Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Thompson River Canyon N Scale Layout: Done!

And so it is done—the Thompson River canyon memorial layout is finished.

It took a year to finish both sides. I thought I would get it done quicker but, you know—life.

Actually, I’m sort of sorry it is finished now. Unfinished, it gave me comfort—it was always there, waiting for me to do some work on it.

But with it now done, and my HO layout long done (after tearing down a third of it and starting over), I don’t have any new model railroad projects. I feel undone, to be honest.

But it was a fun project while it lasted. And meaningful, as through the construction I recalled my brother-in-law Ken Epp, who died in 2014.

As I noted in earlier posts about this project, after building a great four-level HO scale layout (the Cougar River Sub.) Ken had downsized and moved to a condo. 

His next goal was to build an N scale version of his favourite railfanning area: The Thompson River canyon.

Unfortunately, cancer took him at age 59 before he could complete that dream. Instead, I received the N scale stuff he had accumulated from his family and built it for him, and in his memory.

It’s not big—just a 2 by 7 on a hollow core door. But I hope it catches the spirit of the canyon that he loved. (And where his ashes are scattered—by the railway tracks—at his request.)

One side of the small layout features the steep, rugged part of the canyon where snow and rock sheds are needed to protect the trains.

The steeper side.

The other side features the less steep and more arid part of the canyon.

The more arid side, with my HO scale
layout in the background.

As I noted in my earlier posts about the most recently-completed part of the layout, I mixed grey, various shades of brown, tan, black and white craft paints to achieve the colourations.

The trick to this kind of believable scenery (as on the other side), is to vary the colours, making sure to blend them together near the edges.

Everything on the layout is extruded Styrofoam or cardstock (for the tunnel portals and rock sheds). This includes the boulders, which are cut to shape.

What it looked like earlier.

To cover holes and cracks, I glued pieces of foliage between the boulders and places where it was too hard to paint near the backdrop (which is just a one-inch piece of Styrofoam spray painted blue). I was careful not to use too much, since this is a dry area.

The ballast is my own special blend of grey, cinders and buff. This prevents it from looking too uniform. I also painted the track brown.

The water is a mix of deep river green and black green—the lighter colour indicating where the river is shallower near the edge. I used matt medium to make it glossy.

And that’s it—a simple but, I hope, convincing representation of an area that was close to Ken’s heart. The completed layout will be formally unveiled at the Sept. 24-25 Manitoba Mega Train show.

For some, it may be too simple: Just a train going around in a loop. But I actually find it very relaxing, sort of like watching fish in an aquarium. 

And it was a lot of fun to build. R.I. P., Ken Epp.

Click here to see all the posts about building this layout, including two videos.

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Great Canadian Model Railroad: The CN Joliette Sub.

The CN Joliette Sub. is a Great Canadian Model Railroad created by Stephane Loyer of Repentigny, Québec.

The HO scale layout, which is its own 16 by 20 foot building, represents Canadian National in Quebec in 1985.

Why that place and year? That’s where Stephane grew up and where he watched trains as a young boy.

“When I was young we lived near the station at L'Assomption, Québec, and was always at the station,” he says. “I am modelling my good memories of that time.”

Although centred on a real Canadian location, the layout is proto-freelanced. Stephane does use real town names and train numbers.

The point-to-point layout has helix on the center peninsula, which takes trains down to a ten-track staging yard representing Montreal to the west and Garneau to the east. There is also two tracks representing a branchline to Riviere des Prairies.

Track is Atlas code 100; the turnouts are from Peco and Shinohara. DCC control is provided by NCE.

Industries on the layout include a cement plant, co-op grain elevator, lumber distributor, propane dealer, warehouse and team tracks. There is also an interchange with CP Rail.

Stephane’s scenery is made from red rosin paper and cardboard strips (a method promoted by Howard Zane). He also uses extruded Styrofoam and floral Styrofoam. Ground cover is sculptamold covered by various kinds of static grass and ground foam.

The backdrops come from King Mills and Realistic Backgrounds, together with one made by his wife by using panoramic photos from the area.

