Saturday, April 26, 2014

Wedding Cakes and Model Railroads

The recent Winnipeg Model Railroad Club spring show included this unique triple-deck O scale layout by Jim Spiers.

The three loops take up space no larger than a typical banquet table. As WMRC blog editor Paul Ullrich notes, “the finished result resembled a wedding cake with trains.

This being wedding season and all, Paul's comment made me wonder: Are there any real wedding cake and train combinations out there?

A quick search turned up a few photos. The best and most elaborate was the N scale figure eight layout and cake.

According to the creator (someone named Andy on the old Atlas forum, who was also the groom), the cake’s base is Styrofoam, with Woodland Scenics tunnel portals and retaining walls. 

The "rocks" are chocolate made from Woodland Scenics rubber rock molds.

Although the base is made of Styrofoam, all of the rounded portion is cake—and edible.

Andy said that the cake was actually the bride’s idea. Which prompted other posters to wonder: Does she have a sister? (Yes, but she's already married.)

A couple of other wedding cake and model railroad combinations are below.  

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Model Power Closing: No Man is an Island . . .

After almost 50 years, Model Power is closing.

While I can't say I ever bought anything made by Model Power for my layout, it is still sad to see a model railroad manufacturer close.

While we celebrate the great models being brought out by manufacturers like Athearn, Rapido, Bowser and InterMountain, to name a few, the closing is a reminder that making model trains is a tough business.

And even though I will not personally miss Model Power, the loss of any model railroad manufacturer diminishes all of us, and the hobby as a whole.

As English poet John Donne put it about 400 years ago:

"No man is an island entire of itself; every man
is a piece of the continent, a part of the main;
if a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe
is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as
well as any manner of thy friends or of thine
own were; any man's death diminishes me,
because I am involved in mankind.
And therefore never send to know for whom
the bell tolls; it tolls for thee."

The letter from Model Power is below.

Dear Model Power Customers,

After nearly 50 years serving the hobby industry, our 3rd generation family business will be closing effective immediately to the public. 

We will be reaching out to our clients over the next few weeks to settle any demand needs that they may have.

In 2007, our banks began an aggressive deleveraging process. They no longer approved of a profitable and paying client such as ours, which had been reliant on inventory. 

This is why one of the industry's most extensive lines had begun to see much of its products unavailable on the market. Now it will no longer be seen at all.

During these past 7 years, we had made changes to the business in order to accommodate and adjust to the changing nature of the business relationship with our lenders. 

We had offered multiple solutions to our lenders in order to "fix" our situation, all were rejected, came with different restrictions, or offered too little too late. 

In all our efforts, no arrangements by our lenders would allow for Model Power to arrive at a position in which we could get back to fill our customer needs.

We would like to take the time to thank all of those whom we have worked with the past 50 years. To our customers and competitors within the industry, we thank you.

Sincerely, The Model Power Family

Monday, April 21, 2014

Cold War Relic: The White Train

I lived in Texas in the mid-80s. Due to my time spent living there, I developed a minor interest in Texas railroading. This included an interest in the White Train, which played a major role in the Cold War.

From 1951-87, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) used armoured trains to move nuclear weapons from the Pantex Plant near Amarillo, TX to 13 nuclear weapons storage areas near military bases in 12 states across the U.S.

Called the “White Train” because its cars were originally painted white, it traversed the U.S. delivering its dangerous cargo. In addition to cars that carried the weapons, other cars carried crew members who watched the train through bullet proof glass.

Chris Guenzler caught the White Train in
action in Utah in 1984.

Although the train’s colour was changed numerous times to make it less noticeable to anti-nuclear weapons protesters, the train continued to be referred to by its original colour.

In 1987, the DOE switched the transport of the weapons to trucks, partly due to the many protests along the tracks.

Altogether, there were about 60 cars for the White Train. Eleven of the White Train’s cars were donated to the Amarillo Railway Museum, while others have been kept at the plant for historical purposes.

As the world worries that we might be headed into a new Cold War, due to Vladimir Putin’s aggressive actions towards Ukraine, railfans can look back to the previous Cold War and recall the role the railroad played in it.

More information about the White Train can be found at the links below.

Roster of preserved cars at the Amarillo Railroad Museum and Pantex.

More photos available from John Dyer at RR Pictures Archives, Tom & Marci Jones and Tai Shan

Photos on this page from Amarillo Railroad Museum, Don Barrett, Chris Guenzler, Tom & Marci Jones. 

