Thursday 18 December 2014

Throwback Thursday #3 - CN 7025 Switching at Rymal in May 1993

CN 7025 has come north from Caledonia for some switching at Rymal near the end of the line - literally and figuratively - in 1993. Norm Conway photo, author's collection.

Today’s Throwback Thursday is a little close to home – in fact, only a couple of miles from my house. Here is a shot of CN GP9Rm #7025 (one of my favourite geeps) switching the Rymal Spur at Rymal in July 1993. In addition to a passing track at the co-op north of Rymal road (Highway 53 to Hamiltonians), two spurs south of the highway served a lumber dealer and Shaw Pipe. The local here is switching either of the latter industries, although it is probable that it is Shaw Pipe, based on the number of cars in the view. Shaw pipe applied specialized coatings to pipe and shipped a lot of out by rail, until rail service ended on the spur. In addition to the Stelco Steel train, the line at one time hosted a through local based out of Hamilton, commonly operating with a set of SW1200RS’s. Shaw had only a single spur with capacity for only a few cars at a time, so during large contracts switching was handled twice a day, by both the local as well as another operating north from Caledonia.

I say spur, although the track was once the Hagersville subdivision on CN (the original one, though the present day Hagersville sub starts at Brantford, not Hamilton). A few run-ins between trucks and the bridge over Stone Church Road  sounded the death knell for the line as a through route. It's steep mountain climb, risky street running, light traffic base and it's existence as essentially duplicate trackage finally conspired against it. The final time damaged the bridge to the point it was condemned, and placed on the track next to where the overpass stood, about a mile south of the Rymal station sign. From this point on, the line existed briefly as the Rymal  spur originating in Caledonia and served on an as-needed basis by a local likely stationed at Caledonia or Brantford. Which brings us to our subject photo – a rare one at that; the line was seldom photographed once the Hamilton-Nanticoke Stelco Steel train was routed via the Dundas sub to Brantford and from there down the new Hagersville sub to its’ lakeside destination. Alas, a few carloads a week to Shaw Pipe and the odd car to the lumberyard proved insufficient to maintain the spur and it was abandoned in 1993 and the rails taken up not long after. 


Saturday 13 December 2014

Keith's HO Rolling Stock Trays

If you’re like me, a lot of the time the excitement of getting a new piece of rolling stock overwhelms the wisdom to keep the box that it came in; hence, a yard full of rolling stock, and three boxes! Or sometimes at a show, you buy a car from a vendor that has rolling stock for without its’ original box – then what?

Today we have a guest author with the answer: my dad, Keith. Here’s his article about rolling stock storage trays made from pop can trays. Also, a shout-out to any OSHOME members who read this – you know who you are!


Photo 1: All filled up and ready to go. I prefer boxes with handle holes (I glue the flap back on the inside). The 24 x 355 ml pop can trays are ideally sized in that they fit inside standard 5000-sheet computer paper boxes.

Photo 2: Due to the dividers, rolling stock is protected from damage when the trays are stacked.

Photo 3: Spacing of the dividers can be varied to accommodate taller rolling stock.

Photo 4: Shorter cars can be coupled to help restrict movement. Probably should do so!

Photo 5: Orientation of the dividers can be altered. I line the bottom of the tray with thin foam sheet - typically included in ‘easy to assemble’ type furniture packing - using contact cement.

Assembly of the trays is not at all complicated, but here are a couple of helpful hints. Cut intermediate strips from straight as possible cardboard, with the corrugations lengthwise, exactly 2” wide. Make sure you have a flat, solid surface to begin assembly on. Use stacked pieces of 1 x 3 pine wood to space, align and keep the ribs perpendicular with a couple of dabs of white glue along the base – try not to secure the 1 x 3’s! (use 1 x 2’s or whatever width necessary to achieve the desired spacing) Once all of the ribs have been ‘tacked’ in place I use a couple of long woodworking clamps and 1 x 3’s to gently compress the ends perpendicular to the ribs. Once everything is tacked, I run a small bead of glue along the entire base length of the ribs on both sides and ends. A further benefit of having the trays for us is that we can pre-fill them with sale items to quickly deploy at the various shows and flea markets we participate in. Clean up at the end of the show is also improved.

Thursday 11 December 2014

Throwback Thursday #2 - DRGW #3071 at Minturn, CO July 1968

DRGW GP40 #3071 pauses at Minturn, CO in July 1968. John W. Maxwell photo, author's collection.

