Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Calgary Supertrain 2015: Ray's Street Railway

Another highlight of the 2015 Calgary Supertrain was Ray’s Street Railway, created by Ray Clifford.

The box-style diorama, which features a loop of track running through a 1930s prairie city scene, is 20 feet long and built at 1:24 scale.

The layout has an LED lighting system for night scenes, along with working street lights and illuminated signs.

The scratchbuilt streetcars traverse a simple loop past scratchbuilt buildings, vehicles and custom-made figures.

Whenever I walked by, Ray was often surrounded by people enjoying the display—and it’s easy to see why, from these photos.

Now retired, Ray likes to take his layout on the road to shows. He can be contacted at 

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Calgary Supertrain 2015: More Great Modelling from Tom Beaton

There was more great modelling from Tom Beaton at this year’s Supertrain in Calgary. 

Tom, who is well known in narrow gauge circles for his modeling of the Pacific northwest, had his unique 36 inch circular On30 layout at the annual show, along with his inventive sonotube displays.

Modelling in a tube!

Tom’s modelling was part of the South Bank Short Lines display at Supertrain.

A view from a bit further back.

Tom will be presenting a clinic at the Sept. 2-5 Narrow Gauge convention in Houston, Texas. 

Says Tom about the clinic: “I model Western Canadian Temperate Rain Forests. I show how I do the trees, and all that grows in these forests down to the fungus's. Stumps, cut, hollow and rotten. Rotten logs, ferns, mosses and many other of the ground cover of the forest, using as much natural materials as I can.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

2015 Calgary Supertrain Photos

Two of four exhibit spaces for the show.

Congrats to the Calgary Model Railway Society on another successful Supertrain! This year's edition was held in a new location; from what I could tell, everything worked out very well.

A nice scene on the Edmonton
N-Scalers layout.

With the show spread out over two indoor soccer pitches, hallways and two other gyms, three was plenty of space for the layouts and exhibits and to move around.

Another nice scene, this time on the layout of the
Independent Free-Mo Operating Group.

As usual, the layouts were great, as were the other exhibits. A highlight was seeing the KISS concert scene for real. (Read about it here on this blog.)

The KISS concert scene, complete with sound.

Photos on this page are a few of the things that caught my eye (besides Bowser's announcement of its new SD40-2F Red Barn model, that is); over a couple of other posts I'll share some other great modelling.

A detailed tank car unloading scene, also on the
Independent Free-Mo Operating Group layout.

Great pipe load on the Independent Free-Mo layout.

A nice sawmill scene on the N scale Spokane
International Railroad layout.

Great B.C. scene on the Bow Valley club
layout #2.

Monday, April 20, 2015

CP Rail SD40-2F Red Barn Update: Model Variations and Note from Lee English of Bowser

Earlier, when Bowser announced its Canadian-style SD40-2, I asked CEO Lee English if he planned to also do the CP Rail SD40-2F Red Barn.

The answer, back then in 2013, was no; he had no plans to bring out the distinctive and unique unit.

But then something changed. Today I asked Lee why.

He replied that it was partly because they already had the SD40-2 frame, and also because he knew Canadians would be interested in the model.

But here was also an element of whimsy, he said. 

Although he had initially decided against making the model, there was always a chance he would change his mind--as his staff will testify, he said.

"If I walk up to Scott or Rich (my researchers) and want to talk they will say 'Now what has changed?'

"One thing I learned working with my Dad is that the first idea is not always the right idea.  Also the second, third, fourth and more my not be good either."

As for me, I'm glad Lee's first idea not to make the SD40-2F wasn't his last idea!

In terms of the model itself, Lee says there will be two nose doors variations: One with port hole and one without. 

The horn locations will be by road numbers and there will be two paints schemes (CP Rail and Twin Flags). The three class lights will be individually controlled.

As for release date, they are aiming for 2016.

