The S Scale Workshop gets a shout-out

I’m an associate member of the S Scale Workshop – a group of talented modellers (and me) who build and display a Free-mo style S scale modular layout.

Canadian blogger John Longhurst just published a really nice piece about the Workshop – you can find it here.

Thanks for the kind words, John!

I do not yet have a module to contribute to this group, although I have helped others with their efforts. I have plans, though…

More Shippers and Receivers

A while ago, I wrote about some of the shippers and receivers at Port Rowan and St. Williams. I’ve now received some more excellent information about the traffic on the line, from reader and Port Rowan resident Monte Reeves.

At St. Williams…
* McCalls shipped boats (eight to a boxcar) to Eaton’s in Toronto
* Hammonds Mill received bagged feed additives and charcoal briquets
* Hammonds Mill shipped grain in boxcars

At Port Rowan…
* Potter Motors received Farmall tractors on 53′ flat cars.
* At one time, Port Rowan received private cars carrying the members of Long Point Company, who visited their private paradise on Long Point during duck hunting season.

(In 2008, The Toronto Star wrote an article on Long Point that includes some information about the Long Point Company. Definitely worth a read.)

Monte supplied this information in a comment on my post about waybill boxes. There’s more information in that comment, so have a look.

Thanks, Monte – you’re giving me some great ideas for traffic on the branch. Now, to find a suitable 53′ NKP flat car…

365 days of blather

One year ago today, I picked a URL, a theme, some custom header photos and started this blog about my plan to build a small segment of the Port Rowan branch.

I started by writing about Breaking Marley’s Chains – about how as model railway enthusiasts we’re often reluctant to abandon a layout that’s not satisfying us because we feel we would also be abandoning the time and effort that we had invested in it.

One year later, my opinion hasn’t changed. If anything, I’m more convinced that hobbyists benefit from the experiences of others who have chosen to change prototypes, eras, and even scales. Because unless one makes a living from model railroading – working for a manufacturer, magazine or other enterprise – it’s important to remember that this is, above all, a hobby. It’s meant to be enjoyed.

So, whether that enjoyment comes from collecting brass or books … whether from building a highly-detailed museum-quality switching layout or a multi-decked schematic of a railroad, geared towards operations … whether from creating masterpieces in styrene, metal, wood, Lego, or electrons … make sure you’re enjoying what you do in the hobby. And if you feel there’s anything lacking – anything at all – don’t be afraid to branch out, to try something new, or just try something.

I have thoroughly enjoyed my journey in S scale so far, and plan to continue to enjoy it for some time to come. I’m just having too much fun researching and building a modest piece of a modest branch of a familiar railway – as should be clear to anybody who has been following my progress on this blog. But I would not be enjoying this journey if I had not taken that first step, more than a year ago – deciding that I needed a change, as painful as that sometimes felt at the time.

Blogging is also a change for me. I’ve never done this before, and I’m glad very glad that I did. One of the greatest pleasures I’ve enjoyed over the past year is meeting new people via this blog. Readers have provided everything from encouragement and suggestions, to sources for products and historical information that is helping me build a better layout. To those readers – you know who you are – my heartfelt thanks. It’s been great meeting you, and I look forward to more conversations. Thank you!

I have to be honest and admit I’m surprised at how much I’ve accomplished in a year. When I launched this blog, I had a layout plan, some of the equipment I needed, and that’s about it. I had just confirmed that sufficient equipment existed in S scale to do the Port Rowan branch justice, but I hadn’t yet attained all the essentials. And I still had a previous layout to remove from the train room.

In the 365 days since then, I’ve built all my benchwork… hand laid, wired and tested all of my track… acquired all of my key pieces of motive power and rolling stock… installed basic terrain across the entire layout and given most of it a first pass of scenery… mocked up all of my structures… and hosted my first operating sessions. I’m looking forward to what the coming year brings!

AAR freight car rules

Freight car rules photo AAR-Freight-Coughlin-1956.jpg

Today’s mail brought a copy of Freight Car Distribution and Car Handling in the United States by E.W. Coughlin, published in 1956 by the Association of American Railroads.

(I was fortunate to find a copy of this book in excellent condition via Powells. It was my first time buying from this venerable book dealer and the experience was great.)

I found out about Coughlin’s book through reading Modeling the SP, a blog by noted freight car authority and Signature Press co-founder Tony Thompson. Tony has written extensively about waybills and operations on his blog. It’s one of the few online model railway resources that rewards a careful read.