One hobby of mine is collecting and trading 35mm photographic slides of trains and railroad equipment. Last year, I acquired a small part of the photographic collection of John W. Maxwell, a photographer well-known among the narrow gauge community in the western United States. From the information I could gather, John was a mechanical engineer who was employed by Union Pacific in Colorado. I believe he lived in Denver, although that is only a guess based upon where the bulk of the photos were taken. John was popular among narrow gauge enthusiasts for his extensive photography of narrow gauge equipment and for making highly accurate scale drawings of narrow gauge rolling stock and equipment. John took photos for over 60 years, and from what I can find on the internet, the location of the bulk of his photographic and drawings collection remains a mystery. But instead of dwelling on where the collection went, let’s enjoy the view he captured in the photo above.

We’re at Minturn, Colorado in July 1968 – the sanding tower in the photo easily recognizable to any fan of The Mainline Through the Rockies. In this view we find one-and-a-half year old GP40 #3071 leading an eastbound that has stopped at the yard.  Minturn is located on the west side of the infamous Tennessee Pass, and is a town long associated – and closely tied to – the railroad. It was here that nearly all eastbound trains stopped and had helpers added to the train in order to overcome the 3% grades further up the pass. Though the train is eastbound, the tracks here run almost north-south allowing for good lighting of eastbounds almost all day long; it appears to be perhaps late morning at this click of the shutter. By this point in time, the 26 SD45’s are all on the property, but the railroad is still largely dominated by turbocharged four-axle locomotives, as evidenced by the consist of this train as well as the power in the distance. It would be another six years before the tunnel motors synonymous with the DRGW in its’ later years would show up, and we’re still not quite into EMD’s Dash-2 era yet
. We can safely surmise that the three GP30’s and a unit hidden by the shed are a helper set that perhaps will cut in partway back in this train, or another eastbound later in the day. Between the two lashups are no less than four (!) GP30’s along with an equal number of GP40’s or GP35’s. What a sound it must have been to hear this train leave town!

The lead unit, DRGW 3071 would go onto have a long and interesting history (most information from Don Strack’s Utah Rails site). It was the third of twelve GP40’s delivered to the Rio Grande in early 1967, and one of many high-horsepower four axle units that the railroad owned. The unit was converted into a trailing-only unit (“B-unit”) in 1972 with the removal of the radio, cab seats and other lead-required equipment; 24 other GP40’s and a number of GP30’s and GP35’s were similarly modified in an effort to reduce operating costs. The engine remained in this condition for many years and into the Southern Pacific era, when it was returned to a lead-capable unit. Eight years after the Rio Grande – Southern Pacific merger in 1988, the engine became part of the massive Union Pacific system in 1996. Under UP ownership, the engine left home rails and travelled far from its’ Tennessee Pass rails in the photo above. Photos on the internet reveal it travelled at least as far as Houston, TX and North Little Rock, AR. Ownership by UP lasted only five years, and in May 2001 the engine was retired after 34 years of service. A sale the next year to National Railway Equipment the following year took the engine to Silvis, IL, where the unit became a donor for one of the NRE’s many rebuild programs. Eventually, this unit was rebuilt by NRE, emerging as BNSF 2013 in late 2006 or early 2007. No longer a GP40, the locomotive is now mechanically a GP38-2, including a 16-645E non-turbocharged prime mover, oil-bath air filter box, new electrical gear, and just two radiator fans (the middle one was removed in the rebuild). A testament to EMD design, the engine should be around for many more years to come, having outlived its’ original owner and even Tennessee Pass itself.

 I am grateful to John Maxwell for taking the time and effort to record this scene on film – in future posts I will share more of the slides acquired from his collection.

‘Til next time,



Thursday 4 December 2014

Throwback Thursday #1 - Stelco Steel Train at Waterford, ON

B&O GP38 #4806 leads the southbound empty Stelco steel train over the CASO at Waterford, ON in the summer of 1983. Uncredited slide, author's collection.

My sister tells me that a lot of radio stations these days are doing “throwback Thursdays” wherein they play golden oldies hits from bygone years, and suggested I try it as a theme for my blog. I like the idea and dug through my slide archives for some interesting material to use for this and future throwback Thursday photo discussions.

For the first one, I thought I’d select a rather oddball shot: here we have B&O GP38 #4806 leading a train over a large bridge. Where are we – somewhere on the Chessie near Lousiville? In the Kentucky coal fields? On the ex-Pere Marquette in Michigan? Nope, we are in Waterford, Ontario, in the heart of southern Ontario’s agricultural belt stretching between Windsor and Fort Erie. But the sharp-eyed observer will realize that Chessie had trackage rights on the CASO (NYC/PC/CR) mainline under the bridge, not over it. So what we have here is Chessie system power on a TH&B freight on a CP bridge. Clear as mud?