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Return Visit to a Great Canadian "Lone Wolf" Model Railroad

Last fall I had a chance to visit a great Canadian model railroad in Winnipeg--a great "lone wolf" model railroad.

As I explained in the post, it was built by a modeller who wasn't on anyone's radar in the city. He and his brother, who also helped with the layout, didn't belong to the local model railroad club or participate in any local model railroad activities.

There are lots of people like them out there--I was like that, once.

I went back to see the layout again recently, this time with Jason Shron, founder and CEO of Rapido Trains. Jason was in town to see his in-laws, and needed a layout to run some of his new products on--things like the new VIA F40PH-2D, LRC and FPA-4 and FPB-4 units, along with a CNR GMD-1. 

(The post about that visit, along with photos of those new products, can be found here.)

Once again, I was totally impressed by the layout, which features the CPR in the 1950s. I think you will be, too, as the photos will attest.

And now I can also tell you the owner's name: Walter Pankratz, owner of this great Canadian model railroad.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Rapido Trains Visits Winnipeg (Again), F40PH-2D, GMD-1, FPA-4 & LRC Locomotives in Tow

Luckily for those of us who live in Winnipeg, the in-laws of Jason Shron, founder and CEO of Rapido Trains, also live in this prairie city. This means that Jason and his family have to visit at least once a year, if not more--bringing great models with him.

This time Jason came bearing the new VIA F40PH-2D, LRC and FPA-4 and FPB-4 units, along with a CNR GMD-1 in the classic green and old scheme. (Sorry Jason; couldn't resist.)

The hosts for the most recent photo and video shoot was Walter Pankratz, who has built a great Canadian model railroad based on CPR operations in the 1950s.

We had a great time posing Rapido's new units at various locations on Walter's layout, and helping Jason make a new video.

A few more photos of these great-looking and great-running products are below.

Walter Pankratz and his brother, Ed, and Jason Shron.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

New From Athearn: CN, CPR and CP Rail GP9s

It keeps getting better and better for Canadian model railroaders--now Athearn has announced new Canadian-style CP9s in CN, CPR and CP Rail.

The units, in Athearn's Genesis line, are due in December, 2014. They will retail for $189 without DCC and sound and $289 with DCC and SoundTraxx Tsunami Sound.

They are due out in December, 2014; pre-orders are due May 23. More information is available on Athearn's Facebook page.

As for me, I'd be happier if they were chop-nose units--that would suit my era (early to mid-1990s) much better. But still, this announcement is to be celebrated. With InterMountain and Bowser both making Canadian-style SD40-2s, and with all the great items from Rapido, it's a great time to be a Canadian model railroader.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Update and Flyer About Bowser's New SD40-2: It's Getting Closer!

It's getting closer! Bowser has now published a flyer about their new Canadianized-version of the SD40-2.

The unit will be available in spring, 2015. Pre-orders are due in August.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

The X2F Coupler: Keeping it Together Since 1955

Like many HO scale modellers, my first locomotives and rolling stock were equipped with X2F couplers--or, as they were more popularly known, horn hooks.

Also like many HO scale modellers, I converted to Kadee knuckle couplers as quickly as possible.

One person who hasn't is Eric Gagnon of the Trackside Treasure blog. In a recent instalment, Eric gives an interesting look at the history of the much-maligned X2F, and shares why he is still proud to use them on his layout.

This includes what he thinks might be the only Rapido CP Rail Angus Van in the world that uses horn hook couplers.

Note the X2F couplers.

In my early days of modelling, when I didn't have a lot of disposable income, the changeover to Kadees went slowly. For a while I had a boxcar with a horn hook on one end and a Kadee on the other so I could create a train with cars using both couplers.

I don't miss the old horn hooks, and I have no desire to go back to using them. But reading Eric's blog post gave me nostalgic look back at those days.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

A Bit of Railfanning on the M & M Sub.

I went down to Ritchie yesterday for a bit of railfanning. I caught a local doing a bit of switching at the elevator, along with a couple of freights.

First in was a general freight from Winnipeg to Thunder Bay, led by SOO 6623 and 5480 (ex-SOU/NS 3429). It took the siding.

At first, I wondered why. A short while later, I discovered the reason when a hotshot pig train from Winnipeg to Duluth, led by 5449 (ex-DRGW 5402) and 5447 (ex-CNW 6910), blasted through.

That's my story, at least. Below find a couple of other shots of the scene.