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:

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!

Roweham 2017

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(The passenger train – an auto coach pushed by a 14XX class 0-4-2T – arrives at Roweham)

Those who have read this blog for some time now know that I’m a fan of smaller layouts. I’m far more impressed by a small, thoughtfully-conceived and expertly executed model railway than I am by a half-baked basement-filler. The hobby is not about quantity for me; it’s about quality. In fact, I have a whole other blog devoted to what I call Achievable Layouts.

So it’ll come as no surprise that last Saturday, I was delighted to help my friend Brian Dickey exhibit his 7mm (British O scale – 1:43) masterpiece, “Roweham”, at the annual model railway show organized by the club to which he belongs. Also on hand was my friend Pierre Oliver – who, like me, helped Brian exhibit Roweham at last year’s show. We were joined this year by Ross Oddi. (Great to meet you, Ross!)

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(Ross, Pierre, and Brian on deck)

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(Ross deploys Brian’s version of the Galvanick Lucipher to break the train as engineer Pierre prepares his next move. Brian’s layout uses prototypically-correct three-link couplings, which add to the play value)

For me, Brian has really hit all the targets with Roweham. The modelling is excellent, and careful. The design is realistic and relaxed – perfect for a branchline terminal in a Green and Pleasant Land. The locomotives and rolling stock are appropriate for the modelling subject, and run flawlessly. (We had one derailment during the show – the result of buffer lock between a longish 2-6-0 and a short wagon. Brian immediately removed the mogul from service so it would not detract from the presentation.) And the presentation is professional – from the skirting, to the fascia, to Brian’s handsome waistcoat complete with brass GWR buttons. (Since I’m part of the exhibition team, I’ll be happy to follow Brian’s lead and pick up a waistcoat from his supplier.)

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(An overview of Roweham, from the terminal end)

In short, it’s clear that Brian has made an effort to reward the public for their $5 admission fee – even as he enjoys this layout at home. This also informed Brian’s wise decision to have three people help him exhibit Roweham. He wanted to make sure he could talk to visitors even as the layout continued to operate, and he wanted to make sure everybody had a chance to take a break from operating – a much better situation than one person, standing on his feet for six hours, trying to explain the layout to guests and keep the trains moving.

While it’s a modest design, with just four turnouts, Roweham is already finished to a level rarely seen at exhibition in these parts, and Brian continues to add details. New features this year include a cattle dock, a water tank, a brick workshop, some tractors, and more.

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Meantime, Brian has taken a second pass at things, especially equipment, to give it a tasteful weathering job. All in all, Roweham will only get better each time it’s on display. Here are some more shots from the day…

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Most modellers I meet are obsessed with quantity. They talk about the number of locomotives they have, or the number of freight cars, or the size of their layout. The first question often asked is, “How big is your layout?” – with emphasis on “big”. How different the hobby would be if we instead started with the question, “What story are you trying to tell?” – and then gauged how well the layout accomplishes that.

Brian’s layout tells a very clear story, and that’s why it succeeds so well.

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Thanks again, Brian, for letting me be a part of your exhibition!

Railfanning in Woodstock

Last week, Bob Fallowfield, Barry Silverthorn and I visited Woodstock, Ontario to do a bit of rail fanning. We saw many things, including a pair of F units in revenue service and a CN crew working a feed mill.

I’ve posted about our day in Woodstock on my Achievable Layouts blog. Click on the images below to read relevant posts – and enjoy a bit of video, too.

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(Bob bags the F units. Click on the image to read more about these survivors)

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(The CNR switches Purina in Woodstock. Click on the image to read more about this)

Roweham by Brian Dickey

Yesterday, my friend Brian Dickey displayed his British 7mm scale (1:43.5) exhibition layout, Roweham, at an area train show – and he asked Pierre Oliver and me if we would like to help him out.

We both jumped at the chance – and we’re really glad we did.

In the process, I learned a lot about British 7mm modelling.

I also took away some lessons from the experience that add to my ideas about designing a layout for exhibition.

I’ve written about the day’s fun on my Achievable Layouts blog – click on the image below to read that report.

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Thanks, Brian and Pierre, for a terrific day out: I look forward to future opportunities to run trains to Roweham!

CP Rail in Woodstock, circa 1980

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Last week, Ryan Mendell, Hunter Hughson and I visited Bob Fallowfield and his terrific HO scale layout, based on the CP Rail operations in and around Woodstock, Ontario in the autumn of 1980.

I’ve written about our visit on my Achievable Layouts blog, because Bob’s layout is a great example of a prototype-based model railway that can support a mainline parade of trains plus interesting yard and local switching for a small group of friends, while still being manageable by one builder.

In fact, Bob started his layout – which occupies a space about the size of two bedrooms – less than five years ago and he’s well on the way to finishing it, with convincing scenery and prototype fidelity. His progress over such a short time should provide inspiration to anybody who is still struggling with getting past the dreaming stage to start building.

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(Click on the image to read my report)

Thanks Bob – I look forward to our next operating session!

Fillmore Engine Terminal

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(Mark works the coal deliver track at Fillmore. With the exception of a staging area to the right, this is the whole layout)

A couple of weekends ago, my friend Mark Zagrodney and I visited Fillmore Engine Terminal – a superb HO scale layout built by Rick De Candido and featured in the 2015 issue of Model Railroad Planning magazine.

It’s a good thing I didn’t do this back when I was still trying to fit a Proto:48 layout into my space (http://themodelrailwayshow.com/cn1950s/?p=39) – because if I had, you wouldn’t be reading about Port Rowan in 1:64 on this blog. Rick’s concept of devoting an entire layout to the servicing of locomotives would’ve solved the challenges I faced in trying to fit O scale into a long but narrow room. (Not that I’m going to switch now – I’m really enjoying Port Rowan, so it’s still safe!)

I’ve written about our operating session on my Achievable Layouts blog, because Rick’s layout is a perfect example of thinking creatively to craft a layout that emphasizes quality over quantity while still being satisfying to operate.

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(Click on the image to read my ops session report)

Thanks Rick – I look forward to our next session!

“Susan Push”

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While driving to The North Shore Train Show last Friday, I decided to stop in at the eastern Ontario lake-front town of Gananoque to grab a few photos of “Susan Push”.

This unique locomotive was primary power for the Thousand Islands Railway – built to connect the Montreal-Toronto mainline to the town of Gananoque. It eventually became a subsidiary of the Canadian National Railways system, which is clearly evident from the “angled wafer” logo on the cab side:

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(Click on the wafer to read more about the TIR, on my “Achievable Layouts” blog)

“Susan Push” is on display in downtown Gananoque – on the location of the TIR’s long-gone main track through town, if I recall correctly. A shelter for passengers awaiting the train stands nearby, and would make a lovely scratch-building project – or laser-cut wooden kit!

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I won’t provide a complete history of the locomotive, since the Gananoque Historical Society has done a wonderful job of that – adding a plaque to the locomotive, as shown here:

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I will note, however, that the locomotive rides on interurban-style trucks:

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(A model could use trucks from Q Car Company (O scale) or side frames from William Flatt (S scale) mounted to Black Beetle drives. Google any of these terms for more info)

What’s most remarkable about this display is how accessible it is. The locomotive is not behind a fence, making it possible to get good photographs or even measurements if one was interested in building a model (and anybody wishing to do so should check out the May 1997 issue of Model Railroader magazine for an article on doing this in HO scale).

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Some day, I hope to go back to Gananoque and spend a day photographing and measuring details on this locomotive. I’d love to do a model in S or O. But for now, it was a nice detour on my trip to the train show in Laval. More on that in a future post…