SP 1010 in HO

As mentioned previously on this blog, I’ve been keeping my hand in the hobby by doing some projects for other people’s layouts. Last November, I wrote about CNR 7456 – a venerable brass HO scale 0-6-0 that I updated and finished to I can take it to run on a layout being built by my friend Stephen Gardiner. Now, I’ve completed another such “boomer” engine:

Southern Pacific 1010

Southern Pacific 1010

Southern Pacific 1010 is an EMD SW1 that I’ve built to take along for operating sessions on the SP layout being built by my friend Pierre Oliver. He’s modelling the Clovis Branch – from Fresno to Friant, California – which definitely was not home turf for these pint-sized switchers. They patrolled parts of the SP’s Pacific Electric subsidiary (which explains the trolley poles: these were needed to activate grade crossing protection in PE territory).

But I can’t resist a locomotive with trolley poles – and I found a new-in-the-box, factory-painted Walthers SW1 for a reasonable price – so the die was cast.

The Walthers model is from the first run – circa 1993. DCC was relatively new then, so this locomotive was not set up to accommodate a decoder. It also featured a bizarre drive train, with an enormous motor driving the rear truck through a universal, but the front truck through a rubber tube coupling. I decided to replace the motor with a smaller, more modern offering from NWSL, in part to make room for a sound decoder. I also added new universals and drive shafts, and updated the wheels with semi-scale replacements.

Then I went mad with details, including photo etched upgrades, a number of scratch-built items, and – of course – trolley poles. I originally had functioning poles, but I didn’t like the huge springs and wanted to add the ropes, so I removed the springs and glued the poles in the stowed position.

I won’t say too much more about this locomotive because I plan to write a feature on it. But I will say it was a very tight, ship-in-a-bottle DCC installation – but a very satisfying project – and I can’t wait to put SP 1010 through its paces, spotting and lifting PFE reefers in the valley…

On Hiatus

I hate it when I follow a blog and the author stops writing posts for no apparent reason. But this year I’ve been infrequent in my posts, and realize I run the risk of others wondering what’s going on.

So, this is a note to say I’m putting this blog on hold for a bit – mostly, because I have nothing of consequence to share about my model railway.

When I have something more to say, I’ll start posting again. If you want to make sure you don’t miss the return of this blog, I have described a couple of ways to follow along which will notify you whenever I make a new post.

Happy modelling, everyone!

Scrapping St. Thomas

P Oliver - Dec 15 2018

Yesterday, some friends and I made the trip to St. Thomas to visit our buddy Pierre Oliver. It was not just a social visit, mind you – he had a job for us: destroy St. Thomas.

Okay – not the real community, but his 1:87 rendition of it – the last remnant of his previous model railway, based on the Wabash operation through southern Ontario. As I’ve noted on my Achievable Layouts blog, earlier this year Pierre decided to scrap the Wabash in order to model something that better fit his interests and lifestyle: the Southern Pacific’s Clovis Branch between Fresno and Friant, California.

But back to St. Thomas…

The yard where the Wabash exchanged cabooses and crews on its trip across southern Ontario was a focal point of the old layout. It occupied a long peninsula up the middle of the main room – an area destined to become the SP line between East Fresno and Tarpey. For that to happen, Pierre needed to scrape St. Thomas off, down to the basic benchwork, and then haul the detritus out to the garage for eventual disposal. He decided that many hands would make short work – and four of us agreed. Ryan Mendell, Doug Currie and Hunter Hughson joined me for the trip.

P Oliver - Dec 15, 2018
(Pierre works near the west end of St. Thomas, while Ryan, Hunter and Doug lift roadbed east of the yard – and on the opposite side of the peninsula)

P Oliver - Dec 15, 2018
(Take that, back drop! The SP layout plan requires the backdrop to be repositioned, so Pierre and Doug take out their anger issues on the old one. It must be working…)

P Oliver - Dec 15, 2018
(Just a few hours later, the peninsula is stripped to the benchwork and ready for a new life in sunny southern California. The gap in the foreground used to hold a large viaduct at the west end of St. Thomas yard: it will need to be filled in with more benchwork for East Fresno…)

It’s never easy to scrap a model railway – although it helps when one has plans for a new one. And in this case, it’s a terrific decision. The proof of that is in the tremendous progress Pierre has made, and how happy he is with the results. Here is a quick tour…

P Oliver - Staging yard
(The end of the staging area, which represents the edge of Fresno yard. Unlike the Wabash staging, this one deserved the scenic treatment.)

