Thursday, July 30, 2015

Switching the Peace River Paper Mill on the Manitoba & Minnesota Sub.

A few shots today of switching at the Peace River paper mill.

In the photo above, the day's switching starts with the plant switcher pulling loaded and empty cars from the mill.

The loaded and empty cars (the tank car) are pulled out of the mill for spotting on the mill passing track. They will later be picked up by the Fort Frances yard switcher.

After pulling the loads and empties, the yard switcher starts spotting the new cars for the mill.

More spotting of cars. The cars ready for pick-up are waiting on the passing track.

A mirror makes the pulpwood tracks look longer.

When the mill switcher is finished, the CP Rail yard switcher brings in the next cut of cars for the mill.

Pulling into the mill.

After dropping off the new cars, the switcher backs on to the cut heading back to the yard.

It then pushed them back to the Fort Frances yard so they can be ready for departure on trains headed east and west.

Switching the cars into the yard.

Meantime, the mill switcher backs into the small two-track yard, ready for the next time it is needed.

The Peace River paper mill is a like a layout-within-a-layout on the M & M Sub. The small switching area, with its five spurs and nine spots, plus a run-around track, can occupy an operator for 20-30 minutes.

Read more about how I scratchbuilt the mill.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Adding Rust to Rolling Stock

Inspiration, and modelling materials, can come from the strangest places. Like a fire hydrant.

That was my experience this past week after crews from the city flushed the water mains on my street.

After letting water stream out of the hydrants, a rusty-coloured gravel-like mixture was left on the street.

I picked up a piece and got an orange residue on my fingers. "Aha!" I immediately thought. "I bet I could use this on my layout."

I collected an old pie plate full of rust peices and brought them home. Sure enough, they left rust streaks on rolling stock, just as I hoped, and as can be seen in the accompanying photos.

I take the bigger pieces and rub them on the cars, usually along seams and weld lines, then use a stiff brush to even things out. I also put the stiff brush into the mix of rust pieces, then dab it on the cars.

It's not as good as what some modellers can do with rust, that's for sure. And I think a bit of brown might event the colour out a bit. But it helps give the impression I am looking for of an older, well-used piece of rolling stock.

Especially when you use the three-foot rule!

Comparing the rusted and non-rusted cars.

Friday, July 17, 2015

Death and the Model Railroader X: Jamie Schatte and the CSX Dixie Line Blog

One of the regular drivers of visitors to this blog is Jamie Schatte’s Dixie Line blog.

Somewhere along the way, Jamie—who I have never met—decided to add the Manitoba & Minnesota Sub. to his blogroll, along with about 20 other layout websites and blogs.

The result? Visits to my blog from his.

I wasn’t surprised. Jamie created an interesting and informative blog about the Dixie Line, his proto-freelanced N scale layout of modern CSX and NS action from Atlanta to Chattanooga.

Another view of the unfinished layout.

Visitors to the blog were treated to posts about the history of the line, his dreams for his layout, and updates on progress.

Even for someone like me, who is in HO scale, Jamie's great modelling was a delight to see.

The blog started off strong: 38 posts in 2008, 32 in 2009, 25 in 2010. But there were just eight in 2011, and one each in 2012 and 2013.

There has been nothing since then.

No big deal, I thought. Lots of blogs die. According to one survey, 95 percent of all blogs are abandoned by their creators.

The lower level.

Maybe Jamie grew tired of updating the blog. Maybe he left model railroading (it happens).

Or maybe it just wasn’t the blog that died. Maybe, I thought, its creator had too.

And that is what happened. A Google search brought up Jamie’s obituary. He died January 27, 2013. He was 47 years old.

Jamie is gone, but his blog lives on. It’s still sending visitors to the M & M Sub. on a regular basis. 

If you haven't seen it yet, I encourage you to do so (before it's gone for good).

Rest in Peace, Jamie. I’m sorry you didn’t get to finish your layout.

And thanks for the link. 

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Switching the Grain Elevator at Turney, Manitoba on the M & M Sub.

Moving in to pick up the loaded cars.

I was out driving in the countryside the other week when I happened upon a bit of switching at the grain elevator in Turney.

I didn’t have much time, but it was a pleasant diversion—and a good chance to take a few photos.

Turney is switched by the Nance turn, which interchanges cars with the Peace River Northern at Nance and switches the elevator on an as-needed basis.

(Turney is named after my friend Morgan Turney, editor of Canadian Railway Modeller.)

Bonus! A freight comes by.

A view of the overall scene.

The loaded cars are on the main; the empty is being spotted.

Leaving Turney with loaded cars in tow.

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Making More Trees for the M & M Sub.

New trees "planted" on the M & M Sub.

When it comes to trees, you can never have too many on a layout. At least, that's my philosophy, and nature backs me up--unless you are modelling dry land Alberta or Saskatchewan, there are trees everywhere you look.

So I was happy to find a new source for spirea, my favourite tree-making material. And large ones, too, since you also can't have too many big trees.

I needed more trees for two reasons. First, there was a section without any trees; it badly needed some foliage. Second, some of my early trees are no longer up to my (admittedly pedestrian) standards. I wanted to replace them.

Below are the trees before painting.

