Wickham Car

Wickham Car

My recent post about the lovely speeder that my friend Stephen Gardiner printed for me reminds me that at some point I want to model a Wickham car, like the one shown above.

I believe the railway museum in Smiths Falls, Ontario has examples from both the CNR and CPR (at least, they did about a decade ago, but I don’t know if they’re still there*). I think it’s a handsome piece of non-revenue equipment and – in S at least – it would be straightforward to motorize it.

I’m a member of the Wickam group on Yahoo so I’m already doing my research. But if anybody has information about these cars – especially drawings – I’d love to hear from you!

(*UPDATE: Thanks to Guy Papillon, who shared a link to the museum with more information about the Wickham cars in its collection. It appears the museum has CP M-297 and CNR #23.)

Roll-by inspection

A member of CNR’s section gang pauses on the siding in St. Williams to give a roll-by inspection to a passing freight:


Roll by

Roll by

On Wednesday, my friend Stephen Gardiner visited for an operating session – and left me with a nice present. Stephen had drawn up a speeder for a 3D print job in HO scale, and wondered how it would turn out in S. So he revisited his drawings and the result is what you see above. While I’ve posed it on the siding in St. Williams, Stephen’s modifications for printing in 1:64 included providing pockets for extendable wooden handles so the speeder can be posed with a figure hauling it on or off the rails, if I so desire. Thanks Stephen – what a great little detail!

The ops session went well, considering that I haven’t run the layout in a while. Stephen took on the conductor’s role, while I clambered into the engineer’s seat on CNR 80. We had one derailment – possibly due to the freight car truck seizing up a little since it hasn’t been moved in many, many weeks.

Our biggest problem came from misaligned couplers – my fault, for not stopping ahead of coupling to let Stephen do a visual inspection. I don’t use the centring spring that comes with the Kadee 808s – I don’t like how it makes the draft gear bounce in and out, and I don’t really mind that the couplers sometimes need to be aligned manually. I just need to remember that all-important and most prototypical pause before attempting coupling.

Of course, I also need to run my own layout more often: I was pretty heavy-handed on the throttle and was guilty of some pretty hard couplings as a result. I’m sure that the conductor is going to give me a proper dressing down for spilling the coffee in the van!

A few days earlier, I’d updated the files in the LokSound decoders I use – from a beta file to the full production file for SOO 1003, which is my current sound file of choice. The 80 sounds better than ever, although I need to tweak a few volume settings and substitute a different air pump sound file. All in good time…

Stephen is currently planning a new, prototype-based switching layout for his home office space, and is writing about it on his blog. You can following the link to his latest post on the Liberty Village layout – and I highly recommend that you follow along.

Stephen and I have been talking about traffic density a fair bit – specifically, about finding the right balance between realistic appearance and sufficiently engaging operations on a small layout. It’s often tempting to fill a small layout with track, but there are other ways to boost the play value – which is something I’ve been demonstrating (I hope) on my model of the line to Port Rowan. It’s a medium-sized layout, at approximately 14×30 feet, but has just eight turnouts and lots of space devoted to a single track running through the landscape. It doesn’t work for everybody but it does for me.

Ops paperwork and throttle - 2017-11-08
(The work desk at St. Williams: The switch list shows there’s a lot of traffic today)

Because of these discussions, I set up the layout with a bit more switching than I normally do. In addition to several cars to drop and spot, I placed an off-spot car on the run-around in Port Rowan, which added some complexity to our switching duties. I’m pleased that even with the extra work, the session went smoothly and we had a fun time.

Afterwards, my wife joined us as we retired to Harbord House for dinner and drinks. The newest item on the menu – dill pickles breaded in cornmeal and deep fried – are out of this world delicious.

Great to see you, Stephen – and thanks so much for the speeder!

Speeder crew

 photo SpeederCrew-Tank-02_zps89dc3151.jpg

Following some great feedback from readers (you know who you are!) I’ve added not one but two figures to the speeder setoff scene.

