“Buzzard” at the World of Film International Festival in Glasgow

If you’re in Scotland on October 6th, Buzzard – the short dramatic film shot partially in my layout room last summer – will be enjoying its film festival premiere at the World of Film International Festival in Glasgow. It is competing against 16 other shorts from around the world.

Joy and Filip at Port Rowan
(Joy and Filip discuss a shot overlooking Port Rowan. Click on the image to read all the posts about this film…)

In other news, Joy’s 2017 film – the award-winning Game – is now available for viewing via Omeleto on YouTube. And you can still catch In The Weeds – another award-winner, from 2015 – on Vimeo.

I am super excited for director Joy Webster, co-writer Ben O’Neil, co-producer Lucas Ford, and the rest of the Buzzard cast and crew. And I’d like to once again thank those of you who joined me in backing Buzzard during its fundraising effort last fall. Your contribution helped complete this film, and helped market it to festival selection committees – so it wouldn’t be in Glasgow without you.

I wish Joy the best of luck at the Glasgow festival. I only wish I could attend…

Port Rowan in Cannes

Buzzard film shoot  - July 2018

It seems my model railway is going to make it to Cannes before I do…

Longtime readers will recall that last summer, my layout room and workshop were used as locations for Buzzard – a short film co-written and directed by Joy Webster. Today, I learned from Joy that the film has been chosen as one of 16 to be featured as part of Telefilm’s Canada: Not Short on Talent market showcase at the Cannes Film Festival, May 20-23.

Joy and her co-writer Ben O’Neil will be in Cannes to represent the film as part of this showcase. (More information about the films that make up this collection can be found on the RDV Canada website.)

Congrats to everyone involved!

SP 1010 at work in California

I visited my friend Pierre Oliver this week to take photos of my HO scale model of Southern Pacific 1010 for an article I’ve prepared for Railroad Model Craftsman magazine. (I’ve written previously about this model on this blog, but only in the most general terms as I knew I would be doing a construction article on it.)

There’s more about my trip to Pierre’s place on my Achievable Layouts blog – and you can read about it by clicking on this image of the SW1 earning its keep on his layout…

SP 1010 - Clovis van hop

Enjoy if you visit!

DCC for an HO ALCo S2

My friend Stephen Gardiner asked if I could install a LokSound decoder into one of his locomotives while he took notes. I was happy to oblige, so he came over yesterday and following a quick brunch at Harbord House, we got down to it.

The locomotive in question is an Atlas HO scale ALCo S2 – one of the newer series that’s set up for DCC and sound, but was wired for straight DC operation (no decoder). I’m glad that I’d recently finished doing such an installation into an HO scale Walthers EMD SW-1 model (which I have posted about previously on this website), because that experience gave me the foundation I needed to tackle this project. Over three or four hours, I shoehorned a LokSound Select Micro, a PowerPack electronic flywheel, and two sugar cube speakers into Stephen’s model.

Stephen has written more about the day, on his website. You can visit his site and read his report by clicking on this photo of me at work…

I have no idea what I'm doing

Overall, the project went really smoothly – there was plenty of room under the hood and in the cab for everything. With the wiring done, we downloaded the appropriate file from ESU and discussed other things for the 20 minutes or so it took to write into the locomotive. I then did loaded CVs from the decoder I used in the SW1 and adjusted some values for the S2. The finished locomotive runs very smoothly and sounds great. It’s now up to Stephen to paint it.

It’s the first time I’ve had two people working together in my workshop, and I’m really pleased with how that worked out. A most enjoyable afternoon!

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…

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!

Austin Eagle: Layout tours

My trip to Texas to take part in The Austin Eagle – the NMRA Lone Star Region’s annual convention – included a terrific self-guided tour of area layouts. On the Saturday, a bunch of us hopped into my rental vehicle (a Toyota 4Runner, which had plenty of space for a crew) and hit the highway.

A highlight for me was a visit to the Proto:48 layout being built by master craftsman Jim Zwernemann. I’ve written about this on my Achievable Layouts blog, and you can read that story by clicking on Jim’s GE 70-Tonner, below:

Jim Z - SP 70 Tonner

Another key stop on the layout tour, for me, was the HO scale Santa Fe layout built by noted designer David Barrow. Again, you can read more about that experience on my Achievable Layouts blog, by clicking on the image below:

Barrow - layout tour

In addition to these two layouts, we visited a nice HOn3 layout built by Ben Sargent. Ben’s Santa Fe & San Juan Railroad models the D&RGW’s narrow gauge Chili Line in New Mexico.

Ben Sargent

Ben Sargent
(I liked the false front stock pen – what a neat idea for a minimum-space model!)

Ben Sargent

Sargent Press
(Ben is a retired political cartoonist whose layout shares space with his speciality printing business, run with this 1905-era press. Ben’s press and his collection of type for it garnered as much interest at the layout did!)

We also visited the HO scale MKT Sedalia Division being built by Steve Nelson – covering the line between Franklin Missouri and Parsons, Kansas in the autumn of 1966. Steve is a modeller I can really relate to: he shows restraint in the composition of his scenes, but not trying to crowd too many ideas into a given space. Instead, he devotes proper space to each idea.

For example, note how much space is devoted to these harvest scenes – and how Steve has created vignettes in the fields:

Steve Nelson - Harvest

Steve Nelson - Harvest

Steve Nelson - Harvest

Steve Nelson - Harvest

I was also impressed by this large soybean processing operation. I didn’t realize how many different car types are required to process soybeans and ship various finished products – it’s almost as complex as a paper mill, and would make an excellent subject for a one-industry layout:

Steve Nelson - Soybeans

Steve Nelson - Soybeans

Finally, Steve had a simple but clever homemade device for laying out parallel track. It’s pretty self explanatory:

Steve Nelson - Parallel Track

Thanks to everyone who hosted layout tours. I really enjoyed seeing your work!