entire wall can be slid out to expose all the floors.

After pondering things a bit, I need to build up the lobby next so I can get the bottom of the building firmed up and detailed. 

The back wall isn't going to be left as raw foam board, but will be finished simply with styrene brick sheets and a few detail items. The details won't be prototypically accurate, just suggestive so that a casual glance isn't too jarring. 

Wednesday, February 19, 2020

Highrise structure cleanup

After staring at the model for awhile, I figured it needed a bit of strengthening here-and-there, and a little touch-up before moving on with new tasks.

A number of the glued joints were reinforced. A ceiling for the top floor was added as well as a roof cut from 0.100" styrene. I thought that floor didn't need a ceiling, and a roof was all that was required, but after viewing the top floor from a few angles it was clear that it would look unfinished without its own ceiling.

Also, the outside corner verticals were added since the wall joints looked and felt ok. While I was at it, I touched up some paint on a few other verticals that had gotten abraded.

Work on the back wall and exterior detailing are next. The model is standing on the corner of my desk with the open side toward me. I'm hoping that by looking around inside long enough I'll develop some ideas about interior detailing.

Tuesday, February 18, 2020

More Walthers E. L. Moore kits

Discovery continues. It looks like Walthers also markets the Machine Shop (931-916) and a version of W. E. Snatchem called Two-Story House (931-901) in their series of Trainline kits. 

I also see a Walthers kit called Hardware Store (931-915), which looks like a repackaging of AHM kit 5883, F. C. Rode Hardware Store, which in turn is also a variation on W. E. Snatchem. The Walthers site states the Hardware Store is in-stock, but will be discontinued when sold out - an ominous sign for the E. L. Moore aficionado. 

There might be more kits of E. L. Moore origin out there - I need to find my hiking boots :-)

Walthers version of E. L. Moore's Village Blacksmith

This is another stumble-upon that I found while looking for Walthers Car Shop kit. That Walthers Old Country Barn kit (#931-902) looks identical to AHM 5872, Village Blacksmith, that was based on an E. L. Moore project. If I'd known about the Walthers version back in November when I was at the Syracuse show, I wouldn't have worried about finding an AHM kit to repair my old model. Live and learn.

Monday, February 17, 2020

Walthers versions of Rob Corriston's Freight Warehouse

Iron Ridge Freight Station | Brick Freight House
I was searching for Walthers Car Shop kit and stumbled across Walthers Iron Ridge Freight Station kit (WTL 905), and their Brick Freight House kit (#931-918). These look identical to AHM 5831, Freight Station, which was based on a project designed by Rob Corriston. I was surprised to see that the kit survives into our era.

Sunday, February 16, 2020

The tower stands!

I put the pedal-to-the-metal and got the sides panelled with horizontal and vertical elements using the same techniques used on the facade. Once done, I was quite anxious to get the 3 walls glued up and see this thing standing.

Gluing the walls together was a bit tricky. For the next highrises I'm going to need to build a jig to hold the walls in place as they're glued. This one was a bit of a juggling act, but things worked out ok.

The sides were glued to the facade - which is an acrylic to acrylic joint - with a thick superglue. Some kicker was carefully sprayed on the glue seam to speed bonding.

I decided to add interior floors to give extra strength to the structure, and to allow for some interior detail and lighting.

The floors are rectangles of black, 3/16" foam board, glued in place with Roket Card Glue by Deluxe Materials

The back wall is going to be able to slide out to allow for interior detailing, and for taking pictures of layout scenes. That wall will simply be a piece of foam board with some plastic brick sheets glued on. 

The real thing was finished construction in 1972, and when this little version stood up, and I had a good look, it was definitely reminding me of highrises from that era. So far, so good.

Wednesday, February 12, 2020

Gil Mellé, Creative Crafts Cartoonist

MetaFitler recently ran a post about Leigh Martin's craft magazine index, and it reminded me that I had contacted her a long time ago with a question about whether E. L. Moore had any articles in Creative Crafts. In '67 Hal Carstens tried to cajole E. L. Moore into writing an article about wood-burning for the new magazine, but I couldn't find any manuscripts that indicated Mr. Moore submitted anything. Leigh graciously took the time to look through her collection and confirmed there didn't appear to be anything. 

