Leedham’s Mill construction :: 1

Summer seems to be my season for modelling structures – and this summer, I’m tackling the most important customer on my model railway: the Leedham’s Mill, literally at the end of the line in Port Rowan.

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The mill consists of several buildings, including an elevator at trackside, a coal bin, and a storage building for bagged cement. But I’m starting with the office:

Leedham Mill - office model

This is a visually interesting structure with an equally interesting history. The mill office started life as the railway’s freight house. It sat east of the station, and was painted in Grand Trunk’s two-tone scheme.

But the railway sold the structure to Leedham’s Mill, and in February of 1938 the mill hauled the freight house across the tracks and west to the mill property.

Port Rowan freight house - moving day
(Moving day! Photo courtesy the Leedham family. Click the image to read more about the prototype)

The mill’s new office was put on a new foundation and at some point, a cinder block extension was added. Also at some point – I’m not sure when – it received a coat of red paint. This structure still exists as part of Doerksen Farm Supplies Ltd.

Late last year, I was fortunate to sit down with Donald Archie Leedham, who worked in the family mill in the 1940s and 1950s. Donald provided me with a lot of useful information about the mill and its relationship with the railway, which you can read about in an earlier post. Just click on the photo, above.

My mock-up of the office has done terrific service on the layout, but has been in place for several years now while I focussed on other projects. Given that it’s right up front on the layout, and one of the first structures visitors will see, I wanted to polish my skills on structures that are not such a signature item.

But last weekend, I printed out a package of detail shots – many taken for me by Mike Livingston on one of his trips to Port Rowan. I made several notes on dimensions and claddings, and then got to work cutting and gluing styrene and strip wood.

Leedham Mill - office model
(The side of the office that’s closest to the aisle on my layout. The cinder block extension will go on corner in the lower right)

Leedham Mill - office model
(The side of the office that’s closest to the backdrop. Visitors will be able to look between the office and the elevator and see this wall)

For this structure, I’m using the wall farthest from the aisle as a place to experiment with stains and shading. I’ve been doing a lot of painting lately for tabletop miniature gaming and role playing games, and learning painting techniques that are new to me, so I’m working on applying them in a model railway context. To emphasize the walls, I’ve stained individual boards and battens with browns and greys, then randomly glued them to my styrene sub-walls before blending everything together with a top coat. I’m really happy with the results so far, and look forward to continuing to experiment with washes and tones.

Right now, I’m waiting on an order from Mt. Albert Scale Lumber. (It figures: I finally get started on the structure, and I promptly run out of a critical size of strip wood.) But that’s fine – I have other things to do, and I’m already feeling a little bored and battered by board-by-board board-and-batten…

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.

Turning the Tonner

Just because you don’t have to, doesn’t mean you can’t…

CNR 1 - Port Rowan turntable

CNR Number 1 – a GE 44-Tonner – takes a spin on the Port Rowan turntable. While the 44-Tonner is a centre-cab unit, the diesel does have a front and a rear. On long runs, the engineer prefers to have the control stand in front of him: It’s more comfortable. So the trip back to Hamilton warrants a trip to the turntable.

Moffett Models Scale House Kit

As mentioned yesterday, I’m about to start a new project:

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(A fun summer project)

A couple of weeks ago while surfing the net I found a neat little model for sale – a scale test car once offered in brass by Southwind Model Works. The car is en route to me as I type this, so I don’t yet have a photo of it to share – but there’s a write-up on these models, with a couple of photos, in the Product Gallery* on the NASG’s website.

Once I determined I could get the model, the question became: “What to do with it?” My branch does not have a track scale, and there’s no room to add one even if I felt like straying from the prototype (which I definitely do not).

Still, I like oddball pieces of equipment (which was the primary reason behind building a CNR snow plow, despite modelling August) and I think relocating a scale test car can provide an interesting wrinkle to an operating session: the car must be handled directly in front of the van (caboose) and a train with one of these in tow cannot exceed 20 mph.

I may not be able to run such a train at home, but it occurred to me that it would be a great talking point on the S Scale Workshop modular layout.