Let’s give the scene some context: In 1980, Stelco completed its’ massive new greenfield steel mill at Nanticoke, ON, on the shores of Lake Erie (known as Lake Erie Works, LEW for short). Stelco’s other facility, in Hamilton, was equipped with sophisticated rolling equipment that could apply several finishing treatment processes to coiled steel. Given the proximity of one mill to the other, transferring slabs from Lake Erie Works to Hamilton (Hilton Works) made economic sense when Hilton Works was short on steelmaking capacity, or LEW has excess. Thus, a shuttle train (known simply as the “steel train”) was established to move newly-cast slabs from LEW to Hilton works. The train was a joint venture between the TH&B and CN, operating in 10-week blocks on a 60/40 ratio between CN and TH&B. I’ll discuss CN’s routing in a later post, but suffice to say it was a fair bit simpler than the TH&B route.

Which brings us back to our topic photo. The west end of the TH&B reached as far as Waterford, connecting to part-owner road NYC (later PC/CR) not far from where the photographer was standing. CP, co-owner of TH&B until a buyout of the CR portion in 1987, still owned the old Lake Erie & Northern former electric line that once ran from Port Dover to Brantford and was in fact basically parallel to the TH&B line at Waterford. To permit operation of the steel train, a connecting track was built to link the two branchlines into a through route for the steel train, providing almost daily service on what was otherwise a lonely piece of railroad. Hence, under TH&B routing, a circuitous route from Hamilton took the steel train west to Brantford and then south to Waterford where it jumped to the old LE&N tracks which crossed over the CASO on the large bridge in the photo. From here, the train continued south to Simcoe; CP still did not have a complete route to LEW among its’ subsidiary lines, so a deal was struck to utilize trackage rights over the east-west  CN Cayuga sub (“air line”) between Simcoe and Jarvis. At Jarvis, the train made a move to connect to CN’s north-south  Hagersville sub for the final few miles to the steel mill.

We can approximate the date as June or July 1983 (uncredited slide, no date given) since an agreement struck in 1984 allowed the train to operate between Waterford and Hagersville over the better-maintained CASO (and from Hagersville to LEW over CN trackage rights). This allowed the abandonment of the remaining lightly travelled LE&N trackage south of Brantford; the abandonment of the TH&B’s west end was only a couple years away, when a landslide at Cainsville in 1989 gave the line its' death knell. 

But we still haven’t answered why Chessie power was on the train this day. As a small road, TH&B’s limited roster was often insufficient to handle the volume of freight it generated, particularly when a unit acid or phosphate rock train could purloin any spare units from the Chatham street shops and keep them occupied for hours. The road had a long history of borrowing engines from its’ co-owners, particularly towards the end of its’ independence. To railfans, this was often a treat as it would bring locomotive types to the area not otherwise seen in Canada. Thus, in 1983, a number of Chessie system units were found on TH&B trains, perhaps officially leased by the road, or as run-through power supplied by the parent roads. Either way, it added a splash of colour to the already interesting operation. Increasing CP influence in the 1980's also contributed CP units to the TH&B motive power pool, often MLW products such as RS18's and C424's. 

Postscript: Sadly, almost nothing remains today of this scene today. The steel train stopped running in its’ last rendition in late 2008 after the economic recession and other economies of scale no longer justified operation of the train. Likewise, abandonment and the wrecking crew eventually came calling for the CASO, the TH&B’s west end, the LE&N track, and the CN Cayuga sub. What little remains from this scene is in fact the bridge itself: it remains as part of a hiking trail.

So here you have it: Chessie System power in Waterford, ON, on a TH&B train on LE&N tracks hauling CN flatcars – how’s that for interesting?!


Friday 21 November 2014

Freight Car Profile #2: EHSX 123289

EHSX 123289 is switched in the yard at London, ON after coming up from Windsor with a load of seeds.

