9.30.2011

in & out

Over the past week or so, many things have changed hands.

Outgoing, a hard-to-find locomotive kit that I may possibly slightly occasionally regret parting with later but is now in better hands. Several pieces of RTR rolling stock and a few kits that never quite "made the grade" are also gone. My S scale module has found a home with a new owner and, outside, a nettlesome pile of scrap metal has moved on to the big rust pile in the sky. Existing books and magazines have been thinned, if only a bit.

Incoming, a lovely On30 caboose built by Jeff Young rests on the shelf next to a hard-to-find copy of Bob Turner's "Skyline Limited" book on the Kaslo & Slocan Ry. A significant pile of pine 1x? lumber has taken up residence in the garage pending future uses too numerous to mention. On the floor, not quite underfoot, sits a mint condition MIG welder and a plethora of accessories that I won't even be able to put to use until new wiring is installed out to the breezeway. To cap it off, an ex NorTel 140 lb black granite surface plate made it down the stairs and into the shop. However, for some odd reason, roughly 75 pounds of printed periodicals showed up in five boxes while my attention was momentarily elsewhere.

This is all leading towards a future state which I'm fairly certain will be beneficial and more satisfying than the current one.

Sort, Stabilise, Shine, Standardise, Sustain.

9.25.2011

it's the most wonderful time...

Well, it could be the most wonderful time of the year.

Train show season.

That is, if the shows were good. Most of them are not. Sad but true, for our locale anyway.

The same tired displays, the same tired exhibitors, and the same tired excuses.
No shopping deals, and no squeals of delight from any but the youngest attendee.

Planning to make it to the Brampton show next week for a brief visit. This was a decent event last year so I am looking forward to the upcoming one. The 2nd "S Scale Social" looms in October, but this is not an 'open' soirée. Certainly there will be a regular visit to Copetown and a return to Narrow Gauge Madness in 2012 (but that's an eon away).

The Christmas Train Show, on the other hand, does not beckon. It desperately needs a complete overhaul of its premise, presentation, and participation. With the demise of the Spring CRHA Show, this is the only big event in the region. For at least the last two years, the event planners have managed to arrange it for the same weekend as another train show at the other end of the city AND the primary Santa Claus parade for the whole area - thereby splitting the attendance of vendors, exhibitors, and punters. The entry fee remains too high, the on-site food price remains too high, and the consideration for the exhibitors remains too low.

The trouble is, a group of people who are going to put the hobby ahead of the pure profit has to step up and do what's needed to sort this all out...

up 'n running

Dad had converted an On30 Bachmann 0-4-2 to a more British looking engine using a number of 1:43 Bagnall components from KeyKits in the UK (now sadly closed). He followed the general process outlined on Brian Fayle's website for the conversion itself.

The Bachmann porter has a number of features that make it a desirable engine, but also some that make it a royal pain in the posterior. One of the worst aspects is the close clearance of the rods to the cab structure. Over time the motion has become sloppier, resulting in reduction of free space between the moving and non-moving parts.



Finally, the engine just stopped moving, but the motor kept running. Essentially, because of the rod ends constant banging into the underside of the cab floor, the wheels got so badly out of quarter that the siderods jammed up and the drive gear on the axle spun. Not a good situation.

After a suitable period of squinty-eyed consideration, I was able to requarter and regauge the wheels, add a drop of CA to the ends of each axle, and grind a pair of clearance slots into the underside of the cab floor above the left and right rod ends. Reassembly yielded no unexpected spare parts and the engine actually runs better than it did when new, as there is no longer even a slight drag of the rods on the structure.

9.21.2011

OO yes

A brass kit in OO scale, 3' gauge. It represents a Schull and Skibbereen railway coach from Ireland. The kit is available from Worsley Works in the UK.

Wheelsets, journal boxes, and buffers are extras; the kit is a pair of flat panel etched frets intended to get you going. The pieces are being joined together using acid flux and 63/37 solder.

Lots to learn putting together a kit like this. Most short run North American model kits are resin rather than brass, and the assembly techniques required are a little bit more esoteric than I am used to. It's been fun so far and, now that I've obtained the proper wheels, I can continue with the undercarriage pieces.

Lake Erie Aggregates

Here's a shot of my talented friend Jim Martin's On30 "Lake Erie Aggregates" micro layout. It won a top prize at last year's Schomberg Narrow Gauge show. The overall layout only measures about 2'x4', and is a point-to-point arrangement, in a "U" around the central backdrop. The careful thought Jim put into the planning and execution translated into a layout that looks bigger than it actually is, and successfully conveys a sense of place.

Jim is currently co-hosting The Model Railway Show podcast, and was a veteran radio broadcaster in his previous life. He's also building an S scale layout in his basement, incorporating the Port Dover module set which formerly accompanied our modular group to local shows.

wind from divest

Last weekend I packed up the S scale module set and carted it off to another caretaker. As part of the recent space-gaining process, I've found a new owner for the nearly 10' siding "S" curve. This doesn't mean a total withdrawal from S, or from the modular group. However I need to get on with certain tasks around the house, and the module sections were sitting smack dab in the middle of the projected work area. Mind you - so are a lot of other things, but the module was by far the biggest and most awkward to keep shoving around. It was going to get damaged or thrown out in a fit of pique.