A 338 page book on freight car handling may seem like overkill for a simple layout such as mine. And given that all traffic either originates or terminates in a single staging area, it is. But I enjoy understanding how real railroads did things and feel it does help me to model them authentically. For example, this book will help me assign empty freight cars to team tracks for loading.

(Thanks, Tony, for helping me make sense of freight car handling, and pointing me to useful resources such as this book.)

A visit from Jeff and Dawn

Last Saturday our friends Jeff Young and Dawn Brightwell visited.

Jeff and Dawn are both live steam enthusiasts (as am I) – but they enjoyed looking at the electric mice that run on the Port Rowan line.

Jeff in particular admitted that he sometimes pines for operation – something that is possible with live steam, but not as easy as it is in the smaller, indoor scales. So I’ve invited him to attend an operating session at some point.

After the tour, we retired to The Caledonian for excellent food and drink, finished with a whiskey and a stop at The Big Chill. Great fun!

Jeff, Dawn: Thanks for visiting – what an excellent evening! We’ll do it again soon…

First trees à la Gordon Gravett

Tree, leaved photo TreeCanopy-02.jpg

I’ve been working on learning to build broadleaf trees using the methods outlined in the excellent book Modelling Trees Volume 1 by Gordon Gravett. I’ve written about this book before, but this is the first time I’ve actually tried building trees following his methods.

For further inspiration, I’m also referring to another excellent resource, Trees of North America by Alan Mitchell, which was available at one time from Hundman Publishing.

I’ve done three tree armatures, and I’m really pleased. Keep in mind that these are my first attempts, and I expect my technique to improve as I practice. More on that later…

This photo shows the wire armatures for two taller trees – for use in the Lynn Valley forest – plus a pair of birches growing from the same root system. (The two taller trees are ready for their canopy of leaves, but I must still paint the trunks on the birches.)
Three trees (four?) photo ThreeTrees.jpg

Here are a couple of closeups of my first armature, with my tree bark mixture added and painted:
Tree trunk - base photo TreeTrunk-02.jpg

Tree trunk - limbs photo TreeTrunk-01.jpg

The armatures are twisted florist wire, covered with Flexible Modelling Paste from Liquitex, purchased at a local art supply shop. I’ve never used this stuff before and it’s great – I need to find other uses for it. Three coats hide the wires, while adding some modelling plaster to the top coat provides a bit of rougher texture. I airbrushed the trunk with BAR Gray then finished it with weathering powders – black and brown, plus some green on one side to represent a bit of mossy growth.

For leaves, I like using Selkirk Scenery leaf material but I’m pretty much out of it – so I used the netting/ground foam sold by Woodland Scenics for doing tree canopies. I tore off pieces of this, stretched them out, then applied them over the branches as shown here:
Tree Canopy photo TreeCanopy-01.jpg

After some tweaking of the underlying branches, I ended up with a pleasing shape, which I then fixed with some hairspray.

My first trees are far from perfect, and won’t stand up to scrutiny as foreground models. But they don’t have to: I’ve left plenty of space in the Lynn Valley to plant my early efforts, and the forest will progress towards the fascia as I get better. The only way to build good trees is to practice but there’s no sense in letting my early efforts to go waste.

My first two trees are in place behind the water tank:
First Gravett trees installed photo TreeLayout-01.jpg

Another look photo TreeLayout-02.jpg

Another, closer look photo TreeLayout-03.jpg

They look fine from a distance – and I think they will stand up to closer scrutiny too, especially when I plant some better trees in front of them.

Thanks, Gordon, for writing a wonderful book. It’s given me the confidence to tackle a surprisingly difficult – but rewarding – modelling challenge! I’m looking forward to Modelling Trees Volume 2, which is already on order.

A visit from Jim

My podcasting co-host, Jim Martin, visited yesterday to do three interviews for the return, this September, of The Model Railway Show. (We sure hope you’re a listener – it’s free to do so!)

We had a bit of time to kill between interviews so we ran The Daily Effort to Port Rowan and back. Things went really well – one spot where the power blipped but I can address that. And I need to add wipers to the turntable. Again – not a big deal.

Jim is also an S scaler and a member of the S Scale Workshop. He models the CNR’s Port Dover branch – the other place The Daily Effort runs out of Simcoe, Ontario. And as the photos on the S Scale Workshop gallery show, he does a fine job of it.

Thanks for visiting, Jim!