The 2016 Brampton Model Railway Show

CNR 4204 at Judge Farm

I had a great time attending the 2016 Brampton (Ontario) Model Railway Show this past weekend, as part of The S Scale Workshop exhibit. As noted on the Workshop’s blog, we displayed a large U-shaped point-to-point layout, with short train-length turntables at each end.

CNR 4204 at Burnt River

This was our first appearance at the Brampton Model Railway Show and the organizers did a great job. Set-up was well-organized on Saturday morning, and it’s nice to be able to drive right into the building to unload – particularly this year, when a light rain fell for much of the weekend. The organizers also provided exhibitors with free coffee and donuts in the morning (because Canadians run on donuts) plus coupons worth $5 off at the barbecue (hotdogs, sausage on a bun, chips, pop, etc.) that they’d set up outside, which was a nice “thank you for coming” – and much appreciated!

CNR 4204 at Culverhouse

Burro at the Brewery

The S Scale Workshop’s Free-mo style modular layout ran well for the most part. We had a few alignment issues between modules on Saturday, but by the early afternoon we had basically solved those problems.

I contributed my two broad curve modules, which made their first appearance at in the Greater Toronto Area. Also a first, we split the curves and put another module in between them. That worked really well. It’s nice to know my curve modules give the group some additional flexibility.

In addition to the modules, I brought out a variety of motive power – including CNR 2-6-0 908, my Model 40 Burro Crane, my gas-electric, and CNR 2-10-2 4204. With no return loops, the 4204 was a monster on the layout: It was really out of place, given that we were limited to four-foot-long trains. The Mogul was a much better choice.

CNR 4204 at Burnt River

CNR 4204 at Burnt River

CNR 4204 at Burnt River

This show was the first time I’d exhibited modules with fellow Workshop members John Johnson and Jim Martin. The fourth member to contribute modules to last weekend’s layout was Andy Malette. He has been at almost every show, including the two shows I’ve done in the Montreal area. I know Jim and Andy quite well, but haven’t had many opportunities to “play trains” with John – and I’m really glad we had the chance.

CNR 908 at Burnt River

On Sunday, I displayed one of the die cast trucks that I’ve repainted into “Husband Transport” – a typical 1950s freight carrier in southern Ontario:

CNR 908 at Division Street

It was a treat to talk to someone from another exhibit who had a relative who was general manager at Husband Transport in Montreal. He was very pleased to discover that lettering is available. (My truck is actually lettered with HO scale decals produced by Black Cat Publishing.) And the truck gave a good giggle to a couple of women who thought it might have a reclining chair, big screen TV and beer fridge inside…

This has turned into the largest annual show in the area, and we’ll definitely be back (although we tend to not do every show every year, because we only do a few shows per year and want to spread around our appearances).

All-in-all, a grand weekend out! And it was great to meet a number of you at the show – thanks for stopping by!

Video from Exporail 2016

Bored? Looking to watch some train videos? Why not check out the S Scale Workshop blog?

I’ve just posted four videos from the Workshop’s appearance in August at the annual model train show hosted by Exporail – Canada’s national railway museum. All were shot using my RePlay XD video camera, mounted on a flat car.

Click on the camera car in the image, below, to visit the Workshop’s blog – and enjoy if you watch!

ReplayXD camera train at Copetown

(Since this is not about my layout, please offer any comments on the Workshop blog, or on the Youtube videos themselves. Cheers!)

If you’re finding this post months after I published it and you’re looking for the videos, here are links to the relevant posts on the Workshop blog:

Double-headed 2-10-2s at Exporail 2016
Cab ride at Exporail 2016
F-units at Dunham Junction (Exporail 2016)
Two CNR 2-10-2s (Exporail 2016)

S Scale Workshop – Exporail 2016 is in the books

I joined several of my friends in the S Scale Workshop this past weekend, to exhibit our free-mo style modular layout at Exporail – Canada’s national railway museum.
I’ve added a full report – with lots of photos – to the S Scale Workshop blog. Click on either photo, below, to visit that blog and read the report. Enjoy if you visit!