SP 1802
(A “valley malley” – SP 1802 – in the staging yard)

SP 1802 and caboose
(The caboose track and engine facility leads at Fresno – actually, staging)

SP converted boxcar caboose
(The SP converted some boxcars into cabooses. I can only imagine how awful those would’ve been to ride in. Pierre built this example from a Westerfield resin kit)

SP Port Costa roundhouse
(Since the staging yard is being scenicked, it’s a good spot to have a roundhouse for the locomotives. This is an in-progress Banta laser cut kit for the SP roundhouse at Port Costa, California)

NP and DH boxcars
(A couple of Pierre’s Yarmouth Model Works kits in the Fresno staging yard)

Clovis Ice Deck
(There was no ice deck in the real Clovis, but Pierre and I decided such a signature structure would be an asset to operating sessions. This is a Walthers ice hose with Tichy deck kits. The modelled deck is a respectable 4.5 feet long)

Clovis industry
(An in-progress industry in Clovis)

Clovis industry
(An in-progress industry in Clovis)

Clovis station
(A model of an SP standard station from American Model Builders – a good stand-in for the Clovis station)

Clovis industry
(An in-progress industry in Clovis)

Start of the line
(See you next time!)

As I look through the images, I realize I didn’t take any photos of Pierre’s progress at Friant – the opposite end of the line. Oh well: that’s a good excuse to go back, right?

We ended the day with a lovely meal prepared by Pierre’s wife (thanks, Kate!) before heading home. I look forward to seeing the new layout next time I visit!

CNR 7456 in HO

I haven’t been doing much on Port Rowan this year for various reasons. Truth be told, I haven’t done too much in the hobby this year, period. But I have been trying to keep my hand in – primarily with some projects for others.

This locomotive is one of them:

CNR 7456 - Weathered
(CNR 7456 in HO scale)

A while back, my friend Stephen Gardiner and his wife Heather bought a townhouse – and in the summer, a bunch of us descended on his place to build benchwork for Stephen’s HO scale layout based on Toronto’s Liberty Village district. (You can read more about the benchwork party on my Achievable Layouts blog, and more about Stephen’s Liberty Village layout on his blog.)

Even before Stephen moved into his new place, I knew that I wanted to have a locomotive to take out to operating sessions. And when I happened to stumble across a “like-new” example of the brass CNR O-18-a imported many years ago by Van Hobbies, the die was cast. I picked up this model earlier this year, and started working on it back in May.

If I’m counting correctly, this is the fourth example of the VH O-18-a that I’ve owned, and I’ve regretted selling on every previous model, so I was excited to find this one. And it was indeed in great condition. Every one of these that I’ve owned has enjoyed a super smooth mechanism ideal for slow speed running, and this model continued in that tradition. However, the models are quite venerable now – they were imported a couple of decades before anybody had even heard of DCC – so they do need their motor upgraded. I also needed to drill the headlight and back up light and provide holes for wire runs.

(As an aside, after I acquired my O-18-a, another friend – Ryan Mendell – also picked up one, which he’ll use on his new Grand Trunk layout. And that led Stephen to find his own O-18-a – so we’ve started a club of sorts and have been sharing ideas for updating them.)

To make a long story short, I’ve done all that. I’ve added a LokSound Select, a TCS Keep-Alive (with a cut-out switch for programming, accessible from between the centre sills of the tender frame), LED lights, and a pair of ESU sugar cube speakers. It’s pretty crowded in the tender!

CNR 7456 Tender gubbins
(A view of the gubbins)

Up front, I’ve replaced the old open frame motor with a NSWL can motor, including a new bracket I fabricated from brass. This was a hurdle for me – but it turned out to be much easier than I thought it would be. The lesson learned is “Just go ahead and try, because it will probably work – and if it doesn’t, it’s just a bit of brass sheet”.

For this model, I decided to branch out from the typical model railway suppliers and experimented with Tamiya paints from my local plastic modelling hobby shop. I’m really impressed and will be using these a lot more on future projects.

But of course it wouldn’t be one of my projects without some sort of disaster. Yesterday, I reassembled the model and went to test it – and the decoder blew. I traced the fault to the bare contact on one of the sugar cube speakers, which came into contact with the bare brass of the tender interior. I thought I had secured the speaker enclosure to the underside of the top of the tender shell, but it worked its way loose. Lessons learned: Do a better job of securing the speaker enclosure and cover up those contacts.

