Thursday, December 31, 2015

Coming Up on 1 Million Views



















It's in the home stretch now; earlier this week the blog passed 990,000 views. By early to mid-January, it should hit the 1 million mark.

One million! I never would have believed it when I started the blog back in 2009. I created it just for me, as an outlet for my interest in writing and a bit of photography. 

If nobody visited, no problem; I would still have fun.

I started by writing about my layout, but along the way I branched out into the prototype and various other train-related things.

One of the most satisfying has been the Great Canadian Layouts series. I've enjoyed highlighting some of the great modelling of Canadian railways being done by people across Canada and around the world.

The deaths of several modelling friends got me thinking about death and model railroading, leading to another interesting series of posts titled Death and the Model Railroader. I don't know of anyone else writing on that topic!

I also enjoyed writing about photography, and the philosophy behind it; about tips and tricks and, of course, about the Manitoba & Minnesota Sub. itself.

And it's been great to follow along with the start and success of Rapido Trains, and to see all the great new Canadian products come out from other manufacturers.

It was also a pleasure to be associated with Canadian Railway Modeller, and to witness its positive impact on the hobby in Canada.

How long will I keep up with the blog? Good question. The fact it has gone on this long is already unusual; the majority of blogs die after a few months when people tire of writing for them.

I'll keep doing it as long as it's still fun. The nice thing about the blog is that there are no deadlines, no expectations, no rules to keep. It's sort of like a layout, in that regard.

Anyway, I'll keep watching the counter until that magic number rolls around. Thanks to all who helped the blog reach it.

Photo above: VIA's The Canadian somewhere in northern Ontario in 1981. My wife and I rode this train home to Winnipeg from Toronto following our after-wedding in my home town of St. Catharines. 


Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Stafford Swain's CNR Whiteshell Subdivision Re-Visited



















I’ve been thinking about Stafford Swain recently.

Stafford, who has been ill for some time, was one of Canada’s premier model railroaders. His layout, the CNR Whiteshell Subdivision, was a test-bed for many of the modeling ideas and practices we take for granted today.















A Master Model Railroader and expert on CNR steam, Stafford was a friend and mentor. Through his efforts, he helped me see how high the bar could be for accuracy and fidelity in model railroading—even if I could never reach it.















Stafford’s attention to detail was not limited to trains; he brought the same high standards to buildings, trackwork and scenery on his transition-era HO scale layout.

He was one of the first modelers to pay as much attention to the geology of the area his trains ran through as to the trains themselves. It showed on his layout, which featured Canada's iconic Canadian Shield.  















Best of all, Stafford loved to share what he discovered; altogether, he published over 80 articles in every major model railroad magazine.















Those of us today who appreciate accurate and prototypical models of rolling stock or locomotives have him to thank.















As for the layout itself, Stafford started it in 1975. He set the 12 by 30 foot layout in June, 1955; it featured a line from Winnipeg into northeastern Manitoba's Canadian Shield area.

Today, many of the concepts employed by Stafford on the layout seem ordinary—walkaround control, hidden staging, lighting effects, fidelity to the prototype, highly-detailed scenery, fascia, dispatcher’s panel in another room, tracks passing through a single scene. 

In 1975, however, they weren’t so common. Stafford was among the first to pomote these advances in the hobby.















In addition to creating the layout, Stafford helped found the CN Lines SIG, served as a president of both the Winnipeg Model Railroad club and the NMRA Thousand Lakes Region.

He also chaired the committee that brought the NMRA national convention to  Winnipeg in 1983 —a convention that, in many ways, set the standard for others that followed.















"I’ve had so much fun, enjoyed so much goodwill, and developed so many good friendships through the hobby,” he told me in 2010. 

"I’m proud of my accomplishments in model railroading, but also glad that I have been able to contribute to its advancement.”















Due to ill health, Stafford had to move and dismantle the layout five years ago. I was able to visit him prior to the move, and took many of the photos on this page. 

Others were taken by Paul Ulrich that same year during Steam on the Prairies, the 2010 NMRA Thousand Lakes Region convention.















I posted an article of tributes to Stafford from people across North America in 2010. By now, it is so far down in this blog that few could find it.















For this reason, I thought I’d re-post my photos of Stafford’s layout, together with some others by Paul, so many more could appreciate Stafford’s artistry. You can read those tributes by clicking here. 

You can see more of Paul’s photos by clicking here. 



























Stafford (l), with Canadian Railway Modleller
editor Morgan Turney in 2010.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Club Night at the WMRC


Morgan Turney demonstrates making trees.


















How many model railroad clubs are still running today?

What with so many service clubs, churches and other groups seeing declining membership, plus the challenge of finding or keeping space for a layout, I wonder how model railroad clubs are doing.

The Winnipeg Model Railroad Club (WMRC) is soldiering on. Now in its 60th year, the Club continues to meet monthly.

Aaron Woloshyn shows how to make wood hydro poles.















Unlike many other clubs, the WMRC doesn't have a layout. Never has, in fact. (Which is why, some long-timers joke, the Club has managed to stay together for so long--fewer fights!)

Monthly meetings often feature a presentation or two about the prototype or some aspect of the hobby, plus a time for socializing over coffee and a 50-50 draw.

Like many other organizations, the WMRC has seen its membership decline. That's no knock on the leadership; it's just the way things are today. And with the Internet, there's no need to go to meetings regularly to get answers to pressing hobby-related questions.

Ian Plett shows how to install decoders.















Even the library, which once was one of the most important selling points for Club membership, isn't as compelling as it once was. If you want to know how to do DCC wiring or lay track, just Google it.

But there's still something about hanging out with real human beings and having a conversation. And that is what the WMRC continues to offer.

Ron Einarson shows how to
 model with wood.




















