Updating links, and expanding the directory

I’m in the process of reviewing my entire blog (Thanks for that, Photobucket!) and I’m finding some outdated/broken links.

Have you seen this link?

Realizing that fixing every link on the blog will be onerous, I’m considering simply dropping links for those sites I list fairly frequently. I’ve reviewed my “Links” directory on the right hand side of the home page, and have updated and re-organized those so they’ll be easier to use. I’ll be adding more links as I encounter them while reviewing my blog.

So, if you find a broken link in a post – or if you find a manufacturer listed without a link – the first place you should check is the “links” list. You might find a working link there. (If not, there’s always Google…)

If you still find a broken link, let me know using the “comments” section of this post. (As I fix them, I’ll delete your comment so I can keep track of those I still need to address.)

Also, I’m gradually adding a star (*) in posts next to anything that has a link in my Links directory. And I’m adding a note to the bottom of link-heavy posts reminding readers that the up-to-date links can be found in that directory. Something like this:

(*Check the “Links” section on this blog’s home page for the most up-to-date links)

In the future, if a link breaks, the first place I’ll fix it is in the directory – not necessarily in all of the posts.

What the Photobucket?

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(Read about the debacle on Yahoo! Finance, by clicking on the meter above)

“What the Photobucket?” – that’s an expletive being used by millions of people around the world right now.

I have been a Photobucket customer since September 2001, and have used it since I launched this blog to store and manage all the images I use here. This is called “Third Party Hosting” – and it could spell the end of this blog.

Here’s why:

On July 6th, Photobucket eliminated 3rd Party Hosting for all of its non-paying users, and made 3rd Party Hosting an exclusive feature of its top-tier, commercial subscription plan. Non-paying customers were cut off on July 6th. All of their links broke. The photos are still there – but they can’t be embedded and the links have broken that allowed already-embedded images to display elsewhere.

The company announced the changes in a news release on its blog. Another blog posting provides further information.

I happen to be a paying user. I pay Photobucket $30 per year for extra storage – which is the only reason you’re still seeing the photos on my blog. All paying customers, including yours truly, have received a grace period – until December 2018. Basically, I have a year and a half to decide whether to subscribe to the top-tier commercial plan – the Plus 500 – or to move all of my photos to another picture service (or my own servers) and edit all of the links in my blog’s coding.

The Plus 500 plan costs US$400 per year. I can’t justify US$400 per year for a blog that generates no revenue. I already pay a fair bit to my ISP each year to host the web site (The Model Railway Show), which includes the hosting service for this and other blogs I write.

Perhaps Photobucket will realize that its customers who make no money off their photos are willing to pay something, but can’t justify US$400 per year. Perhaps Photobucket will adjust its rates for 3rd Party Hosting.

But if they don’t, my alternative is to move the images – and edit all the links in my blogs. That’s problematic, too:

As of this writing, I have 3,029 images stored on Photobucket – including 2,222 images directly related to “Port Rowan in 1:64”. In many cases, I have used the same image several times on the blog – for example, as the link from a new post to an older one. (“Click on the image to read more…”) So, moving the images to another service and editing all of the links will be a huge undertaking.

I’m not sure I have the energy to do that. It’s a task that would be measured in weeks, if not months. I have more than 1,200 posts on this blog – if I update three posts per day, on average, I’ll finish migrating the blog over from Photobucket before the plug is pulled on 3rd Party Hosting.

Incidentally, I did a test of what it would take to migrate the blog, and I was able to do 25 posts over the course of 3-4 hours. So, it’s not completely out of reach – but it’ll be a lot of work. I have more than 1,200 posts on the blog, and counting. Then I have two other (albeit smaller) blogs to migrate. As a side benefit, if I do this I can clean up some of the older posts – for example, by fixing broken links. We’ll see…

While the manner in which Photobucket handled this change is pretty cruddy, I must admit I sympathize with the company’s plight. It’s a for-profit enterprise, and never pretended to be anything else. In my professional life, I expect my clients to pay for my services – so it would be hypocritical of me to expect Photobucket to provide its services for free. It’s one of the reasons I’ve been a paying customer for so many years.

Those in charge at Photobucket thought they had a workable business model, through a combination of ads associated with each gallery and modest subscription fees. Obviously, it doesn’t work: ad-blocking software and 3rd Party Hosting links have killed the revenue stream from advertising. The company notes in its news release that 75% of its costs arise from non-paying users employing 3rd Party Linking. So, the company had to do something.

