Full crew ops

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(The first train of the evening, CNR Extra 1532 East rolls past the tobacco kilns in St. Williams, Ontario)

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(3/4 of my visiting crew for an ops session: Ryan, Bob and Barry plan their moves in Port Rowan. Hunter would join us later…)

Last night, I had four friends over for an operating session. I emphasize “four” because that’s a big deal on a one-train-at-a-time layout…

Recently, Bob Fallowfield and I spent the afternoon together and he mentioned that he hadn’t yet had an opportunity to run trains on my layout. I’ve known Bob for several months now and I’d been to operate on his excellent CP Rail layout a couple of times, so I was well overdue to return the favour.

We did a whip-round of regulars, looking for a third person to join us, and we ended up with three more friends: Hunter Hughson, who writes about his layout on his Niagara Branch blogRyan Mendell, who blogs about his Algonquin Railway… and Barry Silverthorn of TrainMasters TV.

(This was a great combination for many reasons, including that I’ve wanted to get Bob, Hunter and Ryan together with Barry for a while now to talk about doing various projects for Trainmasters. We now have a schedule for some shooting days, and ideas for more…)

I was a little worried about having so many people over at once for an operating session. Previous experience has demonstrate that my layout works well with one to three people (including me as host). Five in the room can get a little crowded, and with only one train on the line I worried that I wouldn’t have enough for everyone to do.

I need not have worried: The guys all enjoyed each other’s company and we managed to run a pair of freight extras. In fact, since my 1950s prototype would have run with five-person crews, we qualified as a full crew and divided the work accordingly:

1 – Conductor (managing paperwork, making decisions)
2 – Engineer (running the locomotive)
3 – Two brakemen (aligning switches, coupling and uncoupling cars)
4 – Fireman (well, nothing for him to do since that role is combined with the engineer, so I did that. I guess as the layout owner, I was the “put out the fires” man)

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(Ryan, Bob and Barry at work. Having dropped cars in St. Williams, CNR Extra 1532 West – at this point a van hop – is just arriving in Port Rowan)

The division of labour worked well for a Friday night. Operations was low-key and gave everyone plenty of time to socialize without disrupting the session. Barry, Bob and Ryan ran a freight extra behind ten-wheeler 1532 before dinner. Then my wife joined us and we met up with Hunter at (where else?) Harbord House. After food, drink and many laughs we returned to the layout for a five-person ops session, working another freight extra behind 2-6-0 Number 80.

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(The last train of the session heads home, behind 2-6-0 Number 80 at St. Williams)

A good time was had by all. I know I’d had a long week and needed a few laughs with friends while running trains – and the guys did not disappoint…

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(“Luke: I am your father!”: Hunter and Silent Bob.)

It’s also gratifying that people are keen to join me for operating sessions: All of them gave up their Friday nights and for most of them, the visit involved an hour or two of travel in each direction. Thanks for making the trip, guys: I’m looking forward to the next time!

D-1 details from William Flatt

While I’ve been waiting for Shapeways to deliver my S scale CNR D-1 body, I’ve been collecting bits and pieces to detail it and the two trailers (C-1 and C-2) that it will eventually haul.

I’d been looking for suitable unpowered trucks without much success: D-1’s trailing truck had a 7′-0″ wheelbase, while the wheelbases for the trucks under the trailers were 6′-6″. Everything I found that looked right was too big – 8′-6″ to 9′.

Then it occurred to me that I was dealing with wheelbases more commonly found under interurbans, not mainline passenger cars. What I needed was parts for S scale traction modelling – the kind of stuff done by William Flatt:

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(Click on the image to read more about William’s layout)

Fortunately, William is also a manufacturer. So I checked out his catalogue of S scale traction parts, and found exactly what I needed:

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This is a 6′-6″ side frame – bang on the for the trailers and close enough (in S, anyway) for the rear of D-1. I ordered enough for the train set, plus truck bolsters. I still need to clean up the castings so I’ve only temporarily assembled a truck with a drop of CA on each end of the bolster, to get an idea of how it goes together. The wheels are 36″ NWSL finescale. I must decide whether I’m adding bearings inside the white metal. While my gut instinct is that I should, I also know live steam enthusiasts who do not and have not had problems with much heavier equipment. The axles turn at fairly slow speed, after all. But I’ll talk to my machining experts about that…

While ordering the trucks, I ordered some other parts from William, too:

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(William’s service was exceptional, in case you’re wondering. S scale lives and dies by small suppliers and it’s good to have guys like Williams helping the rest of us build models and layouts.)

My haul includes seats for the trailers, plus underbody and roof details. It’s not everything I’ll need to finish the project – and there’s probably a bunch of stuff in the pile that I will not need. But it’s a start, and while I install these parts I can figure out what else I need, and where to find it.

Meantime, I can build trucks and determine how I’m going to mount the trailing truck at the rear of D-1. My friend Ryan Mendell, who cut the frame for me, left a large opening on purpose because we did not know what type of truck would be used here, and we wanted room for pick-up wires.

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The D-1 body should arrive next week.

