Extra 80 West leaving Port Rowan – July 10, 1953

Having spent a couple of days recovering from a flood (minor for me, but major for the city), I decided to run a train this afternoon. I’m glad I did. This scene drew my eye so I paused my operating session to grab my camera…

X 80 West - Leaving Port Rowan photo X80East-PtR_zps203669a5.jpg
(Click on the image for a larger version)

I’m pleased with the section foreman sitting on the trolley in front of the section house. I also like how the rusty roof turned out on the barn next to the team track.

Port Rowan Oil Shed

 photo SectHouse-OilShed_zpsf14a585d.jpg

A model railway just can’t have too many small sheds along the right of way. I’m actually a bit surprised I don’t see more of them in photos of Port Rowan, but I’m pleased that the section house had an adjacent shed – most likely for storing oil, lubricants, and so on. (That’s what it’ll be used for on my layout, anyway!)

I don’t have any photos of the shed at Port Rowan, but regular reader Steve Lucas shared some of the photos he’s taken of such sheds elsewhere in Ontario (thanks, Steve!) and that was enough to get me started. I decided it would be finished the same way as the section house – board and batten siding and tarpaper roof – and I built it using the same technique I used on the section house: namely, laminating individually stained and distressed strip wood over a styrene core.

I did not add any windows, and built a very plain door:
Oil Shed (Port Rowan) photo OilShed_zps2d9836b6.jpg

I positioned the shed so that the door faces the section house, with enough space for a section gang to wrestle barrels and other containers into the shed. When it’s in place on the layout, the door can barely be seen over the section house:
Section House and Oil Shed (Port Rowan) photo SectHouse-Gutter_zps70b91d97.jpg

As the above photo shows, I’ve also been working on the section house today:

I have weathered the roofs of both structures.

I’ve also added eavestroughs and downspouts to the section house – these are visible in the colour photo I have in my collection, which also shows that the eavestrough on this side has rotted through and part of what is left has come away from the roof.

I had a lot of fun modelling that. I weathered a couple of boards to represent gunk that has washed down the side of the section house where the eavestrough has failed. I’ll work on that some more – I’m not yet happy with it. It’ll probably require airbrushing.

Finally, note that the lower portions of the section house walls are darker than the uppers. This was originally a Grand Trunk structure, painted grey over green. All the photos I have of the section house show that the green is bleeding through – not as a colour, but as a darker undertone. I did this with a black weathering solution from Hunterline, and I think it turned out quite nicely…

Speeder Set Offs

 photo SectHse-Trackside_zpsa3ab5c16.jpg

Progress continues on my model of the Port Rowan section house, with the addition of a base on which I’ve built two set offs for speeders or hand cars.

The prototype had a single “stall” served by a set off. But another set off was built in front of the section house, to the right of the doors. I think that’s a neat detail.

My prototype photo shows a section gang trailer on the right-hand set-off, so I’ve built one from a white metal kit by Wiseman Model Services. I used the wheels, axles, and handles from the Wiseman kit – but replaced the platform with one scratch-built from distressed and stained strip wood. (I’ve given the trailer a coat of yellow, but still need to do the detail painting and weathering.)

While such set offs were typically built with rail and ties, the “rails” for the set offs here appear to be made from wood, including broad planks for ties. So that’s how I modelled them. I cut a piece of black styrene sheet to use as a base – then cut, distressed and stained wood for the ties and the rails. I glued these in place, using my NMRA standards gauge to set the gauge of the wooden rails. Here’s a close-up of the front of the shed, showing how the wooden rails disappear under the doors:
 photo SectHse-XCU_zps1499e659.jpg

I laid the set offs first, then used various sizes of strip wood to determine how much I would have to elevate the shed so that the doors just cleared the wooden rails. When I found the right size wood, I used it to build a foundation for the section house.

