Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Another Great Canadian Railway Lost: Model Railroad Club of Toronto

It hasn't been a good couple of years for signature model railroads in Canada.

First it was the Canada Central in Montreal,which lost its lease in 2011 after 38 years in the same location. In spring, 2012 it was the Aberfoyle Junction, which lost its home of 30 years to make way for a new subdivision. Now it's the turn of the historic Model Railroad Club of Toronto, which has to leave its home to make way for condos--after 66 years in the same place.

The Club issued a press release Oct. 30, indicating that it has to vacate the premises by April 30, 2013.

"A recent casualty of Toronto’s development drive, the Club will not be able to continue with its decades-long tenancy, and unfortunately will be dismantling its model railroad," it says, adding that plans are underway to find a new location to rebuild the layout.

Founded in 1938, the Club moved to is current location in 1946, where it has been continuously building and maintaining the O scale Central Ontario Railway. It will celebrate its 75th Anniversary in 2013.

The last run will be February 18, 2013, after which the dismantling of the railway will start. The Club is searching for new premises, and welcomes offers and suggestions for a new location.

Photos on this page from Bobcatnorth, Pride and Joy and Toronto for kids. Visit the Club's website at

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Two New Books About VIA Rail Released

He’s done it again! After successfully publishing his first book about VIA Rail, Trackside with VIA: The First 35 Years, Eric Gagnon has released not one, but two new books about Canada’s national passenger railway.
The first new book, titled Trackside with VIA: Cross-Canada Compendium, covers VIA's history, operations and equipment. It includes more photos and information about VIA from B.C. to Quebec; remote services in Manitoba; RDC's in the Maritimes; and VIA’s named trains, special trains, rescue trains and hospital trains.
The book also contains information about VIA’s fleet, from F-units to P42s; the LRC, HEP and Renaissance programs; disposition of former VIA equipment; notable VIA derailments; what it was like to ride VIA in the 1980s; and details on the acquisition and rebuilding of locomotives and cars inherited from CN and CP.
With over 100 pages, it contains over 160 black & white and 60 colour photographs. The price is $30 to Canadian addresses and $35 to U.S. addresses (includes shipping).

The second new book is titled Trackside with VIA: Cross-Canada Compendium Consist Companion. It features consists of interest to prototype modellers and anyone who wants to learn more about VIA operations. Its 50 pages are divided into Western Canada; Eastern Canada; corridor trains; and station and train departure information from Montreal and Halifax.
Price: $10 to Canadian addresses, $13 to U.S. addresses (includes shipping).

Click here to go to Eric's website for more information on ordering, detailed descriptions of each book, and a free preview.
Meanwhile, Eric has a few copies of Trackside with VIA: The First 35 Years available; check his website for info on getting that book, too.
You can read  my interview with Eric about his passion for VIA, and why he published the first book, here.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Now That's The Way to Move a Layout!

Harry Clark's Indian Creek Valley layout on
the way to its new home.

Non-model railroaders who visit my layout often ask: “What will you do if you have to move?”

I usually say that I’d just take it down and start over in a new house, like I did with my first layout. But now I might add: “Why, I'll hire a crane and a big truck, get a police escort, and also get the city to close streets and bridges so it can be moved to a new location--of course!”

That’s what happened in Oct. 24 to Harry Clark’s Indian Creek Valley layout. The 25 by 50 foot layout was moved 30 miles by Wolfe House & Building Movers from Nemacolin Woodlands Resort to Connellsville, PA., where it will be housed in a new coffee shop and display centre.

The layout is lowered into
its new home.

Clark, who died in 2011 at age 91, worked most of his lifetime on the layout. It represents the B & O in the Connellsville area in the 1940s-50s, featuring a three-track mainline, a 40-foot long yard and a logging line.

The layout was purchased several years ago by Terry Shallenberger, owner of Shallenberger Construction, who donated the display to Fayette County Cultural Trust. The layout was on display at the resort, but had to be moved to make room for a casino the resort is planning to build on the site.

Shallenberger built the new home for the layout, which will look like the old Connellsville railroad station, and paid for the move.

About the layout, Shallenberger said: “Hopefully, it will get the town sparked. I knew the man put his whole life into it. I didn’t want to see it dismantled. I hope the canteen will help support it.”

