Thursday 26 March 2015

Throwback Thursday #9 - Passenger Action at Bayview in February 1977

Competitors meet at Bayview on a cold Winter's day in February 1977. Uncredited Kodachrome, author's collection.

Today’s Throwback Thursday takes us back to the winter of 1977, on a cold but sunny day in February of that year. Here we find an interesting scene with a combination of passenger trains from both CN and CP. Westbound CP #181 is heading through the plant (away from photographer, note rear marker lights illuminated) while an eastbound CN Tempo consist holds on the Dundas sub until the CP train clears. We can probably assume that the CP train was delayed for some reason, after all this is CN’s track and they probably wouldn’t intentionally delay one of their own trains to allow a competitor to have priority. Whatever the reason, the result is nonetheless worthy of further consideration.

The equipment on the two trains presents an interesting contrast in Canadian passenger operations – one attempting to economize and shrink passenger train size, and another an attempt to modernize and improve the passenger experience. When the photo was taken, VIA had been formally in existence for about a month, but it would be more than a year (October 29, 1978) that it would officially take over CN and CP passenger operations. Thus, the two trains are still operated at this date by their respective owners and not yet by the crown corporation.

The CP train is the last vestige of the old Toronto-Buffalo connection by way of Hamilton/Fort Erie (over CP/TH&B), a service initiated in 1894 and terminated when the last #181 to Buffalo was run on April 25, 1981. Gone are the days of the torpedo-tube TH&B GP9’s hauling steam-heated passenger cars (with overnight Toronto sleeper connections), and by this date, the train has been reduced to a two-car RDC consist; at least it is sporting the attractive ‘hockey mask’ paint scheme. The trailing RDC (or “Dayliner” to Canadians) is somewhat of an odd duck, being an RDC-4, a baggage-only model with no passenger seating (73’ long, 12’ shorter than other RDC models). The fact that the train only has one car for actually seating passengers probably speaks to its' popularity by this date. The unit was built by Budd in 1955, and subsequently sold to VIA in September 1978. Evidently not fitting into VIA’s operational plans, the unit was sent to CN’s Pointe Ste. Charles shops in Montreal and subsequently stripped of useful parts to keep other RDC’s going. The remains were scrapped at Dominion Metals & Refining Works at St. Constant, Quebec in 1985.

Though we can’t make out the number of the CN Tempo RS18, it was nonetheless representative of a concerted effort to modernize and improve CN’s passenger operations along the Toronto-Windsor corridor. Rebuilt from a standard RS18 in 1967 with a new-for-the-time HEP system, the six converted RS18’s powered Tempo operated with cars from a group of 25 purpose-built aluminum coaches built by Hawker-Siddely in Thunder Bay, ON. CN 3150-3155 (MRE-18g) featured 92 MPH gearing, a unique paint scheme, and a 575-volt HEP system. The coaches featured outboard disk brakes, electric doors, microwaves, and improved snack service. Delivery of the LRC equipment in the mid-1980’s ultimately rendered the Tempo trains obsolete, with the locomotives and cars being retired by 1983/1986 respectively; their unorthodox 575-volt HEP system didn’t jive with the new Amtrak/VIA standard of 480 volts, greatly limiting the equipments’ usefulness in combination with other car types. Interestingly though, like a cat with nine lives, several of the coaches were subsequently resold to the Rio Grande for use on their Colorado Ski Train operation; the cars were then re-sold some of the cars to the CN/ACR Agawa Canyon tourist train operation, returning the cars to Ontario, albeit much farther north than they were initially accustomed to! Approaching their 47th birthday, it is indeed remarkable that these cars – especially given their aluminum construction – are still polishing the rails!

‘Til next time,



Wednesday 25 March 2015

Industry Profile #2 - Bunge, Hamilton, ON

It’s been a while since I have done an industry profile, so here is the second installment in this article series for the blog.


