Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Trains and Mountains: The Crowsnest Pass

UP freight in Crowsnest Pass.


The southernmost route through the mountains between Alberta and B.C. is the Crowsnest Pass.

The CPR built the line in 1897 to reach rich coal fields in the area and, not incidentally, to keep American railways—which were reaching north into Canada—out.

CPR consist at Cranbrook. 

In 1916 the line was completed to the Pacific Ocean, becoming the CPR’s second mainline to the coast. It was closed in 1959 due to washouts.

Today what remains of the line is still busy, mostly due to coal traffic out of the region, and to interchange traffic with the Union Pacific, which has run-through trains to Alberta from the border crossing at Eastport, Idaho/Kingsgate, B.C.

During a recent trip through the Crowsnest Pass, I got a few photos of UP and CPR trains.

UP train at Cranbrook.

A ballast train enters the yard.

And passes by.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Paint the Track!

Brown paint makes the rails look more realistic.

I recently visited a model railroad that was, by most any estimate, a pretty good layout—good looking scenery, interesting track plan, nice and varied scenes. Obviously, a lot of thought had gone into it.
Except in one crucial area: The track. It was silver. Although the owners had gone to some length to create a believable and credible model, they had failed to paint the track.
The result? No matter how good the overall impression, the layout looked toy-like. After all, everyone knows track isn’t silver!
Maybe I’m being too picky, but I don’t think so. And it’s not like my standards are so high—you won’t find any fine-scale models on my layout (and I still run Athearn blue box locomotives). But in this area I am pretty uncompromising.
For me, nothing detracts from a scene like unpainted track.
I don't claim to be an expert track painter. All I did was use brown and black latex paints, applied with a brush. I didn't worry about matching the exact shade of brown or grey as the prototype. All I wanted to do was to hide the silver sides.
Even Code 100 looks smaller when painted.

That said, I did try to match a bit of the prototype by using a lighter brown for yard or little-used tracks, and a darker brown, or almost black, for the mainline.

To paint the track, I simply put some brown and black paint on a piece of cardboard, then randomly mixed it together. A stiff modeller’s brush was used to apply the paint; after doing a few feet, I wiped the excess paint off the top of the rails.

I also added the brown-black mixture to the tops of the ties, to take off the uniform black plastic sheen.
Even though my track is all Code 100—much larger than on the prototype—I found that by painting the track it looked smaller (especially from three feet away).

Some might worry that painting the track makes flex-track harder to re-use if you ever have to pull it up. I didn’t find that to be the case, although you have to clean the ends if you clip a piece of painted track in mid-track to fit another space (to establish good electrical contact for the rail joiner).
Painting flex-track also stiffens it; you have to bend it a few times to break the paint so it will once again be able to curve.

But those are small things to consider when weighed against how good track looks when it is painted—and how bad it looks when it isn’t.
In my opinion, at least.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Private Owner's Train II

Modelling inspiration comes from various places. One source of inspiration for me came in 1992, during a visit to Cranbrook, B.C.

While there, I was lucky enough to catch a private owner's train in the yard. That chance encounter resulted in one of the more enjoyable aspects of model railroading for me--modelling a private owner's train on my layout.

I recently came across a couple of photos I took during that visit. I scanned them and have posted them above and below.

I don't know anything about that train--how it came to be there, or who owned the cars. All I know is that it set me on an enjoyable modelling path as I have collected colourful passengere cars from various railroads across North America to assemble my own private owner's train.

For more about my private owner's train, see Private Owner's Train on the CP Rail M & M Sub.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

A Great Canadian Model Railroad: York Railway Modellers

Another great Canadian model railroad I had the pleasure of helping to get published is York Railway Modellers.

The club, which is located in Toronto, started in 1992. The HO scale layout combines CNR and CPR mainline and wayfreight operation in southern Ontario between 1953-57.

The layout is over 1,600 square feet in area and has around 11 scale miles of mainline track. It features two major yards and eight towns. Each yard has three industrial areas plus a roundhouse, turntable and engine facilities.

The single track mainline runs from is set up to run end-to-end from the CPR Lambton Yard (West Toronto) to the CNR London Yard. A total of 25 people are required to operate it properly.

Today the club has finished all the trackwork and 95 percent of the wiring; work on scenery is a continuing project.