Here’s a test-fit of the base and shed on the layout – note that the wooden rails extend beyond the styrene base to touch the edge of the closest rail on the runaround track:
Port Rowan Section House - Test Fit photo SectHse-HandcarSetoff_zps6bfa57a3.jpg

I needed to scrape away a bit of the scenery base to fit the set offs in place so that they were level with the rail. When I was happy with the fit, I used CA to secure the ends of the wooden rails to the side of the steel rail on the runaround track. Before setting it in place, I put a thin coat of No More Nails on the underside of the base and weighed it down while the glue cured. Then, I added a mix of dirt and ballast around the set offs.

This photo shows the set off with dirt and ballast in place. Note the wooden foundation for the shed. Also note the boards between the rails of the runaround track, to enable the section gang to get their hand cars and speeders on and off the track:
Port Rowan Section House - hand car set off photo SectHse-SetoffBallast_zpsf94e9396.jpg

Here’s the section house in place on the ballasted base. Note the trailer on the second set off:
 photo SectHse-InSitu_zpsa0b843f6.jpg

I will add grass and weeds, plus many details, after I build the oil shed that sits next to the section house.

Security Screens

While building the set off, I also added another important detail to the section house, based on some feedback from Steve Lucas. (Thanks, Steve!)

In a comment on a previous post about the section house model, Steve noted:

The window on the toolhouse needs a heavy steel screen on it like the one in the photo, or some vandal will break it. CN used a stamped metal “screen” that was expanded metal, or alternatively, punched steel sheet.

To model the screen, Steve suggested scratching some clear styrene with sandpaper, then paint the styrene black and quickly wipe off the surface so the paint stays only in the grooves. I thought that was a pretty cool idea, but I worried that it’s so fine that it may end up looking like a deterrent designed for insects, not vandals. So, I went looking in my drawer of metal supplies and turned up some etched brass sheet from K&S Metals. It’s a square mesh pattern. I chemically blackened some of it, cut it to size and installed it over the two windows.

Here’s a photo of the screen on the side window:
Port Rowan Section House - Window Screen photo SectHse-WindowScreen_zps8c961e18.jpg

What I like about this material is its coarseness. It’s over-scale, but nobody can look at it and mistake it for a window screen to keep flies out. It screams “security measure”.

For that reason, I think it’s a success: It tells a clear story to the viewer – which is my goal with my modelling.

Section House underway

Port Rowan section house photo SectionHouse-01_zps046d46c0.jpg

I felt like sitting on the deck and working on a model yesterday – and as a result, I’ve made a good start on the section house for Port Rowan. As the above photo shows, the four walls and two roof panels have been assembled and painted/stained, the chimney has been installed, and windows have been cut and framed.

I have very little information about this structure – it appears in a couple of prototype photos, but often in the background. There is one decent photo of the track side face – a black and white picture taken from the elevated coal track, looking towards the yard throat and a CNR 10-wheeler on the turntable lead. Most of the track side face of the section house appears in the left foreground of that picture:
Another roofline? photo PtR-SectionHouse-Proto.jpg
(Click on the image to find out more about the question of rooflines)

This photo was invaluable – showing that the section house had board and batten siding, plus the general arrangement of doors and other details – including the use of what appear to be planks instead of rails for the hand cars. Naturally, this is the side that nobody will see, since it faces towards the backdrop, but I’ve decorated the face appropriately – even including the horseshoe over the doors, which I created by curling a piece of wire then flattening the wire by squeezing it with pliers:
That's better (Port Rowan section house) photo SectionHouse-Rebuild-03_zps3f74fc57.jpg

I used a similar technique to create the door handle.

Another prototype photo – of a crew turning a locomotive on the turntable – shows the west side of the structure, including the window. The good news is that photo is in colour, so I’m confident of the red siding and black roof.

The colour photo shows tarpaper on the roof, although the black and white photo shows shingles. I decided to go with the tarpaper because I like the look. The colour photo also shows details like the brick chimney (on the model, a resin casting from Model Tech Studios that I piked up at a train show). And it shows that the wall everybody will see – the end wall facing the fascia – is blank:
Port Rowan section house photo SectionHouse-02_zpsd9112346.jpg

I stained my boards with Barn Red weathering mix from Hunterline, and brush-painted the tarpaper roof with Black Grey from Acrylicos Vallejo.

