Thursday, January 31, 2013

Great Canadian Model Railroad in England


There are a lot of great model railways in Great Britain, including some that feature Canadian railways—ones like Chris Round’s Stoney Hill Yard

Although Chris is British, and models British railways in N scale, he developed a fascination for Canadian railways after seeing North American HO scale models.

“It was an eye opener,” he says. “These locomotives were cheap and reliable and much better at slow speed control than almost all British OO gauge.”

Chris watching the action on the layout.

In 1994 he visited some friends in Toronto. Like any other model railroader, he spent time watching trains—at a CP Rail yard, in this case. He decided that was the railway he wanted to model. Says Chris: “I’ve been hooked ever since!”

Like most modelers in the UK, Chris doesn’t have space to build a home large layout. He decided to build a small layout that emphasized switching, with a small yard and industries that were large enough to justify a reasonable amount of traffic.

The result is Stoney Hill Yard, which started out small but has grown to an 8 x 29-foot layout set in southern Ontario in the 1990s.

The layout focuses on CP Rail but includes transfers from CN and NS. Chris operates it using a schedule with switch lists; sessions feature through trains run at regular intervals, with up to four trains stopping to serve local industries. The overall goal is to recreate something of the atmosphere local switching on a Canadian railroad.

Among the scenic features are the industrial buildings, such as Stoney Hill Manufacturing, Lakeside Maple Syrup (how Canadian is that?) and Lakeside Paper. He has also done a lot of detailing of locomotives and rolling stock.

Since there’s no room for Chris to set up the layout at his home, he only operates it 2-3 times a year at shows. The layout can also be exhibited using a smaller footprint; when Chris does that, it is called Stoney Hill West.

Chris isn’t the only modeler in the UK interested in Canadian railways. “It’s not a mainstream interest, but there is a sizeable body of North American-based models and, amongst those, Canadian Pacific is quite popular," he says.

To what does he attribute that interest? "A lot of British people have visited Canada and been on the transcontinental trains, so there is always some general public interest in Canadian models," he says.

Nothing says southern Ontario like GO Transit!

Of the layout, Chris says “I am pleased with Stoney Hill Yard. It has turned out to be a rather bigger proposition than originally intended, but I think it has captured some of the atmosphere of railroading in southern Ontario.”

Stoney Hill Yard was featured in Canadian Railway Modeller Train 12, Track 5. More information about it can be found on the Wye Forest Model Railroad Club website.

A video of the layout can be found by clicking here.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

A New Video

It's been a while since I made a video of the layout. But last week I got the bug to make another one, this time of the recently-completed scene near Turney, Man. on the upper level.

Originally, the track here curved back into the room along the centre peninsula. When I took down the upper level of the peninsula, the tracks needed to curve out of the layout room into the upper staging yard in the adjacent storage room.

To make this work, I needed to hide the hole where the tracks left the layout--a process which was the subject of a series titled Hiding the Hole.

This video shows some action where the tracks leave the layout to enter the staging yard. It features several freight trains (from different angles), and VIA's The Canadian. (Or, at least, my Con-Cor version of it, which is not at all like the prototype.)

Click here to see the video.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Even More About Self Coupling Air Hoses: Credit Where Credit is Due

A model with working air hoses by David W. Davis from 2002.
Credit Gateway Division NMRA.

Thanks to CSX3305 for pointing out that Cameron Foodikoff of Fairway Park Models is not the inventor of HO scale self coupling air hoses, as I noted in an earlier post; credit for that goes to David W. Davis, who was writing about how he made them back in the late 1990s and early 2000s.

CSX3305 pointed out that that this was noted in an article about David's Davis Junction layout in Great Model Railroads 2001, of which I have a copy. On page 12, in a text box, it is noted that "Dave details his track and rolling stock to a level not often found on operating layouts."

Including in those details is mention of how he made his air hoses from transmission wire with Kadee angle cocks. "Tiny glad hands punched from kitchen magnets allow the hoses to be joined."

It is not indicated whether the hoses coupled automatically, as the ones from Fairway Park Models do, but it seems they were working all the same.

CSX3305 says that David also wrote about his technique in Railmodel Journal, but I don't know which issues it appeared in.