After the MetaFilter prodding, I went back and looked through the updated Creative Crafts index, but still didn't find anything by E. L. Moore. Although, out of the corner of my eye, I did see two Gil Mellé entries! Apparently he had two cartoons published: one in the inaugural Fall 1967 issue, and another in Winter 1967. So, they're something to add to the Gil Mellé publication index

Leigh's doing a great job compiling those incredibly valuable indexes, and I wish her much success with the project.

Verticals & horizontals installed

I finished gluing the remaining verticals and horizontal pieces to the Thomson facade. 

In the process I accidentally cut a column of horizontals too wide, and it left a glaring open gap. I had to replace an entire column of little black pieces, so I learned what it would take to individually install all those little black squares. 

But, once that repair was made, I could step back and see that the facade was shaping up ok. It was starting remind me of the real thing, which is the point of this.

I should note that unlike the horizontals and verticals on the test piece, after a few days a couple of vertical ends came unglued. However, over on the test piece, everything is still stuck on just fine. I carefully applied some thick super-glue under each loose end and then clamped the vertical to the blank. So far the offending verticals remain stuck down.

Tuesday, February 11, 2020

Ocean Blvd gets some new track

The layout has a 2'x4' panel and a new 2'x3' panel that make up the downtown area. You can see that on the 2'x3' panel there's an outline of a sort of square loop that on the Alta Vista TC was the residential area. I wasn't happy with that idea for a module. I wanted a longer straight section, so the loop was removed and the panel repurposed. 

The track is Atlas code 100 flex, and it's held in place with strips of wide 3M transfer tape. Some plastic shims were cut and installed on the right end to make sure the rails joined up level with the other straight track module.

Plates removed

Maybe this is too detailed to discuss here, but here goes: Way-back-when I installed these metal plates between the panels. I thought they added extra stiffness and a 'mechanical' look to the layout. Ultimately, I figured all they added was frustration. One objective of the panel approach was to allow individual panels to be freed so they could be taken outside to the backyard for photos in natural sunlight. With these plates I'd have to remove between 7 and 14 bolts - depending on a panel's location - to free a panel: some from each plate, and 3 from each inter-panel edge connection. I got rid of the plates and reduced the inter-panel connections from 3 to 2 bolts. Wiring is connected with plugs, so no problem in that area. Again, like the ocean module extension, minimalism is the goal. I don't seem to have adversely impacted the layout, although without all the redundant bolts I'll need to be a little more careful when moving around bolted panels.

Monday, February 10, 2020

Ocean loop structural extension

The layout frame needed extending to accommodate the ocean module. What I added is a bit on the Rube Goldberg side, but all I wanted to do was satisfy my requirements in the most minimal way I could get away with.

When the layout isn't being used to test streetcars, or being shown off, this module support will be hanging on the wall. It's only bolted to the main frame so it's easy to detach.

There is a little science to its design. At first I thought I'd just add a leg to support the extension, but that would have prevented me from being able to roll the layout around at will as I work on it.

Also, the diagonal brace had to be wood - I used a piece of 1"x3" pine* - because it's in compression. When assembled, the rectangular module base - made from 1"x4" pine* - and the brace form a fairly rigid triangle. Although the base resists axial twisting fairly well, this isn't something that could handle hard use that might be encountered at a show, or with rambunctious children. I'm going to stick with this minimal frame and only add extra supports if necessary - fingers crossed that I don't find out I need extra supports by having the frame break-off :-)

*When I was shopping for pine at the local big box home improvement store my shopping technique got lots of stares. I select a piece of pine by sighting down its length and rotating it through all views to make sure the it's straight. Of course, I also try to make sure the piece is clear of knots. If a piece is warped, I set it to one side, and inspect another one. Once I found the pieces I needed, I put the rejects back. After I was done selecting pieces for this little project I noticed a few people staring like they've never seen anyone select wood before. Maybe they haven't.

Sunday, February 9, 2020

Planning the Ocean loop

For a long time I've been thinking about what the module on the ocean end of the layout should look like. I've toyed with various designs, but in the end I think a big loop to contrast with the Mortimer Park loop, and to allow continuous running*, is what I need.

There'll be some beach and ocean near that spur, and open land in the loop. I want this end to have an open feeling to contrast the dense, urban area you'd travel through to get here.

It's all sectional track taken from my spares box of decades of leftovers. The loop is a 15" radius thing. That's way too tight for diesels, but quite roomy for streetcars. At the other end of the layout the Mortimer Park loop has a 7" radius, so there's quite a contrast.

