A riot of colour

 photo CNR3640-StW-Station_zpsvnvqeac5.jpg
(CNR RS18 3640 at the St. Williams station)

There’s no real reason to share this photo, other than I like the colours: The white house and RoW fence… green and yellow locomotive… red station… and blue truck. They combine to really catch the eye. Those LED headlights sure help, too.

(Hmm: I just noticed I need to paint the stove pipe casting on the station. It’s been raw white metal since the station was built. I’ll add that to the to-do list…)

East is West :: Artistic Licence

 photo StW-Trackside_zps8c19ec9d.jpg
(Extra 1532 West at St. Williams :: On the prototype, this train would be headed East)

I used the above photo to illustrate a previous post, which prompted regular reader (and St. Williams resident) Monte Reeves to ask…

Isn’t your train eastbound as the station was on north side of track? Shouldn’t it be Extra 1531 East?

That’s an astute observation, Monte – and very few people would pick up on that. Well spotted.

But no – this train is headed west because of some artistic licence on my part.

When designing the layout, I realized that if I built St. Williams correctly, the station would be located between the track and the layout fascia. Viewers would look at the station from the rear.

Normally, I would’ve been fine with that. But here’s the problem: I have only ever seen one photo of the St. Williams station as it appeared in the era I model, and that photo was taken from trackside:

 photo PtR-StWilliamsDepot_zpsfcb72781.jpg
(I like this scene as rendered on my layout and I’m not willing to lose it…)

And isn’t this photo is a great one? I think so. It shows the Mixed Train to Port Rowan (M233) arriving at the station, with the station agent on the platform and a baggage cart ready to receive LCL and express. It includes the station signboard… the Canadian National Express and CN Telegraph signs… and the roof-mounted train order signal.

There’s so much information conveyed to the viewer in this photo that I wanted to replicate it on the layout – and the only way to do the modelled station justice was to rotate the town 180 degrees so that the station front faces the aisle.

(There’s a practical consideration, too: I had no photo of the back of the station – but if I built it this way, it wouldn’t matter. In fact, the model has a blank wall at the rear.)

These are the sorts of decisions one must make when designing a prototype-based layout. And I’m happy with the decision. While I’ve written previously about rethinking St. Williams to make it more prototypical, I’m not willing to lose this strong connection between modelled scene and the prototype photo that inspired it.

Compasses must be adjusted accordingly…

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New views

 photo StW-Trackside_zps8c19ec9d.jpg
(Extra 1532 West :: St. Williams, Ontario, 1957)

Over the past couple of days, I’ve been photographing the layout for an upcoming feature in The S Scale Resource magazine. This feature is a follow up to a visit by Daniel and Amy Dawdy late last month.

Since I’ve taken a lot of photographs of the layout already, I challenged myself to find some new views for the article.

In all, I shot 75-80 photographs, which I then pared down to roughly three dozen to submit with the feature. I don’t expect all of my photos to be used – a few are slightly different compositions of the same scene, to offer Daniel and his co-editor Glenn Guerra some choices – but given that The S Scale Resource is a digital magazine the editors won’t be constrained by a page count.

For now, I won’t share many of the new views here: You’ll just have to wait for the article to come out*. But I liked how the photo at the top of this post turned out and I’m surprised it has taken me this long to shoot the St. Williams depot from this perspective.

I thought I had worked out the best locations for photography, but I found several new views. The lesson is that digital film is cheap and it pays to experiment.

(*The good news is the magazine is free to readers, so there’ll be nothing stopping you from getting a copy – and of course I’ll post to the blog when the issue is published.)

Rethinking St. Williams

 photo PtR-StWilliamsDepot_zpsfcb72781.jpg
(I like this scene as rendered on my layout and I’m not willing to lose it…)

This post could also be titled “Dodged a bullet”…

This week, reader Mike Livingston was able to share with me a photo of the Hammond Mill in St. Williams. Unfortunately, Mike was unable to obtain permission from the photo’s owner for me to publish it here, but I can tell you that the mill was a 1.5-storey structure with a barn roof – like the roof on the next to the team track in Port Rowan:
Team Track Barn photo PtR-Barn-01_zps2cd0bf26.jpg
(Like this, but larger. Click on the image to read more about the team track barn.)

