Progress in Simcoe

All rail in Simcoe photo Simcoe-Rail.jpg

Over the past few days, between other commitments, I have spiked all the rail on the four-track sector plate. It’s not completely spiked – only every sixth tie or so – but it’s enough to test the track. I will go back and spike it every second or third tie as time permits.

There are a few ties that need to be replaced – they came loose while sanding, but I can stain them and slip them under the rails. There are also gaps at the ends of each track – these will be filled with squares of printed circuit board so I can solder the rails to them. This will keep everything in alignment across the gaps to the main track into St. Williams, and to the cassette used to turn locomotives.

I have also added drop feeders for each track on the sector plate. I removed the plate from its base, then drilled holes for feeders next to each rail, near the pivot point. I made sure these holes were in two lines – one for lefthand rails, the other for righthand rails. I then used a router to cut two slots on the underside of the moving section of the plate, connecting each row of four holes. I then soldered a drop feeder to each rail and bundled the wires in the slots:
Wiring the sector plate photo Simcoe-Wiring.jpg

I wired each track separately, so that in the future I can add switches to automatically power only the track that’s lined up with the mainline into St. Williams.

While the sector plate was off the base, I cut a square opening in the base to pass the wires through, with enough space to pass a plug as well. As the photo shows, I’ve added labels to the gold wires so I know which track they power. The silver wires will be wired together as a common return.

I am very, very close to having all track done and wired.

Rich would’ve approved

Yesterday was a perfect day to say goodbye to Rich.

Hundreds of friends, fellow model railway enthusiasts and classic British sports car fans joined family at a winery in the Niagara Peninsula to celebrate Richard Chrysler, who passed away earlier this month – at 59, far too young.

The weather was spectacular and the event was indeed a celebration. I remarked to a few people that it felt more like a birthday party.

Rich would’ve been humbled by the love and respect that was evident under the big top – and as a restorer of vintage Austin Healey sports cars, he would’ve loved the impromptu classic car show that his many friends from the motoring world created on the winery grounds:

Despite the unfortunate circumstances of our gathering, it was great to catch up with so many people that I haven’t seen in a long while – just the sort of thing Rich would’ve been proud to have a hand in making happen. I’m confident that, overall, he would’ve approved of the day.

A special thanks to his family for organizing such a wonderful celebration of a great life!

Wonky? No worries

A friend emailed me privately to comment on the “wonky” (his word) rails in my recent track level shots of Port Rowan.
In the weeds, again photo WaitingInTheWeeds-02.jpg

The truth is, my track laying skills are adequate – but not great. This is one reason I favour small branchlines, short lines and narrow gauge railroads: I could never lay track worthy of the Pennsylvania Railroad in the Second World War or of the modern Union Pacific.

When I did this section I was at first disappointed I had a jiggle’n’jog. But then I realised it added character to the track that was in line with the overall effect I’m attempting to achieve on this layout.

By the 1950s, the Port Rowan branch’s days were definitely numbered. Rails were practically lost in the grass, traffic was disappearing to trucks, and I doubt maintenance was high on the list. “Keep the flanges off the ties” was probably the plan.

So I decided to not worry about the wonky rails – providing my trains stay on them. At the slow speeds I’m running – the prototype’s 15 mph speed limit is enforced by custom decoder speed tables – this hasn’t been a problem.

Waiting in the weeds

Ages ago it seems, I shot this photo of the grass-covered track in Port Rowan on my layout:
Grassy sidings photo Grass-PtR-03.jpg

It received a lot of positive comments, even though – as is obvious looking at it now – there was no other scenery (or even terrain) on the layout at the time.

Today I decided to address that by taking some similar shots, now that all terrain is in and the first pass of basic ground cover has been done. I took three pictures and am still debating which one I like the best… so here are all three:

In the weeds
In the weeds photo WaitingInTheWeeds-03.jpg

In the weeds, again
In the weeds, again photo WaitingInTheWeeds-02.jpg

In the weeds, still
In the weeds, still photo WaitingInTheWeeds-01.jpg

I see lots of opportunity to further detail this scene without spoiling the effect of a lonely branchline terminal. But so far, so good!

