Breaking ground on Liberty Village

Doug, Ryan and Stephen building benchwork.
(Doug Currie, Ryan Mendell and Stephen Gardiner assembling some of the trickier bits of the benchwork)

On Saturday, some friends and I collected tools and paid a visit to our friend Stephen Gardiner to get a start on benchwork for Stephen’s new project – an HO scale layout based on the Liberty Village area of downtown Toronto.

Rather than duplicate the report here, I’ll direct you to Stephen’s excellent blog, Musings on My Model Railroading Addiction. You can read his report – and contribute to the conversation – by clicking on the image below:

Circular Saw Society

A great time was had by all – and it was wonderful to take part in the first steps to a new, achievable layout. I’m glad I could help!

Full Circle!

My friend Trevor Hodges in Australia models in O scale, and has reached an important milestone on his layout with the completion of the mainline:


(You can also watch this directly on YouTube, where you may be able to enjoy larger formats)

I know he’s been working on this layout for quite a while now and getting the mainline up and running is always an achievement. Congrats, my friend!

You can follow Trevor’s progress on his Morpeth in O Scale blog. Enjoy if you visit.

David Barrow’s vision

David Barrow
(David Barrow discusses his model railway with a visitor during the self-guided layout tour for The Austin Eagle 2018 convention)

If you’ve been around the hobby for any length of time, you know of David Barrow – especially if you have any interested in layout design. I obviously do have an interest, so I was delighted to have the opportunity to visit David’s model railway during The Austin Eagle – the 2018 convention held by the Lone Star Region of the NMRA in the greater Austin TX area earlier this month.

David emerged in the 1980s with a number of articles featuring his proto-freelanced Cat Mountain & Santa Fe Railroad – a layout that would go on to become highly influential in the hobby over the past three decades. Perhaps more than any other layout, David’s CM&SF promoted the benefits of a linear, once-through-the-scene, walk-around layout. If you Google “David Barrow layout plan” you will find – in addition to plans for his own layout – many plans by others that clearly demonstrate Barrow’s influence.

Barrow - layout tour
(The upper yard at Lubbock, Texas on the right with Posey across the aisle)

Beyond the layout, the room in which it is located demonstrated the design advantages of narrow peninsulas with scenes on each side divided by a backdrop. With its barren West Texas setting, the layout also proved that it is possible to effectively model wide open flat spaces – a lesson that many people are now applying to other settings such as the Prairies.

Barrow - layout tour
(Burris at left, with the lower yard at Lubbock on the right)

David also introduced many hobbyists to the idea of presenting the layout in a space that minimizes distractions – for example, by eliminating clutter under the benchwork and paying attention to things like valances and lighting. (Rather than delve on this too much here, I encourage you to read what Lance Mindheim wrote about his visit to Barrow’s layout in 2013. Pay particular attention to the quote from John Pawson on minimalism.)

David also taught many of us that staging yards did not have to be hidden on a subterranean level or behind a backdrop – that, in fact, it was advantageous to leave them exposed (albeit in a space away from the main layout) for both ease of operation and maintenance.

Barrow - visible staging.
(The benefits of visible staging, on display. A wall along the left edge of the photo visually separates the staging area from the rest of the layout space, with door openings at each end)

In addition to his home layout, David is the architect behind “The South Plains District” – a project layout he built for Model Railroader magazine and documented in a series that ran in the September-December 1996 issues. This series is among those frequently cited by modellers as inspirational.

But David is also known for creating a bit of a tempest in a teapot back in 2004, when he revealed via the pages of Model Railroad Planning magazine that he’d torn out his traditional, scenicked, version of the CM&SF and replaced it with a sectional switching layout built on bare plywood, with no ballast or scenery and ofttimes just mockups for key structures. Many who were fans felt betrayed by this new, minimalist direction – one that emphasized operation by minimizing, or eliminating, any elements that did not directly support that. (Remember that quote from John Pawson? That’s what’s happening here.) His current layout backs off from the switching district theme in favour of mainline running (see plan, below). But as the photos in this post show, he’s maintained the minimalist aesthetic he introduced in 2004.

Barrow plan
(Plan of the current layout. Staging is in a separate space at the right)

I was intrigued – I wanted to know whether the minimalism did, in fact, focus one on operation or whether it was actually a distraction. So David’s layout was a must-see stop on the self-guided layout tour.

