NYC 399574

I visited my friend Pierre Oliver on Saturday, and he presented me with two new S scale freight cars for my layout, including this New York Central gondola:
NYC 399574 photo NYC399574-01.jpg

Pierre built this from a Funaro and Camerlengo resin kit. I finished the car, adding fine scale wheel sets, flexible air hoses (BTS part 02302) and Kadee couplers. I also did the weathering – I like doing that so all my rolling stock uses the same palette.

Gondolas are the workhorses of North American railways so I really attacked the interior of this model with rust-coloured weathering powders. I’m pleased with the result. This is the first gondola on the layout, and it’ll be busy carrying everything from poles, ties and lumber, to scrap metal and pipe.

I will be adding more gondolas to the layout. I have another one of these kits, which I may have Pierre do as the Michigan Central version. I also have a Funaro kit for a Pennsylvania Railroad class GR composite gondola. Both of these were given to me by my friend Matt Matthews. (Thanks Matt!)

I would also love to do a CNR gondola. There’s a nice HO resin kit from Westerfield, but nothing in S. I smell a scratch-building project… but not just yet. Too many other things to do first.

Thanks for the gondola, Pierre – you’ll see more kits on your bench in the near future!

(By the way, Pierre has built several pieces of rolling stock for me. In fact, he does this full-time under the Elgin Car Shops name. If you have a pile of resin freight car kits – in any scale – why not talk to him about doing a few for you so you can focus on other aspects of the hobby… like building your layout?)

CofG 56309

I visited my friend Pierre Oliver on Saturday, and he presented me with two new S scale freight cars for my layout, including this Central of Georgia ventilated boxcar:
CofG 56309 photo CG56309-01.jpg

Pierre built this from a Smoky Mountain Model Works resin kit. I finished the car, adding fine scale wheel sets, flexible air hoses (BTS part 02302) and Kadee couplers. I also did the weathering – I like doing that so all my rolling stock uses the same palette.

On Pierre’s blog, he writes…

A very nicely done kit, that is a delight to build. I do enjoy ventilated boxcars. They are just so darn neat. The double set of doors and the end vents create a unique looking car. And they wandered all over the place, hauling melons and other such produce. Most transition era layouts should have at least one on the roster.

This is especially true in S scale, where the selection of interesting freight cars is a fraction of what it is in HO scale, or even O. This car will definitely add some variety to the trains on my branch.

Would it show up in Port Rowan, though? Sure!

Port Rowan was the closest rail terminal (and closest community, period) to Long Point, a popular piece of cottage country on the north shore of Lake Erie – even back in the 1950s. Trains on the branch would serve cottagers at Long Point, Turkey Point, and along the lakeshore.

And who doesn’t enjoy a nice piece of melon in the summertime?

Surely an enterprising general store or cottagers association could order a carload of melons for a festival…

Thanks Pierre!

(By the way, Pierre has built several pieces of rolling stock for me. In fact, he does this full-time under the Elgin Car Shops name. If you have a pile of resin freight car kits – in any scale – why not talk to him about doing a few for you so you can focus on other aspects of the hobby… like building your layout?)

First kilns for Pierre

My friend Pierre Oliver is building an HO scale layout based on the Wabash Railroad through Southern Ontario (in fact, the Wabash had trackage rights over a portion of the CNR that was used by trains headed to Port Rowan, so trains on his layout and on mine could have met).

Like my Port Rowan line, Pierre’s prototype goes through tobacco country – so we both need tobacco drying kilns. Pierre and I often share the work on layout projects – he builds resin freight cars professionally while I find that building structures satisfies the frustrated architect in me – so I offered to scratch build five drying kilns for him in exchange for some freight cars. (This would also work as a dry run before I tackle on my own, S scale kilns.)

The first kiln is done and I’ll take it to show Pierre before I build the rest, to make sure it’s what he’s looking for. (UPDATE: I took the kiln to a work session at Pierre’s place today, and it’s just what he wanted, so I can go ahead and build the rest.)

Front view of kiln:
HO Tobacco Kiln - front photo TobaccoKiln-HO-01.jpg

Back view of kiln:
HO Tobacco Kiln - back photo TobaccoKiln-HO-02.jpg

From the front, the kiln has a small door (only about 5.5 feet high) and two wood stoves built into the foundation at the corners. These vented out a tall chimney on the back. They heated the kiln to cure the leaves, which were hung inside. The hatches on the peaked walls allowed the farmer to inspect the leaves hung higher up in the building and could also be opened for ventilation. Four were swing-out hatches. The front wall also had a sliding panel up at the peak.

