A visit from Jim and Daniel

It’s been a while since my friends Jim Martin and Daniel McConnachie visited, so it was great to see them both on Friday for a lunch at Harbord House, followed by a tour of my layout.

Jim was in town to record a couple of interviews for the return, in the fall, of The Model Railway Show – the podcast he and I co-host. We’re both enjoying the summer off, but it’s going to be fun to get back to talking to interesting hobbyists from around the world. Daniel is another S scale enthusiast who is researching a CNR line that served Schomberg, Ontario at one time in preparation for modelling it.

Jim last saw the layout in person in early April – and it’s been even longer for Dan. In fact, I think the last time they visited the layout looked like this:
Backdrop in Port Rowan photo Backdrop-PortRowan.jpg

Given the progress since then….
Meadow between orchards photo PtR-Meadow-09.jpg

…there was much to discuss.

As always when S scale enthusiasts get together, there was an exchange of goodies: When one of us wants something from a supplier, we tend to ask around to see if anybody else is interested then place a bulk order to share shipping costs. In this case, the swap included S scale hand carts from Wiseman Model Services: I wanted one for the section house at Port Rowan, and ended up ordering eight to be distributed to various members of the S Scale Workshop.
Another roofline? photo PtR-SectionHouse-Proto.jpg

Jim, Dan: It was great to see you both – I’m looking forward to next time!

Where the heck IS Port Rowan, anyhow?

I realized that’s a question I’ve probably never answered – and I should, because even many of those who have heard of the place probably think of it as “Someplace over there on Lake Erie”. It might also help to understand how Port Rowan fit into the larger CNR rail system.

Let’s start with a map. This shows the CNR Hagersville Sub from Hamilton to Jarvis. It also shows the portion of the CNR Cayuga Sub that The Daily Effort covered between Jarvis and Simcoe. And it shows the Simcoe Sub – from Port Dover to Port Rowan via Simcoe. My little piece of these lines – the stations at St. Williams and Port Rowan – can be seen in the lower left:
The line between the lakes photo ProtoMap.jpg

The aerial view (below) shows the entire Golden Horseshoe area around Lake Ontario – including notable cities like Toronto, Hamilton and St. Catharines. At the eastern end of Lake Erie, one can see Buffalo. And on the north shore of Lake Erie, near the long finger of land (known as Long Point), the “A” and “B” mark St. Williams and Port Rowan, respectively:
Port Rowan in Southern Ontario photo PtR-SouthernOnt.jpg

Here’s a closer look at the two communities from the air. The blue line shows the route one would take by road. The rail route was more direct – one can even start to make it out at this height:
Port Rowan and St Williams photo PtR-StW.jpg

Now, have a look at this aerial view of St. Williams. Can you see the path of the former rail line? Click on the image for the answer:
St Williams from the air photo StW.jpg

The path of the former rail line is even more obvious in this aerial view of Port Rowan. Can you see it? Again, click on the image for the answer:
Port Rowan from the air photo PtR.jpg

The line was abandoned in the 1960s, so I find it interesting that – all these years later – it still leaves its mark so clearly on the land.

Richard Chrysler

Today, I lost a good friend and fellow modeller of Port Rowan.

Those who knew Richard Chrysler know he was an exceptional researcher and model builder… an accomplished restorer of Austin Healey classic British sports cars… and an incredibly generous and kind man. Sadly, Richard was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer earlier this year and passed away this morning at age 59. (Here’s Rich’s obituary.)

Rich was a regular at local train shows, working on his HO scale Free-mo-compliant version of Port Rowan – as he is in this photo from the 2012 Copetown Train Show:
Rich Chrysler photo PortRowan-RichChrysler.jpg

It’s how I will remember him – building things, often in public, and sharing his considerable skills and passion for the hobby with others.

Rich was also a member of the Canada Southern Free-mo group. Before that, he was a member of the Ontario & Eastern Railway. Both these layouts appeared at many shows in Southern Ontario.

But the real magic took place in Rich’s basement, where he was building a beautiful HO scale layout that faithfully captured the Hagersville Subdivision of the Canadian National Railway. As this map illustrates, the line started in Hamilton, Ontario and headed south and west to Simcoe. There, the prototype split into two branches to reach Lake Erie at Port Dover and Port Rowan. (Rich wanted to model both terminals but did not have the space at home – hence, his Port Rowan exhibition layout. The map also shows that I am modelling only a very, very small portion of this line – just the two stations at Port Rowan and St. Williams.)
The line between the lakes photo ProtoMap.jpg

Rich’s double-deck layout captures most of the highlights of this line, including many crossings and interchange points with railways in Southern Ontario. Compare the layout plan, below, to the prototype map to appreciate how much of the line he was able to incorporate into a modest layout room.
Rich Chrysler Layout Plan photo RichC-01-Plan.jpg

The layout was well underway by 2003, when it appeared in print as the cover story in the March issue of Railmodel Journal. That issue can be found in the archives at TrainLife. (I believe membership is required, but it’s free to join TrainLife – and that’s a good idea if for no other reason than access to hundreds of model and prototype railway magazines.)