Bunge is one of the largest multi-national companies in the agri-business sector. One of its’ product lines is the manufacture and distribution of bio-oils derived from crushing various types of grains and seeds. To serve this market, the company has numerous processing plants in North America and abroad. One such plant is located in Hamilton, ON, and was acquired when Bunge purchased Can-Amera Foods in 2004.

Hamilton Plant

The Hamilton plant is what Bunge terms a crush facility – that is, it crushes grains or seeds to extract the oils from within. The plant is located in the industrial north end of Hamilton, at the foot of Wellington Street and on the edge of Hamilton harbor. Soybeans and canola seed can be brought in by both rail and boat, though the lake boats do not operate in the winter. The plant is served by the Southern Ontario Railway (SOR, a Genesee & Wyoming shortline) and often rates a switch job from the nearby Stuart Street yard to serve this plant alone. Occupying roughly three city blocks, the plant consists of a dump shed, various storage and processing tanks, a small three-track rail yard and a new tank car loading building constructed a few years ago on the opposite side of Burlington Street (connected by overhead pipeline to main plant). An interesting track arrangement consists of a diamond locate near the middle of the plant which allows the dump shed track to cross the spur serving the plant and its’ small yard (see photo below). A blue GE 45-ton centrecab is used to shuffle cars around the facility. The plant began canola oil production in 2007 and can crush 240,000 metric tons of seed per year. Much of the seed is sourced locally from Quebec and Ontario.

A Google satellite view of the Bunge plant in Hamilton, ON. The main plant is at upper left, with the newer bio-oil loading building located across Burlington street at lower center.

An annotated Google satellite view of the main complex showing the storage yard, grain unloading track and DDG loading track. At upper right is Vopak's terminal, which is used to bring jet fuel into the port via another slip out of view at right.

A Google satellite view of the oil loading building, constructed a few years ago. Note that the building can load not only rail cars but highway tank trailers as well. 


The plant is served on a daily or near-daily basis by an SOR job based out of the nearby yard. Loads of grain are spotted in the small yard and loads of distiller’s dried grains (DDG, sold as high-protein animal feed) are lifted from the plant. The dump shed track and DDG loading track are served from the west end of the yard. The tank car loading tracks located across the street are served from a parallel spur which also serves other industries in the industrial north end of the city. Another track running parallel to the boat slip is occasionally used to store grain cars until they can be unloaded.  Bunge seems to use railway-supplied equipment for bringing grain into the plant, but as railways do not supply equipment for DDG service or tank cars, Bunge maintains a fleet of both DDG cars (BNGX reporting marks) as well as 27,500 gallon tank cars (BRCX reporting marks). Additional tank cars are leased to bolster the company’s oil distribution capacity. Competitors ADM and Cargill likewise maintain their own railcar fleets.
CN 395614, a typical cylindrical hopper that can be used to bring grain into the facility (in this case empty, returning from the plant). This is one of the ex- CNWX Canadian Wheat Board hoppers that was sold to CN and converted to 286,000 lbs GRL. Aldershot, ON 3/30/2013. 

BRCX 1122, a Bunge-owned UTLX-built 27,500 gal tank car. Since this is an AAR 211 car it can operate at 286,000 lbs GRL; note that is is non-placarded (bio-oils are non-regulated). The car is seen at London, ON on 9/16/2013, en route to the Hamilton plant for another load.

PROX 76438, a 23,500-gal insulated tank car very similar to the Walthers model, which is appropriate for bio-oil loading. Aldershot, ON 5/31/2014.

This arrangement of the tracks can present an interesting switching problem, and if modeled, could provide quite a bit of work for an operator. In the yard, one track could be used for spotting inbound loads and empties, another for outbound cars, and the third for runaround moves. Once work is done at the main plant, the tank car loading building would also require the day’s loads be lifted and new empties spotted. Once switching is complete and the job is back at the yard, the consist would then be split between cars going to eastern destinations and those going to western destinations. If the plant were to be modeled such that it did not have its’ own switcher, there would be considerably more work to do positioning cars on the dump shed or DDG tracks.