It also occurred to me that I might have room to build a small module for the Workshop that features a track scale. They’re interesting structures, and we could weigh cars during a session – perhaps as they come out of the brewery that’s the focus of a module set by fellow Workshop member Andy Malette:

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So, I started looking for photos and other information to scratch-build a model of a track scale. Andy saw a post I made to the CN Lines Yahoo Group, put the call out to some mutual friends, and I ended up relieving Jim Martin – another member of the Workshop – of an unbuilt kit for a scale house in S… once offered by Pete Moffett, who is also a member of the Workshop.

It’s a funny, small world in S.

The kit looks like a fun project – although I’m going to consider my options for finishing the structure and then decide whether I will build the kit or the resin castings as patterns to make my own walls in wood. Windows, doors and other hardware will be useful, regardless.

But I have a great, small, fun project to tackle this summer – perfect since our house is under renovation so many of my larger projects will be on hold. Regardless of whether I build this kit or use it as the basis for a scratch-built scale house, I’m looking forward to it!

(*The NASG Product Gallery is a terrific resource for those working in 1:64. It’s a great way to figure out what you’ve got – or what might be available for one’s layout. I like it so much, I’ve gone through the gallery looking for gaps in its coverage, and have supplied photos to the gallery’s manager to help fill some of the holes.)

TV Is The Thing This Year*

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(The farmhouse at St. Williams has all modern conveniences for 1953, including a television. Somebody is doing well on sales of tobacco, it seems!)

Little details often go a long way to setting the year on a layout – especially for those who are not in the hobby or not familiar with the railway being modelled.

For example, I know that 2-6-0s ran on the branch to Port Rowan until sometime in the mid-1950s, when a bridge at Caledonia was rebuilt to allow larger power to cross. By 1957, Port Rowan trains were hauled by CNR 10-wheelers. Somebody who is only generally familiar with railroading may see steam locomotives and be able to guess that the layout is set before 1960 – but they would need more clues before they could even pin down the decade.

Vehicles help. Even if one can’t tell a 1953 Ford from a 1955 Chevy, there are certain signature styles that say “1950s” versus earlier or later decades: Nobody will mistake that 1953 Ford Crestline Victoria for a 1935 Ford Phaeton.

But little details also help tell the story. Like a TV antenna.

As the lead photo shows, I’ve used an HO scale photo-etched antenna from Gold Medal Models. I glued this to a length of phosphor bronze wire (not included) and added a block at the bottom from 0.040″ square styrene strip. I painted the block and wire black and then glued the antenna assembly to the side of the chimney. I added a loop of black E-Z Line around the chimney to represent a strap of metal, securing the antenna to the brick work.

The signal has to get from the antenna to the TV, so I used more black E-Z Line to add a cable. I threaded an eyebolt onto the line, and glued this into a hole drilled on the wall below the eavestrough, as shown below. Next, I drilled a hole in the siding next to the parlour window and glued one end of the cable into this. I then pulled the line tight – but not too tight – and glued the other end of the cable to the bottom of the antenna mast.

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For most North Americans, a roof-top antenna defines a period from the launch of broadcast TV in the mid-1940s to the widespread adoption of cable TV services in the 1980s.

TV came to Canada a little later than in the United States. Canadians living along the border had been picking up American signals since 1946, and thousands of TV sets were watching ABC, NBC or CBS from border cities like Buffalo, Detroit and Seattle.

The first Canadian stations – CBC Montreal and CBC Toronto – signed on in September 1952. That year, it’s estimated that some 85,000 sets were sold, 95% of them in Ontario. Most of these – 57.4% – were sold in the Toronto, Hamilton and Niagara Regions as people took advantage of clear signals beamed across Lake Ontario.

St. Williams and Port Rowan are a fair distance from Toronto so picking up CBC would’ve been impossible until further affiliates were launched. But they are right along the shore of Lake Erie – and from a broadcast signal perspective they’re in clear view of Buffalo. Could they have received television signals from there? Would they have bothered?

WBEN-TV signed on the air in 1948 and WGR-TV joined it in 1954, so signal or two existed. But televisions were expensive and the signal quality would’ve been dicey. That said, TVs were also a status symbol. It seems that my tobacco farmer in St. Williams is keen to impress the neighbours with a television in the parlour. Or maybe he just loves The Howdy Doody Show?

