Not a New Year Resolution

I have been struggling with hobby inertia in the last couple of months. It is just easier to sit down at the computer(upstairs) rather than descend the stairs to the shop and figure out what to do next. And the longer you are away, the harder it is to remember what that was and where you were at in it.

Late in December, I decided that I needed to reform the habit of regular effort. (Just ask be about workout routines, I am a master of starting those…) I have scheduled a daily block of time merely labelled “shop”. I am using Google Calendar so that it goes ping on my phone so I have less excuse to “forget”. The intent is to be in the shop or doing shop related things for at least that long.

I have taken the approach that anything done is good (barring fire and flood caused, of course) and that it will eventually produce results through accumulation. So far, so good. I have done a bunch of cleaning and reorganization, done some planning for the developing machine shop and made, at long last, some progress on foam scenery base for Comstock Road. The lighting update is one identifiable result.

I have more or less stuck to the routine and it feels like I am getting some forward progress. Hopefully I will have more discretely identifiable things to share in the near future.

Trains or Brickwork?

Whilst we were in Kingston, Ontario on the weekend for a family event, we had occasion to stop at a Tim Horton’s outlet, as one does. Unbeknownst to me, my insufficiently deferential teens observed me standing in the parking lot, taking the subject photo. When the question was raised about what thing Dad might be photographing, the guess quickly came down to “trains or brickwork”. As we set off again, I began to expound about the photographic subject with its at least eight different sections of masonry and heard from the back seat: “Brickwork! Told you!” Hmmph!  Clearly I failed as a parent somehow. 🙂

In any case, here is the subject photo. masonrypotpourriFor those of you who, like me, do appreciate such things, you will note the wide variety of brick and stonework that has accumulated over the years. While I doubt that it had any direct railroad connection, the Grand Trunk(CNR) and Kingston & Pembroke Railways did run along the shoreline right past these buildings, all of which almost certainly dates from or before the railroad era. Modelling all this would be an interesting project.


Traces of Past Layouts

I have not been getting much time in the workshop as my energy has been going into finalizing the sale of my father’s house and wrapping up the estate. One of the inevitable tasks in selling a house is cleaning it out. In this case, the house was mostly vacant but needed to have the remains taken away.

You learn something about someone when you clean out their house. My dad has at least eight wooden yardsticks in stock as well as an assortment of wood offcuts accumulated over a lifetime of do-it-yourselfing everything from wood turning to masonry and plumbing.

Of particular note are several sections of open grid benchwork dating back to my first ambitions layout attempt when I was twelve and this:HOn30?

I think this was going to be HOn30 but it certainly never saw rails. I can’t remember much about this project but I was probably about fourteen at the time. The assembly of short cork roadbed sections suggest the frugality of a hobby funded by delivering newspapers.

Try as I might, I could not convince my dad that I had moved on and he was free to dispose of these layout ghosts as he saw fit. I guess it is only fitting that I should get rid of my own leftovers.

I also had more time to be organized in those days, too. Here is the edge of a shelf unit unearthed at the back of the shop.organized!

Modeling on the Road

hotelmodellingWe spent the recent long weekend exploring the area around Owen Sound, Ontario. Owen Sound is a small (20k) city on the south shore of Georgian Bay and the seat of Grey County as in the Toronto, Grey and Bruce Railway. More on what I discovered in succeeding posts but I wanted to cover the bit I planned in advance. Being away from home prevents any direct work on the layout but with a little foresight I was able to make some indirect progress.

One of the recurring minor tasks I have to do in support of track laying is nipping tie plates off of sprues with my sprue nippers. Pack up the box of sprues, nippers and the container to put them in and I was ready to go. I also took along my stock of brass rail brace castings in need of cleanup with a file, micro-drill and/or micro broach. All in all, I probably got about two hours of work done which is not monumental but two hours progress is two hours progress.

Some Primary Research

I have previously mention my plans to detail my Atlas SW-8 as a Canadian National unit for Comstock Road’s primary Motive Power. I am lucky in that there are many photographs of these units to be had. The issue is that railfans have different photographic goals than model makers. They never include one of those dimensioned sticks for instance. They also are less concerned with underbody, pilot or roof detail although bridge shots do tend to cover the latter.

Thanks to a Tuesday Train post by Stephen Gardiner, I knew there was a plinthed CNR SW-8 in Memorial Park in Lindsay, Ontario. Which is conveniently on the way to this years canoe trip. I managed the time to stop by the park with notebook, tape measure and phone/camera in hand to gather some information. I am especially interested in the shop-built handrails that replaced the factory hood mounted ones.

I had a warm but enjoyable time climbing up and down over the loco accompanied by half a dozen railfans in the 5-8 year old age bracket. I was the only one taking notes and measurements and allowed to climb about unsupervised so nyeah! 🙂

I took many badly composed but useful detail shots and learned a few things you can’t tell from photos. For example, the handrail stanchion bases look solid from any normal angle but are actually formed from 1/4″ steel plate just like the stanchions themselves. I foresee a use for my Micromark photo etch kit in the not-to-distant future! stanchion_base_down

I also took shots of the brake gear, the pilots, the headlights, etc. Here is another shot railfans would see no reason for.8510_shorthoodpilot

All these shots are of a restored locomotive so there may be some deviations from the original (other than the missing spark arrestor and blocked off windows) so I will check for other sources where I can but this is way better than just working off shadows in photographs.