Photo credit Ron Wischer.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Calgary Supertrain: Bowser Announces CP Rail Red Barn!

Scott Davis shows off Bower's
newest model.

Dreams do come true! Finally, a great looking and great running HO scale SD40-2F--otherwise known as a Red Barn--is being made in plastic by Bowser.

A quality plastic Red Barn has been on my wish list for a long time (as Jason Shron knows only too well).

A photo of a Red Barn placed near the Canadian-style
 SD40-2s was the only clue to the big surprise.

Bowser rep Scott Davis confirmed the new model at the Calgary Supertrain show. He said that it is slated for delivery sometime next year.

Scott was also showing off some pre-production models of the Canadian-style SD40-2. Their release has been delayed until fall.

Can't wait until they are delivered!

CP Rail only built 25 Red Barns, but for those of us who model that railway in the west in the 1990s it's a must-have.

Now all we need is an RTR chop-nose GP-9 and all will be well with the world.

Click here to read a follow-up interview with Bowser CEO Lee English, including info about model variations for the Red Barn.

Cranbrook Alcos Restored to Former Glory

Earlier on this blog I wrote about how CPR FA-2 #4090 and FB-2 4469 in Cranbrook, B.C. were getting repainted to restore them to their glory days.

That project has been completed, as the photo above shows. 

The units in 2011.

The units were repainted by volunteers from the Cranbrook Sunrise Rotary Club. A celebration is planned for later this year to commemorate the restoration.

Read more about the restoration at OKthePK.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Going to Supertrain in Calgary, April 18-19

Over the past 20 or so years, Canada has changed dramatically.

Economically, culturally and politically, power and influence has shifted away from central Canada to the West, as Darrel Bricker and John Ibbitson detailed in their book The Big Shift.

It has shifted in another way, too--in model railroading.

For a long time, the biggest model railroad show in Canada was in Toronto. Today, that honour goes to Supertrain in Calgary.

The 2015 Supertrain is this weekend, April 18-19, and--luckily for me--business takes me to Alberta this week so, I get to go. It's the third time I have been able to attend.

I'm looking forward to it.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

View From The Dome Car

One of the best seats on VIA Rail's The Canadian is in the Dome Car; there's nothing else quite like it.

(A close second is the Panorama Car, which is added to the train for its trip through the Rockies.)

If there's no other reason for you to take a train trip in Canada, sitting in the Dome Car would be sufficient.

Watching Canada pass by, seeing meets with freights, watching as the signals are knocked down at dusk--that is the quintessential Canadian passenger train experience.

The panorama photo above, taken on my recent trip from Melville, Sask. to Winnipeg, hardly does it justice. But enjoy it all the same.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Following the Trail of the Canadian Northern Railway: Rail Travel Tours 100th Anniversary Trip

My trip started on a warm spring day in Winnipeg.

What would you do if you were offered a chance to take the train?

If you're like me, you'd happily accept--which is what I did this past week when Daryl Adair of Rail Travel Tours asked me to take a trip to write an article for the Winnipeg Free Press about a special August 18-20 tour to mark the 100th anniversary of the Canadian Northern Railway (CNoR).

The tour will follow a portion of the route of the CNoR started as a competitor to the CPR in Manitoba in the 1880s and 1890s. 

By the time we arrived in Dauphin, we were caught
by a spring blizzard.

The railway was officially chartered in 1899 to build a line linking the prairies with the port of Thunder Bay (then Port Arthur/Fort William) on Lake Superior, and then on to central Canada. 

The line reached Edmonton in 1905, and construction to Vancouver began in 1910. The last spike was driven in B.C. in 1915.

Dauphin's railway station, opened in 1912.

About the same time the CNoR was being built, a third transcontinental railway was under construction: The Grant Trunk Pacific. 

When neither railway proved profitable, they were amalgamated by the Canadian government in 1918 to form Canadian National Railways. 

The snow had stopped by the time we
arrived in Canora.