This structure has been elusive, so in the meantime I’ve been using a stand-in – a scratch-built model of a grain storage bin based on a structure in Cheltenham, Ontario – as shown here:
M233 at St. Williams west photo M233-StW-West_zps28961473.jpg
(Click on the photo to read more about the grain bin)

Now that I have a photo of the real mill, however, I’m thinking about building it for the layout. And that got me thinking…

My rendition of St. Williams has always been fanciful – a situation dictated by the size and shape of my layout space. Unlike Port Rowan, which I was able to model fairly faithfully, I took several liberties with St. Williams:
 photo StWilliams-LayoutPlan_zpsd05c9c7a.jpg
(St. Williams as built. Click on the plan to view a larger version)

Like the prototype location, my 1:64 St. Williams features a doubled-ended siding and a single spur. But my siding is curved – and actually about twice as long than the prototype’s four-car capacity. As well, my spur is located too close to one end of this siding and points the wrong direction – back towards the siding, not away from it.

Could I model the town more accurately?

Here’s St. Williams from the air, with the railway’s former right of way highlighted:
St Williams from the air - labelled photo StW-Labelled.jpg

Port Rowan is to the lower left, while Simcoe (staging on my layout) is to the upper right.

The location of the station is indicated with an “A”. The four-car siding was located to the right of the station, and used as a team track. Meanwhile, the Hammond Mill was on the north side of Queen Street, just to the left (west) of the railway crossing. The spur to the mill went behind the structure, so the mill was tucked between the spur and Queen Street.
 photo HammondMill-LocationGuess_zpsc3584f43.jpg
(The Hammond Mill area today, looking north from Queen Street. This is not the original structure. The RoW is now used as a utility corridor.)

With this information to hand, and inspired by the vintage photo of the Hammond Mill, I decided to draw out St. Williams more accurately, to see if it would fit my space:
 photo StWilliams-TestFIt_zps67ac8f17.jpg

Comparing this quick sketch with the layout plan, I’m convinced I’ve made better use of my available space by taking some liberties. Reworking St. Williams to be more faithful to the prototype would require several changes I’m not willing to make:

– I would have to lose the Stone Church Road overpass – a scene I really enjoy – because it would interfere with the Hammond Mill, the mill spur, and the Queen Street level crossing.

– I would have to bump out the benchwork to accommodate the mill, which would affect my ability to maintain (and enjoy) the track through the east end of the Lynn Valley scene – which starts immediately to the west of Stone Church Road.

– I would have to move the station to the aisle side of the track, so that it would be viewed from the back. Since the only picture I have of this station is taken from the front (see the lead photo), and since this is the image that inspired me to model this station, I’m not prepared to lose that view on the layout.

There are several alternatives, of course. I could flip the station/team track portion 180 degrees, so that the station was to the left of the team track, and the first scene a train encounters upon leaving the sector plate.

But as built, I have almost four feet of running room from sector plate to Charlotteville Street, which gives operators a chance to get up to speed and blow for the crossing.

Having an unscenicked and very unprototypical sector plate immediate to the left of the scene would also seriously limit the angles from which I could view/photograph the station. And I do like the view…
Extra 80 East - St Williams, Ontario - August 1953 photo X80East-StW-2014-01_zps347cae5c.jpg

So, no: Unless I can another eight or 10 feet of wall space to the left of the sector plate – which is unlikely to happen in the foreseeable future – I’l stick with the St. Williams scene as I’ve built it. It was an interesting exercise in “what fits”, however – so definitely worth the time to try it out.

I may have to replace the grain building with a more accurate model of the Hammond Mill, however. I’ll add that to the “someday” file…

One last label

 photo OrderBoard-Label_zpsb2ad9d57.jpg
(Click on the image to read more about the St. Williams train order board)

Pierre Oliver has a source for the labels I use on my layout and when I ordered these a couple of months ago, I forgot to get one made for the lever that controls the train order board on the St. Williams station. So, a follow-up order went in – and when Pierre visited yesterday he brought it along.

While the label isn’t necessary, it does finish off the installation nicely. Thanks Pierre!

St. Williams Order Board operational

My friend Chris Abbott dropped in today and we tackled a couple of projects on the layout. The first was to hook up the control for the order board at St. Williams.

As reported previously, Chris has been working in his machine shop to modify a garden scale, brass ground throw from Sunset Valley Railroad to use as the control for the order board. (I also have another use for these, which I’ll detail in a future posting.) He’s added a lever belowdecks to allow the ground throw to act on an R/C aircraft control line.

