Pickles and Chicks

In addition to the Hammond Mill photo, Monte Reeves sent along a couple more gems.

First, here’s a neat, undated photo of the pickle factory that used to stand in Forestville – another station on the line to Port Rowan:
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Monte notes that the factory stood on the farm where he grew up, and that the property is currently owned by his brother.

Finally, Monte shared some information about shipping live chicks in the express car on the mixed train. Thanks to this information, I know have an idea of what the shipping crates look like (remember – drill lots of air holes in them!) so I’ll be able to fabricate some for the platform at St. Williams.

(Unfortunately, I don’t get to model a poultry car…)

Thanks again, Monte!

Hammond Mill – a photo I can share!

One of the greatest pleasures I get out of writing this blog is connecting with like-minded individuals, and receiving pleasant surprises in response to my musings.

Back in early May, I put out the call for information about the Hammond Mill in St. Williams. In particular, I hoped to find a photograph of it.

Well, regular reader Mike Livingston came through: I received a a photograph from him (thanks again, Mike!) and it encouraged me to doodle an alternate arrangement for St. Williams. Unfortunately, Mike was not able to obtain permission from his source for me to share it here.

However, another regular reader, Monte Reeves, also took up the quest for a photo of the Hammond Mill. And in today’s post, I received an 8×10 glossy of the mill and environs, plus a nice note from Monte:

Bill Hammond gave me a copy for you and you may publish it on the website – it is yours, courtesy Bill Hammond

And what a photo it is:

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The photo was taken from the south side of Queen Street. The mainline to Port Rowan would’ve crossed the road at an angle just to the right of this scene and running towards the photographer. (The St. Williams station is a half-mile east of this scene.)

The Hammond Mill is the barn structure at right. A one-story lean-to office is attached to west side. While the east end of the mill is cropped out of the photo, the end of the roof can clearly be seen, which suggests there’s not much of the mill out of the frame. That gives me a good idea of the overall size of the structure.

Another barn structure – possibly just a barn – is behind the mill, and the spur track that served the mill would’ve been in the space between them.

In addition to the mill, this scene also includes a service station with a lovely twin-pump island and “B/A” (British American Oil) sign, plus what appears to be an insulbrick-clad garage behind.

Finally, there’s what appears to be a stucco-clad, one-storey house at left.

Mike Livingston was able to obtain some historical information about the property, which I will paraphrase here:

Apparently the property started out as a “Jam Factory” (which is referenced in this online article). The Hammonds purchased the property and converted it to a feed mill, adding the white addition on the west side as an office. The building went up in flames in the early 1960s (a note on the photo Monte provided says “Burnt 1962”) and was replaced by a smaller, one-story building.

Apparently, the mill building was so close to the road that if you did not pull right up, your rear bumper would be over the road. The colour of the main mill building might be red, similar to the St. Williams train station.

My thanks to Bill Hammond for letting me share this image, and to Monte for obtaining the photo and permission. Thanks also to Mike for obtaining another, similar photo – and for providing the background information. The info and image have filled in a major piece of the puzzle for me and plugged a hole on this blog. As a result, I will definitely have to do more doodling to determine whether I can fit this scene into my layout.

If I can, it’ll require a fair bit of rebuilding on this side of the room but that will make for a great, major project – once I’ve finished the structures at Port Rowan.

“Simple and Complete”

Chris Mears writes an interesting blog called Prince Street Terminal and his latest posting really resonated with me.

It’s a short post, but Chris nicely captures the advantages of designing and building what I call an Achievable Layout. He notes that life has been busy for him lately, with the result that even grabbing 15 minutes for a work or operating session is difficult – but when he does find that time, the layout is ready for him to enjoy.

I feel the same way about Port Rowan. Last night, for example, I was airbrushing a project and decided afterwards that I needed to run my airbrush through my ultrasonic cleaner. (It does an amazing job of cleaning the airbrush.) The process takes about 20 minutes, and I didn’t want to leave the parts in the cleaning solution overnight, so I turned on the layout and switched St. Williams.

The thing is, the layout was ready to run – and I can run it by myself. If I had a larger, more complex layout, I would not be able to do that – not without upsetting the set-up for a future, group operating session.

