Thursday, February 28, 2013

Hunter Harrison and Hump Yards

One of the first things Hunter Harrison did when he became CEO of the CPR was to close four hump yards, including the one in Winnipeg.

Upon hearing the news, I wondered: Why did he do that?

At the annual Investor Conference, held Dec. 4-5 , 2012 in New York City, he offered this explanation. (From the official transcript.)

“And I get a lot of questions, probably more questions about this than anything else, why close the humps and what does it do for you? Well, number one, humps are effectively assembly lines.

“And to justify that [hump yards as assembly lines] you haven't a lot of volume. The best analogy I can give you maybe is that if Henry Ford was going to build 10 or 15 Model Ts a day, he would have never had an assembly line. But when you get up to 300 or 400 cars a day, an assembly line was necessary.

“And there's a number that people will debate a little bit, but [you need to have] somewhere in the neighborhood of 1,400 to 1,500 cars a day to justify a hump. And we were down with all our humps in the neighborhood of 700,800 cars, 900 cars a day or less, and that's with some of the cars being humped more than once.

“So this hump yard rationalization gives us a great deal of opportunity to save a lot of cost, to expedite the movement of cars and reduce the dwell time . . . . [The CPR will save] somewhere in the neighborhood of $40 million to $50 million in what I would call direct cost and much, much more in indirect cost as a result of the closing of those yards.

“If you go back and look at those [hump] yards, they're mostly 1950s and '60s vetted yards. So obviously, we've outgrown the technology there.

“Our book of business is extremely different than it was then. At that time . . . we were still moving grain and 40-foot boxcars. And about 85%-plus of a typical railroads business need to be classified or sorted in what we refer to as blocks or classifications.

“Today, that's changed. If you look at CP today, with our book of business, we have about, including Intermodal as unit train operation, about 72%, 73% of our business does not need sorting or classifications. So once again, [we do] not [have] the need for hump yards.”

Now I know . . . .

(Photo above from the Financial Post.)

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Update on Self-Coupling Air Hoses

In January, I wrote about how Cameron Foodikoff of Fairway Park Models  in B.C. had started manufacturing and selling self-coupling HO scale brake/air hoses. 

Later, I interviewed Cameron about his cool creation.
Now Cameron's business has gone a step further; today (Feb. 23), North American Railcar Corporation, a division of Pacific Western Rail Systems, has announced it is selling Cameron's self-coupling air hoses through its new High Performance MagnaLock Brake Lines. The cost is $24.98 U.S. for ten pair.
The hoses, which Cameron developed for existing North American Railcar Corporation rolling stock, also work on rolling stock and locomotives from other manufacturers.

Currently, the hoses are only available in HO Scale. But PWRS plans to bring them out in N scale, too.

Already, PWRS has received orders for more than 2,000 pairs--it sounds like a hit with modellers!
As for Cameron, he won't be selling them anymore. Which is a good thing, since his small business (one person) couldn't keep up with demand. PWRS came along at the right time, it seems--for Cameron and for everyone else who wants the self-coupling air hoses.

For more information, and to see a video of the hoses in operation, visit the PWRS website.  To read instructions on how to use the hoses, click here.

Click here to learn more about David W. Davis, and the history of this idea.

Disclaimer: I have no financial interest in PWRS.

Winnipeg's Love-Hate Relationship with its Downtown CPR Yard

CPR yard Winnipeg, early 20th century.

A long time ago, cities and towns eagerly sought railways and their accompanying infrastructure--things like yards and shops.

Having the railway come through your town meant not only that it mattered, but that it might survive. Places bypassed by the tracks either failed to reach their full potential, or sometimes withered and died.

That was the case for Winnipeg, which exists because of the CPR.

As I wrote earlier, the railway was originally slated to cross the Red River north of Winnipeg at Selkirk--a far superior location, since it didn't flood.

The yard in 1968.

Winnipeg's civic leaders, realizing their community would become a backwater if the railway stayed on its more northerly course, persuaded the railway to change its course.

A promise to pay for the bridge that crossed the river helped, along with exempting the CPR from paying taxes on its railway buildings and grounds.

