Friday, August 7, 2020

Rewind: York Railway Modellers, a Great Canadian Model Railroad:

As I wrote earlier, this pandemic has got me down. It's hard to work on the layout, or come up with fresh content for the blog. But I have lots of interesting content from years past which could be shared again, like this post from 2012. Enjoy! 

Another great Canadian model railroad I had the pleasure of helping to get published is York Railway Modellers.

The club, which is located in Toronto, started in 1992. The HO scale layout combines CNR and CPR mainline and wayfreight operation in southern Ontario between 1953-57.

The layout is over 1,600 square feet in area and has around 11 scale miles of mainline track. It features two major yards and eight towns. Each yard has three industrial areas plus a roundhouse, turntable and engine facilities.

The single track mainline runs from is set up to run end-to-end from the CPR Lambton Yard (West Toronto) to the CNR London Yard. A total of 25 people are required to operate it properly.

Today the club has finished all the trackwork and 95 percent of the wiring; work on scenery is a continuing project.

York Railway Modellers was featured in Canadian Railway Modeller Train 7 Track 4. Photos from the club’s website and Scott Reid. Click here to visit their website. A few more photos are below.

Sunday, July 5, 2020

COVID-19, Model Railroading and the Gateway Spur

Like many other things during the pandemic, the Gateway Spur has been shut down.

Unlike the real world, it wasn’t loss of traffic or customers or supplies or even to prevent the transmission of the virus.

It was simple loss of interest and energy.

It’s not like I wasn’t busy at other things; as a religion reporter for my local newspaper, my work continued unabated as I reported about the impact of the pandemic on faith groups.

And the little NGO I work part-time for had to do all sorts of recalibrations to adjust to the new reality.

I also started biking more, an hour or so each evening to stay fit and keep my mind off the loss of so many things because of the (stupid) pandemic.

I also read 8 or 9 books—a record for me. In normal times, it can take me a month to get through one.

But in other ways, the pandemic really weighed on me. Sports, concerts, festivals and so many other events all cancelled. Even if I was never going to go to or take in them all, I felt their absence keenly.

It was a sort of existential loss, a void that seems to last forever.

This lack of energy carried over to model railroading, I found it hard to be motivated to do anything on the layout.

I went down to the train room only a few times to run some trains—never mind think about doing scenery.

For me, the energy for the hobby just wasn’t there. Or for this blog, which I haven’t updated since April 22.

Am I the only one who felt this way?

I know some haven’t. People like Jason Shron of Rapido Trains has used the time at home productively to make some brilliant scenery on this layout. 

Which is amazing, considering he was also trying to keep his company afloat and keep three kids busy at home at the same time.

Others on the Canadian Railway Modellers group have posted photos of their modelling during the pandemic.

Since he’s in the higher-risk age group for catching the virus, Kevin Day stayed inside completed two kits he bought about 35 years ago.

Jon Calon of Calgary found a silver lining in the pandemic, noting a lot of sign shops and places that produce the clear sneeze guards are likely to be awash in scraps of material.

"Those scraps work wonderfully for model railway owners wanting to protect details and rolling stock close to the edge of the layout," he wrote.

"I just scored (free!) a couple of 8' long chunks of clear polycarbonate that are about 10" tall." 

Daniel Charest used the lockdown to add a mine to his N scale layout. This area was a piece of plywood before the pandemic started.

Nick Eh used the "COVID crap" time, as he called it, to model CP GP38-2 3031, a unit that brought back good memories from when he was a kid.

And good on John Strickland and the Mississippi Valley Associated Modelers in the Ottawa area found a way to combine social distancing with running trains by setting their modules up outside.

As for me, maybe things will change in fall modelling-wise. Summer always was a slow time, anyway. Perhaps things will be different in the fall for the pandemic and my energy. We can only hope.

Wednesday, April 22, 2020

Winnipeg Pandemic Virtual Layout Hop

In spring, the Winnipeg Model Railroad Club sometimes has a layout hop—visiting local layouts. Since we can do that during the pandemic, how about a virtual hop? I’ve assembled a list of links to Winnipeg layouts featured on my blog.

The good thing about a virtual layout hop is no driving between layouts, or trying to choose which ones to see based on time available. And best of all, even though many of these layouts no longer exist they can still be visited this way. Enjoy!