Onward to Simcoe

Simcoe, Ontario is where the line from Hamilton splits into two branches to serve Port Rowan and Port Dover. It’s also the start of yard limits on the Port Rowan branch. So it’s as good a name as any to apply to the staging area on my layout.

For a number of weeks now, I’ve had all ties down but the end of rail has been the #10 switch by the depot in St. Williams. This week, I’ve started the last of the track work – the main north of St. Williams (all five or six feet of it) and the four tracks on the sector plate.

The work started with staining and distressing the mainline from St. Williams to sector plate:
Onward to Simcoe photo Sector-HalfStained.jpg

The mainline is the section in front of the radio on the benchwork, and it’s now ready for rail.

Also seen here is progress on the sector plate. All four tracks have received an initial stain of grey, and the two back tracks have now been overpainted with oils. I’ll finish the other two tracks, then let everything dry (oils take a bit of time to lose their stickiness) before starting to spike.

I’m still debating whether to add ballast on the sector plate. I might, because the ballast/glue combination does a great job of locking things together. On the other hand, I will have to be extremely careful to not glue the sector plate to the benchwork! Fortunately, the whole plate lifts off, so if I decide to ballast I can do this off the layout to prevent accidents.

My goal is to have all track spiked, wired, tested and running by the end of August. That gives me about five weeks…

Friday Fun with John and Pierre

Last Friday, John Mellow and I visited our mutual friend Pierre Oliver to spend the day working on his HO scale layout, which represents the Wabash Railroad’s Buffalo Division.

John and I had a great time on the ride down and back – it’s 2.5 hours to Pierre’s place from my house, so there was plenty of time to talk trains of all sizes. John worked for the Canadian Pacific Railway at one time and he’s a regular fixture at Toronto’s Roundhouse Park, where he’s helping to restore the Don Station as part of the Toronto Railway Museum. It’s a special project for John, who worked as the operator at the Don Station in the mid-1960s before the railway closed the station and moved it off the property. (Here’s a picture of John at work, back in the day.)
 photo Mellow65-771541_zps59071798.jpg
(Click the photo to visit the Don Station restoration online.)

At Pierre’s, I returned to my work in his model of Delhi, Ontario. I’ve been laying track, including spurs into the Imperial Tobacco plant there, and I celebrated a milestone on Friday by finishing the spiking of all turnouts. The area still needs to be wired and then the track work can be properly tested under power. John performed surgery on some structures for Aylmer, Delhi and Courtland, while Pierre busied himself with track in Courtland.

Progress is progressing – and I’m looking forward to the day when we can run the first Red Ball over the line!

A grassy hill

The area around Port Rowan is pretty flat but after talking with Chris Abbott during a recent work session, we decided a low rise would look nice at the entrance to Port Rowan. It would help justify the sharp curve out of the Lynn Valley before hitting the straightaway between the orchards. And the rise would help hide the Stone Church Road scene across the aisle when visitors are looking north out of Port Rowan.

Having glued together stacks of foam board in this area to give me the basic shape, today I tackled it with carving tools. When I was happy with the rough shape, I spread a layer of Sculptamold over the area and topped it with paint and various ground covers. Later, I flooded the area with dilute Weld Bond glue and added static grass and some meadow flowers.

Here’s a photo looking north towards the Lynn Valley… and another looking down the rise into Port Rowan:
Grassy Hill photo PortRowan-Hillside-02.jpg

Looking down to the Port photo PortRowan-Hillside-01.jpg

There’s still more to do, including the addition of bushes and trees. But the scene is coming together nicely.

VIA Rail in the Don Valley

Something a little different – about as far from Port Rowan in the 1950s and one can get.

While driving the Don Valley Parkway today, I spotted a VIA train heading southbound on the CNR line. I’ve never seen a VIA train on this line – I don’t take the DVP that much – so I dumped off the highway at Bayview, hauled out my smart phone, and caught the train on video across from the Evergreen Brick Works:
VIA Rail - Don Valley photo VIA-DonValley-VideoStill_zps3f6d2e1c.jpg

I’m really glad I did – it was one impressive passenger train, especially in the 21st century!

Note to my readers from outside of Canada: all of our passenger trains are like this. And if you believe that…