The visit did not disappoint. I must admit that David’s approach is not one I would take. I like scenery and structures – not only for the construction challenges they present but also for the context they provide. This is just a personal view, but I found the lack of structures somewhat disorienting: like looking at a schematic of a railway instead of the railway itself.

As an example, I’m currently considering building a new layout based on the Niagara St. Catharines & Toronto Railway – an interurban line in Ontario’s Niagara Peninsula. I’ve collected a lot of material on this line (which I’m sharing via a separate blog), including official railway track diagrams and vintage photos. The image below shows two ways of looking at one of my favourite locations – Ontario Street in St. Catharines:

Map vs Reality
(CNR track diagram versus a 1951 photo of switching operations on Ontario Street)

The track diagram is a lot like David’s layout: It shows me what was there, and what I need to model from an operational perspective. But the photo places everything in context. The vehicles, the utility poles, the stores and restaurants on the the right – none of that is required to switch the auto plant that is the reason for this piece of trackage. But for me, it adds so much to the context that I cannot imagine modelling this scene without it.

To be fair, I did not participate in an operating session on this layout (that was not an option). Perhaps I would have a different feeling about the importance of context if I had. But I would be surprised if I did.

Regardless, I was very glad to see David’s layout – and I believe his thinking is an important contribution to the hobby. But for me, the important lesson was in confirming that this is not the approach for me. That’s as important, I think, as visiting a layout that reinforces one’s preferences.

In addition to his HO layout, David has more recently dabbled in O scale, with a shelf switching layout built in a room adjacent to his crew lounge.

Barrow O scale

Barrow O scale

This layout models the same prototype (AT&SF) and exhibits the same aesthetic as his HO layout – something I found rather curious. I would’ve been tempted to use a change of scale to explore a different prototype or region of the country (or even of the world) – but, again, that’s a personal preference.

Thank you, David, for opening your layout to the tour. I’m really glad I made the time to visit!

If you want to know more about my trip to the NMRA Lone Star Region convention, visit my Port Rowan blog.

Jim Zwernemann’s Proto:48 masterpiece

Jim Z P48

As I prepared for last week’s trip to Austin for the NMRA Lone Star Region’s annual convention, I mentioned my plans on my Port Rowan blog – and Gene Deimling reminded me that one of the layouts on the tour was the superb Proto:48 layout being built by Jim Zwernemann. I immediately made plans to visit – and I’m so glad I did.

Jim is well known in the Proto:48 community for his beautiful scratch-built freight cars. He’s also an accomplished structure builder.

Jim Z - workshop
(Where the magic happens: Jim’s workshop)

What he has not been until relatively recently is a layout builder – but he decided that he needed a place to showcase his work. And what a beautiful showcase it is. Jim is modelling a general theme featuring two transition-era prototypes: the Southern Pacific’s Texas & New Orleans, and the Missouri-Kansas-Texas. The layout features a single-track mainline that hugs the walls of a 30′ x 25′ space, with a peninsula in the middle to provide some additional switching opportunities. Jim’s workshop is located in a room-within-the-room, in the centre of the layout space.

As the photos show, the layout is still very much under construction – but the pieces that are finished are excellent:

Jim Z - Carmine Depot
(Scratch-built model of the SP depot at Carmine, Texas)

SP 5115
(A GE 70-Tonner given the SP treatment)

TNO 345
(Jim’s beautiful model of a Texas & New Orleans caboose)

Jim Z - Kistenmarcher's
(Kistenmacher’s Store)

Jim Z - Mike's Bikes
(Mikes’ Bikes)

Jim Z - Lakeside
(Lakeside Grocery)

Jim Z - boxcars
(A string of Jim’s boxcars)

Jim Z - TT
(SP 178 – a Baldwin AS616 – takes a spin on Jim’s scratch-built turntable)

UPDATE – July 13, 2018: Jim has shared some additional photos and info about the convention with Gene – and Gene has posted them to his own blog. Click here to see more.

While all of Jim’s work is lovely, I was particularly impressed by his scratch-built model of the MKT’s freight terminal in downtown Austin:

Jim Z - MKT freight terminal

Jim Z - MKT freight terminal

Jim Z - MKT freight terminal

This structure would make a terrific anchor for a shelf-style switching layout.