In 1881, the CPR accepted the offer. The line, which was headed toward Selkrik, was abruptly turned south toward Winnipeg.

Since that time, the city and the railway have had a love-hate relationship. For a long time it was mostly love, due to the economic benefits the railway brought.

More recently, it might not be hate, but it isn't fondness, as politicians and community leaders talk about ways to remove the "horrible scab," as one politician put it.


The latest call for the removal of the yard comes courtesy of the Arlington St. bridge. The bridge, built in 1909, has about reached the end of its useful life. Should it be replaced? Or should the yard be moved instead? That's the question being raised in a recent article in the Winnipeg Free Press.

It's not the first time the paper has dealt with this issue; last year it dealt with the issue in a series called Off the Rails. In the series, a number of ideas were suggested for ways to remove the yard.

Meanwhile, the CPR says it has no plans to move the yard out of the town, despite its decision to eliminate the hump in the yard (as part of the railway's cost-cutting moves).

In other words, the love-hate relationship will continue for some time . . . .

Yard in 2009. Arlington St. bridge in the background.

Photos on this page from the Winnipeg Free Press, except the last one.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

30-Car Rapido Turbo Train: Wow!

Update to the update: It's back! Or, at least, I found another link to the 30-car Turbo Train video. Click here to see it.

Update: It seems that the person who made the video has removed it . . . too bad--it really was amazing!

Amazing! That's all you can say when watching a video of a 30-car Rapido HO scale Turbo Train roaring--and I mean roaring--along the tracks on the West Island Modular Club layout in Dorval, Quebec.

Click here to view the video--and stand back from the tracks!

As for the club itself, their layout has 22 modules with two 100-foot mainline tracks, plus industrial sidings and a yard.

The club is located right beside the CN Kingston and CPR Vaudreuil Subdivisions, with two double track mainlines. As they say on their website: If you are going to visit, bring your camera!

(If you'd like to see the Turbo in a more normally-sized length, click here to view it on the Selkirk, Man. Model Railway Club layout. Bonus: You get some light jazz to accompany it.)

And, yes, that's a picture below of Jason Shron of Rapido Trains during a visit to the West Island Modular Club layout.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

A Model Railroader Editor's Great Canadian Model Railroad

Which MR editor models the CPR?

According to the Model Railroader website, all of the magazine's staff have a layout or collect model trains. But only one models Canadian railways. Can you name him?

It's not Neil Besougloff (Naugatuck Valley); Terry Thompson (German-themed); Jim Hediger (Ohio Southern), Dana Kawala (Michigan Central), or Cody Grivno (Minnesota Northern & Burlington Northern).

It isn't Steven Otte (Cincinnati, Lebanon & Northern), David Popp (New York, New Haven & Hartford), Andy Sperandeo (Santa Fe) or Tom Danneman (Montana Rail Link).

Give up? It's Associate Editor Kent Johnson, who models the CPR in three-rail O scale.

Johnson, who also has been Senior Editor for Classic Toy Trains magazine, was inspired to model the modern CPR after travels to various regions of western Canada. His layout, which is located in a 14 by 48 foot basement room, includes city scenes in Vancouver, B.C., forested mountain terrain, and deep river canyons.

The mainline run on Kent's dogbone-style layout is 200 feet; the track is GarGraves flexible and sectional track and Ross Custom Switches; the scenery is made of extruded Styrofoam; and trains are controlled with a Lionel Legacy/TMCC command control system. Locomotives and rolling stock are painted, weathered, and detailed for Canadian railways.

Kent's layout will be featured in the March 2013 issue of Classic Toy Trains.

Kent has a blog about his layout; click here to view it.

There are two videos of Kent's layout on the Classic Toy Trains website. Click here and here to view them.

(Photos from Kent's blog and the Classic Toy Trains website.)

In addition to his O scale layout, Kent also has a garden railroad--the Canadian Pacific Joy Division. The 22 by 28 foot layout features a modern-era branch line in western Canada. See videos of the layout here, here and here.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Steampunk Trains

Chris Walas' unique locomotive: The Jules Verne.

