Friday, November 28, 2014

Amazing HO Scale Lake Superior Ore Dock

The word “amazing” is greatly over-used these days, especially on the Internet.

That’s why I’m careful about using that adjective. After all, if everything is amazing, one day we may wake up and find that nothing is.

But when it comes to Tom Cox’s Lake Superior-style ore dock and model of the Edmund Fitzgerald, the word is totally appropriate.

It is simply amazing.

Tom’s ore ore dock, which is still under construction, is modelled after those found in Duluth, MN. The dock is 18 feet long. It resides on his HO scale layout, set in the 1960s-70s in Minnesota and northwestern Ontario.

The double-track ore dock, which is made out of wood, took Tom 1,600 hours to build. It features scratchbuilt bridgework leading up to the ore dock. 

It can handle ore trains of 70 cars in length; the trains reach the dock on a 45-foot long approach with a four percent grade.

To get to the top, the cars are pulled up a four percent grade by a trio of brass SD9s. Just before the dock, they uncouple and run around the train and shove it on to the dock.

The elevated portion leading the dock is about 30 feet long. All the bridge girders that make up the approach are a scale 60 feet long. There are a total of four girders that make up each section.  Only the exposed end girders are super detailed.

Below the dock is a model of the Edmund Fitzgerald, the famous laker that sank in Lake Superior November 10, 1975. 

Tom took a resin kit of the ship, manufactured in limited quantities a number of years ago, and lengthened it from the original 5 1/2 feet to a more realistic eight feet, four inches long. (A scale 729 feet.)

The dock is also lit, with 87 lights, and includes a 38 foot-long scratchbuilt catwalk (which took almost 1200 hours to 

This is the second ore dock that Tom has built; the first was on a previous layout which he dismantled in 2000. That dock took 950 hours to build.

Tom's first ore dock.

Tom's current 22 by 40 foot layout is based on the Duluth, Winnipeg and Pacific line from Winnipeg to Duluth. It features operations by a number of railroads, including GN, NP, DWP, DMIR, MILW, CNW, SOO-CPR.

The layout also features one of Tom's favorite areas—Sioux Lookout, Ontario. "I used to go fishing there, and I fell in love with the place," he says.

When he isn't working on the layout, Tom is a professional custom builder and weathering specialist at Red Pine Precision Modeling.

The prototype.

Below find a few photos of Tom's first layout. Once his current layout is scenicked like that one, it won't just be amazing--it will be spectacular.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

CP Rail M & M Sub. in Black & White

There's something pure about black and white photography. It seems cleaner and simpler, somehow.

It also helps that it hides imperfections, not to mention making those of us who started out in photography long ago a little nostalgic. (I can still conjure up the smell of chemicals in the darkroom.)

Anyway, I decided to take a few black and white shots on the M & M Sub. Forgive the terrible depth of field; I used my iPhone camera.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

First (Real) Layout: The CP Rail Grimm Valley Subdivision

There's a first time for everything, including a first real layout.

I say "real," because prior to building the CP Rail Grimm Valley Sub., I had two previous layouts as kid: An HO layout on a 4 by 8 sheet of plywood, and a small N scale layout in my bedroom.

But I consider the Grimm Valley Sub. to be my first "real" layout, since it was the first one that incorporated operations, scenery and careful thought.

The layout got its name from my old N scale layout, which I called the Grimm Valley. (I have no idea where the name came from.)

The layout was set in southeast B.C. I was inspired to choose that location after a visit to Cranbrook and a drive down to the Canada/U.S. border at Kingsgate, B.C./Eastport, ID, where CP Rail connects with the Union Pacific.

As originally built, the layout was a shortline bought from CP Rail. Later, as my knowledge of the prototype grew, it became a subdivision of CP Rail--although very heavily freelanced.

The layout occupied a 12 by 18 foot room in our first house. It was built around the walls, with the operating pit in the middle. Scenery was plaster gauze over screen wire.

Construction started in 1988 and the layout was torn down in 1994.

It was a test-bed experience, in many ways. First, I learned what not to do--things like 18 inch radius curves and number four switches on the mainline.

But I also developed new skills as I laid track, ballasted, made my first scratchbuilt structures, painted and decalled rolling stock and learned about weathering and operations.

It was very much the kind of layout a newbie would build--especially a newbie with little money, but a lot of desire.

Lessons learned on the Grimm Valley Sub. were incorporated into the Manitoba & Minnesota Sub., my current layout. Chief among them was no more duckunders; I think I still have the scars from coming up too early on that old layout!

Like a first car or first kiss, I still look back fondly on that layout. It provided me with many hours of enjoyment. It's long gone now, but at least it can live on in these photos. Sorry about the quality; they are iPhone shots of prints (all I was able to take back then).

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Simple Number Boards, and Curiosity Satisfied

#7312, finally with number boards

It took awhile, but I finally got around to putting number boards on two units that had gone without them for far too long: 7312 and 1341.

I added the number boards using my simple word processing system(If you have Word or any other word processing system, you can do it, too.)

Before the number boards were added.

After I added the number boards, I was curious about the prototypes. As it turns out, 7312 never wore CP Rail livery, and the 1341—an Athearn Blue Box staple—never existed at all.

