Sunday, September 29, 2013

Photos for Windows: Another Set of Buildings Done, and Elmwood Hobby Works Lives Again

The finished block with its windows.

Earlier, I posted about how I use photos of real windows in real buildings to make windows in my model buildings--and how I think this is an easy way to make realistic looking windows.

(As I pointed out in that post, on a sunny day you can't see more than three feet or so inside a building, so why worry about creating interiors? Plus, the prototype supplies everything we need if you have a camera and make glossy prints.)

In that post, I had started the process of adding windows to a block of buildings in "downtown" Ritchie. It's done now, as these photos show.

One change from the earlier post is that I decided to resurrect Elmwood Hobby Works, my hometown hobby shop which recently closed. I not only used its windows, but its door, too. Appropriately, the sign on the door says "closed."

Well, it may be gone for real, but it lives on on the M & Sub.!

That car could use a cleaning . . . .

The photo from which the windows & door were made.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Video: Cab Ride on the Prairie Dog Central Railway 4-4-0 #3

Actors in period costume re-enact the arrival of dignitaries  in
1913 to open the Hotel Fort Garry. Winnipeg Free Press photo.

As part of its 100th anniversary celebrations, Winnipeg's historic Hotel Fort Garry arranged for the equally historic Prairie Dog Central Railway (one of North America's oldest operating steam railways) to be part of a re-enactment at the also historic VIA station across the street.
Earlier this week, the Prairie Dog brought a trainload of actors dressed up in turn-of-the-century clothing to re-enact the 1913 arrival of dignitaries to open the hotel.
Included in the cast of characters was an actor playing the role of Dr. F. W. Bergman, general manager of the hotels operated by the Grand Trunk Pacific Railway, which commissioned the construction of hotel in 1911. The Hotel Fort Garry officially opened two years later.
A reporter from the Winnipeg Free Press took a ride in the cab of Prairie Dog Central's vintage 4-4-0 #3, built in 1882. Click here to see a video of that ride.

The newspaper was also on hand to record the arrival of the train, and the re-enactment. Click here to watch that video.

Click here to read the Free Press story about the event.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Winnipeg's Gateway Western Model Railroad Back Home After 17 Years

Gateway Western III inside the Winnipeg
Railway Museum.

After 17 years, the Gateway Western is back home in Winnipeg's VIA Station.

For many years, the Gateway Western version I, owned and operated by members of the Winnipeg Model Railroad Club (WMRC), occupied a corner near the rotunda in the historic station.

That layout, which featured a meandering single track mainline that ducked into multiple tunnels and over bridges, was a highlight for many visitors to the station, including passengers de-training during a brief stopover in Winnipeg.

(It was even featured in a 1989 travel article in the New York Times. Said the writer: "With an hour to while away . . . most of us gathered in one corner of the massive hall where the Gateway Western Railway, operating division of the Winnipeg Model Railroad Club, was running its HO scale line through tunnel-riddled mountainous terrain.")

A view from inside.

That layout was dismantled at the request of VIA Rail in 1996. In its place is now a men's washroom; yes, you can now urinate where the tracks once ran.

Soon after, some club members built Gateway Western II, a portable and sectional layout. That layout was sold to a private individual in 2000. When I discovered he had never actually put it back together in his basement, as he intended, I helped arrange for the WMRC to buy it back.

In 2004, it was resurrected in the basement of Gooch's Hobby Shop. It resided there until 2009, when the hobby shop relocated. After that, it was put into storage, with the hope it might one day find a new home.

Another inside view.

That never happened. Last year the WMRC received a request from Winnipeg Railway Museum to build a new layout inside their facility.

The Museum, which occupies two of the former tracks in the historic train shed at the VIA Station, is a great place for a layout. Unfortunately, it isn't heated or air conditioned, the roof sometimes leaks, and birds sometimes find their way into the Museum (doing what birds do).

Kids enjoyed watching the trains.

Prior to the new layout being built, the Museum had bought another portable layout from the Renegades Model Railroad Club; it wasn't long before that layout deteriorated under those conditions.

That won't happen to the new Gateway Western. WMRC members didn't just build a model railroad--they built a building to put it in, too.

And so did adults.