O scale has always been my favourite – even though I currently model in S, and have never built a layout in 1:48. But I do love the presence of the equipment and the massiveness of O scale structures. Visiting Jim’s layout has me thinking again about how I could fit an O scale layout in my space.

I don’t intend to move from S – I’m currently considering a new layout based on the Niagara St. Catharines & Toronto Railway (an interurban that ran in the city I lived in as a teenager), and 1:64 is the best choice for modelling that. But I may tackle some O scale designs purely as a planning exercise.

If I do, I’ll share them via this blog.

Thanks, Jim, for opening your layout to the convention. It was great to meet you and well worth the trip!

If you want to know more about my trip to the NMRA Lone Star Region convention, visit my Port Rowan blog.

Riley Triggs’ Port of New York Railroad

PoNY Herald

PoNY - LV 27th Street
(The Lehigh Valley’s 27th Street pocket terminal)

I was in Austin, Texas last week to take part in the NMRA Lone Star Region’s annual convention. Among the highlights was a chance to take part in an operating session on the HO scale Port of New York Railroad being built by Riley Triggs.

Riley is building his layout in an upstairs room in his home. The prototype is very urban, with several railroads negotiating complex track work in tight quarters that are shared with buildings, streets, wharves and piers. In addition to the main layout, Riley has used an adjacent room to build two of New York’s famous “pocket terminals” – switching districts isolated from the nation’s rail network, and reachable only via car float. At this stage, Riley has installed most (if not all) of the track work and has trains running. He is just getting started on the dozens of structures he will need for his layout.

I was fortunate to team up with Lance Mindheim for the operating session. Together, we worked the Lehigh Valley’s 27th Street pocket terminal:

Riley and Lance
(Riley (l) and Lance discuss the 27th Street operation. In the background, two more operators work the Erie RR’s Harlem Station. The main layout is through the doorway in the distance.)

The 27th Street terminal is essentially a self-contained layout in a book case, connected to the rest of Riley’s empire via a car float. While tiny, there’s a lot of track packed into the space. You can read more about the terminal on Riley’s blog, but here’s a photo of the track arrangement from his post about building the terminal in a day:

Riley Triggs 27th Street track arrangement

I took the role of conductor, while Lance was the engineer. We were handed a switch list and spent a solid two hours moving cars about this terminal- unloading the car float, sorting cars between a couple of storage tracks, the freight shed and other customers, and prepping the car float for its return trip to the mainland.

Switching 27th Street

PoNY Switch List

The first thing I learned was that traditional methods of switching just don’t work in a pocket terminal. I approached the task as if I was working a traditional yard, which goes something like this:

Classifying Cars

Well, that quickly got me into trouble. In many cases, the switch lead wasn’t long enough to hold an entire track of cars. In some spots, we were limited to a single car in addition to our locomotive. (While this would be frustrating on a traditional model railway and represent bad layout design, this was actually pretty close to reality in many of New York’s pocket terminals.) After trying this a couple of times, and failing miserably, I abandoned what I knew about switching cars and resorted to cherry picking what we needed. The key became, “What can I move that gets something out of our way?” Once I got comfortable with that, things went much more smoothly. And it was a most enjoyable operating session!

At first glance, Riley’s Port of New York may not strike one as an achievable layout. For example, there are approximately 120 turnouts on the layout, including many complex pieces of track work such as slip switches and double crossovers. The number of structures he needs to build is also intimidating.

However, it is an achievable layout because of some of the choices Riley has made.

The structures would intimidate me, but Riley is an architect by profession, which means he will have some terrific ideas for tackling all of the structures he needs to build. I suspect he will approach this challenge differently than someone who does not work with structure designs all the time. I look forward to seeing how he does this.

To address the complexities of the track work on his chosen prototypes, Riley has taken advantage of commercial track components and all turnouts in our pocket terminal were hand-thrown.

Furthermore, he has eliminated all track wiring (which would be problematic with the many double slips and crossings) by adopting a “Dead Rail” system for his layout – in this case, the AirWire system from CVP. Each locomotive is permanently coupled to a car which contains the DCC Sound Decoder, a radio receiver, and batteries. The engineer uses wireless throttles to send DCC commands over the air to the battery car, which then supplies power to its locomotive. The system worked really well: We had no issues with power or signal during our two-hour switching assignment.

