Friday, March 22, 2019

New England, Berkshire & Western Finds New Home

The New England, Berkshire & Western Railroad (NEB&W) has found a new home. 

Earlier I reported that the layout, built and maintained by the Rensselaer Model Railroad Society (on the campus of the Renssaelaer Polytechnical Institute), needed to move from its current location due to the need for renovations.

At that time, the club had nowhere to go. The plan was to cut up the layout and put into storage.

To avoid that scenario, the club issued a plea for “massive amounts of publicity” in an effort to “reach some wealthy benefactor, or even just convince the school the importance of not letting us wither away in storage.”

Their effort seems to have worked; according to a report by the Institute, the layout will “soon be moved to a location that will allow the public better access to its miniature re-creations of communities from Troy to the Canadian Border set in 1950.”

The new home will be a space leased by the Institute at 258 Hoosick Street in Troy.

“This move is uncovering a hidden gem and elevating it to a position of prominence in the community,” said Dalton Slegel, the president of the Model Railroad Society.

“We are honoring the historical connections between Rensselaer alumni and railroading heritage, as well as the immense contributions of club members over many decades.”

This summer the club’s current home, Davison Hall will undergo renovations, including removal of asbestos insulation and the removal and replacement of aging water and heating pipes located directly above and around the NEB&W layout.

In addition to being more publicly accessible, the new space will provide the club with additional space to expand the layout.

Adirondack Studios and Clarke Dunham of Dunham Studios, which specializes in model railroads, has been contracted “to develop and execute a plan to safely remove the railroad from the basement of Davison Hall, provide secure temporary storage, and reassemble it at the new location.”

The relocation should be completed by fall.

Photo above from TrainMasters TV.

Monday, March 11, 2019

Great Canadian Model Railroad: CN and CP in Belgium

As you may recall, the first word I wrote was: “Wow.”

Well, “wow” again—this time about the club layout Evan is involved in.

The layout, which features modern Canadian railways, is in a 24 by 24-foot room in an old school, going around the walls with a central peninsula.


In an adjacent room there is a loop of track to connect to lower staging level. The club plans to add an extra loop and coal loading facility.

The layout, which is still under construction, features prototype areas such as Alyth Yard and engine terminal in Calgary, Blackie, AB and Ashcroft, Elkview mine and Sparwood, BC.

One of the special highlights is the Cargill elevator. I asked Evan who made it.

“Everybody of the club made a contribution to the building,” he wrote. “One specialised in the lights, another built it and another painted.

The silos are from a Walthers cornerstone kit, and the rest is scratchbuilt based on pictures found on the web, he says.

The building is “totally made out of styrene,” he adds, with things such as conveyors a mix of scratchbuilt and kit bashing.

“Altogether, seven members worked on it, including me,” he says. “So it’s a real club project.”

As for trains on the layout, they are a mix of CN and CP due to the interests of the members.

While most of the layout is permanent, two parts are modular: Ashcroft and Blackie. They can be taken to train shows.

For scenery, the club uses a base made out of Styrofoam, then covered with plaster cloth and Sculptamold. The ballast and dirt “are from mother nature, sifted to match HO scale,” Evan says.

The track is Peco Streamline code 83, with code 100 for the staging.

The layout is operated with walk-around DCC, with signaling and switches controlled by the dispatcher.

This is the second layout the club has built. The first was a portable layout, called the Nitinat River. It was set on Vancouver Island. It was featured in Great Model Railroads 2013.

(A post about that layout will come soon!)

While few people model Canadian railways in Belgium, Evan says the club's work “is known and well appreciated.”

“The goal is to organize operating sessions for visitors when the scenery is more evolved,” says Evan—so start planning your trip to Belgium now!

In addition to Evan, the other members of the club are Erwin, Erik, Paul, Alex, Xavier, Koen and Lode. 

You can see videos of the layout by clicking here, here and here. 

Sunday, February 17, 2019

Great Canadian Model Railroad in Belgium: Evan Daes' Alberta-B.C. Diorama


That’s all I could say when photos of Evan Daes’ great model railroad.

