Capital city's final touches

September saw finalizing work on planning the Ottawa exhibit with detailed CAD drawings showing general scenes with roads, waterways, rail tracks, bike trails, signature and caricature structures, and much more.

The team is looking forward to completing this process and beginning construction in October and November.


Wooden Buses are One-of-a-Kind

The model buses at Our Home and Miniature Land are unique and have to be because you can’t buy them. They are perfect replicas of GO buses, as well buses for public transit systems in Toronto, Hamilton, Oakville and, pretty soon, Niagara and Ottawa. Norm Carr scratch-builds them all. Until recently diecast and plastic models were tried, but since almost no new modern North American models were available, Norm started making the shells from laser-cut MDF (medium-density fibreboard) and wood. Artwork is done by computer and then a vinyl skin goes over the MDF with windows in acetate. Norm’s colleague James Steel handles the LED lighting which includes headlights, tail lights and markers just like the real thing.

The models are built in 1:87 scale, are five or six inches long, and come in two types – static and moving. The chassis of a moving bus is powered by small motors controlled by electronic decoders and infra-red sensors.

The current Toronto exhibit will have about 40 TTC buses – some moving and some static – with another ten or so for Hamilton. But eventually the exhibits will involve hundreds of vehicles, many constantly coming and going to produce the effect of a living and breathing urban landscape.


[The battle of Queenston Heights as depicted in a print showing the village of Queenston at the right and Lewiston on the left. Print courtesy of Library and Archives Canada]

[The battle of Queenston Heights as depicted in a print showing the village of Queenston at the right and Lewiston on the left. Print courtesy of Library and Archives Canada]

Commemorating the Battle of Queenston Heights

The first major battle in the War of 1812 was the Battle of Queenston Heights. It took place on October 13, 1812 near Queenston in what was then Upper Canada. Regular forces from the United States and New York militia under the command of Major General Stephen Van Rensselaer III, a former Lieutenant Governor of New York State, took up arms against British, Canadian and Mohawk forces under Major General Isaac Brock, who was killed in the fighting.

The Americans stationed in Lewiston, New York tried to establish a foothold on the Canadian side of the Niagara River, but couldn’t get their invasion force across the water because of the heavy pounding from British artillery. Soon British reinforcements arrived and the Americans were defeated. Today the Brock Monument, a 56-metre (185-foot) column at Queenston Heights, commemorates the battle and General Brock.


Employee Profile: Mark Domanski

What does Mark Domanski do for a living? He builds skyscrapers, hotels and condo towers. Mark, 21, graduated from Carleton University with a degree in Civil Engineering and for the past three summers worked at Our Home and Miniature Land with older brother David, who studied Architecture at the University of Waterloo.

Mark builds big structures from scratch. That includes downtown Toronto skyscrapers like First Canadian Place and Commerce Court, not to mention the Fairmont Royal York Hotel and for the Hamilton exhibit The Absolute Towers, also known as the Marilyn Monroe condo buildings.

“The Monroe buildings and the Royal York were challenging because of the detail,” he says. “Our exhibits have signature structures which are recognizable buildings, and generic structures which could be a shop or office tower. With the signature structure you must follow strict detail and sometimes a unique shape.”

He works from photos of the real thing and then goes to Google Earth for detail. How much? Well, First Canadian Place is Canada’s tallest building at 72 stories and Mark’s creation is an exact replica at a scale of 1:120. He designs, assembles and does the lighting with a laser cutter and uses AutoCAD for smaller items – tulips, bus shells, road intersections.

He is very much part of a team and recently came on full-time. Mark also plays baseball and roots for the Blue Jays. His favourite book is The A Song of Ice and Fire series, and his favourite movie is Monty Python and the Holy Grail.

Jacqueline Wong