Given that the complex is a combination of new and old buildings, structures, and tanks, this would be a great candidate for a kitbash – especially if you don’t mind running pipes all over the place! Structures from Pikestuff, Walthers, and others could be used for the buildings. A Walthers ethanol plant, with some modification, could make a convincing approximation of a bio-oil plant. Walthers also produces cars that could be loaded at the plant – their Trinity 6351 cubic-foot DDG hopper is appropriate as is their UTLX-prototype 23,500 gallon insulated tank car. If one were modeling an ADM, Cargill, or independent bio-oil producer, Atlas makes appropriate 27,500 gallon Trinity prototype insulated tank cars; modern hopper cars are produced by Intermountain, Exactrail, Tangent Scale models, as well as others.

If you’re looking for a relatively-large industry for your layout, one that can provide a considerable amount of switching, and you’re not afraid of a little kitbashing, maybe a bio-oil plant is worth considering.

Thanks for looking,



Saturday 21 March 2015

Spring Layout Work Update #1

Well, I guess I can’t call it a winter layout work update since we’re now (thankfully!) into spring. Nevertheless, the layout has seen some more progress made in the last couple of weeks. Onto the photos!

CN 8023 (Athearn Genesis) sits on the turntable - OK, not strictly prototypical, but I needed something to test the trackwork with....

Our shop tracks leading to the roundhouse are loosely modelled after TH&B's facility at Chatham street in Hamilton. Hence, filling it with some TH&B/CP power seemed like a good idea for a photo op. The coaling tower is slowly being scratchbuilt to represent the one that was located on the CN at Brantford, ON. 

Some CP and TH&B power congregates on the shop tracks. TH&B #71 is an Atlas unit that Mark and I painted last year; the other engines aren't my work.
A northward-looking view showing the turntable, roundhouse, and some of the shop tracks. Sitting in the roundhouse are some of the engines in my OSR (Ontario Southland Railway) fleet. OK, I know OSR doesn't have a roundhouse, but if they did, it would probably look like this! Mark is still mad that I have more F-units that he does, even though he models the 1950's!

The Turntable

Perhaps the most exciting work that has been done recently, the turntable which had been sitting sadly by itself for the last little while has been installed at the north end of the locomotive servicing (“shop”) area. Mark did a great job of cutting the hole in the plywood and securing the turntable to the plywood. I’m not exactly sure how long it is, but Mark tells me that it will fit a CNR U-2 Northern so he’s happy. We have temporarily powered it to allow photos and some testing, but we will need to get an auto-reverser before we can actually put the ‘turn’ in turntable. Positioning the turntable also allowed Mark to lay the tracks into the roundhouse, which he has also put a lot of work into recently. I think I mentioned previously that the structure started as an Atlas kit that Mark modified from 15° spacing to 8° spacing to better line up with a turntable larger than intended for the building. This more-or-less means that our trackwork is 99% complete – the only remaining pieced are a short RIP track to be positioned next to the turntable and a coal dump track adjacent to where the coaling tower will be.

I can't remember if I mentioned this already, but we actually have two 'shop' areas - pictured above/below is the steam-servicing facility (with diesels in lieu of any active steam - I'll have to convince Mark to get out some of his steam power to show the roundhouse/steam shop tracks to full effect), and the tracks in the background with the CN diesels on them are the diesel-servicing area. Since Mark models the 1950's and I model present day, it didn't seem right having a steam locomotive in a diesel shop, or a diesel in a roundhouse, though the latter would be more plausible. Besides, the "wow factor" when entering the room will be better with two shop areas. I think I will create a subsequent post detailing our shop area.

The shell of the roundhouse is nearly complete. The close wall will be attached with magnets to make it removable for taking photos inside the building. The styrene in front of the building will serve as a concrete pad for jacking cars on the RIP track which will be located on the near-side of the roundhouse. 