Future state demands a smaller vehicle to offset rising commuting expenses, which would leave the module stranded in any case. At that point I'd be even harder pressed to be able to transport it to a new home. Better that someone has use of it than to have it idle or inadvertently injured. At some point after the purchase of an alternate vehicle and its capacity is assessed, a new module may indeed be built. Lessons learned from this build will help ensure a better product.

blog roll

New blogs to watch:

I've mentioned Trevor Marshall's new adventure story at:
Port Rowan in 1:64

Now Jim Lincoln has begun a record of his Proto48 efforts;
Deleware-Lackawanna in P48

I subscribe to many more blogs and, for the most part, enjoy the content. Better than traditional magazines in many ways because the material is likely to match my interests; after all I hunted down the blogs by keywords in the first place.

9.20.2011

good, better, best

One of my former bosses once told me, "perfection is an obstacle to progress." To a certain extent, I have come to agree with this statement. Constant iteration of a single item in pursuit of the 'perfect' object means, effectively, that this item is never finished or (in some cases) ever brought to a useable condition. The idea that the NEXT instance of the item will be better than the last should not be ignored, however. There is no reason not to incorporate improvements in material, technique, or functionality when creating subsequent renditions.

I've also been battered about the head and neck with "The 3-Foot Rule". This states that if it looks OK from 3' away, it's good enough. This philosophy I have more of a problem with, as 'good enough' is a purely subjective measure. Also, the viewing conditions and eyesight of the beholder will vary, especially if the item in question is in any way portable or subject to public scrutiny. I maintain that, in order for it to look good at 3', it had better stand up well to even closer examination. We have no scale-sized atmospheric haze to soften the edges and dull the colours no matter how small we make our models, and the camera tells no lies.

'Good enough' is, at best, a sliding scale. Certainly something that was good enough when you were a relatively unskilled teen is not the same as good enough when you are a more experienced person? Surely no one pursues sport or games of skill with the battle cry, "Only as good as I did last time!" For my own part, I try to learn something from each endeavour that can be applied to future endeavours. Sometimes I have to look pretty close at what I've done to get a useful lesson out of it, but it's always in there - somewhere.

There is a sense of personal achievement in hobby pursuits that is often sadly lacking in most daily occupations and, it must be said, we need all the positive feedback we can get. Exercising the hands & the brain, shaping raw materials into finished objects that delight & inspire, teaching &/or learning new skills, possibly even creating a little order from the chaos - all laudable ways to spend time and energy - a lot of the experience can be transferred to other areas of your life in a beneficial manner.

However, if the goal of a pursuit is merely to kill some time, then you might as well have someone nail your box shut now and get it over with.

9.17.2011

tick the boxes

In an effort to focus, pare down, and lighten up I've been considering what I like most in the hobby; a process brought on by having too much to think about, too much to choose from, and too much to complete. There is a primary pattern to the result, and it's narrow gauge. The themes include logging, mining, and industrial topics. There is little desire for a basement-filling empire, but a strong inclination to start the garden railway as soon as next Spring rears its head (and the ground dries up).

I'm much more interested in individual models than complete systems, and more inclined towards the critter than the Challenger. There are plenty of opportunities to work on other people's layouts, so not having anything more substantial than a micro or a few modules will be fine. Electrical, benchwork, and tracklaying tasks will all present themselves in sufficient quantity regardless of the scope of any one project. The decision to build kits rather than buying RTR has also allowed me to decide what stays and what goes.

Scale is not important on an individual level, as the large layout scenario is unlikely. Being able to dabble in 16mm or 7mm, 3/16" or 1:76 as the mood strikes has very broad appeal. I suspect that a display cabinet (or two) for finished items, coupled with a portable micro, a pair of modules, and a garden patch will be the end result of the soul searching...

project shuns

There are a few projects which I feel must be completed before too long. The first two, small efforts involve 3D modelling and brass kit building.

The former relates to the WDLR (War Department Light Railways) steel and wood wagon bogies. There are a few modellers who would like to be able to buy (nearly) RTR bogies for their 7mm scale models. I will be converting the available 2D files into 3D, and uploading them to a 3D print service. With planning and a bit of luck, this should be a straightforward excercise (despite a certain rustiness with the 3D side).

The latter involves a long-overdue review kit that was sent to me for evaluation. Apparently I was the only one foolish enough to think burnt fingers and strained eyes were a desirable experience. It is an Irish OOn3 (1:76 scale, 3' gauge) coach. The sides and ends of the structure have been cut away from their frets and soldered together with minimal damage to the thin plates. The under frame is awaiting W-iron and wheelset installation. I was fortunate to obtain properly gauged wheelsets and accompanying bearings from the UK.