Workshop - Exporail 2016
(Fredrick Adlhoch runs a double-headed coal drag across “Division Street” – one of two modules I built for The Roadshow on TrainMasters TV. To his right, Andy Malette is preparing to leave the junction after meeting Fredrick’s train.)

Workshop - Exporail 2016
(This is what two scratch-built CNR T-3-a 2-10-2s look like in S scale. Locomotives by Simon Parent. The one in the front is now wondering how it ended up in Port Rowan. But that’s a story for another post…)

Workshop in the workshop

Workshop modules in the workshop

I’m still setting up my new workshop, but I’ve already had a chance to put it to good use as I prep my S Scale Workshop modules for an upcoming appearance. I thought I’d share this photo because it illustrates how I plan to work in the new space.

The central work table – a Festool MFT-3 – is at a good height for working, and allows me to get around all four sides of a larger project like this. For now, I’ve covered the MFT-3 in cardboard to protect the surface from glue – but I’m planning to build a proper, removable cover.

Meantime, the cabinets at the back provide a handy place to hold all the tools and materials I need. In this case, I’m punching up the scenery on my Workshop modules so I have my static grass applicator, static grass and other tools and materials laid out.

This is also a good opportunity to remind you that I’ll be joining my friends in the S Scale Workshop at Exporail: The Canadian Railway Museum on August 20-21 for the museum’s annual celebration of model trains. The Workshop exhibited at the museum for the first time last year, and it was very well received.

Click on the image, below, to see photos and videos from last year’s exhibit, and I hope to see some of you at Exporail in a couple of weeks!

Workshop modules in the workshop

Brian’s S scale adventure

My friend Brian Nicholson is one of the newest members of the S Scale Workshop – but membership comes at a price. When the Workshop members met Brian, he was happily working on an HO scale layout. But the lure of 1:64 was strong:

Brian Nicholson's S scale adventure
(Destined to be repainted. Click on the image to find out more)

Brian has made tremendous progress on an S scale, modular switching layout, designed to fit over top of his HO layout in a spare room. The rest of the story can be found on the S Scale Workshop blog. Enjoy if you visit!

The view from the cab (or the cupola)

 photo 4205-Copetown2016-01_zpssttbwlqf.jpg
(CNR T-3-a 2-10-2 number 4205 leads a coal train on company service on the S Scale Workshop layout. The photo is actually a screen capture of a video, shot with a small but powerful camera mounted on a flat car)

I’m always on the lookout for new ways to view my hobby, and to capture and share the effort with others. I’ve taken a lot of photos of my layout – and even some video – using a variety of image capturing hardware.

Now, thanks to a conversation with my friend David Clubine, I’m able to capture the view from the cab in video, too.

 photo ReplayXD-Copetown2016_zpspi53rt9n.jpg
(Is it a circus cannon? The Prime X from Replay XD, mounted on an S Helper Service flat car and ready to capture on-track video of the S Scale Workshop modular layout. The plow-shape lets the camera capture more of the layout, and less of the ceiling…)

As the members of the S Scale Workshop prepared to exhibit their Free-mo style modular layout at this year’s Copetown Train Show, we were looking for a way to share our effort with a wider audience. Someone had suggested we should some trackside video and I thought that would be a novel way to see the layout. But what to use?

One of our members suggested an iCar – a laser-cut car that holds an iPhone and allows one to aim the camera down the track. But they’re not available in 1:64, and I was looking for something that would shoot better quality video. A GoPro was also considered – but while they’re small as cameras go, they can be quite large.

Then David suggested the cameras made by Replay XD. David runs a company that serves and supports professional racing teams, and he uses the Replay XD to capture high definition video of the cars in action. It’s small yet rugged, and its “lipstick” shape doesn’t compromise a race car’s aerodynamics.

While we don’t need to worry about drag coefficients in the railway modelling hobby, I realized the small size of this camera might be just the ticket for mounting on a flat car to capture video from the engineer’s perspective. So I ordered one from the California-based company.