York Railway Modellers was featured in Canadian Railway Modeller Train 7 Track 4. Photos from the club’s website and Scott Reid. Click here to visit their website. A few more photos are below.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Whitcomb in Wenatchee, Washington

While wandering the waterfront in Wenatchee, WA during my recent trains and mountains tour, I came across this interesting unit—a Whitcomb 65-tonner that had formerly belonged to the U.S. Army Transportation Corps.
According to a sign on the unit, the locomotive—a 65-D.E.-19-A—was built in 1944 and worked in North Africa as U.S. Army 8450. It was part of a large number of Whitcomb locomotives sent overseas as part of the war effort; the units also worked in Great Britain, Italy, Belgium, Germany and The Netherlands.
Information plate on the unit.


In a helpful overview about these units on a web page (about Lehigh & New England #601 and Wanamaker,Kempton & Southern #602) by Jeff. Z., R.H. Piligian notes that the Army specification called for a locomotive to be able to run on any European main line, have a top speed of at least 45 mph, and be able to operate with similar locomotives.
Piligian goes on to note that locomotives from Whitcomb were used to pull the first train into Rome after it was taken from the Germans; the first train across the Rhine River; and the first train into Paris after it was liberated by the Allies.

After the war in Europe ended, the Army shipped 118 of the units back to the U.S. for use in the war against Japan. When the war against that country, the units were no longer needed; they were sold to various shortlines beginning in 1947.

At some point in its life, the 8450 became American Silicon Technologies (ASTX) 11. I have not been able to learn how it came to be displayed in Wenatchee.

Learn more about the Whitcomb Locomotive Compnay here and here (with lots of photos).

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Switching Activity at the Peace River Paper Mill

I caught a bit of switching activity at the Peace River paper mill today. The mill is the largest industry on the Manitoba & Minnesota Sub. So big, in fact, that it has its own switcher--an old unpainted Atlas S-2. (One of those "one day" projects, as in "one day I am going to give it a proper paint job.")

The mill itself is made from Evergreen corrugated styrene glued to foam core. It's not as detailed as it could be, but that's where GEFM comes in: Good Enough For Me."

Besides, operators hardly notice the details, or lack thereof, while switching the mill's five spotting tracks and two track yard. It can take about 45 minutes to switch out departing cars and replace them with incoming cars.

A mirror makes the track seem longer.

Back to the yard . . . .

Overview of the paper mill.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

More On Radio Control for HO Scale Layouts

Earlier I wrote about radio control for model railroads (Radio Control For HO Scale Model Trains: A Pipe Dream or Coming Reality?) In that post I pointed to some forums and websites where people were talking about the potential of radio control to run HO scale size layouts.

Well, the topic has come up again, this time on the Atlas HO Forum. (Look for the topic "Where is the NMRA on the RCC protocol?")

In the first post, the writer makes the case for why is now the time for the NMRA--the body that sets standards for the hobby--to start working with radio control manufacturers and get them to agree on common standards for radio control interoperability (as it did with DCC).

Says he: "The NMRA Working Group MUST wake up and some alive on this new front NOW while it is in its infancy! The work on this new protocol will not only ensure the new RCC systems play well together (and give these companies a combined collective boost by expanding their markets), but it will also ensure that the manufacturers remember to include a device in their system that connects to the now 'ancient' DCC command station and thus allows you to still interact with your 'legacy' DCC fleet using the same controller you use to interact with the RCC fleet."

It's a fascinating discussion about what might just be the future of the hobby--and just after you finally broke down and invested in DCC!

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Death and the UK Model Railroader V: A Cautionary Tale

The deceased with his layout.

Not sure if this is a cautionary tale or not, but it does involve death and a model railroader--and the sad destruction of a layout. The article comes from Kent Online in Great Britain.

If there's any lesson to be drawn from it, I guess it is to make sure you leave clear, written instructions for the disposition of your model railroad.

As for the layout itself, it was probably unrealistic of the deceased to hope it could be saved--very few can be.

The  saddest thing was the deceased's inability to go upstairs for ten years to run his trains.

By-the-way, an equity release company appears to be a business that gives you the value of your house in cash while you are alive, but takes ownership of the house when you die and sells it to get their money back.

Model railway set to be smashed up

The railway took more than 30 years to build, it carried no passengers and its surrounding scenery was awesome.