First up is Arnold Walker’s HO scale Northland Route, which was one of the premiere layouts in the city. And because there is so much to see on Arnold’s layout, you may need more time. So take a second look at the Northland Route.

Next is Stafford Swain’s HO scale CN Whiteshell Subdivision, including tributes to Stafford. (Who passed away in  2018.)

After that, let’s head over to George Meyer’s O Scale Central Northern Subdivision. George was in N and HO scales before settling on O scale and making this fabulous layout. He passed away in 2019.

Back to HO scale with The Carson and Cobourg,  a layout build by two friends—Marvin Fetch and Vern Gibson.

No visit to layouts in Winnipeg is complete without going to fall in Pennsylvania! That’s the theme of Ron Loewen’s O scale layout, built in a room above his garage.

The Miller Creek Forestry Museum layout started life in B.C., but now makes its home in Winnipeg. Take a look at this amazing ON30 layout!

Wonder what a layout built on four levels looks like? One that goes all around a basement, including through a bedroom and rec room? Then you have to stop by Ken Epp’s Cougar River Subdivision! Ken passed away in 2014.

If four levels isn’t enough, what about five? You can’t miss Ray Goy’s Twin Lakes Terminal & Transfer Railroad, a monster layout on five levels that completely (and I mean completely) filled Ray’s 1,250 square foot basement.

Since it’s spring, maybe the Assiniboine Valley Railway is in operation! Nothing like a ride on Bill Taylor’s 7.5 inch AVR—the route of the hazelnuts.

For a treat, visit one of the oldest home layouts in the city: Don McKinnon’s Malamute & Klondike. It was in the same house for 63 years in the same house until Don passed away in 2013. (Must be some kind of record.)

And I suppose not layout hop in Winnipeg would be complete without a visit to my own layout, the Manitoba & Minnesota Sub., or my N scale Thompson River Canyon hollow core door layout.

Thanks for coming on the hop! Hope you had a good time.

Sunday, March 8, 2020

Great Help for Designing and Building a Shelf Layout

Soon after taking down my large (17 by 21 foot) double deck (at one time triple-deck) layout, I joined three Facebook groups dedicated to shelf layouts—like the one I am building now.

My goal was to pick up some ideas, get some encouragement, maybe even show off a bit of my work.

Micro/Small layouts is a group is for anyone who doesn’t have a spare room or basement to devote to a layout. (Which isn’t me, but they still let me join.) People don’t need a layout to participate.

HO Scale Shelf Layouts defines a shelf layout as something that utilizes a narrow shelf of various depths and may or may not be supported by legs. It is linear in design and could be around the room or along the walls. (That is more like what I am doing.)

And Shelf Layouts, Switching Layouts and Layouts for Small Spaces is pretty much just what it says in the title.

It was a great decision to join, for the following reasons. 

First, it reminded me again of how great these Facebook groups are (even if you, like me, am ambivalent about Facebook and its growing power over our lives).

Unlike model railroad magazines, which only show the best layouts in North America (or other countries), Facebook groups are open to anyone of any skill. You get to see such a wide variety of modelling, from beginner to expert.

Everyone is welcome, in other words.

Second, model railroad magazines devote their precious real estate (pages) to finished layouts—you aren’t going to see lots of photos of layouts under construction. But Facebook enables people to post photos at all stages of the process. You can learn a lot by seeing benchwork!

Third, the modelling comes from all over—Canada, the U.S., the UK, Europe, Japan. It is great to see so many different styles.

Fourth, the groups allow people to ask questions. Some people show the space they have and ask others for ideas—and get them. And some modellers, like Rob Chant of The Journal of Model Railroad Design blog, post plans and suggestions on the Micro/Small Layouts group.

Fifth, what a creative bunch model railroaders are! Some of the layouts are just tracks in boxes. One folds down from the wall. 

Others are one switch, a spur and an industry—all the space someone had. Some people make intricately-detailed dioramas.

The need to build a layout of any size or kind is strong—and many people are up for the challenge, if the meaning of the word “layout” is stretched in different ways.

These groups (there may be others) have been very helpful and inspiring to me as I created my new Gateway Spur, an HO scale switching layout. You might enjoy them, too.