Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Winnipeg Model Railroad Club 60th Anniversary Graffiti Car


2015 marks the 60th anniversary of the Winnipeg Model Railroad Club (WMRC). The celebrate the event, the club created a new logo and a decal club members could apply to rolling stock (below).

As a member of the WMRC, it was important to mark this important occasion on the M & M Sub. But how?

Then late one night an unknown tagger furtively came up with a way to help me, and the club, celebrate its special anniversary.

Since the layout is set in the modern era (the early to mid-1990s), it's only appropriate that the best commemoration is one that fits that time: Graffiti.

To make the tag, I used gel pens, a method I have employed with other pieces of rolling stock.

Up close, it doesn't look as convincing as a commercial decal. But using the three-foot rule, it looks just fine (to me, at least).

As for the WMRC itself, the club has been around a long time, but it isn't the oldest model railroad club in Canada. That honour goes to the Model Railroad Club of Toronto, established in 1938.

The second oldest, from what I can tell, is the Model Railroad Association of Montreal, founded in 1950.

(Anyone know of any others in Canada founded before 1955?)

In 2005, the WMRC marked its 50th anniversary with a joint convention with the Canadian Association of Railway Modellers, the NMRA Thousand Lakes Region and the CPR and CN Lines SIGs.

This time around the club is being more low-key, but is celebrating all-the-same.

And now that celebration  includes a tagged car on the M & M Sub.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

VIA Rail to Return to CP Tracks Along Lake Superior?

Wouldn't it be great to ride a train here?

VIA Rail might be returning to CP tracks in northern Ontario, according to an article in Railway Age. 

The move is being planned after months of late arrivals due to track congestion on CN’s northern Ontario main line, compounded by slow orders arising from CN’s efforts to recover from two recent derailments. 

One option VIA is exploring is shifting to CP tracks between Winnipeg, and Sudbury, Ontario.

According to Railway Age, this is something Via Rail CEO Yves Desjardins-Siciliano hinted at last year.

In the article, he noted that shifting south to CP tracks would provide passengers on VIA’s iconic passenger train, The Canadian, with a more scenic route closer to the Great Lakes. At the same time, it would serve more communities.

If that happened, VIA passenger trains could leave CN tracks in Winnipeg, using the old CN Pine Falls Sub. (now Central Manitoba Railway) to access CP tracks in Transcona.

The trains could return to CN tracks near Parry Sound, Ont. (where the two railways employ directional running on each other’s tracks).

Interest in the idea is growing in Thunder Bay, which could once again host passenger trains for the first time since 1989, when VIA Rail moved to CN ‘s more northerly route.

But before it could happen, VIA would have to develop an agreement with CP, including training engineers to use the line.

Asked if that could happen this summer, a VIA spokesperson told the Thunder Bay Chronicle Journal “at this time it would be premature to answer positively or negatively to this.”

CP won’t say if it is in discussions with VIA about the possibility.

At many levels, this is a long shot. I doubt CP is anxious to host passenger service, and CN may be reluctant to give up the revenue. But from a railfan’s perspective, it would be great to have VIA on CP tracks--it's way more scenic. 

If it happens, maybe VIA would also return to CP tracks through the mountains in Alberta and B.C. 

One can only dream . . . .

Sunday, March 22, 2015

More Big Bang Theory, Autism and Model Trains

One of the more popular posts on this blog is about the Big Bang Theory, Autism and Model Trains.

I wrote it two years after first writing about the connection between some people with autism and trains, back in 2009.

I had to think of that Big Bang Theory post while checking the blog's stats today. Although that post appeared in 2011, it was in the top five most-visited posts this week.

(It also comes up near the top of a Google search for autism and model trains.)

I'm no expert on this topic. So I was glad to find another recent post on autism and model trains on the Autism Speaks, a website that advocates for people with autism.

On the site developmental pediatrician Dr. Amanda Bennett address the question: What is it about model trains?

In the post, she notes that “trains certainly seem to be a popular topic for the children we see in our autism clinic.”

