Friday, December 28, 2012

CP Rail SD40-2 6027: Still Running in the Real & Model Worlds After All These Years

6027 still racks up the miles on the M & M Sub.

Back in the late 1980s, when I returned to the hobby of model railroading, there weren't a lot of choices for locomotives for someone who wanted to model CP Rail.

Back then, pretty much the only quality affordable locomotives available in CP Rail livery were made by Athearn, which offered the SD40-2, GP38-2, SW7 (cow and calf) and F7 (A and B units) in its blue box line.

6027, new in the box. Today this is considered
a "vintage" locomotive!

Of the four models, the SD40-2 was the most needed. At one time CP Rail owned 484 of these units, the third-most after Burlington Northern and Union Pacific in terms of the number of SD40-2s purchased by any North American railway. Any modeller hoping to do a halfways-decent job of replicating the prototype needed lots of those units.

Athearn offered the SD40-2 in two numbers: 6027 (with MultiMark and without) and 5415 (in Twin Flags scheme). I ended up with four (with MultiMark and without) and one (Twin Flags) on my roster--three of them re-numbered. (Plus others in ex-KCS, Union Pacific, SOO and primer schemes.)

The prototype; credit photo to Bill Sanderson.

Of the two units, the 6027 seems to be the most ubiquitous; anyone who modelled CP Rail had one.

The prototype was built in 1982. Surprisingly, it is still on the CPR's roster today. In fact, it is due for a serious reconditioning at Progress Rail, which will turn it and 20 other SD40-2 units into SD30C ECO locomotives. The units are being rebuilt from SD40-2 cores and frames and powered by a new 12 cylinder 3000 hp 12-710G3F engine. When completed, the units will meet Tier 0+ U.S. emissions standards.

When finished, good old 6027 won't look like its former self--it will have a new fuel tank, cab and flared raditatiors ( to meet Tier 0+ requirements). It also won't be 6027 anymore; the rebuilt units will be renumbered into the 5000 series when released.

When rebuilt, 6027 will look like this.

So, farewell old 6027 and welcome to the new 6027 in the real world. Since in my modelling world it's always the early 1990s, the old 6027 will continue to soldier on, moving tonnage on the Manitoba & Minnesota Sub.

P.S. By 2020, the CPR expects to be the largest operator of EMD's ECO line of locomotives, with nearly 500 locomotives being rebuilt over the next eight years.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Christmas and Trains: Merry Boxcar Christmas (Reprise)

On Christmas Day, this reprise of a 2010 post about the Merry Christmas boxcar painted by Rei Alvarez, an artist in Austin, TX for the Balcones Recycling Company. The car is owned by the Texas and South Eastern Railroad. (#5096).

The last update I have about the car is from April, 2011, at which time it was still adorned in Christmas finery. Anyone have any more recent news?

Read the original post and see more photos here.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Christmas and Model Trains (4): Santa and Trains

Once upon a time, Santa loved model trains--as evidenced by some Christmas cards I found on the Web.

Today his workshop is more likely to be filled with video games, iPads and other electronic devices. But we can still remember the days when the jolly old man tinkered with trains. And we all know what scale he modelled : HO, HO, HO.

He certainly seems to be enjoying himself in these pictures!

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Christmas and Model Trains (3): Trains Under the Christmas Tree

Unlike John Coker and Renee Law, I have never set up
a train underneath the Christmas tree.

As long as I can remember, it's been a tradition for operating model trains to be put under Christmas trees.

That never happened in our house when I was growing up, and I don't do it now. In fact, I have never seen a real operating model train underneath a Christmas tree in someone's home.

And yet, trains and Christmas trees have gone together for a long time. Where did it start?

An article in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette says it may started in Pennsylvania over 300 years ago--long before Lionel, and real trains, for that matter.

According to Jim Morrison, curator of the National Christmas Museum in Paradise, PA, it could date back to the 1700s when Moravian Christians in that state set up elaborate Nativity scenes in their homes called "putzen"--the German word for decoration around the holidays.

In the mid-1800s, he said, people created villages at the base of the tree with items such as model farmhouses fashioned after their own dwellings.

