2017 S Scale Can-Am Social

2017 S Scale Social - group photo

It was another fun day out this past Sunday, at the 2017 S Scale Can-Am Social in Lowbanks, Ontario. My friend Jim Martin (near the middle, back row, light green shirt) has organized this casual get-together for a few years now, and this year’s gathering included participants from across Ontario, as well as Quebec and New York State.

The social is a chance to catch up with each other. It has also turned into a bit of an S Scale swap meet. Every year I go, I think, “Oh – I’m not going to buy anything” and every year, I do. This time, I came home with a brass model of a GS gondola, lettered for the Boston & Maine… a resin kit for a Canadian Pacific “Fowler” boxcar once produced by David Clubine at Ridgehill Scale Models… my third example of Andy Malette‘s mixed-media kit for a CNR combine (one of the essential pieces of rolling stock for modelling the line to Port Rowan)… and a craftsman kit for a brick general store by Grand River Models (a manufacturing company once owned by TrainMasters TV executive producer Barry Silverthorn).

Barry joined me for the meet and together we lined up a couple of interesting guests for future episodes of TrainMasters TV. After the meet, we were joined by David Clubine for a brief visit with Bob Fallowfield and a chance to run trains on his excellent HO scale re-creation of the CP Rail operations in Woodstock, Ontario, in the fall of 1980. It was David’s first visit, and he and I spent a lot of time talking about the powerful draw of the 1980s – an era we both experienced as younger, impressionable hobbyists.

All in all, a fine day out. (Thanks, Jim, for putting it together!)

ESU CabControl DCC system announced

Even though I don’t need one, I’m pretty excited to learn that ESU (the “LokSound” decoder company) has announced a new DCC system designed specifically for the North American and Australian markets. The new “CabControl” system offers layout builders the best of ESU’s ECoS system while removing some of the more “Eurocentric” features and dropping the price to make it competitive with other popular DCC systems.

ESU CabControl
(The ESU Cab Control system | Click on the image to read about it on ESU’s website)

Regular readers will recall that just under a year ago, I upgraded my layout with the ECoS 50200 DCC system. I’m really happy with this decision but I knew that the ECoS would not be for everybody, since it includes a number of features that are not in high demand in North America – specifically, the two case-mounted throttles. These add considerably to the price of an ECoS system, putting it in a different snack bracket from starters sets offered by other manufacturers.

Obviously, the developers at ESU have decided they’re missing an important opportunity here, because the new CabControl starter set deletes the case-mounted throttles (and the touch screen) in favour of a black box that houses the command station and a WiFi access point. It then adds the Mobile Control II – a WiFi-based wireless throttle that combines the best of a touch-screen Android-based tablet with a super-sweet servo-driven throttle knob and some programmable push buttons to give operators quick and intuitive access to commonly-used functions (such as the bell and whistle). I saw this new system in action at a recent train show in the greater Toronto area, and I was definitely impressed.

ECoS-01
(My current ESU DCC system – including the ECoS 50200 command station, a wireless access point, and two wireless Mobile Control II throttles)

I have a pair of the Mobile Control II throttles that I use with the ECoS 50200 and I love them, so it’s great to see that ESU has made this fresh commitment to the North American market. With a product more suited to our tastes in control systems – at a more competitive price – I expect more modellers on this side of the Atlantic will make the switch to ESU. And from a purely selfish perspective, that means my ECoS 50200 – which is already well supported – will be even better served in the years to come.

I see Matt Herman from ESU fairly regularly at local shows, and he’s a frequent guest on the “DCC Decoded” segment of TrainMasters TV. What’s more, I know that I’ll be hosting Matt in the TrainMasters TV studios before the month is out for an in-depth exploration of the ESU CabControl system. I’ll post about that here when I do – so stay tuned!

Six years on…

Six years ago today, my friend Pierre Oliver and I cut the first pieces of lumber for what was to become Port Rowan in 1:64. It’s been quite a journey.

