The Workshop Report

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(The new workshop, during construction. So far, so good!)

My current project – learning to brass-bash while re-working a USRA light Mikado into CNR 2-8-2 3737 – is also the first real test of the new workshop that I assembled in my basement last year. And I’m really pleased with the results. I’m doing a lot of the “homework” for the 2-8-2 project in the shop and it’s working out well for me. Tools are easy to hand, and the workbench is roomy and stable. The counters behind the workbench are filled with tools and materials – but that’s the point: moving the clutter to the counters means the working surface itself stays clear.

I’m also enjoying my Flex-Shaft Tool – a piece of equipment I picked up a couple of years ago, but have not used much since then. I’ve used it several times on the 2-8-2 project and I like how it works. It’s powerful, quiet, comfortable in the hand, and the foot treadle makes it easy to adjust the speed without taking one’s hands off the work.

I have lucked out: my Sherline Mill came with a set of safety glasses that are quite broad – and they fit beautifully over my reading glasses. So I can see well for close-up work.

I have been working with a task light fitted with an LED bulb, and that works well, too – although at some point I should mount my Fillex lights on the light bars I built. That’s why the light bars are there, after all. I’ve just been too busy soldering brass and burning my fingers to haul the lights out of their storage case and set them up.

Finally, I need to find a suitable chair – something that’s height-adjustable and comfortable for long sessions at the bench. I have ideas on that…

CNR 3737 :: More work on the pilot

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Last Friday, Andy Malette and I held another work session at his place to build CNR 2-8-2s. We continued our work on the pilots.

Like many CNR steam engines, the prototype Mikado I’m modelling had an air tank mounted crosswise on the pilot deck, between the front ladders. On this particular engine, the tank was welded – so with Andy’s guidance, I had my first experience with a metal lathe, and turned my tank out of a solid brass rod. While it’s not apparent in the photo above, the tank ends have a lip around the circumference, which I also modelled. And they’re drilled to accept the piping that will connect this tank to the rest of the air system.

The tank sits on two brackets – casting that Andy produced for his CNR 4-6-2 kit – and is held in place with retainers bent from 0.020″ dia. brass wire. Soldering the tank in place on the brackets required the massive heat of a torch – another first for me.

As we inspected the finished tank against the prototype photos, we realized that the model’s pilot deck was too long for my locomotive. Here’s a photo of the stock Overland model:

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Note the distance between the ladders and the pilot beam – and how far back the headlight is from the pilot. Comparing this to the prototype photo, it’s easy to see that the deck is too long:

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(Note also that the model has deck braces running from the smokebox sides to the deck – another feature absent from CNR 3737.)

At home over the weekend, I unsoldered the pilot beam from the deck, cut back the deck with a cut-off disk in my Flex-Shaft Tool, then re-soldered the beam to the deck. The shorter deck is apparent in the lead photo: The bases of the ladders are much closer to the beam. (I’m temporarily re-installed the smokebox front to better compare the face of the prototype, the as-built model, and the modifications. The smokebox will be significantly reworked at some point.)

In the process of re-attaching the pilot, I also bent up some L-shaped braces to solder underneath the deck and to the back of the pilot assembly: I was worried that over time, the solder joint along the edge of the deck would fail, given that this joint will be subject to shocks when coupling. The extra bracing can’t be seen and provides me with additional peace of mind. I’m enjoying working through these problems and devising solutions.

Once again, I have homework: I will go through various documents and photos, and remove details from the boiler that are either wrong, or in the wrong place. Meantime, Andy tells me that we now have suitable spoked pilot wheels, courtesy our friend Simon Parent, so the front end is going to look even more like a CNR engine after our next work session – scheduled for later this month. I’m already looking forward to it!

Happy New Year, everyone – best wishes for 2017!

A new pilot for CNR 3737

On Friday, I spent about four hours in the shop with Andy Malette – our first work session on the previously-announced CNR S-3-a project. Appropriately enough, we started at the front – removing the pilot that came with the model and replacing it with a CNR-specific pilot:

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(A new pilot, and my first effort at resistance soldering)

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(The factory-installed pilot can be seen in this photo of the “before” model)

We worked from instructions that Andy wrote for kits he created to model CNR 4-6-2s in S scale, and used some of the casting he had produced for those – including the beam, the draft gear (coupler box), and the boiler tube pilot. (You can find a photo of one of Andy’s 4-6-2s – CNR K3 #5575 – on the S Scale Workshop gallery.)