The details of the scenery may change as I build this thing, but the overall idea is that this end is going to curvy, free form, and open to maximize the contrast with downtown. 

Everything was traced out on a big sheet of paper, some dimensions were noted, and now it's ready for module building.

*Normally I don't care for running trains. I'm a model maker and like to take photos. But, when it comes to showing this to people there's an expectation that trains will run. And run in a loop**. Given that the thing is DCC, some simple multi-streetcar operations can be run if someone wants to play the transit game. I think a layout without a loop is somewhat disappointing to viewers. Luckily with streetcars, running in tight loops is not too far from the prototypical truth.

**I think of this kind of track plan as The Primal Loop, because the simple circle of track dates from the earliest beginnings of the hobby and is deeply lodged in its DNA. 

Monday, February 3, 2020

Of steel bars and highrises

The facade's base is a piece of 1/8" acrylic sheet. I've always used the score-and-snap technique to 'cut' this stuff, but have had problems with it where many times I'd accidentally break the piece, or wind up with a ragged edge. 

After a little internet searching I learned that I needed to use a substantial steel angle to snap the scored sheet against. I found a 4' steel angle at Princess Auto that did the trick. Basically, after laying out the facade on the sheet, I clamped the steel bar down on the line I wanted to score and snap, with the piece that would eventually be the model on the bench, and the scrap piece on the free end. I scored along the bar 4 or 5 times with a sharp utility knife, not with the puny x-acto shown in the photo. And, most importantly, I wore heavy work gloves and eye protection while snapping.

Sunday, February 2, 2020

Highrise start

I've been doing some work here-and-there on building highrise facades. Although I've cut out the acrylic blanks for a few buildings, I decided to start building out the facade on the one that's based on the Thomson Building as it seems iconically '70s, and is relatively simple enough to allow me to try various techniques without too much heartburn.

The blank is cut from 1/8" lightly smoked acrylic sheet. The verticals are 5' wide pieces cut from mat board, and the horizontals, which are also 5' wide, are pieces of flat black construction paper. The verticals were painted with an aged concrete colour before installing.

The horizontals and verticals are held in place with transfer tape.

As you can see, before installing a vertical, a column of horizontal pieces have to be sliced away so the vertical can be bonded directly to the acrylic blank. This is a pain, but I thought I'd get a straighter horizontal this way. I think when I build up the sides, I'll install the verticals first, then the smaller horizontals on a piece-by-piece basis. 

Friday, January 31, 2020

Atlas teasers

I was rummaging around the internet and came across these two Atlas kits. What made them jump out at me is the Warehouse Kit on the left is Rob Corriston's Nostalgic Warehouse that was marketed by AHM as kit #5831, Freight Station, and Johnsons Inc. Chemical Products is another boxing of what was AHM's kit #5839, Machine Shop. I was surprised to find these kits being marketed by Atlas, and I'm wondering if they might have marketed any of the original E. L. Moore kits. Likely, it's just news to me, but the search goes on.

Thursday, January 30, 2020

The Model Engineer's star turn in Motherless Brooklyn

I'm sleep deprived and have some sort of nasty cold or something - no, not the one that starts with C that's freaking out the world - so my mind is stirred up. I thought I'd try and ease the fire by watching Motherless Brooklyn. Things were going good, but then around the 35 minute mark what do I see than none other than 2 copies of the British magazine The Model Engineer tacked to a newsstand wall. They're those 2 blue magazines on the left, at about middle height.

Me being me, I had to try and figure out what issues they were. The all-knowing internet suggests the one hanging at an angle with some sort of beam engine on the cover is #2770, from June 24 1954, and the one above it and to the left is #2747, from January 14, 1954. 

The wikipedia entry for the movie says the story is set in 1957, so the newsstand is apparently dealing in old back issues of British magazines :-) I might have outfitted the set with old issues of Railroad Model Craftsman as it was being published out of New Jersey at that time :-) But, maybe since civil engineering is a sub-theme of the movie, flashing the The Model Engineer title seemed a good subliminal message of some sort, and since Alec Baldwin's character, Moses Randolph, was said to not like railroads as he couldn't get a piece-of-the-action, the appearance of RMC might undercut other themes :-) There also seems to be a lot of home repair booklets for sale. There might be a lot of DIYers in the neighbourhood, or maybe they're just another subtle message as demolition and deliberate building degradation are another theme :-) Yikes! Set decoration is fraught with problems :-)

It looks like 2 more issues are for sale in the stand's end rack, or maybe they're just the same 2 repositioned for the new shot.

