Friday, July 26, 2013

Baseball and Trains

A train rumbles past Shaw Park; downtown
Winnipeg in the background.

What could be better than watching baseball and trains on a fine summer evening?

A train crosses the non-functioning bascule
bridge over the Red River.

That's what we can do in Winnipeg when we go to watch the American Association Winnipeg Goldeyes of at the downtown Shaw Park.

Watch trains! Er, Play Ball!

The stadium is nestled between the Red River and the CN mainline that curves around the ball park towards the downtown VIA station.

The best seats for baseball are along the baselines, of course. But the best seats for train watching are in left field. That's the best place to see eastbound trains coming towards the park, giving you enough time to get out of your seat to watch it go by on the viaduct behind the stadium.

Looking southwest from the stadium
towards the VIA station.

Westbounds are trickier to catch; they sort of sneak up on you from behind the trees along the riverbank.

A few people have modelled ball parks on their layouts. One of the best was made by my brother-in-law, Ken Epp, on his Cougar River Subdivision.

Any other favorite ballparks out there for train watching?

By-the-way, a Goldeye is a fish that is a local delicacy.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

And Now For Something Completely Different: Top Gear Makes a Passenger Train

And now, as they said on Monty Python, for something completely different.

I’m not a fan of Top Gear, the BBC TV show about cars because, well, it’s about cars—not trains. But I happened to catch a re-run the other day; my wife saw it while clicking through the channels, and called me to come see it.

On this particular episode, the show’s hosts--Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond and James May--attempt to make train travel cheaper, faster and more interesting by replacing conventional passenger cars and locomotives with fifth wheel trailers and cars to pull them.

The Top Gear team spent three weeks making the trains; they were filmed on the Great Central Heritage Railway. (Britain’s only double-track mainline heritage railway.)

In addition to the regular footage, the show also features one of the trains on fire and a crash.

I told you it was different.

See the episode on YouTube: Click here for part one. Click here for part two. 

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Making More Windows, or Through a Glass Darkly

Yes, those are real windows! (I haven't added windows
the top window frames yet.)

Those of you familiar with the Bible may recall the Apostle Paul's comment about how, when it comes to the our inability to see very far into the future, we "see through a glass (a window) darkly." (Those of you are filmophiles--lovers of classic movies--may recall it is also the title of an Ingmar Bergman film.)

It's an apt description of real-life windows, too, especially when it comes to modelling them on our layouts.

As I noted a few years ago in a post about how I make windows using photos of real windows, I admire those who build intricate interiors in their model buildings--it's a skill I don't possess.

Windows done previously.

But as I also wrote, I'm not sure it's necessary, unless you like making interiors or are building a contest-quality model--you can't see the inside of a building from the outside, anyway. We see, in other words, through a glass darkly.

Check it out the next time you are in front of a building during daytime; the most you can see inside a typical building is just a few feet (or as far as the sunlight might be penetrating).

Even if the lights inside are on, it doesn't matter; it's just dark. (If the lights are on, you can see the bulbs, but that's all.)

Of course, things are different at night. Then you can see right inside. But most of us don't operate our layouts in the dark.

When I realized this was the case, it revolutionized the way I make windows on my buildings. I took my camera and took photos of building windows. After making prints on glossy paper, I cut out the windows I needed and glued them into my buildings.

How I glue them in; photos of windows in front.

This was especially helpful for the many false-front buildings on the M & M Sub. (see photo near the top); the photos help give them a sense of depth. They also provide details that would otherwise be hard to replicate--things like blinds, curtains, signs, posters and storefront displays.

The last time I made windows using this technique was three or more years ago. As the new town of Ritchie takes shape, I need to add windows to buildings in that town. Got to make it look livable!

Another shot of the photos I use.

Another bonus from this method is that if you have a photo of a friend or family member (or even yourself), you can put him or her in the window.

As you can see from the photos, it's easy to do; take photos of the fronts of buildings, print the photos on glossy paper, cut out the window you want to use, put some glue along the inside edge of the window, then glue them on. Done! (Note: By using glossy paper you don't need to use the clear plastic glazing that comes with kits.)

