Yes, more tech problems

Hi everyone:

Yes, there’s a bunch of stupid code showing up at the top of my blog. No, I don’t know why.

My blog is created using the WordPress engine, but hosted on my own ISP’s servers (not the WordPress servers). Last night, WordPress automatically updated its software and while my other two blogs are fine, this one is having problems. Perhaps it’s something to do with the size of the blog… there’s a whole lot of data here.

I have an email into my ISP’s tech support group. Meantime, I’m thinking of just getting rid of the blogs – they’ve been nothing but extra work this past year, due to technical issue after technical issue. And frankly, there are more useful and lucrative ways to spend my time…

Blog-Barking

UPDATE: Thanks to Jarrod Daley, who suggested I turn off the “web stats” plugin. I don’t even remember turning that on – but it’s not needed anyway since I get stats through the WordPress “Jetpack” suite. So, it’s off – and it worked! Onto the next techsplosion…

Leedham’s Mill construction :: 2

Leedham's Mill - Office Building - Battens

Work stalled last summer on my model of Leedham’s Mill in Port Rowan, for a wide variety of reasons. But the first building for this complex – the railway’s former freight house, converted into the mill office – has been sitting in my home office since then, in plain sight. I could feel the waves of guilt emanating from it every time I sat at my computer…

On the weekend, I decided to do something about this.

I like board by board construction, particularly for foreground models, because I find that commercial siding can look too perfect, making the resulting model somewhat sterile. (It’s a personal opinion: your milage may vary.) Unfortunately, it means I’d hit the tedious – but necessary – step of applying individual 1″x2″ battens to the walls.

I cut a stack of strip wood into scale 16-foot lengths, which was a nice compromise between speedy construction and adding some joints to battens to further build character into the walls. I also framed out the windows with strip wood of various sizes. As the photo above shows, I’m almost finished the final wall. (I’ve also added the office on one corner of the freight house – it can be seen on the right side of the lead photo.)

The good news is, I’ve been setting aside a little bit of time each day to work on this project – even a half-hour makes a difference – and I’ve managed to make progress three days in a row. This feels very good, and is a habit I’m going to try to cultivate.

The opposite of extreme

These days, there’s a lot of discussion in the hobby devoted to extreme weathering of locomotives and rolling stock. We’ve all seen examples, I’m sure – but if not, Google is your friend.

Some of the models I’ve seen are stunning. But I’ve never been tempted to put any such models on a layout. Weathering styles are a personal preference, and what looks great to one person looks awful to another. Regardless, if you’re building a realistic layout I feel it’s important to develop a uniform weathering approach – a palette of colours and media – and stick to it, so that individual pieces of rolling stock blend into the scene you’re creating.

I achieve this blend by employing a limited selection of acrylic paints – a grey-black, an earth colour, and a light grey – and applying them with an airbrush. My goal is to create cars that are sporting a bit of road grime and smoke – I model the steam era, after all – without looking like they’re ready for the scrap yard. Here are some examples:

CNR 462085

BAOX 378

CNR 209503

Note that the palette can be adjusted to suit specific models. In the following two examples, I’ve added additional colours to my weathering set – white for cement dust, and rust for the interior of the gondola:

BO 530382

NYC 399574

In this example, I’ve modelled a snow plow that has recently been repainted. (That’s often done in the summer, when they aren’t needed.) The plow has very little weathering on it, because it’s fresh out of the shop. In fact, the paint is even still a bit shiny: that’s the story I want to tell. But the plow has already acquired some weathering on the blade – including some green tones where it has been pushed through the weeds and grasses that grow on the shop tracks:

CNR 55303

Even so, the basic palette is prominent, and is applied using my standard technique and pattern: Smoky grey-black near the top of the car, light grey and/or earth colours along the bottom to represent dust and dirt kicked up from the right of way, and so on.