Each side featured a row of three large doors, hinged at the top so they would swing out and up. These were used to load the kilns with tobacco leaves tied in bunches and hung on poles. The Delhi Tobacco Museum and Heritage Centre has a painting that shows how the tobacco was prepped and loaded into the kilns:
Loading the kilns photo KilnPainting.jpg
(I took this photo with permission while visiting the centre last year and highly recommend a visit to anybody visiting the Delhi area.)

Each opening was secured with one or more simple latches – consisting of a length of wood with a pivot in the middle. What I didn’t appreciate until I started building this kiln is just how many latches, hinges and other details were required. But they add so much character to the finished model, I think.

I’ve given the model a good dose of weathering to represent years of smoke and tobacco juices. More needs to be done but I’ll let Pierre tackle that so he can blend the structures into the others on his layout.

This is a very enjoyable project – so far. Ask me again after I’ve done four more in HO… and five in S!

That’s a big wagon!

A friend of mine in Eastern Ontario is downsizing his house and I’ve picked up a few interesting things as a result. A while ago, I wrote about buying his Sherline Mill. When I picked it up, I forgot to collect the cover that protects the machine when not in use.

Well, one thing begat another and while discussing the logistics of getting the cover, we ended up striking a deal for another piece of equipment: A railway baggage wagon. A full-size railway baggage wagon. My friend had purchased it at auction several years ago. It originally came from a station in the Kingston, Ontario area.

Now, I’m a downtown dweller, which means the back garden is pretty small. But there are two ways to deal with that. The conventional approach is to go with small things, but I always think that if one pursues this approach a garden can end up looking like Tivoli Miniature World. I prefer going big – with tall grasses, big plants, and a few pieces of garden art.

The baggage wagon arrived today – which is why I spent two hours on a cold but bright January, taking pruners and saw to a large but old and poorly performing rosebush, to clear some space for the wagon. (We have two other large rosebushes in the garden, so it won’t be missed.)

When I was finished I had four garden bags worth of thorns, which I won’t miss a bit. I rolled the wagon into place and discovered it’s perfect to lean against to catch one’s breath:
Don't fall off the wagon photo Wagon-01.jpg

I also discovered that the dogs think it’s pretty cool, too:

A new vantage point? photo Wagon-02.jpg

(My wife also likes it but, sensibly, stayed inside where it’s warm.)

We’ll put pots of herbs on it, although my friend’s wife had a brilliant suggestion: get some stools and use it as an outdoor bar. We could even roll it out and sit on both sides for dining al fresco – just don’t trip over the handle!

Railroad Memoirs

I have a few railroad memoirs – books written by railroaders about their careers, as opposed to railroad histories. I really enjoy them and I often something about railroading that I can apply to my layout.

I thought others might enjoy some of these as well, so I’m posting a list here. If you’re looking for any of these, I suggest searching on the Advanced Book Exchange, as a number of them are out of print.

Cy Crumley and Kenneth Riddle, Cy Crumley’s TWEETSIE (ISBN not given)
Ninety years on the narrow gauge East Tennessee and Western North Carolina Railroad.

Ralph Fisher, Vanishing Markers (ISBN 0-8289-0287-9)
Stories by a retired railroader from the Boston and Maine Railroad.

JF Frana, Trains Don’t Fly (ISBN 978-0-9827-4710-0)
Stories by a retired dispatcher on The Milwaukee Road.

Marc Frattasio, Dining on the Shore Line Route (ISBN 1-883089-83-2)
Heavy emphasis on food service workers, especially women.

Gilbert A Lathrop, Little Engines and Big Men (ISBN not given)
Tales of various Colorado narrow gauge lines, worked by the author’s father and uncle.

Stuart Leuthner, The Railroaders (ISBN 0-394-51861-6)
Thirty-three first person accounts.

Larry Marnes, Doubling Over (ISBN 0-8062-3057-6)
Stories by a former railroader on the Delaware and Hudson Railroad.

RM Neal, High Green and the Bark Peelers: The Story of Engineman Henry A. Beaulieu and his Boston and Maine Railroad (ISBN not given)
An unusual entry in this list, as it was not written by a railroader – but was written about one by a professor from the University of Missouri School of Journalism. That counts in my book.