So, to David, my apologies. But it may be safe to say that Cameron is the "inventor" of the first commercial automatic HO scale air hoses; he certainly has taken it a step further, and popularized it in a way that wasn't evident before.

By-the-way, several people have wondered what happens if the cars are reversed: Do the magnets repel each other? The answer is no--something you can check for yourself by going to your fridge and grabbing a couple of magnetized cards, like the ones you get at trade shows.

Monday, January 21, 2013

More on Self Coupling HO Scale Air Hoses: Interview With Inventor Cameron Foodikoff

It's been a busy time for Cameron Foodikoff, owner of Fairway Park Models--and inventor of the awesome new HO scale self coupling air hoses.

"Sorry it took so long," he said about the time it took for him to reply to an e-mail I sent him.

Demand for the air hoses has been "totally overwhelming," he wrote, adding it's " hard to keep up with the demand."

Actually, it's more than hard--his website, which is now up and running, shows that the hoses are sold out. No fear, though--he says that more are on the way.

I asked Cameron how he came up with the idea for the air hoses. "Just thought of it," he said.

He confirmed that they work using magnets, and added that the cars can, indeed, be reversed and the hoses will still work.

What if someone uses a magnet in the tracks to aid with uncoupling? "When coupled together they are not affected, but when uncoupled they are attracted to them [the magnets]," he said.

It's "not a big deal," he added, noting that he tested them on the club layout he belongs to: The Dewdney-Alouette Railway Society in Maple Ridge B.C.

You can learn more about the self coupling air hoses on Cameron's website:  or on my my previous post.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Hotel Room With a View--and a Model Railroad!

Wouldn't you like to stay here?

So you want to make a reservation at a hotel in Japan. You explore the amenities: Wifi? Check. Breakfast? Check. Pool? Check. Model railroad layout? Check!

Yes, indeed; there are hotels in Japan that offer you all the usual amenities—and a model railroad layout.

One of them is the Washington Hotel, located in Tokyo. It offers a room complete with a layout. You can bring you own trains or rent them from the front desk.

Bring a friend! There are two tracks, so two of you can run trains.

The room isn’t cheap: $265 a night. This isn’t a problem for many, apparently; according to one report, there is a month-long waiting list to rent the room.

Click here to watch a video of the layout in action. Click here to read an article about this hotel room with a layout.

Another hotel with a model railroad room is the Hotel Metropolitan in Nagano.

The hotel is owned by JR East, which operates train services in the eastern part of Japan. The idea to put a layout in a room is part of the chain’s efforts to promote tourism in Nagano.

In addition to operating model trains, guests can watch real trains arrive and depart the Nagano train station, which is right beside the hotel.

As at the Washington Hotel, the room is almost fully booked on weekends, and weekday bookings are also strong.

If you want to stay there, prepare to pay; one night costs $968. If that’s too rich for you, you can also rent it for an hour for $33.

Hotels in Japan aren't only places with train themes; you can find layouts in restaurants and bars, too. More on that in the future.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Self Coupling HO Scale Air Hoses: This is Cool!

With all the advances in model railroading today, I shouldn't be surprised by any new and amazing technologies or products. But I have to admit that I never saw this coming: Self coupling HO scale air hoses.

The new product is made by a company called Fairway Park Model Products, based in Surrey, B.C. The hoses--which appear to work through magnetism--can be found for sale on ebay. (Cost is $6.60 for four cars, plus shipping.) The company's website is not yet up. (

Fairway Park has made a video where you can see the hoses in action, connecting and unconnecting automatically; check it out here.

My question is: What happens to the hoses if you use magnets in the tracks for uncoupling? And can the cars be reversed?

In any event, congrats to Fairway Park for coming up with something truly innovative.

I wonder how many modellers will start adding the hoses to their fleets?

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Before and After on the CP Rail M & M Sub.

SOO 4599 rumbles past Main St. on the new
part of the layout. 

It's been a while since I posted anything about the CP Rail Manitoba & Minnesota Sub. itself--I've been having too much fun posting articles about other layouts and various subjects.

Since I took a few photos recently, this seemed like a good time for some before-and-after photos.

As those who have followed this blog for awhile know, a year ago I dismantled the centre peninsula. I reduced it from a three-level cliff, tunnel and prairie town (on the top level) scene to a one-level prairie scene (still under construction).