Working from the measurements determined through the building of many, many mockups, I cut four wall sections out of .010″ thick black styrene sheet. I then laminated individually-stained boards onto these pieces, topped by individual battens. The black styrene prevents white from showing through any gaps between boards. Since .010″ sheet is too thin to be structural, the finished walls were then edged with .060″ x .060″ styrene strip, and laminated to sections of .060″ standard (white) styrene sheet cut to fit inside this frame.

With four walls completed, I assembled the structure, adding two roof panels cut from .060″ thick styrene sheet. I drilled and squared a hole for the chimney, added tarpaper roofing material cut from masking tape, and painted the roof. I then fit the chimney – which I had previously painted – and added more masking tape as flashing.

While I made good progress, there’s still much to do – from adding glass to the windows, to building the set offs (two of them) for hand cars, to adding the clutter and building the hand cars. I have S scale white metal kits from Wiseman Model Services for hand car and a trailer (like the one seen in the prototype photo). And, of course, I’ll have to build the adjacent oil shed. I’ll mount both structures on a small base and work it into the scene with ground cover, etc.

The scene is coming together nicely and it’s great to have a section of the layout – even a small section like this – that’s so close to looking finished. While there are always details to add, it’s satisfying to get rid of most of the mockups in the Port Rowan yard – just the oil shed to do:
In the yard (Port Rowan section house) photo SectionHouse-03_zps12b88b69.jpg

I’m also pleased by how this spot of colour draws the eye, even when looking across the big red mockup of the Port Rowan station:
 photo SectionHouse-04_zpsc1435a68.jpg

The lesson of modelling what you see – not what you think you see

This is a trap into which I sometimes fall – particularly when I’m enjoying working on a project and I’m keen to finish. In the interests of describing this project – warts and all – I must confess that I goofed royally when starting this structure.

I started with the track side wall for the section house. As I was beavering away on this, I worked from my prototype photo but at some point I simply assumed the paired doors were centred under the peak. Obviously, they aren’t – the prototype photo clearly shows that. But that’s how I built them – as this (unfortunately fuzzy) image illustrates:
Oops (Port Rowan section house) photo SectionHouse-Rebuild-01_zpsae090d31.jpg

Oops.

What to do? My first thought was to scrap the side and start over, but I’d put a lot of work into the doors and I was pleased with how they turned out. Fortunately, this side faces away from the viewer, so it’ll only ever be seen at a shallow angle – for example, if I take a photo looking along the yard tracks. So, I decided I might be able to salvage the wall – and if not, I could rebuild.

I cut back the wall on the left side, then added material to the right side wall and roof to, in effect, slide all the details a couple of feet to the left:
 photo SectionHouse-Rebuild-02_zps978a4213.jpg

As the photo shows, I also had to square the ends of my boards and battens. In the end, I even sliced off a number of battens completely. I then cut more boards and battens to fit:
That's better (Port Rowan section house) photo SectionHouse-Rebuild-03_zps3f74fc57.jpg

It’s not a perfect fix – the butt joints in the boards are visible – but it saved me having to start from scratch and given that this side won’t be easily seen on the layout, I can live with it. If this wall was to face the aisle, I would’ve started over.

Lesson learned? Probably not. But maybe someone else will learn from my mistake…

A decision on the section house

Those who have just read about the turntable build may have noted yet another mock-up of the section house next to the approach track. If you missed it, have another look:
Turntable approach photo PtR-TT-Approach-01.jpg

This is section house #6 – and the one I’m going to build.

Pierre Oliver and I went back and forth on the section house several times by email and phone – trading sketches and photos, and drawing on Pierre’s knowledge of building practices. We originally thought the section house featured a dormer, as seen on some of the previous mock-ups:
Now we are four photo Mockup-PtR-SectionHouse-04.jpg

But in the end, we determined it’s most likely the roof on an adjacent shed:
The final section house mockup, plus 1 photo Mockup-PtR-SectionHouse-06.jpg

The problem was that in order to get a roofline that looked like the one on the prototype…
Another roofline? photo PtR-SectionHouse-Proto.jpg

…the dormer roof had to be a different pitch than the main roof. As Pierre says, that’s incredibly difficult to do – it’s a lot of math. While such challenging rooflines might be built on significant structures – on a major passenger station, for example – it’s unlikely the bridge and building department would have specified such a complex roof for a section house. It would have slowed down construction, and increased labour costs, for no benefit.

