Saturday, January 31, 2015

Photo of a VIA Rail High-Speed Train? I Wish.

I was visiting OKthePKone of my favourite Canadian railway news websiteswhen I spotted this photo.

The image, Photoshopped by an anonymous designer from a photo of a Hitachi class 395 at London's St. Pancras Station, accompanied a story about a dedicated passenger rail line in Quebec City-Windsor corridor.

The article quoted VIA Rail CEO Yves Desjardins-Siciliano as saying that "it's a definite possibility, meaning that we are acquiring track as it becomes available in the corridor."

He went on to say that he believes he can raise private capital to fund the purchase of track.

Currently, 98 percent of VIA's trains run on CN or CPR tracks, meaning that passenger trains take second place to freight trains.

As a result, VIA’s on-time performance declined last year to about 77 percent because of increased freight traffic, Desjardins-Siciliano said.

Desjardins-Siciliano estimated that a high-speed train in the corridor would require upwards of $3.5 billion for the track and right-of-way alone. 

A full high-speed network with trainsets like the ones in the photo above would cost three times as much—something that isn't in the cards.

Which means that the only thing we Canadians can do is look at the photo and dream.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Forest Products Train on the Manitoba & Minnesota Sub.

It's a pretty common sight here on the prairies: Long trains of bulkhead flatcars and boxcars headed east loaded with lumber from B.C.

Since I model a line which features trains running from western Canada down to the U.S. heartland (based on the historic Duluth, Winnipeg & Pacific, now CN), I needed to have a train like that on the M & M Sub.

My unit forest products train is in keeping with my overall philosophy of simplicity and plausibility. That's why it doesn't bother me to use MDC 60 foot flats (not prototypically correct, I know) or lumber loads with the loads painted on them.

(Darned if I can remember who made those loads, though. There is no name on them. They were pretty easy to find up here in Canada in the 1990s. Anyone know the manufacturer?)

The train also contains Proto 1000 and Walthers Thrall All-Door boxcars, and one or two from other makers, too.

On the M & M Sub., the train comes from Winnipeg (upper level staging) and winds its way down to Duluth/Superior on the lower level.

Upon arrival, the loads are removed and its ready to head back to B.C. to get more lumber for those home-hungry Americans.

Which is a good thing; when loaded, the 18-car train is heavy. It's much easier for it to go down that way than up.

The forest products train is one of five unit trains that operate on the M & M Sub.: Forest products plus a double-stack, two grain trains, and a coal train.

To me, it looks fine. For anyone who is bothered, I can only say: Stand back three feet and enjoy the view!

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Jim Hediger's Ohio Southern: 35th Anniversary of a Landmark Layout

2015 marks the 35th anniversary of one of North America’s seminal layouts: Jim Hediger’s Ohio Southern.

Today, when double-deck layouts are so common, it’s hard to remember a time before anyone thought they were possible—much less building them.

Hediger was the first, as far as anyone knows, to build a double-deck layout. 

He started construction of the OS in 1980. Many of the techniques we take for granted today were developed by him.

When I was planning the Manitoba & Minnesota Sub., the OS was my inspiration. I read and re-read articles about it. 

So it is only fitting to highlight and celebrate this pioneering and landmark layout on my blog.

The OS has been featured several times in Model Railroader magazine, where Hediger worked as an editor for many years, most recently in 2005 on the occasion of the 25th anniversary.

The layout doesn’t have a website. The photos in this post were lifted from back issues of Model Railroader, a few were found on the Web.

As for the layout itself, it is in an 22 by 28 foot L-shaped room and modelled after the real-life Detroit, Toledo & Ironton Railroad. The locale is southern Ohio, and the era is the early 1970s.

The mainline run is 220 feet, and the two levels are connected by a helix (also a novel thing 35 years ago) and staging yards (probably also novel back then). 

Of special note for me is that Hediger still uses DC to power the layout, with walk-around throttles—just like on the M & M Sub.!