I guess it’s time for another freight car profile. Today’s car is not quite what it appears to be: at first glance, it seems to be a conventional 5800 CF plastic pellet covered hopper. But the sharp-eyed observer will notice the presence of gravity gates instead of the pneumatic gates appropriate for plastic pellet service. The car’s reporting mark, EHSX, denotes that it belongs to the Essex Hybrid Seed Company of Windsor, Ontario. This car is one of a number purchased second hand from Procor – many of their cars still bear the distinctive Procor wordmark, as well as their original car numbers. Essex Hybrid also acquired a handful of conventional 4750 CF ribsided hoppers from Procor, and several secondhand curved-sided hoppers from other sources. The cars are used for the transport of seed crops, primarily flax seed, which is rather light and thus well-suited for the higher cubic foot cars. The car was built at Procor’s Oakville, ON plant in August 1987, one of nearly 1500 manufactured at the facility. The design closely matches the original Pullman design (but lacks the large crossmembers at each end of the car) and predates the acceptance of the curved-sided plastic pellet hopper design as the preferred method for plastic pellet car construction. Though the 5800 CF design was the industry standard for many years, newer designs of 6200 or 6400 CF have supplanted many older cars. The lucky ones, like EHSX 123289, have found a new lease on life in another service however many have since met the torch.

'Til next time,


Friday 14 November 2014

Locomotive Project #1 - GEXR 3856

GEXR 3856 returns to Stratford with loads from the Hayes-Dana plant in St. Mary's, passing ETR 0-6-0 #9. The engine, the auto frame plant, and even the steamer are now gone from the current GEXR operation. Ian Taylor photo, author's collection. 

One of my favourite things to do in the model railroading hobby is to take locomotives apart and rebuild them into other prototypes or a specific engine I’ve seen. Whether it’s a paint scheme not offered commercially or reworking an existing model for a local prototype, I enjoy both the mechanical work as well as the paint and finishing aspect of redoing an engine. This is the first in what will eventually be a series of the projects I’ve undertaken; I say “undertaken” instead of “completed” since I usually seem to start five projects and complete one before something else catches my interest and I get distracted and put the project on hold. But I digress…

Shortline engines often require some effort to model since the major manufacturers generally don’t offer models decorated for specific shortlines. Likewise, shortline engines often times are rebuilt or modified from factory designs and can be rather unique. One of the local shortlines, the Goderich-Exeter Railway, is a good example of the above point. During the period in which I model them (about 1999-2007-ish), the roster included no less than ten different paint schemes and about as many locomotive models. Similarly, as a Railtex – and later RailAmerica – shortline, units were often traded or swapped among other family roads; this all means that almost none of the units were commercially offered (the exception being FP9u’s 1400 and 1401 by Intermountain).

One of the first units I photographed when I got serious about photography was GEXR 3856, a GP38AC built for the GM&O in August 1969. After a stint as Illinois Central 9539, the engine and a number of its’ siblings were sold to RailAmerica for use on the newly-created New England Central Railway, operating the former Grand Trunk line in its’ namesake territory. As part of the start-up, the engine became NECR 9539 and received a snazzy blue and yellow paint job. After a number of years in New England, the perpetually power-short GEXR received the unit sometime around 1999-2003 (I’ll have to look up the transfer date I suppose) and it was quickly renumbered to GEXR 3856. Not much effort was devoted to the unit at the time, as the New England Central Railway logos on the sides and ends of the locomotive were patched out with the unit otherwise remaining in NECR paint. The unit continued on in service for a number of years until a broken crankshaft sidelined the unit in 2008. The future was looking rather dim for the engine at the time, with GEXR’s track record of consigning broken down units to the deadline in Goderich - a deadline from which several units did not emerge. Fortunately though, the unit was found to be worth salvaging and was sent to another RailAmerica shortline in Ontario, the Southern Ontario Railway, at Hamilton. Once there, several months were spent repairing the prime mover as well as numerous other defects resultant from years of hard work and minimal maintenance. Repairs included a new crankshaft, new horn, new truck frames, a hot-start system, cab metal repairs (corrosion had resulted in holes right through the cab walls), and a general tune-up. The unit was finally completed in January 2010 after which it was tested on SOR for about a week before leaving for the Ottawa Valley Railink, another RailAmerica shortline. The OVR had recently experienced a wreck that left that railroad power-short so north it was for GEXR 3856. At press time, the locomotive is presently at CAD Rail in Montreal receiving upgrades to bring it up to GP38-2 specs. This will likely mean a repaint and a change to the road number and reporting mark as the OVR is now part of the Genessee & Wyoming family. Like a cat with nine lives, hopefully this will keep the old girl around for a while longer. But for now, I’m happy keeping it as it was circa 1999-2007.

Pondering its' fate, GEXR 3856 sits quietly on a side track at Stratford with a broken crankshaft. Author's photo, 7/04/2008. 