Grain Elevator

One of the larger industries on the layout will be a grain elevator located near the yard on the west side of the layout. The tracks, which can hold about 10 modern grain hoppers, have been laid, painted, and ballasted. A Walthers prairie-style wooden grain elevator will be constructed along with a number of outlying Pikestuff grain bins for that ‘out in the country’ feel. Though none of the structures have been built yet, the bottles used for some of the scenery work provide a good stand-in for the overall size and feel of the complex.

CP ES44AC #8711 leads a freight down the high-line while CN 1906 switches the "grain elevator" (or at least, where it will stand). The scenery bottles are being used as a mock-up to judge the overall feel of what it will eventually look like.

CN 4775 kicks out cars in the yard while CN 1906's conductor knocks off the handbrakes. The layout has enough industries to keep at least two switch crews busy plus a road freight.

CP 8711 descends the hill while the two CN jobs work in the background.

A little more scenery work has been completed including ballasting part of the high-line as well as some more foam work between the high-line and grain elevator location. Also, some foam work was completed between the main and the yard, which should soon allow for some photos with a fully-scenicked scene. Much of the scenery work so far has been the ‘low hanging fruit’, meaning within easy reach of the aisle down the centre of the layout. Most of the rest will involve some creative thinking and a little blood, sweat and tears to move all of the storage boxes under the layout to reach the various areas for scenicking. The good news is that scenicking is one of my favourite parts of the hobby and we seem to have it down to a science in terms of the foam-paint-ground foam technique. Much of the remaining scenery work can be done in small “work blocks” wherein a lot ground can be covered in a relatively short period of time.

In addition to some more foam work, additional progress has been made of curve superelevation, track painting and ballasting. Roughly 40% of the track has been ballasted so far. The shop tracks leading to the turntable have also been ballasted with black ballast to represent cinders.

CN 4775 takes a break to allow CN 2236 off the shop track to get onto their train. Looks like they have some run-through power today!

Some of Mark's TH&B power lays over on the shop track with some of my CP power. The switcher at far right is actually on the track designated for loading ashes from the ashpit which will go beneath where TH&B 402 is sitting. 

Another shot of the shop tracks before they were ballasted.

With any luck, hopefully I will have another layout work update in about a week or two. Until then, thanks for stopping by!


Wednesday 18 March 2015

"What's Wrong With This Photo?" Wednesday

A little worse for wear, GACX 2718 sits all by itself at Kitchener, ON on 3/15/2015. Photo by my dad Keith.

Instead of the usual Wordless Wednesday today I thought I’d write about something a bit more interesting. Every now and then when railfanning, you may stumble across something you don’t see very often – maybe an old freight car in original paint, a locomotive from a fallen flag, or even a derailment. 

Today’s photo almost qualifies for the latter, but fortunately a sharp-eyed railroader caught the offending car and stopped it before it had the opportunity to derail. Observe car GACX 2718 at Kitchener, ON on 3/15/2015: on the surface (beneath all the rust!), the car appears to be a standard National Steel Car-built 3220-CF 2-bay hopper. The ends of the car have decals stating that it is leased to Eka Chemicals and a trace reveals it is hauling a load of salt from the Sifto Salt mine at Goderich, ON to the Eka plant at Magog, PQ. However a closer look reveals that this car will be delayed a bit – have a look at the B-end truck. It would appear that the car has received a heavy impact on that end which has caused the B-end centerplate to jump out of the bolster bowl. Note that the springs are unevenly compressed under the bolster, and that the truck has rolled inboard slightly of the centerplate (compare to A-end truck, or note that body bolster doesn't line up with center of truck sideframe). Interestingly, the car is loaded, so either it was impacted when empty and managed to travel this far before being noticed, or the car received an impact great enough to jolt it upwards despite being loaded. Either way, looks like the RIP track crew has their work cut out for them. Despite the delay in transit, it is indeed fortunate that the car didn't derail.