I must confess that, after over 20 years of dedicated participation, my own attendance has slacked off of late. But I went to the most recent meeting and took these photos. It was the annual Klinic Karnival, where members demonstrate hobby techniques.

So here's to the the Winnipeg Model Railroad Club, and to all the other clubs that are still going. May you have many more years of meetings and success.

Frederik and Gerrit Braun, owners and creators of
Hamburg's Miniatur Wunderland, model WMRC 60th
anniversary T-shirts.







Monday, December 14, 2015

Update From Bowser about the SD40-2, Red Barn, M636 & RS-3



















I got the following message from Lee English of Bowser today about the new SD40-2s (and other units).

"The SD40-2s have shipped to us. They should arrive in Montoursville about 1-15-2016."

"I do not have any other news on the SD40-2F yet. It is still in the works but going slowly."

"On the M636, we are running the plastic parts now. We have most done and with the body and deck to go. I just bought another Roboshot injection molding machine so I can keep up with production."

"The RS-3 is coming along slowly. I have the chassis, trucks and a couple of fuel tanks about 90% done. The PGE, CP chop nose and the phase 3 are well along on the body. 

"I have changed my mind and will make the tooling for the RS-3 here in PA.This allows the mold to use a lot of inserts instead of making new sides for every variation."

"I am looking at the SD30 eco too. I am looking for a real one to measure. I will also will need a lot of original photos."

"Non Canadian project: The Alco C415 is 95% designed. It will go to tooling soon."

Saturday, December 12, 2015

2015 Canadian Pacific Holiday Train



















For the 17th year, the CPR Holiday Trains are making their way across Canada and the U.S. northeast and mid-west.














The trains started their journey in late November. The Canadian train ends its run Dec. 19 in B.C. The American train also ends its run in Canada, in Alberta on Dec. 18.

Along the way, both brightly-lit trains feature free concerts and accept donations for local food banks.














A great video of this train was made by Dave Hansen when the train was in the Hamilton, Ont. area on Dec. 1. Click here to view it.

Click here to view the schedule, and for more information.


Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Gloves are Off in CP's Battle for Norfolk Southern
















From Canadian Press.
Canadian Pacific Railway has dropped the gloves in its battle to acquire Norfolk Southern after the U.S. railway immediately rejected a revised takeover offer.
The Calgary-based company enlisted the help of activist U.S. investor Bill Ackman to challenge the qualifications of Norfolk Southern CEO James Squires and opened the door to launching a hostile bid if the board of the Virginia company continues to oppose negotiations.
"We are going to work and do everything at our disposal to get this to the shareholders and get a resolution to it," Canadian Pacific chief executive Hunter Harrison said Tuesday during a conference call. "If that calls for a proxy, so be it."
Read more at CTV News.

Sunday, December 6, 2015

President's Choice Train Sets Re-Visited












It's always interesting to check the stats for this blog to see what posts are of interest to readers. For the past month, one of the most popular posts has been the one from 2012 about President's Choice train sets.

For those of you who don't know about them, the President's Choice train sets were the brainchild of Boris Polakow, Vice President of Canadian Sales Development for Loblaws (owner of Real Canadian Superstore). 

In 1992, he decided it was time for a quality, affordable train set for kids for Christmas. His colleagues at Loblaws weren’t so sure, but Polakow proved them wrong. 

That first run of 10,000 President’s Choice/PC Express train sets sold out within days of being released before Christmas. It started a tradition that lasted until 2006.

Maybe all the recent interest in the sets is because it is Christmas; maybe people are looking for these classic train sets for kids, or maybe for themselves since the sets are now collectibles.

Whatever the reason, if you are interested in these unique Canadian train sets, click here to read more. 


Friday, December 4, 2015

Rejected: Update on Canadian Pacific, Norfolk Southern Proposed Merger









Norfolk Southern has rejected Canadian Pacific’s $28-billion takeover offer, saying that it is “grossly inadequate, creates substantial regulatory risks and uncertainties that are highly unlikely to be overcome, and is not in the best interest of the company and its shareholders."
The notice of rejection went on to say that “we believe that Canadian Pacific’s short-term, cut-to-the-bone strategy could cause Norfolk Southern to lose substantial revenues from our service-sensitive customer base,” and will “risks harm to vital transportation infrastructure and the communities we serve.”
Harrison replied that CP would now need to increase its offer to win Norfolk Southern’s consent. 
Of course, this is probably all negotiating bluster: Never accept the first offer, and all that. We'll see how it plays out.

Click here for my Q & A on the proposed merger.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Open House for Our Home & Miniature Land

















Our Home & Miniature Land, the new interactive model railroad exhibit in Mississauga, Ontario, held its open house in October.













The brainchild of Jean-Louis Brenninkmeijer, the exhibit will showcase Canada from coast-to-coast.

When completed in 2017 (Canada’s 150th anniversary), it will feature 20 exhibits, tied together by HO scale railway tracks.














Right now, the builders are working on the Ontario sections (Toronto and Hamilton). This includes a scale replica of the CN Tower that is three metres (nine feet) high, an exact model of the Rogers Centre (where the Blue Jays play), Toronto’s Union Station, the Air Canada Centre (where the Leafs play), and the Toronto downtown.











The goal of Our Home & Miniature Land is to help visitors explore, experience and learn about Canadian life, geography, history and industry.

A few facts and figures:

* 370 square metres (4,000 square feet) of floor space
* 1,460 metres (4,790 feet) of track
* 385 turnouts
* 3 helixes
* 30,000 hours of labour to date
* 10,000 individual figures for ACC and Rogers Centre

Read my previous post about Our Home and Miniature Land. And thanks to Model Railroad Info Guy for some of the photos.