Here’s a link to the March 2003 Railmodel Journal at TrainLife. The article begins on page 44.

The article was part of RMJ’s coverage leading up to the 2003 NMRA convention in Toronto. I was one of the local co-ordinators for the Layout Design SIG‘s self-guided layout tour and knew I wanted Rich’s layout to be on it. His layout showcased many layout design features that remain innovative today – including the use of integrated fascia/valance to separate adjacent scenes into unique windows…
Rich Chrysler Fascia Windows photo RichC-03-DoubleDeck.jpg

… to create a shadowbox presentation:
Rich Chrysler Shadow Box photo RichC-04-Shadowbox.jpg

The layout also deployed a “partial mushroom” design along one side, the lower (Niagara Escarpment) deck was viewed from the entrance aisle, complete with swing-gate for access to the interior of the layout. Simcoe was located above this scene, and viewed from the inside aisle:
Rich Chrysler - Mushroom photo RichC-16-Mushroom.jpg

The layout also featured a helix designed to do double-duty, by taking trains up to the second level between the Escarpment and Rymal, then back down to the first level between Simcoe and Port Dover (although this second trip through the helix was later eliminated):
Rich Chrysler Helix photo RichC-02-Helix.jpg

I spent a day photographing Rich’s layout in 2003 and I’ve posted some pictures from that session so that others may appreciate his work.

A tour always started at the CNR station in Hamilton:
Rich Chrysler Hamilton Station photo RichC-07-HamiltonStn.jpg

From there, visitors and operators could enjoy watching trains trundle south down Ferguson Avenue and creep through busy intersections:
Rich Chrysler Ferguson Ave photo RichC-06-FergusonAve.jpg

Rich Chrysler Ferguson Ave photo RichC-05-FergusonAve.jpg

Trains would then face their biggest challenge – climbing the Niagara Escarpment:
Rich Chrysler Escarpment photo RichC-09-Escarpment.jpg

For the small 2-6-0s typical on freights, this often required assistance from larger locomotives such as 2-8-2s (which then returned as a light engine move to Hamilton):
Rich Chrysler Escarpment photo RichC-10-Escarpment.jpg

Rich Chrysler Escarpment photo RichC-08-Escarpment.jpg

At the top of the Escarpment, the layout switched from industrial city scenes to farmland, as seen in small communities such as Rymal…
Rich Chrysler Rymal photo RichC-11-Rymal.jpg

…before reaching important junctions like Caledonia, where the line crossed Ontario Highway 6:
Rich Chrysler Caledonia photo RichC-12-Caleondia.jpg

South of Caledonia, the line straddled a road on the approach to an impressive bridge over the Grand River:
Rich Chrysler Grand River photo RichC-15-GrandRiver.jpg

Rich Chrysler Grand River photo RichC-13-GrandRiver.jpg

This bridge carried a weight restriction which limited Hagersville Sub trains to 2-6-0s south of Caledonia – which is why The Daily Effort to Port Rowan was powered by Moguls until almost the end of steam:
Rich Chrysler Daily Effort photo RichC-14-GrandRiver.jpg

In the mid-1950s, the bridge would be reinforced sufficiently to accommodate 10-wheelers.

While preparing this posting, I found a few videos of Rich’s layout in action:

Running on the Hagersville Sub, by Rich’s son Geoff Chrysler, includes a nice mix of layout video and prototype photos to provide a sense of what Rich was accomplishing.

Rich’s brother Roger Chrysler (also an excellent model and layout builder) shot video during a layout open house in 2008 and a similar tour the following year. YouTube has done some unusual compression on the aspect ratio for these two videos, unfortunately, but they do show off the trains in motion.

Rich’s gift for sharing extended to my own efforts on my in-progress S scale Port Rowan layout:
M233 at Port Rowan yard photo M233-PtR-TowTruck_zps4c045e28.jpg

Rich and I regularly traded emails with Mike Livingston and Richard Otto, two gentlemen who remember the steam trains running to Port Rowan and Port Dover. These discussions were helping us to better model the town and the railway that served it: I’m going to miss sharing information with Rich and working together to solve the various puzzles that remain unsolved.