Once we decided it was two structures, designing a suitable pair of structures was easy peasy:
Two structures photo Mockup-PtR-SectionHouse-07.jpg

(Thanks for all the help on this, Pierre!)

Would you believe… four section houses?

Now we are four photo Mockup-PtR-SectionHouse-04.jpg

Following a conversation with my friend Pierre Oliver, I created a fourth mockup of the section house at Port Rowan.

This one combines elements of two previous mockups.

Mockup “1” has no dormer, which I know is wrong but it is a good reference point because I feel it captures the rest of the structure well. Mockup “2” has a full-width dormer, but I didn’t like the roofline. Mockup “3” has a better roofline on the dormer, but overall it was too complex. At Pierre’s suggestion, I narrowed the dormer from “2”, and used the same angle for the peak that I used on the main part of the building.

I think the result – “4” – works better than the first three, so here it is in position on the layout:
New section house mockup photo Mockup-PtR-SectionHouse-05.jpg

This blog has once again proven useful as I work to solve the puzzle of Port Rowan. But if I need to do any more of these, I’m going to have to get smart about building section house mockups.

(Thanks for the feedback, Pierre!)

Port Rowan section house (or, “Pick me!” “No, pick me!” “No, pick ME!”)

One of the smallest structures on the layout is proving to be one of the most difficult.

The railway had a section house in Port Rowan – a small structure up near the yard throat to hold tools and materials for track workers. It also had space for a handcar, so workers could move along the line and get to where track needed attention.

I have a few prototype photos of the section house, but they only show three of the four sides. From these, I’ve figured out that the roofline drops lower on one side than the other as can be seen in this picture of my mockup:
Port Rowan section house photo Mockup-PtR-SectionHouse-01.jpg

So far, so good.

But while talking with my friend Pierre Oliver, he pointed out that the fourth side features something more complex than a shed roof. We think there’s another roofline – probably a dormer – on this elusive side:
Another roofline? photo PtR-SectionHouse-Proto.jpg

The question is, what’s it look like? I’ve created three mockups of the section house…
Pick me - no me - no me! photo Mockup-PtR-SectionHouse-02.jpg

… and I’m still not completely happy.

The one at the left is my first attempt, based on the above prototype photo as well as another picture, showing the wall opposite that suggests the complex roofline continues across the entire un-photographed side. This mockup doesn’t ring true for me. The roof seems excessively elaborate for a section house and the relatively shallow pitch of the roof reminds me more of a suburban bungalow than a railway structure.

At right, I’ve created a mockup with no dormer. This looks more like a railroad structure – except why would the railway build a structure with a wall at one end that’s only 4.5′ high? I’m pretty confident of that measurement. Yet storing things in that crawlspace would be a real pain – literally, in the head, probably caused by a roofing nail.

The mockup in the middle is a compromise. I’ve built a smaller, offset dormer with a roof pitch identical to the pitch of the main roof. I’ve also experimented with creating a change in the pitch of the main roof to suggest a higher end wall next to the dormer – perhaps a coal bin, since other photos of the section house clearly show a brick chimney.

For now, this is the mockup that I’m using:
Port Rowan section house and barn photo Mockup-PtR-SectionHouse-03.jpg

The jury remains out on this one… but the exercise demonstrates the value of building mockups before committing to plastic or wood.

CN section house: ideas?

There’s a section house near the yard throat in Port Rowan that I need to model. But other than a couple of distant views in the Hamilton book by Ian Wilson, I haven’t found any information to help me model it.

So, if you have any additional information – pictures, drawings or memories – I’d love to hear from you in the Comments section. And thanks in advance!