Once the old pilot was removed, I marked and drilled holes on the top of the new pilot beam for flag holders and the supports for the front coupler cut lever. Those will be added later.

Next, I used a resistance soldering rig to attach the boiler tube pilot and the draft gear (coupler box), then attach the completed pilot to the front deck.

We actually ended up with the drat gear mounted too high. In my enthusiasm, I did not refer to the prototype photos. Oops! Big lesson learned. Fortunately, I also learned other lessons – like, “It can be unsoldered and moved!” and “You can do this!” So last night – following consultation with prototype photos – I hauled out my own resistance soldering rig and moved it lower. I then cut and filed a piece of brass strip to go behind the box, to close the hole in the pilot beam. Sharp-eyed readers will see a U-shaped piece of brass behind the box in this photo:

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It may not seem like much – it’s just a pilot, and there’s a lot more locomotive behind it. But I’m really pleased with my progress so far. It was an excellent first class on bashing brass steam locomotives, and I’m looking forward to Lesson #2. That’ll happen in the new year sometime, when we continue to detail the pilot.

Thanks for a great work session, Andy!

I’m tackling this project for several reasons. As mentioned previously, I felt I needed a group project to motivate me – and I needed help figuring out how to proceed with the modifications I’d like to do to the stock model to make it into a CNR locomotive.

Andy is just the person to guide me in that regard. I’ve never worked on a project like this with him, and it very quickly became apparent why he was such a good teacher professionally. He would demonstrate on his 2-8-2, then let me do mine. And he’s incredibly patient. I’ve learned a lot in the first four hours, including that it’s going to take many, many hours to get the locomotives ready for the S Scale Workshop layout – but that’s wonderful, because I’m enjoying the process and the social side of the project.

The hobby isn’t a job. There are no hard deadlines – only self-imposed ones. Sometimes, in our eagerness to get to the point where a project is finished, we forget that the project itself is as enjoyable as the end result. Yes, I’m going to love giving CNR 3737 its debut on the Workshop at an exhibition sometime in the future. But I’m also loving learning about working with brass, and adding to my skill set. Which brings me to another point…

Something I hoped to learn from this project was techniques for using various tools that I’ve collected over the years. I’ve had a resistance soldering rig for several years now – I’d picked it up from the estate of a friend who passed away and I always thought that someday, I would have a use for it. But it’s been slumbering in a box for more than a decade now because I didn’t really know how to use it, and didn’t have a project upon which to learn. Other approaches to soldering always did the trick, so there was no need to put the rig to use.

Now, however, I’m learning how to use the tool – to the point where I was able to do some rework on my own after our session, as noted above. And I’m already thinking about how I can use resistance soldering for future projects.

And a technical update…

I’ve now added a new category filter: CNR 3737 will return all posts related to this project. I’ve updated previous posts with the category, and will use it on future posts – although with the holidays upon us, you may not see more on this until well into January…

CNR 3737 :: A 2-8-2 for the Workshop

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In “Dip Job“, I hinted about a new locomotive project I’m undertaking. As the photo above shows, the project is a CNR S-3-a class 2-8-2 – and I’m working on this one to share with my friends in the S Scale Workshop on our exhibition layout.

CNR 3737 was one of 25 USRA Light Mikados ordered by the Grand Trunk Railway of Canada in 1918. It spent some time on the American side of the border before being imported to Canada for good in the early 1940s. It was scrapped in September of 1958.

There’s plenty of information about the class in Roster Book 6 of the highly-recommended Canadian National Steam! series, which is where I found the above photo. If you have any interest in Canadian steam, this is a must-have series.

The starting point for this project is an Overland Models S scale (yes – Overland used to import S scale brass) USRA Light Mikado. OMI imported 150 of these Ajin-produced models in 1985. I picked up one on the used market a few years ago with the intention of converting it into a CNR specimen.

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This project has been sitting on the back burner until now because I was unsure how to proceed. I’ve never bashed brass before, and a comparison of the prototype and model photos shows that while the general lines are right, there are a number of fittings to be moved about and some modifications to make.

But in a recent conversation via email between members of the S Scale Workshop, my friend Andy Malette mentioned he also had one of these Light Mikes to tackle. The lightbulb lit: I suggested to Andy that we work on these together, and we’re going to have our first work session tomorrow.