This uniform appearance is so important to me, that even though I have my friend Pierre Oliver build and paint many of my resin freight cars for me (so that I can focus on building my layout), I always tell him I will do the weathering myself. He does a fine job of weathering – but his style is different than mine, and that would be immediately apparent if his weathering jobs were placed on my layout.

I thought that my aversion to extreme weathering was primarily because in order to maintain my desired uniform palette, I would have to weather everything to the same extreme degree. But recently, my friend Bob Fallowfield wrote a superb piece about why he too avoids the extreme look – raising an issue to which I hadn’t really given any consideration. Here’s his story, reposted here with permission…

Bob Fallowfield's CP Rail boxcars

One trend I’m seeing in the hobby is that of extreme weathering. This is where the model is completely “ratbagged” with heavy oils and often covered in various tags with sometimes only the reporting marks being the only legible lettering. While this treatment may truly represent the specific prototype of the subject car, it ruins another illusion.

Consider this: I don’t have to tell any of you about the frustration of compression. We compress track miles, structure size, train length and even time. The other thing we compress is the North American freight car fleet. Our railways are presumabley linked via interchange to the continental rail network and thus have potential access to a myriad of cars from all over. Even the size of our home road fleet is shrunken down to often a few of each AAR type. I submit that we often ruin this illusion by applying extreme weathering to our fleet of cars. That is, we make it obvious that we are limited to certain cars and not a vast fleet.

Take the once ubiquitous CP 40’ boxcar. I have approximately three dozen of them in varying schemes. Let’s say I have ten in action red. If I weather those ten in a garish, extreme, outlandish way, they will quickly become highly visible and instantly recognizable. As a modeller already fighting the constraints of compression, this is exactly the effect I don’t want. I want those ten boxcars to represent a fleet of hundreds.

Thanks for letting me share this, Bob!

(If you don’t know his work, Bob has a wonderful HO scale layout on which he is faithfully re-creating the activities of the CP Rail Galt Subdivision in and around Woodstock, Ontario in 1980. He doesn’t have a traditional blog, but is a prolific author on the Facebook page he created for his layout. This piece came from that page – Bob Fallowfield’s Galt Sub. You can also see Bob’s layout, in action, in a two-part feature on TrainMasters TV. The tour is definitely worth the modest cost of a subscription.)

Now, this doesn’t mean that extreme weathering has no place. Locomotives – especially smaller ones used on branches like mine – tend to draw the same assignment day after day, so a distinct weathering characteristic isn’t an issue. If you really must have an extreme weathering example on your layout, a branchline locomotive is a good choice – just make sure the foundation is built up using the same palette you apply to all of your equipment. The same rationale applies to vans (cabooses) and branchline passenger equipment.

My personal preference is to use the same palette throughout – as seen on this combine that’s used on the mixed train to Port Rowan:

CNR 7184

I will even apply my consistent weathering palette to unusual cars, such as this flatcar of tractors headed to Potter Motors in Port Rowan:

WAB 181

My rationale here is that even though this is a distinctive car, Potter Motors may receive several loads of tractors over the course of a year, and I don’t want to suggest that they’re all arriving on the same flat car. They are, but the car is weathered without any distinguishing marks that would draw attention to that.

Extreme weathering tends to be applied to more modern equipment – diesels, modern boxcars, and so on. This is in part because the paints used on the rolling stock from my era were a lot tougher, and withstood the elements better, so they didn’t chip and rust like modern cars. But Bob’s thoughts on the value of creating “forgettable” cars applies equally to things found on my steam-era models, such as chalk marks for classifying cars: Make them non-descript.

This also applies to the consistency of a weathering job – if, for some reason, it turns out with memorable patterns, perhaps it’s time to repaint. I have a couple of boxcars that developed odd weathering patterns on the running boards, so I repainted the running boards and took a second run at weathering them. I’m happier that I did.

CNR 3737 :: Piping near the cab

CNR 3737 - Piping.

I’ve been exchanging notes with a reader and he mentioned he’s hoping for more progress reports on my CNR 2-8-2 – so this one’s for you!