Some people, hearing about the changes, wondered if I was nuts--how could I possibly destroy what took me years to complete? Not nuts--just bored and needing a new challenge. Since moving to another house or changing scales was out of the question, I opted to re-do a portion of the layout.

As you can see from the first photos, the top level of the layout on the centre peninsula has basically been dropped down the lower level.

One thing quite noticeable about the change is how it opens up the room--it seems bigger now, and one can see the trains from all spots in the room.

Of course, it isn't quite fair to compare a finished scene with a scene under construction; one day I'll have to re-take these photos when the new lower level is finished.

In any event, here are some before-and-after photos so you can compare the scenes from then to now. I do miss the old scenes--it was fun to watch a train grind its way up the grade through tunnels. But I don't miss wondering what to next with a nearly finished layout. Once again, I have something to do!

(You can find a list of links to posts about the making of the new peninsula here.)

Before . . .

After .

Before . . . 


Before . . . 


Friday, January 11, 2013

Another Guy with a Real Train In His Basement

It turns out Jason Shron of Rapido Trains isn't the only guy with a real train in his basement. Dr. Nick Muff has one, too. In fact, he was two real trains in his basement.

Muff, who lives in Washington state, models KCS in the late 40s to early 50s in HO scale. Entrance to his basement layout is through an entryway that looks like stairs leading down to the tracks at Kansas City Union Station. Entry to the layout room itself is through a KCS passenger car.

View from the cab.

The car, which Muff describes as a mock-up, is a third of the size of a real passenger car. Inside, it features items from a real car.

Entry to car is through an operating sliding door; the car itself contains a roomette, buffet-lounge (complete with a table set with authentic KCS Roxbury pattern china and flatware), restroom (that apparently works) and a small museum. The exterior of the car also looks like the real thing.

Interior of the passenger car.

Exiting the car through another sliding door leads visitors into the layout room itself, which is home to his magnificent model railroad--and to a real (as in life-size and not a mock up) KCS F7 cab. Nick rescued it from a scrap yard and had it lowered by crane into the basement when his house was under construction.

You can read more about Muff's amazing layout and layout room in the August, 2011 issue of Model Railroad Hobbyist. You can also see a slide show of the layout and layout room on YouTube. A video interview with Muff by Model Railroad Hobbyist, with lots of footage of the passenger car, can be found here.

Layout and F7; Photo by Charlie Comstock from MRH.

Unless otherwise noted, credit photos on this page to Dave Hikel, who took them during a 2008 visit to Muff's layout and posted them on a Model Railroader forum.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

The Guy With a (Real) Train in his Basement

Wouldn't you like a real train in your basement?

Like most of us when we were kids, Jason Shron, founder and owner of Rapido Trains, wanted to have a train in his basement.

Not a model train--a real train. And after 4 1/2 years of work, Jason has realized his goal: He has a full-size replica of a VIA coach in his basement. 

You heard that right. 

Not the whole car, of course, but 20 feet of it--enough for the washroom, storage area and two rows of seats.

Jason built the highlighted portion in his basement.

The car is made from real parts from former VIA coach 5647, built in 1954 by Canadian Car & Foundry. It was part of a order of 218 coaches by Canadian National.

The real car.

Of his basement train, Jason says: "I feel privileged to have brought VIA coach #5647 back to life in my basement. This is a real piece of Canadian history, having carried Canadians and visitors the length and breadth of the country for over 40 years. 

"The seats, the walls, the doors, the ceiling panels--these have seen Canada like no person alive ever has. Every time I sit down in the coach, I feel that history beneath my feet. It's amazing."

Inside the train.

Two conclusions can be reached from Jason's experience. First, whenever your significant other suggests you might be taking up too much room for your hobby, you can say: "Yeah--but not as much as that guy with the train in his basement!"

Second, this puts a whole new slant on the question model railroaders get asked all the time by non-model railroader friends: What will you do when you move? ("Train for sale. P.S. Comes with house.")

You can read more about my friend Jason's basement train in the Rapido Trains newsletter. Or you could read about it in the Toronto Star, Jason's hometown newspaper. You can also watch a video about the train on YouTube. 

Also check out his next construction effort: The HO scale Kingston Sub. This is the place where those great models he's been making will one day run.