I will share some updates on this blog, but it won’t be a blow-by-blow accounting of how I built CNR 3737. I think that’s more suitable to a magazine feature, so I will be taking photos and notes with that in mind.

Andy is an excellent builder in brass. A couple of years ago, we wowed the Workshop with a CNR 2-8-0 that he built by extensively reworking a brass consolidation based on a Missouri Pacific prototype:

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(Click to learn more)

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(Click to learn more)

Andy also designed a kit for S scale (and HO scale) CNR 4-6-2s, and has built a few CNR locomotives from the kits designed by our mutual friend, Simon Parent. He certainly knows his way around brass bashing, and I know I can learn a lot from him about this. I’m keen to get started. In preparation, I’ve been removing the protective clear coat from the OMI model. I disassembled the model, soaked the brass parts in lacquer thinner for a couple of days, then ran them through my ultrasonic cleaner:

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The model is now clear coat-free and ready to go.

Lately, I’ve found it difficult to find the enthusiasm to begin large projects. There’s just a lot of other things going on in my life right now. These aren’t bad things, but they have meant that my hobby has been on the back burner a bit. I’ve found that when this happens to me, one way to address this is – to rekindle enthusiasm, even when I’m otherwise occupied – is to launch into a project with another modeller as a co-operative effort.

Having a schedule – such as a work session once or twice per month, which is what Andy and I are planning – gives me a deadline to work towards. Plus, the anticipation of a day of model-building with friends is always inspiring.

I’m certainly looking forward to this particular project!

Dip job

I’m starting a new project in the time-honoured tradition…

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Beyond saying “this is a CNR locomotive” (which sharp-eyed readers would deduce given the categories linked to this post), I won’t elaborate just yet. Stay tuned!

(UPDATE: I’ve now added a new category filter: CNR 3737 will return all posts related to this project)

Leedham’s Mill research trip

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(My stitched-together version of the Leedham Mill sign, based on a series of photos I shot of the original – which hangs in Donald Leedham’s garage)

Yesterday, I visited with members of the Leedham family – the people who owned the feed mill in Port Rowan (now Doerksen’s Farm Supply). Leedham’s Mill is the complex of structures at the end of track in Port Rowan, and a major customer on my line.

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(My mock-up of the mill complex: I’m now looking forward to replacing this with detailed structures)

It was a treat to sit down with Donald Archie Leedham in his home. Donald worked in the family mill in the 1940s and 1950s. He seemed really pleased that I’m interested in the mill and plan to build a model of it. The visit gave me a chance to learn a lot about the history of the family and the mill, as well as scan photographs and take pictures of artifacts relevant to the era I’m modelling.

Here are some of the things I learned:

The Leedham Family originally had a mill in nearby Forestville, but when farms in that area switched almost exclusively to tobacco, the family moved its operation to Port Rowan. When the railway decided it no longer needed a separate freight house in Port Rowan, it was purchased for the mill. In February 1938, the freight house was jacked up and poles were used as rollers to move it across the tracks and west to the mill property. Here’s a photo of the move:

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The Leedhams then added an office to the freight house. This was done because the original mill office had a very low ceiling. The office is clearly seen in this next photo, from a local calendar in Donald’s collection. This also shows that the mill had a truck scale, on the north side of the office. The scale operator worked behind the large window on the north wall – to the right of the chimney – and the truck scale is right in front of the window. I don’t know if I have room to model this on my layout, but I’d sure like to figure out how:

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(Photo shows the mill after it was acquired by Doerksen – the current owners)

One of the most exciting artefacts is the original mill sign from the era I’m modelling. The Doerksens offered the sign to the Leedhams when they took over the mill. Donald has restored the sign and it hangs in his garage. It measures approximately 3’x10′ and hung on the north side of the former freight house (so it will be visible from the aisle on my layout, which is a nice bonus!). I took photos of it in segments, and stitched them together in PhotoShop to create a version of the sign that I can add to my model of the mill.

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(A sample of the sign. I took several photos – without the flash – then stitched them together to create a suitable sign for my model. That stitched-together sign is the lead photo for this post)

Leedham’s Mill handled a variety of products. The mill received various grains by rail. These were cleaned and blended into the typical products one would expect at a mill – including seed, feed and flour. The tall building closest to the tracks was the elevator – it was torn down a few years ago. Leedham’s also shipped out wheat grown in the area – but by truck.

