Sunday, March 25, 2018

Great Canadian Model Railroad: Darren Davis' National Pacific

Darren Davis has been posting some great photos of his layout to the Canadian Railway Modellers group on Facebook over the past number of months—shots of a busy double-track mainline, lots of urban and industrial action, and busy city scenes.

Seeing those photos made me wonder about his layout. How big is it? Era? Location? Theme? I's sure others wondered about those things, too.

So I decided to ask Darren a few questions. Here’s what he told me.

When did you get started in model railroading?

I got started in 1976 with my dad, Eric, on a couple of 4 x 8 sheets of plywood. We were part of the original six members of the Burlington modular railway club in the early 80s. This is the base of this current layout—and we are still working on it together!

What is the name, theme of your current layout?

We call it the National Pacific. It’s a freelanced layout set in the late 1980s to the present day where we imagine CP and CN merged.

The general theme is of heavy industry in a urban setting set in the fictional city of Danforth, which is loosely based on the Hamilton-Toronto area.

How big is it?

The dimensions are 33 x 12. It’s shaped like a letter “P”. There are two 75-foot long mainlines in a figure 8 design. Part of it is hidden so it doesn’t look like a loop.

There’s also two operating streetcars lines with dummy overhead wire. It features automated stops.

How many industries are there?

There are over 20 online industries that can be switched, including a 20-foot long steel mill with about 30 feet of in-plant trackage

Other main industries include a Petro Canada refinery, CBM cement plant, Molson brewery and  Inglis appliances.

How many other structures are there?

There’s about 160 structures, a mix of plastic, wood and plaster that are either stock, kitbashed or scratchbuilt. 

There’s also a diesel servicing area with a six-stall roundhouse and two-track diesel shop with the capacity of over 20 locomotives.

How did you do the scenery?

Scenery is a combination of plaster over wire/Styrofoam, with ground cover.

What about your motive power and rolling stock?

There are over 110 locomotives from Athearn, Atlas, Bowser and Rapido. They are a mix of DC and DCC. I have over 200 freight cars of various makes and 20 passenger cars from Athearn and Rapido.

The layout seems to have a lot of vehicles on it.

It does! There are over 800 vehicles—cars, trucks and buses.


How do you operate the layout?

We don’t operate on any schedule—we just run what we want when we want. We host two open houses a year.

Any final comments?

We like to say our layout is more of a model of a city with trains than a conventional layout. For me, the best part about it is the time I spend with my dad. Every year we try and add or upgrade something on the layout.

Friday, March 23, 2018

Most Popular Railway to Model, Most Popular Era

Members of the Canadian Railway Modellers group on Facebook are an eclectic lot, with people modelling all sorts of Canadian roads.

Recently, someone asked group members to indicate what railways they modelled. A poll was created; 702 people responded. Here are the results.

CN: 32%
CP: 23.7%
VIA: 12%
PGE: 6.2%
Freelance: 5.6%
ONR: 4.7%
TH&B: 2.4%

Others that were noted, all under 3%, were GO, GTW, ACR, E & N, NAR, SRRB.C., AMT, DAR, OS, NBS, QNSL, OCR, CBNS, Cartier, DWP, G & E, Windsor & Jantsport, GWWD, Saugenay, CEMR and Huron Central.

At the same time that poll appeared, another one was created about eras. 294 people replied.

The most popular era was 1980-89 at 25.1%. The others were as follows:

1980-89: 25.1%
1970-79: 21.4%
Today: 21.4%
Transition (1950-59): 12.9%
1990-99: 7.8%
2000-09: 7.4%
1960-69: 5.7%
No era (anything goes): 3.4%
Pre-1930: 2%
1940-49: 1%
1930-39: 0.3%

This is just a small sample, of course, and very unscientific. But the answers are interesting. Who would have thought the 70s and 80s were so popular?

Conventional wisdom is that the transition era (steam to diesel) is the most popular. But those who belong to this Facebook group might be on the younger side, thus skewing the results. On the other hand, those who remember steam are getting older . . . .

As for the M & M Sub., it is set in the 1990-99 period. Although when I started it in 1994 it was the modern era!

Photo at top by Christian Vazzaz.

Saturday, March 17, 2018

Time Travel and Train Travel Between Winnipeg and Minneapolis-St. Paul

The Winnipeg Limited.

I was writing a column for my local newspaper about the passing of evangelist Billy Graham, and how the association that bears his name came to choose Winnipeg for its Canadian office.
A representative from the association, which was headquartered in Minneapolis, took an overnight train to Winnipeg in 1953 from that city to set up the office.

While writing it, I thought: Wouldn’t that be something—to be able to take the train from Winnipeg to Minneapolis?
As it turns out,  there was a time when passengers had a choice of not one, but three trains between the two cities.
There was the Great Northern Railway’s Winnipeg Limited, which ran overnight. It began service in the 1930s.
The Minneapolis, St. Paul and Sault Ste. Marie Railroad, also known as the SOO Line, offered The Winnipeger, also an overnight train. Service began in 1904.

And for those who wanted a daylight trip, Northern Pacific had an unnamed daily train.
Today, both CP and CN run between the two cities, but of course it is freight only.
As for passenger service, SOO Line stopped The Winnipeger in 1967, and Northern Pacific stopped its service in 1969.
The Winnipeg Limited was discontinued in 1970, although service on a different daylight train continued until 1971 between Grand Forks and Winnipeg.
The Winnipeg Limited departs Minneapolis for
St. Paul in 1967.

I don’t know about you, but if time travel was real I’d go back to the early 1950s, to the time of great train travel in North America—the Empire Builder, the Super Chief, the Twentieth Century Limited, and so on.

I'd ride those trains all over the U.S. and Canada. And I’d take a trip or two between Minneapolis-St. Paul and Winnipeg, as well. 
The Winnipeg Limited in 1967.

Top photo by James Herold, from the Mark Perry collection.