The layout is in a climate-controlled building inside the train shed. The building is done, but right now the layout is only partially finished; club members were able to complete two-thirds of the line before the Sept. 21-22 Railway Days at the Museum--enough to entertain visitors. Over the winter, the rest will be finished.

Eventually, visitors will be able to push a button and make trains run even when no club members are there.

Meantime, it's quite a set up--congrats to everyone who built it! And if you are passing through Winnipeg, by train or any other mode of transportation, make sure to stop by to see the new Gateway in its new home.

BNSF Manitoba 2748 was also on display
during Railway Days, with the new Canadian Museum
of Human Rights in the background.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Greeley Freight Station Museum Safe From Recent Colorado Flooding

In the grand scheme of things, losing a model railroad--even one as fantastic as the Greeley Freight Station Museum--pales in comparison to the thousands whose homes were destroyed or damaged in the recent flooding in Colorado.

At the same time, I was happy to learn that the Museum did not suffer any damage from the floods, although some members of the Museum did experience losses.

"Some of our own volunteers suffered damages and losses, but luckily so far the losses are restricted to material items," the Museum posted on its website.

"It will take time to clean up and rebuild and we wish everyone the strength needed to get through these hard times."

I think we all join them in hoping that people in the area will soon be able to recover and rebuild.

Earlier this year one of those volunteers, Bill Botkin, sent me some of his photos of the Museum's layout. Fortunately, his home did not sustain any damage.

P.S. This post is my 500th on this blog. I can't think of a better one for this milestone than about a layout I want to visit one day . . . .

Layout overview from Museum website.

Starting Over: Would I Do It Again?

A switching layout like Glendale--that's
what I might build next time.

I have sometimes been asked: If I had to start over, would I build the same layout again?

The answer is no. Not because I don't like my layout, or that I wouldn't enjoy another big one. I just don't think I have the energy, drive and determination to do it again.

Truth is, it's a lot of work to build a layout--any layout, but especially one the size of the Manitoba & Minnesota Subdivision (double-deck, 17 by 21 feet). Some days I can't believe I was able to actually do it.

Next year is its 20th anniversary, and there are still thing to finish up (even without my taking down part of it to start again). I never have got around to ballasting and finishing the ground cover and background in one corner of the Fort Francis yard.

If I have to start again, which I will have to do someday (we won't live in this house forever), I think I might want to build a small switching layout--something like Glendale, featured in the photos in this post.

Glendale, which features railroading in Canada, was built by British model railroader Roger Nicholls. For me, the 9 foot by 1 1/2 foot layout shows the best of what a small layout can be.

For the British, with their lack of space, portable layouts like Glendale are common. But they will likely have greater appeal in North America, too, as people move into condos or move more for their jobs.

Or for people like me who, having built their "dream" layout, want something smaller to stay active in the hobby.

Glendale trackplan.

For another example of a really small layout in a really unique space, check out Ian Plett's layout in his long distance truck cab. 

Saturday, September 21, 2013

End of an Era: Fine Scale Miniatures Closes

The last kit ever from FSM.

"After 48 years, Fine Scale Miniatures is retiring from manufacturing HO craftsman kits."

That is the message posted on the FSM website by owner George Selios. Before he ceases production altogether, George is selling one final kit--the Jamestown Water Stop (photo above).

As for why he is ending the business, George writes: "I now want to spend more of my time maintaining and operating my Franklin & South Manchester Railroad, along with other interests. I would like to thank all my FSM customers and fans throughout the years. I hope my kits have given you a lot of enjoyment and modeling pleasure."

As someone who models modern railways, FSM kits never appealed to or were appropriate for me--and I'm not sure I'd have the patience or skill to build one, anyway. But they have been appreciated by many, who will surely miss this fine line of craftsman kits.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Update on Bowser SD40-2 Units

The M & M Sub. is looking forward to CP Rail SD40-2s with correct
handrails, headlights, number boards, bells, etc.

In April, 2012 I posted confirmation that Bowser would be bringing out Canadian SD40-2s in a number of variants.

Bowser Project Manager Scott Davis told me back then that the company would be releasing Canadian-style SD40-2s for CP, CN and BC Rail in various versions (e.g. long nose, short nose, winterization hatches, etc.). The estimated delivery was to be sometime in 2013.

