Sunday, December 29, 2013

Painting People, or It Figures

Trains, trucks and tracks, but where are the people?

Looking at photos of the M & M Sub., you see trains, track, trees, water, buildings, even some vehicles. One thing you don’t see are people.

I am not a big fan of people on layouts. Nothing seems to make a photo of a model railroad look more toy-like than unrealistic-looking figures.

But maybe the problem is that I am painting them wrong. At least, that’s what Brian Fayle suggests.

Some of Brian Fayle's people.

Fayle, a modeller from Ontario, has the same problem with figures that I do. 

“Have you ever noticed when you look at a photograph of a model railway, and there is a figure in it, the figure will nearly always give the game away?” he asks. “The figures look flat and artificial.”

To counter this, Brian came up with a painting technique that creates false shadows in the figures, making them seem fuller and more lifelike.

On his website, Brian says that his “painting technique is designed to produce figures that photograph to look like real people and to look like real people when viewed at a normal layout viewing distance.”

Brian’s method is to first paint the figures black, then use a dry brushing technique to add colour. This preserves what he calls the Type A, or edge shadows, and the Type B, or fold shadows. It is these shadows that contribute to making them look more realistic.

By way of example, Brian offers the figures in the photo above. The one on the left is painted the normal way, the one on the right with his black base technique. 

“Half close your eyes, sit back and which one looks closer to reality?” he asks. “The figure on the left looks flat, whilst the one on the right definitely does not.”

What do you think?

Click here to visit Brian’s website to see more photos and learn more about his figure painting technique. 

More of Brian's figures.

Friday, December 27, 2013

Aberfoyle Junction Layout Back Up and Running Again

The Aberfoyle Junction: Back together again.

Big news on the Canadian model railway scene: The Aberfoyle Junction is open again!

Actually, the layout, now called the St. Jacobs and Aberfoyle Model Railway, has been open for about two months now. (Takes a while for word to get this far west, I guess.)

New control tower.

Originally scheduled to re-open in the town of St. Jacobs, Ont. in 2014, somehow the club members and their friends got the magnificent O scale layout up and running ahead of time.

Following the last run in spring, 2012, the layout was cut into 51 sections and moved to its new location. It took an estimated 10,000 hours to put it back together again.

While the layout has been put together exactly as before, it does contain a few new scenes. But the biggest change from the previous layout is the control tower--there no longer is one in the centre of the layout. All trains are now controlled from second floor room at the rear of the layout room.

Click here to visit the St. Jacobs & Aberfoyle website.

To see photos I took of the layout in its former location, click here. To see a video I made of the layout in operation at its former location, click here.

Photos from the Kitchener-Waterloo Record and the layout's new website.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Feliz Navidad! from the M & M Sub.

It's Christmas, and time for another Christmas train. This time, it's a boxcar made by Mexican modeller Edgar Romero Roldán. It's based on a prototype car in the Kansas City Southern de Mexico Christmas Train.

From the CP Rail Manitoba & Minnesota Subdivision, I wish everyone a great Christmas season, and all the best in the new year.

Or, as they say in Mexico: Feliz Navidad!

Here's the prototype car that inspired Edgar:

And another one that he made:

(Great modelling, Edgar!)

For other M & M Sub. Christmas posts, see Merry (Boxcar) Christmas; Christmas and Model Trains: Garrison Keillor and the Dangers of Christmas; Lionel Trains on Christmas Morning; and Santa and Model Trains.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Grain Rush II

From the west end of the yard.

Earlier, I posted photos of a train of 40-foot boxcars filled with grain on the M & M Sub. Imagine my delight at "finding" it again, this time with two other grain trains in the Fort Frances yard!

Of course, some photos were in order. (Using, once again, my personal helicopter.)

From the east end.

On the M & M Sub., there are always two grain trains in staging. One is headed south to Thunder Bay or Duluth/Superior loaded with grain, the other is headed back to Winnipeg and the prairies for more loads. Every now and then, a train of 40-footers off of light rail branchlines joins them.

Very occasionally, like as happened recently, you can find them all in the yard.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Winnipeg's Oldest Home Layout Gone

A scene on the Malamute & Klondike

Back in 2010, I wondered what the oldest home layout in my hometown of Winnipeg was.

After a bit of research, I discovered the oldest layout--by which I meant the oldest layout in the same home and in the same basic condition as when it started--was 60 years old.

I didn't mention the owner's name, but it was Don McKinnon. He started his HO scale Malamute & Klondike layout in 1950.

Over the years, he changed things and added sections, but the layout still occupied the same place in his basement, with original elements intact.

One of Don's cars on the M & M Sub.

Don died earlier this year; this summer, his layout was dismantled. The oldest layout, at 63 years, is gone.

A piece of it lives on on the M & M Sub. I won't run it in regular service; it's too old for my early 1990s time frame. But it will be a memory for me of Don, and the Malamute & Klondike.

Now the oldest layout in Winnipeg is one that was started in 1968. The next oldest was begun in 1969.

Compared to them, the Manitoba & Minnesota Subdivision is pretty young. Next year it will mark its 20th anniversary.

As I noted in that earlier blog, we will likely never see layouts that old again. Today, people are much more mobile; the chances that Canadians will stay in the same house for 65 years, as Don did, are remote.

But here's to the Malamute & Klondike, now gone like so many others, but living on in memory.

Thanks to Don's friend Marvin Fetch for the photos.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Last Layout

Scene from Richard Stoving's last layout.

I think that every model railroader who has built a layout remembers their first one. Mine was a on a 4 by 8 sheet of plywood in my boyhood home. 