Reading material concerns aside, it's a good movie. I also enjoyed reading the book many years ago. I seem to recall carrying it with me everywhere I went until I finished it. At one point a woman saw me reading it in my optometrist's waiting room and commented that it must be a real sentimental tearjerker with a title like that. How wrong she was, but go find out for yourself.

Monday, January 27, 2020

Studio Model at the Hollywood Heritage Museum

Studio Model overview from above the front gates
We were in Los Angeles last week, and one afternoon we took a little side trip to see the vintage miniature Hollywood diorama at the Hollywood Heritage Museum.

It turns out the majority of the diorama is housed off-site at the museum's annex on Hollywood Boulevard. The annex wasn't open when we visited, but there was a module on display at the museumthe Studio Model, and it was certainly worth dropping by.

To recap a bit, in the 1930s Joseph Pelkofer, a cabinet maker, and a team of around 25 built a diorama - maybe layout would be a better term - of central Hollywood as it was at the time. The layout measured around 11' x 12', and included 450 or so buildings. It's currently being restored by the museum. 

Section of wild west backlot scene
Apparently the Studio Model doesn't represent any particular Hollywood studio, but was meant to illustrate the main elements that comprise one. The miniature buildings are quite well executed, but to me the most interesting items are the back lot sets which include a wild west town, a winter scene, ruins, a sea port from the days of sail, and what looks like a desert scene.

It's not clear what the scale is, but I'd say it's definitely smaller than HO; maybe around TT (1:120); the figures seemed a little too tall for N (1:160). 

There's a lot more film memorabilia in the museum than this module, and the museum building itself is a piece of Hollywood history. The staff were friendly and helpful, and didn't mind thoughtfully answering my odd questions. It's a fascinating place to visit.

I did a little searching to see if I could find anymore information about Joe Pelkofer and his Hollywood layout. Nothing turned up in the Model Railroader archive, but I wouldn't be surprised to find something in Model Craftsman, although I don't have many issues from the '30s.

One interesting detour showed up in Popular Mechanics. In the July 1938 issue they've highlighted on the cover a story about a huge layout built on a Hollywood sound stage for a movie then in production. They don't name the movie, but after a little digging it turns out to be something called Four's a Crowd that was released in 1938. This seems like an A-list feature as it stars Errol Flynn, Olivia de Havilland, Rosalind Russell, and Patrick Knowles. The giant layout isn't owned and operated by any of that four, no, it's the domain of actor Walter Connolly, who plays an eccentric millionaire. 

Lucky for us the movie is available online. You get the first glimpse of the layout around the 17 minute mark, and it doesn't fail to impress.

Monday, January 13, 2020

Work continues on modifying the layout table

I was working on the layout table when I heard a familiar guitar twang and called over to Cal, "Can you turn it up?"

My pappy said, "Son, you're gonna' drive me to drinkin'

If you don't stop drivin' that Hot Rod Birney!"

Cal put down his paper, reached for the radio's volume knob and gave it a twist.

Have you heard this story of the hot rod race?
When PCCs and Birneys was settin' the pace
That story is true, I'm here to say
I was drivin' that Safety Car

It's got GE motors and it's really souped up
That single truck body makes it look like a pup
It's got twin grid resistors, uses them all
It's got overdrive, just won't stall

With a K-63 controller and single wire contact
With copper armature coils you can really get lost
It's got safety brakes, but I ain't scared
The wheels are good, breakers fair

Pulled out of San Pedro late one night
The moon and the stars was shinin' bright
We was rollin' up Grapevine Hill
Passing streetcars like they was standing still

All of a sudden in a wink of an eye
A PCC passed us by
I said, "Boys, that's a mark for me!"
By then its taillight was all you could see

Now the fellas was ribbin' me for bein' behind
So I thought I'd make the Birney unwind
Put both hands on the crank and man alive
I shoved it on down into overdrive

Wound it up to a hundred-and-ten
My speedometer said that I hit top end
My hands were glued like lead to the grip
That's all there is and there ain't no more

Now the boys all thought I'd lost my sense
And telephone poles looked like a picket fence
They said, "Slow down! I see spots!
The lines on the road just look like dots"

