Wednesday, May 29, 2019

Jeopardy for Model Railroaders, or Name That Layout!

And tonight on Jeopardy for model railroaders, it’s name that layout!

This layout has a devoted Facebook group with over 1,600 members created not by the layout owner, but by its fans.

Its used locomotives sell for hundreds and even thousands of dollars on eBay.

A major manufacturer made rolling stock featuring its logo.

Answer: What is special about the Utah Belt?

Did you guess right?

If there ever was a Jeopardy for model railroaders, those could be some of the challenges posed by the host about Eric Brooman’s Utah Belt.

Many people are familiar with UB, as it is known. For those of you who aren’t, a bit of background.

Set in the U.S. southwest, the HO scale UB is a gorgeous freelance bridge line built by Eric.

The 165-foot long mainline runs around the walls and a centre peninsula, connecting two staging yards stacked over each other.

Now in its second iteration, it is known for a unusual feature—it is always set in the present. Eric constantly updates the line, per prototypical practice.

This means that older power is sold off, allowing him to purchase newer locomotives.

These older units end up on eBay, where they sometimes sell for over $2,500.

As for that Facebook group, called the Utah Belt Historical Society, it is “dedicated to preserving the history of Utah Belt Railroad created by Eric Brooman  . . . the group is set up to be a place to enjoy the models and history of this fantastic model railroad.”

The group features posts where people write and ask questions about the layout, show photos of the actual UB (as it is known), and photos of locomotives and rolling stock they’ve painted into that scheme.

What is sometimes surprising is the questions sound like they are about a real railway—a testament to Eric’s abilities as a modeller.

Like this question, for example.

“Before the more modern era of late-90s early-2000s did the Utah Belt ever operate any unit coal trains or were they just coal drags made up of loads from multiple mines?” (Answer: “This photo shows unit coal trains were part of the UB back in 1978.”)

Another common question has to do with making your own UB locomotives and rolling stock. (Something made possible by the availability of commercial decals.)

The answer is yes, you can do it—"as long as you don't try to pass it off as an original Belt engine or car, he [Eric] is fine with it.”

As for me, I’ve long been admirer of the UB, and Eric’s unique approach to staying current. I'm not alone, as the Facebook group attests.

But Eric's not a member. According to someone who knows him, he’s not on social media at all. And why would he need to be? He's got his own wonderful world in his basement!

Click here for a collection of photos of the UB by Mike Sosalla. Click here for a video of the layout by the good folks at Model Railroader.

Click here for a collection of photos and articles on the Georgia Transportation Facebook page.

And click here for more photos and text from the Gateway NMRA.

Sunday, May 19, 2019

His First (and Maybe Last) Byline in Trains Magazine

It only took seven years (or more).

That was my first thought after reading the end of an article by William S. Kuba in the January, 2019 issue of Trains Magazine.

The article was about the time Kuba went AWOL from the army while watching trains.

At the end of the article, it was noted that Kuba, a railroad photographer and historian known for his photos of Iowa railroading, had died Nov. 23, 2012 at the age of 75.

It also said this was his first Trains byline.

That means it took at least seven years before his article was published.

So congratulations to Kuba—it isn’t easy to get published in Trains.

Too bad he isn’t alive to see it.

Cover of the January issue with
William Kuba's article.

Now, before anyone jumps up and down on the staff at Trains, as I have written about before (about the Model Railroader cover “curse”) there’s a perfectly good explanation for this.

Magazines like Trains, Model Railroader, Railroad Model Craftsman and others can receive dozens of unsolicited submissions each year.

With just 12 issues per year, limited space in print, and commitments to columnist, regular departments and assigned articles, they can use only a fraction of them.

And so they sit—until there’s room, it fits a theme, there’s a page or space to fill, or an expected article drops out for some reason.

I have some experience with this as an author. An article I wrote about a scenery method for Model Railroader waited four years before being published.

On the plus side, it was paid for right away when the magazine accepted it.

In that time, anything could have happened to me or my layout. (Leading to speculation about the “curse.”)

I also know this from the other side, when I was Associate Editor at Canadian Railway Modeller. 

Since CRM was bi-monthly, that magazine had an even bigger challenge when it came to space. Articles could wait a long time before being published. (Although never seven years!)

Of course, that’s no consolation for poor William S. Kuba. (Although he at least got his payment before he died.)

Who knows? Maybe Trains has another article or two from him, waiting to be used. Maybe he will be published posthumously again.

At least he made it into Trains Magazine. And that’s not something most of us can say—dead or alive.

Saturday, May 11, 2019

Great Canadian Layout: The Central Northern Subdivision

Note: George Myer, creator of the Central Northern Subdivision, passed away May 6, 2019. In his honour, I am re-posting my article about his Great Canadian Model Railroad.

Back in April I posted a short note about George Myer's Central Northern Subdivision. In it I noted that his layout would be featured in an upcoming issue of Canadian Railway Modeller.

That issue has been out for a while now, so I thought I'd share a few more photos from George's fantastic layout.

By way of reminder, the Central Northern Subdivision is a two-rail O scale layout in George's 22 by 20 foot basement. Set in the late 1960s to early 1970s, it finds CPR trains traveling though fictitious towns and scenes in southeastern B.C.

Seventy-five percent of the track handlaid, using code 148 on the main, code 125 in the yard and code 100 in lightly used industry and spur tracks. The ties are hand cut and stained.

In addition to handlaying the track, George also scratchbuilt all 33 turnouts and one diamond on the layout. Most of the switches are number sixes, and all are hand-thrown.

For scenery, George uses Styrofoam to make his landforms. He then puts drywall compound over it—he likes the way it cracks realistically as it dries and produces a rock-like texture. He then paints the scenery with acrylic paints.

To hide the benchwork, George uses landscape fabric for curtains. The effect is great, although he now wishes he had used a heavier grade so it would hang better.

Operations are also enhanced by a two-track staging yard behind a hill at the back of the layout. At the start of a “day,” three trains are staged and ready to go—two in hidden staging, and one on the layout.

What’s remarkable about this gorgeous layout is that George is legally blind—but he didn’t let them slow him down. He’s built a better layout with partial sight than many of us can do with 20/20 vision.

Click here to go to my Picasa Web album see more photos of the Central Northern Subdivision; you'll be glad you did!

Update: the Central Northern was dismantled in 2012; read about it here. George Myer, the owner, passed away May 6, 2019. Rest in Peace . . . .