Sunday, March 31, 2013

End of the Line for The Model Railway Show

After two and half years and 52 episodes, The Model Railway Show—and Internet podcast about the hobby—has reached the end of the line.

In a statement, producers Jim, Trevor, Chris, Otto and David say they have decided it’s “time to get back to our work benches.

The podcast, they go on to say, “was a volunteer effort—a labour of love—and while we enjoyed interviewing so many great guests and creating these shows, it has demanded a fair bit of hobby time.”

Although they will not be producing any new episodes, the archive of old episodes will continue to be available on the Web.

So, farewell to The Model Railway Show, and thanks for creating something of benefit for many modellers. 

Read my interview with Jim and Trevor here.

Saturday, March 30, 2013

More Operational Interest with the Hospital Train

The hospital train pulls into the yard.

Earlier this month, I wrote about adding a hospital train to the Manitoba & Minnesota Sub.--a train made up of locomotives and rolling stock headed for repair, to museums or to the scrapper.

At first, the train just made a regular appearance on the layout, passing through from east to west. Then I realized I could do more with it--give it more operational value.

It drops off the items for the museum.

As I wrote about earlier, I added a railway museum to the town of Turney on the upper level. The former freight house is home to a collection of railway ephemera, including an old caboose, and SD40-2 (in classic maroon and grey), a 40-foot boxcar and an old passenger car. (A different assortment than that featured in the original post.)

When I made up the hospital train, I took those items from the museum and added them to the train. They looked good running across the layout. But then I thought: Why not have them yarded in Fort Frances and then brought up to Turney by a special movement? And that's what I did.

A special movement takes them west.

Now when the hospital train makes its appearance, we can go back in time like Bill Murray in Groundhog Day,, repeating that day when the various railway items were brought to the museum over and over again.

Almost there . . . .

Yarding the items bound for the museum adds another operational event to the layout--although I have no way of replicating the "big hook" moving the cars and locomotive from the siding to the museum trackage. That's what hands are for!

In the siding awaiting the crane to
move them to the museum track.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Who Says A Loop of Track is Unprototypical?

Artist's rendering of the new facility.

One of the axioms of model railroading is that a loop of track a 4 x 8 sheet of plywood is unprototypical, not to mention boring.

Nobody told that to the Dakota Plains Holding Inc., which is planning a double-track loop for its new oil loading facility in New Town, North Dakota.

To keep up with booming shipments of crude oil, the company is building a $50 million expansion of its crude oil loading facility in the northeastern part of the state. It will be able to rapidly load trains of up to 120 tank cars.

As reported in the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, the project will add looped tracks for easier loading, boosting daily throughput capacity from 30,000 barrels to 80,000 barrels.

The project, which is served by the CPR, will be completed by the end of the year.

BTW, North Dakota--once famed for being home to over 1,000 nuclear missiles pointed at the former Soviet  Union--is now the second-largest oil-producing state behind Texas. Since it doesn't have many pipelines, 68 percent of the crude oil production in the state is shipped by rail.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

A Model Railroad Bucket List

New England, Berkshire & Western.

A couple of weeks ago, I posted an article about the closing of the Toronto Model Railroad Club. In it, I expressed my regret at never having seen it in person.
That made me think of other layouts I have missed seeing--and of those I want to see. It prompted me to think of making a model railroad bucket list of famed publicly accessible layouts to see before I die.

The Great Train Story.

I thought it would be interesting to get a little help in this quest, so I posed that question on several model railroad forums. What well-known public layouts (not home layouts) would people like to see before they, you know, kick the bucket?
I got a number of answers, including one that made me smile: "I'd like to see my own layout be completed before I die." I think a lot of us would share that sentiment!

So here, in no particular order, are the public layouts other model railroaders say they would like to see before they die. 

Curiously, nobody mentioned the Milwaukee, Racine & Troy, the layout owned by Model Railroader magazine. I wonder why that is--is it because we've seen so much of it in the magazine? (That is one famous layout I actually have seen!)
Minatur Wunderland. (Hamburg, Germany.)