Ever hear of steampunk? Me neither, until recently. What about Steampunk trains? Same answer.

But then I was idly Googling the other day and came across a fantastical version of a locomotive that made me shake my head in disbelief and admiration . . . but before I get too far into the story, we first better talk about steampunk.

Steampunk is a literary subgenre of science fiction that typically features steam-powered machinery from the 19th century. Steampunk works are often set in a post-apocalyptic future—a time when steam power has regained mainstream use, or in a fantasy world that similarly employs steam power.

(For an example, think of the recent Sherlock Holmes movies by director Guy Ritchie, which are filled with large, noisy, steam-powered machines, along with fantastic gadgets and inventions.)

But what about trains? That’s where Chris Walas comes in. 

The Captain Nemo.

As John Brownlee noted in Wired, “when steampunk crashes in head-on collision with model train enthusiasm, you get Chris Walas’ rusty, corroded and incredible creations.”

And what incredible creations they are! Walas’ unique large scale locomotives and rolling stock exist in a fictional world he calls Rogue County. It's a place where, as Brownlee notes, “19th century Americana meets the super-science villains, protagonists and inventions of Victorian literature.”

Armoured car.

For Walas, making steampunk-style model trains seems to be an extension of his working life; he’s a special effects designer and make-up artist in Hollywood, having worked on science fiction and adventure movies such as The Fly and Raiders of the Lost Ark. 

To make the locomotives, Walas uses various ready-to-find materials, combining them with model railroad items. 

The Tortoise.

For example, Captain Nemo's Seafood and Saltwater Salvage Railroad—which features a submersible locomotive—was made using the boiler from a Bachmann ten-wheeler, an Aristo-craft motor block, plastic Easter eggs, brass anchor, drinking straw and a seashell, among other things. (Click here to see more photos and learn how he made the Nemo.)

Riding in style!

For the Jules Verne, he used a USA Trains GP30 chassis, PVC pipe and gutters. (Click here for photos and a how-to.) A passenger car was made from a USA Trains four-bay hopper.

In addition to making steampunk-style trains, Walas also sometimes just follows his whimsy, making fantastical creations for his garden railroad—like the Crimson Herring pirate train, the Count Trackula Hallowe'en train, and Captain Delmar's Steam Tug locomotive.

The Crimson Herring 

The Captain Delmar.

Count Trackula.

Walas also makes more usual version of model railroad prototypes. But, as he points out, they end up being freelance interpretations because he "can't follow plans and need to make everything up as I go. That's just the way I work."

A more conventional locomotive.

It should be noted that Walas himself doesn't call his creations steampunk; it's others that are making the connection.But whether or not that's the intention, he certainly has created some fantastic steampunk-like models.

About his modelling, Walas says: “I finally realized that after years of fooling around in the hobby, what I really enjoy is adding some creative whimsy to the crowd . . . The best I seem to be able to do is to make ‘something like’ what really existed; but I still have more fun designing and creating silly stuff!”

To see more of the amazing and inventive work of Chris Walas, visit his website. 

The Racket.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Rivet Counters Beware!

Thanks to Trevor Marshall and the Model Railway Show for posting this photo on their Facebook page--what a great idea!

The model was made by Dave Manary and was photographed by David Woodhead on Dave Burrough's On3 layout.

I am not a rivet counter; my own approach to model railroading is plausbility, as I wrote in an earlier blog post.

You can see more of Dave Burrough's layout on his website.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Great Canadian Model Railroad (Diorama Division): Dwight Kjartanson's Ashwood Road Module

Winnipeg has a lot of great modellers, such as Dwight Kjartanson.

A number of years ago, Dwight built this module for the Renegades Model Railroad Club (now disbanded). It quickly became a highlight of the layout, due to its amazing trackwork.

The track is all Shinohara, with code 100 on the main tracks and code 70 in the yards. Dwight heavily kitbashed the double crossover-slip switch; the other switches were modified  for reliability. 

The road is drywall mud with Poly Scale mixed in so that chips or gouges won’t be white. The surface is painted and stained with Poly Scale.

