Friday, June 29, 2012

The Turbo Train Visits Manitoba

In late June Jason Shron of Rapido Trains made his annual summer pilgrimage to Winnipeg. While here, he visited the Selkirk Model Railroad Club, located in the city of Selkirk about 30 minutes north of Winnipeg. (And the place where the CPR was originally supposed to cross the Red River, until Winnipeg's city fathers cut the railway a sweet deal that caused it to turn south. Read about that bit of scurrilous 19th century politics here.)

The Turbo in a very un-Turbo-like setting!

But all is mostly forgiven in Selkirk, even if it remains a much superior place to cross the Red River (it doesn't flood there). And Jason enjoyed an evening running trains on the Club's layout, including his own personal Turbo.

The Turbo, VIA set number CN 2, features new power trucks; painted headrests, armrests, cupboards and counters; new etched grills over five of the intakes; weathering, including the signature nose smudge); and the "masking tape" around the sand filler hatch, and the grabs on the dome roofs. He also removed the weights from all the ICs and added weight to the noses and in front of the controls in the PDCs.

Jason photographs his Turbo.

Says Jason: "If only I knew then what I know now, our production Turbo model would have been very different . . . "

While at the Club he also did a bit of maintenance on a Club member's Canadian; nothing like having the owner of the company stop by for a bit of customer service!

Now that's customer service!

I made a short video of the Turbo on the Selkirk Club's layout; click here to see it on YouTube.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Video of the G Scale Winter Valley Railway

A friend of Dave Winters reworked one of his videos of his G scale Winter Valley Railway (featured earlier as part of the Great Canadian Model Railway series). Click on the video below to watch it, or click here to view it on YouTube.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Hiding Holes in Walls

A train heads through a wall to the
lower level staging yard.

The CP Rail M & M Sub. punches through walls in my train room six times. This means I need to hide the holes. How best to do that?

The easiest way to hide holes is by using tunnels. I did that for four of the holes. (It’s a bit of a stretch for a railway that runs through Manitoba and Minnesota to have tunnels, but sometimes reality has to give a little when fitting a layout into a room. Besides, the tunnels are in the more rugged Canadian shield portion of the layout—making them a little bit more plausible.)

Another tunnel hiding a hole in a wall.

A tunnel is not a solution for the top level, however, where the tracks leave the layout for the upper staging yard. That area represents the flatter land of Manitoba—not tunnels there!

The first thing I did to disguise the fact that the tracks leave the layout is build a view block. In this case, it’s a four inch high hill that prevents people from even seeing the hole from most viewing normal positions.

The view block; fasica to be added later.

But what if someone wants to look down the track to see trains enter the layout? For that I plan to use a bridge to disguise the top of the hole. Right now, it’s just a piece of wood across the top of the hole; later I will add supports and railings and whatever to make it look like an actual bridge.

Something else that will really help will be trees—lots of them. They will help create a tunnel effect as they are planted between the viewer and the tracks. This will also help occlude the hole in the wall. Trees will also help disguise the fact that the road turns off into the wall, and falls off the edge of the layout!

All of this work is because I tore down part of the layout; it's giving me something new to do, plus some new problems to solve—like the hole on the first level (as seen in a photo above, behind a view block). That will be an interesting challenge.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

A Tim Hortons Covered Hopper, er, Coffee, To Go

As many know, Tim Hortons is pretty much synonymous with being Canadian. The coffee and donut chain has even introduced words into the Canadian lexicon: Double-double, Timmies, Timbits, roll up to the rim. For many in Canada, the day hasn't started until after the first cup of Tim Hortons coffee.

So it's no surprise that some model railroaders might want to include a Tim Hortons restaurant on a layout, like the modellers who belong to the La Ba Ja club in Edmonton, Alberta. Their portable layout features a Tims, along with a collection of police cars in the parking lot. (Some stereotypes are international, it seems.)

A modeller in the U.S. went one step further, decalling two pieces of rolling stock with the Tim Hortons logo. George, who lives in New York State, became a Tims fans during trips to Toronto. He scanned the logo from a brochure and applied it to an N scale Micro-Trains and an Atlas Trainman HO scale covered hoppers (after first removing the original lettering). Together, I guess you could say they are a double-double!

Hmmm . . . wonder how many donuts those cars hold?

Wednesday, June 13, 2012


Another milestone was reached, or bridge crossed, this week when this blog passed 250,000 views.

As I have said before when other milestones were passed, I am truly amazed and humbled by the interest in this simple blog. For me, it's just a fun way to enjoy the hobby in a different way; I'm glad that others seem to enjoy it, too.

Looking back, here are the top ten posts since the blog started in 2009.

