3D Printing at home

 photo notch_8_printing1_thumb_zpsucqnkh8h.jpg

Our hobby is embracing 3D Printing, but we tend to think of it only in terms of commercial services such as Shapeways. These services have printers costing hundreds of thousands of dollars, and they can create ready to use (or almost ready to use) models for us.

By contrast, we typically dismiss consumer-grade 3D Printers – those costing under $1,000 – as being too coarse for our needs.

But a couple of months ago, I hosted modeller Jeff Pinchbeck at the TrainMasters TV studio for a discussion on these home 3D Printers, and how they can be a valuable addition to our workbenches. Jeff took the plunge and bought a 3D Printer about a year ago, and since then he’s found many uses for it – including many he didn’t expect.

The first of a four-part series on 3D Printing is now available for viewing on TrainMasters. In this episode, we discuss why Jeff decided to buy a 3D Printer, how he selected the model that he did, what’s in the box, and how the process actually works. Jeff brought his 3D Printer into the studio, so we even turn it on and start printing something.

The rest of the series will be shared over the coming months. But be warned: After watching these four segments, you may be clearing space on your workbench for a 3D Printer. I know I’m thinking about it.

Enjoy if you watch.

UPDATE: Part two of this four-part series is also now online for viewing.

Nighttime… Daytime!

 photo NightDay-Image_zps48voyhj0.jpg

I now get to play “Nighttime… Daytime!” in my layout room, thanks to a cool little device that arrived last night.

I’m really pleased with my layout lighting – but one thing that has always bugged me is that because I located the transformer about halfway along the layout, under the Lynn Valley, it’s at the far end of the layout room. That means I have to walk to the far end to turn on the layout lights.

Ductwork-Port Rowan photo Duct-03_zps7bbc78ac.jpg
(The layout lights provide plenty of illumination for an operating session without turning on the room lights – but walking to the far end of the layout room in the dark in order to turn them on is not the best introduction to the layout for first-time guests)

This isn’t a huge deal, except that when I host operating sessions I like to leave the general room lights off, so that the only illumination is coming from the layout lighting itself. It focusses more attention on the trains. What I needed was a switched socket on the far wall, with the switch located at the front of the room.

Well, doing that used to involve opening walls and running a lot of wire – but now, thanks to smart power initiatives it’s easy and inexpensive to add remotely-controlled switched outlets. I ordered a pack of Aukey remote control outlets from Amazon this week:

 photo Aukey-Remote-01_zpsysn4ihi5.jpg

 photo Aukey-Remote-02_zpsddgnjgi2.jpg

These are easy to set up – the instructions are straght-forward – and the outlets are rated at 15 amps so they’re robust enough to manage the power for my halogen layout lighting system. As a bonus, I can use the other outlets in the package for things like my DCC system, the layout ambient audio system, and other systems in the room. The remotes live at the entrance to the room, and the wireless range – while much less than the 100 feet promised through open space – is more than sufficient for my needs.

And if you have read this far, and have not yet encountered “Nighttime… Daytime!”… it’s a very silly clip from a BBC show called Walk on the Wild Side. Here are a couple of examples – enjoy if you watch:


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


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

Port Rowan, St. Williams and elsewhere, Oct 2016

 photo PtRowan-Yard-Proto-01_zps6dqambz8.jpg
(Outstanding in their field: Jack, Roy and Mocean take in the site of the former yard in Port Rowan – now a park)

Yesterday, my wife and I were in the mood to get out of the city, so we packed up the dogs and headed to the Port Rowan area to see trees and water, and take in fresh air. It was a fine autumn day for a drive!

While at Port Rowan, I took a few photos to show how the yard area has changed over the decades. There’s not much left that I can recognize from the photos of the yard taken in the 1950s. I realized, however, that I’d never taken a picture of the “garage with loft” that sat across the tracks (and the field) from the station. So here it is:

 photo PtRowan-Garage-Proto-01_zps6ilp73pe.jpg

In this next photos, I’m looking east – up the mainline towards St. Williams. The corn is growing where the apple orchards used to frame the railway’s entrance to the yard. The red sumach bushes behind the dogs are growing on the old right of way.

 photo PtRowan-Orchards-Proto-02_zpszouy3auj.jpg

On my layout, I’ve moved the Lynn Valley from the Port Dover leg of the Simcoe Sub to just outside Port Rowan. As I’ve explained previously on this blog, I did this for several reasons: I wanted to disguise the curvy bits of layout between Port Rowan and St. Williams, and I wanted the opportunity to model a couple of river crossings and the water tank from that portion of the subdivision.