Meantime, I’m in for another decoder – and a lot more fussy wiring. I’m kind of discouraged by that, so I’m not going to tackle it just yet. But I have plenty of time to get this model ready to run on Stephen’s new layout…

UPDATE: December 13, 2018

CNR 7456 - Fixed
(That’s more like it!)

On the weekend I was able to nip through an area hobby shop and pick up a replacement decoder – and yesterday, I installed it. This time, I made sure all speaker terminals were insulated (I applied Bondic to each one) and I also wrapped some of the interior of the brass tender shell with Kaptan tape.

The ESU approach to decoders once again proved its value: since any LokSound decoder may be loaded with the user’s choice of ESU sound file, and managed through LokProgrammer, I was able to buy the appropriate decoder – a LokSound Select Micro – with a diesel sound package preloaded on it. I then simply used the LokProgrammer to overwrite the package with my file for CNR 7456, which not only replaced all the sounds but also rewrote all the CVs to those I’d established before I blew the previous decoder.

The locomotive is now back together and running as it should. I still have a few details to address, such as a crew, window glazing and – perhaps – cab curtains. And I may want to adjust the brightness of those LED headlights. But the hard work is done!

As an aside, I picked the locomotive number – 7456 – back in the summer while visiting my friend Andy Malette. The choice was practical: Andy had a limited selection of etched brass CNR number plates and 7456 was one of the ones still available. Andy also supplied the lovely brass numerals for the cab sides. (Thanks for those, Andy!)

After deciding on 7456, I was pleased to discover a photo of the prototype when I visited the Andrew Merrilees Collection at Library and Archives Canada in September:

CNR 7456 - Merrilees

You’ll note there are a number of small differences between the prototype and my model of it. Notably, the coal bunker should be taller, the handrails are different on the tender and around the smokebox, and the headlight is lower on the smokebox front. The number board is also at the back of the headlight bracket, instead of at the front as it is on the model. However, I had already painted the locomotive when I found this photo, and a decided I could live with the discrepancies. Maybe on my next one…

Garden Renovation

Back yard - September 28 2018
(Well, all of this just has to go…)

It may seem quiet around these parts – and it is. That’s because there’s stuff happening elsewhere in the house – specifically, in the back yard. My wife and I are busy overseeing a scorched earth-style garden renovation to transform a jungle into a space we actually want to use.

Is there a railway modelling angle in all of this? You bet – as I explain on my Adventures in Live Steam blog. You can start at “Clearing the Jungle” and click your way forward through the posts. Or you can bookmark the “Garden Renovation” category and see all the posts, from most recent to oldest.

Enjoy if you visit!

“Buzzard”: Thank You!

I’d like to thank everyone who contributed to the Indiegogo campaign to raise money for post-production and film festival costs for Buzzard – the movie by Joy Webster that includes scenes shot in and around my model railway.

Joy and Filip at Port Rowan
(Joy and cinematographer Filip Funk discuss a scene overlooking Port Rowan, during our shooting day in July. Click on the image to read about shooting day.)

Overall, the campaign raised $3,943 – 78% of the goal, which is awesome. Also, 76 people backed the campaign – and I know from looking through the list of backers that a number of those wonderful people… are you!

On behalf of Joy, her actors and her crew, thank you so much for this. It means a lot to them, and to me.

Reminder: Backing “Buzzard”

As a reminder, there are only a few days left to help director Joy Webster raise funds for post production work on for her short drama, Buzzard. This included a day of filming in my layout room and workshop.

Even a modest contribution, like $10, would mean a lot to Joy – and to me.

I’ve never asked for a dime for the blogs I’ve written over the past seven years – but if you’ve enjoyed Port Rowan in 1:64, or Achievable Layouts, or my other blogs, and are looking for a way to express that appreciation, a $10 investment to Buzzard would be a terrific way to do that. If fifty of us gave $10 each, that would put Joy and her team way over the top. I’ve already contributed, of course.

You can view the trailer – and become a backer – by clicking on the image, below:

Buzzard-ShootingDay

Thanks in advance for considering this – and thank you if you have already made a contribution. Enjoy the trailer if you watch!

