Working to Liberty Street Under Gandalf’s Supervision

My friend Stephen was rash enough to include me in a layout work party yesterday along with Trevor, Dan and James. Stephen is building a representation of Toronto’s Liberty Street industrial area in HO in a spare room. It is a compact switching layout that I am looking forward to seeing run. Stephen has a particular interest in architecture and has researched the prototypes of all the structures planned.

It being an extremely rainy day made it a good time to spend an afternoon indoors. I arrived already medicated with antihistamines since I am allergic to cats. The cat in question is a Siberian and alleged to be hypoallergenic. It seems to be a thing because I suffered no ill effects other than from the meds despite Gandalf being a gloriously fluffy boy.


Getting the bus wires connected to the track feeders was the first work item so Trevor and I each started at an end since the middle was not finalized. Stephen had a go and then we got to have fun debugging the errors in wiring which took a while since the shorts that manifested were not in the wiring. Eventually, bridged PC board tie gaps and missing gaps were detected and remedied. This sort of thing goes better with multiple participants if only for the social pressure to not throw things.

The other major work was sorting out and fitting the complicated trackage feeding the peninsula in the middle of the layout.  This was primarily Trevor and Dan and was still going on when I fled for home ahead of forecast freezing rain.

All this verbiage and a cat picture because I am terrible at remembering to take the action shots. Fortunately, others are more competent at that part of the hobby and so you can visit Stephen and Trevor for other perspectives as well as actual photos.


Fascia and Perfectionism

More time has passed than I like to admit since I talked about needing to get the fascia on Comstock Road before I could get the end bits and light board up. I presumed the need to get all the foam for the scenery in so that I could match the profile. The trouble is that the final profile is a bit ill defined. I eventually realized I was back to putting things off because things weren’t going to be perfect. Having caught myself out, I resolved to get something done on the usual principle that something done is better than perfection never started.

I ripped three pieces of 1/8″ hardboard to the maximum width of 7″ and applied the one for the traverser end since that is all nice  and level. The other two will require sketching out a profile and cutting with the jigsaw prior to gluing in place.

Even though it is unpainted, I find the improvement in appearance encouraging. (And good enough!) IMG_20191208_144538163

The photo is also proof that I own conventional clamps as well as a roll of tape. Once again I am leveraging the quick disconnection feature of this style of baseboard construction to get clamps into position.

Weekend Reading: Narrow Gauge Downunder


One of the things picked up at NNGC 2019 was the previous year’s issues of Narrow Gauge Downunder magazine. I have been buying the occasional copy at my local train stores but not as regularly as I would like. They were at the previous NNGC I attended in Augusta, Maine a couple of years ago and my hope to see them this year was not in vain.

NGDU is the sort of magazine I enjoy. It combines non-trivial model construction articles and prototype articles of interesting subjects that I am utterly unfamiliar with. In addition to the cover layout, the pictured issue include an installment on Australian prototype sugar cane loading facilities where the cars are rolled on and off of trucks for their trips between railhead and plantation. There is nothing wrong with silver mining in Colorado but it is nice to see something different! NGDU does occasionally include Colorado narrow gauge lines. The authorship appears to go beyond the geographical boundaries implied by its’ title, too.

The modeling articles are generally top notch and include both how-to articles that go beyond the beginner level as well as some novel (at least to me) ideas. Even when the general techniques are familiar, the often novel subject being modeled makes things fresh.

I am working my way through last year and eagerly anticipating the arrival of the next issue. Since this will be the first of the subscription, I don’t know how much lag I will have to endure as the copy makes its’ way to Canada.


“You can never have too many clamps” is an axiom of wood workers and probably most everybody else who engages in activities requiring clamps. As I alluded to in my previous post, the Rite-Way magnetic clamps are dandy for assembling wood structures. I also have an assortment of other clamps but there is always a point where you either have already used all the appropriate clamps or have none that work in the first place.

Like the Mad Hatter said, you have way more un-birthdays than birthdays. You also have way more things that aren’t clamps than clamps. And some of them can be used for clamping. I have employed a flock of pint paint cans as weights when glueing down sheet goods, for instance. Recently, I have (probably late to the party as usual) taken a shine to painters tape as a clamp substitute.

