Saturday, December 22, 2018

Farewell to Jim Hediger's Ohio Southern

Jim Hediger’s Ohio Southern is no more.

As was reported in the December 2018 issue of Model Railroader, Jim tore down the layout after selling his house.

Jim’s layout now joins the many other layouts that have been influential to me over the years—and that are now also gone. (See Of Tibetan Sand Mandalas and Model Railroading.)

Started in 1979, the Ohio Southern was the very first double-deck layout. It was the inspiration for my own double-deck Manitoba & Minnesota Sub. Articles about it in MR helped me build my layout. 

I’ve written about Jim’s layout and operating philosophy a few times, such as when it marked its 35th anniversary.

Reading Jim’s farewell article in MR about his layout, I was struck by his matter-of-fact tone. The truth is that layouts, like their owners, don’t last forever.

Very few survive after their owners move or die.

(The only one I am aware of that outlived its owner intact is Harry Calrk’s Indian Creek Valley, which was transported in an outbuilding to a new location.)

One thing that also struck me, reading the farewell article, is that Jim didn’t appear to have ballasted his track (even after all those years). That would certainly make it easier to take apart!

I was also happy to see that, right to the end, the Ohio Southern was DC—just like the M & M Sub.!

View videos of Jim talking about the creation of the Ohio Southern here and also here.

Thursday, December 20, 2018

New Book By Steve Boyko Celebrates a Half-Century With Trains (and Mountains!)

My friend Steve Boyko—owner of the long-running blog—has a new book out.

Called Passing a Half Century: A 50th birthday trip through Alberta and British Columbia, Steve wrote it to mark his passing the half-century mark.

With 143 pages and over 200 photos, the book takes readers on a trip through those two provinces, including visits to the Canadian Museum of Rail Travel, the Revelstoke Railway Museum and the Three Valley Gap rail museum.

I’m always impressed when someone writes and publishes a book, so I sent Steve some questions. Plus, he interviewed me back in 2015—now it was my turn to interview him!

Why did you write the book?

I originally shared the story as a series of blog posts. I thought some people might prefer to read it as a single, longer story, and I also felt I might reach a different and wider audience if I put it on Amazon. The jury is still out on that!

In a larger sense, I wrote the original blog series because I like to tell stories and share my photography.

Why Alberta and B.C.?

There were a few reasons why I chose Alberta and British Columbia. My wife and I both love the Banff- Lake Louise area and the Rockies in general. I love photographing trains in the mountains. I had never been through the Crowsnest Pass.

The most important driver, though, was to visit the Museum of Rail Travel in Cranbrook, BC. My father visited that years ago and recommended it to me. I had always intended to go, and this was my chance.

Did anything surprise or jump out at you from the visit?

The most surprising thing, to me, is how well the trip went. Except for the wildfires spoiling our chance to visit Waterton Park, everything went pretty much according to plan.

I was surprised at how much CP traffic there was between Cranbrook and Golden. I hadn’t expected much. Given how little CP traffic there is around Winnipeg, I am often surprised by the traffic that goes between Vancouver and Calgary.

What was your favourite railfan spot?

The Crowsnest Pass. There are a lot of great locations with a lot of variety. My favourite photograph of the whole trip was made at Sentinel.

I assume you visited some locations for the second or more times. What changes did you see? 

I’ve been on the section between Calgary and Pincher Creek before. I didn’t see any changes there, but I went out of my way to photograph three grain elevators I hadn’t seen before (De Winton, Azure, and Raley).

I’ve also been on the section between Field, B.C. and Calgary several times. One change was that I couldn’t visit Morant’s Curve this time, because the highway next to it was being rebuilt. I understand it is much better and safer now. Unfortunately, Parks Canada didn’t chop down any trees, so the view is still not as good as years past.

The Spiral Tunnels were more overgrown than I remembered from my previous visits, too.

What do you hope the reader comes away with from the book?

I hope readers gain an appreciation for how beautiful Alberta and British Columbia are, especially the mountainous areas. I never get tired of visiting there.

How did you become interested in trains in the first place?