The photos in this post show the work in progress; when done, I'll post the final result.

Progress so far . . . .

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

30th Anniversary of the 1983 NMRA Railway Jamboree

They're having fun down in Atlanta at the 2013 NMRA Peachtree Express convention. But 30 years ago this week the eyes of the North American model railroad world were on Winnipeg. That's when the city hosted the 1983 Railway Jamboree.

It was a pivotal event for me; I had been out of the hobby for eight years (due to studies, starting a career and getting married), and had just returned to Winnipeg from living in Europe. I came home that summer to find a model railroad convention right in my own hometown.

Although I didn't attend the whole convention, I did go to the public train show. The result? My love for model railroading, dormant at the time, was re-kindled; four years later, after more work and travels, I bought my first model railroad items. The rest is history.

A few years ago I found the commemorative car pictured above in the used bin at a hobby shop; I don't run it, but I keep is as a memento of that important occasion.

As for the convention itself, it was ground breaking in a number of ways. It was the first NMRA convention to provide a guidebook that fit into a shirt pocket, and it was the first to use daily graphs of simultaneous events.

Instead of tickets for individual tours, it offered coloured ribbons that attached to the convention badge with the current trip on top. It was also the first to have lapel pins to remember the event.

I have never actually attended an NMRA convention, although I did hang around the edges of the 2003 Maple Leaf convention in Toronto (the infamous SARs convention). And I have been part of two regional conventions in Winnipeg, and helped organize a 2005 national convention to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Winnipeg Model Railroad Club.

They were fun, but that 1983 event will always have a special place in my heart. So, happy anniversary, Railway Jamboree, and thanks to all who planned it. It certainly had a positive affect on me.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Railfanning BNSF in Fargo, ND, Dilworth, MN and a Bonus Roger Maris *61 Museum Visit

Every summer our family takes a trip to nearby Fargo, North Dakota. While the others go shopping, I go railranning, watching trains on the busy BNSF northern transcontinental line.


And busy it is! In a span of 90 minutes one evening, I saw 10 trains--mixed freight, double stacks and, as is happening more frequently now, solid trains of tank cars coming and going from North Dakota's Bakken oil field.


I did some of the train watching at the Dilworth, MN yard, located across the Red River from Fargo. Dilworth is where the Staples and KO Subs. meet, and is a crew change point. As long as you stay away from the tracks, BNSF employees don't seem to mind you hanging around taking photos.


Unfortunately, I was at Dilworth after supper, so could only get good shots looking east.

Before we went home to Winnipeg, I went trackside again in Fargo one morning, where I caught these two trains waiting for a local to clear the line.


Fargo has more than trains; if you are a baseball fan as well as a railfan, no visit to the city is complete without stopping by the Roger Maris museum in the West Acres Mall.


In it you can see 10 home run balls from his historic 1961 home run record-breaking season ((#61 is in the Hall of Fame), along with a collection of bats and other memorabilia.


By all accounts, Maris was an unassuming person; when the Fargo native was approached with the idea of creating a museum in his honor, he initially declined out of humility. Eventually, he gave permission, as long as the museum would be located "where people will see it, and where they won’t have to pay for it.” The museum is located in the mall, near the Sears.
Click here to visit the museum's website.


More of my North Dakota railfanning photos can be found here (Grand Forks), and here (glint photos from Dilworth).

Friday, July 12, 2013

Lac Megantic Railway Disaster: A Time to Pause and Pray

This blog exists to celebrate our mutual enjoyment of model railroading and trains in general. Although it touches on serious subjects from time-to-time, it mostly is about having fun with model and prototype trains.

But there is no fun or enjoyment in Lac Megantic, Quebec after a runaway Montreal, Maine and Atlantic train of tank cars filled with oil derailed in that community on July 6. 

As of right now, 24 people are confirmed dead, and over 25 are still missing. A large section of the town was obliterated by the disaster.

In the coming weeks and months, there will be plenty of time to seek answers and lay blame. Right now, it is only appropriate to pause and say a prayer for all affected by the tragedy.