“Buzzard” by Joy Webster (Trailer)

Back in July, I hosted director Joy Webster and her crew for a day of film shooting in my layout room and workshop. This week, Joy released the first trailer for the film, called Buzzard. You can view the trailer – part of a fundraising campaign to finish the film – by clicking on the image, below:

Buzzard-Trailer

While the trailer only includes a brief shot taken on my layout, Joy and her team filmed more than two dozen shots in my workshop and layout room and it will feature more in the final film. In fact, Joy and cinematographer Filip Funk visited on Sunday to film a few more shots on the layout – and overview, and close-ups – to fill out some of the scenes.

The film is not about model railways – or railway modelling – but the layout is an important ice-breaker in the relationship between the two main characters, Hanna and Frank. The Indiegogo page for the trailer includes more information about Buzzard, including the following description of the film:

Buzzard is a film about the fragility of the human conscience, and the corrupt corporate system that threatens it. It’s about two very different characters that have both been manipulated by corporations to their own detriment. Hannah is a young girl who is recently out to make it on her own and trying to navigate through life, and Frank an older man who has given up on his own life after losing his daughter and sinking into depression. Both are vulnerable to the overarching corporate trap – Hannah as a young person trying to pay her bills who gets roped into working for the corrupt company, and Frank as a man struggling with depression who becomes one of the company’s prey.

I am thrilled to have had the opportunity to play a small part in the creation of this film and can’t wait to see it! It’s only natural that I’ve invested in the Indiegogo campaign – because I really want to see this project finished. And no, I’m not asking you to do contribute, but of course if you wish to do so (even as little as Cdn$10), I know it would be greatly appreciated.

And while I’ve never asked for a dime for the blogs I’ve written over the past seven years, if you’ve enjoyed Port Rowan in 1:64 and are looking for a way to express that appreciation, a Cdn$10 investment to Buzzard would be a terrific way to do that. If fifty of us gave $10 each, that would put Joy and her team way over the top.

Thanks in advance for considering it. And enjoy the trailer if you watch!

The Andrew Merrilees Collection :: 1

Canadian railway historians owe a huge debt to this man:

Andrew Merrilees

Andrew Merrilees was a Toronto-area businessman who dealt in railways, boats and other large equipment. He was also a very active collector of photographs and other materials related to transportation. A huge portion of his collection – said to number 375,000 photographs and other documents – ended up at Library and Archives Canada.

I’ve known about the Merrilees collection for a while now, but I’ve never been into the archives to have a look. I rectified that oversight this past week, as I joined my friends Jeff Young, Peter Foley and Mike Walton on a trip to Ottawa for two days of document diving.

I’ve only scratched the surface, but already my mind is blown.

Fireless loco.
(An example of the weird and wonderful things we discovered. Photographer and date – and subject – unknown. But everybody agreed we want one!)

We photographed many of the interesting things we saw, and I’ll be sharing them on my blogs as I have time to process the material.

NST 60 - Terminal
(NS&T 60 at the Geneva Street terminal in St. Catharines. Photographer and date unknown.)

I was looking primarily for photographs and information related to the Niagara St. Catharines & Toronto Railway, and therefore much of what I found will appear on my Niagara Electrics in 1:64 blog.

Other fascinating finds may end up on my blog about Achievable Layouts, as much of what I saw could act as inspiration for a wonderful model – or model railway.

Toronto York Radial Railway rotary plow
(This piece of equipment just begs to be modelled. An unknown photographer shot this image in 1905 of a Toronto & York Radial Railway (Metropolitan Division) rotary snow plow. According to notes on the back of the photo, the plow was built by J. Coghlan Company and T&Y purchased it secondhand in 1904. The photo was taken on Yonge Street, at the GTR Belt Line Subway, outside the old T&YR Mount Pleasant shop. The gentleman is identified as Joseph Middlebrook.)

CNR 91 - Simcoe - AMC
(While I wasn’t looking for photos related to Port Rowan in 1:64, I did stumble across this nice shot of CNR 2-6-0 Number 91 leading a mixed train near Simcoe, Ontario. Photographer and date unknown.)

If you’re not following my Niagara Electrics or Achievable Layouts blogs, you might want to add your email to the distribution lists. You’ll find information on how to do that on each blog – in the righthand column on the home page.

Also, I’ve added “Andrew Merrilees Collection” to my list of Categories. You’ll find that list as a drop-down menu in the right column on the home page for this blog. In the future, if you want to find all posts related to images from this collection, that’s one way to do it.