Saturday, February 4, 2017

Canada 150 and VIA Rail

Canada is 150 years old in 2017—a mere child compared to countries in Europe, and a toddler compared to ancient Middle Eastern and Asian civilizations.

But still, it’s a big deal being around this long, and the country is celebrating in various ways.

This includes VIA Rail, which has decorated locomotive 916 and LRC 3356 in Canada 150 colours and markings.

Unlike when Canada turned 100, back in 1967, there is no special train like the Confederation Train crossing the country to showcase our history. There isn’t even anything like the Grey Cup 100th anniversary train, either; a whole train dedicated to that topic.

The best we can do this year is to stand trackside, and if we are lucky be able to watch as history passes by.

Thanks to Ian Deck for the photos on this page; he has more on his Flickr page. Thanks also to Trackside Treasure and Malcolm Peakman for the shot below.

Monday, January 30, 2017

CP Rail Red Barn Update from Bowser

Samples of Bowser’s new Red Barn were on display at the big model railroad show in Springfield at the end of January.

After I saw the photos by Railroad Model Craftsman, I send a note to Lee English of Bowser for an update on the models—when would they be released?

“It should be three to four months,” he replied.

The next run of SD40-2 units will be out in “about 7-8 weeks,” he said, adding that the AS16/616 is next, followed by the M636 and then the Red Barns.

The delay in releasing the Red Barns is due to delays by Bowser’s builder, he adds.

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Great Canadian Model Railroad: The HO Model Engineer’s Society

For some time I have wanted to feature the HO Model Engineer’s Society (or HOMES) on this blog.

I was lucky enough to visit their former layout in the mid-1990s—before the age of smartphones and digital cameras, when photography was still hard.

I sent e-mails via the club’s web page once or twice, asking if anyone would send me some progress photos, but didn’t hear back. So I let it be.

But then Brandon Bayer recently started posting photos of the club’s new layout on the Canadian Railway Modeller’s group on Facebook.

I’ve “borrowed” some of those images for my blog. (Thanks, Brandon!) Below find some info about the club, which was founded in 1948—making it one of the oldest in Canada.

At first, the club met in member’s homes. It had a succession of layouts in various places until 1980s, when a new layout was begun in the basement of the Delta Bingo Hall. 

The 42' X 52' layout was set in 1967, Canada's Centennial Year, and the geography depicted Hamilton to North Bay with the scenery showing all four seasons.

The club was forced to move in 1997 to Stoney Creek Plaza (where I saw it). This time the 42 X 62 layout featured Toronto, Hamilton & Buffalo operations in the Hamilton and southern Ontario area.

In 2007 they were forced to move again. Now in their tenth location, at the Eva Rothwell Centre, they are far enough along to provide photos of a great looking layout.

This layout models the TH&B in the Hamilton area in the 1950s, with CNR, the CPR and NYC limited to live interchanges to get cars on and off the layout.

They also utilized David Barrows’ “domino” technique to build the layout—a good plan, considering how often they’ve moved!

Buffalo and Toronto are represented by staging. TH&B, NYC, and CNR trains enter the layout from Buffalo to the NYC yard in Welland, From there, the TH&B crosses the third Welland Canal on Bridge 15, reaching Hamilton via Smithville and Stoney Creek.

On their website, the club says “we're now in our seventh year building this layout, and when you stand back and take a look, it's starting to look finished. (It helps if you squint . . .)”

From what I can see, it already looks like a Great Canadian Model Railroad; I hope I can get to visit it someday. 

About the TH&B: Based in Hamilton, the TH&B was jointly owned by the CPR and the NYC, although it operated as an independent railway for over 90 years. It was a bridge route giving the NYC direct access to Toronto and connections to the Canadian railway network. The Canadian Pacific, in turn, gained direct access to Buffalo and NYC's "Water-Level Route" to New York City and Chicago.

