Saturday, April 28, 2012

Great Canadian Model Railroad: Dave Chomyn's Quintette Tunnels Modules

Dave Chomyn of Calgary has created a truly Great Canadian Model Railroad—or maybe that should be Module Railroadthe Quintette Tunnels.

The modules are a faithful replica of the prototype Quintette Tunnels, which are found along the old Kettle Valley Railway near Hope, B.C.

In the early 1900s, the Canadian Pacific Railway decided the build a southern route in British Columbia. The Kettle Valley Railway (KVR) traversed some of the most difficult terrain in the province, passing through three mountain ranges.

One of the greatest challenges facing the railway was the Coquihalla Gorge, where a river cut a 300 foot deep channel through solid rock. 

Chief Engineer Andrew McCulloch determined that the best route was a straight line through the canyon. Since this required five tunnels and two bridges; the area became known as the Quintette Tunnels, although it is also known as the Othello Tunnels due to McCulloch's interest in Shakespeare’s plays.

The KVR existed from 1916 to 1964, when it was closed. Today much of the route is a popular hiking trail, and part of the Trans Canada Trail.

Oops! No handrails on the front of the
lead unit. You shoot whatever comes
along at a train show.

Dave's HO scale Quintette Tunnels modules are part of the Calgary Free-mo group. He estimates it took him about 800 hours to build the modules, which also features a transition module called Watertower Creek. Watertower Creek is a prairie scene and a tall timber area leading to the tunnels.

The scenery on the modules is constructed from extruded Styrofoam. Dave painted the rocks grey, then drybrushed on other colours. Trees are made from various materials, such as twine and furnace filter material, while a few were purchased. Dave's work earned him the Master Scenery certificate from the NMRA.

Canyon view on Dave's modules.

These photos of the Quintette Tunnels modules were taken at the 2012 Calgary Supertrain show.

Dave's wife Laura also helped with the construction of the modules. You can take a "cab ride" through the modules by watching this video on Youtube. For more about the Kettle Valley Railway, check out McCulloch's Wonder, a book from Whitecap Books.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Atlas Discontinues its Model Railroad Forums

If you are a member of the Atlas Model Railroad forums, you already know this—Atlas will be discontinuing its model railroad forums as of May 1.

The reason given was “the ever-increasing amount of time and other valuable resources expended to monitor and administer the forums,” according to Atlas CEO, Tom Haedrich. “Besides the monthly costs of bandwidth, software and service providers, Atlas dedicates a significant amount of precious R&D staff time responding both on and offline to forum based issues and problems. It’s time that Atlas reestablished these limited resources, in particular valued R&D employee time, toward increased efforts at developing new and innovative model railroad products.”

Atlas began its forum pages about 15 years ago; the archive section of the forums will remain available to users for the near future. 

Personally, I will miss the forums. I was semi-active on the HO forum, and enjoyed reading the N and O scale forums now and then. I picked up some good tips, saw photos of some great layouts and modeling, and mostly enjoyed the discussion. The forums were also a good source of traffic for this blog.

On the other hand, there were times when the forums could drive you crazy—some people simply didn’t understand the meaning of the word “civility,” or know when it was time to stop typing. In this regard, I sympathize with Atlas; I’m sure it took far too much of their time and attention dealing with those few individuals who abused their privilege of using the forums. 

(I sit on the board of small community newspaper; one of the issues we struggle with constantly is how to deal with the few people who insist on being rude and uncivil, or who simply don’t know when a topic has run its course.)

So, sorry to see you go, Atlas forums. You provided a great service to the hobby. 

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Aberfoyle Junction Update: A Message from the Club

I received the press release below about the future of the Aberfoyle Junction . . . it provides an update on the move, final show dates and prices.


The final shows of Aberfoyle Junction Model Railway… at Aberfoyle!

After a successful run of 30 years at our present location, the final curtain call will be on Sunday May 13th.

Come out and join us for our "encore" shows and enjoy the sights and sounds of one of Canada's finest model railway displays.

At the completion of the Spring Shows, the layout will be dismantled and in the Fall will be moved to our new home in St. Jacobs.

We would like to express our appreciation to all who have visited and supported Aberfoyle Junction since its beginnings in 1972. It has been our pleasure to meet and entertain you and your families through all the years and we look forward to seeing you in our new location.

Keep watching our web site for further announcements about the move and the opening of the St. Jacob's & Aberfoyle Junction Model Railway.

SHOW DATES: Saturday and Sunday May 5 & 6, May 12 & 13.
SHOW TIMES: 10:00 am - 4:30 pm.
ADMISSION: Adults $8.00 – Seniors & Students $6.00 – Children $5.00

Chuck Bard, Aberfoyle Junction Model Railway, 109 Maple Street, Guelph ON N1G 2G6 Tel: 519 836-2720

Click here to see photos from the last open house before the layout closed for dismantling and moving.