Took a corner; sideswiped a tram
Crossed my fingers just for luck
My fenders was clickin' the guardrail posts
The guy beside me was white as a ghost

Sparks was comin' from off of the wire
When I started to gain on that PCC
Knew I could catch him, I thought I could pass
Don't you know by then we'd be low on sand

We had flames comin' from off of the rails
Feel the tension. Man! What a ride!
I said, "Look out, boys, I've got a license to fly!"
And that PCC pulled over and let us by

Now all of a sudden she started to knockin'
And down in the truck she started to rockin'
I looked in my mirror; a red light was blinkin'
The cops was after my Hot Rod Birney!

They arrested me and they put me in jail
And called my pappy to throw my bail
And he said, "Son, you're gonna' drive me to drinkin'
If you don't stop drivin' that Hot Rod Birney!" *

*You're right, rhyming is not my forte, so apologies to the great Commander Cody and the Lost Planet Airmen. 

Friday, January 10, 2020

The Bug-Caddy Conjecture

Bug / Rolls-Royce kit from Revell's 1974-75 catalog
I've been writing about kitbashing a lot recently, and one thing I should have written in this post is that I have this bit set in my head that true kitbashing has a degree of wildness about it. Wildness being, going off the ranch, veering down some side-street, pursuing something in your mind no matter how unconventional. Kitbashing to make buildings bigger, or build replicas of prototypes that aren't commercially available are honourable and useful pursuits, but they seem more instrumental in their goals. They aren't wild. They aren't exploratory. Every time I see a kitbash, the Kim Adams definition of kitbashing sluices through my brain,

All my work is what I would call "kit-bashing." This is a common term in the model industry: you cross breed a Volkswagen with a Cadillac, and you've got a kit bash. 

Crossbreeding a Bug with a Caddy, now that's kitbashing! I think have this biased view because I first learned about kitbashing in the model car magazines of the late '60s and early '70s, which were far from the sedate world of model railroading. Maybe it was just a demographic thing. The model car press was focused on pre-teen boys, whose tastes are notoriously unrefined and which I was at the time, and the model railroad press was more sophisticated and oriented to adults. 

So, casting kitbashing in terms of crossbreeding a Bug and Caddy makes some sense to me. So much so I propose a test, The Bug-Caddy Conjecture, which is this: if in an assemblage, found components are brought together in a new and surprising manner, then kitbashing has occurred. What constitutes new and surprising? Well, it's not an exact test, it's just a conjecture, just something to get the brain cells asking questions.
Maybe surprisingly, I think Art Curren just squeaks a pass in The Bug-Caddy Conjecture. Ok, Mr. Curren's work isn't out on the same limb as Mr. Adams', but they both worked on creating new stuff, not just extensions of existing things. Mr. Curren's work is far mellower, and some did slide out of the outskirts of the Bug-Caddy zone and into conventional, but in general he seemed to have created buildings based on extrapolations of the look-and-feel of a certain era instead of specific prototypes. Ok, I admit the kits he used were modelling those eras, and he lets the era pop out in his creations instead of hiding them.
Look there's this other factor I have to take into account, Mr. Curren published for the mainstream model railroad magazines of his time, so he was possibly limited in what he could write about. The other side of kitbashing for magazines is that it helps push the sales of kits, and promotes vendors and advertisers. The post suggested an alternative question that asked what would Mr. Curren build with the vast numbers of plastic kits available today, but I should have went further and also asked, what would he build if he didn't have to publish an associated how-to article for a mainstream magazine? Or publish anything period. In his own time, did he build anything that he loved, but was unpublishable? E. L. Moore had a number of projects that were deemed unpublishable - which speak to the ongoing development of his interests - so I wouldn't be surprised if Art Curren did too.
And there's this other thing. Mr. Curren preferred to call what he did kitmingling instead of kitbashing. Kitbashing does seem to have this sound about it that it's something that's done with hammers and anvils and forges, where it fact it's something far more cerebral because you have to assimilate a lot of shapes, and figure out how to cut and slice and blend and assemble them to end up with the thing you're looking for. His preferred term, kitmingling, seems better for describing what's going on. When I look at Mr Adam's work, some is clearly kitmingling, and other stuff, like the Bruegel-Bosch-Bus, seems like anvil-pounding kitbashing. Maybe we should be a little more discerning in our use of terms: kitbashing for the wilder stuff, and kitmingling for the more cerebral end. 
The only reason I drone on about definitions, tests, and such is that I think the exploratory aspect of kitbashing-kitmingling sometimes gets glossed over, and maybe we'd see a little more speculative stuff if we took a little deeper look at what can be meant by bashing and mingling. I'm hoping to try a little more out there stuff myself this year - maybe the 350 Boss Birney will finally see the light of day :-) Hopefully a late New Year's resolution has a little more chance of being accomplished :-)