Click here to see more photos on the H.O.M.E.S. Facebook page. Click here to visit their website and read more about the club’s history and operations. Learn more about the TH&B from the TH&B Historical Society.

Friday, January 13, 2017

You Don't Always Get What You Want (When You Buy a Locomotive), But Sometimes You Get What You Need

The Rolling Stones sang "You can't always get what you want, but sometimes you get what you need."

What I wanted, about 15 years ago, was another CP Rail GP38-2 for my locomotive roster.

I found a Proto 2000 GP38-2 in the used bin at a hobby shop, so I bought it.

From day one, it ran poorly.

I tried everything, to no avail. 

I even had a friend who was expert in such things look at it.

It didn’t matter how much tinkering was done: It just wouldn’t run well.

When it ran, the motor squealed. Other times, it wouldn't run at all; it would just sit there and hum.

Occasionally, it ran flawlessly, then reverted to its old ways.

(I'm not alone; a search online shows that lots of people had troubles with these units.)

Frustrated, I turned it into a static prop in the engine house in Fort Frances. 

And there it stayed for over ten years, its nose sticking out of the door, just part of the scenery.

But last week I was bored, so I decided to try to fix it one more time.

Nope; still the same problems.

In a fit of inspiration—or maybe just a fit—I decided to take out the motor and turn it into a dummy.

If it couldn’t pull anything, at least it could look like it was, in a consist with two other four-axle units.

And that's what I did. At first, it felt bad tearing a locomotive apart. But I got over it.

And now it runs perfectly! Those Proto 2000 units roll so easily once the gears are removed.

And after some weathering, it looks good, too, now earning its keep on the layout, running with two other powered GP38-2 units (from Atlas).

So I didn't get what I wanted, but I got what I needed: Another four-axle locomotive for the layout. 

This is not the first time I have dissembled something I wanted to create something I needed on the layout. Click here to read how I took apart my finished and painted Rico station to make it fit better as a flat against the wall in the Fort Frances yard.

Sunday, January 8, 2017

Frozen in Time

Up here in the Great White North, we might be frozen, but not forever—not like the Manitoba & Minnesota Sub. in my basement.

We have had a lot of snow this year in Manitoba; more than in the past few years, that’s for sure. And now we’re in the middle of a really cold spell—minus 20 and below (Celsius).

But on the layout, it’s always summer, and always the early 1990s. 

Frozen in time, in other words.

It’s also frozen in time in another way, as I explained to my friend, Sheldon, who visited today. (The reason for the crossbucks in the snowbank—to help him find my house).

A trip to the M & M Sub. is literally a trip back in time, in two ways.

First, it's figuratively a trip back in time to the early 1990s, a time when CP Rail's trains were mostly pulled by the ubiquitous SD40-2 units.

It was a time when you could see a variety of liveries on those and other units: Multimark and no Multimark, Twin Flags, SOO (white and red and only red), and others (e.g. ex-UP and primer red and grey).

It's also a literal trip back in time to the early 1990s, when DC was the only way to operate trains, and Blue Box Athearn locomotives were considered among the top of the line model railroad locomotives..

Yes, that’s right: For those of you who might be new to the blog, the M & M Sub. uses DC (Dinosaur Control) and block controls.

In the early days, it was a matter of money. I didn’t have much, and it was too costly to convert to DCC.

Now, money isn’t as much of a problem, but I still don’t feel the need to change over from DC.

Although I can run up to four trains, I mostly run the layout by myself, so there’s no need to worry about needing to have multiple units running at the same time.

Plus, it's getting near to the end of the life of the layout; in another year or two, I figure, we will probably downsize to a condo or apartment.

Then the M & M Sub. will meet the fate of all layouts, coming down as they all must—part of the great Mandala of time.

Upgrading to DCC at this point would be foolhardy, then, if all I might have in the future is a small switching layout with a locomotive or two.

But until then, I will continue to enjoy the M & M Sub., even if it is frozen in time.