Friday 13 March 2015

Follow-Up Friday - CN 5070 Revisited

I had mentioned to my dad (Keith) that I found surprisingly few photos of CN 5070 despite my research for the Throwback Thursday a few weeks ago that featured a photo of the unit when it was brand new at GMD London in November 1968. Dad then did some further research and put together the first Follow-Up Friday for the blog with some further info on the unit. Here's Keith's second article on the blog - thanks Dad!

- Peter.

I thought it would be interesting to follow 5070 through the years to see what changes may have taken place over time. As Peter indicated, the well designed unit served the original purchaser for some thirty-one years and then went on to toil almost a decade for a second owner. As previously mentioned, the unit was subject to very little cosmetic change, mostly accessories; horns, snow plows, lights and a winterization hatch. No doubt the unit was upgraded electrically fairly early on. EMD’s initial 645 powered 3,000 HP units were known for episodes of terrible wheel slip (more so the B-B units). I believe CN had their in house R&D group help tackle the problem.

Some photos of the more noteworthy changes along the way (author’s collection).

Snow shields and replacement horn (judging by the fresh paint I would speculate that the snow shields have just been added).

Remarkably, the original paint application, albeit touched up, lasted at least a decade. Note the taller forward cooling fan atop the rear of the unit. The horn appears to be mounted on a new bracket and ditch light brackets have been added to the pilot mounted lifting lugs.

Some additional online reference material:

CN 5070
Engine in 1972    (1972)
Engine in 1982 Zebra Stripes    (1982 Zebra Stripe)

CFMG 6069

ASDX 6909

- Keith

Thursday 12 March 2015

Throwback Thursday #8 - Amtrak E8A #284 at St. Thomas, ON in August 1975

Amtrak E8A #284 pauses at St. Thomas, Ontario with eastbound train #64, the Empire State Express. Three locomotives for five cars seems a bit excessive! Date is approximately August 20, 1975. Uncredited Ektachrome, author's collection. 

Our Throwback Thursday today takes us back to August 1975 on a sunny morning at St. Thomas, Ontario. Amtrak E8A #284 is piloting train #64, the eastbound Empire State Express, and has stopped in front of the massive Michigan Central (or CASO to die-hard fans) station to entrain passengers heading to the Big Apple. Today’s train is unusual for a couple of reasons: first, the second E8A (the train typically ran with only one locomotive), but far more interestingly, the Delaware & Hudson PA1 sandwiched between the two Amtrak engines. What was the classy ALCo doing in southern Ontario? Delaware & Hudson, long a proponent of Schenectady-built locomotives, had contracted with Boise, Idaho-located Morrison-Knudsen to rebuild a number of 244-powered locomotives with 251 engines. Included in the program were the four ex-Santa Fe “blue-bonnet” painted PA1’s. Somehow, after their overhaul, the PA1’s took the scenic route back to home rails, part of which included a stretch across southern Ontario by way of the CASO. As the PA1's were completed one at a time, the locomotives were sent back east in the consist of various Amtrak trains, though I believe one PA actually lead #64 from Detroit to Buffalo. Naturally, it was in the dead of winter, in a snow storm, though there are a few shots of the train out there. Suspiciously, a number of railfans were purported to call in "sick" to work that day, or perhaps blamed the snowstorm instead...

Running from Detroit, Michigan, to New York City, the Empire State Express was initiated in 1974 (renamed the Niagara Rainbow in 1976) and provided a connection between two major business centers in the American northeast, via a shortcut through the southern Ontario countryside. Prior to Amtrak’s formation in 1971, the route had previously been served by New York Central/Penn Central trains The Wolverine and the Motor City Special; under Amtrak operations, the former train had been truncated to Detroit and the latter abolished altogether. The train ran seven days a week and featured a snack car as well as baggage car. Despite the name, until 1978, the train did not actually go through Niagara Falls but instead crossed the border at Fort Erie/Buffalo. In 1979, however, both Michigan and New York states withdrew their funding contribution to the operation of the train and the route was truncated from New York City to Niagara Falls, New York.