As for why that is, she suggests a few reasons.

First, trains have wheels “and this will appeal to those whose sensory interests include watching objects spin. This is certainly common among children with autism.”

Second, “trains can be categorized into different models, types, sizes, etc. For some individuals with ASD, the ability to organize objects into categories is very appealing.”

Third, trains also come with schedules. “This, too, appeals to many people with ASD and is in line with a need for predictability and the inclination to memorize and recite information.”

For parents with a child with autism, model trains can offer a “an enjoyable opportunity to engage with your child – whether it involves talking about a favorite Thomas the Tank Engine video or a recent family trip to a local train depot,” she says.

This connection is one of the reasons a show like Thomas the Tank Engine is popular with some children with autism. 

Not only are there trains, but the locomotives and cars have clear facial expressions when conveying emotion, and the show itself proceeds at an easy-to-follow pace. 

I don't have a child with autism, but I know parents who do. I have had some of them over to see my layout and run the trains. It's a small, but (for me) special way I can be of some little assistance to them.

Maybe you are a parent of a child with autism who loves trains. If that's the case, I hope these few posts and links might be of assistance to you, too.

And if you are a model railroader, or belong to a club, and know of a family with an autistic child, perhaps you can ask whether they'd like to come see the trains. 

It might make a huge difference in a child's life--and for their parents. too.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

A Great Place to Live (Close to the Tracks)

The tracks are behind the house.

Changes to the M & M Sub, required me to move the only house on the layout to another location.

Before the changes, the house was right beside the tracks; now it is perched on a hill above the tracks.

The trains can't be seen, but I'm sure they can be heard (and felt) by the occupants!

The house can just be seen through
the trees above the train.

The location of the house made me wonder how many other houses have unique locations beside railway tracks in real life.

Where the house is located on the layout.

I'm not thinking of the houses that back on to mainlines in almost any major town or city, but ones that occupy special places.

It would be like the house below, located beside the Altoona, PA locomotive shop, which I photographed about five years ago.

The view from the house.

It would also be like these residences in Hanoi, Vietnam. Now that's close to the tracks!

I think I would prefer the setting below, to be honest. That looks like a great place to live! Unfortunately, I don't know where it is. Does anyone know?

The house below in Toronto would be cool, too.

Of course, we model railroaders are a peculiar lot; most people would avoid a house by the tracks.

And if we can't have one in real life, we can always have one on our layouts.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Wheel Report for Operations on the M & M Sub.

Two SW9s use the Wheel Report system to
switch cars in Fort Frances.

Model Railroaders use different systems to govern operations. I use a variation of the Wheel Report system on the CP Mail M & M Sub.

I first learned about the Wheel Report idea from an article by Jim Hediger in 1984 in Model Railroader. I like it because it requires no waybills, car cards or computer-generated switch lists.

A Wheel Report basically lets the operator do whatever he wants, while maintaining a semblance of realism.

In a Wheel Report system, there is only one piece of paper for each train. It tells operators how many cars are in each train, and blocks them by destination.

Another view.

The simplicity of the system lies in how it doesn't specify where cars go once they arrive at that destination. (That’s what waybills are for.)

The only rule of the Wheel Report is that the operator needs to pick up as many cars as are dropped off.

A typical Wheel Report for M & M Sub. mainline trains looks like this.

TRAIN: WPG-DULMX (Winnipeg-Duluth Mixed Freight)
LOCOMOTIVES: CP Rail 6027, 6023
BLOCKS: 1-13 Duluth, 14-17 Thunder Bay, 18 local.

At Fort Frances, five cars are dropped and five cars are picked up. Then the train makes its way off to Duluth (staging).

For locals, it would look like this.

TRAIN: Fort Frances Turn
LOCOMOTIVES: CP Rail 6027, 6023
STATIONS: 1 Ritchie, 5 Nance, 1 Turney.

Like what happens with mainline trains, the rule is to pick up as many cars as are dropped off. Which industry each car goes to is left up to the operator. 