The only drawback from an operations perspective was that the permanently coupled car ate up a lot of space in the pocket terminal. It often doubled the number of moves required to spot cars on a track, for example. However, that’s a minor quibble and is certainly more than offset by the wiring nightmare that such a layout would otherwise have required. The battery car would not be an issue on a more tradition layout, where one could permanently couple a set of locomotives and put the Dead Rail gear into an unpowered model. It would also not be a factor in larger scales such as O, where there would be plenty of space inside a single diesel for batteries and a receiver.

There’s a lot to learn from Riley’s layout, from a design perspective. My takeaways included:

– What’s achievable for one person is not for another. Professional skills may make the difference.

– Exploring new ways of doing things (for example, Dead Rail instead of traditional wiring, 3D printing and Cricut cutting machines, and so on) may make a previously daunting plan more achievable.

– While Riley’s layout is large, the two pocket terminals he’s incorporated are definitely achievable by anybody, yet would still offer many pleasant construction and operating challenges.

I had a lot of fun during this operating session, and learned about Dead Rail in the process. Thanks for the great day, Riley!

If you want to know more about my trip to the NMRA Lone Star Region convention, visit my Port Rowan blog.

Investing in others: Roweham

Roweham exhibition at 2018 GBTS

Over last weekend in April, I once again joined my friends to help Brian Dickey exhibit “Roweham” – his 7mm (British O scale) Great Western Railway layout. This time, we were at The Great British Train Show – a two-day event held in the spring of even-numbered years in the Greater Toronto Area.

I really like the GBTS because there’s a large contingent of hobbyists in southern Ontario who model British prototypes, but we don’t often see their work at general interest train shows in our area. (Maybe it’s there, but it’s overwhelmed by the Canadian National and Canadian Pacific layouts that dominate the train show circuit hereabouts.)

I’ve written about Roweham many times on this blog, as it’s an ideal example of an achievable layout. (If you haven’t read those posts, follow this link to see them all.) So I won’t provide a detailed show report, except to say things ran well (as they always do) and we received many favourable comments.

Instead, I’ll describe how Roweham has become an example of how one can engage with and contribute to the hobby – even when one does not have the space or time to build a layout of one’s own.

Roweham is Brian’s vision, and he’s done all of the work on the layout. For exhibitions, however, it’s nice to have several people to share the work, keep an eye on things, give everyone time to take in the rest of the show, fetch hot beverages, set up and pack up, and so on. (It’s a measure of how well liked Brian is that his modest layout – roughly 16″ deep by 16 feet long – attracts a huge group of helpers – including John Mellow, Ross Oddi, Pierre Oliver, and myself. That’s more than one operator per turnout!)

We could simply show up. But that’s not how we roll.

It started with vests. Sorry – waistcoats. They’re not vests. I hate vests – those patch-covered horrors one sees at many train shows. A waistcoat, on the other hand, is classic. They’re worn for weddings, for goodness sake.

A few shows ago, Brian appeared in white shirt, black pants and black waistcoat, complete with six brass buttons embossed with “GWR” and a break-away safety tie. He bought his waistcoat/tie at Heritage Operations Processing System – a UK company that supplies gear to the many preserved lines in the country. Since then, others on the team have followed suit:

John-Brian-Trevor in waistcoats
(John, Brian and me at an exhibition in February)

Brian-Ross waistcoats
(Brian and Ross at the 2018 GBTS)

We were definitely dapper fellows. And waistcoats – a modest investment – really kick the presentation up a notch. I think Brian is also flattered that we’ve made this kind of commitment. While all of us have our own home layouts, someone without a layout of their own could make a small gesture such as this as a way to express appreciation to the owner of a layout who regularly lets you play with his trains.

There are other ways to contribute, too. I’m enjoying Brian’s layout so much – and have an interest in British prototypes – so when Brian hinted that others would be welcome to run their own equipment on the layout during shows, I took the bait and bought a locomotive:

GWR 528

This is a Lee Marsh Model Company brass model of the GWR 517-class 0-4-2T. With its open cab and brass dome, it’s out of era for Roweham – but Brian’s cool with that and I just could not resist the antique design and colourful green-red-black paint scheme.