First layouts--like other firsts in our lives--live on in memory, often bathed in warm nostalgia. But what about the last layout?

That idea struck me while reading the most recent issue of Model Railroader. In it, Richard Stoving, now in his 70s, wrote that his Hudson River Water Level layout was his last pike.

That got me thinking: Is the Manitoba & Minnesota Sub. my last layout? After I take it down, will I build another?

I'm not as old as Richard (in my late 50s), but I do wonder if this might not be the case. Building a layout is fun, but it also takes space, money and time--and effort and energy.

As we get older, there may be enough of the former, but the latter may feel in short supply.

Scene from my third layout.

And even if we have enough of everything, time marches on, as it always does. At a certain point, there just isn't enough of it to build a new layout.

(I remember reading about how Tony Koester used this arithmetic to decide when take down his Allegheny Midland layout; calculating how many years it would take to build his next dream layout and then counting back to when he needed to dismantle his current one.)

The M & M Sub. is my fourth layout. (Counting the first two I made as a teen, and my third, the Grimm Valley Sub., which existed from 1988-94.) Next year, it will mark its 20th anniversary. It won't last forever. But I like to think I have one more layout in me.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Hiding Another Hole on the Manitoba & Minnesota Subdivision

How to hide that hole?

There sure are a lot of holes on the CP Rail Manitoba & Minnesota Subdivision! They were all neatly hidden before I took down a third of the layout and began a rebuilding process.

Earlier, I wrote about how I hid the newly exposed hole on the upper level (leading to the upper staging yard).

The hidden hole on the upper level.

Now it's time to do the same thing on the lower level, where the track punches through a wall to the lower level staging and the helix.

The photos on this page show where I am at right now. A few ideas are going through my mind about how to disguise the hole. Since the area near the hole represents a prairie town, a tunnel will be out of place.

It's a start . . . 

Luckily, I was able to procure a couple of bridges from my friend Arnold Walker; placing them across the entry will greatly aid in this effort.

Anyway, you're invited to follow along; together we'll see what I come up with.

Click here to see progress in hiding the hole.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Great Canadian Model Railroad: Edmonton's Monashee Pacific

Canada lost three great Canadian model railroad club layouts in the past couple of years: The Aberfoyle Junction near Aberfoyle, Ont., the Canada Central in Montreal and the Toronto Model Railroad Club. 

Fortunately, w still have the Edmonton Model Railroad Association’s Monashee Pacific Railway. 

The Edmonton Model Railroad Association was formed in 1946. The club built layouts in several locations before constructing a permanent home at the city's Fort Edmonton Park

The layout, which is still under construction, is based on an actual railroad that was surveyed and chartered in central British Columbia in 1896, but never built. As proposed, it was to link Vernon and Castlegar by way of the Monashee Mountains.

The Monashee Pacific represents what the club feels the railroad would have looked like in 1959, had it actually been built. Choosing this era gives them a chance to run a mix of steam and diesel power. 

Home of the Monashee Pacific

The layout is a two-level mushroom design, which allows almost twice as much mainline running as would be possible on a single level.

Route of the Monashee Pacific

The mainline itself is 785 feet long; it winds its way through 10 separate aisles, representing rolling hills, river valleys, and steep mountain terrain before arriving at Castlegar. 

Most of the track is code 83 flexible track, with some hand laid track in special locations. The control system is Digitrax digital command control, with handheld radio controllers allowing an engineer to stay close to the train.

The Monashee Pacific was featured in Train 7, Track 5 of Canadian Railway Modeller.  

Click here to visit the club's website.

For more Great Canadian Model Railroads, check out the GCMR Index.

Friday, December 6, 2013

The CPR Holiday Train

Note: This was written for the 2013 Holiday Train. If you want info on the 2014 Holiday Train, including the schedule, click here.

As it has for the past 15 years, the CPR Holiday Train is once again crossing Canada to raise support for Canadian food banks.

The train, which started its journey Nov. 30 in Quebec, consists of 14 decorated cars. The tour ends Dec. 16 in B.C.

This year the CPR is sponsoring a photo contest;  the winner will be awarded four tickets to ride the 2014 train. Photos on this page are from some of the entries; visit the Holiday Train photo contest page to submit a photo or vote for your favorite picture.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Grain Rush

First glimpse of the string of 40 footers
on the M & M Sub.

Farmers in western Canada may have to come up with a new term for the 2013 harvest--"bumper crop" doesn’t adequately describe what’s coming off the combines.

That''s the view of the Western Producer, western Canada's agricultural newspaper.

“In my 25 years in the grain business, I’ve never seen a crop this big from corner to corner,” said Derek Squair, president of Agri-Trend Marketing Inc.

Heading past my photo location; look--a caboose!

Based on his discussions with farmers, he said that yields are almost unspeakable.

The main challenge now is getting all that crop to port--there aren't enough hopper cars or railway capacity.

Coming into Fort Frances.

Fortunately, that's not a problem on the Manitoba & Minnesota Sub. Grain on the layout is moving just fine.

And since it is always the early 1990s on my layout, some of the grain is coming off of light-rail branchlines in 40-foot boxcars.

Leaving Fort Frances; Peace River
Paper mill in the background.

When I heard a string of them was coming down the M & M Sub., I grabbed my camera and headed trackside to get the photos on this page.

Modern railways are just fine with me, but there's still something about a string of 40-food boxcars . . . .

Headed to Thunder Bay; had to use my
private helicopter for this shot!

Click here to learn more about prototype 40-foot boxcars on CP Rail, including a link to Eric Gagnon's fine Trackside Treasure blog, a link to a YouTube video of the 40-footers in action on the layout, and a bit of info about how I made my string of those cars.