Sunday, May 19, 2019

His First (and Maybe Last) Byline in Trains Magazine

It only took seven years (or more).

That was my first thought after reading the end of an article by William S. Kuba in the January, 2019 issue of Trains Magazine.

The article was about the time Kuba went AWOL from the army while watching trains.

At the end of the article, it was noted that Kuba, a railroad photographer and historian known for his photos of Iowa railroading, had died Nov. 23, 2012 at the age of 75.

It also said this was his first Trains byline.

That means it took at least seven years before his article was published.

So congratulations to Kuba—it isn’t easy to get published in Trains.

Too bad he isn’t alive to see it.

Cover of the January issue with
William Kuba's article.

Now, before anyone jumps up and down on the staff at Trains, as I have written about before (about the Model Railroader cover “curse”) there’s a perfectly good explanation for this.

Magazines like Trains, Model Railroader, Railroad Model Craftsman and others can receive dozens of unsolicited submissions each year.

With just 12 issues per year, limited space in print, and commitments to columnist, regular departments and assigned articles, they can use only a fraction of them.

And so they sit—until there’s room, it fits a theme, there’s a page or space to fill, or an expected article drops out for some reason.

I have some experience with this as an author. An article I wrote about a scenery method for Model Railroader waited four years before being published.

On the plus side, it was paid for right away when the magazine accepted it.

In that time, anything could have happened to me or my layout. (Leading to speculation about the “curse.”)

I also know this from the other side, when I was Associate Editor at Canadian Railway Modeller. 

Since CRM was bi-monthly, that magazine had an even bigger challenge when it came to space. Articles could wait a long time before being published. (Although never seven years!)

Of course, that’s no consolation for poor William S. Kuba. (Although he at least got his payment before he died.)

Who knows? Maybe Trains has another article or two from him, waiting to be used. Maybe he will be published posthumously again.

At least he made it into Trains Magazine. And that’s not something most of us can say—dead or alive.

Saturday, May 11, 2019

Great Canadian Layout: The Central Northern Subdivision

Note: George Myer, creator of the Central Northern Subdivision, passed away May 6, 2019. In his honour, I am re-posting my article about his Great Canadian Model Railroad.

Back in April I posted a short note about George Myer's Central Northern Subdivision. In it I noted that his layout would be featured in an upcoming issue of Canadian Railway Modeller.

That issue has been out for a while now, so I thought I'd share a few more photos from George's fantastic layout.

By way of reminder, the Central Northern Subdivision is a two-rail O scale layout in George's 22 by 20 foot basement. Set in the late 1960s to early 1970s, it finds CPR trains traveling though fictitious towns and scenes in southeastern B.C.

Seventy-five percent of the track handlaid, using code 148 on the main, code 125 in the yard and code 100 in lightly used industry and spur tracks. The ties are hand cut and stained.

In addition to handlaying the track, George also scratchbuilt all 33 turnouts and one diamond on the layout. Most of the switches are number sixes, and all are hand-thrown.

For scenery, George uses Styrofoam to make his landforms. He then puts drywall compound over it—he likes the way it cracks realistically as it dries and produces a rock-like texture. He then paints the scenery with acrylic paints.

To hide the benchwork, George uses landscape fabric for curtains. The effect is great, although he now wishes he had used a heavier grade so it would hang better.

Operations are also enhanced by a two-track staging yard behind a hill at the back of the layout. At the start of a “day,” three trains are staged and ready to go—two in hidden staging, and one on the layout.

What’s remarkable about this gorgeous layout is that George is legally blind—but he didn’t let them slow him down. He’s built a better layout with partial sight than many of us can do with 20/20 vision.

Click here to go to my Picasa Web album see more photos of the Central Northern Subdivision; you'll be glad you did!

Update: the Central Northern was dismantled in 2012; read about it here. George Myer, the owner, passed away May 6, 2019. Rest in Peace . . . .

Saturday, April 20, 2019

Great Canadian Model Railroad: The Nitinat River RR (in Belgium)

Earlier I wrote about the great Canadian Model Railroad club layout in Belgium built by Evan Daes and his friends.

As it turns out, that wasn’t the first Canadian-themed layout the group built. The first one was the Nitinat River RR, an HO scale sectional logging layout.

The group, all fans of Canadian railways, selected Vancouver Island as the home for the layout because some of the club members had visited Canada and liked the west coast.

The layout was freelanced, but it was based on a prototype idea.