The model came ready to run, with a LokSound DCC decoder. My only updates were to lightly weather it and add a crew to the cab:

GWR 528

GWR 528

I have a set of Slaters GWR 4-wheel coaches to build and finish for this locomotive to pull. Perhaps I’ll get them done in time for the next GBTS…

As an aside, the crew was an interesting modelling exercise. The crew is from Modelu in the UK, which scans real people in vintage clothing and appropriate poses, then uses 3D Printing to create the figures:

Modelu Crew

I gave them a good scrub with rubbing alcohol on a tooth brush, followed by soap, then primed them and painted them using techniques I’ve been practising for wargaming figures. I’m enjoying exploring the use of washes and shading products that aren’t normally associated with railway modelling and will do more of this on future projects.

Granted, buying a brass locomotive was an expensive way to show my appreciation for Brian’s work. But there are cheaper ways – including building a locomotive from a kit, buying a non-brass model, or building some rolling stock. And it’s not on loan: I’ll display the model on a shelf at home when we’re not exhibiting Roweham. Brian has plenty of his own locomotives to enjoy.

Regardless, contributing a locomotive – or a complete train – to someone else’s layout is an easy way to get out of the armchair and more actively engage with the hobby. That said, such a contribution may actually give you the push you need to start building your own layout – the one for which you don’t think you have the time or space. Although I’m not about to embark on a 7mm layout based on “God’s Wonderful Railway”, I am really happy that I have this chance to explore a different modelling subject and I look forward to working on the coaches for my 517-class to pull.

Thanks for being an indulgent host, Brian!

GWR 528

Serving the Golden Empire – one black line at a time

Last Wednesday, I visited my friend Pierre Oliver to spend the day drawing lines on homasote – something that’s become one of my favourite aspects of the hobby.

Pierre Oliver - Clovis - Lines on Homasote
Clovis, California takes shape in the space formerly occupied by Aylmer, Ontario

As I recently reported, Pierre has made the decision to switch focus – abandoning his vision of Time Table and Train Order-controlled Wabash fast freights across southern Ontario for the relaxed pace of a local freight working a Southern Pacific branch in southern California.

For most of us, abandoning a layout is not an easy decision. We are understandably reluctant to tear out what has taken us so long to build. But sometimes, it’s necessary. In this hobby, if you’re not happy with what you’re doing, don’t keep doing it. You may feel that you’re losing your investment in the layout. You’re not. Because the real investment isn’t in the layout – it’s in you. It’s in the skills you’ve acquired and the knowledge you’ve gained. This includes the knowledge of what does not work for you.

Pierre understands this, so he’s not one to agonize over the time and money he’s invested in the Wabash. Instead, he thought about the pros and cons of the transition from the perspective of what he enjoys in the hobby and how a new layout would either enhance that, or diminish it.

Kettle Creek Bridge - gone!
The big bridge at the west end of the St. Thomas yard has already found a new home. So have the 10 pairs of Wabash F7As that formed the backbone of the old layout’s fleet.

Once Pierre decided that the SP Clovis Branch was, indeed, the way to go, he figured out how he could unload the equipment he would no longer need and acquire the locomotives, rolling stock, and structures that would make the new layout possible.

With a new concept and a plan for the acquisition and disposal of stuff in place, Pierre and I discussed how to transform the existing Wabash layout into the new Southern Pacific project. He decided, and I agreed, that it made the most sense to reuse the existing benchwork as much as possible – especially the long peninsula that currently hosts the yard at St. Thomas.

I scanned a copy of the layout plan from Pierre’s Wabash layout article in Model Railroad Planning 2018. I then erased the Wabash in Photoshop – leaving just the outline of the peninsula, and the room itself. This gave me a nice, scale drawing upon which I could lay in the Clovis Branch. To start, I simply scanned the track diagrams from the Joe Dale Morris book, Serving the Golden Empire – Branch Line Style, and dropped them onto the room drawing. Some quick work with a fine tipped marker connected the scenes:

Pierre Oliver - Clovis branch - early concept
A very quick sketch to determine what would fit. The modest track arrangements at each scene make it easy to work from the prototype, with little compromise. We did make some adjustments, as detailed below.

