Wednesday, October 10, 2018

The Essex Terminal RR Visits the M & M Sub.

The Essex Terminal Railway (ETR) visited the M & M Sub. last month, in the form of ETR GP9 102.
The unit was built by owner Morgan Turney, who dropped by one evening with his grandson from Australia to run some trains.
But before getting to the unit itself, a bit about the ETR.
Incorporated in 1902, the ETR is an Ontario shortline that runs about 35 kilometers from the east side of Windsor to Amherstburg. It interchanges with CN, CP and CSX.
It provides rail services for about 15 customers engaged the lumber, steel, agricultural, scrap metal, alcohol, and liquid petroleum gas sectors, as well as serving a transload facility.
Not the 102, but sister 108.

Morgan became familiar with the ETR when he worked in the area in the mid-1980s. About that time the ETR was updating their locomotives, including the paint scheme.
“This included their new company logo that, for its time, looked very modern and 'sporty' with its 'chopped' nose - a somewhat recent modification for a GMD Geep,” Morgan says.
He took a special shine to ETR 102—it was the last GP9 built (for the ACR, as 172 in 1963) at GMDD's plant in London, Ontario, about 190 kilometers from Windsor.
As a result, Morgan decided to replicate the unique unit. He started with an undecorated Athearn GP9. After lowering the nose, he used an airbrush to prime and then paint the model using Floquil TTX yellow and black paint.

After applying the Highball decals and finishing it off with Dullcote, “I had myself a convincing model of ETR's 102,” he says.
As for the prototype ETR, the railway currently has four units on its roster, but the 102 isn’t among them. It was sold to the Ontario Southland in 2016.
But it lives on with Morgan, and for one night on the M & M Sub.

Saturday, October 6, 2018

Great Canadian Model Railroad: Jim Ellis' Spring Creek Valley

I was sad to learn last week of the passing of Jim Ellis of Beamsville, Ont.

Jim, 79, was a well-known modeller in southern Ontario for his great Canadian model railroad, the Spring Creek Valley.

His reputation also carried across the country through his association with the Canadian Association of Railway Modellers (CARM).

The 12 by 35 foot layout, which featured CNR and CPR steam in the 1950s, was not set in any location, but captured the essence of the southern Ontario area.

Scenically, it was set generically in the Niagara escarpment. The trackplan was designed as a bridge route between Niagara Falls and Toronto, with a branch to Owen Sound.

Toronto had a big roundhouse, with 12 stalls, with the roundhouse tracks extending in a complete circle.

Also modelled in the Toronto area was a large yard, complete with a raised street scene at the back of the yards that captures the feeling of Front Street in that city.

The branch to Owen Sound ended in a model of a huge grain elevator and 1950s lake freighter.

A special feature of the layout was Jim's collection of brass CNR and CPR locomotives.

Many of them were modified to represent models that aren't available off the shelf.

In an article in the March-April issue of The Canadian, the newsletter of the Canadian Association of Railway Modellers, it was noted that Jim “has taken great pains not only to accurately detail his engines, but also to accurately detail them for the particular idiosyncrasies of one engine in the series.”

As well, many of Jim’s structures were scratchbuilt or kitbashed to represent actual structures that existed in the area.

This included the CNR Grimsby station (top photo) and Toronto’s Gooderham Worts Distillery.

I never had a chance to meet Jim, or see his layout. But I knew of him, and now I can honour him with this post.

Photos credit to the White River Division, 2016.

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

A Simple Scene

There was some great modelling at the recent Manitoba Mega Train show in Winnipeg. But of all the modules on the various layouts, this simple scene from the Echo Valley Railroad Guild of Regina jumped out at me.

Why? Because it is simple, uncluttered, unassuming—and unusual.

Why is it unusual? Because you don’t often see a simple scene like this on a modular layout. 

Instead, many of them are busy and cluttered. Many modules are filled with tracks, buildings, vehicles, people, and whatever.

I understand why that happens. When someone doesn’t have a layout, they can be tempted to use every square inch in an effort to maximize the opportunity and the real estate.

But Jeff Betcher, the maker of this scene, didn't do that. He showed a powerful sense of discipline to not fill the space.

In so doing, Jeff also captured the essence of much of the North American right of way.

The fact of the matter is that most of the landscape trains run through is not urban. It's rural.

For much of the way the trains pass, all that can be seen is trees, hills, fields, water. Repeat.