Regardless of reason, the antenna adds a nice bit of rooftop clutter that helps define the era.

*Dinah Washington’s recording of “TV Is The Thing This Year” was released in 1953 – one of the years I use for operating sessions on my layout:

FYI, Diane Reeves did a great version of it on the soundtrack for “Good Night and Good Luck”:

Hinder, or help?

 photo CNR80-CNR1532-StW-Dark_zpsljohca1c.jpg
(A reader asks if progress in St. Williams makes me less likely to change the track arrangement. Click on the image to read more about this favourite train-photographing spot, and to assess the progress made here over the past two years)

Following a recent post on the above location on my layout, reader Craig Townsend asked:

You’ve mentioned in the past about possibility redoing St. Williams to better replicate the prototype, so does looking at the progress you’ve made hinder or help your decision to keep St. Williams the way it is?

It’s a great question – thanks for asking!

It’s true, I’ve pondered this a lot, including a couple of times in previous blog postings. A big driver behind this train of thought was the discovery of this photo of the Hammond Mill in St. Williams, shared by my friend Monte Reeves:

 photo StW-HammondMill_zpsaeaf4229.jpeg
(Click on the image to read more about this picture)

And I definitely would like to model this mill and all the adjacent structures more accurately – someday. But I’m still not sure re-building this portion of the layout would be a good idea.

To recap, here’s a drawing of the St. Williams portion of the layout, as built:

 photo StWilliams-LayoutPlan_zpsd05c9c7a.jpg
(Click on the plan to view a larger version)

And here’s a quick drawing of St. Williams in the same space, but more accurately representing the prototype:

 photo StWilliams-TestFIt_zps67ac8f17.jpg
(Click on the plan to view a larger version)

In pondering these two designs, I have determined that reworking St. Williams to be more faithful to the prototype would require some changes that I’m not willing to make:

– I would have to lose the Stone Church Road overpass – a scene I really enjoy – because it would interfere with the Hammond Mill, the mill spur, and the Queen Street level crossing.

– I would have to bump out the benchwork to accommodate the mill, which would affect my ability to maintain (and enjoy) the track through the east end of the Lynn Valley scene – which starts immediately to the west of Stone Church Road.

– I would have to move the station to the aisle side of the track, so that it would be viewed from the back. Since the only picture I have of this station is taken from the front and since this is the image that inspired me to model this station, I’m not prepared to lose that view on the layout.

There are several alternatives, of course. I could flip the station/team track portion 180 degrees, so that the station was to the left of the team track, and the first scene a train encounters upon leaving the sector plate. Or I could flip the entire St. Williams scene end for end – so that I’d build the “correct” track arrangement, but trains heading to Port Rowan would encounter the mill before arriving at the station.

I’m still pondering these ideas.

Meantime, I don’t have to do anything: I have a lot of projects to work on to finish the layout, including some big structure projects – specifically, the station and Leedham’s Mill in Port Rowan. I can do those, and then revisit the Hammond Mill / St. Williams question.

As for the original question – does the progress I’ve made make me more or less likely to redo this area? – the answer is that it doesn’t affect the decision either way. I will continue to ponder the prototype and my space, and if I come up with a satisfying arrangement that is closer to reality, I’ll gladly tear out the St. Williams that I’ve built (but I’ll finish those Port Rowan structures first).

Having built the St. Williams scene that I have, I know I could do it again, if desired. And of course I can save and re-use the structures, trees, fences, telegraph poles and other elements that have gone into this scene.

In fact, I’m sure I’d do an even better job on a second attempt, because I’ve learned things while building St. Williams the first time around.

But that’s in the future. In the meantime, I can enjoy the scene as-built…

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A riot of colour

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(CNR RS18 3640 at the St. Williams station)

There’s no real reason to share this photo, other than I like the colours: The white house and RoW fence… green and yellow locomotive… red station… and blue truck. They combine to really catch the eye. Those LED headlights sure help, too.