At just over 1″ in diameter and under 4″ long, the Replay XD Prime X is smaller than a GoPro, and weighs just 3.5 ounces. But this small camera packs big performance – capturing high definition video and audio, and it’s WiFi enabled so it can be controlled from a smart phone with the Replay XD app. One can start and stop recording, and the camera will stream what it sees. Pretty slick.

 photo ReplayXD-Copetown2016-Meta_zpsimtnosfo.jpg
(With the Replay XD app installed, the iPod Touch is linked to the camera via WiFi and displays what the camera sees – including my friend Stephen Gardiner, who is taking the photo: That’s him to the right of the mainline in the screen of my iPod Touch!)

The camera arrived Friday and I got to work building a suitable mount so I could secure it to the deck of an S Helper Service flat car. (These are great candidates for this as they’re all metal: their weight means they track well and glide smoothly on the rails.) At first, I mounted the camera mount on a piece of 0.060″ thick sheet styrene. I marked out and drilled four holes in the corners, arranged to line up with stake pockets on the flat car, and glued short lengths of .025″ phosphor bronze wire into the holes. This worked well: the camera was easy to mount on the flat car, it stayed put, and I didn’t have to modify the car in any way.

 photo ReplayXD-Mount-Flat_zpsyfdbhwxi.jpg
(A good start: the mount doesn’t flail about, and there’s no damage to the car itself)

I did some testing on my layout but I found that the camera – equipped with a wide-angle lens – captured too much of the ceiling in the layout room. So I went back to the workbench and built a wedge – like the front of a snow plow – so that I could mount the camera pointing down at the track. This worked much better, and is the version shown in the photos of the camera car at work on the S Scale Workshop modular layout.

 photo 4205-Copetown2016-02_zpsvvnslsno.jpg
(The camera car attracted a lot of attention from attendees at the Copetown Train Show. Here, several people grab shots of it as it shoots video of CNR 4205. This image is a screen capture from the video.)

I took the camera car to the Copetown Train Show on Sunday and shot several minutes of high-quality video. The camera and app are easy to use and I’m very pleased with the results.

I’ve posted two videos shot with the Replay XD to the S Scale Workshop blog. Click on each of the photos, below, to visit the Workshop’s blog and watch the videos. I hope you enjoy them.

Cab Ride at Copetown
 photo CabRideAtCopetown-Poster_zpstjirh8c9.jpg

CNR 4205 at Copetown
 photo CNR4205Copetown-Poster_zpsrvvsyefh.jpg

And yes, I plan to press the camera car into service on my Port Rowan layout, and elsewhere. Stay tuned…

(Thanks to Stephen Gardiner for the photos, and David Clubine for the lead on this big little camera!)

A letter from Copetown (2006)

S Scale Workshop - Cover photo SScaleWorkshop-CoverImage_zps884a9f05.jpg

A decade ago – in February of 2006, to be exact – I visited the Copetown Train Show and saw the modules built by the S Scale Workshop. I was working in another scale and gauge at the time, but a seed was planted that today has resulted in the layout featured on this blog.

It was the Workshop’s first exhibition of their free-mo style modular layout and it impressed a lot of visitors at Copetown that year. I headed home and wrote a letter to Bill Schaumburg – then editor of Railroad Model Craftsman magazine – about the show, and the debut of the S Scale Workshop on the southern Ontario exhibition scene.

Here’s the letter… which Bill printed in the June, 2006 issue as part of his Editor’s Notebook feature. After you read it, I’ll offer up some observations…

Hello, Bill:

Greetings from the Great White North! Although I must admit it’s not really white in Southern Ontario these days, despite it being the middle of winter. It’s cold, but the ground is brown and the roads are dry, which makes for easy driving (always a concern at this time of year).

But even if the weather outside IS frightful, many enthusiasts (myself included) brave the elements at the end of February and hit the road to the Copetown Train Show, which takes place in a small town of the same name just west of Hamilton, Ontario.

Copetown has never been a typical train show, but rather a showcase for fine model building with a focus on Canadian prototypes.