So thanks, Jim, for the inspiration and the ideas. The M & M Sub. wouldn’t exist if not for you.

More photos of the Ohio Southern can be found on this Model Railroader layout tour page.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

An Interesting Way to Use the CP Rail Multimark

So here’s an interesting way to use the CP Rail Multimark, also known colloquially as the “Pacman.”

It was developed by a model railroader named Lance who operates a blog called Northwest to Southern Cross. 

In a blog post in 2009, he wrote that he started a new freelance model railroad called the Cascade Railway.

The fictitious line was a bridge road located in the Pacific Northwest, connecting western Washington with south central Oregon. Like Montana Rail Link, the Cascade Railway would operate it's own freight trains and locals, but would also host long distance trains of the Burlington Northern.

Home road power had two paint schemes. The first was a version of the Canadian Pacific grey & maroon (the original scheme).

The second was a modern scheme, a bright red and black with a modern logo—similar to how the CPR became CP Rail. The logo represented a volcanic mountain in front of a full moon—the well-known Multimark on its side.

The layout was completed to a stage where operating sessions were held every month or two. Just before scenery stage, he tore it down. Now he's working on a new layout featuring Australian railways (the "southern cross" in the blog title.) 

I don't know; for this CP Rail modeller, seeing the Multimark used this way takes a little getting used to. But it looks good, and conveys the idea Lance was trying to communicate. Maybe the real CP Rail should have thought of doing it that way!

Click here to learn more about the history and uses of the Multimark.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Trip Along the Line 2: Photo Tour of the M & M Sub. Upper Level

Completing the updated photo tour of the CP Rail M & M Sub., which began in the previous post on the lower level.

After entering the storage room (where it began its trip in the staging yard), our train circles the room two-and-a-half times to reach the upper level of the layout.

The other side of the 5 by 9 storage room. The room houses the staging yards and the helix--or what passes for a helix, since it isn't a circle but more of a rectangle. The grade is 1.5 percent. That's the upper staging yard on top--the final destination. (Click here to learn more about how I built the helix.)

The train passes over two drop-down gates at the doorway to the storage room. Since I am just about the only person who ever goes in there, they usually stay in the upright position. You can see the layout room through the door.

The train emerges into the layout room through a tunnel, directly above where it started its journey at the beginning of the trip.

After passing through the short wall, it passes across the entrance way. This time it's on a nod-under. (Click here to read about my philosophy and construction of the nod-under and swinging gate.)

The train heads into the town of Nance (named after my good friend Sam Nance). This is the location of an interchange with the Peace River Norther, which serves local industries and an off-the-layout paper mill. (See An Industry That Isn't There.)

Once again, you can see that the train is basically following the same route as before one level below.

Nance is a major passing point on the layout--the only place for trains to pass on the upper level. Train lengths on the M & M Sub. are 18-20 cars, plus two locomotives.

Leaving Nance, the train goes up a slight grade towards Turney (named after Canadian Model Railway editor and friend Morgan Turney). The upper level is one one foot wide.

Turney has a grain elevator and a railway museum, complete with outdoor exhibits--a feature I haven't seen modelled much on layouts. Below it is the lower level team tracks and industries at the west end of Fort Frances.

Outside of Turney the train goes through a cut and ducks under a bridge to go back into the storage room and the upper staging yard. Click here to learn how I hid the hole between the layout and storage rooms.

As our train enters the upper staging yard, the journey across the line is complete. The trip took seven minutes (non-stop). Hope you enjoyed it!

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Trip Along the Line: Photo Tour of the M & M Sub. Lower Level

A panoramic view of the CP Rail M & M Sub.

One thing I like seeing in model railroad magazines are photos of layouts in situ--seeing how it fits into the layout room, and how the trains get from one point to another.

You hardly ever see that, of course; magazines like to feature great close-up photos, and rarely have space (or editorial desire) for lots of other overall photos. (Unlike the late Rail Model Journal, which regularly featured dozens of black & white photos of featured layouts.)

