Saturday, January 29, 2011

You Say Bathtub, I Say Teoli

A Teoli bathtub gondola in its original paint scheme.
Grahame Morris photo..

It was just over 40 years ago that Canadian Anthony Teoli designed North America’s first bathtub gondola car.

According to the patent he filed on June 29, 1970, he wanted to create a “gondola type railway car with a parabolic shape extending down between the wheel assemblies or trucks of the car and free of external or internal reinforcement, giving maximum capacity and minimum car weight.”

Traditional hopper cars, he noted, “usually have a continuous center sill structure extending the length of the car which limits the capacity of the car and produces a relatively high center of gravity in the loaded car, as well as increasing the weight of the car.”

His car was different because it had a “relatively smooth unobstructed interior and is particularly adapted for rotary unloading with a highly effective clean-out of the car.”

Another view. Those cars got really dirty!
Grahame Morris photo.

What distinguished Teoli’s car from others at the time—and made it instantly recognizable—was its unique curved (parabolic) bottom, which allowed the car to carry more coal. The other distinguishing mark was its sloped ends.

(You can see the actual patent application, including a description of the car and drawings, at

One of the first railways to buy Teoli’s design was CP Rail, which used them on its unit coal trains in B.C. As a result, here in Canada these distinctive-looking cars became known as Teoli cars, not as bathtub gondolas.

A page from the CP Rail equipment 
data book from June, 1979. 

In the February, 1996 issue of Railroad Model Craftsman, Patrick Lawson noted that Teoli also licensed his design to the Youngstown Company, which then produced the cars in the U.S. (Berwick also used the design to build cars, and the design was later sold to the Thrall Car Company.)

The U.S. version of the car was shortened by 5’6” to fit U.S. rotary dumpers. By 1980, 3,200 cars had been sold, with Union Pacific being one of the major buyers.

Unfortunately, Lawson writes, by shortening the car a weld in a critical stress area began to fail. This prompted U.S. railroads to start buying bathtub gondolas from other companies. The Canadian version, being longer, suffered no such problem, and is still being used to haul coal and sulfur today.

As delivered to CP Rail, the car was painted the railway’s unique Action Red colour. This proved to be a mistake, since the coal quickly made the cars very dirty. Subsequent cars were delivered in black.

InterMountain Teoli car.

InterMountain came out with a very prototypical version of this car in the original red, and later black, schemes (see photo above). Athearn also produced a version, but it's too short for CP Rail, and the end ladders are incorrect. Additionally, they got the slant of the CP Rail logo all wrong—it leans way too far to the right (see photo below). On the plus side, it is less expensive than the InterMountain car.

Athearn Teoli car.

Although the InterMountain cars are perfect for the CP Rail Manitoba & Minnesota Subdivision, I'm almost embarrassed to admit that I don’t actually own any.

Prior to their release, I had begun collecting the (very) unprotypical Roundhouse CP Rail version—it was the only car of its kind available at the time. I have thought about replacing them with the more realistic InterMountain cars, but the price ($35-$45 in Canada) has thus far been an obstacle. Maybe I’ll find them used some day, and make the switch!

Addendum: Thanks to Chris vanderHeide for noting below that the Athearn car matches the American version, while the Intermountain car is the standard Canadian design.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Death and the Model Railroader IV: I'll Drink To That

While dismantling part of the CP Rail Manitoba & Minnesota Sub., I had to smile when I thought of Harold Weston.

Harold was a much-appreciated model railroader here in Winnipeg. In the 1970s, he opened a hobby shop in his basement, which later moved to a nearby strip mall; the Golden Spike provided not only excellent service, but also served as a gathering place for model railroaders for many years.

Harold was also an excellent modeller. His O scale Great Weston Railway was a must-see layout, with its bridges, buildings and mountains.

I don't know when Harold started the layout but, when doing the scenery, he planned ahead.

After he died suddenly in 1997, of a heart attack, his widow asked several local model railroad friends over to dismantle the layout. While taking down one particularly large mountain, they were surprised to find a bottle of whiskey (or some other spirit) inside.

With the bottle was a note from Harold; it thanked whoever it might be who had the job of taking down his layout, should death prevent him from doing it himself.

According to one who was there, the friends stopped, opened the bottle, and drank a toast to Harold—who not only left behind a great legacy in the local model railroading world, but also a great story that will, I'm sure, be told for decades to come.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

CP Rail Angus Vans Are Back

It's back . . . the CP Rail Angus Van from Rapido Trains, that is. The first run sold out quickly, and the company gets daily requests for more. The most requested are the CP Rail and CSX versions.

Because of the number of requests that they are getting, Rapido has decided to produce another run of both the CP and CSX vans ("cabooses" in the U.S.) in 12 new numbers, plus unnumbered.

