Thursday, July 31, 2014

Uncovering Old Turntable History in Edmonton, and on the M & M Sub.

In July, a piece of history was uncovered in Edmonton, Alberta—the old Canadian Northern Railway turntable pit.

The pit, unearthed on that city’s MacEwan University's campus during a construction project, was buried about 50 years ago when the roundhouse was torn down.

Once construction is completed, the pit will be re-filled and will once again disappear from view.

Click here to read the story in the Edmonton Journal.

It’s a different situation on the CP Rail Manitoba & Minnesota Sub. The old roundhouse was also torn down many years ago in Fort Frances, and the turntable pit filled in. 

Unlike in Edmonton, the concrete wall of the turntable pit can still be seen. It's in the new locomotive repair area, as seen in the photo below.

Click here to read about how I made the old turntable pit, and gave this part of the layout a sense of history.

Photo at top from the Edmonton Journal.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Near Miss on a Train Bridge or, Two Indiana Women Lucky to be Alive

Two women in Indiana narrowly averted death when they were almost hit by a train on a bridge in Indiana.

The incident occurred July 10 on a bridge owned by the Indiana Railroad.

Since the bridge was too high for them to jump off of, they survived by laying down between the tracks and letting the train cross over them.

They were charged with trespassing.

See the video (a cab-eye view of the incident) on the BBC website. Read more about it on the New York Daily News website.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Panoramic Views of the CP Rail Manitoba & Minnesota Subdivision

Looking east.

I got an iPhone recently, and decided to try out the Panorama feature in the layout room; the results are on this page.

The room is 21 feet long, 17 feet wide on the west side, and 12 feet feet wide on the east.

Looking west.

The panorama view distorts things a bit when you are too close to the subject, but it gives a good idea of what the whole room looks like.

The panorama view allowed me to take a full photo of the Peace River Paper Mill. If you are modelling the 1990s, as I am, industries that are served by rail need to be big. The mill is over ten feet long.

The Peace River Paper Mill.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Best Summer Scene Ever?

Last winter I posted photos of what could be considered the best snow scene ever. Now that it's summer, I ask: Is this one of the best summer scenes ever?

The snow scene.

Once again, the modeller behind this amazing scene is Stefan Foerg, a modeller and diorama creator who lives in Germany.

The owner of this diorama is Jürg Rüedi of Switzerland. He posted photos of how this eight-foot long scene was created on Model Railroad Hobbyist.

As with the snow scene diorama, the locomotives were detailed and weathered by Rodney Walker and the cars are by Gary Christensen. 

More photos of the scene can be found here.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

More Tree Bark for Rocks

Earlier, I posted about how Model Railroader had published my article about using tree bark to make rock faces.

You can read the article to learn more about my technique, but it's really simple: Go to any lake or river side and look for pieces of bark that have been stripped off of trees by the water.

After you collect them, bring them home and glue them your scenery base with white glue. (I use extruded Styrofoam; I use nails to hold the bark in place until the glue dries.)

Cheap spackling paste can be used to fill the gaps, and your favourite scenery materials (I use Woodland Scenics) can be used to hide any leftover gaps and spaces.

The bark can also be used vertically, as above. This bark is smoother, from a smaller tree. Butted against each other, they combine to make a nice cliff face.

There are a number of advantages to using tree bark for rocks. First, there's no plaster mess. Second, they all look different--no more turning rock moulds this way and that for variety.

Third, they come pre-coloured. A bit of drybrushing can bring out the detail.

Finally, they're free. Need any more be said?

The scenes in these photos are gone now; I tore it down to make way for a one-level prairie scene. But the tree bark for rocks idea lives on; maybe it will work on your layout, too.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Bob Rivard's SOO Line: A Great (Almost) Canadian Layout

One of the things I've enjoyed most about this blog is featuring the great layouts of others—especially great Canadian model railroads.  I have especially been glad to feature layouts that are now gone, or that don't have much of a presence on the Web.