Sometimes, moving figures about a scene can suggest stories that their final placement can tell. In this case, I grabbed my box of figures, sorted about a few likely candidates, and started trying various arrangements.

The guy at left in the above photo has both hands in front of him – I believe he’s supposed to be a brakeman hanging on a boxcar ladder. Naturally, I tried positioning him on the water tank’s ladder – but then I started to wonder, “What’s he doing up the ladder?” “How long is he going to be up there?”

Frankly, he looked hokey.

Then I realized he could be leaning on the speeder – but the question was, why? And what would the second guy be doing?

The second figure provided part of the answer – he’s looking down, and wiping his hands on a rag. He looks like he’s thinking. And then it occurred to me that if I added one more detail to the speeder, they could be planning their work at the job site. The two figures together look like their having a discussion, and the first figure could be holding down a plan to keep it from blowing away.

It was a simple matter to cut a couple of small rectangles from a paper bag and create some plans for the guys to be studying:
 photo SpeederCrew-Tank-01_zpsd67bed26.jpg
(As the photo shows, I’ve also stained some 2″ x 8″ strip wood and added it between the rails to make it easier for crews to get their speeder on and off the track.)

Maybe it’s a leak in the plumbing? Maybe it’s an inspection of the pump? Or maybe the guy in blue is showing off the plans for his new layout? Whatever it is, I think it works.

The little yellow speeder

As mentioned yesterday, while building the setoff near the Lynn Valley water tank I also started work on crafting a speeder to put on it. Today, I finished the speeder and set it in place on the layout:
 photo Speeder-05_zps732d29bf.jpg

To the best of my knowledge, there are no kits currently offered in S standard gauge for a speeder. So I started with a white metal kit for an Sn3 model, Kit T-2220 offered by Wiseman Model Services. When I ordered the kit, I wondered whether it would be a simple matter to substitute longer lengths of wire for the axles – but the prototype on which the kit did not accommodate that. Therefore, I cut apart the white metal frame and substituted appropriately-sized styrene strip to widen the speeder.

This required building the kit in a different order than given in the instructions. I assembled the frame sides and fenders for each side, then added the axles and wheels – properly gauged – and then connected the two sides with styrene strip. For the top deck, I used the white metal deck casting, but glued scale 1″ x 8″ boards on top. Where the original Sn3 deck had three boards, the new S-std deck has five. I stained these boards and painted the speeder body a mix of bright yellow and warm black. Weathering powders gave it a well-used look:
 photo Speeder-01_zpsf523f680.jpg

The shovel was included with the speeder kit. The pipe wrenches are beautifully rendered in photo-etch, and part of the Hand Tool Set (Kit 102) from TractorFab. I thought they would be appropriate for a job call to the water tank.

Since this is in the middle of nowhere, relatively speaking, a speeder could not have been left here unattended so I will search through my supply to find a suitable figure to represent the CNR employee who drove it here. He can lean against the water tank to provide a roll-by inspection, or be working on something on or around the tank. A tool box would be a nice addition, too.

The speeder is a subtle detail on my layout. It’s a bright speck of yellow, mostly obscured by trees:
 photo Speeder-03_zps450cc2be.jpg

But while it’s difficult to photograph because of the trees, it will be easy for visitors to spot and appreciate – providing they’re looking for such details.
 photo Speeder-04_zps88f46de5.jpg

I like to build vignettes for people to discover – providing such vignettes are realistic (in the sense that they convey an authentic sense of life in the place and era I’m modelling). I love the idea of rewarding careful observation of my layout – and the little yellow speeder does just that in a way that (I hope) isn’t hokey or contrived.
 photo Speeder-02_zps1ea6eaf5.jpg

Lynn Valley speeder setoff

 photo Tank-Handcar-Setoff-01_zps394211db.jpg

Many months ago (Okay: many, many months ago…) I mentioned that I had discovered a photo of the Lynn Valley water tank that showed a setoff for a track speeder. I’ve been meaning to add such a setoff to my water tank scene – but I kept finding other things to do.