Pierre liked the idea – a lot – so we fleshed out the details and I did a complete redraw of the plan to create something closer to scale that would actually guide Pierre during construction:

Pierre Oliver - Clovis Branch - Concept
An overall concept for the SP Clovis Branch in Pierre’s layout space. The space is generous for the prototype – much more so than it was for the Wabash – which will make the resulting layout feel very railroady. (Right-click on the image to open it in a separate window, to enjoy a larger view.)

Even with such a modest prototype, there are some deviations from reality:

– Fresno is completely made up. It’s a staging yard, so that’s fine. But since it’s also visible, I thought it would be nice to have some railroady things in it, like an engine house and an SP yard tower. The yard tower and adjacent overhead road bridge help hide the end of staging. Meantime, the engine house (the Port Costa two-stall structure: a kit from BTSRR) will be a lovely spot to store Pierre’s much smaller fleet of motive power.

SP 2-6-0s
Two of three 2-6-0s Pierre acquired for the new layout. Pierre equipped them with LokSound decoders and paired sugar cube speakers. He reports these Iron Horse Models brass imports are smooth runners, sound great, and easily handle 25 cars on the flat.

– I flipped Tarpey so the winery is on the far side of the tracks, against the backdrop. This just made more sense for the space: the stub tracks can head towards the corner, and it will be easier to switch this important customer if the winery is not in the way of the operator.

Wine tank car.
Pierre has been collecting brass models of multi-dome tank cars for winery service – something he didn’t need for the Wabash layout. Now, if only someone would offer them in plastic!

– The biggest change is the addition of an ice deck to Clovis. Pierre and I discussed this and agreed that while it’s a major departure from the prototype, the additional play value of icing refrigerator cars for all of the packing houses on the branch was just too good to pass up.

Ice Deck at Clovis
Extra moves for on-layout cars justified this design decision

Icing refrigerator cars is an operation that is unique to railroads serving produce packing areas, and helps define the character of the prototype. This is especially important for those of us who live on the other side of the continent, and need all the help we can get in capturing the character of southern California railroading. (In a further adjustment, Pierre decided the ice deck should go against the wall, and that the packing houses I had replaced with the deck should remain in place. So we added another double-ended siding in this space.)

– The quarry at Rockfield was an important customer for the SP, providing a lot of ballast to the railroad. We didn’t have room to model it, but a couple of spurs in the furnace room will allow Pierre to at least model the stone traffic on the branch.

– We could not fit every track in Pinedale on the layout, but captured the flavour of it, at least.

With a plan in place, construction could begin.

Rather than tear out all of the Wabash at once, I suggested that Pierre start with Clovis. This long wall previously held Aylmer, Ontario – the farthest he’d built the Wabash as he worked his way around the room. By starting here, Pierre could get a switching layout up and running relatively quickly. He could then work his way up the branch to Friant to add some play value. Friant can become a temporary staging area, with trains working to Clovis and back. Meantime, Pierre could scrape off the peninsula and start working his way down the branch towards Fresno. The last piece to build would be Pinedale, which will just be in the way during the rest of the construction.

All of which brings me back to last week’s trip. Pierre had scraped off the rails and ties at Aylmer, spackled and sanded the homasote roadbed, and given everything a coat of medium brown paint. It was time to lay out centre lines for the track in Clovis.

Ice Deck at Clovis.
The ice deck at the left end of the Clovis scene.

It was important to determine the icing facility’s footprint before drawing in the track. Pierre went one better and actually built the model – consisting of three Tichy icing platforms and a Walthers ice plant. The deck is 54″ long and can serve 10 cars at a time. As noted above, it doesn’t belong in Clovis, but will add too much to leave out. Rather than displace some packing houses, we added a track to Clovis for icing.

In the above photo, the main is the track next to the icing track. It’s placed on the standard 2″ centres for HO scale. To achieve the more open look of California, however, the siding for the packing houses (to the left of the main) is offset from the main by 3″. The sheets of paper and kit boxes represent packing houses.

Clovis - planning - centre.
A cluster of turnouts near the heart of Clovis. The hairspray bottle is standing in for a town water tank.

To help with laying out the plan full-size, we employed Number 6 turnout tie strips from Fast Tracks. This made sure that we didn’t fudge the drawing and create turnout clusters too tight to build. The paper template is for a Number 4 turnout: I didn’t really want to use one that tight, but the prototype included a spur that branched sharply away from the main at this point and it was the only way to fit in this spur.

