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.

0.35mm Off the Middle

The lead screw kit I recently acquired for the traverser included an 8mmx6mm flexible coupler for joining 8mm lead screw to a stepper motor. I had hoped that the specs meant 6.35″ aka 1/4″ but no such luck. My choices where either to go and buy an 8×6.35 coupler from my local robotics store (yeah, being able to say that is kind of cheating) or drill out the 6mm hole to take a 1/4″ shaft. The couplers are less than $10CDN so it isn’t that big a deal but I decided that drilling with my lathe was a capability I needed to exercise.

Of course, I didn’t have an appropriate set of drill bits so out I went to the local big box store. $50 later, I was ready to save $10. Payback on the lathe is going to take a long time at this rate. ūüôā Seriously, though, I think a boring capability (for bigger holes) is the only thing I still need to acquire. From hereon in, it should be all down hill.

The actual setup and operation was refreshingly simple, I just removed the set screws from the coupler, chucked it in the self-centering three jaw chuck, chucked the bit in the Jacobs chuck in the tail stock, adjusted for distance and drilled away. It took no more than five minutes.

If this was all I ever needed to do, the lathe would obviously be overkill. On the other hand, having one available makes this sort of thing dead easy and it gives me satisfaction to get useful things done with it.

Here is the setup with the work just done:upsized

And here is the coupler installed on the stepper shaft.quarterinched

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

Stories in what we throw away

middenboundA lot of archeology involves sifting through some ancient people’s garbage dump, usually called a midden to fancy it up. From what was thrown away, you can figure out something about what they ate, what they wore, what they had enough of to throw away the broken ones, etc. What might a future archeologist deduce about the guy who threw away some 1 1/2″ x 1″ pine blocks?¬† Used for ritual purposes, no doubt.

I have begun fabricating and installing the subroadbed supports. Main line roadbed height will be 3″ above the top edge of the baseboards. I flubbed the calculation of how high the supports should be by forgetting to allow for the 1″ taken up by the plywood and Homasote. I only figured this out after I had set up a stop block on my chop saw and chopped a bunch of verticals. Fortunately, taking an inch off is much easier than putting one on.

While I was down there, I glued down some ties on one of the Homasote bits I am redoing so I can test various colouring and weathering methods. I thought the dark walnut stain I used on the previous layout ended up too dark but I didn’t get around to trying to fade it with washes so I will be testing that possibility along with a couple of others.

Some Milestones for Comstock Road

Milestones were originally literal stones marking the distance along roads as a way of telling how far you had gone and how far you had left to go. In project planning, figurative milestones serve the same purpose. I think of them as a measure of “doneness”. I find having some milestones help to keep up enthusiasm by providing reinforcement of the feeling that one is getting closer to the goal, whatever it is.

For Comstock Road, my ultimate goal is a completed layout for some value of complete. As an interim form of completion, I want to be able to operate the layout. Total completion is a long way in the future even for an achievable layout such as this one so what are some of my milestones along the way to completion?

  1. Trackplan finalized – Done
  2. Template drawn with Templot – Done
  3. Baseboard frames – Done
  4. Layout space decluttered – Done (This is the one where the project was most in danger of bogging down.)
  5. Trackbed – In Progress
  6. Run a locomotive – short plain section with alligator clips will do.
  7. Basic landforms aka terra foama
  8. A turnout laid and wired with servo
  9. Track laid
  10. Rest of servos installed and wired.
  11. Traverser on manual
  12. Powered traverser
  13. Layout backdrop and lighting valance
  14. Operating session?
  15. Building mockups

That is obviously not all the way to complete and in the virtual planning world I don’t necessarily have to do them all in strict order. For instance, the backdrop and valance will get built and be installed fairly soon if only to get the materials on hand off the floor behind the layout. Scenery¬† and buildings will likely be moving along in parallel as the whim takes me.

I have no particular schedule to keep but I hope to keep moving along. I am aiming to get a (the) loco moving by then end of the month at the latest.

When the Loan of the Sander Comes Early

What habits and mental tricks do you use to keep at a project? Some people promise themselves a reward, some keep a visible to-do list and cross things off, and some just seem to keep going and going. I have used all of the above except the latter and I have found another one: Ask to borrow a tool and get it before you are ready to use it. Now, if I stall before using said tool, I may not be done when its return is needed. Better I should get ‘er done.

I didn’t make much progress this week except to acquire plywood for the subroadbed and meet up for lunch with my friend Trevor Marshall. Trevor is the creator of the S scale¬†Port Rowan¬†branch and also the creator of the¬†Edmund Fitzsander, a sanding block for leveling ties prior to spiking rail. Trevor kindly lent me the Eddy for sanding the ties on Comstock Road. Now all I need is some ties glued down to sand.eddymakesport

With that motivation, I got the plywood layer cut out today and have begun splicing the end piece on. I just traced the shape of the Homasote layer onto one of my 2×8 sheets of 1/2 inch ply and jigsawed away. End and splice pieces were cut out using a circular saw. I did discover that the ends of the Homasote are not flat. It looks like both end curled during the years long storage and I failed to notice before gluing things up. I will have to cut back the ends and replace them with new pieces. Printing replacement templates for the replacement bits I can do at home.endcurl

Clutter Sentimental and Aspirational

Those in the de-cluttering business talk about different classes of clutter. Aspirational clutter is that which you acquire to make yourself look better to either others or yourself. I tend to think of it as including unbuilt kits unrelated to the current project, books long unread or never read and perhaps magazines containing information you might need some day.

Sentimental clutter is that which you have an emotional attachment although it may be to the memories the object invokes rather than the object itself.

For me, a prime example of that combines some of both is old model railroad magazines. All have been read, sometimes many times but how much information do they contain that I will really ever use. Old modeling techniques are mostly obsolete but prototype drawings, for example, might be useful. But if I actually go to build something, I can obtain a reprint from either the publisher or the NMRA library. Intellectually, I cannot really justify keeping a couple of cubic yards of paper on the chance I might need a couple of pages out of the lot. Yet I still have them.

Or did. In a fit of ruthlessness or simple clarity, I have managed to bin most of the old magazines. My Toronto maximum sized recycling bin was not sufficient so I have lesser bins staged up for the pickup after next but the job is done.

Here is what is left with includes a few volumes kept for specific reasons but mostly special issues:magazinesredux

Featured on top is a BRMNA publication on Cuban sugar railroads I had forgotten I ever had. Thus highlighting another hazard of too much of something. I guess that might count as abundance clutter.

Here is the 2×4 foot rolling pallet the magazine collection occupied that is now off to make Christmas decoration storage a bit more convenient. The space it is in is the right hand end of the space for Comstock Road. The remaining two! pallets of non-hobby stuff will handily fit under the layout, one per support section. I am at last at the point where I can get back to layout itself.surpluspallet