Among the layouts I've been wanting to add is Bob Rivard’s SOO Line.

During the time Bob models—the mid to late 1970s—the SOO Line was mostly American, although the CPR had a controlling interest. (CP Rail took full control in 1990, about the time I model.) That makes it almost Canadian--good enough for me!

What makes Bob's layout great is how he has recreated specific scenes on the SOO Line in and around Minneapolis and St. Paul, MN in the mid-to-late 1970s, using only the locomotives and rolling stock that would have appeared at that time and place.

Bob sent me some of his favorite photos of his layout; find them above in this post. Below are two other photos Bob posted on the new SOO Line Models in Action Facebook page, a page for modellers of the SOO Line who want to post photos of their models in action, in any scale.

In addition to the photos on this page, you can see videos of Bob’s SOO Line layout here and here. 

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Great Modelling Photo

One of the layouts I have been privileged to feature on this blog in my Great Canadian Model Railroads series is Sylvain Duclos' Bonaventure et Chambly.

Sylvain is one of the those modellers who make you wish you could be that good; he gives you something to aspire to.

Like in the photo above, shared by Jason Shron of Rapido Trains. (It does feature one of Jason's vans, after all!)

As one person wrote on Facebook after seeing the photo, it was hard not to think at first glance that is wasn't real: "Not a scale buster in sight."

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Planes and Trains--in the River?

In 2009, in Wichita, Kansas, I saw a trainload of Boeing 737 aircraft fuselages where there were supposed to be—on a train on the tracks.

Not like what happened on July 3, when a train carrying planes from Kansas to the state of Washington ended up in a river in Montana.

The 19-car BNSF train was carrying the complete fuselages of six single-aisle 737s, fuselage panels for a long-range 777, and wing parts for a jumbo 747.

How they're supposed to look.

Fortunately, there were no injuries.

The derailment threatened to throw a wrench in the tightly choreographed Boeing manufacturing process, which depends on just-in-time deliveries of parts.

I'm sure it surprised a few rafters on the river, too.

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Model Citizens: A New Documentary About Model Railroading

I recently became aware of Model Citizens, a new documentary about model railroading by journalist Sara Kelly.
Kelly, who teaches at National University in San Diego, became so intrigued by model railroading after visiting the San Diego Model Railroad Museum that she decided to do a documentary about the hobby. Her goal is to release it to the festival circuit sometime after spring, 2015. 
Among the people she interviewed about involvement in the hobby was Hollywood actor Michael Gross.
I interviewed Sara earlier this month. Find that conversation below.
How did you get interested in doing a documentary about model railroading?
As a journalist, I'm always looking for a good story. Since 2008, I've lived in San Diego, which is home to the world famous San Diego Model Railroad Museum, one of the largest of its kind anywhere. 

When I finally got around to visiting, I was immediately drawn in. The extreme focus of the model railroaders, and the incredible artistry of their layouts, made me think that model railroading would be an amazing documentary topic.

For the first few months, I shot exclusively at the museum. I owe a tremendous debt of gratitude to Association president Tom Ilas, and to Mike Thornhill, who took me under his wing and worked with me through several attempts to record the on-board perspective from one of his trains using my tiny GoPro camera. 

He even bought a depressed center flat car to allow the camera to sit low enough that it (just barely) cleared all the tunnels on the layout. 

San Diego Model Railroad Museum

What interests you about model railroading and model railroaders?
First and foremost is the human angle. That's what's universal, and that's what's going to extend the Model Citizens audience beyond just model railroaders. I think any people who are passionate about what they do are great potential story subjects.

Although I've never been a model railroader, I've always had a nerdy obsession with miniature structures, transportation infrastructure and roadside vernacular architecture. 

When I was in the writing program at Brown University, I took classes with a professor named Patrick Malone, an industrial archeologist and technology historian who gave highly popular lectures on roadside architecture. I also took a class from him on bridges and dams.