What about the lead unit, Amtrak 284? It began life as Pennsylvania #4276 in September 1952. No doubt enjoying its’ share of time in the lead of the railroad’s premier passenger trains, the engine eventually became the property of Amtrak upon formation of the American national passenger carrier in 1971. After surviving the early Amtrak years as engine #284, it was renumbered to Amtrak #495 and subsequently rebuilt with an HEP system, a move that likely extended its’ life considerably. Following its’ stint on Amtrak – apparently, primarily in the US northeast – the engine began a new life as BMRG (Blue Mountain & Reading)/“PRR” 5706 – no, not the original Pennsy 5706, but a reasonably-convincing throwback to its’ former appearance. Not only in its’ former colors, the engine continued to operate in and around Pennsylvania, hauling excursions under ownership by Andy Muller. The details of the engine’s next few years are a little fuzzy, but somehow the engine came to live in Sumiton, Alabama, functioning – of all things – as a wedding chapel! Current photos show the locomotive (with most mechanical components removed) on a small piece of track in front of a shopping complex in Irondale, Alabama, wearing a shiny new coat of Southern green and white paint. Like a cat with nine lives, it’s incredible that the unit somehow managed to dodge the scrapper’s torch! A long, long way from the southern Ontario rails it once frequented, hopefully the engine will enjoy its’ retirement in the Alabama sunshine for many years to come!

Incredibly, the trailing unit D&H #18 is also still around and in fact is probably much more famous than poor old 284 ever was; the engine survives today as “NKP” 190, the PA-1 that Doyle McCormack is lovingly restoring back to operating condition. Acquired from Santa Fe in 1967, the engine served D&H’s passenger needs until it was sold in 1979 to a broker; a resale to Mexican interests took the engine south of the border where it evidently ran for a number of years before being parted out. One of only two semi-complete (cosmetically, anyhow) PA-1’s in existence, the locomotive is indeed a rare bird. In the summer of 2014, the engine moved for the first time in 14 years (not yet under its’ own power) to the large gathering of carbody units at the North Carolina Transportation Museum, in Spencer, NC. It’s original 244 engine and the 251 that was used to repower it are long gone, and instead a 12-251 salvaged from a BC Rail M420B has been installed. Though the engine has been started, much of the electrical gear to power the traction motors still needs to be repaired or replaced. Though neither unit is likely to ever visit Canada again, we can look at the above photo and think of what it must have sounded and felt like to stand next to this rather unusual train…

‘Til next time,


Thursday 5 March 2015

Throwback Thursday #7 - CNR 6218 at Hamilton, ON (Ferguson Ave) in January 1966

CNR 6218 leads a railfan excursion southbound through downtown Hamilton, ON on a snowy day back in January 1966, with a good-sized crowd in attendance. Uncredited slide, author's collection.
Since we’re still in the grip of winter here in southern Ontario, today’s Throwback Thursday takes us back to another snowy day in January 1966. In the above photo we see CNR 4-8-4 #6218 southbound on a railfan excursion over the CN’s Hagersville sub, on the infamous portion of street running through downtown Hamilton, ON.

Running from a connection to the CN Grimsby sub near Elgin street in north Hamilton, the line extended southward through the city and up the escarpment (“the mountain” to Hamiltonians), and from there through its’ namesake town to Jarvis, where it met the “Canada Air Line” (CN Cayuga sub). Aside from running north-south in an otherwise east-west dominated area of trackage, the line was also noteworthy for its’ street running portion, the steep grade up the mountain, and in later years, it gained additional fame when the Hamilton-Nanticoke steel train ran over the line with an A-B-A set of F7’s.

