Sunday, September 24, 2017

Update on Chris Plue's Great Canadian Model Railroad: The Rapido Route

There are a lot of great model railroads in Canada. I’ve been lucky enough to share a few of them on this blog.

While not taking anything away from the others, one of the best, in my opinion—especially when it comes to urban scenery—is Chris Plue’s Rapido Route.

Two years later, it’s time for another look. I sent Chris a note; he sent back some photos and info.

But first, a re-cap: The HO scale Rapido Route is based on Chris’ memories of taking the train from Toronto to Montreal and Quebec City as a child. 

From that he developed an interest in urban scenery, along with trains from CN and VIA Rail.

Chris started the layout—his first—in 2009.

Set in the late 1970s to late 80s, it occupies a 32 by 11 foot room in his basement. 

While there are a few freight trains, passenger traffic dominates the layout.

What also dominates the layout is his fantastic urban scenery. I don’t know when I’ve ever seen it done so well.

Anyway, here’s what Chris wrote about progress on the layout to date.

I have spent some time making small improvements to some of the areas by adding new structures that I thought would fit better, and were more appealing to the eye when viewed from various angles,” he says.

“Sometimes I would sit, and sit, and sit staring at a particular area trying to figure out how to bring it to life in the best way I could.”

Over the summer, he has also added streetlights (a variety of Faller products and Woodland Scenics 'Just Plug' lighting). “I think they have added a really nice touch to the overall layout,” he says.

Two signal bridges from Model Memories were also added, as were small dwarf signals from NJ International.

In addition, all of the Miller Engineering signage and billboards were also powered up “to provide some unique additions to the various urban and industrial scenes around the layout.”

Chris finished up the summer progress by adding a hardboard fascia, together with weed cloth drape below it.

This, he notes, “was super cheap and easy to install.”

Adding the hardboard and drape “really finished off the layout area, and provides a nice, uniform clean look to the layout,” he says.

“It also does a great job of hiding some of the wiring and other 'guts' of the layout.”

Looking ahead, he plans to build some neat backdrop structures from Imagine That Laser Art. He also has a variety of leftover backdrop Radical Flats from Kingmill Enterprises to build.

After that, he says, “I think I'll take a break and enjoy the layout for a few years with my kids before embarking on the next addition.”

Concludes Chris: “Like always, there will always be something to plan, something to build, something to add, and something to change. That's one part of the hobby that I really have come to enjoy and realize that it only makes the layout better and better.

“There is so much more to learn, and it's great grabbing helpful hints and tips along the way from folks that have been in the hobby a lot longer than I have. It's been a fun journey thus far.”

Sunday, September 10, 2017

A Visit to the Bellingham, Washington Railway Museum

Work took me to the U.S. Pacific Northwest in August. It included a stop in Bellingham, WA. While there, I took some time to visit the Bellingham Railway Museum.

I assumed, from the name, that a railway museum would be, you know, located by railway tracks and maybe be home to some 1:1 prototypes.

So I was surprised, when I looked on the map, to discover that this railway museum is in downtown Bellingham—nowhere near the tracks.

Even so, it was an enjoyable visit, offering an opportunity to learn more about railways in that part of the country.

The main attractions of the museum are two layouts: G scale, depicting logging and mining activity in the northwest, and Lionel. The logging modelling is quite spectacular.

The museum also has many historical photos of railway activity in the area, along with examples of Lionel model railroad equipment from past decades.

Interestingly, it’s a “railway” museum—a term used in Canada and Great Britain—not a “railroad” museum, as is more commonly used in the U.S.

(Click here for a post about railway vs. railroad, and why there is no definitive way to prefer one over the other.)

Maybe that’s because the big companies in the region all used “railway” in their names: Great Northern Railway, Northern Pacific Railway, Burlington Norther Santa Fe Railway.

Again, it was an enjoyable way to spend an hour or so, even if it wasn’t located trackside.

While in Bellingham, I did manage to catch Amtrak's Cascade, heading south along the shore (taking a photo from the boardwalk, which juts out into the water).

Click here to visit the Museum’s website.

Friday, September 1, 2017

Tony Koester, Multi-Deck Layouts and Me

So I was re-reading a copy of Tony Koester's book Desiging and Building Multi-Deck Model Railraods, when I came across a couple of paragraphs about me.

Well, not about me exactly, but about the Manitoba & Minnesota Sub., and how it (and my late brother-in-law's layout) influenced Tony to build his own multi-deck layout.

Tony was a guest presenter at 2000 during the NMRA Thousand Lakes Region Millennium Express convention in Winnipeg.

During the convention, he visited local layouts—including mine and the Cougar River Subdivision, owned by my brother-in-law Ken Epp.

I don’t remember much of what Tony said during the visit, but I remember he paid me a compliment on my modeling. It meant a lot to me.

What I didn’t realize, until I re-read the book recently, was that his visit also caused him to take a dramatic turn in his own modelling.

In the introduction to the book, Tony wrote that for a long time, he couldn’t see himself “adopting the multi-deck approach to layout design any time soon.”

Then, in 2000, he came to Winnipeg, and got “quite a surprise.”

“During an extensive layout tour, I discovered that every new or newly revised model railroad on the tour had multiple decks! 

"One huge basement layout had at least three decks, in fact, with the upper one above eye level . . . something was clearly in the wind.”

Four levels on Ken Epp's Cougar River Sub.

“The story of what was in the wind is what this book is all about.”

“It’s as much a fascinating story of the recent history of progressive model railroad design as it is a how-to book.”

Three levels on the M & M Sub.

After reading those lines, I wrote Tony about his comments.

“That visit to Canada was indeed an eye-opener,” he replied, adding that Canadians seemed to be starting a trend.

Two levels on the M & M Sub.

As for the book itself, there’s a photo of the M & M Sub. in it. There is also a photo from the layout in another of Tony’s books, Model Railroading from the Prototype to Layout.

One of these days, I want to see Tony’s Third Subdivision of the Nickel Plate Road multi-deck layout, and see him once again in person.

Meantime, I can reflect on my tiny contribution to that great model railroad.

Tony's NPR layout.