It’s not the fall that kills you…

… it’s the landing.

While I spent most of yesterday helping Brian Dickey operate his Roweham layout at an area train show, I did get a chance to look at some of the other displays.

This shelf-style exhibition layout caught my eye because there were several layers of blankets on the floor underneath it:

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Closer inspection revealed the reason for this. The layout featured a hidden pivot plate connecting two tracks into a run-around. But there was no mechanism to prevent someone from running a train off the non-aligned track and onto the floor…

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Apparently, the exhibitor learned the hard way that this might be a bad idea. Hence, the blankets to provide a soft landing.

I know this is a creative hobby, but I never cease to be amazed by the out-of-the-box thinking that some layout builders exhibit.

Roweham by Brian Dickey

Yesterday, my friend Brian Dickey displayed his British 7mm scale (1:43.5) exhibition layout, Roweham, at an area train show – and he asked Pierre Oliver and me if we would like to help him out.

We both jumped at the chance – and we’re really glad we did.

In the process, I learned a lot about British 7mm modelling.

I also took away some lessons from the experience that add to my ideas about designing a layout for exhibition.

I’ve written about the day’s fun on my Achievable Layouts blog – click on the image below to read that report.

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Thanks, Brian and Pierre, for a terrific day out: I look forward to future opportunities to run trains to Roweham!

CNR 470000 series boxcars: finished?

Well, almost…

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On Friday, I gave my five CNR 470000 series boxcars a first pass of weathering. I used acrylics from Vallejo (a pale grey, medium brown and my favourite colour – grey-black) to build up effects of dust, mud, grime and soot.

I say “almost finished” because while two cars shown above look good on their own, when I put them in a string with other CNR boxcars I realize I have not weathered them enough:

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(25 percent more variety in my boxcar fleet. From left: a 36-foot “Fowler”, a 470000 series rebuilt USRA, a 40-foot single sheathed, and a 1937 ARA steel car)

In particular, the roof needs more soot. I think it’s important to have a consistent look for all equipment. That’s not to say that all cars will weather the same way, but this rebuilt car really stands out fro the others. It almost looks like it’s from a different railway.

I’ll take care of these cars next time I’m in a weathering mood. Meantime, I’m on to generating waybills so my new boxcars can bring all the essentials and luxuries in life to the 1:64 citizens of St. Williams and Port Rowan…

Special move

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The daily freight extra out of Hamilton included a special move in the consist – a pair of test cars to calibrate a track scale. Here, they’re crossing Chartolleville Street in St. Williams.

Apparently, the crew thought it would be easier to lift them en route to Port Rowan, so they’re along for the ride.

The scale test cars have no air brakes – just hand brakes – which means they have to be hauled in front of the van and the train can’t exceed 20 mph – but it never does, anyway…

Earlier this week I realized I had spare time and nine pieces of equipment to weather, so I spent the afternoon spraying dust, dirt, soot and grime. My second scale test car – to the right in this photo – received a light coat of road dust. The cars were kept in good condition and kept fairly clean, since dirt would affect their weight.

While I do not have a track scale on my branch, these will look great on the S Scale Workshop modular layout.

More on the other weathering projects in a future post…

Roy

Why have one all-consuming hobby when you can have two?

If you’ve been following along, you’ve probably figured out that in addition to railway modelling, I’m a big suck for border collies. My wife and I have two, and the eldest one and I are learning to work together to herd sheep.

If there’s a zombie apocalypse, it would be nice to have a useful skill – and “shepherd” might be more in demand than “writer”. But since that’s unlikely to happen – and since I’m equally unlikely to buy a sheep farm – I’m doing this primarily because it’s a challenging sport and I like what the work does for the dogs, and for me.

But, my eldest dog is getting older and while he has many years left in him (knock wood), there’s going to come a time – sooner rather than later – when he’s too old to work sheep. So some succession planning is in order.

That’s why last Sunday, my wife and I went to the Owen Sound area to look at border collie pups – and in a couple of weeks, this little guy is going to join us:

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We’ll call him “Roy”. It’s a good herding name (trust me on this) and I’ve met at least one other working dog named Roy who has really impressed me. I’m hoping some of the magic comes from the name…

Roy is one of a litter of four, and it was tough to pick one. We wanted them all. And who wouldn’t?