History of the CN "noodle"
New VIA book (Trackside with VIA: The First 35 Years)
Tour of the CP Rail M & M Sub.
Model railroad manufacturing in China
Doug Tagsold's new layout (Or, the Model Railroad Curse)
Twin City O scale model railroad museum
Pierre Dion's CP Rail Quebec Sub.
Model railroad in a truck cab
Big Bang Theory and model railroading
Tom Ska's video "I Love Trains" (or, how you, too, can enjoy minimalist non-sequitur comedy on YouTube)

Again, thanks for visiting!

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Great Canadian Model Railroad: The Winter Valley

To date, I have featured great Canadian model railroads in N, HO and O; the Winter Valley is my first G scale offering. And what an offering it is!

The Winter Valley Regional Railway began back in 1972 as an N scale prairie branchline. In 1999 it grew to G scale. Today the WVRR can be found in the basement and backyard of Dave Winter’s B.C. home.

The WVRR has two divisions—the outdoor Mountain Division and the indoor Interior Division. The original Mountain Division was 40 by 15 feet. There was little or no actual grade; the low section of the scenery was a dry streambed just outside of the town site, and the high area was a collapsed section of hillside Dave tunneled through. The building of a new home caused the abandonment of that Division and the creation of a new line that wanders through the roses and meets all the necessary spousal specifications.

The Interior Division occupies all of a 42 by 45 basement and represents a prairie shortline in September 1975. There is no physical connection between divisions due to the 6 to 8 foot difference in grade, not to mention a concrete wall, but they often share the same rolling stock and budget. The Mountain Division is an all steam operation, using small Aristocraft and Bachmann power.

All the diesel locomotives running inside are from USA Trains. Dave modifies all them in some way, mostly by painting and adding detail parts, but CN GP38-2 has a scratch built Canadian Safety cab and the pair of NW2's have been extensively rebuilt into CN style SW1200s.

Streets on the WVRR are made from 3/4 inch MDF board. Dave paints them a light grey colour, then darkens them with coloured chalks in all the appropriate places. Centre lines and intersections are masked off and painted. Road signs are usually downloaded from the Web.

The fall trees are made from sage bushes from Dave’s neighbourhood. The ground cover is from Woodland Scenics.

The layout features many of Dave’s scratchbuilt structures, such as the CNR 3rd class depot. Dave built it from plans and photos from books and magazines; it resided outdoors on the Mountain Division for two years before coming indoors in 2001.

Dave made the station from 3/8th inch marine grade plywood. The ‘stucco’ finish was made by brushing a heavy coat of paint over small areas and then dusting that area with HO scale ballast while the paint was wet. The shingles were had cut from a piece of cedar fence paling. Since it was originally intended for outside, it was given three coats of Varathane clear plastic.

Dave kitbashed two commercial structures to make them look both unique and more realistic but all of the others (about two dozen) are built from photos and 1:1 plans of actual buildings that exist, or existed, in prairie towns throughout the West. He uses MDF, cutting out windows and doors and building up decorative exterior features with photo board or plastic.

One of the things that continues to irritate Dave is the toy-like colour and profile of Aristocraft and LBG rail. He partly blames himself, having chosen to go with code 332 rail very early on in the project because, as he says, “I was too cheap to buy the good stuff.” During the first few years, he managed to live with it, but now it really jumps out at him—especially in pictures. Now Dave spray paints the track a darker colour in every new scene to make it less toy-like.

N scale makes a nice riding railroad in G scale!

Another thing that annoys him is the limited offerings when it comes to 1//29th-scale figures. He's not fond of Aristocraft’s childlike figures (clowns, policemen, hobos and very unattractive brides), so he selects figures from Preiser, even though the scale is off by about 10%.

More recently, Dave found a new source of appropriate-size figures—the plastic model car industry. These figures, he says, are modern, North American and come with common poses and everyday dress.

Dave has a fine website about his model railroad; click here to visit it.

Below find some more photos from the Winter Valley. Enjoy!


Saturday, June 9, 2012

Through the Window of a Train

Since I used to work in the book publishing industry, I have a soft spot—and a deep sense of admiration—for anyone who tries to write and publish a book. This is especially true for anyone whose last name isn’t King, Grisham or Rowling, or if the book doesn’t include wizards, knights or vampires. For the vast majority of authors, writing is hard, getting published is harder and actually selling books is almost impossible.

That’s why I’m always happy to highlight authors like Winnipegger Barbara Lange, who has edited Through the Window of a Train: A Railway Anthology (Borealis Press). The book, a collection of 30 stories by Canadian authors, retells and remembers the significant role railways once played for almost all Canadians.

On a sort of related note, click here to hear a song titled Through the Window of a Train by the contemporary bluegrass group Blue Highway.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Look Up--Way Up

Look up--way up. Actually, this scene on the CP Rail M & M Sub. is about chest high, but due to how far down the scenery went it was possible to take photos that made it seem like the viewer was way down below the trains looking up.

This signature scene on the layout is gone now, but I can still remember it in photos--especially when I want to look way up.