I visited the Salem and Hillsborough Railroad in New Brunswick in 1998. That really provided the spark that ignited my interest in trains that has become an obsession. I think it was something that had laid dormant in me for a long time and just needed a little push to come to the surface.

Over time I’ve become “better” at railfanning—finding trains and better locations to photograph them in – but the interest hasn’t faded.

Any general observations from a half-century (or thereabouts) from chasing trains?

You can spend a lifetime observing and chasing trains and never learn everything about trains and the people that run them. There is so much variety in the locomotives, the cars, the track, the signals, the roadbed, the people, the railway companies. It’s a vast hobby with room for everyone of all interests.

Also, trains are cool.

Anything else to add?

Stay safe out there. I love making photographs, but a great picture is not worth risking your life for.

Also, it feels a little weird to be answering the questions instead of asking them! Thanks for the opportunity.

Thursday, December 13, 2018

VIA Rail Selects Manufacturer for New Trainsets

VIA Rail has made its choice, and that choice is Siemens.
The German company has been awarded a $989m contract to build a fleet of 32 push-pull inter-city trainsets to enter service on the Québec City - Montréal - Toronto - Windsor corridor.
The trainsets are expected to arrive in 2022.
Each trainset will consist of one locomotive and five coaches, and a non-powered cab unit at the end.
The coaches will feature LED lighting, USB ports, wi-fi, wide seats, quiet zones, cycle storage, flexible luggage space and 'the latest in food service equipment'.
Accessibility features are to include multiple spaces for wheelchairs and mobility devices, braille seat numbering, companion seating, at-seat emergency call buttons, large accessible toilets and integrated lifts for mobility devices.
The trainsets will be manufactured at the Siemens facility in Sacramento, CA.
The trainsets will be maintain in VIA Rail facilities in Montréal and Toronto. They are expected to have a 30-year service life.
VIA Rail intends to withdraw some of its life-expired existing stock starting next year.

Friday, November 23, 2018

More Great North American Modelling from Europe

What is it with those European model railroaders and their great photography and modelling?

A scoot around the Web brings up some fantastic pictures by modellers from places like Germany (Josef Brandl), Switzerland (Stefan Foerg), France (Phillipe Coquet), and now Sébastien Georges of Belgium.

I came across Sébastien's great modelling on the HO Scale Shelf Layouts Facebook group.

On that group page, Sébastien says he is modelling an area in the northeast U.S. close to the Canadian border.

The layout is 13 feet-long on one side with a 4 foot-six inches leg (an "L" shape).

So why do those Europeans produce such great models and photos? I don't know. 

One possibility is that having smaller layouts, or just dioramas, they have the ability to devote more time and effort to smaller scenes. (Like those trees; they are amazing!)

This is unlike some of us in North America, who have large basement layouts.

Whatever the reason, I'm just glad we get a chance to enjoy great modelling like this.

Sunday, November 11, 2018

Train Watching in Toronto

A business trip recently took me to a convention in Toronto.

The convention was held at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre—a great place for watching trains.

The convention centre spans both sides of the busy downtown mainline trackage leading to nearby Union Station.

Union Station is home to three railways: Go Transit, the commuter line that serves the Greater Toronto Area; VIA Rail; and the Pearson UP Express, which connects downtown to the airport.

To get from one side of the huge convention centre to the other, you need to cross the tracks on a bridge. This is a great place to be during the morning and afternoon rush.

Photography isn't the best, since you have to shoot through windows and there can be a glare. But hey: Trains!

There are other nearby uncovered bridges and spots where you can stand on to take photos, if the weather is good. (Or even if it isn't.)

And you can also walk outside and see an early GO Transit car at the nearby John St. Roundhouse and railway museum.

A walk to the west down Front St. takes you to the storage tracks where GO trains tie up between the morning and afternoon trips.

In other words, it's a great place for a convention for a railfan.

Monday, October 22, 2018

Update: The View Outside My "Office" Window

View from my "office" window.

UPDATE: Since first publishing this in 2011, I have returned to working from home. So now I can be back in my office with the great view of passing trains.