Great, and soon to be late, Canadian Model Railroad: The Aberfoyle Junction

I had hoped to get to Ontario one of these days to once again visit the magnificent O scale Aberfoyle Junction. But that might not happen; the layout, located near Guelph, is slated to be dismantled in May.

The Aberfoyle Junction dates back to 1982, when the late Frank Dubery teamed up with Chuck and Gwen Bard and Craig Webb to create the 38 by 83 foot layout. (A different and smaller version existed in another location for ten years prior to that date.)

Filling a 1,500 square foot building, the layout depicts the CNR and the CPR in southern Ontario in the late 1950s, with both railways running on their own rights of way.

Trains run through a variety of scenes—a city, countryside, fields, rivers, towns, and part of the Niagara Escarpment. During viewings, the lighting dims; as the room darkens, hundreds of tiny bulbs light the streets and buildings.

Unlike most layouts today, which feature walk-around control, the Aberfoyle Junction is controlled by an elevated tower located in the centre of the room.

But it’s all going to be gone soon—to make way for progress. A subdivision is slated to be built on the land the club occupies. The last shows will be May 5, 6, 12 and 13.  

The plan is to move the layout to the nearby town of St. Jacobs, although exactly where it will be located in the tourist town isn’t confirmed yet. The new name will be the St. Jacobs and Aberfoyle Junction Model Railway.

Since I haven't had a chance to get my own photos, I’ve grabbed some off the web; if I get to one of the last showings to take some pictures, I'll post them later. In the meantime, enjoy these photos and, if you have always planned to visit the Aberfoyle Junction, better hurry up!

Click here to visit the club's website. Click here to see photos from the last open house before the layout closed for dismantling and moving.

The Aberfoyle Junction has been featured in RMC (Feb., 2003); Model Railroader (Aug., 1998, Feb., 1987, March, 1979) and Canadian Railway Modeller (September, 1991).

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Canadian SD40-2s from Bowser Confirmed

Back in January I reported that Bowser was planning to bring out Canadian SD40-2s in a number of variants. I based that report on information from an industry insider, and also from modellers who had talked to Bowser represernatives at U.S. shows. And now I have heard it first-hand for myself.

I was at the Calgary Supertrain show April 21, and had a chance to talk to Bowser Project Manager Scott Davis. Scott confirmed that Bowser is creating Canadian-style SD40-2s for CP, CN and BC Rail in various versions (e.g. long nose, short nose, winterization hatches, etc.).

The initial design process has just begun, he said; he estimated delivery to be sometime in 2013.

I also talked to Scott about the company's very successful Canadian-style C-630M locomotives; I asked him what prompted Bowser to enter the Canadian market in such a big way at all, One big reason, he said, is that the Canadian economy is doing much better than the U.S. economy during this recession--so why not go where the market is strong?

Sales have been so good, he said, that Bowser plans a second release of the Canadian C-630Ms in different numbers.

Scott also showed me test shells for the new Alco Century 636, which were on display along with other Bowser offerings. Doug noted that the side sill is not yet finished--the completed models will have that required skirting.

Last, Athearn was also at the show, and I was able to see their new beautiful GP38-2s, including the CN version.

Speaking of Supertrain, it was a great show. At 60,000 square feet (four indoor soccer fields), and drawing about 15,000 people, it may not be as big as the biggest U.S. shows, but I'm sure it's the biggest show in Canada.

Like at most train shows, Supertrain is a mix of the stunning (more on that in a future post) and the ordinary, along with the usual sales--the reason many people come!

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Railfanning on the M & M Sub.

So I got out the camera the other day and decided to do a bit of railfanning on the M & M Sub. I only had a bit of time; luckily, an intermodal train from Duluth, WI to Winnipeg was coming into the Fort Frances yard.

I first caught it crossing the bridge from the U.S. to Canada near International Falls.

Passing by the large Peace River Paper Mill on its way to Fort Frances.

Pulling into Fort Frances.

Another shot from the same location, overlooking the engine yard.

Stopped at Fort Frances for a crew change.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Great Canadian Model Railroad: Mark Dance's Columbia & Western

Even though my layout is done, and there’s no planning left to do, I always buy Model Railroad Planning each year. Even if I’m not thinking of starting a new layout, I always enjoy learning from what others are doing. And, who knows? Maybe one day I will start over, perhaps even in another scale, and these issues will come in handy.

Meantime, I just enjoy reading the articles—like the one about Mark Dance’s amazing N scale Columbia & Western in the most recent issue of MRP. The C & W is truly a great Canadian model railroad.

Mark’s layout represents the CPR Boundary Subdivision in southeastern British Columbia in 1970, a time when one could find the CPR’s classic maroon and grey livery along with the then-new CP Rail scheme. (Just like on the equally fantastic Waterloo Region Model Railroad Club’s HO scale CPR Sudbury Division.)