Long before the F’s became a fixture on the line, however, CN was known to run railfan excursions over the line with their popular Northern engines 6218 and, at least on one occasion, CNR 6167. Not generally a through line, there was little traffic to interfere with the railfan excursions; moreover, it provided a convenient way to turn a train without wyeing it (i.e. Windsor-Caledonia, Caledonia-Hamilton, Hamilton-Windsor; this particular arrangement likely never actually took place but is used to demonstrate logic of turning the train without a reversing move). Interestingly, the big CNR Northerns were not native to the line in the days of steam – quite the opposite in fact. Due to weight restrictions over the antiquated Grand River bridge at Caledonia, the line was restricted to the use of lighter engines, particularly CNR’s E-10 moguls. The light engines were insufficient for the steep climb up the mountain however, thus doubleheading (or even tripleheading) was common, with the helper(s) cutting off at Rymal, Glanford, or sometimes Caledonia if tonnage was heavy enough. A new bridge installed in 1953 eliminated the weight restrictions, and allowed heavier power such as the J-4 Pacifics, N-5 Consolidations, or H-6 Ten-wheelers, though the E-10’s were still common on the line. Undoubtedly the largest steam ever operated on the Hagersville sub, the CN Northerns on occasion did require helpers if traversing the line southward (up the grade), particularly in winter.

Which makes this photo that much more interesting. Indeed, the train is southbound on the Hagersville sub, heading for the climb up the mountain. Since helpers on the excursions were usually placed in front of the steam locomotive to simplify their removal at the top of the grade, it would appear that this excursion will climb the grade without helpers (the steam obscures the view of part of the train behind the engine, but it does not appear that helpers were added on this trip). This is even more interesting considering that the city appeared to have got a pretty decent snowstorm shortly before this excursion – note that Ferguson Avenue isn’t plowed! It would appear that the train is perhaps 8-9 cars long, likely well within the capability of the big Northern to pull up the grade – though I wonder if there was ever a calculation done to see what the tonnage rating would be for a U-2 Northern southbound up the grade?  The train is about to make the sharp left turn, cross the TH&B tracks and begin the climb up the grade to Rymal - I bet the sound would have been fantastic!

Being that the photo was taken in downtown Hamilton, we are fortunate to have an exact location for the photo, even though there was no information on the slide mount. The street sign in the photo reveals that the photographer was standing at the corner of Ferguson Ave and Hunter Street. Another slide I have shows that he took a photo of the street sign up close, perhaps to remind himself where he was on this particular day. It also appears that the photographer was in good company this day – note how many other people are out on a snowy day to observe this special run. I doubt that if CN still ran excursions today, that many people would stop to watch – or even care about – the magnificent Northern leading a passenger train. The crowd in the photo is probably heavily biased towards railfans I would guess. A Google Streetview image of the same location today reveals that the area has been entirely reconfigured. What was once a mostly-residential neighbourhood has been somewhat commercialized, and many of the houses have been demolished and replaced with apartment buildings. One would be hard-pressed to even recognize that a rail line ever ran down the street! (Which interestingly, has been paved with bricks, as if to make it easy to replace the line if CN ever chose to do so – but will never happen). Though I bet if they did, the view from some of those apartment buildings would be awesome...

A snapshot from Google Streetview of approximately the same angle as the above photo, taken almost fifty years later. Photo credit: Google.

But at least the subject photo reminds us that not all grey winter days are dull – often the best action seems to happen on grey gloomy days!

‘Til next time,


Sunday 1 March 2015

Winter Layout Work Update Part 3

Hi all – Some more work on the layout to pass along. The past couple of weeks have seen some substantial work completed on the layout in terms of trackwork and scenery. To me, scenery work makes it seem like the light is in sight at the end of the tunnel in terms of completing the layout. We have already achieved a couple major milestones such as finishing the benchwork, laying track, installing a DCC system and wiring, and establishing operations on the layout. Now we’re beginning a new phase (scenery), which happens to be one of my favourite areas of the hobby. To me, scenery takes a layout from the “plywood prairie” to an actual model of a railroad. With that in mind, here are a couple photos of our recent progress.
Mark's TH&B SW8 #58 assists in spotting some of his cars that have been loaded Woodland Scenics light grey fine ballast. Actually this photo was staged just for the blog, but as it turns out, the hoppers (Atlas) do have operable longitudinal gates that can dump ballast just like the prototype. All the tie gaps have been filled in at the point, and the track has been painted brown.