Unfortunately, the manner in which they’ve executed these changes has angered a whole lot of people on the web. Many feel that Photobucket is trying to extort them – is somehow holding their photos hostage, unless they pay US$400/year:

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(Click on the image to read more on “The Register”)

As a result, I predict that most of those non-paying users will flee Photobucket for the next “free” service. They’ll abandon most of their photos, because they’re not really of value anyway: in the case of amateurs, the photographer has already shared the image and moved on. In the case of professionals – well, they rolled the dice on a free service. You get what you paid for.

Still, an exodus will me that Photobucket will become the service that stores more than 15 billion images that nobody looks at anymore.

The real question is, do I have until December 2018 to decide what to do? Or will the exodus force Photobucket into the Internet’s dustbin before then?

Enjoy the blog while you can…

(Since this is not a post related directly to Port Rowan in 1:64, I have disabled the comments feature. If you feel compelled to comment, there’s a very active thread on the subject on the Model Railroad Hobbyist forum. Personally, I’d rather not get into a discussion about either the issue, or potential solutions: I’ll do my research and figure it out…)

Leedham’s Mill construction :: 1

Summer seems to be my season for modelling structures – and this summer, I’m tackling the most important customer on my model railway: the Leedham’s Mill, literally at the end of the line in Port Rowan.

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The mill consists of several buildings, including an elevator at trackside, a coal bin, and a storage building for bagged cement. But I’m starting with the office:

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This is a visually interesting structure with an equally interesting history. The mill office started life as the railway’s freight house. It sat east of the station, and was painted in Grand Trunk’s two-tone scheme.

But the railway sold the structure to Leedham’s Mill, and in February of 1938 the mill hauled the freight house across the tracks and west to the mill property.

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(Moving day! Photo courtesy the Leedham family. Click the image to read more about the prototype)

The mill’s new office was put on a new foundation and at some point, a cinder block extension was added. Also at some point – I’m not sure when – it received a coat of red paint. This structure still exists as part of Doerksen Farm Supplies Ltd.

Late last year, I was fortunate to sit down with Donald Archie Leedham, who worked in the family mill in the 1940s and 1950s. Donald provided me with a lot of useful information about the mill and its relationship with the railway, which you can read about in an earlier post. Just click on the photo, above.

My mock-up of the office has done terrific service on the layout, but has been in place for several years now while I focussed on other projects. Given that it’s right up front on the layout, and one of the first structures visitors will see, I wanted to polish my skills on structures that are not such a signature item.

But last weekend, I printed out a package of detail shots – many taken for me by Mike Livingston on one of his trips to Port Rowan. I made several notes on dimensions and claddings, and then got to work cutting and gluing styrene and strip wood.

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(The side of the office that’s closest to the aisle on my layout. The cinder block extension will go on corner in the lower right)

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(The side of the office that’s closest to the backdrop. Visitors will be able to look between the office and the elevator and see this wall)

For this structure, I’m using the wall farthest from the aisle as a place to experiment with stains and shading. I’ve been doing a lot of painting lately for tabletop miniature gaming and role playing games, and learning painting techniques that are new to me, so I’m working on applying them in a model railway context. To emphasize the walls, I’ve stained individual boards and battens with browns and greys, then randomly glued them to my styrene sub-walls before blending everything together with a top coat. I’m really happy with the results so far, and look forward to continuing to experiment with washes and tones.

Right now, I’m waiting on an order from Mt. Albert Scale Lumber. (It figures: I finally get started on the structure, and I promptly run out of a critical size of strip wood.) But that’s fine – I have other things to do, and I’m already feeling a little bored and battered by board-by-board board-and-batten…

“Go on, what’s the THIRD verse?”

Well, look who’s moved into the neighbourhood…

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This is a story four years in the making.

Back in November 2013, I built a tree fort in one of the trees behind the station in St. Williams. You can read about that project by clicking on the photo, below…

G.R.O.S.S. photo TreeFort-03_zpsc26d82a1.jpg

… but at the end of that post, I noted that I was inspired by Calvin & Hobbes, and wondered where I could find a suitable tiger.

