Steam Locomotives (the Cyclopedia)

More accurately, Model Railroader Cyclopedia – Volume 1: Steam Locomotives:

Steam Locomotives - Cyclopedia

This arrived for me this week, after a discussion with my friend Andy Malette about research materials for our CNR Mikado project. Andy noted that this book taught him a lot about the various appliances on steam locomotives, as well as the myriad of pipes that connect them. So, I grabbed a copy via ABEbooks. And Andy is right – there’s a ton of information in this tome.

The caveat is, the information is of course “ex-Works”, “best practices” and so on. If you’re detailing a locomotive, as we are, it’s important to check prototype photos of the exact locomotive you’re trying to model. This is particularly important with steam engines, and even moreso if they’ve been around for a while: just like a subdivision can start out looking like it’s built from Monopoly houses, yet acquire character through the passage of time, individual steam engines often developed a unique character as shop forces worked to keep them in service, and to modernize them.

In fact, that’s one of the joys I’m experiencing in doing this project with Andy. We’ve each picked different numbers – I’m doing 3737, while he’s chosen 3702 – and the two locomotives are very different. The plumbing is different. The location of appliances is different (for example, on Andy’s locomotive, the location of the feed water pump and the air pump is reversed). The smokebox fronts are different. The sand domes are in different spots. And so on. When we’re finished, we will have two locomotives of the same class that each exhibit their own character, and have their own back stories.

This is what makes prototype modelling so rewarding. As a friend is fond of saying, “Details Matter”.

“All hat, no cattle”

As I’ve been migrating the photos for this blog off Photobucket, I’ve had the opportunity to re-read all of my posts. It’s been an interesting review.

Today, I came across my post from May, 2012 about MTH buying S Helper Service. At the time, I wrote:

Perhaps MTH will have the clout to overcome S scale’s manufacturing challenges, too, and bring fresh product to market.

Well, that sure hasn’t happened.

In hindsight, the MTH acquisition has turned out to be pretty disappointing. It’s been more than five years, and we’ve seen little out of MTH to support scale 1:64 modellers – or even those doing American Flyer. As an example, S Helper Service offered almost a dozen locomotives, offered in both scale and hi-rail:

SHS Locomotives from the NASG product gallery.

Today, MTH’s S scale locomotive offering is the F3 – and that’s it.

I realize we’re a niche of a niche, but S Helper Service’s Don Thompson seemed to find a way to support us (and thanks for that, Don!)

Fortunately, at least for those willing to build kits, other manufacturers are stepping up. There are rolling stock kits in resin, laser cut wood, brass, and other media. I’m happy to do my part to support those manufacturers who are supporting my hobby…

Get your CNR NSC-built boxcars

They’re here!

CNR-524206

Yarmouth Model Works has just released its first S scale freight car kits – for early and late variants of Canadian National Railways 1937 AAR 40-foot boxcars, as built by National Steel Car of Hamilton, Ontario and featuring the manufacturer’s unique NSC-2 end.

These limited run kits feature a one-piece resin body casting, laser cut running boards, custom photo etchings for details such as brake appliance hangers, Des Plaines Hobbies eight-rung Canadian style ladders, and decals from Black Cat Publishing.

CNR-NSC2-Early
(Early version with flat panel roof and initial brake rigging arrangement)

CNR-NSC2-Later
(Later version with raised panel roof and revised brake rigging arrangement)

I have seen the finished production models of each kit (above) in person, and they are spectacular. With more than 5,700 of these cars roaming the rails across North America between the late 1930s and the 1980s, most of us working in 1:64 can justify one of each style on their layouts. (I’ve already placed an order for a few of each.) The unique NSC-2 end will add some welcome variation to our fleets.

You can order car(s) on the Kits – S Scale page at Yarmouth Model Works. (And if you’re going to this year’s RPM Conference in the Chicago area, I know Pierre plans to attend. Maybe you can order your kits now and pick them up at the show, to save on shipping.)

While I’m not part of Yarmouth Model Works, I was among those who encouraged Pierre Oliver and his team to test the waters in S scale. The company has released a number of kits and detail parts in HO, and has won much praise from the Railroad Prototype Modelers community for prototype fidelity, the quality of castings and parts, and ease of assembly. So I’m excited by the opportunity this represents for those of us in 1:64. If these do well, more kits are planned – including unique cars for some popular American roads.

If you have never built a resin kit, these models will be a great place to start.

Decals and Data on TMTV

Recently, I had a question about applying decals. I’m no expert, but my friend Pierre Oliver is – which is why I was more than happy to host him for a segment earlier this year on TrainMasters TV, all about applying decals:

Applying Decals on TMTV
(Click on the image to head directly to the decal segment on TrainMasters TV)

And since you’re already heading to the video chair, why not also check out this companion piece on deciphering all that freight car data that you’re about to apply?

Deciphering freight car data on TMTV
(Click on the image to head directly to the freight car data segment on TrainMasters TV)

I don’t often mention TrainMasters on my site since my work on that show is not what this blog is about. But we have had a lot of positive feedback on these two segments – including from people who are experienced freight car modellers – and I know I learned a lot about decals and data in the process of hosting them. I’m confident you will, too.

TrainMasters is a subscription-based service, but your subscription comes with more than an hour of network TV quality programming each month, for less than the price of a magazine. Becoming a member is easy

Six years of blogging

On this day in 2011, I started writing about Port Rowan in 1:64, with a post called “Breaking Marley’s Chains”. You can find that post – and other early ones that outline the thinking that evolved into this layout – on the “First Time Here?” page.

I’m pleasantly surprised at how the layout has taken shape while remaining true to the ideas I set out in those early posts.

Coincidentally, I spoke last night at a local social club for railway modelling enthusiasts and railfans, and one of the subjects I touched upon was the power of coupling a blog to a layout project. I think this blog remains my most important tool for modelling Port Rowan in S scale.

That’s due, by the way, to all of you who read and comment on my posts – offering insight and information. Thanks for that. This blog has generated more than 670,000 page views and 6,700 comments – and my knowledge of Port Rowan, S scale, and modelling has benefitted tremendously from this exchange of ideas.

Just over a year ago, I wrote a post about the power of blogs as a modelling tool, called “Tips for blogging about our hobby”. If you missed it, click on the dogs, below…

 Blog-Barking

Port Rowan Main Street :: 1956

While this is correct for the era I model, Main Street in Port Rowan is south (beyond the backdrop) of what I model. Still, it’s an interesting photo of the community I’m modelling, and I’m grateful that it was shared via the Stories and Legends of Long Point and Port Rowan Area group on Facebook.

Port Rowan - Main Street - 1956

Not to be too grim, but perhaps C. Leslie Clark ships an occasional coffin (loaded or empty) as express on The Daily Effort

Leedham’s Mill research trip

Leedham Mill Sign - Stitched Together
(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.

Airstream on Bay Street in Port Rowan
(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:

Port Rowan freight house - move to Leedham Mill

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:

Leedham Mill - Doerksen calendar
(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.

Leedham Mill - Segment of prototype sign
(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.

NK Seed sign

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:

Leedham Mill - truck sign

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.

Coal Pamphlet
(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.

Leedham Mill - thermometer

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.