(The Sergent couplers, by the way, worked flawlessly last night.)

But back to Chris: Click on the Prince Street Terminal banner, below, to read his thoughts on this, called “Simple and Complete” – and enjoy if you visit.

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Well said, Chris!

Land of the Little Locomotives

Several readers have mentioned this to me (thank you!), but in case you’ve missed it and are interested…

The current (Summer 2014) issue of Classic Trains Magazine includes a feature by Jim Shaughnessy on the CNR operations out of Palmerston, Ontario in the 1950s.

The 10-page article includes many black and white photos taken by Shaughnessy and his travelling companions during a handful of trips in various seasons. Some of these photos appear in the Ian Wilson book, Steam Over Palmerston. Others are new to me. And even if you already have the book, this article is written by Shaughnessy himself so there’s plenty of first-person insight.

The article is followed by a two-page sidebar looking at Palmerston today (the local historical society holds handcar races on the old RoW) and the fate of some of the 2-6-0s that called Palmerston home.

In addition to the coverage in the magazine, there are several photos online, too: Click on the cover, below, to see those – and enjoy if you visit!
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TrainMasters TV :: 2nd work session

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(Pierre and I admire the results of our work session :: One of two module sets, racked and ready for the next phase of construction. All photos courtesy TrainMasters TV)

Last Friday, Pierre Oliver and I paid a second visit to Barry Silverthorn at the TrainMasters TV studio to do some more work on the two modules I’m creating for the S Scale Workshop.

I’m documenting the modules for a series of segments on TrainMasters TV – and I’m loving the experience.

Doing stuff in front of the camera forces me to think more clearly about the process of creating the modules. It’s also fun and satisfying to figure out how to share what I’m doing with others in a medium that – let’s face it – is tailor-made for our hobby. In the process, I’m shaking the dust off some professional skills I haven’t used since my university days. And I get to wear natty goggles:
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(While I clean up the edges of a module with a belt sander, Pierre admires my natty German safety goggles)

While the work is serious, it’s also a lot of fun. We had a ton of laughs while in Barry’s studio – and over lunch at Dem Bones.

During Friday’s session, Pierre and I built the racks that will allow me to safely store and transport the modules. Well – Pierre built the racks while I helped, and tried to stay out of the way…
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(Pierre preps pieces for the racks :: The CNR Toronto-Montréal mainline provides frequent distractions, but we still have all of our fingers)

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(Like this? I set the base of a module set on our work table :: The first module set is racked in the background)

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(Fitting the bolts that hold everything together)

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(By the end of the day, we arrived at the moment of truth: Would the modules, in their racks, fit into the back of my truck?)

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(It’s looking good…)

Barry is a great guy to work with and he’s creating a top-quality show. I’m in awe of the amount of work, and attention to detail, that goes into producing TrainMasters TV – and I’m thrilled that Barry is allowing me to be a part of it while building this pair of modules.

I’m looking forward to the next work session, during which I hope to install roadbed and fascia. Since I’m going to debut these modules at a train show in the beginning of October, I’d better get cracking – time flies when you’re having fun, and there’s still a lot to do!

Couplers and throttles :: A visit from Hunter

Last week, my friend Hunter Hughson dropped in for an operating session – another opportunity for me to put the Sergent couplers and TouchCab throttle app to the test.

The couplers are not yet operating at 99% reliability – but they are improving, so I’m pleased. And yes, I do expect them to work almost perfectly – at least as well as Kadees – because anything less will make running the layout less fun. I’m confident I’ll get there with the couplers. It’ll just require running trains to get them working smoothly, and train myself to line them up for coupling.

The pleasant surprise, though, was just how much Hunter liked the TouchCab throttle. It’s not for everybody – I really like some features (an iPod Touch is small and light, there’s no cord to tangle, and the function buttons can be overlaid with icons for bell, whistle and so on – which is really handy for guest operators) but I also like the standard Lenz keypad throttle because I can navigate around it by feel. That said, I’ll be using the TouchCab a lot more often, and I have a couple of suggestions I’ll share with the developer to see if we can improve it.