John W. Orr, Set Up Running (ISBN 0-271-02056-3)
The life of a Pennsylvania Railroad Engineman 1904–1949.

Herbert Sitt, I Remember (ISBN 0-9691-6070-4)
Stories by a retired railroader from the Canadian Pacific Railroad.

Dana Adams Story, Daily Except Sunday: The Diaries of a Nineteenth Century Locomotive Engineer (ISBN 1-889020-16-8)
Stories from a collection of 43 diaries kept by Philip T. Adams, who worked on the Essex Branch of the Boston and Maine Railroad. The book was written by his grandson.

If you have other favourites, drop me a line using the Comments function on this post. Provide the same information I have, and I’ll add them to the list as time permits. (And a big thank you to those who have already done so – the list is growing fast!)

Wanted: Air-powered engine sound module

As this photo of the Port Rowan turntable shows, the bridge is equipped with an air-powered engine to turn it:
CNR 86 on the Port Rowan Turntable photo CNR86-TT_zps01eb4c0d.jpg

I’m a big fan of sound on a layout – both for the trains and for the scenes through which they pass. I intend to add scenic sounds as appropriate – from birds to streams. One of the sounds I’d like to include is that of this air-powered engine at work. Therefore, I’m looking for an appropriate sound module.

I would like to set up this module so it runs only when I throw the switch to operate the turntable. (This switch is a SPDT style – as one option, I could replace it with a DPDT and use the second set of contacts to control the sound module.)

I have yet to find an appropriate module. Miller Models is no longer in business, and a search through the catalogues at Ram Track and Innovative Train Technology turned up some lovely sounds… but, alas, nothing suitable for this application.

So, I’m throwing the question out to you, the readers: If you know of one, use the Comments function to let me know. Thanks in advance!

The Gift of Galt

I was pleased to hear from a friend over the holidays who told me that – after reading my blog entry about the CNR Waterloo Sub to Galt, Ontario – he grabbed his copy of To Stratford Under Steam, got inspired, and started building the yard at Galt in HO scale on an L-shaped shelf.

My friend had been struggling with a layout plan until he realized he had been trying to do too much in terms of size of layout and scope of the prototype he was trying to capture. He re-read Lance Mindheim‘s books and blog, then my piece on the Waterloo Sub as an achievable layout, and that’s all it took.

Yesterday I learned that the track is in and wired, and he’s able to run trains. He has also painted a basic backdrop and is starting to work on scenery and planning structures. In his email, he made the following observation:

So far, good fun, and I am quite taken with the minimalist approach to building a layout. I’m enjoying being able to come down and have an operations session that can be 10 minutes or over an hour, whatever time allows. It’s very therapeutic!

This just made my day. I’m really, really pleased that he’s making such progress and that he’s enjoying the layout. And that my blog played some role in getting him started? Well, that’s like finding another Christmas present under the tree!


I’ve had a couple of reports of the CAPTCHA (the little math puzzle) misbehaving when readers try to leave a comment.

While it’s not anything I’ve done, I understand your frustration and apologize for the sillybuggery that’s going on. I really don’t want to disable the CAPTCHA, though, because it blocks a crazy amount of this stuff:
A crazy amount of Spam photo WallOfSpam.jpg

So please be patient. I’ll see if there’s anything I can do and when I’ve confirmed that things are working smoothly again, I’ll post an update here.

Wooden Poles and Watermelons

Two more items I’ll be able to ship to St. Williams and Port Rowan, thanks to my friend Pierre Oliver at Elgin Car Shops.

Pierre called today to tell me he’s just finished a pair of S scale resin freight cars for me. As always, he’s done a great job. (Now before you go commenting, he knows about the stirrup step on the NYC gon and will fix it – he’s very good that way.)

Pierre has done quite a few S scale resin projects for me now – from Ridgehill Scale Models CN vans (cabooses) and Fowler box cars, to the Funago and Camerlengo gondola and the Smoky Mountain Model Works ventilated box car he’s just completed.

(Plus, of course, a pair of multi-media kits for the CNR combines which are essential for my layout.)

He’s becoming quite the expert on S scale kits. If you have some in your home hobby shop and are ready to admit that you’re not going to get them all built, why not send a few of them his way?

Works for me.