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The puppies went bananas when mum showed up…


(You can also watch this directly on YouTube, where you may be able to enjoy it in larger formats)

While this post has nothing, directly, to do with modelling the line to Port Rowan, I was reminded on the way up to Owen Sound of just how extensively the CNR (and CPR) covered province at one time. The road to Owen Sound passed through many small towns once served by the railways. Several branches radiated out of the CNR yard at Palmerston and the CPR yard at Orangeville – and any one of them would make an excellent subject for a layout.

Both railways had lines to Owen Sound, which was an important grain terminal. Elevators still line both sides of the harbour:

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The CNR station in Owen Sound is now the city’s visitor centre, and a display out front includes a passenger car and a CNR van:

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Owen Sound is the main hub in the region. That said, it’s a city of just 22,000 people – and on Sunday, they’re all at home: The downtown was pretty much closed. Fortunately, all we wanted was lunch – and The Curry House was one of the few places open for business:

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And… it was delicious. We’ll definitely go back for more.

We’ll get Roy in a couple of weeks – and my time will disappear into puppy stuff. Not that I mind. But before that happens, I have a project or two I hope to finish. I might even get them done before the owner of this bike retrieves it from the snowbank outside The Curry House…

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CNR 470000 series boxcars: lettered

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Last week, I snuck some time between work assignments and finished lettering my fleet of CNR 470000 series boxcars. These took a lot longer than I expected: I finished the first side of each car earlier this month, but then various other commitments got in the way.

I’ve given the cars a spray with Alclad’s matte finish. I’ve used it for a few projects now and it has become my hands-down favourite flat coat. Just look at that cloud of flatty goodness in the bottom of the bottle:

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It does a great job of hiding decal edges and will even kill some silvering.

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With the lettering done and the flat finish applied, it’s time to replace the wheel sets. As the photo above suggests, I use the supplied wheels while working on cars and don’t mind getting them covered in paint. That’s because I swap in Northwest Short Line wheels before cars hit the layout. This gives me a consistent wheel profile across all of my rolling stock, which I’ve found is important for reliable running.

I’ll also swap out the tongue depressors for Kadee couplers. Prepping wheels and couplers is a good job for a winter afternoon in the kitchen, with a mug of tea close to hand and something stewy simmering on the stove…

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A lot of one car?

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(“Why so many?” Here’s why…)

In response to my previous posting on the CNR 470000 series boxcar project, René Gourley commented:

Gosh, isn’t that an awful lot of one class of car for your little pike, Trevor?

It’s a terrific question and I decided it deserved its own post in response.

Yes, five models of one class of car is a lot for a layout as modest as mine. I could get away with a dozen pieces of rolling stock, for the entire layout. But I’m modelling a large number of this class of car to help address some shortcomings on my layout:

1 – I model in S scale. There’s not much equipment available in S scale, compared to other scales. I can model a few classes of CNR boxcar, but not as many as I could in HO for example.

2 – I can’t justify a wide variety of car types on my layout. I have friends who model bridge lines, and almost anything goes. But I model a small terminal of a lightly-trafficked branch line. Only cars that are serving the few industries I have would show up on the layout. Most of those are boxcars.

3 – What’s more, it’s a branch of the CNR in the steam era, which means the lion’s share of the rolling stock has to be home road. I can enjoy the occasional car from an American railroad, but my trains would never look like the “alphabet soup” of reporting marks that one would’ve seen south of the border. So, most of the rolling stock that appears on my layout will be CNR boxcars.

That said, I want variety. I don’t want to see the same few cars in every operating session. Yet given the limits outlined above – both prototype and model – how do I achieve that?

On my prototype, over the course of a year, one might see the same class of cars showing up all the time. That makes sense, because the same customers would ship or receive the same types of products. But within a given class, it would be rare for the same car to show up again and again – especially if we’re talking about something as ubiquitous as a boxcar.

So, one way I can add variety to my operating sessions is to model several examples of each class of car that I can actually model in S scale. They might have minor detail differences – or lettering differences (like a different logo) – or even just variations in weathering patterns.

I’ve done this with other cars, too – my ARA 1937 steel boxcars are a good example. I have five of these on the layout already, and will build more of them.

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(Click on the image to read more about the dominance of home road boxcars on a mid-century Canadian layout)

And of course while the cars are the same class, each car number is different. Operators will have to pay attention to the details: They can’t simply look at the train and say, “Oh, that’s the USRA rebuild car – it always goes to Leedham’s Mill in Port Rowan”.