Significant portions of the old CNoR system survive under CN, including the Churchill, Man. line that I travelled on in April, and which the tour will follow in August. 

(Other portions include the line from Toronto to Longlac, Ontario; the line from the Yellowhead Pass southwest to Vancouver; and the line from Winnipeg to Duluth, Minnesota, CN’s primary connection to Chicago.)

The Canora station in nicer weather--like it will in be in August
during the Rail Travel Tours trip.

Coming home, my journey was on the CN main line from Melville, Sask. to Winnipeg—the former GTP line.

The Melville, Sask. station, with The Canadian.

The August trip by Rail Travel Tours will enable participants to travel by VIA Rail on the former CNoR line to Canora, Sask., then bus down to Melville and take VIA's The Canadian back to Winnipeg. 

While waiting for The Canadian, I caught this new pair
of sequentially-numbered ES44AC units.

While in Canora and Melville, the tour will visit local railway stations, museums and other attractions to learn more about the area, and the railway's impact on life in the the two towns.

The tour is also a fundraiser for the Winnipeg Railway Museum; before departure, participants will also get to tour the Museum, which is located at the VIA station in downtown Winnipeg.

View from the dome car; best seat on the train!

The tour promises to be a great adventure for people who enjoy train travel, for history buffs and for those who want to learn more about small-town life on the prairies.

Click here to learn more about the Winnipeg Railway Museum/Canadian Northern 100th Anniversary Tour. The cost is $725 double and $825 single. You can also call 1-866-704-3528.

One of many meets along the way.

In addition to the CNoR tour, Rail Travel Tours offers other railway tour packages and services, including a Sept,. 24-27 fall colours tour to Saskatchewan's picturesque Qu' Appelle Valley.

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Great Model Railroad: The Twin Lakes Terminal & Transfer

From 1985 to 2005, Winnipeg was home to Ray Goy's the Twin Lakes Terminal & Transfer Railroad, one of the largest home layouts I've ever seen.

Set in the 1960s-70s, the five-level layout filled every inch—from top to bottom—of Ray’s 1,250 square foot basement.

Although Ray is Canadian, the layout featured mid-west U.S. railroads in a Chicago-like setting, with lines branching into nearby states.

According to Ray, there was no real plan for the layout—he just made it up as he went along.

“My interest in urban railroading and passenger train operations are what drove it,” he says.

“My keen interest in U.S. mid-western railroading sort of pushed aside the Canadian prototype in my mind, and frequent visits to U.S. hobby shops made modeling American prototype so much easier.”

Ray doesn’t know how many feet of track were in the layout, but there were between 700-800 turnouts, almost 80 of which were double-slip. 

“I am fascinated by track design and trackage arrangements,” he says. “On the layout I tried to portray multi-track junctions and yard and station layouts as they existed in larger cities.”

As for scenery, Ray had scenicked a few areas before the dismantled the layout and built a number of structures. But there was lots more left to be done.

Ray used walkaround DC to power the trains. His hope was to have it operated like a club, with many operators, but ran out of time to complete his dream.

Ray moved to larger home in 2005, intending to rebuild it in larger quarters. Unfortunately, some health and other issues prevented that from happening.

Ray moved to a smaller house a few years ago, and intends to build a new layout—a much smaller one, this time.

Like his previous layout, this one will also be multi-level, with comfortable viewing and operating areas.

The top deck will feature a large passenger station with supporting coach yards and engine terminal, along with an adjacent major freight yard and  diesel shop.

The two lower decks will have four towns or industrial switching areas on each level. Staging tracks will be under the layout. Unlike the previous layout, this one will use DCC to power the trains.

For Ray, who is soon to retire, this feels like more than enough to keep him occupied.

In the meantime, Ray and anyone else can still enjoy photos of the old Twin Lakes Terminal & Transfer. 

For more photos of Ray's layout, go to my Flickr page.

Photos by Ron Einarson.