As long-time readers of this blog know, absolute fidelity to the prototype is not a big concern for me. My goal with the M & M Sub. Is plausibility, not realism. I try to employ the “CPR principle:” C—context, P—probability, and R—records.

These two units fit two of the three criteria: They could have existed in that way at that time in that place. And event if these two units never existed in the real world, it doesn’t cause me to lose sleep at night.

In its heritage scheme

But what about the prototypes? As I noted, there didn’t seem to be any GP38-2 units in the 1300 series. But there was a real GP38-2 7312.

7312 was one of a number of ex-D&H locomotives acquired by CP Rail when it took over that railroad in 1991—right in my time frame.

It has an interesting history. Originally, it was owned by Lehigh Valley, before it went to D&H. It went next to Guilford, then back to D&H and to CP Rail.

CP Rail painted it in a D & H "lightning stripe" scheme as one of the units in its heritage series. It stayed in that scheme until 2000.

Upgraded and repainted, but without number boards.
(Photo from Canadian Railway Observations.)

Last year, 7312 was upgraded and overhauled to Tier 0+ compliance and repainted into modern CP livery. 

All very interesting, but on the M & M Sub. 7312 wears the Two-Flags scheme. Totally unprototypical, but at least it now has number boards!

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Week of Remembrance: Britain's Railways During World War Two

It will soon be Remembrance Day (Nov.11), also known in the U.S. as Veteran’s Day.

When we think of Remembrance Day, we usually remember the men and women who fought, were wounded and who died while serving in the armed forces.

We don't normally think of those who also made a valuable contribution to the war effort in World War II—those who worked for railways.

During this year's Week of Remembrance, the CP Rail M & M blog is highlighting the men and women who kept the trains running in England during that war.

Keeping a railway running is hard enough in normal times; it is extremely difficult when the enemy is bombing rail lines, trains, stations and shops.

As is pointed out in the BBC TV program British Railways in World War Two (see links below), one of the Luftwaffe’s “main objectives was to cripple Britain’s railways, and so paralyze the movement of troops, raw materials and munitions. Suddenly, every railway worker in Britain found themselves on the firing line.”

It was a costly war for the railways, in terms of men and material. During the war, 395 railway staff were killed and 2,444 injured by enemy action. About 450 locomotives were destroyed or damaged, along with many pieces of rolling stock and other infrastructure.

Says author Michael Williams in the book Steaming to Victory: How Britain's  Railways Won The War of the men and women who worked for Britain’s railways: "Their courage and sheer hard work in getting trains  moving again after the bombs had fallen was legendary."

Williams praises all who kept the trains running, noting that "the bravery of people who kept the rains running during the Blitz was all the more impressive since railway operating staff in one respect worked under worse conditions than the armed forces."

Men fighting in battle, he notes, would only be at the front line a number of days before beling relieved. "This was never the case with the railways, whose staff kept passengers, troops and strategic supplies moving day after day, regardless or weather, air raids or anything else that could go wrong."

Many railway staff, he says, "worked and died under combat conditions."

As if this were not enough, they could return home after a long, perilous shift to find their house had been bombed and their family killed or injured.

Meantime, the shops had to keep locomotives and rolling stock in running condition, despite being under attack.

When the war was ending, then Prime Minister Winston Churchill paid tribute to the men and women of the railways: 

"Results such as the railways have achieved are only won by blood and sweat. I express gratitude to every railwayman who has participated in this great transport effort contributing so largely to final victory."

Other Links

1. BBC TV British Railways In World War Two. ( A four part series on YouTube.)
2. From Rail News: Seventy Years Ago: Railways At War.
3. British National Railway Museum: Rail Story of Victory in Europe.
4. A Bristolian Train Driver Recalls World War Two.

Other Week of Remembrance posts in this series

Friday, November 7, 2014

November 7: National Railway Day in Canada

It’s National Railway Day in Canada, not that many people know. I didn’t, until I saw it on the OK the PK blog.

National Railway Day marks this date, in 1885, when the last spike was driven in the CPR transcontinental mainline at Craigellachie, B.C.

I wrote about the ceremony in 2012, when I posted an article about The Boy in thePicture. That boy was Edward Mallandaine, also known as the “Craigellachie Kid.” 

That’s Edward in the photo above, peering around the shoulder of Donald Smith, a director of the CPR who is driving that famous last spike.

And whatever happened to that last spike? It has been shrouded in mystery. There were actually two of them. Smith bent the first one with his first blow. It was removed and later cut into pieces as a souvenir.

Is this the last spike?

The second one was also removed after the ceremony. It disappeared. It's location was a mystery until 2012, when it was reported to be in a safety deposit box in a bank in Winnipeg.

Somewhere along the way, the spike was fashioned into the handle of a carving knife and silver plated to enhance its ceremonial appearance. Read more about the history of the last spike in the Globe and Mail.

As for me, the CP Rail M & M Sub. never had a last spike ceremony. Since I kept putting down and tearing up track, I was never sure where the last spike might be. So I held a “last ballast” ceremony when I laid the last ballast on the mainline. 

Not as dramatic as a last spike ceremony, but it worked for me.