For the St. Williams order board, I decided the best place to install the control was on the slide-out work desk I built for this position. The photo below shows the work desk. The ground throw is in the upper right.
Order Board Control photo OrderBoard-Control-01_zpseb625c11.jpg

The next photo is a close-up of the control. (I’ve put a blank plastic label in front of it. It will be replaced, in time, with a label that identifies this control’s function.) Click on this control to see another picture, showing the mechanism that’s mounted through and below the shelf:
Order Board Control photo OrderBoard-Control-02_zpsdb247386.jpg

The photo below shows the mechanism from underneath the slide-out shelf. The wooden block holds the red sleeve to the shelf. Chris’ awesome lever is connected to a brass-plated steel clevis used in R/C aircraft, which is in turn connected to the yellow push rod.
Order Board Control photo OrderBoard-Control-03_zps70a0521c.jpg

The operation is simple – one pulls out the drawer (akin to opening the station) and flips the lever to the desired position. (The label, when installed, will indicate “set” and “clear”.) The short video below shows the order board in operation. Enjoy if you watch…

Thanks Chris!

More to come on today’s work session…

St Williams Train Order Board :: Video

A reader asked if I could post a video of the working train order board at St. Williams. Consider it done!

(You can also watch it directly on YouTube, where you may be able to enjoy larger formats)

The order board is a small red disc that rotates 90 degrees. When perpendicular to the track, it displays a red signal and crews must stop for orders. When parallel to the track, no signal is displayed and crews are clear the proceed.

St Williams in November?

 photo StW-Trees-03_zps0fe33cdc.jpg

It sure looks that way, doesn’t it!

Over the past couple of evenings, while camped in front of the television, I’ve been following the inspiration found in the series of scenery books by Gordon Gravett and twisting up tree armatures from florist wire. I now have nine armatures done, giving me enough big trees for the area around the St. Williams depot and for the future backyards of houses to the west (right).
 photo StW-Trees-02_zpse32de658.jpg

St Williams-Tree Armatures photo StW-Trees-04_zpse26eb0c9.jpg

A big tree next to the house in the foreground does a nice job of framing the scene – from either direction – and won’t be in the way for switching moves.
St Williams-Tree Armatures photo StW-Trees-01_zps9da567b5.jpg

Each tree has approximately 100 lengths of florist wire in it, and each took about an hour to cut the wires and twist them into armatures. But, it’s also very easy to do while watching TV – and it’s mess-free, too. (I use an old tray approximately 12″ x 24″ to contain the wires while cutting them, and trim the wires at the bottom of a finished tree over a waste-basket.)

While it’s not obvious in any of the photos here, I’ve twisted the branches in such a way that they won’t interfere with the yet-to-be-installed telegraph wire.

The next step – which is not mess-free – will be to paint several coats of Liquitex Flexible Modelling Paste onto the trunk and major branches, do some painting, then apply canopy/leaves and plant. The trees around the station will be enhanced with bushes, shrubs and other undergrowth, while the trees along the mainline to the west (those in the brown patch of scenery) will be behind a high privacy fence.

By the way, I’ve had a couple of inquiries about Gordon Gravett’s next scenery book, which I wrote about back in June. I have nothing new to report at this time but when I hear more about availability, etc., I will post to this blog. Stay tuned!

St Williams order board :: The Gubbins

Gubbins, according to OED:

[treated as singular or plural] (British informal) miscellaneous items; paraphernalia:
“all the latest films, books, and electronic gubbins”

[treated as singular] a gadget:
“a little gubbins he had made as a boy”

Gubbins, according to me:
StW-OrderBoard-Gubbins photo StW-Stn-OrderBoard-04_zps53c8d87d.jpg

I’ve built the rest of the gubbins for the working train order board at St. Williams. The photo above illustrates what one finds buried in the benchwork. (I’ve written previously about the gubbins inside the station building.)

Since the scenery under the station is built from foam board, I first used No More Nails to apply a large plate of Masonite to give me a solid base to work on. I then built up a frame from a length of poplar trim, on which to mount a Bullfrog mechanical switch control on its side. This is glued and pinned together so it won’t fall apart under various mechanical forces, and screwed to the Masonite mounting plate.

The control rod (a product from the Radio Control airplane hobby) will go to a control mounted near, or on, the work station at St. Williams. Stupidly, I was at the RC hobby store a few days ago and neglected to pick up more of the brass clevises that I use with this system. I’ll have to make another trip.

The final piece of the puzzle was to devise a way to secure the brass tube that drops down from the station. This tube is a permanent part of the in-the-depot gubbins, so I wanted it to be held securely below-decks while also being removable for servicing.

I cut another piece of poplar trim, along with a length of brass strip to use as a keeper plate. I drilled the keeper plate to clear two small screws, then drilled the popular to accept these screws and hold the plate tight to the wood. I then backed off the screws, rotated the plate out of the way, and added a strip of double-sided tape to the edge of the wood. I carefully aligned the wood so it just touched the brass tube and secured it to the Masonite base. I then rotated the brass plate into place over the tube and tightened the screws.