Well, here it is--2013. I got to wondering about the status of the units, so I e-mailed Lee English of Bowser. He told me that the first engineering drawings are due this month (September) and that they are planning ten versions.

 As for a release date--that he didn't say.

Over at the CP Rail Manitoba & Minnesota Sub. we are saving our money for when those units become available . . . .

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Update on Automatic Self-Coupling Air Hoses

I recently discovered that links on this blog to websites about the new (and cool) automatic self-coupling air hoses are no longer active.

The air hoses, created by Cameron Foodikoff of Fairway Park Model Products, are now being made and distributed by Pacific Western Rail Systems. Click here to go to their web page featuring the hoses. Click here to see a video of the hoses in operation.

In a note, PWRS owner Dan Huberman says that his company has assumed all production and sales of the air hoses, and that Cameron is still involved.

Below find links to other posts about these unique products.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Last Ride on the Assiniboine Valley Railway?

Steamed up and ready to go.

This weekend (Sept. 14-15) was a regular open house at the Assiniboine Valley Railway in Winnipeg. But it was anything but regular.

It was the first open house without the Railway's founder and owner, Bill Taylor, who passed away August 26.

Bill was more than just the founder and owner of the 1.6" scale, 7.5" gauge riding railway located in his seven acre yard. He was the heartbeat of the Railway, it's source of inspiration, and the person who did a lot of the work.

A meet at the station.

True, the AVR has 50-60 members who help maintain and operate the 6,400 feet of track. But the Railway was really Bill's baby. Without him, things like the annual dinner train and Christmas light run would be difficult, if not impossible, to pull off.

But those thoughts weren't on my mind as I enjoyed what might be my final run on the Railway. It was a pleasant fall day as we were pulled along the line by a live steam 4-6-2, through the forest, past three deer and in and out of the station.

A bucolic trip through the forest.

There's another open house in October, but before that AVR members will meet to talk about the future of the Railway. We all hope they can keep it going.

Click here for more photos and a link to a video of the AVR.
Click here for a post about the Christmas light run.
Click here for information about Bill Taylor's passing.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

New Book Chronicles U.S. Train-Hopping Sub-Culture

In 2003, Mike Brodie hopped his first freight train. For the next five year he crossed the U.S., becoming known as the Polaroid Kidd for the way he documented his travels. 

Now those images are in A Period of Juvenile Prosperity, a new book of photographs about a sub-culture of young people who ride freight trains across North America.

Today Brodie no longer hops freight trains. He is settled and lives in California. In interviews, he described his life on the rails as being like Huck Finn--"a very American thing to do." 

Before he quit hopping trains in 2008 (he decided he should "grow up and maybe try to settle down"), he figures he travelled around 50,000 miles by train.

Along the way he encountered a few classic hobos--migratory workers moving from place to place--but most of the people he rode with were young people like himself, seeking adventure.

"It was something they did for whatever reason before they settled down," Brodie said in an interview. 

"Some were running away, some were out for adventure. It's like being homeless by choice, I guess, but, living like that you learn a lot of American values like self-reliance, independence."

(Looking at the photos, one wonders if one thing they didn't learn was a desire to be safe--hanging off the end of a fast-moving freight train or scrambling between cars doesn't look like the smartest thing to do. But I digress.)

One interviewer noted that Brodie's photographs are "unashamedly romantic: all soft colour tones, wide open spaces and dirty, defiant, vagabond faces caught in the magical light of dusk or dawn." It prompted him to wonder if he may have over-romanticized the tough itinerant life of his subjects.

Said Brodie: "I reckon photography always does that to a degree. But that life is romantic a lot of the time, at least in the spring and summer. So long as you like the outdoors life and you don't mind getting dirty and not having a change of clothes for months, it's pretty great."

Although he no longer hops trains, Brodie misses those days. "I'm still drawn to that old, free lifestyle," he says. "I still miss the trains, but I'm not a kid any more."

Meanwhile, the 113th annual hobo convention was held in Britt, Iowa in August--a gathering of real hobos. Click here to read more about that event.

Click here to learn more about A Period of Juvenile Prosperity.
Click here to visit Brodie's website and see more photos.
Click here to hear a BBC interview with Brodie.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

A Very Unique Lash-up

I was down at the yard the other day, and what did I see? A lash-up of very unique CP Rail power. Four SD40-2s, all in the 5400 series, and all in unique liveries (if primer can be considered a livery).