Fast forward almost two years, and in October 2015 my friend Stephen Gardiner surprised me with a model of Hobbes, which he had designed, 3D Printed, and painted. Again, clicking on the image, below, will link you to that part of the tale (or, tail?)…

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Since then, I’ve been keeping my eyes open for a suitable figure that I could modify into a Calvin – but without any luck. There aren’t any nice models of S scale kids around – and certainly nothing with Calvin’s Peanutsy proportions.

Still, when Stephen got in touch and suggested we get together for lunch, adding, “I have something for you”, it never occurred to me what that might be. So I was completely gobsmacked – and delighted – when we met up yesterday and he presented me with a 3D Printed Calvin:

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I carefully added a pin to the bottom of his foot, and placed him in a patch of light in the backyard.

Everybody sing along with Calvin!

Tigers are... photo Calvin-TreeFort_zpsffcc6a34.jpg

If Hobbes ever lets Calvin into the tree fort, he’ll have a good view of the passing trains:

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Thanks Stephen – what an awesome surprise!

The visit was grand: We went for lunch at Harbord House and had a great conversation about a number of subjects.

We discussed the announcement on Monday from Rapido Trains that it would be producing HO scale models of the iconic Canadian diesel switcher: The SW1200RS. Stephen was at the launch party, and had a lot of details to share. This is huge news for the Canadian hobby, and Rapido notes it is their most-requested model. The good news is, the Rapido Trains SW1200RS is more than vapourware – the company had test shots from the tooling on display, and a running sample. The models are due early next year, and already I know a number of people who are considering switching scales back to HO just to take advantage of these. The SW1200RS certainly figures prominently in a number of the Canadian prototypes I’ve covered on my Achievable Layouts blog.

After lunch, Stephen and I ran a freight extra to Port Rowan and back. Stephen took the engineer’s seat in CNR 10-wheeler 1532, while I headed for the conductor’s desk in the van. The layout ran well, with only a couple of misaligned couplers to contend with. It was Stephen’s first experience with ESU’s Mobile Control II wireless throttles – a combination of Ambroid tablet computer and throttle with physical knob and buttons. I switched to this system late last year and it’s been a terrific experience. (Stephen was suitably impressed, I think – but I’ll let him provide his thoughts if/when he reads this.)

All in all, a terrific day – and let’s do it again!

See you at the Ontario Manifest!

That’s Ontario, California

I’ve been invited to speak at the banquet at Ontario Manifest – the 2017 annual convention for the Pacific Southwest Region of the NMRA. This looks like a lot of fun, and I’m thrilled to take part.

I like California – a lot. I’ve been a couple of times, including for hobby-related events – and there’s a lot of spectacular railway modelling taking place in the state. The people are a ton of fun, too. I’m looking forward to spending a couple of days with them.

For the banquet, I’ll be offering up some thoughts about where the hobby is going, where we’ll find the next generation of serious hobbyists, and what we can do to foster them. I spoke on this topic at the Niagara Frontier Region NMRA convention in Ottawa, Canada just over a year ago, and had a lot of interesting feedback from those who attended. I’m looking forward to sharing my thoughts in California.

For the Saturday night banquet, I’ll be offering up some thoughts about where the hobby is going, where we’ll find the next generation of serious hobbyists, and what we can do to foster them. As the Ontario Manifest website explains…

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For many of us, the hobby is more than a way to kill time. It’s a lifelong journey of friendships and learning. We love this hobby ‐ and many of us wonder how we can encourage more people to join us as railway modeling enthusiasts. In particular, we wonder how we’re going to reach younger people. Based on experience in his professional life as a corporate speech writer, Trevor has garnered some insights into the demographic known as The Millennials. He’ll share thoughts on how we connect with a cohort that has never known a world in which the Internet did not exist, and who many dismiss ‐ wrongly ‐ as being “more interested in playing games on their phones than in building things”. Trevor will also offer some suggestions about how we make our hobby relevant to more people ‐ especially these Millennials ‐ at a time when few people encounter real trains on a daily basis.

That’s a tall order! But I spoke on this topic at the Niagara Frontier Region NMRA convention in Ottawa, Canada just over a year ago, and had a lot of interesting feedback from those who attended. I’m looking forward to sharing my thoughts in California.