From a practical side, if I’m set up to detail, paint and letter one car I might as well do a batch of five. I can use them all and I have space to store them as I rotate them on and off the layout – but if I decide at some point that I want to unload some, I’m sure I can sell them on to other members of the S Scale Workshop.

Thanks for asking the question, René!

CNR 470000 series boxcars : 2

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(With plenty of time for the paint to cure, these five cars are ready for lettering – a good “kitchen table” project)

Over the holidays I managed to make some progress on my CNR 470000 series boxcar project. As reported earlier, I’m working on five cars that are credible stand-ins for some USRA cars that were rebuilt in 1936.

Having finished all detail modifications (at least, those modifications I was willing to do), I ran these through the paint shop for a coat of CNR mineral red from the CNR Historical Association’s line of Scalecoat paints.

I decided – finally – to get smart about painting rolling stock, and crafted some tongues out of styrene to screw into the coupler boxes. These can be seen in the lead photo. I installed these at both ends of the cars.

The tongues help keep paint out of the coupler boxes. They also provide a handy handle for moving the cars in and out of the paint booth. Since S scale manufacturers have pretty much standardized on the Kadee S scale coupler (I use the brown Kadee 808 model), these tongues will come in handy for future painting projects, too.

(The manufacturer’s wheel sets will be swapped out for NWSL replacements before the cars go into service. For now, they keep paint out of the journals and give me something to stand the cars on.)

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(Ready for lettering. The reading glasses are now an essential item when working with white decals)

I painted the cars in early December and then got busy with other commitments. On the plus side, the paint has had plenty of time to cure in preparation for lettering. Over the weekend, I set up on the kitchen table and got to work. The decal sets are number 524206S from Al Ferguson at Black Cat Publishing.

Lettering rolling stock is an ideal project when one’s workshop is otherwise inaccessible (as mine is right now). It’s a “clean” project that doesn’t require a lot of tools, materials or space, so it can be done at the kitchen table. Over the course of an afternoon, I got the first sides done on all five cars. Having left the decals overnight to dry thoroughly, I’m now going over them with a sharp scalpel and the aggressive decal setting solution. The heralds, in particular, need some extra help to settle down over the panel rivets.

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Updated “First Time Here?” page

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If you’ve only recently found my blog, then welcome aboard!

If you haven’t yet seen it, I encourage you to start with the “First Time Here?” page. It includes some links to posts in this blog that will help you understand what I’m doing, and why.

And if you haven’t looked at it in a while, you might want to revisit the page, as I’ve updated it by collecting together some of my favourite photos into a tour of the layout.

Enjoy!

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“S” is for “Scarecrow”

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(I built this detail for a friend’s S scale module, well before I started my own layout.)

An email this week from Charles Malinowski reminded me of a project I did several years ago, and have always meant to repeat.

At the time, I was helping my friend Chris Abbott work on his module for the S Scale Workshop and – while planting a farm field – I realized that making a scarecrow for the scene would be a nice detail (and a nice present for a friend who had helped me on so many things, and still does). So, I got in touch with Jim Martin, another buddy who works in 1:64, and asked if he had a poorly rendered plastic figure of a standing person that I could take off his hands. From there, I built this neat scarecrow.

The figure gave me the correct dimensions – I didn’t have any of my own, and I didn’t have enough experience in S to have a sense of the scale.

I wanted a plastic figure so I could do surgery – cutting and rearranging the arms, for example.

And I wanted something poorly rendered, if possible, because I was going to cover it anyway: Basically, I’d be saving an awful figure from the scrap box, or from being sawn in half to create a “car driver” (top half) and “mechanic working under the car” (legs).

The fellow at the top of this post is the result. He’s a classic scarecrow – I remember being inspired by the ones in the Family of Blood episodes from Season 3 of the rebooted Doctor Who.

To make him, I wrapped the re-arranged figure in scraps of facial tissue, spot-glued in place and painted brown (the paint would stick everything together nicely without overdoing the gluing). The straw was cut from rope. The face was done with a fine marker, and some thread provided ropes to tie the scarecrow in place on a rod.

I wrote a feature about creating this figure for Railroad Model Craftsman. It was was published in the September 2009 issue. (I know many of my fellow enthusiasts working in 1:64 will have a copy, because it featured an S scale layout on the cover.)

Since I have farm fields on my current layout, I’ll have to build another scarecrow. I’ll add it to the “projects” list…

(Thanks for the reminder, Charles!)