I was visiting the office of a client last month near Toronto. Her office overlooked the CPR mainline. Got to admit—it was tough to keep my mind on our meeting every time I heard that familiar rumble of an approaching train.

It made me think: Wouldn’t it be great to have an office window like that?

In fact, I do have an office window that is like that—sort of. The decision to downsize my layout led to some losses, but also to some gains.

My office . . . .

One of the gains was room for my office in my train room. My desk now sits under part of the layout; as I work I can be pleasantly interrupted by passing trains every two minutes or so on the lower level. (The lower level of the layout is a loop.)

A video of what I see when I look outside my “office” window can be found on my YouTube channel by clicking here. Sit back and enjoy the view!

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

The Essex Terminal RR Visits the M & M Sub.

The Essex Terminal Railway (ETR) visited the M & M Sub. last month, in the form of ETR GP9 102.
The unit was built by owner Morgan Turney, who dropped by one evening with his grandson from Australia to run some trains.
But before getting to the unit itself, a bit about the ETR.
Incorporated in 1902, the ETR is an Ontario shortline that runs about 35 kilometers from the east side of Windsor to Amherstburg. It interchanges with CN, CP and CSX.
It provides rail services for about 15 customers engaged the lumber, steel, agricultural, scrap metal, alcohol, and liquid petroleum gas sectors, as well as serving a transload facility.
Not the 102, but sister 108.

Morgan became familiar with the ETR when he worked in the area in the mid-1980s. About that time the ETR was updating their locomotives, including the paint scheme.
“This included their new company logo that, for its time, looked very modern and 'sporty' with its 'chopped' nose - a somewhat recent modification for a GMD Geep,” Morgan says.
He took a special shine to ETR 102—it was the last GP9 built (for the ACR, as 172 in 1963) at GMDD's plant in London, Ontario, about 190 kilometers from Windsor.
As a result, Morgan decided to replicate the unique unit. He started with an undecorated Athearn GP9. After lowering the nose, he used an airbrush to prime and then paint the model using Floquil TTX yellow and black paint.

After applying the Highball decals and finishing it off with Dullcote, “I had myself a convincing model of ETR's 102,” he says.
As for the prototype ETR, the railway currently has four units on its roster, but the 102 isn’t among them. It was sold to the Ontario Southland in 2016.
But it lives on with Morgan, and for one night on the M & M Sub.

Saturday, October 6, 2018

Great Canadian Model Railroad: Jim Ellis' Spring Creek Valley

I was sad to learn last week of the passing of Jim Ellis of Beamsville, Ont.

Jim, 79, was a well-known modeller in southern Ontario for his great Canadian model railroad, the Spring Creek Valley.

His reputation also carried across the country through his association with the Canadian Association of Railway Modellers (CARM).

The 12 by 35 foot layout, which featured CNR and CPR steam in the 1950s, was not set in any location, but captured the essence of the southern Ontario area.

Scenically, it was set generically in the Niagara escarpment. The trackplan was designed as a bridge route between Niagara Falls and Toronto, with a branch to Owen Sound.

Toronto had a big roundhouse, with 12 stalls, with the roundhouse tracks extending in a complete circle.

Also modelled in the Toronto area was a large yard, complete with a raised street scene at the back of the yards that captures the feeling of Front Street in that city.

The branch to Owen Sound ended in a model of a huge grain elevator and 1950s lake freighter.

A special feature of the layout was Jim's collection of brass CNR and CPR locomotives.

Many of them were modified to represent models that aren't available off the shelf.

In an article in the March-April issue of The Canadian, the newsletter of the Canadian Association of Railway Modellers, it was noted that Jim “has taken great pains not only to accurately detail his engines, but also to accurately detail them for the particular idiosyncrasies of one engine in the series.”

As well, many of Jim’s structures were scratchbuilt or kitbashed to represent actual structures that existed in the area.

This included the CNR Grimsby station (top photo) and Toronto’s Gooderham Worts Distillery.

I never had a chance to meet Jim, or see his layout. But I knew of him, and now I can honour him with this post.

Photos credit to the White River Division, 2016.