The plate keeps pinches the tube against the wood and the tape, preventing it from sliding up and down as the Bullfrog acts on the piano wire control rod that runs through the tube. Incidentally, this also keeps the roof locked in position on the station.

It’s a whole lot of gadgetry to rotate a disc that’s about 1/4″ in diameter through 90 degrees, and it took a week of planning and building to create it – but definitely worth the effort!

Animating a train order board

StW-Station-Order Board photo StW-Stn-OrderBoard-01_zps149435a9.jpg

Errands today took me past a hobby shop that specializes in radio control models – everything from cars to boats, aircraft and helicopters. And given that R/C models tend to take a lot more abuse than model trains, the store is very well stocked with replacement parts. That’s good news when looking for components to animate a train order signal.

The young guys behind the counter gave me puzzled looks when I asked for “bell cranks”. Their first question was, “For what car?”

The guys were even more confused when I said, “Not a car – for a train”. We then proceeded to communicate through the waving of hands. (This reminded me of conversations I had while travelling in France a couple of years ago, when I realized that my never-great command of French had pretty much abandoned me within months of graduating from high school.) But eventually the fog lifted and I learned that what I needed was a set of Servo Horns. There was an extensive selection – as many Servo Horns for the R/C hobby as there are boxcars for ours – but I settled on one of the smaller offerings, part S3103 from Futuba:
StW-Station-Order Board mechanism photo StW-Stn-OrderBoard-02_zpsd06282c7.jpg

When I got home I started working my way through the mechanism and two hours later I had bodged together something that – while not pretty – is robust, smooth, and maintainable. It’s entirely mounted within the roof of the structure, and designed to slide down a hole drilled in the styrene base I installed yesterday while creating the cinder station platform.

Here’s a close-up of the mechanism, labelled. (It’ll help to refer to this as you read the rest of this post.)
StW-Station-Order Board mechanism photo StW-Stn-OrderBoard-03_zps72459f52.jpg
(Click on the image for a larger version)

Construction was straight-forward, if a bit ad-hoc. (Yes, I made it up as I went along…)

I started by adding four pieces of wood inside the roof to key into the walls of the station. I simply held the roof in place on the walls and installed the wood from the underside. (I used wood because I had wood of sufficient size on hand. Styrene would have worked too.)

Yesterday, I had installed a pair of braces inside the roof. These are joined by other pieces of styrene that support the control rod that passes through the roof to the signal, and create stops that act on a piece of styrene attached to the control rod to limit the rod’s travel. This in turn limits the rotation of the signal to 90 degrees. I installed the first stop, set the signal, slid a pre-drilled piece of styrene onto the rod and up against the stop and glued the styrene to the rod. Then I set the signal for the opposite indication and glued a second stop in place so that it just touched the travelling styrene piece. Easy-peasy.

Today, I cut a piece of .060″ styrene sheet that would be glued to the side of one of the braces. Before gluing it in place, I marked out the location of the pivot for a Servo Horn, which I cut down from an “X” shape to an “L” shape. I built up a supporting block to centre the Servo Horn between the roof braces and drilled a hole into which I threaded a 2-56 screw. I hung a piece of piano wire on the Servor Horn, then took my station to the layout, drilled a half-inch hole in the platform base, and threaded the wire through. This helped me determine how long a piece of brass tube to use as a sleeve for the piano wire.

The brass tube is threaded onto the piano wire and glued inside a length of styrene tube using CA. The styrene tube is then glued to the .060″ sheet. I filed a flat edge in the styrene tube to improve the glue join, and then braced the tube with a pair of styrene I-beams, capped with a scrap of .060″ styrene sheet. (Yes, the brass tube is mounted at an angle. No, it’s not a problem.)

I bent the far end of the piano wire into a small square – roughly a quarter-inch square, so small enough to pass through the platform hole – then cut off the excess length. This square will be used to connect the order board mechanism to a Bullfrog manual switch machine, mounted on its side under the layout. Meantime, I’ll fashion a pipe-clamp to hold the brass tube in position on the underside of the layout. This will keep the station roof from lifting when the mechanism pushes the piano wire up – while also allowing me to disconnect the clamp and lift the roof off the station if (when?) I need to get at the gubbins.

I’ll need to put a coat of black paint on the mechanism and the interior of the waiting room. It shows through the window and door. But some slightly dirty glass will help with that too…

Oh – and I’ve painted the target red!