The latest instance was getting the shed attached to the Willy’s main building. The Rite-Way clamps just wouldn’t fit. Sometime you can use elastic bands but none were handy. But I have a roll of painters tape! IMG_20191204_214731836

There are also macro uses for the stuff. When I couldn’t get a clamp usefully applied to the top corner of the plywood I was installing to protect the foam on a corner of Comstock Road, it was again, tape to the rescue.IMG_20191102_122552879_HDR

There is definitely a limit to the holding power but the gentle adhesive doesn’t leave residue (that I have noticed) and it is easy to get off after things cure.

Willy’s Walls

I have been remiss in posting but not entirely inactive just not doing much that seem worthy of mentioning. (AKA makes a good photo)

I have made some incremental progress on the Bar Mills HO Waterfront Willy’s kit. All the windows, window glazing and most of the trim is done. I have started the actual assembly which is a drawn out process when you have to let glue set and you have one pair of clamps.


Those are Rite-Way magnetic clamps and although I have use them before I am still impressed with how useful they are. The magnets are strong enough to hold through not just the wall but also the 1/8″ bracing on the inside.

Using Photo Textures in Structure Modeling

As previously noted, I spent most of the scheduled clinic time at  NNGC 2019 sitting in a chair, trying to learn something more about the hobby. One of the highlight clinics for me was Scott Robertson’s clinic Creating and Using Photo Textures for Structures. Scott is a talented and highly productive modeler who uses textured papers for structure modeling in both On30 and G. Being local to Sacramento, Scott’s layout was on the tour the very next day and I made it a point to see the results in person.

Here is what I took away from Scott’s clinic:

  • Paper textures are a material that can be very effective when used appropriately.
  • Appropriate is walls and other flat surfaces. Less convincing are folded up attempts to produce in paper what wood, styrene or metal is better for.
  • A textured wall is far harder to detect when detailed with trim and window castings as per usual.
  • The glossy finish laser printers produce is less effective than the matte finish you get with an ink jet.
  • Teasing up edges and such can enhance realism but you don’t want to viewer to be able to see the texture edge on. For something like that, if you use actual corrugated roofing or whatever, the viewer will assume the rest of it is 3D, too.

Scott stated that he regularly catches people touching structures to see if it is a texture or not. While not one to commit such an atrocity, I did start out trying to spot textures on Scott’s layout but even at a distance of a foot or so, I did not have much success. I was initially frustrated but then I realized that that was the key lesson! We don’t use styrene for structures in hopes of the viewer being able to tell what material we used. Photo textured paper should be the same, results not material is the goal. (We won’t get into the whole leaving your expensive brass locos lacquered raw metal thing. 🙂 )

Here are some of my photos of Scott’s Never Done and Always Changing Railroad in On30 and G.

NNGC 2019

September 4-8 I was lucky enough to be in Sacramento, California for the 39th National Narrow Gauge Convention. Having previously attended the convention when it was in Augusta, Maine, I was looking forward to an inspiring mix of clinics and tours. I was not disappointed and will have a couple of posts highlighting things I found particularly interesting.

The NNGC convention format is one that suits me well:

  • A national profile that brings out serious modellers, vendors and enthusiasts leading to a high level of clinic quality presented by experts in the field. I happily sat through clinics ranging from the geology of the Gilpin, CA mining area to advanced static grass techniques by scenic supply vendors and innovators Martin Welberg(Martin Welberg Scenic Studios) and Jim Elster(Scenic Express).
  • The layout tours are all self guided/selected, no buses! You get a tour book with layout descriptions and a schedule of availability and go where you will. GPS and a car are a must but you can go as slow or as fast as you choose. I managed to see 10 layouts in a single afternoon! All were well worth a solo visit so the total was somewhat overwhelming. I will highly some of my favourites in a separate post but the total photo dump is posted in the Model Rail Radio Facebook group if you want to go looking for it.
  • The “humane” schedule. Layout tours are in the afternoons (12-5pm this year) and everything else shuts down so everybody can go see the layouts: clinics, vendor hall, contest rooms, modular layout displays, all closed.
  • High quality vendors. Not much of the flea market level operation at this show. A hazardous place if you are susceptible to narrow gauge brass, though. 🙂
  • Not too long. Four and a half days was about it for me. I rolled on to the business part of the trip on Sunday afternoon feeling well trained out.
  • An ecumenical outlook. Not all the layouts on the tours were narrow gauge but I saw them well attended nonetheless. I saw standard gauge layouts in HO and O(Proto48!) as well as layouts in Nn3, HOn3, HOn30, Sn3, On30, On3, Fn3, G and whatever letters you give to the 7.5″ gauge live steam in scales up to 1:5.