She stitches them together using Photoshop, prints them on a 52-inch laser printer and adheres then to vinyl before placing the backdrops on the layout.

Stephane’s roads are inspired by Mike Confalone; he screens rock dust into a bucket, then applies it to the road and fixes it with a mixture of white glue and water. After it dries, he smooths the surface with sandpaper (120 grit) and paints it with acrylic craft paint from Walmart. When dry, he adds lines and then weathering.

His deciduous trees are from scenic express. He paints the trunks camouflage brown and uses ground foam for the leaves. His evergreens are hand-made from 18-gauge wire and twisted rope.

As for his favorite scenes, he thinks it is the cement plant—it’s nine feet long—and the co-op grain elevator.

Oh, and the layout also features a model of his actual house, although the couple goodbye in the driveway are not him and his wife. (And the man peeing behind a tree isn’t anyone he knows, either.)

This fall he plans to begin operating sessions with friends. The sessions will be helped by another friend who was a CN engineer on the real-life Joliette Sub. “He will be able to tell me me all the train movements and car consists of this time period,” Stephane says.

Stephane has been a model railroader for almost 45 years, and a railroader for the last 30 years, working for CN and for VIA Rail. “I think trains are in my blood,” he says.

Stephane credits friends Michel Lapointe and Michel Bonin for inspiration and assistance with the layout, along with great model railroaders like Mike Confalone (Allagash Railway), Bob Fallowfield (CP Rail Galt Sub.) and John Parker (BNSF Fall River division) for tips and ideas.

With help from them, and with his own skills, Stephane has created a Great Canadian Model Railroad of his own.

All photos by Stephane.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

What Lies Beneath

As model railroaders, we spend a lot of time fussing about what goes on top of the layout—the trains, the track, buildings, scenery, ballast, etc.

We might spend less time worrying about what lies beneath us, on the floor.

At least, that was true for me. The floor in my layout room is painted concrete, covered with leftover carpet pieces and throw rugs. Basically, anything that ceased to be useful in the upstairs part of the house.

But all that changed recently when my wife as at a dollar store and found interlocking foam for floors at $3 for a 2 x 2 piece.

This a huge saving from the foam floor mats one finds at home renovation stores. Here in Canada they run $30 for a 4 x 4 piece.

She grabbed a bunch and brought them home. Out went the old throw rugs and scrap carpet pieces and down went the foam floor mats—in a pleasing design, I might add (all her work).

So now I have a very comfortable floor to walk on (and keep me warm in winter). And not only that, it looks great, too.

Now I just have to do something to fix those saggy curtains . . . .

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

More Progress on the Thompson River Canyon Layout: Painting

Things are moving along on the Thompson River Canyon N scale layout. Painting is well underway; all that’s left is the shoreline and the water, plus the tunnel portal, painting and ballasting the track and adding a few trees and bushes.

By way of reminder, here’s what it looked like a couple of weeks ago when I finished the basic landforms.

And here’s another photo of what it looks like today.

As you can see, I am trying to replicate the more arid and less steep part of the canyon, so the colours are mostly greys, tans and browns. Vegetation is sparse, so there’s just a bit of grass here and there.

This is unlike the other side of the layout (completed last year), which features the steeper and greyer side of the canyon.

As for my painting technique, I use a base coat of grey for most areas (a can of cheap paint from the mis-tint shelf at my local Rona).

For the other colours I use even cheaper dollar store paints. I squeeze the additional colours on to the grey paint, then mix it in, being careful to match the colours beside it.

The trick to a convincing paint job, I have found, is to vary the colours—not to use only one shade. So I use various colours such as grey, tan, white, espresso brown, burnt umber and black.

Anyway, my goal is to have this ready for the Manitoba Mega Train Show at the end of September—I think I’m right on schedule.

To view all the posts about the creation of this layout, including videos, click here: Thompson River Canyon.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Price Reduced! Riding Mountain Park Dome Observation Car for Sale

“If I had a million dollars . . . “

So sang the Barenaked Ladies in 1991-92. Well, if I had a million dollars, I might be tempted to buy Riding Mountain Park, a Park car originally owned by the CPR that is now for sale for a reduced price of $280,000 (down from $375,000).