Copetown does not attract the usual train show crowd of families and casual punters (not that there’s anything bad about shows that do, but not every show has to cater to every taste). Instead, it draws many of the same people one meets at Railway Prototype Modelers meets such as Naperville, Cocoa Beach, and the others you regularly write about in your monthly column. Word is, about 400 people attended this year’s event, and I even saw some old friends there who had driven a good six hours to attend. (That’s particularly impressive when one considers that Copetown is only open to the public on Sunday: Exhibitors set up on Saturday and then get the chance to visit each other’s displays, buy stuff, sell stuff, socialize and so on. The day ends with a dinner, followed by an evening of slide shows and/or clinics. All in all, it’s good incentive to become an exhibitor: I’ll have to do something about that.)

Copetown features photo dealers, Canadian railway SIGs and Historical Societies, booths about area club layouts, tables staffed by manufacturers of Canadian-prototype rolling stock, structures or other details, authors or dealers of books about Canadian railroads, and layouts that exhibit a high degree of craftsmanship, usually based on a Canadian prototype.

There were a number of layouts on display this year, but I think it’s safe to say that the one that created the biggest buzz in the hall was a modular layout created by seven members of the S Scale Workshop. This layout is built to the Workshop’s own version of the Free-mo standard, which allows groups to build modules of any size and shape and then link them together in any number of ways to create large free-form layouts (the concept is described in detail at

The members of the S Scale Workshop began building their modules in earnest just a few months before the show, yet managed to assemble an astonishing 93 linear feet of model railroad in a large, lazy U-shape that worked its way through the main exhibition space.

The modules assembled into a single track line with a staging yard at one end, a model of Port Dover, Ontario at the other (actually, part of one member’s home layout), and a passing siding in the middle, with a couple of spurs still to be built. Using wireless walk-around DCC throttles and a small fleet of sound-equipped S scale Canadian National 2-6-0s built from etched kits by S Scale Loco and Supply (, the layout kept visitors entertained all day.

Some of the modules were unfinished at show time – one was still at the pink Terra Foama stage, while another had nothing more than green garbage bags stapled to each side of the roadbed to prevent any derailed trains from making a 50-inch plunge to the floor – but the potential was readily apparent and I’m sure this group will impress us all over again the next time they do a show.

It was particularly enlightening to see an S scale, craftsman-quality layout up close and personal. Interesting things are happening in 1:64, and it’s worth looking into (as if I need ANOTHER distraction). I can understand the attraction, especially if one’s modeling subject is a modest prototype, such as a branch line patrolled by small engines pulling light trains of 40’ steam-era cars: The “slightly larger than HO” nature of S would give small prototypes a presence and heft that HO just can’t accomplish, without having the overall scene overwhelm a layout room.

It was also interesting to watch the crowd’s reaction to both S scale and the free-mo nature of the layout. One could almost see the current hit the mental light bulbs. I predict that in the next couple of years, I’ll be seeing many more Free-mo style layouts at Southern Ontario shows – mostly in HO, of course, but in other scales too.

While most of the Copetown attendees have invested serious amounts of time and money into their chosen scale/gauge/era/theme, building a Free-mo style module would give many of them an opportunity to explore an avenue of the hobby that lies beyond their primary interest, and who knows where that could lead? Only to great things, I expect.

The builders of the HO scale Ontario & Eastern sectional layout (which was the cover story in the February, 1998 RMC) started the show several years ago. After a long and successful run, the O&E members decided to retire their exhibition layout to devote more time to their endeavors at home, and they passed the show’s organizational duties onto the Canadian Association of Railway Modellers (with a double “L”, since that’s how we do things here in Canada).

So, Bill, that’s the story. I hope you can make it to Copetown some year – weather permitting, of course. But to be fair, I should warn you that by the end of the weekend you may end up horse-trading your Nevada County Narrow Gauge equipment for some CN moguls, eight hatch reefers, and other signature models of Canadian railway history.