Turns out there is another guy with a real train in his basement--Dr. Nick Muff in Washington State has a passenger car and an F7 cab in his basement and layout room. Click here for photos and info.

Another view of the train.

Friday, January 4, 2013

A Great "Underground" Model Railway

Still think you have no space for a layout? Check out this video from British Railway Modelling magazine and see where Dennis Parker of Great Britain built his--and how he gets into it!

Dennis built his 24 by 34 foot OO scale Glendower layout in the crawl space of his split-level home. He started the freelanced layout, which represents London North Eastern and London Midland Scottish railways, 36 years ago.

It started small, and just kept growing.

One place it can't grow is up; the ceiling is just four feet from the floor. Dennis gets around the layout by crawling--which is something to see, since he also has to crawl over a viaduct and a bridge that cross the aisles.

A view of the layout.

(In conventional layouts, these would be duckunders; in this case, considering the low ceiling, maybe they could be called duckovers.)

It's an amazing feat, especially when you consider the size of the layout, the amount of track, the high level of detail, the hand-painted backdrops and the great-looking scenery. It makes me wonder, though: How are his knees are doing?

But that's not the only amazing thing about this layout; watch how Dennis gets into his layout--throught a trap door he cut into the kitchen floor. "My wife is very tolerant," he says, adding that when he's in the layout room she always knows where he is.

The May, 2012 issue featuring
the layout. Check out the trap door!

This isn't the first time I've seen a layout in a crawl space; last year I posted about my friend Dennis Rietze and his layout--also located in the crawl space in a split-level home. The Canadian Dennis is different from the British Dennis in that he uses a wheeled stool to move around the layout--definitely much easier on the knees!

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Looking Back at 2012: Most Popular Pages and Other Things

With 2012 behind us, it’s time for a look back at the most popular pages on the CP Rail Manitoba & Minnesota blog.

But first, a quick overview; 2012 was the year the blog surpassed my model railroad YouTube channel, with 368, 623 views to 301,357 (as of Dec. 31).

Overall, most of the views have come from Canada , followed by the U.S. , Germany , Great Britain , France , Australia , Russia , Netherlands , Brazil , Switzerland.

Top search terms for people finding the blog are CN, VIA Rail, CP Rail, Josef Brandl, trolley car barn (!), CN Rail, CP trains, CN logo and Tony Koester.

As for the most viewed blog posts in 2012, here are the top 10 (between 900-2,725 views).

1. Doug Tagsold’s new Terminal of Toledo layout.

2. The end of the Aberfoyle Junction, one of Canada ’s premier O scale layouts. Four posts altogether: The announcement, link to a video, press release from the club and a photo essay.

3. Neil Young’s O scale layout.

4. Arnold Walker’s Northland Route—one of the best in North America , in my opinion. There were so many great photos, I had to make a second post

5. Chinese factory closings and the effect on model railroad manufacturing. There were three posts on this subject as I tried to keep pace with events. Find them here, here, and here

6. Mark Dance’s fabulous N scale Columbia and Western layout. 

7. Dave Chomyn’s magnificent Othello Tunnels Free-mo modules.

8. My post about the history and varied applications of the CP Rail Multimark.

9. The 2012 Grey Cup Express train, which crossed Canada to commemorate the 100th anniversary of Canada ’s football championship. (Won by the Toronto Argonauts, by-the-way.)  

10. The Model Railway Show rounded out the top ten, with a three-part interview with creators Trevor Marshall and Jim Martin.

Something that continues to bring me a great deal of satisfaction is bringing great Canadian and other layouts to the web, sometimes for the first time. This past year that included Dave Rickaby’s and Lyle Beck’s Wisconsin & Michigan layouts—gone now, but not forgotten.

I was also glad to feature a tribute to Rich Loveman and his unique Thompson River Canyon layout;  R.I. P., Rich.

It was also fun to discover, by happenstance, a great “lonewolf” layout just a few kilometers away from where I live.

Altogether, I’ve been able to feature about 40 Great Canadian Model Railroads like this "lone wolf" layout;  I look forward to showing more of them in 2013.

Anyway, thanks for coming along for the ride in 2012 on the CP Rail Manitoba & Minnesota Subdivision blog; here's hoping for many more great rides in the year ahead.