Meantime, Hunter has written his own impressions of last week’s operating session. To read more, click on his photo to visit his blog:
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After our operating session, my wife joined us for dinner at Torito, a terrific local Spanish restaurant. Torito specializes in tapas – small plates meant for sharing. My favourite is the padrón peppers, oiled and done on a skillet and sprinkled with sea salt. This is not Torito’s recipe, but it must be pretty darned close:

The best way to enjoy Padron Peppers

They wash down really nicely with glasses of mojitos…

Rethinking St. Williams

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(I like this scene as rendered on my layout and I’m not willing to lose it…)

This post could also be titled “Dodged a bullet”…

This week, reader Mike Livingston was able to share with me a photo of the Hammond Mill in St. Williams. Unfortunately, Mike was unable to obtain permission from the photo’s owner for me to publish it here, but I can tell you that the mill was a 1.5-storey structure with a barn roof – like the roof on the next to the team track in Port Rowan:
Team Track Barn photo PtR-Barn-01_zps2cd0bf26.jpg
(Like this, but larger. Click on the image to read more about the team track barn.)

This structure has been elusive, so in the meantime I’ve been using a stand-in – a scratch-built model of a grain storage bin based on a structure in Cheltenham, Ontario – as shown here:
M233 at St. Williams west photo M233-StW-West_zps28961473.jpg
(Click on the photo to read more about the grain bin)

Now that I have a photo of the real mill, however, I’m thinking about building it for the layout. And that got me thinking…

My rendition of St. Williams has always been fanciful – a situation dictated by the size and shape of my layout space. Unlike Port Rowan, which I was able to model fairly faithfully, I took several liberties with St. Williams:
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(St. Williams as built. Click on the plan to view a larger version)

Like the prototype location, my 1:64 St. Williams features a doubled-ended siding and a single spur. But my siding is curved – and actually about twice as long than the prototype’s four-car capacity. As well, my spur is located too close to one end of this siding and points the wrong direction – back towards the siding, not away from it.

Could I model the town more accurately?

Here’s St. Williams from the air, with the railway’s former right of way highlighted:
St Williams from the air - labelled photo StW-Labelled.jpg

Port Rowan is to the lower left, while Simcoe (staging on my layout) is to the upper right.

The location of the station is indicated with an “A”. The four-car siding was located to the right of the station, and used as a team track. Meanwhile, the Hammond Mill was on the north side of Queen Street, just to the left (west) of the railway crossing. The spur to the mill went behind the structure, so the mill was tucked between the spur and Queen Street.
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(The Hammond Mill area today, looking north from Queen Street. This is not the original structure. The RoW is now used as a utility corridor.)

With this information to hand, and inspired by the vintage photo of the Hammond Mill, I decided to draw out St. Williams more accurately, to see if it would fit my space:
 photo StWilliams-TestFIt_zps67ac8f17.jpg

Comparing this quick sketch with the layout plan, I’m convinced I’ve made better use of my available space by taking some liberties. Reworking St. Williams to be more faithful to the prototype would require several changes I’m not willing to make:

– I would have to lose the Stone Church Road overpass – a scene I really enjoy – because it would interfere with the Hammond Mill, the mill spur, and the Queen Street level crossing.

– I would have to bump out the benchwork to accommodate the mill, which would affect my ability to maintain (and enjoy) the track through the east end of the Lynn Valley scene – which starts immediately to the west of Stone Church Road.

– I would have to move the station to the aisle side of the track, so that it would be viewed from the back. Since the only picture I have of this station is taken from the front (see the lead photo), and since this is the image that inspired me to model this station, I’m not prepared to lose that view on the layout.

There are several alternatives, of course. I could flip the station/team track portion 180 degrees, so that the station was to the left of the team track, and the first scene a train encounters upon leaving the sector plate.

But as built, I have almost four feet of running room from sector plate to Charlotteville Street, which gives operators a chance to get up to speed and blow for the crossing.