While shooting pictures yesterday, I noticed that the trees in the distance, to the right of the break between the orchards, make this scene look a bit like the one I’ve modelled. My Lynn Valley, with its tall trees, is also to the right of the RoW when viewed from this vantage point:

 photo PtRowan-Orchards-Proto-01_zps0r6mjcus.jpg

 photo Tour-201405-07_zps8587b2b0.jpg

Speaking of trees, the next photo shows the row of trees behind the former location of the raised coal delivery track. I’ll have a row like this running along the backdrop in Port Rowan, and have already started twisting the armatures for them:

 photo PtRowan-TeamTrack-Proto-01_zps2hmwtp3t.jpg

 photo CNR-4204-03_zpsht7dn0kq.jpg

On the way down, we stopped at Caledonia – where I took some additional photos of the station to fill in my blog posting from last week:

 photo Caledonia-2016-X-14_zpswsq5uabd.jpg
(Click on the image to revisit that post, now enhanced with more images)

We also drove through St. Williams. There’s nothing left of the railway in this community, although I did find the approximate location of the station. Here’s a photo from Google Streetview: I believe the RoW is now the parallel to the trees:

 photo StWilliams-RoW-East-2016-X_zpshu0cpmua.jpg

Curiously, the property on the other side of that row of trees has a crossbuck on the front lawn: You can just make it out against the peaked wall of the white building:

 photo StW-Crossing-2016_zpskbvcjv6b.jpg

Finally, after visiting Port Rowan, we took the Watefront Trail east to Port Dover. We ran the dogs on the park just north of the building in which Fast Tracks is located:

 photo FastTracks-2016-X_zpsxim9x5bp.jpg

Fast Tracks is on the second floor of the grey building. The green garage in the distance at right is the company’s previous location.

All in all, a fine day out!

A cold car for St. Williams

It’s been a while since I shot a video on my layout, but after last weekend’s trip to Caledonia and Lowbanks I felt inspired so I grabbed video camera, lights, and tripods and headed to the basement.

In this video, a CNR freight extra pauses at the St. Williams train station, then spots a pre-iced CNR eight-hatch refrigerator car on the team track so the local co-op can load it with produce. With the work accomplished, the train continues on its journey to Port Rowan:


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

I wanted to play around with cut-aways and other editing tricks, rather than shoot a static “set up the camera here and watch the train roll by” presentation. It’s been a quarter century since I’ve had to do any of this, so the edits are sloppy – rusty skills have made my timing atrocious

The exercise made me appreciate even more the skills of professional videographers and editors like my friend Barry Silverthorn at TrainMasters TV.

The thing about what Barry does is that people will watch his videos and think they’re great – but not necessarily know why they think they’re great. The devil is in the details: the timing of the switches from shot to shot, the care in framing the scene in the lens, the fine adjustments to lighting and sound. Compared to his work, this is pretty crude – but still more visually interesting than the single-camera POV.

This approach to video does take more time – I shot 49 segments, and used almost all of them to edit together into this eight-minute story – but I think the result is worth the extra effort.

And the “story” is the real challenge: I’m re-learning how to use visuals to tell a richer story – not just about the trains, but the environment in which they operate, too. I’ve tried to do that here. You can be the judge…

To Caledonia, Lowbanks and beyond with Chris

 photo Caledonia-2016-X-07_zps4snpsoga.jpg

Yesterday was one of those beautiful autumn days that make Ontario great. It was also the day of the annual S Scale Can-Am Social – a gathering of 1:64 enthusiasts at a community centre in Lowbanks, in the Niagara Region. So my friend Chris Abbott and I made a day of it.

A massive marathon in downtown Toronto on Sunday morning meant I had to get out of the core early, because several main streets in my neighbourhood would be shut for a few hours. So Chris and I got in touch with a friend who is not in the hobby and met up with him for breakfast in Dundas, Ontario. From there, we decided to take the scenic route to Lowbanks.