Another view of some of Mark's equipment getting ready to ballast the rest of the yard. From back, we have the main line, passing track, yard tracks 1-6 (engine is on track 5), and the switch at lower right leads to the steam and diesel engine servicing areas.

 First off, all track has been laid with the exception of the steam engine servicing area (Mark is working on this as I write). We will have two tracks leading up to a turntable – which has been installed but I somehow neglected to photograph; will post a photo later – and from there four radial tracks which lead to a roundhouse (three) and a RIP track adjacent to the roundhouse. Additionally, an ashpit track and coal dock unloading track will be used to supply and remove material from the steam servicing area.

Here we see CN 2236 on the main line with CN 9675 on the yard lead. It's somewhat difficult to tell, but this is one of the curves that has been superelevated (mainline only). The train on the main is passing the "chemical factory" of bottles used for ballasting the track (glue, 'wet' water, etc). Also note some of the pink foam installed at lower right. At left the roundhouse stands in its' approximate final position on the layout (not yet secured); the wall will be made removable with the use of magnets so we can photograph inside the building. 
Further work on the track has included painting and ballasting roughly 1/3 of the main line as well as most of the yard. The track was painted with brown Krylon Camouflage paint which results in a nice (and quick) flat brown that does a good job of representing prototype colours. Immediately after painting the excess paint was removed from the railheads with a wooden block and track cleaner before the paint fully cured. Ballasting the track was accomplished with Woodland Scenics light grey fine ballast secured by copious amounts of diluted white glue. Grey ballast was used to represent limestone ballast, something that was relatively common in our area on secondary lines and in yards up until recently (though it can still be seen in some yards such as Brantford or London). CN and CP seemed to favour slag ballast on main lines up until the last few years when hard crushed rock has been used instead. Some areas of the layout will such as the rolling mill and steam servicing area will have black Bachmann ballast to represent cinders/slag roadbed. Progress was temporarily interrupted when we ran out of ballast, but a trip to Credit Valley in Mississauga remedied that (didn’t realize how much ballast the yard would take!). Eventually, the track will be weathered once all the ballasting has taken place and any minor kinks/trouble spots worked out. Also of note, about half of the mainline curves have superelevated with strips of .020" styrene; I must admit I was skeptical at first of the how noticeable this effect would be when scaled down to HO scale, but after Mark's insistence on the use of superelevation, it does look pretty cool to see a train roll through one of the superelevated curves!

The rails inside of the rolling mill have been powered up; in reality, we probably won't need to move the engine inside the building all that often, but we can if we want to!

The first cars of lumber have been spotted at the lumberyard. Foam will be used to create a hillside between the lumberyard and the 'hi-line' in the background, as well as between the 'hi-line' and the main line in the distance.

 As I mentioned above, scenery is one of my favourite aspects of working on the layout; in contrast to strict prototype adherence, it is much more open-ended in terms of what non-railroad items you wish to include (i.e. what season of the year to model, city vs. country, foliage types, etc). I had previously built a 4’ x 3’ diorama to take photos on, so I had limited experience with scenery work, but one thing I had not done was work with foam. On our layout, we’re using ½” thick extruded urethane foam to establish contours, hillsides, creeks, etc. Not only is it light and surprisingly strong, but quite easy to shape and form. Thus far, most of the foam work has consisted of simply covering exposed areas of the benchwork, with subsequent layers to define the hills and transitions between the various levels of track. Hopefully more work will be completed in the near future as time permits. Next phase will include work on installing switch motors as there are a number of turnouts that are out of reach and are temporarily spiked in position for the normal/diverging route. 

One final note: a special thanks to George Dutka for mentioning my blog on his White Rivier Division blog on 2/26. I hope to someday match his skills in the hobby - thanks George!

Until next time, thanks for stopping by!