Progress has been slow, so there’s not much to report. Our schedules have conflicted more often than not, so my friend Andy Malette and I have only been able to hold a couple of work sessions over the past several months. That’s fine – it’s a hobby, and the work will wait until we’re able to do tackle it.

At our last session – late last year – I installed some piping ahead of, and underneath, the cab. Unfortunately, I’d forgotten to take along some brass castings that were essential to this work, so I had to revisit the piping, cutting into it in some places and re-bending it in others. But the result can be seen in the photo above.

I still have to do the other side.

I have to confess that tracing pipes on photographs makes my head swim. The pipes duck in and out, behind appliances, under running boards, and so on. And the old photos are often a bit grainy or taken at a typical, 3/4 front view from track level. So sometimes, it’s a guess at best. Now, it’s an educated guess: I’m following piping diagrams from various sources, including the Model Railroader Cyclopedia – Volume 1. But those sources are guidelines, at best. As any student of steam locomotives knows, appliances and piping typically varied from unit to unit, based on where and when the locomotive was last shopped and what was on hand at the time.

I find that printing out the photos – or sections of photos – in a larger size helps. I can then use a selection of markers to trace each pipe in a different colour. Assuming, of course, I can see them in the prints…

Locating piping is further complicated by the fact that the pipes cannot always go where the prototype put them. In the photo above, I’ve had to run the lowest pipe parallel to the running board until it clears the space required for the trailing truck, then curl it downwards. On the prototype, this pipe cuts across that open space at more of a 45 degree angle. But of course, I want my model to be able to negotiate the curves on the S Scale Workshop modules (for which I’m building this model) – and my own layout.

Back to staring at photos and taking notes. It’s all part of the learning process.

Merritton :: 1980

Merritton-1980

I’ll start by saying this is not my photograph. I found it online – on a Facebook group devoted to Niagara region history and trivia. The image is by AW Mooney – and as Rob Chant notes in the comments, a larger version can be found on the Railpictures site, along with additional caption information. (Thanks Rob!)

This one is outside of my modelling timeframe and location. But I love the image.

It’s 1980 and we’re looking east along the Grimsby Subdivision at Merritton, Ontario – at the east end of St. Catharines. The photographer is standing on the Merritt Street bridge over the tracks.

At one time, this was the location where the CNR interchanged freight traffic with the Niagara St. Catharines and Toronto Railway – an electrified line that ran between Lake Ontario and Lake Erie. (The CNR absorbed the NS&T and when I was growing up in St. Catharines I used to regularly see CNR switch engines in my neighbourhood, running on former NS&T street trackage to serve a General Motors parts plant on Ontario Street.)

The interchange yard is to the left, behind the station building. There’s a four-track yard there now – but it used to be larger and at one time included a track scale. Even so, it was a small yard by railway standards – perfect for modelling.

Obviously, the big attraction in this picture is the steam fan trip behind CNR 6060. But as someone who grew up in this area, I see lots of other interesting things.

The station, for one. It’s gone now – the victim of a fire (arson, if I recall) in the 1990s. I have some photos of it somewhere, taken shortly before it burned down. It was not an active station – VIA Rail trains stopped at West St. Catharines, a couple miles behind the photographer. But it was used, I believe, as a crew office for the local switch jobs. Now, Trillium Railway works out of a metal building here.

The track occupied by the switcher curves to the right in the distance. That’s the start of a steep grade up the Niagara Escarpment into Thorold. Among other customers, that line served the paper mill on Pine Street. I’ve written a fair bit about that customer on my Achievable Layouts blog.

In the distance, the grey blob over the tracks is the lift bridge over the Welland Canal.

I remember riding a fan trip special behind CNR 6060 to Niagara Falls and back when I lived in Toronto. But I don’t remember this trip through St. Catharines in 1980. This photo brings back a lot of memories.