(Even though the Manitoba & Minnesota Sub. is set in the mid-1990s, after vans had disappeared, I had to have a couple of these extraordinary models. They run on a couple of locals, or just whenever I feel like it. You can see one traversing the layout by clicking here:

If you wanted one the first time around, but missed out, you can get one (or more) now by visiting the Rapido Trains web site at

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

200,000 Views (on YouTube)

Just over two years ago, when I posted my first fledgling YouTube video of the CP Rail Manitoba & Minnesota Sub., I never could have imagined reaching over 200,000 views. But that's what has happened: Yesterday, sometime, the CP Rail M & M Sub. video channel crossed that threshold.

I still recall how amazed I was when I reached 10,000 views. 100,000 views was over the top. And now it's twice as many as that.

Who'd have thunk it?

As I have said before on this blog, making videos of the layout has become a bit of a hobby-in-a hobby for me (even if I haven't posted many recently). Setting up shots, telling a story and editing is an enjoyable experience. So, too, is sharing them with viewers.

Speaking of viewers, a look at YouTube Insight shows that 84% of those who watch the videos are men. Almost 67 percent live in the U.S., and most of the rest are in Canada.

The most popular video of the layout is Switching the Fort Frances Yard, followed by VIA Rail on the M & M Sub., Photo Montage, A Day on the M & M Sub., Double Stack on the M & M Sub., and Private Owner's Train.

If you would like to see a video of the layout, go to

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Laying Track!

The new tracks cross the old alignment.
Now that a portion of the CP Rail M & M Sub. is gone, I need to reconnect sections before trains can run again. The last time I laid track was probably five or six years ago; it's been fun to once again do this part of the hobby.

I use Atlas code 100 flex track on the layout. Sure, there is better looking track, but Atlas code 100 is cheaper and quite dependable. Plus, I have lots of it!

For cutting track, I use my trusty Xuron track-cutting tool. When cutting track, you need to wear glasses or turn your head away from the track; pieces of track fly off at great speed, and sometimes in all directions.

The new alignment means sharper curves, which is unfortunate. The area I am replacing had a 33 inch radius; now I am down to 24 and 26 inches. But I plan to hide this area behind buildings so the curvature isn't as noticable.

To make sure that cars won't hit each other on the curves, I use the longest pieces of rolling stock to test the alignment. In my case, that means two Walthers' autoracks.

For roadbed, I use sheet cork, available for purchase at any home improvement store. It's cheaper than model railroad cork, and I think it looks better since it's thinner. Since it's thinner, you also don't need to cut it in the middle to make it follow a curve.

While it was hard to remove part of the layout, that loss has been replaced by the opportunity to once again work on the M & M Sub.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

A Great Model Railroad: The Waterloo Region Model Railway Club

In my (very part time) role as Associate Editor of Canadian Railway Modeller, I have been able to write about, and visit, some great layouts in Canada. One of the best—if not the most ambitious—is the Waterloo Region Model Railway Club.

The club, which has a layout in a 40 by 50 foot quonset hut in the town of Maryhill, Ont. (partway between Kitchener/Waterloo and Guelph), models CP Rail in the 1970s in northern Ontario—the Sudbury area, to be specific.

The Sudbury yard.
Actually, to call the club’s efforts a layout is a bit of misnomer; they are actually building a house, or sorts, inside the hut. The layout is on three levels; operators literally climb up and over each other in the mushroom-style room—the ceiling above your head is the floor of the level above you.

The club chose the 1970s for several reasons. First, although it is in the past, it is recent history and therefore easily researched.
Second, that era is a bridge between the "classic" CPR maroon & grey livery and and the more modern CP Rail design. It also allows the club to run rolling stock that features CPR script and block type, along with the CP Rail “pac man” logo.

As for location, Sudbury was chosen because it had mainline transcontinental time-freights, lowly manifests, heavy industry with lots to switch, local turn jobs, mining and logging trains, and local and transcontinental passenger services. In fact, Sudbury was where the CPR's flagship passenger train, The Canadian, was broken into Toronto and Montreal sections going east and assembled into one train going west.

The club has a long ways to go before the layout is completed (as is apparent in the photos). But even in this state, it is very impressive!

You can find more information about the Waterloo Region Model Railway Club, including additional photos and a trackplan, at There’s also an interesting article about the layout at Videos of the layout can be found here (Part 1) and here

The layout is open during the annual Doubleheader’s Layout Tour, which features over 40 local layouts; this year’s tour is March 26. Find out more about the 2011 tour at

More photos of the layout are below.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Holy Cow!

Holy cow! Can you believe that scene?

Every now and then you see a photo of a layout that takes your breath away. All you can say is: "Holy cow!"

I had a "holy cow" moment when I saw photos of Barry Bog's G scale layout posted on the Atlas forum. Barry's Colorado & Western covers nearly the entire second floor of his house, including running across the open foyer (see photos above and below).

More photos of Barry's layout can be found at and A video of his layout can be found at