My layout is a simple design, so construction proceeded remarkably quickly. In no time at all, it seemed, I had roadbed in place and was starting to rough in the location of turnouts and trackage:

Port Rowan shortly after construction started.

And just a few years later, the layout was not only running, but I’d say 90% finished:

Port Rowan a few years later.

That final 10% seems to take as long as the initial 90%, doesn’t it? There are structures to build, details to assemble and paint, vignettes to create, and so on. That’s all part of the fun. And then of course there are other projects. They may be railway related, but not of direct use on the layout. Or they may be projects that have nothing to do with this hobby – but that I want to undertake, just because.

There’s been a lot of that this year. I’ve rediscovered role playing games and tabletop wargaming after a quarter century absence, and a lot of my spare time has been taken up by assembling and painting 28mm figures (roughly S scale) for a couple of games set in feudal Japan.

(I really should start a blog about those interests, now that I think about it…)

As for Port Rowan, much of my work on this hobby has involved migrating photos off Photobucket and onto my WordPress server. It’s something I should’ve done from the start, I suspect. Oh well…

The nice thing about the hobby, for me, is that I don’t have a deadline. I’m not staring down a 20-30 year “Dream Layout” and wondering if I’ll achieve the dream before I am too feeble and/or addlepated to appreciate it. I can see a point – in the not too distant future – when I can declare Port Rowan “finished”. I’m looking forward to that, but I’m also in no rush to get there. It’s a hobby – not a job…

A railway modelling craftsman reflects on his hobby

Boy, does this sound familiar!

Gene Deimling is a well-known modeller working in Proto:48. He’s responsible for the patterns for many fine rolling stock kits that O scalers enjoy. He blogs about his hobby, and I’m a regular reader. His most recent post really struck a chord with me – and I’m sure it’ll resonate with many of you, too.

Click on the image, below, to read it:

Gene's Wanderings
(Is there a better way to wander than in a doodlebug? I think not!)

I have offered up several comments about this post on his blog – and in the interests of keeping the conversation in one place, I’m turning off comments on this post. If you have something to contribute, please do so! But do it in Gene’s original post. I’m following the comments on his post so I’ll take part in the discussion there.

Gene – thanks for sharing your thoughts! (And thanks for the shout-out for Port Rowan in 1:64!)

“All hat, no cattle”

As I’ve been migrating the photos for this blog off Photobucket, I’ve had the opportunity to re-read all of my posts. It’s been an interesting review.

Today, I came across my post from May, 2012 about MTH buying S Helper Service. At the time, I wrote:

Perhaps MTH will have the clout to overcome S scale’s manufacturing challenges, too, and bring fresh product to market.

Well, that sure hasn’t happened.

In hindsight, the MTH acquisition has turned out to be pretty disappointing. It’s been more than five years, and we’ve seen little out of MTH to support scale 1:64 modellers – or even those doing American Flyer. As an example, S Helper Service offered almost a dozen locomotives, offered in both scale and hi-rail:

SHS Locomotives from the NASG product gallery.

Today, MTH’s S scale locomotive offering is the F3 – and that’s it.

I realize we’re a niche of a niche, but S Helper Service’s Don Thompson seemed to find a way to support us (and thanks for that, Don!)

Fortunately, at least for those willing to build kits, other manufacturers are stepping up. There are rolling stock kits in resin, laser cut wood, brass, and other media. I’m happy to do my part to support those manufacturers who are supporting my hobby…

CNR NSC-built boxcars | First Look

While attending a local train show yesterday, I was able to collect my order of S scale kits for CNR boxcars built by National Steel Car. (I’ve written previously about these new Yarmouth Model Works kits.)

Here’s a first look at what’s in each box:

NSC boxcars - first look.

There’s a really nicely-cast one-piece resin body, with separate roof. A plastic bag holds wire, photo-etched parts, eight-rung Canadian style ladders with integral stirrup steps, a laser cut wood running board, and more. A second bag includes a resin sheet with frame components such as cross-bearers, plus doors. A third bag holds a fine selection of Black Cat Publishing decals, including several variants of the CNR maple leaf logo. Instructions are included on several pages of 8.5×11″ paper, and include a number of black and white photographs to aid with construction and lettering.