Finally! Mainline Modeler on DVD

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(Click on the image to order)

Back in September of 2013, I wrote

If I could have one thing that would increase my enjoyment of the hobby, it would be the complete collection of Mainline Modeler magazine on DVD

Well, it has happened!

Kudos to the C&O Historical Society for receiving exclusive rights to reproduce the entire Mainline Modeler collection in searchable PDF format on DVD. And special thanks to publisher Robert Hundman for allowing his magazine to be preserved and made available to those who missed it the first time around.

The price for the DVD collection (at time of this writing) is US$249.99 for non-members of the society. That may seem like a lot until one considers that this covers all 304 issues of Mainline Modeler. That’s just 82 cents per issue – and the collection won’t take up a yard or two of shelf space.

Given that the collection is offered as PDFs, and not some bespoke operating system, I’m reasonably confident I’ll be able to enjoy these for many years to come, so I’ve placed my order and it shipped in less than 12 hours. (Thanks also to my friend Herbert “Matt” Matthews for letting me know about the DVD.)

I’m really looking forward to revisiting favourite articles and reading ones that I missed the first time around!

UPDATE: My copy arrived last week. Service from the C&O Historical Society was prompt. (Thank you!)

I’ve loaded the DVD onto my computer and had a look through it, and it’s wonderful. It does require “Acrobat” to view – it doesn’t appear to work with other PDF readers such as “Preview” on a Mac. I was also able to successfully copy the entire DVD to my hard drive – for my personal use only! This has greatly improved the time to navigate the menus and turn the pages. Reading directly off the DVD was quite slow…

Photographing an RPM

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Earlier this month, I attended the 2016 Toronto RPM. I had a number of models to display and also gave a clinic on how I ended up being a prototype-inspired modeller in 1:64. But I was also on assignment:

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That’s me shooting a photo of an HO scale Canadian Pacific Railway van modelled by meet organizer Brian Gauer. The photo itself leads off this post.

I was working this meet for Railroad Model Craftsman magazine. Under previous editor Bill Schaumburg, RMC developed a strong presence at prototype modellers’ meets and I think it’s wonderful that current editor Stephen Priest has continued that tradition. I covered the 2015 New England-Northeast RPM for Stephen and I was very impressed with how my photos appeared in the magazine. I look forward to seeing Stephen’s treatment of my material from the Toronto meet (and I will update this post once I know when my coverage will appear in print).

I’ve shot a fair number of pictures of layouts and models over the years, and have developed a style that works for me. My favourite for equipment is a portrait in my photo box using Fillex LED lights, and it’s an ideal set-up for covering an RPM.

I’ve written previously about the box and lights, as I have used it to capture a series of equipment portraits for my Port Rowan layout.

In addition to creating a nice image, I like this combination of lights and photo box because it’s easily portable: the box collapses into a flat package and comes with its own sleeve that includes a carrying handle, while I can fit three lights with power supplies into a wheeled Pelican case. If I really wanted, I could leave one light at home and use the freed-up space for my camera. Meantime, two long zippped cases with shoulder straps accommodate my tripod and light stands.

People are eager to share their work at RPM meets, which makes my job easy. And yes, I always get the owner of the model to place it in the box: I don’t touch other people’s stuff – even with their permission. So if you see the lights and the big white box at an RPM meet sometime, come over and say hello – and bring along a model or two for a portrait!

(And a special thanks to my friend Stephen Gardiner for the portrait of the portraitist!)

D-1 body ordered

My friend Stephen Gardiner and I attended the 2016 Toronto RPM over the weekend, and he brought along his HO scale model of CNR D-1, C-1 and C-2 to display. The model is a real eye-catcher:

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The prototype train set never received a fancy name like “The Flying Yankee” so it’s a real alphabet soup to describe. But it was the CNR’s failed attempt to modernize its aging fleet of diesel-electric motor cars. The D-1 was a bust and rather than pursue this project, the timing was right for the railway to instead invest heavily into Budd RDCs.

But no matter – it’s a unique piece of equipment and a real conversation piece, as I hope the photo suggests.

To build his model, Stephen drew up the D-1 and its trailers and had it 3D Printed at Shapeways. As regular readers will recall, he’s working on converting his design into 1:64 so I can print a copy to run on the S Scale Workshop exhibition layout. Reworking the model for S required more than simply scaling up the HO plans: The larger scale required the body to be split in two in order to fit within the Shapeways print envelope, and there were other changes to be made. But Stephen informed me on the weekend that the S Scale version is ready, and yesterday I placed my order with Shapeways for the body and the roof:

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I already have a frame, courtesy of my friend Ryan Mendell:

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(Click on the image to read about the frame)

Meantime, I’ve ordered a trailing truck for D-1 (plus trucks for the two trailers) from American Models. While I wait for the D-1 body to arrive, I’ll work up a list of detail parts to acquire from companies such as BTS. And then of course there are the two trailers. I can detail D-1 while Stephen converts his 1:87 trailers to S scale.

(And on a technical note, I’ve now added a category link to the blog for this project: CNR D-1 will filter all the postings related to it.)

Thanks for your work on this Stephen – it’s going to be an awesome addition to the Workshop layout!

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