Wednesday, January 8, 2020

Hartley Tower drawing

Chicago isn't Toronto and Toronto isn't Chicago, but in my mind I wouldn't be surprised to get on the subway somewhere in Toronto and get off at 430 North Michigan Avenue in Chicago, which is where Bob Hartley had his office on The Bob Newhart Show. 

In the '70s The Bob Newhart Show was my favourite comedy. Still is. So, any layout of mine that includes '60s and '70s office towers must include Bob's. I figured if I was drawing up office towers, I might as well work on Bob's since I was in the groove.

Ok, the drawing isn't an exact replica, just something that captures the facade's main features seen on the show and adheres to the layout's selective compression guidelines. You can see the super-tall ground level needs detailing (and maybe some re-sizing and re-proportioning), so I may freelance something if I can't find more information.

Ideally I'd like this model to include one floor that has Bob and Jerry's reception area, and Bob's office complete with couch (couches seem to be a thing on the show). I'm not sure how all that will be viewable, but figuring it out is part of the fun :-)

That's Bob and Jerry's reception area as it appeared in the January 26, 1974 episode, Clink Shink.

Tuesday, January 7, 2020

AHM's Signal Tower and the Charlotte connection

Kit box image sourced from ebay - Drawing snipped from MR Apr '66
Yesterday's conversation about E. L. Moore's AHM kits also unearthed pictures of AHM's Signal Tower, kit #5821. It's also got a reference to Model Railroader in a little red box: 

Produced from plans and with authorization by MODEL RAILROADER Magazine.

Searching MR's archive suggests that the source was a set of drawings by Bill Stokes called Classic signal tower on the Central of Georgia in the April 1966 issue of MR.

Digging a little further, the Feb '59 issue mentions that Bill Stokes - who looks like he published a few rather decent articles in MR in the early '60s - worked at WSOC-TV in Charlotte, North Carolina. Ok, you can see the gears turning in my head: did Mr. Stokes know that other famous model railroader who lived in Charlotte at that time? That's another question we're probably not going to resolve.

AHM's Water Tower

Kit box image sourced from ebay and right image sourced from MR Oct '65
Vince and I - well, mainly Vince :-) - have been scouring the internet trying to figure out all the box variants of AHM's initial release of their E. L. Moore kits. Along the way he came across AHM's classic Water Tower kit, whose little label on the box top says,

Reproduced by permission from plans as shown in Model Railroader Magazine.

I wondered which plans, and who drew them. After scanning the MR archive I'm thinking the kit is based on James E. Findley's Branchline Water Tank article that appeared in MR's October 1965 issue. Mr. Findley's model looks tantalizingly close to the kit. That picture on the right is snipped from the article's lead image, and you can see it looks like AHM's artist used it to create the box art painting. Actually, if you take a look at the article you'll see that the complete lead image looks like it was used as the basis of the painting, water tower, locomotive, track and all. I suspect the Findley / AHM Water Tower connection has been known for awhile, but it came as news to me.

Monday, January 6, 2020

Highrise test article

I spent some time making a little test article to try out some possible construction methods for the high rises. To get started I tried making the main pieces of the Thomson building's facade as it was the simplest of the bunch.

The verticals are cut from mat board with my Logan mat cutter, and the horizontals are sliced from acid-free black construction paper with a ruler and knife. They're all stuck down with transfer tape on a scrap of clear acrylic sheet. 

Later the verticals were lightly painted with some aged concrete colour, but on the model they'll need to be painted before being put in place. Also, I think I'll need to use a black or smoked acrylic base instead of clear to get the right window colour.  

Speaking of clear, one thing that's crystal clear is that I need to be extra careful when using a scriber to mark the acrylic sheet as it was easy to slip and scratch the windows.