Mac attack

Neglected to specifically mention that the G5 Mac power subsystem packed it in. After deliberation, and the trial of returning to daily WinTel usage, a Mac Mini was purchased. The recovery of all data from the Time Machine drive was so painless, so effortless, and so quick that it practically offset 1/2 the cost of the purchase purely in lost time savings. I had alloted 3 entire evenings to restore, reload, and reconfigure the data and computer to the previously known state - based on previous experiences recovering from WinTel failures. Much to my surprise and delight, the data reload, OS & application update, and Mail sync were all complete before 8:30 PM the first evening. Bewildering.

Of course, Apple has subsequently released an even better Mini but this is to be expected. I received sterling service from Computer Systems Centre on College St. in Toronto for both the LaCie Time Machine drive and the Mac Mini purchases.

It remains to be seen if the G5 can be economically repaired; it is still an able machine despite its age. The susbsytem fault could be on either the motherboard or inside the power supply itself; it is a known condition on certain builds. It is an intermittent fault condition and cannot be triggered at will, making diagnosis time consuming and tedious.

spatial opportunity

The impending release of Kalmbach's Model Railroader DVD set bodes well for the volumetrically challenged. Experience with the previously released Trains DVD set indicates that the useage pattern is reference and research, not relaxing reading. The intergrated ability to search the content is invaluable; offering an improvement over the online database searches which require you to then paw through the pulp stacks looking for the elusive issue. Switching to digital in this case should save me between 6-8 cubic feet of shelf space; a valuable commodity. If RMC, Mainline Modeler, and the NG&SL Gazette were similarly offered, a further 8-10 cubic feet could be reclaimed.

9.15.2011

milestones

The Model Rail Radio podcast enjoyed its 2nd anniversary yesterday. A few hundred hours of model rail content now reside on the net for comment, conjecture, and consideration. It's been a blast talking to modellers from all over the planet; I've made many new friends and learned many useful details to aid my own efforts.

The 1st anniversary of The Model Railway Show rapidly approaches. This Hallowe'en will mark the occasion. A different approach to model rail audio, this professionally presented podcast is short and sweet. Many leading lights in the hobby have already appeared on the show, offering commentary on the past, present and future of our beloved pastime. I wish I could take credit for the content itself, but all I need do is nudge the odd electron or tweak the odd byte.

hack 'n slash

It must be that time again. An end of days for Trevor Marshall's On2 S&PCR model railway (rev 2) was marked by the destruction of the original piece of the first On2 layout. While I did my best to carefully unscrew the various electrical fittings, Tortoise machines, and pattern-makers alignment pins from the layout's shadow box frames, Trevor bashed mightily on the upper surfaces with hammer and cold chisel to release the signature structures so laboriously built and blended into the scene.

While this incident ends one saga, it begins another. I have been priviledged to work on several projects with Trevor, and the latest one will prove as rewarding as the preceding. Our involvement with the S Scale Workshop has exposed us to the wonderful modelling that is possible in 3/16" scale. Coincident with the acquisition of suitable motive power, Trevor has decided to assay a CN themed point-to-point and has begun to assemble a fleet of cars. You can follow this latest adventure at Port Rowan in 1:64

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flea bitten

A second, semi-annual flea market has come and gone. Numbers do not tell the whole story. More material changed hands than the first event, but the volume occupied did not decrease as much as hoped. A reduction by 20% (one empty box of the 5 taken) will have to suffice.

Sadly, items anticipated as wanted did not move. Pricing was within market norms for most of the goods on display but I cannot yet bring myself to release certain pieces for virtually nothing. If I cannot recoup the amount I desire, I simply won't sell them.

The next market day has already been announced. Table price has increased. Past experience shows that the usual crowd of attendees are not looking for the goods I am selling, being somewhat esoteric compared to the regular fare. In a veritable sea of HO and N RTR plastic, I attempt to vend brass Sn2, non-Flyer S scale, On30 kits, detail parts, and niche magazines. A mug's game.

A more suitable venue must be found; it's simply not cost effective to sit largely idle for most of a day in the vain hope that someone equally offbeat and fainitly masochistic will waltz in and be smitten by a pretty pile of trinkets.

more of...

Many months of apparent intervening inactivity. Several things have come to light in the interim. The two main points:

1) More space is required, and
2) more time is required.

In order to make more of the first, certain things are being sold, donated, or simply discarded. A bit of progress with each facet has freed a portion of the total volume. More to come. The process of choosing what to rid oneself of can be painful, remorse-laden, and time consuming. The benefits, however, should outweigh the penalties.

You cannot make more of the second. There isn't any extra to be had - only what you are alloted by a higher order of being, or eke through pure luck of the draw. You can, though, reduce the demands on precious time by eliminating commitments, combining activities, and improving efficiency. I cannot honestly say that I have had much success in any of those avenues but, with further effort, I should gain ground in each area.