This week, however, I’ve been working on trees that will stand between the water tank and the fascia – and today I realized that if I didn’t get that speeder setoff built and installed soon, I wouldn’t be able to do so without damaging finished scenery.

So the speeder setoff became this afternoon’s project. As the lead photo shows, it’s now in place and the ballast/ground cover is drying.

I started by figuring out how much space I had, and what would work best for the base for this setoff. I planned to build it at the bench and drop it into place, then add ground cover to blend it into the scene.

The setoff is about 2.5 inches long. I cut a square of 0.060″ styrene sheet to fit about half that length, and glued some ties in place with CA. I then distressed and stained the ties. Next, I used CA to glue some short lengths of rail in place – gauged with an NMRA-style standards gauge. I cut the base shorter than the rails on purpose, since the rails would have to rest on the existing ballast. To complete the base, I shaved a tie into several thin sections with a razor blade, and used two of the best pieces to create a pair of profile ties. These would rest on the existing ballast on the layout, and be blended into the scene with ground cover.
 photo Tank-Handcar-Setoff-02_zpsffa01e4b.jpg
(The setoff, ready to install – plus an in-progress regauging of a Wiseman Model Services Sn3 speeder.)

As a final step, I drilled a couple of holes in the base between the last two ties. One hole can be seen just to the left of the righthand rail in the above photo. The reason for the holes will soon be revealed…
 photo Tank-Handcar-Setoff-03_zpsb890a31a.jpg

In the above photo, I’ve glued the setoff in place on the layout. I used CA on the underside of the rails to glue the setoff to the ties on the mainline. Since the ballast slopes away from the track, the far end of the setoff was hanging in space. I threaded a pair of brass rods through the two holes in the base and pushed them into the terrain underneath. Then I added some thick CA to the rods to secure them to the styrene base.

In the photo below, I have spread a mix of ballast and ground foam around the setoff and glued it in place with dilute Weld-Bond.
 photo Tank-Handcar-Setoff-04_zpsf4cb00e0.jpg

The white in the photo is glue that has not yet cured. As the photo notes, when it has cured I will snip off the brass rods flush with the top of the ballast. The completed track speeder will cover any portion of the rods that I can’t snip flush.

I will also have to add a few boards between the rails of the main track to facilitate moving a speeder between the track and the setoff. I’ll do that once the ballast glue has cured.

The speeder itself? Well, that’s still a work in progress – and therefore a story for another time…

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.

The Daily Effort in photos: June 1953

Now this adds some flavour to what I’m doing…

Turning Mogul 90

I was just Googling about and I came across a blog that includes a four-part feature, with photos, of the mixed train that served Port Rowan (and Port Dover, and points between Simcoe and Hamilton). The pictures were taken by Bruce Murdoch, a photographer for the Hamilton Spectator, who rode the train in June of 1953.

Hamilton to Port Rowan to Port Dover and Back

Part One :: Part Two :: Part Three :: Part Four

Enjoy if you visit.

(BTW, I was happy to find the photo below as part of the series. It shows the Lyn Valley water tank with a MoW track speeder pulled off to the side. I’ve mentioned this photo before but had no online source for it – now I do. This will make for a great vignette on the layout!)

Lyn Valley Tank

Lynn Valley set-off

It pays to review one’s resources on occasion.

Case in point: Today, while looking for something else, I was flipping through Hamilton’s Other Railway by Charles Cooper (details here) when I came across a photo of the Lynn Valley water tank that had previously escaped my notice. (If you have the book, it’s on page 104.)

The photo is from the Hamilton Spectator newspaper and it does not show much of the tank – or the train that is taking water. But what has me excited is that it shows a speeder set off next to the tank. I haven’t seen that before.

It makes sense that a bridges and buildings gang working on the water tank would need a place to get off the high iron. And now that I have photographic evidence, I can add a handcar set-off next to my model of the water tank:
M233 Takes Water photo M233-WaterStop.jpg

Thank you, Charles, for publishing this photo!