A run down Highway 6 took us into Caledonia, where Chris and I stopped to check out the preserved train station:

 photo Caledonia-2016-X-14_zpswsq5uabd.jpg

 photo Caledonia-2016-X-15_zps9klzi3wj.jpg

 photo Caledonia-2016-X-02_zpss03u7vho.jpg

 photo Caledonia-2016-X-05_zpsikzdmwif.jpg

 photo Caledonia-2016-X-11_zpsvmz9yprl.jpg

Caledonia was the first major stop south of Hamilton for the mixed train that serves St. Williams and Port Rowan. It was also an interesting junction between two CNR subdivisions, and an important source of traffic in the form of a nearby gypsum plant.

Sometimes, I think about modelling something other than what I am currently doing (I’m sure many hobbyists do that, if only to confirm that what they’re modelling is, in fact, the right thing.) When my mind wanders from Port Rowan, Caledonia comes to mind as a strong possibility. But some exploratory doodles have failed to show how I could make it work in my layout space, so it’s an idea for the “Somday, Maybe” file.

From Caledonia, Chris and I worked our way through Cayuga and Dunnville to Lowbanks, arriving just before lunch. I enjoyed catching up with fellow enthusiasts and learning about their projects. The organizer, Jim Martin, encourages attendees to share mini-clinics – lasting no more than 15 minutes – on various aspects of S scale. This year, I contributed a clinic about re-painting and re-lettering S scale die-cast trucks into prototypes that would be seen in southern Ontario in the 1950s:

 photo Social-2016-CA-01_zpsa0sfo88u.jpg
(Click on the image to read more about the trucks in this photo)

Every year that I attend this gathering, two things happen:

First, regardless of the forecast, I’ve enjoyed a spectacular day on the north shore of Lake Erie. I’m always tempted to grab a chair from the community centre and sit outside.

Second, this event has become a bit of an S scale-specific flea market and I always think, “This year, I’m not going to find anything that I want”. After all, I have a pretty tight modelling focus. And yet, every year, I’m surprised to find something to buy. This year was no exception, as I picked up a cool little water column:

 photo RRM-WaterColumn_zpsnxkuytwa.jpg

This is a River Raisin Models import from October 1991. The prototype is a Poage Water Column, and this particular one features the Fenner telescopic spout.

No, I don’t need one for my layout. But it’s cool. And hey – Caledonia had a water column…

Great to see everybody, including some new faces at the event. And, Chris, it’s always fun: Thanks for a wonderful day out!

4:00 pm means 4:00 pm (or “Why are they packing up early?”)

As reported elsewhere on this blog, I had a great time at the 2016 Brampton Model Railway Show. I did have one issue with the show, however… or rather, with some of the exhibitors.

 photo TPM-WhatsThat_zpsrlg1n9uf.jpg
(What are they doing over there?!?)

While I really, really enjoyed the show, I was disappointed to see a number of vendors and exhibitors packing up early on Sunday afternoon – even though there were still members of the paying public in the show.

What gives with that?

I don’t blame the show organizers for what happened – not one bit. This happens at every show I’ve been to and it’s hard to police. The organizers asked on Sunday morning – over the PA system, no less – that people NOT pack up early. Yet people did it anyway.

I know, from talking to some of the organizers at the end of the day, that they too were frustrated by the early shut-down. And in talking to others who organize shows, I get the same reaction: It’s frustrating, but organizers don’t know what would work to stop it. Everyone could use some ideas.

The Sunday afternoon visitors were not as numerous as the punters who showed up on Saturday morning. But they still made the effort. It was probably the only time they could attend the show on the weekend – and those who packed up early let them down.

Maybe they won’t bother coming back next year – and maybe they’ll tell their friends “Don’t bother”. The bad reviews will spread – particularly outside the hobby community. And then – at some point – hobbyists will be whining, “There are no good shows anymore”.

I get it – we’re all tired at the end of two days of standing on concrete floors, running trains or making sales. But when I signed up to appear at the show, I signed up for the full two days – not 1.75 days’ worth. Yet, some layouts started packing up around 2:30.

Not cool.

