Sunday, May 27, 2012

A Streetcar Named Derelict

Near the town of Morriston, Ont., on Highway 6, can be found this interesting sight—former Toronto Transit Commission PCC streetcar 4427 sitting, derelict, in a farmyard.

It’s been there for 16 years, about the length of time I’ve been traveling that highway between Guelph and Hamilton while on business.

4427, a TTC A-7 class PCC car, was built in 1949 by Canadian Car & Foundry/St. Louis Car. Co. It was equipped for multiple unit operation, and ran paired with another streetcar in Toronto until 1980 when it was sold to a hotel in Brantford, Ont. The hotel closed in 1992, and 4427 was moved to another location in Brantford, where it served for as a refreshment stand. It hit the road one more time, moving to Cainsville, Ont., before ending up in its present location in 1996.

I spoke to one of the owners in 2002, and was told he hoped to one day return it to use as a restaurant—but it doesn’t look like that’s going to happen any time soon.

Sad as it might be to see it like this, at least its been “saved,” in a manner of speaking, and can be seen by travelers on the busy highway.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Get by with a little help from my friends

The CP Rail Manitoba & Minnesota Sub. is a one-person creation. Except for a little help holding some lumber during the early days of construction, everything on the layout has been built by myself.

Not everyone wants to do it that way, or can. Which is why it's nice to get a little help from friends. Like the guys who built the Port aux Blaireaux module, seen on display at the 2011 Calgary Supertrain show.

While admiring the great modelling, one of the creators explained to me that he belonged to a small group of four or five modellers who helped build each other's layouts. The way it works is that they work together on one module, display it a couple times, and then the owner gets to take it home and incorporate it into his home layout.

Not a bad system, if you ask me!

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Video of the Aberfoyle Junction

In addition to taking photos of the Aberfoyle Junction during its last weekend open house, I shot some video--an overview of some of the action on the magnificent O scale layout. You can find here on my YouTube channel.

And what action it was! Unlike on most display layouts, where the trains go round-and-round, the Aberfoyle Junction was a working layout--trains not only traversed the lines in a structured way, but they also stopped and did switching in the various yards. Locomotives were also cut off, turned and serviced before heading back out to the road again.

Some of the switching took place in the name-sake Aberfoyle Junction, where cars were transferred between the CNR and the CPR in a small yard. The CNR worked one end of the yard, off its main, while the CPR worked the other end.

What made the switching all the more remarkable is that it was controlled from an elevated booth in the middle of the layout, and from one on the second floor of the quonset hut at the end of the layout. Operators needed sharp eyes to spot the hidden uncoupling magnets in the tracks!

But all that has gone quiet now; the layout is to be dismantled and reassembled in the nearby tourist town of St. Jacobs. Club members say it will take up to 18 months to put the layout back together.

In the meantime, you can "see" the layout again and again through this video or, better yet, buy one that the club had professionally made. Not only will it give you great enjoyment, it will give the club some much-need cash as they make the move to a new location.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Railways and Postcards (or can you say "Deltiology?")

Postcard of the VIA Turbo.

People collect all sorts of things—stamps, coins, shaving mugs, beer cans and much, much more. (Some people even collect model trains, or so I hear.) Until recently, I was unaware that some people collect postcards—also called Deltiology.

A 1970s-80s view of the Spiral Tunnels.

A little bit of searching revealed that collectors assign postcards to periods such as the Golden Age (1898-1919), linens (circa 1930-1950), or modern (after 1940); the eras can also be divided into even more specific times according to the type of postcards (e.g. private mailing, divided back, white border, photochrome, etc.).

An older view of the same scene.

(A short history of postcards can be found at Shiloh Cards. A more extensive report can be found on the website of Seneca County, New York. Interestingly, many websites devoted to collecting postcards claim that it is the third largest hobby in the U.S. Coin and stamp collecting are, apparently, one and two.)

Some postcards were made for
advertising purposes.

Postcards are collected by individuals, but also by historical societies, libraries and genealogical societies. Of particular interest to historians is how postcards show how cities and places looked at a particular time.

What Toronto's waterfront looked like before
most of the railway tracks were removed.

For model railroaders, postcards are a similar source of information—what did that old station look like in 1940? A quick Google search shows there are many postcard images on the Web; some for sale, some just for showing off. 

For those who model western Canada, one of the best is Prairie Postcards, a service of the University of Alberta. They have over 15,000 postcards on their website—like this one, taken sometime before 1920 at Slave Lake in Alberta. It was sent by Harold to his wife.

The message says: "Dear Wife, A little P/C for you this time. This is a photo of our little loco on the trestle with a load of logs and shingle [bolts]. You noticed the [lap] just throwing off a bolt. Photo take by Heap. Son of the Great Mogue & Manager at Ruskin. Good photos & a source of revenue for him. They sell in [camp] here like hot cakes at 10 [cents]. Gives you a good idea of scenery here . . . I'll send you p/cards of any thing interesting when I can get them no more on this, love from Harold."