Since I’m making the trip for the banquet anyway, I’ve also offered to speak about my layout – but recognizing that an S scale Canadian branchlike will be of little interest to many at the convention, I’m using the layout as a jumping off point to talk about working in a minority scale. Again, from the Ontario Manifest website…

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Trevor Marshall is a prototype modeler, and he’s working in S scale. In this clinic, he’ll share theopportunities and challenges of modeling a specific prototype in a minority scale-using his layout as an example. Trevor will cover why he ended up in a less popular scale and how that influenced his decisionwhen choosing a prototype. He’ll offer suggestions for others to research and ponder to determine whether a niche scale is a viable one in which to work. Anybody who has ever considered switching scales or who is interested in working in a second scale can benefit from this clinic.

I look forward to discussing S scale with convention-goers. I wonder if I’ll be the only one working in 1:64?

Ontario Manifest has a great line-up of activities planned – including a visit to the Orange Empire Railway Museum. Those who know me know that I’m a big fan of Interurbans – including the Pacific Electric and Sacramento Northern. So I’m excited to have the opportunity to visit the museum, because they have a lot of preserved Interurban equipment – from those two lines, and others. That’s my Sunday planned…

Ontario Manifest runs September 13-16 in Ontario, California. Check out the convention website for details – and I hope to see some of you there!

CNR 3737 :: Pump for Feedwater Heater

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On Friday, Andy Malette and I held another session at his place to work on our CNR S-3-a class 2-8-2s. Having installed the Elesco Feedwater Heater during our previous session, we moved onto the pump that supplies water to this appliance.

The water pump sits ahead of the compressor, under the running board. But before I could install the water pump, I had to make room for it. This involved cutting away part of the running board on the fireman’s side then fabricating a new section of running board.

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Using my fireman’s side photo, I planned the running board modification. I measured and marked the running board, then used a pair of tiny metal shears to cut the running board in two places, from edge to boiler. I then used the resistance soldering iron to remove the isolated midsection. More heat and a wire wheel in a Dremel Tool took care of the lumps of solder left behind on the boiler. I also removed the sand lines, which need to be re-routed.

Before installing the new running board and the water pump, it seemed like a good time to fill the holes left by the model’s check valves.

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(That hole in the boiler, just behind the foremost sand line, is the location of the original check valve. There’s one in the same location on the other side of the boiler, too)

I found a piece of brass rod just larger than the hole, and used an appropriate drill bit to open up the hole to accept the rod. I then tinned the hole and the rod and used plenty of flux and the resistance soldering rig to secure the rod. One it was in place, I used a cut-off disc to carefully cut the rod as close to the boiler as I dared. I then ground down the rod flush with the boiler, and finished up with progressively fine grades of sanding paper.

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(… and the hole is filled. I still need to polish the scratches out of the boiler)

I then fabricated a new running board segment from .020″ brass sheet. I used CA to spot-glue the segment I removed to my piece of brass sheet, with the outside edge flush to a sheet edge. I then used a pin so scribe the inside edge, which needs to follow the shape of the boiler and fit around the boiler bands. I made sure I had extra sheet stock to the left and right of this pattern, then sliced the original running board segment off the brass sheet, sanded off the CA, and cut out the new segment with shears. I then filed the new running board segment to final shape.

The new segment sits above the original running board, with tightly curved ends that meet the running board segments ahead and behind it – hence the need for extra material to each side of the new running board. I located the point at which I needed to make the bends and folded them down using pliers. I then measured the height of each folded down section and used shears to cut off the excess material. There are also various notches along the boiler edge to allow for the passage of piping, so I marked those out and filed away the unneeded material.

With the new section fabricated, I soldered it to the boiler then used photographs to locate the water pump. It’s centred just ahead of the boiler band over the third driver.

I cut and folded an L-shaped bracket for the pump, then soldered the pump to it using the provided mounting post. I trimmed the bracket so it would support the pump in the proper location, then soldered this to the boiler.

I finished up by placing the boiler on the chassis to ensure that the new water pump doesn’t interfere with the valve gear. It barely clears – but it’s sufficient.

Every work session brings this bog-standard USRA Mikado closer to my chosen CNR prototype. Compare the photo above with this photo of the stock model, taken just before we started this project:

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The main reason I’m doing this project with Andy is I did not have the know-how required to tackle it myself. I’m learning more at every session, What’s more, I’m throughly enjoying this project and look forward to what we tackle next!

Southampton mural

George Dutka recently visited Southampton, Ontario and shared a couple of photographs of a terrific mural painted on the side of one of the old brick mills. Have a look at his blog to see what I mean:

Southampton, Ontario – Mural

I have a model of the subject of this mural, which regularly plies the rails to Port Rowan. So it’s nice to see it captured in a piece of public art – thanks for sharing this, George!