As we all know, what happened in Lac Megantic could happen anywhere in North America. Trains filled with oil pass through communities in the U.S. and Canada every day--I saw several of them during a two- day trip to Fargo, North Dakota, all filled with oil from the Bakken field in western North Dakota.

Earlier in the week I watched them pass through downtown Winnipeg, my hometown.

It is only the vigilance of railway employees who keep us safe; one slip-up and the very worst could happen again in some other city or town.

Illuc irem nisi gratiam Dei haberem. There but for the grace of God go I--or we, in this case.

Top photo: CBC. Middle photo: National Post.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

On the Road Again: Making a Street on the Manitoba & Minnesota Sub.

Now that is a great looking road! If I was halfway as good a modeller as Fred Lagno, I might be able to make a road that looks as good as the one he made on his Allegheny Central layout.

I'm not that great a modeller, but I'm willing to give anything a try. That includes making a road in the town of Ritchie on the M & M Sub. It's not much of a road--just a short stretch of pavement beside the grain elevators. The photo below shows the start of the project.

The "road" is made from a sheet of styrene. I spray painted it with grey primer, with an overspray of black. I scribed lines and then blackened them with a pen.

The sidewalk is a made from a thick piece of poster board, scribed to represent sidewalk lines. I spray painted it with grey primer, too, but used an overspray of white to make it stand out from the road.

Lots of work left to do, including adding details, weathering, etc. But it's a start; using Fred's photo as an inspiration, I can say that I am "on the road, again."

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Snakes on a Train: GO Transit Train Flooded in Toronto

Go Transit in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) operates trains and buses--but not boats. Which is evident in the photo above of a GO Train stranded in a lake in that city.

The train got stuck when a huge and sudden downpour flooded large sections of the Toronto area, including this stretch of tracks. Over 1,000 people on the train first fled to the upper levels of the cars to stay dry before being rescued by police using boats.

In addition to the flooding, passengers on one car had an unexpected visitor--a snake swam between the seats. Talk about Snakes on a Train!

As far as I know, there are no plans to equip GO Trains with life preservers in the future . . . .

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Andreas Keller's CN Fergus Sub.: More Great Canadian Model Railroading Down Under

Earlier, I posted photos and a link to a video of the Thompson River Canyon N scale layout in Australia.  Here’s another Great Canadian Model Railroad down under—Andreas Keller’s HO scale CN Fergus Subdivision.

Andreas, who is originally from Canada, models both Canadian and Australian prototypes. His CN Fergus Subdivision layout models that southwestern Ontario area between Guelph and Cambridge in the 1980s.

He had previously modeled this area while living in Canada, building a layout that featured CN’s secondary mainline through the area. After moving to Australia, he had less room for a layout, so elected to model branch line operations instead.

By the 1980s only 14 miles of the Fergus Sub. was left in operation. He decided to model four scenes in three sections, discarding, as he says, “the boring bits in between.” With limited room, he decided on a three-level shadow box-style point-to-point layout.

The three 14-foot long section s are connected by a helix in a nearby storage area. The result is 42 linear feet of layout in a 2 foot by 14 foot footprint.

Andreas has come up with a creative way to pack a lot of model railroad into a small space--and done some excellent modelling, as well. Perhaps it will inspire others seeking ways to build their dream layout, despite having very little room.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

More Layout Progress: Planting Trees

Slowly, the layout is coming along. I finally found some time to plant some trees, something I've been meaning to do for awhile.

Trees really make a difference; they help the layout come alive. I still need to plant a few more, and add some ground cover, but even in this state it makes a big difference.

My trees are mostly handmade, from Sedum, Yarrow, Spirea and other plants I can't identify. (Click here to learn more about how I make them.)

For the record, here's what this area looked like before any scenery:

Here's what it looked like when the scenery was beginning to take shape:

And here's what it looks like now:

There's still a ways to go--still lots of blue foam to be covered and more details to be added. But we're coming along!

To learn more about how (and why) I dismantled a third of my layout, and rebuilt it the way you see in these photos, click here.