Having an unscenicked and very unprototypical sector plate immediate to the left of the scene would also seriously limit the angles from which I could view/photograph the station. And I do like the view…
Extra 80 East - St Williams, Ontario - August 1953 photo X80East-StW-2014-01_zps347cae5c.jpg

So, no: Unless I can another eight or 10 feet of wall space to the left of the sector plate – which is unlikely to happen in the foreseeable future – I’l stick with the St. Williams scene as I’ve built it. It was an interesting exercise in “what fits”, however – so definitely worth the time to try it out.

I may have to replace the grain building with a more accurate model of the Hammond Mill, however. I’ll add that to the “someday” file…

More Sergent testing

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I continue to test the new Sergent couplers in the best possible way – by running trains.

With an extra freight behind Mogul 80, I ended up with a fair bit of shuffling to get cars into the right order at Port Rowan.

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I’m finding that when cars are first introduced to the layout, the couplers are fairly stiff. This is especially true of those that I treated with Neo-Lube before last week’s operating sessions. The treated couplers need to be worked a bit to break up the particles of graphite, which I think stick together a bit as the carrier solution evaporates. Once these bonds are broken, they seem to work fine.

I did not finish the ops session this morning. I’m going to try to run trains for short periods each day, on the theory that frequent, short sessions will give the couplers a really good workout, while allowing me to test them under various temperature and humidity conditions.

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Naturally, since I had no visitors this morning, things ran almost flawlessly.

Two days of trains and food

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It’s been a fun couple of days, running trains and enjoying meals with friends.

On Wednesday morning, Chris Abbott dropped in on his way to work. We set up his iPhone to interface with my layout via the TouchCab wireless throttle app. (On a technical note, I’ve now set up the TouchCab category on this blog, so those interested in this system can find all relevant entries in one place.)

While running a train via TouchCab, Chris also did some testing with The Galvanick Lucipher to get some first hand experience coupling and uncoupling the new Sergent couplers.

Overall, things went well. I had one or two couplers that gave me trouble but I suspect I can address the problem by adding some Neo-Lube to the pivot points for the knuckles, as shown here:
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Afterwards, we retired to Harbord House for lunch and discussed several things, including a weekend visit by Chris to the TrainMastersTV studio in Belleville and the wiring scheme for my S Scale Workshop modules. Chris will be helping me with the wiring portion and he’s come up with some innovative ideas that I’m sure TrainMasters TV subscribers will love.

Last night, Mark Zagrodney joined me for an ops session in which we did further tests. We had slight hiccups with both the TouchCab and with the couplers:

The TouchCab issue involved some lag-time between transmitting a command (e.g.: “Turn on the bell”) and having the system execute it (e.g.: “Ding-ding! Ding-ding!”). Later, we lost all input from the throttle. I think – but will have to confirm – that the problem was caused by having a regular Lenz throttle plugged into the system and assigned to the same locomotive we were trying to run with the TouchCab. For future tests, I will make sure the Lenz throttles are set to a different address.

The coupler problem may have been caused by two factors. First, I’ve converted a lot more equipment to Sergent couplers. This week, I added Sergents to a 2-6-0 and six more freight cars – several of which were involved in last night’s session. It could be that I need to work these new couplers more and (as noted) add some Neo-Lube to the pivot points. Second, to set up for this session I pulled all Kadee-equipped cars out of St. Williams and Port Rowan, and swapped in Sergent-equipped cars. I’ve found that cars that are set in place – instead of switched into place – don’t have the coupler shanks lined up for proper coupling. Once they’ve been coupled to and uncoupled, they are properly aligned.

Still, it was a most enjoyable evening.

Prior to our operating session, I met up with Mark at the downtown location of Lee Valley Tools. Then we popped next door for dinner on the rooftop at The Spoke Club. Beer and red meat were followed by elaborate desserts:

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(Phyllo baked chocolate banana bread with strawberry coulis and sorbet)

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(Lemon mousse delight with chocolate cardamom ice cream, vanilla tuile and macerated raspberries)

Back when I was working in On2, Mark, Chris and I used to get together once a month to either work on my layout or run trains. But then work and life got in the way. However, the planets may once again be coming into alignment so we can revive our tradition. I hope so – we have a lot of fun together.

Thanks for dropping in this week, guys – I’m looking forward to more!

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