A lot of what I see on model railroading layouts reminds me of Professor Malone's information-packed slideshows of roadside (and trackside) structures. Think Burma-Shave billboards, Mail Pouch barns and buildings shaped like milk bottles or giant oranges. The history is fascinating, and it's just a lot of fun to look at. 

Are you a model railroader?

No. Like any good journalist, I can't be part of the story. As an outsider, I'm discovering model railroading in much the same way I hope my audience will.

Why did you want to make a documentary about the hobby?

There's a lot of great train video out there, but most of what I've seen has been videography by model railroaders for model railroaders. As an outsider, I think I bring a fresh perspective to the idea of representing model railroading to the wider world. 

And that's my biggest challenge: Creating something that will seem valid to those inside the hobby while generating interest among those outside the hobby.

Also, as many inside the hobby have observed, I've noticed that most model railroaders these days tend to be older. There are young people involved, but their numbers may not be big enough to keep the hobby as healthy and vibrant in the future as it is now. I'm hoping that Model Citizens can at least help bring the hobby more into the mainstream.

A lot of young people these days are rediscovering cool interests and ideas. Look at the steampunk movement, for example, or Comic-Con. Model railroading is finally ready for its close-up. I can't imagine a better time to reintroduce it to the general public.

Was it hard to get model railroaders to talk about their hobby?
At first I had a hard time establishing trust. It took a few letters and phone calls just to get my first tour of the San Diego Model Railroad Museum. It was doubly difficult for me as an outsider without any real knowledge of model railroading and as someone who was no longer affiliated with a media outlet. Instead of simply flashing my business card, I had a lot of explaining to do.

Once I started working with Mike Thornhill at the museum, I became a regular for a while and I established trust just by showing up week after week. 

I decided early on that this would be a long-term project, and that the only way I'd be able to really tap into the human aspects of the hobby would be to take my time and really get to know the lay of the land. 

I also decided early on that I'd have to develop a website for the project and regularly post short videos on focused topics that would give people a sense of where I was going with the project while showing them that my intentions were good. 

What do you hear about the future of model railroading through your work on the documentary?

I hear a lot of concern about the future of the hobby. It ranges from a sort of quiet acceptance that the hobby is going away to a zealous insistence that it's not. 
One person who has a particularly interesting perspective on the future of the hobby is Stuart Forsyth, who is both a model railroader and a futurist. He works primarily in the legal realm, helping his clients prepare for the future. You'll see his perspective in the video on my site titled "A Futurist Talks ModelRailroading."
How are you funding the documentary?
I'm entirely self-funded at the moment, though my days of being able to spread expenses out over several credit card statements may be coming to an end. 

I anticipate some pretty big bills coming up. For instance, I want to use some historic model railroading footage from the Works Progress Administration (WPA) archives. They've offered me a good deal, but just a few minutes of old footage will cost me thousands of dollars to license.

I'm also running out of memory on my giant G-drives and will soon need to invest in what amounts to a small server farm just for Model Citizens video. This will also cost a few thousand dollars. And I've started talking with someone who may wind up creating an original score. I also know I'll need to hire a sound engineer for post production, which will cost a lot.

My plan is to break up most of these big-ticket items into manageable funding goals and launch Kickstarter campaigns for each. 

Will you be shooting any video in Canada?

I'd love to. And I'll definitely put in on the list. I'd also love to visit layouts in England, Europe and Australia, where there are vibrant model railroading communities. 

I'd love to visit layouts in Asia--particularly Japan, where there's a lot of interest in pop culture and (and I say this with trepidation, knowing some may be offended by the term) "toys." In Japan, collectible toys are a very adult interest, so you won't find any grownups there bothered by the term. 

When and where will Model Citizens be shown?
When I finish editing most likely next spring, I will enter Model Citizens in the film festival circuit. I hope this leads to a distribution deal. 
Is there a double meaning in the title? (Model Citizens.)
Well, the movie is about modellers. They are all citizens of a special society. Plus, who doesn't want to be a model citizen?

For more information, visit the Model Citizens website, or click here to read an article by Sara.