There was 5422, still in UP yellow and red. It was built for Missouri Pacific in 1975 and bought by CP Rail in 1994.

It was followed by 5447, still in primer with a hand-scrawled "CP" on one side. It was built for CNW in 1975 and sold to CP Rail in 1994. (You can still see a bit of CNW yellow peeking through along the walkway.)

Next came 5449, also in primer (grey, this time). It was built in 1980 for DRGW and sold to CP Rail in 1994.

Last was 5417, still in its former KCS white. It was built for that railway in 1976 and sold to CP Rail in 1992.
It is possible that the four units might have run together--or maybe two of them. Possible, but not plausible. (Now someone will find a photo on the web to prove me wrong!)
What really happened was that a friend came over to see my layout, and I wanted to show him some of the locomotives I had created. Since I model the early to mid-1990s, the four unique units help give a sense of time and place for the Manitoba & Minnesota Sub. They were also a lot of fun to make--and to show off.

Click here to see how I made 5447; appropriately, the post is titled "So Ugly I had to Model It."
And just in case you don't believe these were real units, click on the unit numbers to see photos and get other information from Canadian Pacific Railway Diesel Roster. 

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Another Prairie Giant Bites the Dust: Marquette, Manitoba

The Paterson elevator in Marquette in better days.

At one time, there were over 5,700 wooden elevators in Canada's prairie provinces. Called prairie giants or sentinels on the prairies, they handled the grain that helped make Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta a bread basket for the world.

The classic old elevators have mostly been replaced by modern concrete throughput elevators--giant facilities that can handle large strings of hopper cars and hold many more bushels of grain. Today there are only about 850 of the classic wooden elevators left.

A classic Prairie Giant.

Take one more off that list; on September 4, 2013 the Paterson grain elevator at Marquette, Manitoba was torn down.

When Canadian Railway Modeller editor Morgan Turney heard it was to be demolished, he drove to Marquette, located at mile 27.1 on the CPR's Carberry Subdisivion, to take some photos.

Upon arrival, he asked a worker when it was to come down. "In about ten minutes," he was told. The photos below record what happened next.

Going . . .

Going . . .

Going . . . 


Click here to see a National Film Board of Canada documentary about the day in the life of a prairie grain elevator. Click here to read about how I scratchbuilt my own prairie giant for the M & M Sub.

Click here to visit the website of the Inglis, Man. Grain Elevators National Historic Site and to learn more about the prairie giants. Photos of grain elevators across the prairies and B.C. can be found at Grain, a collection of almost 13,000 photos.

Top two photos also taken by Morgan Turney; top photo taken Feb 6, 2010 of CP SD40-2 5978 passing the Marquette elevator; second photo taken June 9, 2009.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Growing My Own (Crop of Trees, That Is)

My crop of "trees" getting ready for harvest.

It's harvest time on the prairies. The season got off to a slow, cool and wet start, but now farmers are on the fields, bringing in crops of wheat, oats, barley and canola. It's a time of optimism and gratitude as the bins are filled with the land's bounty.

It's not quite harvest time at my house, but my crop of trees is looking good, too. In my case, it's my Autumn Joy Sedum plant, from which I harvest trees for my layout each fall.

Right now the Sedum is green, but soon it will turn red and then, just before harvest, brown--at which point I will pick my next crop of trees.

A finished Sedum tree.

As I have noted earlier in this blog, I use a mixture of Sedum, Yarrow and Spirea for trees on the CP Rail Manitoba & Minnesota Subdivision. Of the three,the Sedum requires the most work; the individual stems need to be glued together to make one tree.

After that step, all it takes is a green spray paint for the leaves, and black and brown for the trunks, along with hair spray and ground foam. The result is decent looking trees, and at a great price, too--free, except for the above-mentioned materials.

(As with many other things on our layouts, trees are best viewed from a distance, and then obliquely as part of the landscape--and preferably with a train being the centre of attention. Read more about seeing, our brains and model railroading here.)

The best thing about the Autumn Joy Sedum plant is that, according to one gardening expert, it "thrives on neglect. Too much water, rich soil or fertilizer can cause the plant to droop." Since I definitely don't have a green thumb, that is welcome news!

Click here to read about how I make my Sedum trees.