(Common sense helps with the decision; a tank car would go to a refinery, and a hopper to a grain elevator.)

A local passes through Ritchie.

Whit Towers, of Alturas & Lone Pine model railroad fame (1917-1999), was one of the first model railroaders to operate his layout in a realistic fashion. He called the Wheel Report the “thinking man’s” car-forwarding system. I like that description.

For operational purists, this is far from perfect. In fact, it's probably down-right irritating. But for me it provides a relaxing, simple and paper-free way to operate trains in a semi-realistic manner.  

Read more about the Wheel Report system on the Gateway NMRA website. Got to the chapter titled Realistic Operations Phase 5.

Learn how the Little Rock Line, an N scale layout, uses Wheel Reports for car routing, including automating them with Excel. Examples of Wheel Report lists are included.

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Drone Video of Ontario Southland Snow Plow in Action, with Bonus Railfan Buried in Snow

I know I said I wouldn't post any more drone videos, but this one has a snow plow--and two F units, including one in classic CNR green and gold livery.

It was shot last month on the Ontario Southland Railway. The plow extra ran from Salford, Ont. to Tilsonburg, and then on to St. Thomas.

According to the person who posted it, it is the first time the F units were paired in plow duty.

Click here to watch the video. You won't be disappointed.

And after you watch that video, don't miss this one showing a railfan buried by snow flying off that same plow.

What did he expect, standing so close to the tracks?

The person who shot the video seems to have got a face full of snow, too.

Friday, March 6, 2015

Stay in a Boxcar Hotel

There are a number of hotels or inns where you can stay in a refurbished caboose. But I'm only aware of a couple places where you can stay in a box car.

One place is the Northern Rail Traincar Inn at Two Harbors, Minnesota.

Located 35 minutes from Duluth, guests can make a reservation in one of what looks like eight boxcars at the Inn.

The former SP and WP boxcars have GSSX reporting marks. That stands for Gopher State Scrap and Metal, now known as Alter Metal Recycling.

The company has a railroad division that specializes in railcar repair, demolition, sales and leasing.

Another place is the Train Station Inn in Tatamagouche, Nova Scotia.

Built in 1928 by Canadian National Railways and used by that railway 1997, today the station features accommodations in cabooses and two boxcars.

Anyone know of other hotels or inns that feature non-caboose rolling stock?

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Vintage Niagara, St. Catharines & Toronto Railway Photos

The Internet, it is said, has not only eliminated a sense of geography--we can be in touch with and know just about anything and anyone from anywhere--but also a sense of time.

Want to watch an old episode of I Love Lucy? Search YouTube and you will find them.

The old station on Geneva St.

Want to read the August 4, 1967 issue of Time Magazine? For a fee, you can browse it online, together with all the other back issues.

Is the classic 1970 movie The Battle of Waterloo one of your favourites? Want to hear The Doors sing Light My Fire at the Hollywood Bowl in 1968? Again, they're just a click away.

Once upon a time you had to go to a book store, a record store, the library or wait until a movie was on TV or a song played on the radio to see, hear or read those things.

Now they are available any time. Time itself, it seems, has lost some of its meaning.

Which is a long preamble to the subject of this post: Vintage photos of the Niagara, St. Catharines & Toronto Railway.

I was born in St. Catharines three years before the NS&T shut down. (I blogged about it here.) Whenever I want to remember it, I can pull out one of the books I own about it.

Or, in this Internet age, I can visit Vintage St. Catharines on Facebook.

Vintage sites for various places in North America are cropping up on the Web. This one is a place for people to post photos and memories of St. Catharines of the past.

Already, the group has over 5,000 members.

As I scrolled through the photos, I found a number of the old NS&T. I have no idea where they came from. Maybe they were copied off the Web. Or maybe they are from someone's old collection.

However they came to be on that page, I am sharing them here. Maybe you, like me, occasionally feel like escaping the normal constraints of time. If that's the case, enjoy!

And if you are from St. Kitts, as it is also known, visit the Vintage St. Catharines Facebook page.