A warm autumn afternoon finds GEXR 3856 in the company of ex-CN GP40 RLK 4095. The engine is waiting for parts before repairs commence at the SOR, ex-CN shop building behind the photographer; author's photo. 
Back from the dead, GEXR 3856 gets a break-in switching cars for Bunge with RLK 1755 while RLK 1808 has the morning off. The days on the SOR for each engine are numbered, with the GP20D invasion less than two months away. Author's photo 1/10/2010.

Fortunately for me, Atlas did a run of units painted for the NECR as part of their Master line of engines. Thus, it was a relatively straightforward project to create GEXR 3856. Most of the work related to the units’ external appearance. To begin with, the Atlas paint job was weathered moderately with acrylic paints; the NECR logos on the long hood and nose were patched with yellow and blue paint (Tamiya and True Line Trains respectively), and the can sides were also patched. Decals for “GEXR 3856” were cut from a Microscale alphabet set and applied over the patches; the numberboards were also changed to read 3856. A coat of Testors dullcoat was used to seal everything together. As the Atlas model was already pretty well detailed, very few add-on parts were required. One thing to be added is the rear mini-snowplow (“weedcutter” type by Details West).  Also, the model came from the factory with a fuel tank that was too large for the prototype; a replacement was sourced from the spare parts box, using a smaller Atlas tank that came with an undecorated GP38 engine from another project. One further detail to be modified is the horn; from the Atlas factory, it is located above the cab, but it will need to be moved to the top of the long hood, just forward of the oil bath air filter box. Other details to be added include an amber rotary beacon on the cab roof, and front/rear ditch lights. I plan to experiment with SMD LED’s and acquired some from Germany for use in this and other projects. Hopefully that won’t be too difficult to figure out; we’ll see. As it stands right now, the pain and some mechanical work is done on the model; the lighting and addition of some detail parts still remains, but that shouldn’t take too long to complete. When done, this will give me three GEXR GP38’s, the others being #3835 and 3821. I’ll have to post a group shot once completed.

An in-progress shot of the model shows that the paint work is mostly complete, with several details still to be added including snowplow, ditch lights, rotary beacon, new horn and numberboards. I'll post another photo once it's all back together; this one is taking me almost as long to rebuild as it did in real life, though SOR mechanics did a lot more work to the real thing!

Until then,

Wednesday 12 November 2014

Wednesday Work Update #1

Well I suppose it's time to show some actual progress on the layout for a change. First off, the track for the grain elevator has been completed. A simple arrangement, it consists of two tracks long enough to hold about six cars each, connected by a switch (which then joins the mainline). This is the first Peco switch to be installed on the layout, and future switches will likely be from Atlas or Peco instead of the existing Shinohara’s for two reasons: a) we’ve almost run out of the supply of Shinohara switches, and b) the Peco and Atlas switches already have the frog isolated so we won’t need to cut gaps in the rail with a cutoff disk. Next we’ll have to decide exactly what the structures are going to look like, but once that is sorted out, this should be one of the first areas of the layout to be completed scenery-wise.

Mocking up the grain elevator tracks with the help of a 1/87 CAT loader and my stylish Daffy Duck pencil. The cork subroadbed has subsequently been installed and the tracks spiked down. 

Over on the east side, we’ve had a bit of a re-think on the track plan for the spur. The industrial spur 2.0 will now have the plywood base raise up about 4-6 inches from previously planned for two reasons: the first so that the existing switch on the high-line can be used to access the spur instead of running a new track off the south yard lead and under the bridge (which was kind of iffy clearance-wise). Also, a higher elevation for the spur will provide a more eye-level view of the layout, making it seem a little more realistic (instead of an eye-in-the-sky “helicopter” view). This requires a completely new track arrangement, but I think will improve the switching operations. We can still retain the same industries (lumber yard, bulk fuel dealer, rolling mill and possibly a team track/TOFC track), they will just be shuffled around in the available space. Another consideration for the re-think was the incorporation of an access hatch; initially, it was thought that the hatch could be placed behind the high-line, however it was realized that if something derailed in the middle of the east half, it would be difficult to reach. Thus, a square access hatch about 18” across will be located in front of the rolling mill. The plan is to cut out the hatch, then lay the track across it, and then cut gaps in the rails to allow for removal. Some sort of retaining blocks will be mounted underneath to prevent movement while in place; we’ll also need to use some sort of quick-connect type plugs to allow for separation of the electrical feeders to that portion of the track. The idea is that it will normally be in place, and only removed for “emergency” access (e.g. derailment or to correct electrical gremlins). The hatch will require that the rolling mill be cut down to three segments (the Walthers kit comes with four lengths that contribute to the overall length), but that's okay since the structure already occupied a large footprint in the available space and for our purposes we don't need the full-size structure. It can still fit about four gons on each track with three segments of the structure, and with the storage track next to the building, it will match the yard capacity well (i.e. the yard will not be jammed with cars going to/from the mil).