In the early 20th century, the Canadian Northern Pacific (the predecessor of the CNR) intended to build a line from Victoria up to the western side of Cowichan Lake (now known as Nitinat Camp).

The real line was never completed. But in the club’s version of history, the line was finished and included a branch line to Bamfield.

The layout, which measured 16 by 26 feet, was built in 19 sections, The sections measured 2’6” wide by 4 feet long.

The track was all handlaid, using code 70 rail.

The scenery was made from foam, to keep the sections light. All the buildings and other structures were made from wood.

On the layout, the Nitimat RR served logging and mining industries, and a few fish canneries.

When not on display, the sections were stored in member’s homes. The club displayed it once a year at a major European train show.

As you may have noted by now, I’m writing about the layout in the past tense. It was dismantled so club members could make a new more modern Canadian layout. 

Only two sections were saved: the Bamfield port and the sawmill at Franklin.

Before it was dismantled, the layout was featured in Great Model Railroads, 2013. And now it is here—in Great Canadian Model Railroads!

Track plan from Great Model Railroads.

Monday, April 15, 2019

SuperTrain 2019

Rapido's Royal Hudson. Beautiful!

Another Supertrain is behind me. As usual, it was a good experience, made better by spending a day with an old high school friend.

The day started as I like when going to SuperTrain: Taking the C-Train to the show. Nothing like taking a train to see trains!

It’s easy to be overwhelmed by a show this big. My goal, while there, is to find things that are unique and different—a scene on a huge layout, an interesting exhibitor or display.

Or sometimes interesting people, like Shaun Teirele, president of Steel Horse Models.

Shaun, who is from Red Deer (two hours north of Calgary), has been dabbling in 3-D printing for about eight years while running an oil field inspection company.

With the downturn in the oil sector in the province, Shaun closed his company and starting doing 3-D printing full-time, mostly trade show models. Now he’s trying his hand at model railroading

“It’s a gamble, but it’s fun,” he says of the new business line.

Right now, Shaun has got GP20C-ECO, SD30C-ECO, SW1504, SD402-F (Red Barn), B23-S7, SD50 and 60Fs in production, in N, TT, HO, O and 1:32

Then there’s Grant Smith, who has a unique hobby within the hobby of model railroading: He is trying to collect a model of each of the Union Pacific’s 25 Big Boys.

So far, he has 17 of them in plastic, brass and diecast, along with a collection of ephemera related to the massive machines—articles, photos, calendars and what-not.

While at Grant's display, we talked about the upcoming run of Big Boy 4014 this summer.

Apparently, tens of thousands of people are expected to show up in Ogden, Utah, and along the way from Cheyenne, Wyoming, to see the unit in action.

Greg said that state police along the route have already issued warnings to railfans: Anyone caught driving at track speed along roads that parallel the tracks—the better to take photos and video—will be pulled over and ticketed.

As much as he loves the Big Boys, he’s not planning to go; too expensive. He can use the money he saves to buy another model!

Then there were the layouts. There are many to enjoy, but this year it was the Brits who caught most of my attention.

I really liked the Kingsley and Frogall, an O Scale layout modelled after a prototype line in Great Britain.

Then there was the Calgary British Railway Modellers. On their layout, I was taken by the harbour scene.

The Independent Free-Mo Operating Group always impresses, too. (Although I wonder about the reason for the name—was there a conflict with another Free-Mo group that led to the creation of the layout?)

Dan Huberman was there from North American Railcar, showing off some gorgeous, but expensive ($60 each) N Scale rolling stock.

Yes, he said, they are expensive. But there is a good market for cars like this from modelers who want higher quality cars for their layouts.

(Speaking of layouts, I found out Dan is an N Scaler.)

Shira Trains did not make an appearance; no CPR D-10 to see in person.

The last time I attended the show was 2016. This year’s show seemed smaller, a few more empty display spaces and more room between layouts.

I did a bit of checking, and there were fewer layouts this year; 52 in 2019 versus 66 in 2016.

As for manufacturers and other displays, in 2016 there were 66, but this year there were 68—so no big difference there.

One thing that was noticeable was the lack of the big manufacturers—no Athearn, Atlas, Bachmann or Bowser. Fortunately, Rapido was there showing off its new Royal Hudson. (See top.)

This is no big deal; I used to run the model railroad show in Winnipeg and from year-to-year we would have more or less layouts, displays and sales tables.

And the day ended as it began, on the C-Train. A great day, all around, and congrats and thanks to the organizers, volunteers, clubs, manufacturers and others who made it all possible.