Cast-iron toys emerged toward the late 1800s in the form of homes, carriages and fire stations. When trains came on the scene about that same time, stationary cast-iron models of trains were placed underneath the tree.

When Lionel, Ives and other manufacturers started making model trains in the 20th century, it wasn't much of a leap for some people to start using moving models underneath the tree.

The idea was helped along by department stores, which displayed model trains in holiday settings, including underneath Christmas trees.

True or not, somewhere along the line model trains under the Christmas tree became a tradition for some families. But not mine--at least, not yet.

Anyone have other ideas for how model trains under the Christmas tree became a tradition?

See how John and Renee made their Christmas tree layout here.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Christmas and Model Trains (2): Lionel Trains on Christmas Morning

A long time ago in a land far away . . . the only thing many boys wanted for Christmas was trains.

This was the land of my childhood, back in the 1960s. A time when it just wasn't Christmas if there wasn't a train under the tree. And, back then, it meant Lionel trains.

But as the ads on this page show, it wasn't just about trains; it was about male bonding, about the relationship between father and son. Put down that newspaper, dad! Play trains with your son.

But it wasn't just dads and sons; it was also about family happiness and togetherness: Look! Even sister wants to play with the train.

It was also a way for men to recapture their boyhood--to remember those days gone by when they, like junior, lay on the floor watching the train fly by, dreaming about being an engineer one day. (Instead of the boring office job they ended up in.)

Was it ever so sweet and gentle, or has time smoothed over the rough spots in our memories? Nostalgia is a powerful thing, and the blacks and whites of the past can merge into a subtle, mellow grey. That's OK; better to have good memories of days gone by than bad ones--especially if they involve Christmas and trains.

Speaking of which, Lionel understands this nostalgic urge; now you can watch your memories roll along the track by buying the Christmas Morning or High Hopes boxcars. It's not a bad way to say "Merry Christmas," I suppose.

And if this isn't enough to make those of you who are older feel like visiting your childhood--or those of you who are younger want to visit that strange land of the 1950s and 60s--then watch The Wonderful World of Trains, a film produced by Lionel in 1960 (including a train with nine--count 'em, nine, giraffe cars going up and down, up and down).

What will be under your tree this Christmastime?

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Straight Dope on Straightest Track in the World

Learn something new every day: A friend came back from a visit to Saskatchewan with the news that the longest stretch of straight track in the world is between Regina and Stoughton, a small farming community in the southeast part of the province.
I knew he was wrong; the longest stretch of straight track in the world is in Australia—a 478 kilometre (279 mile) portion across the Nullarbor Plain between Port Augusta and Kalgoorie.

But what would make those good citizens of Saskatchewan think they were number one?
This is where the part about learning something new every day comes in; unbeknownst to me, the 132 kilometre (82 mile) stretch of track between Regina and Stoughton is the longest section of straight track in North America, and the second longest in the world. (Something proudly noted on the town's website.)
The line was originally owned by the Canadian Pacific Railway, which arrived in Stoughton in 1904. Today it is owned by Stewart Southern Railway, a shortline that bought it from the CPR in 2010. The line runs for a total of 140 kilometres (87 miles) from the Crecy, on the CPR’s Indian Head Sub, to Stoughton.

The longest stretch of straight track in the U.S., by-the-way, runs for 127 kilometres (78.9 miles) on the CSX between Laurel Hill and East Arcadia, North Carolina.

And that, as they say, is the “straight” dope on straight track.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Christmas and Model Trains (1): Garrison Keillor and the Dangers of Christmas

One of my favorite authors is Garrison Keillor of Prairie Home Companion fame.

Keillor has written about trains a few times, including "My North Dakota Railroad Days."

This fictitious piece in the New Yorker magazine is about the Prairie Queen, a train which crossed North Dakota on tracks so straight that "passengers stood on the rear of the platform of the parlor car in the trans–Dakota Canal, and trolled for fish."

As far as I know he has only written once about model trains, and that was for Land's End magazine, in a collection of short items called The Dangers of Christmas.

One of those dangers was "wanting something too much and therefore making it impossible."