The new track plan (more-or-less) for the east-side industrial spur. It will now use the switch off the high-line at left and serve a bulk fuel dealer at far left, the rolling mill at center, and the lumberyard at lower right (mostly out of view below frame). A possible team track/TOFC track may be located beyond the lumberyard. The access hatch will be located in front of the rolling mill. The plywood will be raised to the same level as the high-line switch.

The next phase of construction will focus on completing the engine servicing facility. Given that it will handle both steam and diesel locomotives, we will have both a roundhouse (with turntable) as well as a fuel rack and shop building for the diesels. I’ll create an article in the future about the roundhouse and shop building, but for now we have a theoretical track plan. Next step is to install the turn table and then check that the track plan will work; more on that at a later time. 

'Til then,

Monday 10 November 2014

Freight Car Snapshot #1

 Here’s the first in what will hopefully be a series of discussions about interesting freight cars I’ve seen in my railfan travels. Maybe even a modeling project at some point, too.

Redstreak Rail flatcar QUAX 88920 is seen at London, ON 9/18/2011. Note the toolbox for chain storage, the movable bolster at left, and the fixed bolster at the far end of the car. The car was eastbound en route to the US at the time after bringing a damaged PROX tank car (wrecked on the BNSF in Texas) to the Procor Sarnia shop for repairs.

I thought I’d do something unusual for the first subject: QUAX 88920. This is an 89’ flatcar belonging to Redstreak Rail, a company out of Colorado that supplies specialized flatcars for moving damaged cars, or other cars not capable of moving on their own wheels. The unique feature of Redstreaks’ cars is the tie-down system that was added to the car when they acquired it secondhand. This system consists of a set of rails running the length of the car that are used to position a truck bolster; it, and another (fixed) bolster are used to land the damaged car onto, after which it can be chained down. This provides a secure and reliable method to prevent further damage to a car while in transit. Additionally, it speeds up the process of moving a damaged car since there is no need for blocking to support the car, and the time to select a suitable car (commonly supplied by TTX or the damaging road) is reduced.  A set of chains and tie-down lugs are also incorporated into the modifications to this car, as well as chocks for locating the car’s trucks (since they usually accompany the car, and it cannot ride on them). Restreak’s cars are commonly used for tank cars or hopper cars, as they often require home shop for repairs rather than being able to be moved on own wheels to a railroad-owned repair shop.

This would be a relatively easy car to model, as 89’ flatcars are available from Atlas, Athearn, and Walthers, and little modification would be required ( the QUAX cars have several minor differences among them that could favour using one model or another as a starting point). Strip styrene could be used to create the rails (if model does not already have them), bolster supports and toolbox, and truck bolsters could be sourced from the parts box (e.g. an Intermountain kit would be ideal since their trucks are in three main pieces just like the prototype). Similarly, the paint is one colour and would be an easy repaint from factory paint. The decals could be sourced from an alphabet set along with freight car data sets from either Microscale or other decal suppliers.

'Til next time,

Thursday 6 November 2014

Almost Wordless Wednesday #2

A glitch with Blogger last night prevented me from uploading the photo, but here it is...

Tuesday 28 October 2014

Industry Profile: Casco

In lieu of getting any actual work done on the layout this week I thought I’d write about one of the industries I plan to model. Known locally as Casco (Canada Starch Company), the London, ON plant manufactures corn sweeteners, starches, and associated corn-based products. Built in 1979 alongside the CN (ex-L&PS) Talbot sub in south London, ON next to the 401 highway, the plant relies heavily on rail transport to distribute its’ products (though some product is shipped out to local destinations by truck). Casco has been a wholly-owned subsidiary of the US giant Corn Products International since 1958; Corn Products was recently Ingredion a year or so ago.

An annotated aerial view of the Casco (Ingredion) London, Ontario plant.