In addition, I owe the accuracy of my CNR baggage-mail car to Rich, who invited me to take reference photographs of his beautiful HO scale model to help me create my own:
CNR Baggage-Mail 7792 photo CNR-BaggageMail-Header_zps75fc893c.jpg

When I found out that Rich had been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, I thought of how I could pay tribute to someone who has been such an influence on my own modelling. The Austin Healey provided an answer.

I have an uncle who also restores these classic British sports cars so I became aware of them long before I was old enough to drive, and learned to standard shift in a spirited four-cylinder Austin Healey 100. The Healey has been produced in model form in several scales, and I own some examples in 1:18 and 1:87 (HO). But I had to search as far as Tokyo to find a decent Healey model in S scale – and ended up with three.

Kyosho offered the Austin Healey 100-6 in three different colours in their 1/64 die cast line, as part of a series of classic British sports cars. Here, a Healey club tour has stopped in the apple orchards near Port Rowan:
Healeys at the Orchard photo Healeys4Rich-01.jpg

Later, they were spotted at the Port Rowan station:
Healeys at Port Rowan station photo Healeys4Rich-02.jpg

When I get far enough along on the layout, I will park one car – Rich’s Healey – at the Port Rowan station and think about how he would’ve loved to have been standing trackside, waiting for the arrival of The Daily Effort.

(Since Rich restored the cars professionally, I can swap out the car for one of its stablemates as the mood arises.)

Thank you, Rich, for your friendship. I’ll miss you, and my thoughts are with your wife, your siblings, and your children at this time. I’m sorry we won’t be able to continue our magnificent conversations.

(If anybody reading this knew Rich and would like to add a Healey to their own layout, in addition to the Kyosho model in 1:64, Wiking offered an HO scale version at one time. There are a number of 1:43 die cast models available for O scalers to consider.)

Fascia frames the scene

My friend Chris Abbott visited on Tuesday and, among other things, we installed more than 30 feet of fascia on the layout.

The front edge of the Port Rowan peninsula looks so much better now that it has been clad in Masonite:
Fascia - Port Rowan feed mill photo Fascia-04.jpg

The biggest challenge was removing and then reinstalling the four switch control stands governing the yard throat, but even that went off without too much trouble and even without paint the fascia makes a huge improvement to the appearance:
Fascia - Port Rowan yard throat photo Fascia-02.jpg

We also worked on the St. Williams side of the Lynn Valley, adding a section of Masonite in the corner:
Fascia - St. Williams photo Fascia-03.jpg

I will now be able to fill in the terrain with foam board.

So far, the layout has needed more than 45 feet of fascia, including 16 feet Chris and I did earlier in the Lynn Valley:
Put on a happy fascia photo Fascia-01.jpg

I say “so far” because with that, we’re done with fascia – at least for now. There’s a section still to do in front of the staging area, but it will have to wait until we’ve installed the mechanism to control the sector plate and wired up the track.

Steaming “Peveril”

Me firing the Accucraft Peveril photo TrevorPeveril.jpg

At Saturday’s barbecue, my friend Jeff Young took this photo of me firing my Isle of Man Peveril – a 1:20.3 live steam model from Accucraft.

I really like the photo so I thought I’d share it. (Click on the photo for the story of Saturday’s fun.)

Thanks Jeff!

Summer interlude on the Isle of Man

Isle of Man Indian Red photo Peveril-01.jpg

While the S scale Port Rowan branch is my home layout, it’s not my only interest in the hobby. Not by a long shot. When summer temperatures soar, there’s something special about taking one’s hobby outdoors.

Yesterday, my wife Mairi MacDonald and I visited friends Jeff Young and Dawn Brightwell for a barbecue, some ball tossing with our border collies…
Twist and shout photo Gotcha-Reunion2011.jpg

... and his bottom's made of springs photo Jack-Reunion2011.jpg

… and a chance to run some live steam trains on the beautiful garden railway that Jeff and Dawn have in their backyard. For me, it was an extra special day because it was the first time my wife had seen garden steam trains in action… and the first run for my latest live steam locomotive acquisition – a 1:20.3 scale model of the Isle of Man Peveril, from Accucraft.

Here are some photos from Peveril’s first two runs, pulling a rake of Accucraft’s IoM “Pairs” carriages:
Return trip photo Peveril-02.jpg

On time for Douglas photo Peveril-03.jpg

Peveril at the corner photo Peveril-04.jpg

Accucraft has done a beautiful job on this locomotive – it’s well detailed, wonderfully painted and lined, and very easy to steam. It came up to working pressure surprisingly quickly, has a lovely chuff and ran forever on a modest amount of fuel and water. Well done!

Pictures do not convey the charm of garden scale live steam… so click on the image below for a selection of video from yesterday’s fun:
Peveril-VideoHeader photo Peveril-VideoHeader_zps2f315292.jpg

Thanks again, Jeff and Dawn!