The competition

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One of the stories I hope to convey with my layout is that branch line railroading in southern Ontario is in decline in the period that I model. That means I need to represent the things that killed it.

One of the big killers was the rise of reliable highways and the trucking industry. I recently lettered a pair of CNR trucks and while sorting through my decals I found several sets I’d acquired to letter some of the other transports on my layout. Since I had the decals and tools to hand, I decided to finish these trucks.

It wasn’t as straight-forward as it sounds.

In October of 2012, I acquired several die-cast trucks for the layout. These days, most die-cast trucks come in novelty paint schemes for various consumer brands – and my trucks were no exception. The worst offender was this one:
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“Peanutritious”? That had to go – and fast. I hauled out my airbrush and sprayed my truck collection in various solid colours, then brush-painted the tires and various other details:
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So far, so good. But when looking through my decals, I realized I had nothing to go over a green truck – and here I was with two of them. More airbrushing ensued. These two trucks were re-done in red. While I was at it, I did a third truck with an aluminum trailer and navy blue tractor – again, based on colour schemes in my decal assortment:
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Again, I picked out the details with a brush. Then I got down to the business of lettering my fleet of railway freight killers.

I wanted lettering for prototype trucks from southern Ontario, from the 1950s. There’s nothing like that in S scale, but Black Cat Publishing does have several sets available in HO. Much to my surprise, they worked really well for my S scale models. (In fact, I have a hard time believing some of these decals would fit on HO scale trucks.)

The “Peanutritious” truck looks much better now that it’s been lettered for Husband Transport, using set HU#1:
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I lettered the second red truck for Direct-Winters Transport, using set DIR#837 – while the blue/aluminum truck received a set of Smith#1 for Smith Transport:
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These trucks add a nice dash of local colour to Port Rowan – even as they remind visitors that trucking will eventually steal away the railway’s freight and express business in this small branch line terminal.

12 thoughts on “The competition

  1. Are you sure you care if the decals wouldn’t fit on a Horibly Oversized truck? I model in N scale myself, but I have a very good friend who models in S so I’m familiar with the scale and must admit it is a grand scale to model and view. I lurk here often and am quite impressed with your work and I enjoy your writing. Walt

    • Hi Walt:

      Thanks for the kind words. And no – I’m not really concerned about whether these decals fit on HO trucks. In fact, knowing the publisher I’m sure they do. I’m just pleasantly surprised at how well they fit on my S scale trucks.
      In S, I’ve learned, you take the win where you can.

  2. Well, looks like you are really representing reality in your world. I am looking forward to how you are going to represent the use of the trucks in your two towns. I strongly suspect we aren’t going to see any semi’s in the Lynn Valley but it will be interesting to see your placement. None of your depicted roads seem to be all that good quality, or did your part of the world force the semi’s on to dirt roads? I was living in SoCal in those days and the primary highways were in very good shape in the early 50’s.

    • To this day trucks (including two trailer “super-b” rigs) run up and down gravel roads all over the Canadian prairies. And that’s in the developed parts of the provinces (some highways are gravel too!), in the oilfield we drive truely rough bush roads with big rigs on a daily basis. What I’ve seen in Montana is that many roads down there are paved, in sharp contrast to Alberta and Saskatchewan!

    • Hi Tom:
      Keep in mind that the locations where I’ve set the trucks for this post are not roadways. The “Husband Transport” truck is in the parking lot behind the feed mill, while the other two are parked on the gravel driveway that serves the team track.
      I do have three paved roads on the layout – the crossing in St. Williams, and the main drag (and a side street) at the end of the peninsula in Port Rowan.

  3. OK, I guess I’ll have to get updated from my daughter and grandkids. They live in Alberta, where for the last three years my grandson has been taught in an all French program and my daughter is an Oil Basin Geologist. Thanks, for the update.

  4. I am enjoying your efforts in demonstrating the “Truck Takeover.” To ensure that doesn’t happen on Sahwatch Street, I model 1895 so the first autos made their appearence in 1897. So I have only horses, four legged and Iron.

  5. Not quite competition, but along similar lines, in that I realised that the date I had chosen for my layout required the removal of the passenger Combine. So I removed the passengers from the depot area and placed them by the roadside, to await the alternative road transport!
    Oh, and by the way, the spamming, robot thingy only wanted me to multiple nine x 6, thats the most complicated so far…….!!

  6. Really appreciate your continuing to “tell the story” – no matter what that means for your railroad. Too often, model railroads depict an ideal time/place that never really existed. IMO, a much more effective time machine shows how things were – the good, the bad & the ugly – and the fun comes from researching and discovering what the reality was. On the other hand, many – myself included – do take some liberties here and there. Model railroading is often an escape, after all. But that truck in the first photos does look menacing!

    • Hi Chris:

      Well said! I would add that when telling stories, I feel it’s important to not fall into the trap of telling contrived tales or stories about highly unusual events.

      For example, it’s a trope in the hobby to have a car pulled over, with a police officer giving the driver a ticket. And I’ve certainly seen this many times in real life. But when I consider that for every pulled over car I see, tens of thousands of cars have passed that spot without getting a ticket, I realize just what an unusual situation this is.

      That’s not to say that I should avoid modelling such a scene, if that’s what I really want to do. And maybe I even have a photograph of someone getting a ticket while a train goes past, in which case I could model this scene based on a prototype photograph. But if I did decide to model this scene, I would want to consider how many other such unusual situations I have modelled on my layout and make sure that I don’t overdue it. Perhaps I model the driver getting the ticket OR the kid buying ice-cream from the street vendor… but not both.


  7. Agreed – there’s sometimes too much of the contrived on a model railroad. Now, if you have actual, true anecdotes or stories to tell – then that’s a different, um, story. Case in point: I know from my friend John who grew up in one of the towns I’m modeling that there was a collie dog (I figure you’ll especially enjoy this 🙂 that used to chase the Valley Local just north of Goff Brook every day. Yup – I’m definitely going to have a collie near the line at that point on my layout. Dunno whether I’ll depict him in mid-run though. Might be fun just having him sit there facing the aisle – “breaching the 4th wall” – as if to say, “what are you lookin at?” 🙂

    • That’s a great story, Chris. Thanks!
      Since getting a dog (and now two) about seven years ago, I’ve taken more notice of them in photos and videos – and they seem to be everywhere around railways. Dogs figure more often than I would’ve thought in photographs taken at small town stations, perhaps because they’re good company for an agent/operator.

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