So I thought I would post a new photo tour of the Manitoba & Minnesota--a trip around the layout from start to finish, starting with the lower level.

Let's follow a Duluth to Winnipeg mixed freight from the lower to upper staging yards, and everything in between. Trip time, at scale speed with no stops, is just over seven minutes. (A link to the tour of the upper level is at the bottom of this post.) 

We find DUL-WPGMX in the lower staging yard, track four, with two Kato SD45s on the point. The six-track staging yard represents Duluth, MN-Superior, WI and Thunder Bay, Ont. Track power in the staging yard is controlled with simple on-off light switches.

The train makes its first appearance on the layout, emerging through a tunnel from the lower staging yard in the storage room.

After a short passage through a wall, the train crosses a swinging gate across the Peace River.

After passing over the gate, it passes by the large Peace River Paper Mill. A plant switcher works the five spurs in the mill.

The train enters the Fort Frances yard, going past the small engine terminal and east yard throat.

It comes to a stop by the west yard throat. All trains stop here to change crews, and mixed freights drop off and pick up cars. (But not this one, this time!)

The train leaves Fort Frances, swinging past some industries and the team tracks (with piggyback ramp) on its way out of town. That's my messy work desk below the layout.

After passing beneath a bridge, the train rolls past the prairie town of Ritchie (named after my good friend Rick Ritchie). That's the storage room through the door in the left background, where the train started its journey.

A pull-back shot to show the centre peninsula, showing our train passing TB-WPGMX (Thunder Bay-Winnipeg Mixed) in the siding at Ritchie. The photos on the fascia show the before and after shots from changes in the layout over the past few years.

Our train is about the leave the visible portion of the layout for the helix in the storage room. That's the outskirts of Fort Frances in the right background. The trees in the centre serve as a view block.

And we're back where we started, in the storage room staging yard. Our train is about the begin its climb to the upper level on a track the circles the storage room on a 1.5 percent grade.

Next: The upper level.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Photo Album of the Cougar River Subdivision

Ken in the mid-80s with the first version of
the Cougar River Sub.

One thing about my brother-in-law Ken Epp: He was organized. He kept copious records, including of his HO scale Cougar River Subdivision.

Ken with version two.

After he died, his wife lent me the album. I went through it and took iPhone photos of many of the prints in it. I have assembled those photos on my Flickr page, together with a layout plan of the Cougar River Sub.

If you want to see the history of the layout, from its simple start in a basement back room to its four-level completion, click here. 

The final layout, showing all four levels.

To read more about Ken, and about his layout (including a link to videos), click here.

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Another Look at Cheap & Easy Coal Loads

A discussion on a model railroad forum about using real coal for coal loads caught my attention. What, a poster wanted to know, was the best way to make a realistic looking HO scale coal load?

The poster wanted to use real coal. He had tried smashing it with a hammer; but it was too messy and taking too long.

Someone suggested putting the coal in a bag to limit the mess. Another said that he put lumps of coal between two sheets of plywood, then drove over them with his truck. That sped things up.

Hey--do whatever works for you, I say. But for me mattress foam was the answer. Cut it to size, spray paint it black and insert into coal cars.

In 2010, I wrote about this cheap and easy method. With over 3,000 views to date, it's one of the more popular posts on this blog.

Monday, January 5, 2015

Mirror, Mirror on the Wall (and on the M & M Sub.)

The mirror makes it look like the tracks
go on and on . . . .

The legendary model railroader John Allen pioneered many innovations in the hobby, including the use of mirrors to make scenes appear larger.

Can you spot the mirror in Allen's
city of Port?

I don't have even a fraction of Allen's ability or artistry, but I, too, have a mirror on the Manitoba & Minnesota Sub.

In my case, it makes a couple of spurs at the Peace River mill look like they continue on beyond the layout room.

Since the tracks are tucked into a corner, behind a large mill building, the mirror isn't very noticeable. But a look in that direction enables the illusion.

Another of Allen's inventive mirrors.