The layout was featured in the December, 1985 issue of Model Railroader, and was part of the Allen Keller Great Model Railroad series.

Click here to read more about the layout and the move from Trib Total Media, from which the photos above were taken. Photos below of Clark's layout are from Videotrains Flickr page.

Friday, October 26, 2012

New Siding on the M & M Sub.

There's a new siding on the M & M Sub. After running the layout for a few months, it became clear that operation (such as it is for me) would be enhanced by the addition of another siding in the town of Ritchie.

The new siding allows me to get westbound trains out of the Fort Frances yard, clearing space for arrivals. Located just outside the entrance to the helix, trains can wait for eastbound trains (coming down from the upper level) to pass before making their way west to Winnipeg.

Adding the siding also meant reorienting the town, moving the elevators and eliminating one spur.

Speaking of which, I don't understand those who glue tracks down when doing their tracklaying. I'm never able to make up my mind about where the tracks should go until after I have run the layout for a while; I think I changed the Fort Frances yard a dozen times before settling on the present configuration. (Or maybe lifting glued track is easier than I think.)

As for the track itself, I lay it either on cut sheet cork (for the mainline) or directly on the extruded styrofoam for other tracks. I use half-inch finishing nails to hold the track in place, removing them after the track is ballasted. In all the years the layout has been around (18), I've never had any trouble with track shifting on the styrofoam before it was ballasted.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Easy Operation on the CP Rail M & M Subdivision

Long time readers of this blog know that I am not a big fan of operations. I am not very much interested in car cards, switching and paperwork. That doesn't mean I don't operate, though.

Sure, there are times when I just like to see the trains go round and round. But other times I operate them according to a plan. In my case, it's a simple plan--but it's still a plan.

As the photo above shows, I use a simple dispatching board to direct and illustrate movements on the layout. (To see how I made it, using fridge magnets for the tracks and train symbols, click here.) Tracks on the left represent the six-track Winnipeg staging yard; tracks on the right are the six-track Thunder Bay/Duluth staging yard. The lines in between are the tracks on the layout.

It's like a game, really; the object of the game is to move the red tags to where the blue tags are, and vice versa--to run the trains from staging yard to staging yard, in other words. When done, flip the tags around and repeat.

The tags have train numbers on them, as in the photo below. Even numbers go east; odd numbers go west.

In the town of Fort Frances, trains drop off and pick up cars. I am none too fussy about how many are dropped off or picked up; operators (usually me) can do whatever they like. This produces variety in the trains.

In practice, what this means is that when I operate, it can take days, weeks or even longer to run a session--to move this tags from one end to the other.

Simple, really--and that's OK with me.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Rapido's The Canadian As You've Never Seen it Before (and in places you've never seen it before)

The Canadian in Nova Scotia

You can ride VIA’s The Canadian from Toronto to Vancouver. Jason Shron, owner of Rapido Trains, has taken his model of The Canadian across the country, showcasing it at hobby shops and train shows.

But you’ve never seen the train like this before.

The photos were taken by artist Jeff Friesen, who took a model of Rapido’s Canadian on a cross-Canada journey, photographing it in various provinces and places from Nova Scotia to B.C.

In Quebec

In notes on his website about the photos, Friesen says “it’s hard to make sense of  living in a big country. Maybe that’s where the sea-to-sea travel urge comes from . . . my own cross-country exploration is done by taking the train, but not in the usual sense. I carry the train rather than it carrying me.”

In Saskatchewan

You have to agree: The photography is inventive, and not a little magical—although I don’t think I’d put a model of The Canadian in water if it belonged to me.

As for Rapido's The Canadian, I always thought it was a work of art; now it's also a work in art!

Anyway, enjoy the photos on this page; for more of Friesen’s cross-country train photography, and to learn more about the artist, click here.

In B.C.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Double Your Fleet of Rolling Stock--Without Adding New Cars

This . . .

Like most model railroaders starting out in the hobby, Fred Headon didn’t have a lot of disposable income. Yet he wanted a large fleet of rolling stock to fill out his trains, and enable good operation. What to do?

. . . becomes that.

Fred hit on an ingenious solution; put different roadnames and numbers on either side of cars. This had two effects: First, it doubled the number of cars on the layout. Second, since Fred’s layout was loop-to-loop, when SOO 45397 traveled west it came back as CPR 241001 going east—a simple and instant reversal.