Saturday, January 4, 2020

Sam the Record Man's Weather Beacon

I was digging through the family history archives today and found this 45 wrapper from Sam the Record Man. I recall when you bought a 45 there, they heat sealed it in one of these plastic sleeves to indicate that you've paid for it, and to prevent you from slipping another unpaid record inside on your way out.

What got my attention though is the picture of the old Sam's facade on the Yonge St flagship store in the wrapper's bottom right - this sign predates his famous spinning record facade. The caption below it states:

Watch Sam's Weather Beacon for latest forecasts. Green - clear; Red - cloudy; Flashing Red - rain; Flashing White - snow; Running up - warm; Running down - cooler ; Steady - no change. 

That would make for one interesting model sign. I need to find some more information.

Don't fear the S word

Streetcar that is :-)

I was born and raised in Toronto and remember that at the time it had just two types of electric rail transit* for getting around: streetcars and the subway. The streetcars weren't called trams, trollies, or traction. My parents and neighbours called them streetcars, and sometimes just cars when giving directions: "... then take the insert-street-name-here car to ....". I don't recall streetcars being referred to as trams or trollies. And certainly not as traction.

I only came across traction as a descriptor in the model railroad magazines, and thought it was weird. Still do. I realize it refers to the type of electric motor that's used, and makes perfect technical sense. But, my teenage self kept thinking, any vehicle that runs around on wheels has to have traction or it wouldn't go anywhere. It's basically a self-propelled passenger car that snakes through the streets, hence streetcar. I was thinking along the lines of describing what I saw instead of what was under-the-hood. Loosely speaking, streetcar might not exclude anything not electrically powered, but traction doesn't seem to describe how people use the vehicle. I guess one just uses the term one thinks best. For me, that's streetcar. 

Traction not spoken here :-)
*Ok, ok, there were trolley buses too, but they didn't ride on rails, and the trolley in trolley bus wrecks my rant :-) I didn't ride or like them that much, so obviously I'm biased.

Friday, January 3, 2020

Cleaning 101

Above the OTrain LRTs at Tunney's Pasture prior to the inaugural ride
On New Year's eve 2 OTrains lost electrical power and stopped dead. Subsequent investigation found the problem was due to a build up of dirt on the pantograph - which the CBC report refers to as the accordion-like apparatus - that makes contact with the overhead wire. Clearly, there seems to be a lack of model railroaders on staff at the city because they'd be well aware that dirt is the bane of all electrically powered rail vehicles no matter how big or small :-)
Roof top view of a TTC Flexity Outlook streetcar - I was surprised by how much equipment is exposed

Office buildings

Lines are a bit hard to see - try looking at the large view
There are a few '70s-style office buildings in Toronto that I'm rather partial to looking at, and I'm having a go at drawing up compressed variations of them for the OPL. I started with the Thomson Building on Queen W and the Canadian Press building on King. It's the strong geometrical patterns on their facades that gets my attention - I have no idea if they're any good to work in.

It may seem rather easy to draw up the facades, just get the dimensions and some photos and there you go. The problem is that even in HO scale these would each be a few feet tall and overwhelm the layout. 

After some thought I realized I need to establish some sort of vertical scale for the layout which boils down to:

1. The size relationships between the models reflects that of the prototypes even though the models themselves are much smaller than their real life counterparts. This means: the TD Centre , the tallest building on the layout, will be much taller than the Thomson Building, which is much taller than the Canadian Press building, which is taller than A&A, which is on the order of the Imperial Six, which are both in that middling height range that is currently the layout's norm.

2. The proportions of the buildings need to remain close to that of the prototypes even though this may result in fewer floors and narrower frontage than the prototype.

3. My TD Centre mockup is too short at 2' tall, and needs to be taller. It seems ok in N, but not HO. A true-to-scale TD Centre would be around 8' tall in HO, which is about the length of the entire layout! A model in the 3' to 4' range is laughable on its own, but in the context of the other compressed buildings - compressed in accordance with rule 1 - it'll look quite tall while still being short.

As I work on drawings of these buildings I'm struck by the idea that while buildings and street lengths have to be compressed, the streetcars and people are to-scale reproductions. Also, I find that roads and sidewalk widths, as well as building spacing, can't be overly compressed or things start to look too train-set like - over-compression of these negative spaces is always a scene-killer to me. That needs to be its own post: how the size, shape, and use of negative space is one of the most neglected aspects of layout design.