Nortlandz. (Flemington, New Jersey)

New England, Berkshire & Western (Renssellaer Polytechnic Institute club, Troy, New York.)
Greeley Freight Station Museum. 
(Greeley, Colorado)

The Great Train Story at the Chicago Museum of Science and Industry.

San Diego Model Railroad Museum. (In San Diego, of course.)

Franklin & South Manchester. (George Sellios' private layout in Peabody, Mass., but one he apparently opens for public viewing).

Puget Sound Model Railroad Engineers in Tacoma, Washington.

Some of those are on my bucket list; I also hope to make it to the Doubleheaders layout tour in Kitchener/Waterloo, some day.

What would be on your list?

Puget Sound Model Railroad club.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Al Capone, Prohibition and the Thunder Creek Model Railroad Club

What do Al Capone and the Thunder Creek Model Railroad Club have in common? 

No, not trains (although Capone did ride on one to Alcatraz--the so-called "Forty Thieves Special.") What they have in common is the city of Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan.

Or, at least, the Thunder Creek club does; Capone's connection is a little iffy. It goes back to prohibition in the U.S., when Moose Jaw was a jumping off point for alcohol headed to Chicago. 

Thunder Creek layout at the 2004 Winnipeg Model
Railroad club Show, with the iconic Calgary
Tower in the foreground.

Beneath Moose Jaw's streets are an extensive network of tunnels, originally built to connect various buildings. During prohibition, they were used to hide copious amounts of alcohol prior to transport south.

According to several reports, Capone actually visited the city, although no photographic record or documentation exists.

As for the Thunder Creek club, there are plenty of photos proving its existence. And if you want to see it in person, you can do that March 23-24 at the club's 8th annual show at the Western Development Museum, where you can also see some real trains on display--and the 1949 Fudge Snowplane, a local Saskatchewan invention (see photo below). 

If you can't get to the show, you can visit the club's website, or just enjoy the photos of their fine modelling on this page (including their model of the iconic Calgary Tower--the kind of thing you aren't likely to find on many layouts.). Photos taken at the 2004 Winnipeg Model Railroad Club fall show.

For more about Capone and the tunnels of Moose Jaw, click here.  

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Hospital Train on the Manitoba & Minnesota Sub.

Sept. 19, 1992 CP Rail hospital train

Eric Gagnon of Trackside Treasure posted an interesting article about a September 19, 1992 CP Rail "hospital train"--a movement of old locomotives and rolling stock in  poor condition from Montreal to western Canada.

The train was made up of units and cars destined for museums, for repair or for scrapping, including CPR P3k 2-8-2 #5468 (on its way to the Revelstoke, B.C. Railway Museum).
In a second post, Eric provided additional photos of #5468, which was waylaid for nine months in White River, Ont. due to an overheating axle before continuing its way west.

CP Rail M & M Sub. hospital train

Reading Eric's posts made me realize that I could run my own hospital train on the M & M Sub. Since I don't tend to acquire a lot of stuff I don't need or can't use, it was a bit of a challenge making up the train. But, like most model railroaders, there's always something hanging around!

Like the private owner's train which makes periodic visits to the M & M Sub. so railfans can rack up rare miles, the hospital train makes for an interesting and unique addition to the mix of trains on the layout--and gives me a reason to check out the used bins in hobby shops for more items to add to the train.

Also see my follow-up post with more photos of the hospital train in action. To see a video of my hospital train, click here.

To see a real hospital train in action, check out this video of the February 10, 2011 move of antiquated equpment from the Brooklyn Roundhouse to new storage space in Portland, OR.

The hospital train included an SDP40F, F40PHR, several passenger cars and an FA-1 and more.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Switching In Fort Frances: Lucky I Had My Camera!

You know the old adage about railfanning: Never leave home without your camera. (If you do, you are sure to miss that unique or special or once-in-a lifetime shot.)

I just happened to be driving past the yard in Fort Frances on the CP Rail M & M Sub. when a switcher pulled a cut of cars to switch the local yardside industries. Nothing special, but I did have my camera with me, and got the following shots.

(You might wonder how I was able to get so close to the action; I happen to know the yardmaster!)