The green house and garage are scratchbuilt, and the red house and garage are kitbashed. The signals and related items are all scratchbuilt, except for the switch machines.

The handcar shed is a resin kit. The trees are made from a honeysuckle bush and Woodland Scenics foliage.

The utility poles are kitbashed from Atlas, and the fences are kitbashed, except for the green one which is scratchbuilt.

Dwight's module was featured at the 1999 NMRA convention in St. Paul, MN, and has been shown in Canadian Railway Modeller and Railroad Model Craftsman.

These days the module is in storage at Dwight's house; today he spends most of his model railroad time on the Assiniboine Valley Railway, a 1.6" scale,7.5" gauge “layout” located on a seven acre site at the home of Winnipegger Bill Taylor. On the AVR, Dwight is Vice-President in charge of "signals and control of nuts running reds."

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Every Layout Could Use A Gorilla--A Gorillapod, That Is

This photo was taken using a Gorillapod.

I didn't get any trains for Christmas, but I did get a gorilla--a Gorillapod, that is.

This versatile piece of equipment allows me to take photos almost anywhere on the layout, including scenes and views that would be impossible with a conventional tripod (as the photos attest).

Coupled with a digital camera (I use a simple Canon A590), the Gorillapod allows you to take photos almost anywhere--no need to even have to view the scene (although it helps).

In addition to standing tall, the Gorillapod can be squished down for a closer-to-the rails perspective. And although I haven't used it for video yet, it will permit a great bridge-type view of trains passing below the camera.

All the photos of trains on this page were taken using the Gorillapod. Click here to find out more about the Gorillapod.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Great Canadian Model Railroads Index

One of the features of this blog I like the best is Great Canadian Model Railroads--I enjoy showcasing the amazing model railroads made by others. To make it easier for people to find them, I've created the index below.

Other indexes on the blog are one by month and year (2012 and up) and one by topic (only updated to 2011).

Edmonton's Monashee Pacific 
A Model Railroader Editor's Great Canadian Model Railroad
Great Canadian Model Railroad in England (Chris Round)
Rich Loveland's CN & CPR in the Thompson River Canyon
Ron Loewen's Fall in Pennsylvania 
Model Railroad Club of Toronto
Dennis Rietze's Layout in a Crawl Space
A Lone Wolf Great Canadian Model Railroad
S Scale Workshop
Arnie Walker's Northland Route
More Northland Route
Rich Chrysler's CNR Hagersville Sub.
Dave Winter's Winter Valley RR
Aberfoyle Junction: A Last Look
Aberfoyle Junction: Video
Central Northern Sub.: End of the Line
Dave Chomyn's Quintette (Othello) Tunnels Modules
Mark Dance's Columbia and Western 
Dan Crowley's Yellowhead Pass Division
Miller Creek Forestry Museum
Pierre Dion's CP Rail Quebec Subdivision
More Pierre Dion Quebec Sub. photos
Chris Lyon's Lyon Valley Northern
Bob Winterton's Superior Northern
Patrick Lawson's CP Rail Cascade Subdivision
The Ontario & Eastern 
The Waterloo Region Model Railway Club
Helices on the Waterloo Model Railway Club
George Myer's Central Northern Subdivision
More photos from The Central Northern Sub.
London's Lake Erie & International
Roger Traviss' Great Eastern Railway
Tim Warris' Port Kelsey layout
York Railway Modellers
Canada Central
More Canada Central
Brian Elschlepp's B.C. Rail Dawson Creek Subdivision
B.C.'s Thompson River Canyon Down Under
Chaleur & Restigouche
Stafford Swain's CNR Whiteshell Subdivision
The Kicking Horse Pass Layout
The Cougar River Subdivision
Andreas Keller's CN Fergus Sub. Down Under
More Photos of Rich Loveman's Great Canadian Layout
Toronto Model Railroad Club

New Index by Year

There are two indexes on the blog; one by topic, which I stopped updating in 2011 (once you fall behind, it's hard to catch up), and this one--by month and year beginning in 2012. I'll try to keep this one updated, and I hope it helps you find what you are looking for!


·  New Index by Year





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