My friends and I in The S Scale Workshop ran right until the organizers announced at 4:00 pm that the show was closed. And we had visitors to our layout right until the closing.

One mother and son looked at a layout next to us and the mom said, “Oh, they’re not running trains anymore”. I called out “We are still running over here” and the two of them came over. The boy – three to four years old – looked at the 2-6-0 I was running and said, “Mogul”. His mom said, “He knows all the wheel arrangements.”

That kid was there to see trains. He could become a serious hobbyist, with time and encouragement. Those who packed up early let him down.

Our group still managed to pack up a large layout and get out of the hall by 6:00 pm. After two full days, I’m not sure how packing up at 2:30 instead of 4:00 makes a difference.

Since this happens at almost every show I’ve attended, the question is this:

What combination of carrot and stick should show organizers use to keep people exhibiting/selling until the show closes? Should early packers not be invited back? Should those who exhibit to the end get a gift card for coffee? What would work?

Frankly, unless you’re having a health emergency there’s just no excuse for shutting down early.

The 2016 Brampton Model Railway Show

 photo SSW-Brampton-2016-04_zpsorlgyoy8.jpg

I had a great time attending the 2016 Brampton (Ontario) Model Railway Show this past weekend, as part of The S Scale Workshop exhibit. As noted on the Workshop’s blog, we displayed a large U-shaped point-to-point layout, with short train-length turntables at each end.

 photo SSW-Brampton-2016-07_zpsr4bdpjyd.jpg

This was our first appearance at the Brampton Model Railway Show and the organizers did a great job. Set-up was well-organized on Saturday morning, and it’s nice to be able to drive right into the building to unload – particularly this year, when a light rain fell for much of the weekend. The organizers also provided exhibitors with free coffee and donuts in the morning (because Canadians run on donuts) plus coupons worth $5 off at the barbecue (hotdogs, sausage on a bun, chips, pop, etc.) that they’d set up outside, which was a nice “thank you for coming” – and much appreciated!

 photo SSW-Brampton-2016-06_zpsn01w1ijp.jpg

 photo SSW-Brampton-2016-09_zpsm1pxjpvp.jpg

The S Scale Workshop’s Free-mo style modular layout ran well for the most part. We had a few alignment issues between modules on Saturday, but by the early afternoon we had basically solved those problems.

I contributed my two broad curve modules, which made their first appearance at in the Greater Toronto Area. Also a first, we split the curves and put another module in between them. That worked really well. It’s nice to know my curve modules give the group some additional flexibility.

In addition to the modules, I brought out a variety of motive power – including CNR 2-6-0 908, my Model 40 Burro Crane, my gas-electric, and CNR 2-10-2 4204. With no return loops, the 4204 was a monster on the layout: It was really out of place, given that we were limited to four-foot-long trains. The Mogul was a much better choice.

 photo SSW-Brampton-2016-10_zpsuwd8oa9a.jpg

 photo SSW-Brampton-2016-11_zpsnbkgncfp.jpg

 photo SSW-Brampton-2016-12_zpsvmco12ro.jpg

This show was the first time I’d exhibited modules with fellow Workshop members John Johnson and Jim Martin. The fourth member to contribute modules to last weekend’s layout was Andy Malette. He has been at almost every show, including the two shows I’ve done in the Montreal area. I know Jim and Andy quite well, but haven’t had many opportunities to “play trains” with John – and I’m really glad we had the chance.

 photo SSW-Brampton-2016-03_zpskydxufno.jpg

On Sunday, I displayed one of the die cast trucks that I’ve repainted into “Husband Transport” – a typical 1950s freight carrier in southern Ontario:

 photo SSW-Brampton-2016-02_zps47u9ckgp.jpg

It was a treat to talk to someone from another exhibit who had a relative who was general manager at Husband Transport in Montreal. He was very pleased to discover that lettering is available. (My truck is actually lettered with HO scale decals produced by Black Cat Publishing.) And the truck gave a good giggle to a couple of women who thought it might have a reclining chair, big screen TV and beer fridge inside…

This has turned into the largest annual show in the area, and we’ll definitely be back (although we tend to not do every show every year, because we only do a few shows per year and want to spread around our appearances).

All-in-all, a grand weekend out! And it was great to meet a number of you at the show – thanks for stopping by!