Saturday, November 24, 2012

Chocolate and Trains: A Winning and World Record Combination

What could be better than a train carrying a load of chocolate? A train made of chocolate! At least, that's the way it seems to me--someone who likes chocolate and trains.

It must have seemed that way to Andrew Farrugia of Malta, too. Farrugia, a master chocolatier, has created a 34 metre long (111 feet) chocolate train that weighs 1,250 kilograms (2,755 pounds).

The train, on display at the Brussels, Belgium South Station, took nearly three months to create. It has been confirmed by the Guinness World Records as the longest chocolate structure in the world.

Like many a model railroader whose layout ended up bigger than first planned, Farrugia wasn't planning to make the train that large.

"Actually it was going to be much smaller than it was, but I kept on adding another wagon, and another wagon, and it's the size it is today,"" he said.

Meanwhile, in what might be related news, a truck carrying 18 tons of chocolate was stolen in Austria this past week.

According to a story in USA Today, someone with forged documents drove a truck to a factory in Bludenz, had the truck loaded with chocolate destined for the Czech Republic--then disappeared. The theft was only discovered when the real truck showed up.

Maybe they want to make an even bigger chocolate train in that country.

Click here to see a video of the chocolate train.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Great Model Railroad: Lyle Beck's Lake Michigan Division of the Wisconsin & Michigan

A scene from Lyle's Lake Michigan
Division of the W & M.

Earlier this year I was able to feature Dave Rickaby's Wisconsin & Michigan layout.  It was the first time that photos of that great layout, featured in the January, 1995 and June, 2002 issues of Model Railroader, had appeared on the Web.

As I noted in that earlier post, I wanted to feature Dave's layout because of its quality and operational concept. But I also liked it because of how it was twinned with Lyle Beck's layout of the same railroad. And now I get to feature photos of Lyle's great layout on the Web for the first time, too.

The two friends met in 1983 through a local hobby shop. Although they didn't know each other, they discovered they were modelling the same railroad—the Wisconsin & Michigan. Despite modelling different eras, they settled on a common paint scheme, herald and numbering scheme for locomotives.

The main difference was that where Dave modelled the Western Division of the W & M in the 1960s, Lyle modelled the Lake Michigan Division in the in the 1990s.

(The Wisconsin & Michigan was actually a real railroad; it existed from 1894 to 1938. Dave and Lyle modelled it as if it never disappeared. This is something I have taken to calling "faction"—a combination of fact and fiction. It's a concept I used on my own layout, which is loosely modelled after a real line owned by CN. On my layout, it is owned by CP Rail.)

Lyle’s layout ran from Marinette in the south to Everett Junction, then continued to Iron Mountain and Monarch Mine. It featured unit coal, grain, taconite and double-stack trains, along with an intermodal yard and rotary dumper. At least 18 trains ran during an operating session.

As with Dave's layout, I am speaking of the Lake Michigan Division in the past tense—it is gone now (taken down in 2011). Lyle is no longer modelling the W&M; he has turned his attention to the C&NW and the Milwaukee Road in Michigan's Upper Peninsula.

Dave was kind enough to send me some photos he took of Lyle's layout before it was dismantled—allowing me to also feature that great model railroad on my blog. Enjoy!

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

VIA Rail Special on the M & M Sub.

I decided to run the private owner's train on the CP Rail Manitoba & Minnesota Sub. this week; it's been awhile since there was a passenger movement on the layout. As usual, it looks good!

Click here and here to see photos and read more about my private owner's train--a unique way to run some older varnish on a modern freight-only layout.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

First Snowfall on the Prairies

The first snow has fallen in Manitoba, and the other prairie provinces--which means we will be seeing a lot more of the images on this page for the next five months.

Today, as the first snow lightly falls, it has its own kind of beauty. In March, however, when we just want the stuff to go away already, it will be a different matter altogether.

Mind you, none of this applies to the CP Rail M & M Sub., where it is perpetually summer. Even in the depths of a prairie winter, I can retreat to the basement to enjoy summertime weather and forget the cold and snow outside.

Photos on this page from Indianhead from--where else?--Indian Head, Saskatchewan, and the CPR Indian Head Subdivision, which runs 135 miles from Broadview to Moose Jaw.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Week of Remembrance: Canadian Railway Troops in World War One

Canadian Railway Troops working on tracks
near the front line.

It’s the week of remembrance here in Canada—the week leading up to November 11 when Canadians remember those who fought and died in this country’s wars.

Among those who served in World War One were 19,000 men in the Canadian Corps of Railway Troops. These troops were responsible for the laying, repair, maintenance and operation of railway lines in France and Belgium.

While much attention is focused on those who fought in the battles of that war (and deservedly so), less attention has been paid to those who made the fighting possible by making sure that soldiers got the ammunition, food and other supplies they needed to fight the war. Among the most important were the railway troops.

Troops take the train back from the front.

Railway troops came from all parts of Canada, and most had railway experience; the first troops were recruited from the ranks of the Canadian Pacific Railway, which supplied 500 experienced workers. The first of the troops arrived in France in 1915, at the request of the British War Office. The railway troops were still there in 1918 when the Armistice was signed.

During the war, railway troops laid lines on the heels of advances, such as at Vimy Ridge where 60 miles of narrow gauge track was laid. Ammunition was brought up, and casualties taken back. At Cambrai tanks were brought forward via rail; at Canal du Nord 2,000 tons of rations a day were brought to soldiers in the trenches.

Canadian troops and German prisoners send the
wounded back from Vimy on the train.

Altogether, the Canadian Railway Troops laid all of the narrow gauge and 60 percent of the regular gauge tracks on the western front. In 1917-18 alone they laid 1,404 miles of light gauge and 1,169 miles of broad gauge tracks.

Although the conditions were less than ideal, laying and maintaining track on the Western Front was similar to conditions in Canada’s frontier regions (except for people shooting at them, of course). In the Canadian west it was common to build temporary lines and bridges and deal with unusual and unique circumstances and terrain.

Bending rail.

As A. MacDougall noted in a memorandum proposing a Canadian railway unit: “It would seem that the experience thus gained [in Canada] in the operation of lines over temporary structures and with irregular and incomplete roadbed would be in a large measure analogous to conditions likely to be met with in keeping up communication with an army advancing over a country in which the enemy had wrecked existing structures and partially demolished the road bed.”

Although the troops were non-combants, and did not receive military training, many were killed and wounded while laying tracks or repairing lines. Added to the danger was that while regular troops could shelter in trenches, the railway troops worked out in the open where they could be observed by the enemy. A total of 483 Canadian Railway Troops died during the war, while 1,383 were wounded.

Wounded heading back by train. 

Unlike other units, which were maintained as militia units when the war ended, the units that made up the Canadian Railway Troops were disbanded at the war’s end. As a result, their service has largely been forgotten. Forgotten, too, is the important role they played—and the sacrifices they made—in the success of Allied operations on the western front.

Sources: Sinews Of Steel: Canadian Railway Troops On The Western Front, 1914-1918, Major George Jager, CD, and Peter Broznitsky, Canadian Railway Troops. Photos from various sources, including the Canadian War Museum.

Cap badge, 12th battalion,
Canadian Railway Troops