Corn arrives by truck from the abundant supply provided by farms in southern Ontario. From there it is crushed and processed into various grades of sweeteners and starches.  Corn Products owns a fleet of their own tank cars to transport their products (CCLX reporting mark), however also leases a large fleet of tank cars from private owners. The plant is switched on an almost-daily basis by a CN local originating from that company’s yard in London (CN 584). Occasionally if CN 584 runs out of time, or if Casco requires an extra switch, the London yard job will run down to switch the plant. Casco leases a track in the CN London yard for storage of cars not immediately needed in service or at the plant. This is an arrangement worked out to avoid excessive demurrage fees and is mutually beneficial to both parties as the CN yard is never full and thus does not present a problem with capacity shortage. Another interesting aspect of this leased track is that the plant will request specific cars to be delivered, so the yard crew often has to “cherry-pick” selected cars from those on the leased track. Sometimes this requires pulling almost the entire track to fish out a certain car, since all switching at the yard is done from the east end. Each switch can range from 5-12 cars (occasionally more), with a similar number of loads returned.

A view of the track leased to Casco reveals both hoppers for starch, as well as tank cars belonging to several car owners (PROX, UTLX, SHPX, CCLX) in both 263K and 286K GRL varieties.

Corn syrup is shipped in both 263K GRL and 286K GRL cars, depending on specific grade and end-customer for the product. Often, customers are located on branches or spurs (often on shortlines) that cannot handle 286K cars, so there are still many 263K cars in service despite the capacity difference of about 4,000 gallons (15,000 vs 19,000). Fortunately for modelers, a variety of rolling stock (HO scale, at least) are available to model the operation from Atlas, Intermountain, and Walthers. Intermountain makes a Trinity Industries 19,000 gal 286K tank car model, some decorated for Corn Products. Atlas produces a Trinity 15,000 gal (263K) corn syrup tank car model (some decorated for Casco/GATX/CCLX), as well as ACF pressure-differential hoppers used to transport bulk dry starch. Walthers offers a Union Tank Car prototype 263K model decorated for several corn products manufacturers, though it is based on a caustic soda tank car prototype (about 13,000 gals). Additionally, Highball Graphics offers decal sets for Casco-leased cars with PROX (Procor) reporting marks. The Casco logo was applied to cars with PROX, UTLX, and GATX, however is slowly disappearing as cars are shopped or repainted, a victim of being merged into the Corn Products/Ingredion corporate identity.

PROX 76011 is a 15,000 gal 263K GRL tank car used for transporting corn syrup. The enclosure at the top platform is a lockable device used to ensure that neither the manway nor fittings have been tampered with in transit, as the car is in food grade service. Known as a "breadbox" it is common among corn syrup cars of various owners. Note the unusual yellow bearing caps. Blt 6-90, UTC East Chicago, IN.

A corn syrup plant would make an interesting industry to model on an HO scale layout. In addition to interesting operations, the plant structure itself can be a centerpiece on the layout. In the image above, a Google satellite overhead shot of the London plant shows numerous buildings, silos, and tracks. Separate buildings/tracks are designated for the loading of hopper cars (dry starch) and tank cars. Even trackmobile operation is possible using the Broadway Limited HO scale trackmobile model. The operation can be scaled down if space does not permit modeling the entire plant (as I plant to do). Casco’s Port Colborne plant is much smaller than the London plant, and would also make a good modeling candidate. Additionally, one can include a dump shed to represent grain brought in by rail instead of truck (the Port Colborne plant uses both truck and rail to bring in corn). This can increase the number of cars to be switched into the plant, as well as the time it takes to switch the plant (which I don’t consider to be a bad thing!).

The CN London Yard ("Racecourse") job returns to the yard after an early morning run to spot empties and lift five loads from the Casco plant on the south edge of town.

Hopefully this article will give you a better understanding of corn products plant operations – it is by no means a complete narrative of the corn refining industry, but rather is intended to explain the railway aspect of the business.


Monday 20 October 2014

Track Plan

I took a few minutes on the weekend to sketch a trackplan of the layout. I tried to create one digitally in paint or Powerpoint but that proved to be nothing more than an exercise in frustration; I'll revisit that another day... Anyway, the attached is a somewhat-freehand pencil drawing that shows all track planned and in place. I'd estimate that the trackwork is about 70% done, with the balance to be laid on the east (bottom in the sketch) spur, grain elevator tracks and the shop area. The names of some of the tracks and industries have been added in Photoshop. I'll create another post later on to describe the industries to be modeled and car types/switching operations. 