The ends are unique on these cars – and offered for the first time in S scale:

NSC-2 end

Some minor filing/sanding will be required to clear away casting sprue material to allow the roof to be fitted in place, but that’s to be expected. The details are fine, and crisp. I have done nothing to clean up the resin yet – this is how the kit looks, straight out of the box. I think that’s pretty impressive.

Here’s a closer look at the roof detail, as well as the baggie of resin parts for the frame, tack boards, body bolsters and so on:

Resin baggie.

Providing these as separate pieces makes it easier to drill the frame cross-bearers to accept a train line, if one desires to model that detail. Like the body, these parts are crisply cast and well detailed. All the resin will have to be washed in soapy water before assembly.

Here’s a closer look at the baggie of miscellaneous parts, including photo-etch:

Photo etch and other parts.

I’m looking forward to building my kits – and I’m glad I got them yesterday: They’ve been on the market just a couple of days now and Pierre tells me more than half of the first run has been purchased already. (Thanks to my fellow S scalers for that!)

If you want one or more of these, don’t wait: Click on the boxcar, below, to visit the Yarmouth Model Works website and order yours…
CNR-524206

Battling the OGRE

The Ogre, in this case, is Photobucket… and the battle has turned into a slog.

There are many things I would rather do* than rebuild this blog by transferring my photos off Photobucket and into WordPress. But it has to be done. I reported in mid-August that I’d moved three months worth of photos in three weeks. Now, at the beginning of October, it’s been six weeks and I’ve only done about a month’s worth.

It’ll be amazing if I get it all done within the allotted time, before Photobucket no longer supports third-party hosting for my blog.

*Like paint miniatures for OGRE/GEV, from Steve Jackson Games. These have languished in their boxes, unpainted, for some 25 years now. So compared to them, I’m blazing a trail through my blog…

The Command Post was well guarded. But it wasn't enough.

California Dreamin’ | We’ll always have Perris

As part of my trip to California in mid-September, I squeezed in a brief stop at the restored ATSF train station in Perris. This is something I’m really glad I was able to do – it was a pilgrimage of sorts.

To find out why, visit my Achievable Layouts blog. Just click on the pretty postcard view of the station, below:

Get your CNR NSC-built boxcars

They’re here!

CNR-524206

Yarmouth Model Works has just released its first S scale freight car kits – for early and late variants of Canadian National Railways 1937 AAR 40-foot boxcars, as built by National Steel Car of Hamilton, Ontario and featuring the manufacturer’s unique NSC-2 end.

These limited run kits feature a one-piece resin body casting, laser cut running boards, custom photo etchings for details such as brake appliance hangers, Des Plaines Hobbies eight-rung Canadian style ladders, and decals from Black Cat Publishing.

CNR-NSC2-Early
(Early version with flat panel roof and initial brake rigging arrangement)

CNR-NSC2-Later
(Later version with raised panel roof and revised brake rigging arrangement)

I have seen the finished production models of each kit (above) in person, and they are spectacular. With more than 5,700 of these cars roaming the rails across North America between the late 1930s and the 1980s, most of us working in 1:64 can justify one of each style on their layouts. (I’ve already placed an order for a few of each.) The unique NSC-2 end will add some welcome variation to our fleets.

You can order car(s) on the Kits – S Scale page at Yarmouth Model Works. (And if you’re going to this year’s RPM Conference in the Chicago area, I know Pierre plans to attend. Maybe you can order your kits now and pick them up at the show, to save on shipping.)

While I’m not part of Yarmouth Model Works, I was among those who encouraged Pierre Oliver and his team to test the waters in S scale. The company has released a number of kits and detail parts in HO, and has won much praise from the Railroad Prototype Modelers community for prototype fidelity, the quality of castings and parts, and ease of assembly. So I’m excited by the opportunity this represents for those of us in 1:64. If these do well, more kits are planned – including unique cars for some popular American roads.

If you have never built a resin kit, these models will be a great place to start.