A railway modelling craftsman reflects on his hobby

Boy, does this sound familiar!

Gene Deimling is a well-known modeller working in Proto:48. He’s responsible for the patterns for many fine rolling stock kits that O scalers enjoy. He blogs about his hobby, and I’m a regular reader. His most recent post really struck a chord with me – and I’m sure it’ll resonate with many of you, too.

Click on the image, below, to read it:

Gene's Wanderings
(Is there a better way to wander than in a doodlebug? I think not!)

I have offered up several comments about this post on his blog – and in the interests of keeping the conversation in one place, I’m turning off comments on this post. If you have something to contribute, please do so! But do it in Gene’s original post. I’m following the comments on his post so I’ll take part in the discussion there.

Gene – thanks for sharing your thoughts! (And thanks for the shout-out for Port Rowan in 1:64!)

California Dreamin’ | We’ll always have Perris

As part of my trip to California in mid-September, I squeezed in a brief stop at the restored ATSF train station in Perris. This is something I’m really glad I was able to do – it was a pilgrimage of sorts.

To find out why, visit my Achievable Layouts blog. Just click on the pretty postcard view of the station, below:

California Dreamin’ | Sugar Short Line

Pajaro Valley Consolidated RR Logo
(Click on the image to visit Nick’s new layout blog)

While attending the Ontario Manifest in California earlier this month, I was delighted to meet Nick Lisica. Nick’s modelling is exquisite – he went home from this NMRA regional convention with a number of merit awards and category wins from the contest room, including for this lovely O scale model of a steam-powered stern-wheeler, built from a Train Troll kit with many extra details:

Alexandria by Nick Lisica

But Nick is an N scaler at heart, and has picked an obscure prototype to model. The Pajaro (“Paw-haw-row”) Valley Consolidated Railroad was a narrow gauge line created in the late 19th Century to provide sugar beet farmers in the Salinas Valley with an alternative to the Southern Pacific when transporting their produce to a refinery in Watsonville, CA. Nick’s prototype is modest, making it an achievable layout. But the SP absorbed the line in the 1920s – and the PVCRR’s modest nature and short lifespan means it’s a challenge to find information and photos of the prototype.

Port Rowan is not as obscure – it lasted longer, and later, so there are better photos and records. But I face many of the same challenges in modelling my subject as Nick does in modelling his. So while we spoke at the convention, I suggested to him that he start a blog. I pointed out that by putting his work on the web, he would open it up to search engines and therefore to a broad spectrum of people who may have information.

My experience with Port Rowan in 1:64 bears this out. Obviously, when I started it, the blog was followed primarily by fellow railway modellers (because that’s who I told I was writing a blog). But since then, my readership has grown to include people who are interested in Port Rowan, St. Williams, and the area… people who are related to railway employees on the line, and to those who were customers of the railway… and so on. I’ve received as much useful information from them as I have from those within the hobby. I never know who is going to provide the next piece of the puzzle to help me build the complete picture of the CNR’s Simcoe Sub in the 1950s.

Nick took the comments to heart, and recently emailed to say he’s started a blog about his plans for his N scale home layout. I’ve added it to my links (right side of the home page). You can also visit the Pajaro Valley Consolidated Railroad by clicking on the logo at the top of this page.

(Great to meet you, Nick! I look forward to following your progress online…)

California Dreamin’ | PE 985

Danger! Danger! Whoop-whoop-whoop!

PE 985 in O scale

I had a great time in southern California earlier this month. A great time. I’ll write more about it as time allows, but my travels included a stop at The Original Whistle Stop model railway emporium in Pasadena. Which is where I saw the above, O scale, Pacific Electric wood car.

What a beauty.

I have a soft spot (right between the ears) for traction. I attribute it to growing up in Toronto – a city where streetcars survived and thrive. The TTC was a part of my daily life. My parents did not have a car – in a big city, you don’t really need one. My father took the subway to work, and my mother and I would go on all manner of trips through the city – all involving a ride on public transit. Unlike many hobbyists I know, these were my first exposure to the phenomenon of flanged wheels on steel rails.

That influenced my tastes in the hobby for many years. While others my age were devouring the work of Al McClelland and Tony Koester – and building “tribute layouts” around the theme of Appalachian coal hauling – I was absorbing everything I could about Bob Hegge and his Crooked Mountain Lines. I can still remember the month/year of issues with Hegge articles in them and at one time planned my own tribute layout in my parents’ basement. (I started one, but never got as far as stringing overhead, so I don’t know if that’s something I enjoy – or whether I’m even capable of doing it.)

My interest extended beyond the CML, of course. My copies of the traction books from Kalmbach and Carstens are definitely dog-eared. And I have a number of models of equipment from interurban lines, in several scales.

No need to worry: Port Rowan is safe. I have a boxcar painted in the Crooked Mountain Lines scheme – an NMRA heritage car, and the only freelanced railway represented on my layout.

But models like the Pacific Electric car above make my heart skip a beat. I’m fortunate it was not for sale.

As I noted earlier, I’ll have more to report on my trip – to an NMRA convention, and seeing the sights – as time allows. Stay tuned…

Paint Storage Problem

I have one:

Too much paint

Most of us can relate to this. It doesn’t take long for the number of little bottles of paint to overrun a workshop. I’m currently looking at a few options – including laser cut paint storage racks available at my local gaming store. But I’m interested in the creative solutions that you’ve devised. So if you have solved your paint storage problem – and have a link to the rack manufacturer or to photos of what you did – share in the comments, and thanks in advance.

I’m not looking for suggestions along the lines of “How about something like…” from people who have not done it themselves. I’m looking for ideas that have actually been put into practice. Let’s see what you’ve got!

The Ontario Manifest is this weekend

I’m headed off later this week to attend Ontario Manifest – the 2017 annual convention for the Pacific Southwest Region of the NMRA. I’ve been invited to deliver the after-dinner speech at the banquet on Saturday night. I’m ready to go and looking forward to it!

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.

PSR-NMRA Banquet Speech

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.

I’m also looking forward to my first visit to the Orange Empire Railway Museum.

And yes, I’ll post all about the trip when I return…

Please Stand By

As a consequence of being out of the country for a week, I’ll be tardy about responding to comments on my blogs until late next week – and if you’re a first-time commenter, your post may get held in the moderator’s cue until then. Apologies in advance – that’s just the reality of the Internet these days: everybody gets moderated the first time.

The Pindal Electric Tram

I’d heard about the Pindal Electric Tram for many years, and even seen a few videos. But nothing quite prepared me for the experience…

Earlier this month, some friends and I visited Kaj and Annie Pindal to spend a few hours in the afternoon riding the delightful 15-inch gauge, ride-in electric trolley line that runs in their back yard in Oakville, Ontario.

While I could go on at length about how Kaj built his own equipment, powered mainly by motors liberated from electric lawn mowers, made his track from fence rails, switched from trolley poles to bow-collectors which he fabricated himself, and can use the railway to take the household garbage and recycling to the curb… I think a video is the best way to express the magic that is the Pindal Electric Tram.

So here it is: enjoy if you watch…


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

Thanks, Kaj & Annie: What a wonderful day out!

(I’ve posted this to my “Adventures in Live Steam” blog, because while it isn’t live steam, it is a garden railway so that’s the most appropriate place to publish it. But since that blog receives very little traffic I thought I’d also put it here. Really, this defies categorization.)

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…

Ontario Manifest - Banquet PPT

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…

Ontario Manifest - Port Rowan Clinic PTT

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!

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!