In agricultural areas, it is farms, with acres and acres of crops.

A believable scene like this is not easy to make. A busy urban scene is easier to pull off since the eye is easily distracted by a hundred different items. 

But having just a few things in the scene means everything needs to work much harder to be convincing.

In my opinion, Jeff accomplished that goal. Looking at it, I can imagine myself in rural Canada, waiting on a gravel road for a train to pass.

When it comes to modular layouts, or even our own home layouts, we can all be tempted to fill every inch. 

Not doing that can sometimes be the best way to create a great looking model railroad.

Sunday, September 30, 2018

Neil Young at the Manitoba Mega Train Show

Neil Young, the famous Manitoba-born rocker and model railroader, made an appearance at the 2018 Manitoba Mega Train show.

Well, not personally. But an O gauge locomotive he once owned was there. 

It was on a table at the Dauphin Railway Museum display, hosted by the Museum’s genial President, Derm English.

The pre-production Lionel 6-38150 Clear Shell F-3 A unit was one of 230 items put up for auction by Young last November.

According to Julien’s Auctions, which sold the item, it was one of two non-powered clear shell F-3 A units that were used as samples to determine the best plastic to use for the production run.

One shell was made from ABS plastic without U.V. stabilizers. The other shell was made from polycarbonate plastic.

Included with the items was a copy of a letter dated May 7, 1999, from Director of Engineering Robert A. Grubba to a Lionel consultant, with a CC to Neil Young. 

But how did the unit end up at the Dauphin Railway Museum?

According to Derm, someone from the Dauphin area bought the unit at the auction and donated it to the museum.

So if Neil Young ever returns home to his birthplace in Winnipeg, he could always take a side trip north and west to Dauphin to see something he once owned.

Or wait until the next Mega Train show in 2019, and come and see it there.

Bonus information: The second out-of-town gig that one of Neil Young's early groups, the Squires, had was in Dauphin, on Dec. 13, 1963.

The band made the trip to Dauphin, 300 kilometers from Winnipeg, by bus. They were paid $125.

Saturday, September 8, 2018

35th Anniversary of Winnipeg's NMRA Railway Jamboree '83

I’m a couple of months late, but this is still a good time to mark the 35th anniversary of the July, 1983 NMRA national convention in Winnipeg.

Called Railway Jamboree ’83, the convention was a big deal for a small market town like Winnipeg.

It also marked something personal for me; it revived a longstanding but latent interest in model railroading that put me on a path to where I am today.

In a three part series on the Winnipeg Model Railroad Club website in 2014, long-time member Dave Downie reflected on the hugely successful event.

The convention was awarded to the WMRC in in 1979. The organizing effort was led by WMRC members Stafford Swain, Nick Andrusiak, Hilt Friesen and Wolfgang von Thuelen.

Even though Winnipeg was a small city in the NMRA’s scheme of things for a national convention, the committee thought big: Winnipeg was Canada's Railway Capital, and home to many of the country's finest layouts. Why not bid for it?

It helped that Stafford was a meticulous planner and very persuasive. He laid out a solid business and marketing plan and was ready to answer every question. 

Winnipeg’s competition was Indianapolis; but at the end Winnipeg prevailed.

When done, the convention was the most profitable in the history of the NMRA, Downie writes. Elements of the Winnipeg plan also became a template for future conventions, including the convention program—a Handbook and Time Table that fit into a front shirt pocket.

Another special feature of the convention was the Railfan's Guide to Winnipeg, created by Ray Goy.

As for me, I was recently married, and just back from a year in Europe. Although I had always liked trains, and had small HO and N scale layouts as a teen, ideas about building a layout were parked while we travelled, studied and started careers.

I attended the public show, and that was it: The bug re-bit hard.  Five years later I built my first layout, and the rest is history.

Winnipeg has never hosted another national NMRA convention; the city is simply too small, too out of the way.

It has hosted a number of NMRA Thousand Lakes Region (TLR) conventions, however, and a Canadian national convention in 2005.

Called Golden Rails, the convention brought together the TLR, the Canadian Railway Modellers Association (CARM), and the CP and CN SIGs to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the WMRC.

Railway Jamboree '83, is long gone, some of the key planners are deceased, and many of the layouts from back then are dismantled. But the good memories still linger, all these years later, including in my own basement with the CP Rail Manitoba & Minnesota Sub.