This one doesn’t have a personal message, but the description tells you a lot about the locomotive on the front of the card: "Canadian Pacific R'y, Loco No 5813 S2A C.P.R. Montreal, Canada July 1920 at Calgary, Alta Feb 6th 1921. Field 1930, Medicine Hat 1952, Scr Oct. 55."

This one shows a winter scene in Winnipeg in 1906. The sender didn’t have enough room, so he wrote on the front; on the back, it says: "We are in the heart of our winter season with plenty skating, sleighing. I am sending you a card of my own work showing a C.P.R. Engine after a run of 130 miles from the west. I took on New Year’s day 1906 in the mammoth yards of the CPR in Wipeg."

Back before the Internet, postcards were a way to share newsworthy events, like this derailment near Carberry, Man. Says the message: “Hello M - Am writing you soon - This is derailment of Imperial Ltd. no. 2. Just west of me a few miles (June 6th) Quite a tie up over 12 hours. Put 10 psgr. trains by here following day in 1 hr & 10 mins. Going some, Write, H."
It’s all fascinating stuff. But sometimes we can look at postcards just for fun, like the following.  Enjoy!

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Last Look at the Aberfoyle Junction

The Aberfoyle Junction--the great O scale club layout near Guelph, Ont.--held its last open house May 12-13. Luckily, business took me out to Toronto that week, and I was able to stay over a day to make one last visit to the layout.

The namesake Aberfoyle Junction.

Earlier, I reported the Aberfoyle had lost its lease, and would be moving. I also published the club's official press release about the move, along with news that a new home had been found in nearby St. Jacobs, Ont.

Club members indicate that it will take 18 months to two years to get the Aberfoyle up and running again in its new location. During that time they need to take everything off the layout, cut it apart, move it and reassemble it in its new quarters--no mean feat. I wish them all the best as they undertake this huge project.

Meanwhile, if you couldn't make it to the last open houses, enjoy these last photos of the layout in its soon-to-be-former location; a large set of photos (68 in all) can be found on my Flickr photo site. And in the near future I hope to add a few videos of the layout, too.

So, goodbye, Aberfoyle Junction--see you in 2014!

Saturday, May 5, 2012

End of the Line for the Central Northern Subdivision

It's the end of the line for the Central
Northern Subdivision.

Nothing lasts forever . . . not even a model railroad. That's now true for George Myer's fabulous O scale Central Northern Subdivision, which I featured on ths blog back in October, 2011. George started disimantling it a month ago to make way for an N scale layout.

For George, the decision hinged around two things. First, in a year or so he and his wife will be looking to move into a condo--a basement-size O scale layout certainly won't fit! He's planning a modular-style N scale layout that he can start building now; later, when he moves, he will be able to take it to his new home.

But the second reason had more to do with the style of layout. George designed the Central Northern Sub. as a point-to-loop layout. For operations, it was great. For just sitting back and running trains? Not so much.

This is something I have heard from other modellers, and it's true for me, too. There are times when you just want to open the throttle and let 'em run--prototypical operation be darned. That's why the M & M sub., though designed as a point-to-point, has a loop on the lover level; I can work on a project and watch trains run around the room, or just enjoy watching them run with a glass of my favourite beverage.

For George, a grandfather, the inability to let trains just run was most evident with his grandchildren, who didn't want to stop the train in the yard, move the engine to the other end, then head out again. They just wanted to see them run--something he plans to do on his new N scale layout.

By-the-way, George's move into N scale is pretty amazing--he's legally blind. But, he says, you can do anything you set your mind to, and he's been able to change out N scale couplers. I'm sure the next layout will be just as amazing as this one!

More photos of George's Central Northern Sub. can be found on my Picasa photo album.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Model Railroad . . . in a Milk Can?

Isn’t this a great scene? The great-looking trees, the realistic stumps, the lush foliage, the exquisite deadfall, the subtle backdrop—the forest seems to go on forever.

But pull back a bit and . . . what’s this? It’s in a milk can!

Creator Tom Beaton and the milk can.

Yes, that great scene is in a milk can. It was created by B.C. modeler Tom Beaton, a noted author and authority on logging railroads.

Tom was at the 2012 Calgary Supertrain show, displaying his magnificent dioramas—like the one below inside a sonotube (used for making concrete forms).

A close up of the diorama in a sonotube.

Apparently, Tom is well-known for making great-looking dioramas in unusual containers. And why not? If they can build ships in bottles, why not model railroads in milk cans?

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

An Interesting Railfan Catch

I was out early one Sunday morning in April. Had to drop my wife and daughter off at church early, and had an hour to kill before the service. So I headed--where else?--to the tracks for a bit of railfanning.

The first train I caught was a southbound CPR freight on the La Riviere Sub., stopped near the crossing with CN Rivers Sub.

I then drove east on the Rivers Sub., and caught this westbound intermodal. It was a cloudy day, and the sun was just coming up, so the lighting isn't the greatest.

A few minutes after the intermodal passed, another headlight could be seen down the track. This time it was an interesting catch--a westbound train carrying wind turbines. I think it is headed to a wind farm in Saskatchewan, but I don't know that for sure. Those sure are impressive loads!