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Toronto Model Railroad Club Closes: "With Brave Faces, They Did Their Final Runs."

"With brave faces, they did their final runs, then symbolically, they cut the mainline."

That's how a CBC reporter chronicled the end of the Toronto Model Railroad Club in a March 2 episode of Only in Canada.

The segment, which you can view here, shows a club member taking a dremel tool to the track to cut the first gap. It brought to an end to the O scale layout, which has been in operation in the same location since 1946.

Called the Central Ontario Railway, the Club was forced to move when the old factory it called home was purchased to make way for a new condo development.

Fortunately, they have found a new location, although the downside is that it is only two-thirds the size of their former 40 by 120 foot home.On the upside, they will be able to upgrade the wiring and make it more accessible--the members aren't getting any younger!

Rebuilding the layout will take at least two years.

Photos from CBC (top) and Torontist, where you can find more photos and a video cab ride along the line.

CBC Toronto also did a piece about the club's move, with text and video. Click here to read and view it.

More photos and information can also be found in my October 31, 2012 post. The layout is also featured in the April, 2013 Railroad Model Craftsman.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Model Railroading as Art, or Art as Model Railroading?

Some think that model railroading is an art. Others think that art is model railroading. Kim Adams is in the latter camp.
Born in Edmonton in 1951, Adams is considered one of Canada's leading contemporary artists. His installation art has been exhibited throughout Canada and internationally since the late 1970s.
To make his art, he uses commonplace objects such as auto parts, household objects, toys and, yes, model trains to create sculptures that, according to the Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO), “resemble fictional worlds and imaginary landscapes.”
Reading that, I had to think: That sounds like most model railroaders I know.
Like Adams, we are forever finding ways to use ordinary items on our layouts—mostly because we are cheap and want to save money.
Like Adams, we also strive to create fictional worlds and landscapes.
Like Adams, we also employ “a careful, laborious approach,” as the AGO describes his artistic method.
Like Adams, some of us also populate our layouts “with scores of people engaged in a dizzying variety of activities.”
Unlike Adams, however, nobody gives us  awards and money for our “art.” For his efforts, Adams was awarded the $50,000 Gershon Iskowitz Prize from the AGO.
Also unlike Adams, we don’t use rolling stock like he does—piling them on top of each other and filling hopper cars with dirt and turning them into gardens. That’s what he did for Artist's Colony (Gardens), currently on display at the AGO. (See photos this page.)
But I’m not complaining; my hat's off to Adams for doing what he does and winning the big prize.
All I have to say is that if an art critic is reading this blog post, feel free to send me a note. I’ll be happy to put my layout on display.
If it helps, I might even glue some rolling stock on top of each other.
For more information and photos of Adams’s work, click here.

A novel way to use hopper cars . . . .

A new way to think of a "stack" train.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Railway Timetables, or What Would You Save if a Fire Broke Out?

Every Saturday, the Winnipeg Free Press (my hometown newspaper) has a feature about collectors called My Stuff. 

Today's article (March 2) featured my friend and fellow model railroader Brian Schuff who, in addition to having a fine model railroad, collects railway timetables.

In the article, Brian is asked: "If your house was on fire, heaven forbid, what's the one item you would try to take with you?"

For Brian, the answer is easy.

"First, I'd grab my mom and dad's photo albums," he said. "Then I'd go back in for my railroad stuff, even though I'd probably die trying to salvage everything."

One of the things he'd go back for is his collection of railway timetables--of which he estimates he has thousands. Some came from his father, while others were collected when he was a teenager hanging out at the local train station.

Today he finds them in flea markets and antique stores.

Pass signed by Van Horne, former President of the CPR.

The most valuable artifact in his collection isn't a timetable at all; it's an 1890 railway pass signed by William Cornelius Van Horne, who supervised the construction of the CPR in the late 19th century.

"I feel obligated to save it [his collection] from the dumpster," he says. "Some people probably think, 'Oh, it's paper, it's worthless,' but to me each item is a little piece of history."

Click here to read the full article in the Winnipeg Free Press.