I must confess I have made several attempts, in various layout spaces, to design a layout based on the ex-NS&T lines as I remember them – part of CNR’s Grantham Subdivision in the 1980s. Essential locations for me would include this yard and Eastchester Yard on the NS&T north of here. But I can never get it to fit. I think I know the prototype a little too well, and can’t accept the compromises required to shoehorn it into a basement. Or maybe I haven’t tried hard enough…

In addition to writing about it here, I shared the original image to the Classic Canadian National Facebook group, where it’s already generating some interesting discussion.

“End of the Line”

This 1959 documentary from the National Film Board offers a nostalgic look at the steam locomotive in Canada as it passes from reality to history. As with all NFB titles, it’s extremely well produced.

There’s a lot to absorb here – not just about the end of the steam era, but also about how different groups of people reacted to that. And of course there’s plenty of fascinating footage with well-done sound.

Grab a coffee, tea or adult beverage – and enjoy.


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

As an aside, I’m grateful to the team of professionals who took the time to create this piece – and that we have the NFB to produce and share such work.

Steam Locomotives (the Cyclopedia)

More accurately, Model Railroader Cyclopedia – Volume 1: Steam Locomotives:

Steam Locomotives - Cyclopedia

This arrived for me this week, after a discussion with my friend Andy Malette about research materials for our CNR Mikado project. Andy noted that this book taught him a lot about the various appliances on steam locomotives, as well as the myriad of pipes that connect them. So, I grabbed a copy via ABEbooks. And Andy is right – there’s a ton of information in this tome.

The caveat is, the information is of course “ex-Works”, “best practices” and so on. If you’re detailing a locomotive, as we are, it’s important to check prototype photos of the exact locomotive you’re trying to model. This is particularly important with steam engines, and even moreso if they’ve been around for a while: just like a subdivision can start out looking like it’s built from Monopoly houses, yet acquire character through the passage of time, individual steam engines often developed a unique character as shop forces worked to keep them in service, and to modernize them.

In fact, that’s one of the joys I’m experiencing in doing this project with Andy. We’ve each picked different numbers – I’m doing 3737, while he’s chosen 3702 – and the two locomotives are very different. The plumbing is different. The location of appliances is different (for example, on Andy’s locomotive, the location of the feed water pump and the air pump is reversed). The smokebox fronts are different. The sand domes are in different spots. And so on. When we’re finished, we will have two locomotives of the same class that each exhibit their own character, and have their own back stories.

This is what makes prototype modelling so rewarding. As a friend is fond of saying, “Details Matter”.

Snow fencing in RMC

I have a feature in the December 2017 issue of Railroad Model Craftsman magazine about how I build rolls of snow fencing for my layout. While the subject is in 1:64, this could be done in other scales as well. The technique I describe can also be used to create lengths of snow fence to install along fields, near bridges, and so on – wherever drifting might occur.

Snow Fence - Section House

Click on the cover, below, to go to the RMC website.

RMC-2017-12-Cover

CNR 3737 :: Piping

A muscular face

For many sessions now, the work on CNR 3737 – my S-3-a Mikado – has involved removing piping from the boiler, to the point where it was starting to look like a tube. On Friday, Andy Malette and I started adding piping – and already it’s a definite change for the better.

CNR 3737 Piping

CNR 3737 Piping

We started by removing the rest of the handrails (but keeping the stanchions in place), so they’d be out of the way. Then I bent up and added the exhaust pipes from the Elesco Feedwater Heater. This required a fair bit of trial and fit to get the pipes to hug the smokebox. We then installed the cold water supply pipe from the feed water pump. Next, we added the Hancock check valve on the top of the boiler, then fitted the hot water pipe from it.

I still have to add the condensate pipe, which runs from the side opposite the water supplies, down the smokebox, under the boiler, and back along the length of the locomotive towards the tender.

Before wrapping up the session, we managed to add the four sand lines, too.

While there’s a lot to do – and still some stuff to remove/reshape – it feels like we’ve turned a corner in this project. Thanks in part to its piping, this model is going to have a lot of character – and a very different look than it did when I bought it.

(Thanks for another great work session, Andy!)