Here is an overall shot of the long hood end just to round things off.8510_longhoodend

FYI, the side handrails are centered 3 feet about the walkway. Somebody liked round numbers. 🙂


Sign of Progress: Doing Things in Batches

I have previously talked about how I find encouragement in throwing out empty packages because it means I have managed to use up a retail increment of something.

Another sign of things getting done is when you start doing things in batches instead of by the each. In my case, I found myself needing a total of four pairs of track feeder wires for the two rear tracks coming off the traverser, the “back” track and the runaround track. Only four rails but they span the baseboard joint and will be cut apart so two feeders per rail.

After the tinning the ends on the first two, I realized that I could batch the cutting and tinning process. Compulsive optimization: the sign of those in engineering related trades. I then realized that batching things meant I had got beyond just managing the task and was now trying for more efficiency, so, progress!


Unphotogenic Progress

I haven’t posted in a while because I haven’t done anything hobby related that would make a good photo. Nevertheless, some steady work has taken place which is one way I try to keep momentum. I worry about the long hiatus from the shop as it gets harder to restart as the time away gets longer.

So, what have I done?

  • fabricated the support bracket to go under the layout side of the traverser interface.
  • roughed out a belt driven design for traverser motorization based on commercially available components
  • figured out where to get metal to make my desired roller gauges
  • figured out what all the bits and bobs that came with the lathe are for. And started listing what I still need.
  • a couple of feet of tieplate and spike infill on existing track.

The tieplate infill is my current quick start activity. This is the thing I can do on no notice with supplies and tools already laid out. “spring into instant action” as Iain Rice put it. If I can get myself down to the shop then the barriers to doing something is virtually nil.

A lot of the time lately, 10-15 minutes of spiking is all that I get done. It isn’t spectacular but it is work that will need to be done and it provides a distractions from the cares of the day which is ultimately what I think a hobby is for. There is also the reinforcing feeling of satisfaction that today, I got something done on the layout. Much better than the depressing feeling that I could have and did not.

Comfort Correlates with Productivity

Like most modellers, my facilities in which my modelling takes place is not perfect. I am not complaining because I have most of a dedicated room in my basement which is much better than many have to make do with. I can leave a project out with minimal chance of disturbance. The lesser imperfections can still take a subtle toll.

Some of my space’s shortcomings are:

  • Bare concrete floor.
  • Space also serves as storage for non-hobby items.
  • Unfinished ceiling with fluorescent lighting.

I recently realized that I was cutting my modelling sessions short when my feet got cold during the winter months. An early career as a paperboy in small town Ontario gave me a healthy dislike of cold feet. Once I realized the correlation I made myself buy a dedicated pair of slippers for the train room.IMG_20180411_203131855

The slippers join the dedicated shop sweater in increasing my tolerance for the cool temperatures during the winter.

I previously invested in task lighting to help compensate for my farsightedness issues but I am finding that the additional light also makes me feel less like I am in a hole in the ground. I think that vague hiding in a hole feeling was also subconsciously curtailing the urge to continue.

I previously invested in an inexpensive new chair for the workbench. I had been getting by on with a chair with a broken back that functioned as a stool. Lower back pain is another disincentive to stick at things.

My point, if there is one, is that not everything that reduces your hobby productivity is a direct lack of funds, tools, materials, or space. Sometimes it is little things that nag and don’t stop you but subtly reduce you momentum. Perhaps the equivalent of a pair of slippers is what you need to keep you at it.

Empty Victory

Like most modelers, I accumulate various tools, materials, kits and supplies over time. Like most modelers, my heirs will likely have to dispose of various unused tools, materials, kits and supplies. Hopefully not that much but there are times when that voice in the back of your head suggests that your real hobby is buying stuff and storing it…

So, one of the things that gives me a particular sense of progress and keeps me going is when I use something up. Throwing out an empty container tells me that I am getting something done. Maybe not finished (especially if I needed more of whatever that was) but getting there. I have used up that last of my bag of pre-stained Mt.Albert regular ties and am now well into the next bag. The time between the purchase of the new bag and the old is measured in years.emptyvictory

And because empty bags aren’t particularly exciting, here is the current state of the tie laying phase. Note that I am also starting to run out of some lengths of pre-stained switch ties. I probably won’t use up all of some others.halftied

I Can See (Again)

visiondevicesBuilding models and appreciating the work of others requires that one be able to see what one is doing. Like most people, I am getting more farsighted as I get older. I have reached the point where getting the scale rule into focus means holding at arms length. This happened gradually and, although I plugged away, I realized that I was spending less and less time actually doing hobby things. I credit a particular episode of, Eyesight and Modeling Part 1 with giving me the kick in the pants I needed to do something about it.

The episode revolves features Pat Lawless a modeler who is legally blind and yet produces work of a quality that anyone can admire. Using everything from Optivisors to USB microscope, Pat gets things done despite his poor vision. I made me realize that my vision had (mildly) deteriorated and that that was a sorry excuse for not enjoying the hobby.

I came away from episode with two concrete action items:

  1. Get my Optivisor fixed and get a lens of the correct focal length. With a 14″ focal length, LED light frame add-on and new tightening nut, I was back in business and more comfortable.
  2. Get my eyes tested. The test determined that I need +2.50 or 250 magnification for close work. I acquired several pairs of dollar store reading glasses to use for tasks where the Optivisor headset was inappropriate. At a dollar or two a pair, I can treat them as consumables which they very nearly are: I sat on a pair the other night and dropped a pair last week.

The only downside other than the steady attrition in reading glasses is that I worry about looking judgmental when I whip out a pair of readers and nose right up to layouts at train shows.