I use shake the can spray paints; green for the "leaves," black for the trunks. Below are the trees after painting.

Next, I sprinkle on ground foam, using cheap hair spray to fix the foam in place.

I do this over a box so as not to lose any ground foam. I also like to do this outside so my layout room doesn't smell like a hair salon!

Above is an in-progress shot, showing trees with ground foam and trees without.

Done! My trees with real trees in the background.

These aren't the greatest trees in the world. Up close, they wouldn't pass muster. But I employ the three-foot rule on the M & M Sub., so that's OK. Plus, I find that when you plant a number of them together, they help create the illusion of a forest or wooded area.

One thing I wanted to do was to create an even better "tree tunnel" on the upper level, just outside of Nance. The former tunnel was OK, but still too see-through.

The "tree tunnel."

I find that placing view blocks in front of trains, on the layout edge, helps create an illusion of distance. It also breaks up the scene into discrete spaces.

I still could use a few more trees, but that will have to wait until fall and the next crop of spirea comes in.

Click here to read more about how I make trees out of Sedum.

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Update on Bowser Canadian-Style SD40-2 (and Bonus M636 Update)

I heard some rumours about the release date for the Bowser SD40-2. So I thought it best to ask Lee English, owner of Bowser, directly.

Here’s what Lee told me: “Production is due to start the end of next month and I hope they will arrive in Montoursville in early November. Painted samples should be on our table at the NMRA Train show.”

As for the Red Barn, “all the information is at the builder and I am waiting for mold prices,” he says.

He also sent along other news about the M636; tooling is 90 percent done and body samples should be on the Bowser table at the NMRA train show. Advertising and preorders will be announced then. 

Says Lee: “I have to make the smoke stack, cab side and a couple minor deck changes yet. The body is done with variations to make—the body with door handles; the body with latches and no handles; CN as-delivered air intake; CN radiator top and sides;  CP as-delivered; CP modernized air intakes; CP radiator top and sides; two air tank and two air tank versions; Cartier air intakes and other miscellaneous versions; none, one, two or three class lights; and water expansion tank.”

The tooling is all modular, he adds. “I have created a puzzle of mold parts that go together to make different versions.”

As for road names, there will be CP 5” nose stripe, CP 8” nose stripe, CN black and orange, CN Sargeant Stripe,  DL, Cartier, FCP, WNY&P, and Minnesota Commercial. “We plan to make every paint scheme,” says Lee.

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Railfan Visit to Swift Current, Saskatchewan

A trip to Saskatchewan in late June afforded a chance to do—what else?—a bit of railfanning.

It started with the journey along the Trans-Canada Highway from Winnipeg. For many kilometres along the way the highway parallels the CPR mainline and, in a few places in Manitoba, the CN line.

In some places, the tracks are very close to the highway. If you are lucky, you will come across trains in those places. I was not very lucky on this trip, seeing only a few trains up close.

Our destination was Swift Current, with a side trip to Saskatoon.

The railway arrived in Swift Current in 1882. Today it is a busy place, with as many as 30 CPR trains a day.

The Swift Current Sub. runs from Moose Jaw, to the east, to Swift Current. To the west is the Maple Creek Sub. to Medicine Hat, Alberta.

Looking west.

A view from the Second Ave. overpass—a great railfanning location—shows a large number of grain hoppers in the yard, providing a clue as to what the main source of traffic is in this area.

Looking east.

Note the spilled grain on the hopper below; this is something I have modelled on my layout. 

There is an impressive line of railway buildings in the yard. In addition to the station (built in 1907), there is a two-storey dining hall (1908) and one-storey express building (1912).

Several of the trains that came by when I was there were led by UP locomotives. I asked one of the crew members awaiting a train why that was.

“Hunter has leased out all our units to make money, and now we have to lease others back,” he said.

I noted that I missed seeing the old SD40-2 units. A train master, a former engineer, said he missed them too.

“The new ones are so computerized, it’s hardly like driving a train,” he said. “You just press a few buttons and it’s like driving a car with cruise control.”

With the SD40-2s, “I felt the train, I felt more in control.”

Today the SD40-2s remaining on the railway are mostly used for yard duty, he said.

I also spoke to a conductor who was awaiting his next assignment.

“Life on the railway is hard,” he said of his 13-year career. “It’s hard on family life. I’m divorced. Most of us are divorced,” he said, pointing towards the others on the platform.

Swift Current is also where the Great Western Railway interchanges with the CPR. The Great Western services branchlines once owned by the CPR and CN, moving over 6,000 cars each year.

I was lucky enough to catch a GW train entering the yard while I was there. It was pulled by two leased GATX units: 2683 (ex-CSX 9662, 2118, ex-B&O 4818) and 2267 (ex-LLPX 2237, ex-LIRR 254).

A reminder of times past is the foundation of the old roundhouse, now weed and debris-covered beside South Railway St.

The roundhouse was torn down in the 1980s. The photo below shows it, and the overall yard, in the glory years.

All-in-all, Swift Current is a great place to watch trains. There are excellent public vantage points alongside the tracks, a bridge that offers great views, and lots of trains.

And if you are lucky when you drive there along the Trans-Canada Highway, you will see more trains along the way than I did.