At the moment, the plan is to have the trackwork on the spur and grain elevator completed within two weeks, and if that goes according to schedule, some photos will follow. I can't wait to get down to switching cars! The track gang is still assembling materials and completing the final details for the shop area and roundhouse. A turntable has been acquired and the next step will be to cut a hole in the plywood to mount it. From there, the trackwork details can be ironed out. I'll have to remember to have a gold spike ceremony once the last one is driven in; until then, thanks for stopping by...


Friday 17 October 2014

Construction Photos

It occurred to me that a blog about a model railroad would seem odd if there were no photos of said model railroad. So here are a couple photos of the progress that the track gang has made over the last few months. A six-track yard (plus passing track) was installed using Shinohara and Atlas switches and Peco track. The yard is code 70, with the passing track and main line code 83. The layout is oriented with the aisle running north-south, so it is divided into the ‘east half’ and ‘west half’ for the time being; someday we’ll get around to assigning proper names to the various tracks and locations. The yard is on the west half with curved north and south yard leads to maximize the track lengths. A spur will be run to the east side to serve about 3-4 industries.
The view from the train room door reveals a lot of mess during the yard construction. Fortunately most of it has been cleaned up. The diamond crossovers at right have since been replaced by a pair of Atlas turnouts to connect the main and passing track.

The north lead of the yard after correcting the finicky trackwork.
The south yard lead during construction, before ground throws installed. From rear, we have the main line, passing track, yard tracks 1-6 (closest switch will lead to engine shop), and main line again; it loops around to the right to connect with main line at rear.

View of the yard looking north from the south end during construction. 

See: most of the mess was cleaned up! Here I'm mocking up the east industrial spur. The rolling mill will go approximately where the blue box of switches is located in the photo. 

So far we have been successful in running trains on DCC on the layout with few derailments. Most have been attributed to cars with narrow wheelset gauge, or tight trucks leading to rail-climb derailments. The north yard ladder was found to have a couple trouble spots so a # 4 turnout from the passing track to the ladder was replaced with a longer-radius curved turnout. This helped smooth operations by eliminating the derailments caused by the sharp curve and the short transition from the level of the passing track to the yard. Next step will be to add some form of turnout control to the north end since it is not accessible for switching operations (unless access hatch is removed). At this point, both electrical and mechanical turnout controls are being studied but no decision has been made yet as to how we'll proceed. The south end of the yard has been outfitted with Caboose Industries ground throws since it is within reach and this is likely where the majority of the switching will take place.

Thanks for stopping by,

Thursday 16 October 2014

Introduction & Why "Rymal Station"

Hello All!

This is the first post in my new blog so I’d like to introduce myself and the aim of this blog. My name is Peter and I have been interested in trains as long as I can remember. Part of that interest, a large part in fact, includes model railroading. My interest is in modern-day CN and CP operations, with some shortline modeling as well (GEXR, OSR). I have been reading several other model railroad blogs for some time now and it has inspired me to start my own. Hence, the idea of this blog is to document the progress on my home layout, as well as some prototype photos as well. 

I say ‘my’ home layout, but in fact it was started by my dad about 20 years ago. He designed most of the track plan, and completed the benchwork and the majority of the track work. My brother Mark and I are now working with dad to complete the trackwork and at the same time convert the layout to DCC. I’ll post more info and a track plan later, but hopefully this brings you up to speed with where I’ll start this blog. I hope in the foreseeable future to get the trackwork running reliably and start adding some scenery to the layout.

Why Rymal station?

Well, the short answer is that I had to call this blog something. The long answer is that it seems many modelers name their layout or blog after something meaningful to them or their modeling. Rymal was a small hamlet on the south edge of Hamilton, ON, and bears the name of William Rymal, an early settler of the area; it has long since been amalgamated with the city of Hamilton. Rymal, sometimes referred to as Dartnall or Hannon, was important enough to warrant a station on the CNR line from Hamilton to Jarvis (originally Hamilton & Lake Erie; I’ll post more info on the station itself later). This was the line made famous for its’ street running down the middle of Ferguson Ave in Hamilton, and later the use of an A-B-A set of F7’s on the Hamilton-Nanticoke steel train; again, more info to be posted on the steel train later on. My house is located about four miles from where the station stood, and my dad grew up less than a mile from the station’s location (though it was demolished about three years before he was born). And at one time many years ago, my great-grandfather ran the Rymal feed mill (actually named Ancaster feed mill for reasons long lost to history), and would bring in boxcars of grain to the siding at Rymal for use as animal feed. So not only was it geographically the closest rail point of interest, but in some strange way it seems to make sense.

I’ll try to update this blog as often as time permits, but until then, thanks for stopping by!