Interviewing Gordon Gravett: What a treat!

I’ve written previously about Gordon Gravett and his remarkable pair of books on modelling trees, so it was a real treat to interview him for the podcast I co-host.

Gordon and I talked about the importance of realistic trees for a layout and why he got interested in modelling trees. We also talked about Pempoul – his spectacular 1:50 scale exhibition layout based on French meter gauge.

If you’re not familiar with Gordon, click on the picture for a gallery of his work:
 photo Gravett-Evergreens_zps50d8b0eb.jpg

Then check out our interview.

The interview is part of Episode 49 of The Model Railway Show. If you’re not familiar with the show, here’s how to listen.

Despite fighting a bad cold when I recorded the interview, I had a great time talking to Gordon. I’m certain we would enjoy discussing modelling projects – and all manner of things – over adult beverages. Maybe someday…

40 to go

No, I’m not ignoring you…

The reason I haven’t posted much about layout progress lately is the stuff I’m working on is slow-going.

For example, I spent several hours this week building tobacco plants for the field in St. Williams. I have another 40 to do and then the back field is finished. That’s only 400 more little pieces to glue together – given that I’ve already assembled more than 450 of the plants, another 40 is a piece of cake!

I will post a photo when I’m done. Stay tuned…

(Then, of course, there’s the front field – a narrow strip that will go between the tobacco kilns and the fascia. But I’m trying to ignore that for now. In any case, I will likely build the kilns first so I’m not working over the fields to install them.)

A visit from Oliver and David

Today, I hosted Oliver and David Clubine – the father and son team behind Ridgehill Scale Models, which produced the CNR Fowler boxcar and CNR cabooses that I use on my layout.

What an absolute treat to have these two in the layout room!

David is planning an S scale CNR layout featuring Port Dover, Simcoe and Port Rowan. Oliver has been working on an S scale model of the Port Rowan station – he’s been busy modifying Grandt Line windows. Both know a fair bit about the Port Rowan branch and seemed to enjoy their visit to my layout. It’s always nice to show off the layout to people who know the area I’m trying to model.

David and I ran a freight extra to Port Rowan, with four cars to set off and three to lift. Things well reasonably well, although the tender on locomotive 1560 derailed a few times. Either the change in weather is having its way with trackwork or I need to fiddle with something in the drawbar area. I’ll do some tests and fix the problem.

We talked a lot about the market for resin kits in S, since the Clubines market resin models. I am, frankly, surprised that modellers working in S, in general, do not “celebrate the differences” in rolling stock to the same degree as our cousins in HO. It seems to me that S scalers are far more willing to accept a model as prototypically accurate because the paint scheme is correct – nevermind issues like gussets, underframe arrangements, end details, and so on. I know many modellers working in HO who buy multiples of available resin kits to cover the variants in a given car type – not only road-specific variants, but also variants introduced over the life of the prototype. That doesn’t seen to happen as much in S, which is a shame because S is such a builder’s scale: It’s enough bigger than HO that the details really leap out, and at 1:64 it’s a natural for scratch-building because measurements are easy to convert from the protoype (most Imperial rulers are marked with 1/64 inches, so each tick mark equals an inch on the prototype).

So, the question becomes, why aren’t S scale modellers demanding – and then buying – resin kits that celebrate these differences? I don’t know the answer.

But I do know that when I visit layouts like the one my friend Pierre Oliver is building, I’m always struck by the wonderful variety of rolling stock. Even boxcars are unique. A string of house cars will present to the viewer a riot of roof heights and roof-panel treatments – something that one just doesn’t see in S scale.

That’s a question to ponder another day. For now, I’m really glad Oliver and David made the trip and seemed pleased with what they saw. It was great to run a train, and talk about the state of S scale and future plans for the layout. I will address the derailing issue – possibly caused by a sticky drawbar, and possibly by seasonal shifts in trackwork.

And I look forward to the next visit by the Clubines!

Congrats to the S Scale Workshop (Springfield 2013)

My friend Chris Abbott is attending the Railroad Hobby Show in Springfield MA this weekend, and just emailed me to say that the members of the S Scale Workshop have been awarded “Best in Show : Layout” for 2013 by the organizers:
Workshop Wins in Springfield photo SpringfieldAward.jpg

Well done, guys!

This is the Workshop’s first appearance at the big annual show in Springfield, and what a way to commemorate it. (Longtime readers will recall they managed the same accomplishment in their first appearance at Milwaukee’s TrainFest, too.)

Also, what a great boost for the visibility of S scale in general, and CNR steam era modelling in S in particular. I imagine a number of visitors have said, “If I didn’t already have all this HO…”

(The answer to that, by the way, is “That’s what eBay is for”…)

I’m honoured to be an associate of the Workshop. I do not have a module – I’ve been too busy building my home layout and have yet to make room to work on something portable. The guys are setting the bar pretty high, though…

Steam Echoes of Hamilton for $24.95

As I attempt to model Port Rowan in S, one of my most important sources for information and inspiration is Ian Wilson‘s book on the line: Steam Echoes of Hamilton.

If you do not have the book, and want a copy, you might be interested to know that Ian is selling off a number of items on his eBay store, including Steam Echoes of Hamilton for $24.95. This is approximately one-third the price when he published it. There are other titles in the series on offer as well.

Not at all affiliated with Ian – I’m just a reader of his books and thought others might be interested.

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

The Bill Box at Port Rowan

While looking through some photos of the Port Rowan station, I was delighted to discover that it did, in fact, sport a waybill box. In this photo taken in the 1950s, the bill box can be clearly seen just to the right of the operator’s bay:
Port Rowan Bill Box photo PtR-Station-BillBox.jpg
(Well, would you look at that…)

I’m now even more pleased that Chris Abbott built a pair of bill boxes for me, to hold the model waybills I use for operating sessions.

Long lens

I was photographing the layout yesterday and decided to experiment with a 70-300mm zoom lens. Zoom lenses do foreshorten the scene, so for example the switches look a lot sharper than they actually are – but I don’t mind the effect and the lens allowed me to get into places I can’t with the 18-55mm lens I normally use.

Here are a couple of photos from the operating session. More to come.

CNR 1560 on the yard throat, Port Rowan:
Switching in Port Rowan photo SwitchingPortRowan.jpg

And with its work complete, CNR X1560 East departs Port Rowan:
X1560 East at Port Rowan photo X1560East-PortRowan.jpg


Future S scale kits from SMMW?

Jim King at Smoky Mountain Model Works has updated his S Scale “What If” page… where he proposes several potential resin kit models and asks visitors to express their interest.

Jim’s work is really nice. My recently acquired Central of Georgia ventilated boxcar is an example.

As Jim notes, the magic number for production is 80 retail sale kits. So far, only a 57′ mechanical reefer has passed the bar. I’ve put in my vote for the PS-1 40′ boxcar and 52′-6″ gondola – both of which are really close to passing 80 as I write this. (I’ve also spoken up for the PRR X29 boxcars, but they’re so far back in the running that at this point they’re unlikely to see the light of day.)

If you’re in S, and you haven’t yet reviewed the page and voted, give it some thought.