Today, Fred has a more money to spend on trains, so cars with different numbers and road names on either side aren’t needed anymore. He was selling them at the recent Winnipeg Model Railroad Club train show, where I took these photos.

And this . . .


. . . becomes that.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Even More CFL Grey Cup Express

My friend Manny Jacob captured some great photos of the CFL Grey Cup Express when it visited Portage la Prairie, Manitoba earlier this month. Click here to see more photos like the ones on this page!

Meanwhile, if you are interested in VIA's F40PH-2 units, and how to model them, check out that section of Manny's website.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Commemorative Railway Cars, Prototype and Models

While researching the breast cancer awareness rolling stock on North American railways, I came across some photos of Model Railroader magazine’s special anniversary cars (60th, 70th and 75th). And, just as with the WSOR breast cancer awareness car, nothing is sacred when it comes to graffiti—those cars, too, were tagged.

Here’s what the 70th anniversary car looked like new, courtesy of Model Railroader:

Here's what it looked like earlier this year, when it was photographed by Thundertrain:

Here's the 70th anniversary car when new:

And in 2009, prior to its being scrapped (Again, from Thundertrain):

I could only find a new photo of the 60th anniversary boxcar online (courtesy, again, of Model Railroader):

I do have a model of it, though; it fits perfectly into my 1990-95 time frame:

Here in Canada, Canadian Railway Modeller (Canada's only model railroad magazine) doesn't have the kind of pull that Model Railroader does, but it did make some commemorative cars and a container for its first, 5th and 10th anniversaries. (One day I have to assemble those kits . . . )
There is a long history of commemorative model railway cars. Many (all?) NMRA conventions have  made or do make them; I have only collected one, from the 1983 NMRA convention in Winnipeg. (I bought it much later at a flea market, as a keepsake; that convention was instrumental in helping me return to the hobby.)

It's hard to believe that this Model Power car once was the height of modelling for cylindrical hoppers! Like many other Canadian modellers, I once had a fleet of these cars; thank goodness that InterMountain came along to provide something much, much better.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Railways and Breast Cancer Awareness Month

October is breast cancer awareness month. NFL players are wearing pink, and I've seen fire trucks, other trucks and police cars painted that same colour. I wondered: What have Canadian railways done to promote this cause?

Nothing, as it turns out--at least as far as I can tell. Things are a bit different in the U.S. though. The Wisconsin & Southern Railroad painted a boxcar pink in in 2007 (see photo above). It was done in memory of Lucy Stone Gardner, late wife of WSOR owner Bill Gardner.

The car was replicated in model form by Athearn in HO scale.

Alas, even a car promoting breast cancer awareness isn't safe from taggers. The owner of Thundertrain caught up with the car in Little Rock, Ark. in August, 2012.

This isn't the only piece of rolling stock or locomotive I've found that was decorated to promote breast cancer awareness. D & H employees in Binghamton, NY painted a gondola pink, the Union Pacific added a pink ribbon to a locomotive, and Sullivan Scrap painted a high side gondola pink.


Thursday, October 4, 2012

More CFL Grey Cup Express

It was an unseasonably cold and windy day in Minnedosa, Man. on Oct. 4 when the CFL Grey Cup Express rolled into town. And in one of those work-hobby convergences that comes along only very seldom, I got to go see it as part of my job.

And how did I swing that? I work for Canadian Foodgrains Bank, a partnership of 15 churches and church agencies working together to end global hunger. One of our corporate supporters is Dow Agrosciences, which sponsored six of the CFL Grey Cup Express stops in Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba.

At those stops, Dow highlighted its support for the Foodgrains Bank; staff from the Foodgrains Bank were in attendance at each stop to talk about the organization and global hunger. For the Minnedosa stop, I tagged along.

The day was not conducive to photos, unfortunately; the best shots of the train would be on the other side, away from the crowds and tents, but of course one couldn’t go there. As well, the train was led by CPR 8711, which eliminated a frontal shot of VIA 6445.

The train itself included VIA 8615, 8412 and CPR 103 and 104 (the latter two part of the CPR’s Royal Canadian Pacific). VIA Skyline 8502 and Chateau Dollier 8208 brought up the year, serving as staff quarters.

Inside the train.