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Speaking of trucks, Donald had one of the company signs from the trucks. These were molded out of some form of plastic and attached to the truck doors with magnets. I was able to stick it to the side of my vehicle to take a photo outdoors:

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In addition to feed and seed, Leedham’s was also a fuel dealer. Coal was delivered by rail – to the elevated coal delivery track elsewhere in the Port Rowan yard. (I did not realize that Leedham owned the coal dump – now I do!) It was then loaded into trucks using a conveyor, and trucked from the dump to a coal bin on the east side of the Leedham complex. I’ve built a small coal shed for this location but realize now I’ll have to make it a lot larger. I’ll use this coal shed elsewhere once I’ve built a replacement. There was a fair bit of coal traffic during tobacco curing season: apparently, the tobacco kilns were originally fueled with wood but Donald remembers them being switched to coal.

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(Leedham’s Mill was an important enterprise in Port Rowan, and a major customer for the railway. This pamphlet lists many of the services the mill provided to the community)

Donald recalls that coal came from the anthracite region of Pennsylvania. It crossed the lake via car ferry to Port Burwell on the CPR, and then was forwarded to the mill by the CNR. He also recalls that an elderly trestle near Vittoria was in bad shape, and that a full car of coal was too heavy for the trestle – so he would drive to Simcoe with a truck to shovel out part of the load. The balance would be delivered by rail to Port Rowan.

Leedham’s was also a B/A Oil dealer, but this was trucked to the mill. The pumps were on the west side of the road – which puts them in the aisle in my basement, so I won’t be modelling this part of the operation.

Finally, Leedham’s sold bagged cement. Volumes were dependent on who was building what in town. The bagged cement was shipped to the mill in boxcars from St. Mary’s, and unloaded into an extension of the main mill building.

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I’ve been putting off building the mill because it’s a large project – but yesterday’s visit answered some important questions and I’m now keen to tackle Leedham’s in 1:64. Thanks to Donald, his daughter Pat Elliot (who arranged the visit and brought a delicious cake) and son Scott Leedham (who was also on hand to help out), my model of the mill more accurate, and the process of building it will be more rewarding.

Port Rowan: Satellite overlay

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(“It’s around here somewhere, isn’t it?” Jack, Roy and Mocean stand in what was once the Port Rowan yard – but where, exactly, did the track go? And where were the buildings located? I now have an approximate answer…)

I’m not sure why this never occurred to me before…

… but while answering a question on the Stories and Legends of Long Point and Port Rowan Area group on Facebook, I realized I could probably take my scan of the prototype track map and superimpose it on a satellite image of Port Rowan. This would allow me to determine – roughly, at least – where various features were located in the large park that’s all that remains of the terminal. Here’s the plan:

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And here’s the plan overlaid on the satellite image:

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Next time I’m in Port Rowan, I’ll have a better idea of where I’m standing.

CNR Map of Port Rowan branch (1937)

I thought I’d share this period map of the branch from Simcoe to Port Rowan. This was included in the Canadian National Railway’s application to abandon the line in the late 1930s. It’s intended to show the various alternative transport links available to those who would be affected by the line’s closure.

The line to be abandoned is shown in red.

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(Click on the map to view a larger version)

Abandonment Application – April 1938

In the 1930s, the Canadian National Railway sought permission to abandon the Port Rowan segment of the Simcoe Subdivision – including the two towns that I model. (Click here for a map)

As part of this effort, CNR submitted its description of the line and the communities that it served to the Board of Railway Commissioners for Canada.

I’ve written about this abandonment application previously on the blog and shared some of the data. But I realized I should share more – to expand on the record, as it were.

This information is not relevant to the era I model, of course – things changed significantly in the two decades that separate this document and my 1950s setting. Nonetheless, this document provides some interesting reading, and certainly can be culled as inspiration for operating sessions. So here it is – click on each document to view a larger version:

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(The following is the catalogue information from Library and Archives Canada, for those looking to find it themselves)
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As one might expect, the village of Port Rowan was not happy about this proposal. Here’s their response.

I’m grateful to Jeffrey Smith of the CNR in Ontario website, who found this information in our federal archives and shared it with me.