(Hmm: I just noticed I need to paint the stove pipe casting on the station. It’s been raw white metal since the station was built. I’ll add that to the to-do list…)

Finescale Expo on TrainMasters TV :: Part 2

As I mentioned in a previous post, Barry Silverthorn and I did a two-part report for TrainMasters TV on the 2015 Finescale Model Railroader Expo.

TrainMasters TV subscribers can now view the second part of our coverage, in which Barry and I cover a highly unusual kit-bashing contest, and learn about the influence of the late Brian Nolan on the craftsman structure-building hobby.

Click on the image, below, to start watching Part Two of our report:

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If you missed Part One, you’ll find it here.

You need to be a subscriber to TrainMasters TV to watch this report, but membership is quite reasonable.

Finescale Expo on TrainMasters TV :: Part 1

As I reported previously, Barry Silverthorn and I attended the 2015 Finescale Model Railroader Expo a week ago in Scranton, Pennsylvania to cover the show for TrainMasters TV. We’re doing a two-part report.

TrainMasters TV subscribers can now view the first part of our coverage, in which Barry and I tour the contest room and the trade show.

I was really inspired by the work on display and I think the weekend spent at the Expo will encourage me to do better as I start to add more vignettes to my layout. Who knows – down the road, I might even enter a structure or two in the contest. My Port Rowan section house might be a candidate. Or maybe a tobacco kiln from St. Williams. Both structures will need more work to bring them up to Expo contest quality, but that’s a good goal to have in mind.

Click on the image, below, to start watching Part One of our report – and I hope you enjoy this virtual visit to the Finescale Model Railroader Expo:

 photo TMTV-Finescale-Pt1_zpscokpryb2.jpg

There’s more to come in Part Two, in which we share the story of an extraordinary modeller who, while no longer with us, continues to inspire structure and diorama builders. We also cover a highly unusual kit-bashing contest.

You need to be a subscriber to TrainMasters TV to watch this report, but membership is quite reasonable.

2015 Finescale Model Railroader Expo

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(Barry shoots a diorama built by the late Brian Nolan)

Over the weekend, Barry Silverthorn and I drove to Scranton, Pennsylvania to attend the second half of the 2015 edition of the Finescale Model Railroader Expo.

It was the first visit to this event for both of us, and we had a lot of fun as we covered the expo for a couple of upcoming segments of TrainMasters TV.

Each Expo includes a competition, with votes submitted by many of the 350 attendees at this year’s gathering. Barry and I were gobsmacked by the incredible modelling on display in the contest room.

Everything was top calibre, but among my favourites were this bait shop …

 photo FMRE-03-BaitShop_zpsjia2m6nj.jpg

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… this crumbling narrow gauge stock car …

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… and this San Francisco cable car (which even included the mechanism that grabs the cable):

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The event also included several clinics, a highly unorthodox (but entertaining) kit-bashing contest to raise money for charity, a well-stocked dealer hall, and a banquet dinner with awards. Plus, of course, plenty of time to enjoy the camaraderie at the hotel bar and lounge.

Another highlight at the Expo was a display of dioramas built by the late Brian Nolan, presented by the Suncoast Center for Fine Scale Modeling. While the dioramas were quite large, careful attention was paid to even the smallest details. I look at the two vignettes below and realize I have so much more I can do to improve my modelling…

 photo FMRE-02-Tractor_zps2xg43msf.jpg

 photo FMRE-01-Truck_zpsdbjxxsij.jpg

On our way out of Scranton, we stopped at the Steamtown National Historic Site for a quick tour around the collection. Steamtown has a fair number of Canadian steam locomotives on the roster – understandable since steam survived longer here than it did in the United States. In the roundhouse, we spotted a couple of ex-pats:

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(CNR 3254)

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(CPR 2317)

They’re handsome examples of the locomotive-builder’s art – although they could both use a lot of TLC. Canada sure had some nice looking steam engines…

All in all, a terrific gathering. I’m very glad I went, and Barry and I had a fun time on the road together. If you haven’t been, bookmark the Expo’s web site and consider attending next year’s gathering, to be held in the Boston area.

Look for the reports from this show in upcoming episodes of TrainMasters TV.

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(Barry shoots the Scranton skyline from the top of the hotel parking garage – and the top of my FJ!)