But passersby never knew it existed as trains, track and surrounding were all tucked away in a loft in Bearsted.

Now the intricate and complex model railway, measuring 6 metres by 4 metres, is about to be smashed up following the death of its builder, Frederick Ernest Lucas.

Mr Lucas, 87, left no next of kin and his bungalow in Weavering Street, will next Wednesday be handed to an equity release company.

His executor and friend Peter Scobey, said: “All those decades of lovingly building it just shone through. If you saw it you would think it’s out of this world.

“You go up through the loft hatch and you’re totally surrounded by this railway and landscaping of countryside with little houses.

“When the collectors went up last weekend they just couldn’t speak for the first 15 minutes. They had never seen anything like it on that scale and beauty.

“It took Fred over three decades to build.

“Sadly, the loft will be cleared by the owners, and so the only thing that is salvagable is the little railway’s rolling stock, which will go to specialised collectors.”

Mr Lucas lived at the bungalow with his late wife Brenda, who died at 81 in 2004, for some 61 years.

Ill health followed Mr Lucas, which prevented him from climbing the loft ladder to tend his beloved railway and so it remained unused for ten years.

“Fred was devastated by his wife’s death and his health gradually deteriorated,” said Mr Scobey.

“He collapsed inside Tesco’s at Grove Green on Thursday, July 7 and was taken to Maidstone Hospital before passing away in a nursing home two weeks later.

Mr Scobey said: “A few days before his death he made me promise I would do everything in my power to try to save as much of the railway as possible.

“I can’t be present when the rest is broken on Wednesday, I’d be too emotional to witness it.”

Monday, August 15, 2011

Trains and Mountains: Old Alco on Display in Cranbrook, B.C.

If you're in Cranbrook, B.C., on your way south to the Canadian Museum of Rail Travel on Highway 95, the first thing you pass on the west side of the road are these old, worn and tired units--ex-CP MLW (Alco) FA-2 4090 and FB-2 4469.

The two locomotives were built in 1953, and started work in B.C. before being assigned back east.

According to reports, the goal is to repaint the units into their original maroon and gold (if funds can be found). Below find a photo of the 4090 during its Action Red years. (Photo by Ted Ellis from Canadian Pacific Railway Locomotive Roster and Photo Archives.)

Also by the units is an old CPR enclosed water tower and the old Elko, B.C. station. Both are also owned by the Museum.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Trains and Mountains: The Creston, B.C. Museum HO Scale Layout

The Creston, B.C. Historical Museum is a great place to visit, even if it didn't have a model railroad. But it does--and that makes it even more worthwhile.

The layout is the workd of the Seventh Siding Trackers model railway club, which has built a representation of the Canadian Pacific Railway through the Creston Valley.

The layout is open during the Museum's operating hours, and is included in the admission.

More photos of the layout below.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Trains & Mountains: A Great Combination

CPR double stack at Banff, Alberta

In early August I had a chance to visit one of my favorite places--the mountains in B.C. and Alberta. The trip included a drive south into Washington as far as the Columbia Gorge and along the eastern edge of the Cascades. Over the next few posts I'll share a few photos from those travels, beginning with the CPR Windermere Sub. in B.C.'s Columbia Valley.

The Windermere Sub. is the main route for CPR coal trains heading out of southeastern B.C. to Pacific Ocean ports. It runs from Fort Steele in the south to KC Junction, on the busy east-west Mountain Sub., in the north. The line features about 8-10 trains a day, including two wayfreights.

We stayed in Radium Hot Springs during our time in the valley. Our hotel was far from the tracks, but not so far I couldn't hear the trains blowing their horns at the crossing at the north end of the town. One afternoon I left the hotel as soon as I heard a train come into town, managing to take the photo below of an empty coal train headed back to the mines from an overlook along Highway 95. (Note mid-train helper.)

I caught up with it at Windermere, where I was pleasantly surprised to find a loaded coal train headed north. (Of course, right about then the sun went behind the clouds, making for the dark shot below.)

After a few shots, I drove back to Radium to catch the northbound at an overlook close to the tracks. The photography gods rarely smile on me, but this time, they did--the sun came out, and I had a great location as the train rounded the bend by the Columbia River.

As it passed by below me, I grabbed a few more shots (below).

For me, there's nothing better than trains and mountains--and an understanding wife, who patiently waited with me trackside at several locations while I waited for trains.