Evan, who lives in Belgium, models Canadian railways. I first saw his work on the Canadian Railway Modellers group on Facebook.

From scenery to backdrop to locomotives to rolling stock, everything is superb. I knew right away it was a candidate for my Great Canadian Model Railroads series.

There are three unusual things about Evan’s layout.

First, it’s just 13 feet long by about two feet wide. It’s a diorama, in his dining room.

Second, it took him only two weeks to build it.

Third, Evan lives a long way from Canada—in Belgium.

So how did someone from Europe get interested in Canadian trains?

“After several trips to the U.S. and Canada for holidays, I was quickly sold to those massive trains and scenery instead of the local European trains,” he says.  

He started building small Canadian-themed layouts, taking them to local shows, and formed a club with others focused on Canadian railways.

A custom layout builder, he has built 18 layouts in the past eight years, mostly on European themes. “But my heart is in Canadian railroading,” he says.

This layout, set in the Alberta-B.C. area, is not era-specific. “So I can use BC Rail, CP and CN,” he says.

As for construction, the layout is made from three modules, so it’s transportable if needed.

The track is handlaid on cork. Ties are made out of matches, and the rail is Peco Code 75.

The switches are also handlaid directly on the layout, and the points and frogs are made from a Fast Tracks jig.

The scenery is a Styrofoam base covered with Sculptamold—“my all-time favourite modelling medium,” he says.

The rocks are also made from Sculptamold, while the dirt and stones are all natural cover he collects during the year.

The trees are a mixture of commercial and handmade, with most of the commercial ones are from a European company called Anita D├ęcor.

The self-made trees are made from twisted wire covered with Static grass and fine turf, and the bushes from Welberg Scenery.

The backdrop is from Herbert Lake, near Lake Louise, and printed by

The has a small lake and a creek. The creek is made on a base with Sculptamold, then covered with real crushed  limestone and set with PVA glue.  

The lake is a flat layer of Sculptamold painted and sealed with acrylics to obtain the typical silted colours.  

Evan used Woodland Scenics Deep Pour water for the creek and lake.

There is only one building on the layout, a house from a kit. The layout is operated with Digitrax DCC.

For Evan, “the small layout was and ideal way to try some new scenery techniques.”

“A layout is never finished,” he adds.

From what I see, it looks very finished to me!

Saturday, February 9, 2019

More Kim Adams and the "Art" of Model Railroading

In 2013 I wrote about Canadian artist Kim Adams and his 2012 installation titled Artist Colony (Gardens).

In it, Adams used a variety of objects, including HO scale trains, to make a fantastical and imaginary urban landscape.

Well, the 68-year-old artist is at it again. This time his newest installation is at the Art Gallery of Hamilton.

Called Bruegel-Bosch Bus, the large piece of art features an actual 1960 VW 60a van covered in figures, vehicles, buildings and, yes, trains.

Lots of trains. And building kits.

According to the Gallery, the exhibit blends “humour, satire and seriousness” as he “builds ‘worlds’ as a means of social critique.”

It goes on to say that the “Kubrickesque megalopolis” draws upon “urban fantasies, phantasmagoric, post-apocalyptic landscapes, and a plethora of different times and cultures.”

The Volkswagen van “appears to pull a post-industrial universe displaying a cornucopia of fantastic and seductive worlds that play with our senses,” it adds.

OK—whatever you say. What I’m interested in is the trains!

They appear to be from a mix of manufacturers, including at least one Rapido van.

Of the trains, Adams says in an interview with the K/W Record that he finds they “have such a rich vocabulary" when it comes to art.

"I've always been interested in what you can buy at model train stores," he says.

As for the art itself, it has things in common with normal layouts.

As Adams puts it, his art with trains builds "its own narrative," something you can make a world out of.

And like a freelance layout, there are “no rules for it." If something doesn't work, he says it "comes out."

Adams started the installation in 1997. Like a layout, the fun "is just watching it grow," he adds.

As for me, I think his unique art is weird, but also interesting.

And from a model railroad point of view, at least he’s keeping some hobby shops and manufacturers in business—and that’s good for us “serious” modellers!