And the thing he wanted? A model train. Wrote Keillor:

"I, for example, would dearly love to receive a model train layout similar to the one of my childhood, which rusted and decayed. I remind myself every year not to want it too much, but I do, and I never get it.

"A man my age can't simply walk into a store and buy a model train set for himself; people would talk, people would chuckle behind his back, and one day he'd come home to find an attorney sitting smiling in the living room, who would explain to him in easy-to-understand terms, using simple declarative sentences, why his financial affairs will hereafter be managed by his nephew Vince.

"I keep telling myself, 'I honestly don't care if that model train layout is under the tree or not,' but that's not the truth, and I know it."

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Great Canadian Model Railroad: Rich Loveman's CN and CPR in the Thompson River Canyon

Even though my layout is no longer in the planning stage, I always buy Model Railroad Planning when it comes out. I always like learning about how other modelers are solving various challenges and, who knows? Maybe I’ll build another layout some day, and can use the ideas.

When the 2011 issue came out, I was especially impressed by Rich Loveland’s HO scale Canadian National and Canadian Pacific in B.C.’s Thompson River Canyon. Rich did something I’ve rarely seen when it comes to modeling a canyon—he modeled both sides.

In the MRP article, Rich noted that his interest was in faithfully modeling this unique area, which finds CN on one side of the river and the CPR on the other. To model the canyon, in an area two feet wide, Rich used extruded Styrofoam covered with Bragdon Enterprises rock castings.  

He added that while some of the canyon walls were two feet high, some spots were less than one inch thick—it pushed the foam contour approach to its limits. He also made the canyon walls independent of the trackbed; this allowed him to detail them on his workbench, and they could also be removed to provide access to any part of the layout for maintenance.

The layout was also designed to force the viewer to look down the canyon to see trains coming and going—just like for the real thing.

After seeing the article, I sent an e-mail to Rich via MRP. I asked him for some photos I could use on the blog; he sent me a few outtakes from the article, and promised more sometime this year (2012)—he was planning to re-do some scenes, and add more detail, and would send photos after that was done.

Well, time went on, as it always does; this fall that I thought I should contact Rich to see how the layout was coming along, and whether he was ready to send me some photos. But my e-mail to him bounced back as no such address.

I did a bit of Googling, and found the following online: “Richard W. Loveman, 63, died May 16 after battling pancreatic cancer for more than six years.”
I was saddened by the news. I sent an e-mail to Tony Koester at MRP, asking if he could send a note of condolence to his wife. I also asked if he had any more photos of Rich's layout; he did, and he copied Rich’s friend Bill Botkin.

Over the past couple of weeks, I received photos of Rich’s layout from Tony and Bill. I have added them to the ones Rich sent me earlier; you see them together on this page.

So, rest in peace, Rich. You certainly made an impression on me with your modeling, and on many others, I’m sure. Even though your layout wasn't completed, it's still a great Canadian model railroad in my books.

P.S. Before Rich's layout was taken down, Bill took more photos. Click here to see them.


Saturday, December 1, 2012

Great Canadian Model Railroad: Fall in Pennsylvania

Does a Great Canadian Model Railroad have to be a layout set in Canada or featuring Canadian trains? Fortunately, no; being built by a Canadian also qualifies. Which is a good thing, or else I couldn't include Ron Loewen's three-rail O guage Fall in Pennsylvania layout.

Actually, this is the second time I've featured Ron's layout on this blog. I recently went back to see it again, and took some more photos--it's definitely worth another look!

Ron's layout, which is still under construction, is set in his favorite state--Pennsylvania--during his favorite time--fall. In fact, that's what makes his layout so special; his signature scene is a hillside featuring colorful autumn leaves at the top, where the air is cooler, and green leaves lower down. Since the hill is about 8-9 feet tall, it's quite an impressive sight.

As mentioned in the earlier post, Ron's layout fills the second floor of his two-car garage; he uses MTH DCS to run four trains at time. Other features include a six-foot long bridge, tunnels, smoke, sound and a camera on a flatcar that allows visitors to view trains from an engineer's perspective on a TV screen in the layout room.

A video of Ron's layout can be viewed here.