The car, built in 1954 by the Budd Company for the CPR’s The Canadian, was one of 18 dome observation cars manufactured for that railway.

During its service days.

It was retired and sold in 2004 to a private owner by VIA Rail, which inherited passenger service from CN and CP Rail in 1977. And now it is for sale again, this time by Ozark Mountain Railcar.

According to Ozark Mountain, the car is in good condition and retains many of its original furnishings.

I’m not the only one dreaming about this bit of Canadian railway history; when I visited the web page, there had already been over 30,000 other views.

If Riding Mountain Park isn’t for you, Ozark Mountain Railcar has 73 other passenger cars for sale, along with 12 locomotives, 30 freight cars and many other railroad items.

And another in-service shot.

As for VIA today, it still has 14 Park cars in service, numbered 8702 to 8718. Named after Canadian national parks, they have one triple bedroom, three double bedrooms, 24 seats in the dome, one common washroom, a bar and a panoramic lounge at the rear You can find out more about them on VIA’s website.

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Rewind: To Oil, Or Not Oil The Tracks

A member of the Canadian Railway Modellers group on Facebook recently asked about the best way to clean track. It reminded me of this old post, from 2009. I haven't cleaned my track for over 15 years--or locomotive or rolling stock wheels, for that matter. The secret? Wahl Clipper Oil, as I wrote about in 2009.

Forget the debate over which scale or brand of locomotive is best; if you really want to start an animated discussion, bring up the subject of oiling your track.

There are two schools of thought in this regard: Oilers and non-oilers. The oilers can’t stop praising the results of using oil; the non-oilers tell people to flee—flee, I say!—as fast at they can from track oiling. Both sides have testimonials, pro and con.

As for me, I am an oiler. I have been using Wahl Clipper Oil on my CP Rail Manitoba & Minnesota Subdivision for about eight years now.

Why do I use it? For two reasons. First, it really does seem to enhance conductivity—the locomotives really do run better.

Second, it eliminates the need to clean track; I haven’t cleaned my track since 2001.

Since my layout has a mainline run of about 230 feet, plus sidings and yard, cleaning track would be a huge undertaking. Not having to clean the track is a blessing. (And, no, it’s not because of metal wheels; only about a third of my rolling stock has them.)

How do I use it? I put a small dab on my finger and then put the oil on the track. I then run a train around the layout, spreading a thin layer of oil along the tracks. I put on a dab a few times a month.

What about gunk? Nope—not a big problem. I rarely have to clean the wheels on my rolling stock, and I never have to clean the wheels on my locomotives.

What about slippage? The grades on my layout are only 1.5 percent, and I use two units to pull all the trains. I have never experienced any slippage due to slick track.

How does it work? I have no idea. All I know is that it keeps my track clean and the trains run great.

Saturday, August 6, 2016

Cover-Up in Toronto: New Public Park Proposed Over Railway Tracks

From this . . .

Railfans will be sad, but residents of Toronto will be happy if they get a new downtown park.

The new park, called Rail Deck Park, will cover the tracks between Bathurst Street and the Rogers Centre leading to the west of Union Station.

To this.

The 21 acre is still not a sure thing; discussions are ongoing with CN and Toronto Terminal Railways, which is owned by CN and the CPR, which owns the air rights to the space above the tracks.

The city plans to secure those rights, allowing them to ensure the space is reserved for public use. But it is unclear at this time if those rights can be purchased, and for how much.

As well, as the Toronto Star reported that although the City of Toronto has made its intentions for the park known, there are still unknowns such as how to pay for the cost of construction.

New York's cover up.

The park, if constructed, will be similar to what is happening in New York City, where 17 million square feet of buildings and open space will be built on top of a 26-acre space above a Long Island Railroad yard.

Top photo by Chris Paxton. Bottom photo from Toronto Star.

One day this may be a memory.