Mark started the layout in 2005. It fills a 16-6 by 19-6 garage and has a mainline run of 220 feet. Train lengths are 25 cars and the three levels are 42, 54 and 72 inches off the floor.

In addition to great scenery, the multi-deck layout features an ingenious “double mushroom” design—one section of the layout above the other—along with an equally ingenious cabinet-style pull-out staging yard, lift-up entry to the mushroom and a swinging gate.

The "double mushroom"

The inside of the “double mushroom” contains an isolated rail barge operation that is physically separated from the rest of the layout—just like on the prototype Slocan Lake branch of the CPR. Operators load the barges on the lower level, then lift them up to the upper level for unloading (and vice versa).

Check out the 2012 issue of MRP for a great overview of Mark's layout; it will also be featured in the May-June issue of N Scale Magazine, and hopefully also in an upcoming issue of Canadian Railway Modeller. More photos of his great layout are below; you can find many more photos on his Flickr page and videos of the layout on YouTube.

(Thanks to Mark for giving me permission to re-post these photos, many of which were taken by his friend Timothy Horton.)


Friday, April 13, 2012

A Railway, A Man and a Titanic Ambition

April 14 is the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic. Almost everyone is looking for some kind of connection. I have one of my own (more on that later). But Canada’s railways also have a connection to the disaster.

The Canadian railway connection revolves around Charles Melville Hays, General Manager of the Grand Trunk Railway and its Canadian subsidiary, the Grand Trunk Pacific. He died when the Titanic went down.

Hays was largely responsible for the creation of Canada’s second transcontinental mainline, now owned by CN. But unlike the legendary William Cornelius Van Horne, who directed the construction of the first Canadian transcontinental line, the CPR, Hays is pretty much forgotten by Canadians. This is partly due to his early death, at 56, along with the 1919 bankruptcy of the GTP.

The GTR was doing poorly in 1896, the year Hays was hired as General Manager. By 1902 he had turned the railway’s fortunes around. That same year, Hays began making the case for a new Canadian transcontinental line.

Construction on the line between Winnipeg and the West Coast began in 1905; the plan was for the GTP to link up with the government-owned National Transcontinental Railway, which was being built between Moncton and Winnipeg. This would create a second transcontinental line to compete with the CPR.

The line received the go-ahead from the Canadian government, along with government loans. By 1912, however, it was in financial trouble; the cost of construction was increasing, due partly to Hays’ insistence on "building to the very highest standards.” Meanwhile rivals CPR and the Canadian Northern took away most of the traffic in the west, starving the GTP for business. The railway needed more money.

A GTP locomotive.

In fact, it was the railway’s need for money that found Hays on the Titanic at all; he had gone to England to meet investors and to persuade them to continue funding the railway.

Since Hays had business dealings with the White Star Line, he was invited to return home as a guest on the Titanic, together with his wife and daughter. His wife and daughter survived the sinking; his body was discovered on April 26 in the North Atlantic. He was buried on May 8 in Montreal. That same day all GTR trains were stopped for five minutes in his memory.

(Interesting note: One hour before the disaster, Hays told two others on the Titanic that he worried that the White Star Line and its competitors were “playing fast and loose with larger and larger ships” and that their race for speed “will end in tragedy.” Twenty minutes later, Titanic struck the iceberg. The story was recounted by Colonel Archibald Gracie, who survived the sinking.)

Two years later, the GTP opened to traffic. But a lack of business on the line, combined with World War I and subsequent lack of immigration, dealt the railway a severe blow. It went bankrupt in 1919, and was absorbed, together with the Canadian Northern, into what would become Canadian National Railways.

It’s impossible to know what would have happened had Hays not died on the Titanic. Could he have overcome the challenges besetting the GTP? He was considered a force in business and, had he lived, he might have turned the railway around. If he had, there might be no CN today.

Prince Rupert today.

As it is, Hays left behind a line that is still used today by CN, along with one of the best deepwater ports on the west coast, Prince Rupert. It never grew as Hays hoped it would but today, as the closest North American port to Asia, it has become increasingly important to CN. It handles growing volumes of coal and intermodal traffic.

As for my connection to the Titanic, in 1911 my grandfather immigrated to Canada from England After securing employment, he returned to England to marry his fiancĂ©. He must have been a bit of a romantic; he wanted to make the voyage back to North America memorable. And what would be better than travelling on the maiden voyage of the Titanic? Alas, he couldn’t get a ticket (in steerage). They took the Megantic, arriving in Canada two months later.

Family lore has it that my grandmother, having cheated death at sea once, swore to never set foot on another ship again.

For more information about Charles Melville Hays and his impact on Canada, check out this story in the Vancouver Sun.

A CN train near Prince Rupert.