Like Port Rowan, Southampton is another one of those small Ontario towns once served by the CNR that would make a terrific subject for a satisfying layout. In fact, I’ve even drawn up a plan for such a layout, which you can find on my Achievable Layouts blog.

Enjoy if you visit!

CNR 3737 :: Feedwater Heater

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(Well, that’s looking very different…)

It’s been a while since Andy Malette and I worked on our CNR 2-8-2 brass-bashing projects. It’s just that time of year when other commitments get in the way. But last Friday, we got back at it by installing the Elesco Feedwater Heater on each engine.

The prototype S-3-a class did not come equipped with these. According to Canadian National Steam! – an essential resource for anyone modelling The People’s Railway in the steam era – shop forces in Battle Creek, Michigan added the appliance to CNR 3737 in September of 1940. I’m assuming that this was done as the Grand Trunk Western prepared to sell this locomotive to parent CNR – which occurred on February 18, 1941. CNR 3737 would retain its Grand Trunk Western livery at least until December 1948, when the Canadian government settled the duty, sales tax, and War Exchange Tax.

(As an aside, at the same time as they fitted the feedwater heater the Battle Creek shop forces also swapped in Boxpok main drivers – third driving axle from the front. Thanks for that, guys! I’ll have to retrofit that in a future work session. Andy and I are still discussing how to approach this work.)

A close look at our collection of prototype photos shows that on the engines that Andy and I are modelling, the feedwater heater was installed by cutting into the top of the smokebox and adding a platform. Side-on photos show that daylight can be seen in the lower corners, between the feedwater heater and the smokebox. With the aid of the flashlight on my phone, I’ve tried to capture what that looks like on the model:

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(BTW, the boiler is set loosely on the chassis for these photos so there are gaps that will disappear when it’s properly screwed together)

Following Andy’s lead, I measured, marked and then cut the smokebox top to accept the feedwater heater. (I can admit that taking a cut-off disc in a Dremel tool to the top of a brass steam engine was a bit of a brown trouser moment, but I did not slip. There are no nasty gouges to fill.) I finished the hole with some careful filing. I then cut a platform out of a piece of brass sheet and soldered it into the hole. Andy and I considered building arched side walls for this platform but in the end we decided that they would be completely obscured by the feedwater heater, so there was no point.

The feedwater heater itself is a brass casting provided to us by our friend Simon Parent, who created them for his 2-10-2 models. He also provided us with the spoked pilot wheels. (Thanks, Simon!)

For our models, Andy and I had to slightly modify the connections. As provided, they have two small pipe connections on the back, at the edge, that run parallel to the handrail, one above the other. I had to remove the upper connection and relocate it to the front, pointing down. This involved clipping away the unneeded connection, filing the end to shape, then drilling a hole for the new connection, soldering in a piece of brass rod, and then soldering a flange to it.

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Finally, I tinned the mounting plate and the bottom of the feedwater heater, and Andy hit it with a propane torch – in and out, quickly! – while I held everything in place with pliers. That casting needed a lot of heat…

I need to clean up a bit of solder on the end cap – easy enough to do – and decide whether I want to fill the vertical notch. The prototype had a solid cap, but the mass of this casting will make it difficult to fill without unsoldering the new pipe connection and flange. I might just leave it. It adds character, and the caps could certainly be swapped from engine to engine – or even left off: one of the photos of Andy’s prototype (3702) shows it left bare.

With its new pilot and now a feed water heater, the model is really starting to take on some CNR character. There’s still a lot to do, including reworking the face of the smokebox and adding the water pump ahead of the air pump – a modification that will require us to chop the running board and elevate a portion of it. And of course, there’s that nasty Boxpok driver!

I’m not sure what we’ll tackle next, but we’re returning to Andy’s shop in just over a week. I can hardly wait!

Port Rowan Main Street :: 1956

While this is correct for the era I model, Main Street in Port Rowan is south (beyond the backdrop) of what I model. Still, it’s an interesting photo of the community I’m modelling, and I’m grateful that it was shared via the Stories and Legends of Long Point and Port Rowan Area group on Facebook.

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Not to be too grim, but perhaps C. Leslie Clark ships an occasional coffin (loaded or empty) as express on The Daily Effort