– Trevor in Toronto

Workshop video poster - Copetown 2014 photo Copetown2014-Poster_zps64528bc3.jpg

I was an outsider to S scale when I wrote that, but I find it interesting that my initial reactions to the scale were, by and large, right on the money for me.

– “(as if I need ANOTHER distraction)”
It turns out I did. I was unhappy with what I was doing in the hobby, and it was time for a change. It took me about five more years to realize that.

– “I can understand the attraction, especially if one’s modeling subject is a modest prototype, such as a branch line patrolled by small engines pulling light trains of 40’ steam-era cars.”
Well, that’s pretty obvious, since that’s what I’ve ended up modelling on my Port Rowan layout.

– “The ‘slightly larger than HO’ nature of S would give small prototypes a presence and heft that HO just can’t accomplish, without having the overall scene overwhelm a layout room.”
This is definitely something that I’ve appreciated as I’ve been working in 1:64 over the past few years. I’m a junkie for detail, and as I wrote way back near the beginning of this blog, I originally tried to design an O scale layout to fit my space. It didn’t. S did, while still giving me most of the presence that I love about O. It’s not “in your face”, but it’s also not “way over there” either.

– “I predict that in the next couple of years, I’ll be seeing many more Free-mo style layouts at Southern Ontario shows – mostly in HO, of course, but in other scales too.”
This has also happened. Since 2006, several Free-mo groups have launched in the region. I’ve even been involved in a few of them. Some have folded, others have remained quite small, but there are also some quite large groups that are very active.
I’m glad I read the crowd right that day.

– “Copetown does not attract the usual train show crowd of families and casual punters (not that there’s anything bad about shows that do, but not every show has to cater to every taste).”
This is still the case, 10 years later – and it’s one of the reasons that Copetown continues to be a terrific show for the “serious” hobbyist.

As a show, though, it remains a novel experience in Southern Ontario – an exhibition with a specific focus, instead of a general train show. Other good examples of “focussed events” in the area include the Ontario Narrow Gauge Show and the Great British Train Show, organized by The Platelayers Society. Both are well worth attending – in large part because of their unique focus on the hobby.

There are several local shows each year that pretty much present the same thing as every other local show. The same layouts are featured. The same vendors show up. If you’ve seen one, you’ve seen them all – so there’s not much point in attending. Some of these local shows are failing. If they want to turn around their fortunes, they could look at how to make their shows a unique event instead of offering up more of the same.

It’s been 10 years since I wrote that piece, and The Copetown Train Show continues. So does the S Scale Workshop – which will be celebrating the 10th anniversary since it first exhibited those Free-mo style modules, as it exhibits at the 2016 Copetown Train Show. Workshop member Jim Martin has written about this on The S Scale Workshop blog. We’ve included a couple of early photos from 2006, as well as a layout plan for this year’s exhibit and information about attending the show.

Check it out, and I hope to see you in Copetown on Sunday, March 6th!

More on the scale house

 photo ScaleHouse-07_zps7sbmquik.jpg

Further to yesterday’s post about the scale house project, I have some more progress to share.

Having sprayed the entire scale house with CNR mineral red, I let that dry and then I brush painted some pale grey on the back wall and the ceiling, to lighten up the interior somewhat. (It’s easier to see the scale mechanism now that it’s not so dark inside.)

I also painted the scale and stained the floor:

 photo ScaleHouse-08_zpszlottjbq.jpg

I mentioned the ventilator pipes in a previous post. They’re scratch-built from styrene tube sized to match some HO scale white metal castings for mushroom-style roof vents from Scale Structures Limited.

Finally, I added a latch to the door, made from a rectangle of paper (cut from one of the “Train Shop Wish List” pads from a local hobby shop, which I thought was entirely appropriate) and a bent-over Details Associates eyebolt:

 photo ScaleHouse-09_zpsj7776duu.jpg

Still lots to do, but I wanted to get a good start on the project so I would have something to show at Hunter’s place this past Saturday – and the in-progress model was well received. I’m looking forward to tacking the next piece of the scale house…