We had the plan pencilled in, agreed upon, and inked with black marker in just a few hours. All in all, a most productive day. Pierre is already gluing down ties so we should be serving the Golden Empire – at least in Clovis – in no time!

(You can visit Pierre’s blog to follow along on his new layout building adventure!)

From Wabash conveyor belt to SP peddler freights

This is a story about changing track – in pursuit of an Achievable Layout:

I’ve written on this blog before about the Southern Pacific Clovis branch from Fresno to Friant. I thought at one time that I’d build a layout inspired by this branch in Proto:48 – it’s one of my favourite lines. But it just didn’t fit my layout space – and then I discovered S scale, and the CNR line to Port Rowan.

But a friend was unhappy with his layout, and a recent trip to the La Mesa Model Railroad Club in San Diego convinced him of two things:

1 – He didn’t have enough space or regular crew to model Time Table and Train Order operations effectively.

2 – He really liked California railroading.

And then I told him that in addition to my collection of Proto:48 Southern Pacific steam I had three SP moguls, in HO scale – plus kits for cabooses, a station and an engine house.

Well, I don’t have those anymore – and Pierre Oliver has a new project.

“Well, my work here is done…”
– The Model Railroad Enabler

(I’ve turned off commenting on this post. I encourage you to join the conversation on Pierre’s blog!)

Roweham 2018

GWR Logo on Roweham

Once again this year, my friend Brian Dickey exhibited his 7mm (British O scale / 1:43) layout “Roweham” at a train show hosted by the Burlington (Ontario) Model Railway Club. And it’s a measure of the man that for a four-turnout layout, he had four friends come out to help.

John, Brian, Me ready for the punters
(John, Brian and me looking splendid in our white shirts and waistcoats. I normally don’t wear train-boy apparel – but I make an exception for the always stylish Brian. Note the clip-on ‘safety ties’: John has obviously lost his in an incident but he seems okay with that…)

John Mellow, Pierre Oliver, Ross Oddi and I spent a most enjoyable day running several month’s worth of passenger and goods traffic to this branch line terminal. As always, the three-link couplings were a special treat that slowed operations and forced us to think about what we were doing in ways that semi-automatic couplers such as Kadees do not. Brian is constantly adding details and equipment to the layout, and it was nice to see his progress over the past year, too.

Here’s a sampling of photos from the day…

Brian - auto train
(Brian has an auto train in hand)

John and Pierre at Roweham
(John shunts cattle wagons while Pierre looks on)

Me working Roweham
(I’m working a goods train at Roweham, while Brian prepares the next train up line)

Auto train

Auto train

Auto train
(Three views of the passenger train – a 14xx 0-4-2T sandwiched between two auto trailers. This is the first time we’ve run the passenger train in this configuration)

2-6-2T and goods train
(A 2-6-2 tank engine arrives with a short goods train)

Cattle wagon
(A cattle wagon heads up a string of goods stock)

GWR Toad
(A GWR Toad – brake van)

Crane
(The crane in the goods yard, as seen from the rear. This shot was taken after we removed the backdrop while packing up)

Fire buckets
(The fire buckets are a recent addition to the platform. This shot was taken as we were striking the layout at the end of the day – looking through the space normally occupied by the station)

It was great to see so many friends at the show, too. Some had made a trek that would’ve been more than an hour in nice weather – and I hate to think how long in the snow that fell all day. Thanks for coming out, guys – very much appreciated! I was thinking of you as I cleared snow off my truck for the trip home…

FJ Cruiser in the snow

Brian’s next show is Copetown, in just a couple of weeks. I can’t make that one, but I will join the team again in April for the Great British Train Show in Brampton. Maybe I’ll see you there!

Scott Thornton’s Milan Branch

This is rapidly turning into one of my favourite examples of an Achievable Layout. Scott Thornton is modelling the 12-mile Milan Branch of the Iowa Interstate in HO scale. It’s a modern branch, with a nice variety of customers, and Scott is taking a thoughtful approach to bringing it to life.

Click on the image, below, to visit his website. You’ll find a menu dropdown in the upper right of Scott’s site, where you can access his blog…

Scott Thornton's Milan Branch

Enjoy if you visit!