Saturday, May 20, 2017

The Ottertail Canyon: A Great Canadian Model Railroad in Australia



















So here’s a great Canadian model railroad: The Ottertail Canyon.

I don’t know much about it, except that it was created by Steve Pettit of Australia.















Steve is best known for his interest in narrow gauge, a scale in which he is a consummate craftsman (craftsperson?) as can be seen from his model of an engine shed and of a sawmill.















The Ottertail Canyon is a portable layout he built on the side. I wish I had the same kind of skills for a side project like this,  or any project.















I attempted to contact Steve for more information, but didn’t hear back.(So Steve, if you read this, send me a note!)









So I’ll just present photos of this amazing layout so you, like me, can say: Wow!














For other Great Canadian Model Railroads "down under" in Australia, check out the Thompson River Canyon and Andreas Keller's unique three-level CN Fergus Sub.



Update: Via the Canadian Railway Modellers Facebook page, I heard from a modeler in Australia about the Ottertail Canyon.

Said the modeler: “This was an exhibition layout in Sydney. It was exhibited quite a few years ago. I complimented the owner in his modelling as I told him it certainly captured the feel of the area between Golden and Field.

“Considering there was very little true Canadian prototype at the time (no Bowser SD40-2s and no Rapido), he did very well to represent an area I was familiar with. I saw the layout around 2000 and it was available for sale. I do not know what became of it since.”




















Saturday, May 13, 2017

When it Comes to Building a Layout, Do the Math




















A math professor came by to see my layout today.

The professor, who is 65, has been collecting track, locos, cars and other model railroad stuff for years for that “someday” layout.

I wished him well, and said I hoped he could realize his dream.

But I also said, appropriately for someone who teaches mathematics: “Do the math. It took me 20 years to build my layout. Where will you be in 20 years?”

Of course, if he retires, he may have more time to build that dream layout—it might not take him that long.

But still: Life is unpredictable. We can’t take our health for granted. We hope to be capable, able and independent in our 80s, but there are no guarantees.

There are many people like that math professor who plan to build that layout one of these days.

Buy like I have said before on this blog, the best time to build a layout is just like the best time to plant a tree: 20 years ago, or now.

Or to put it another way: Do the math.

Saturday, April 29, 2017

N Scale Model Railroad in a (Molson) Canadian Bar



















Earlier, I posted about beer and trains, about how brands of beer have been featured on trains, about beer tasting trains ("Rails to Ales"), and a bar that brings beer to its customers using G Scale trains. 

I also wrote about Zientek's, a model railroad store in Chicago that once was a combination tavern and hobby shop. 

Now I can add another post to this topic: Jeff Andrew's N Scale in a Bar.



















Since Jeff has always loved woodworking, miniatures, aquariums and trying to recreate something realistic-looking in small scale, it seemed like a no-brainer.

Or, as he put it, “all of these interests came together in this layout.”

He started building the bar about five years ago. Today, the layout is very close to completion.














The next challenge is the bar itself, he says—there is lots finish work and cabinets to be done. “It will be good work for next winter since the nice weather is here and I love the outdoors,” he adds.

Jeff posted photos and videos to the Canadian Railway Modellers page on Facebook, which is where I first saw it.

“The response has been astonishing,” he says. “I thought people might like something different, but it's been truly incredible.”

He hastens to add “I'm not a pro at model railroading by any means. This is just a simple single line. No switches, yards, crossings, etc. 

"But I think the fact that it's different and I've concentrated my efforts on detailing the scenery as best as I can has let people enjoy something that they can themselves do on a relatively limited budget.”



















As for the bar itself, “I must say that the fact that you can sit at the bar, have a Molson Canadian (or two) and watch a train pass by under your sleeves is pretty cool,” he says.

“The glass provides dust and spill protection, views from both the sides and above and keeps wee fingers from derailing the train.”












I don't know about you, but that looks to me like a great place to enjoy a cold one, and watch trains at the same time!

Click here to visit Jeff’s YouTube page with videos of his model train in a bar. You can also see more photos on his Facebook page, Northern N Scale in a Bar.








Monday, April 24, 2017

Don Weixl's Nitro Pass & Okanagan: A Great Canadian Model Railroad

















When I saw Don Weixl’s photos of his Nitro Pass & Okanagan Railway, all I could say was: “Wow!”












Don’s talents as a photographer, combined with his fine modelling, made for some stunning photos of his Great Canadian Model Railroad.















Don started the layout in 1991. It is based on a track plan by well-known layout planner John Armstrong (published in the February, 1991 issue of Model Railroader).












The double-deck HO scale layout, which is located in a 12’6 by 15’4 foot room, is set in the 1955-65 period in southern B.C.
















The basic plan is a loop-to-loop, but it can also be operated point-to-point.















The mainline run is 120 feet, the minimum radius is 24", and the maximum grade is two 2 percent.















The lower level is 42 inches off the floor, and the upper level is 62 inches.














The track is Micro Engineering code 70 and 55. Scenery is plaster over cardboard webbing, and also natural rock and sand.















The backdrop are photos Don took, or hand painted on 1/8" Masonite.














As Don describes it, “the Nitro Pass and Okanagan is a fictional railway that joins the Canadian Pacific in Grand Forks with Vernon. The CPR has a partial ownership of the NP&O, and has running rights over the line.”



















Don uses the Keller Engineering Onboard (pre-DCC) analog command control system to operate the trains.











Don’s photos of the layouts of others have been published in the model railroad press, and his article about how he built the concrete bridge abutments, tunnel portals and rock sheds on the NP&O appeared in the January, 1997 issue of Railroad Model Craftsman.













Don enjoys the artistic side of model building and scenery making. As a professional photographer, he acknowledges he has “a bit of an advantage when it comes to taking photos” of his layout.












That may be true, but even a good photographer can’t make a bad layout look great—Don has done a tremendous job of creating a great model railroad.

































Saturday, April 22, 2017

Update and Photo of Bowser's New SD40-2F Red Barn




















I didn’t attend this weekend's Supertrain show in Calgary, so I wasn’t able to check out the Bowser display to get info and photos about new products.

Fortunately, Trevor Sokolan was there and took a photo of the finished models of their new SD40-2F Red Barns.

As followers of this blog know, this is one of my most anticipated offerings from Bowser.

Initially, the units were supposed to be available in late 2016. That got pushed back to February. Now Lee English of Bowser tells me that they should be available in June.

I can’t wait to see one pulling a train on the M & M Sub. . . . .

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Winnipeg's Nutty Club Building Saved in Real Life, and on the M & M Sub.

















Winnipeg’s Nutty Club building may become an official part of Winnipeg's heritage.

As the CBC reports, the city's historical buildings committee has nominated warehouse, formally known as the Scott-Bathgate Building, to be added to city's list of heritage buildings.

The five-story brick-and-stone structure on Pioneer Avenue was built in 1905, at the height of the railway boom, when Winnipeg was one of North America's fastest-growing cities.













Before making candy, the building was an important distribution centre for the east-west railway traffic that coursed through Winnipeg.

The city wants to protect architectural elements on all four of the building's external facades, as well as the ornamental tin ceilings and heavy timber on the inside of the warehouse.















I’m glad the Nutty Club building may be saved. But it has already been preserved on the M & M Sub.

Some years ago, I took photos of it, then enlarged them on a colour photocopier.

After cutting it out, I affixed it to the wall as part of the backdrop in my imagined town of Fort Frances, Ont.

It has a place alongside other old or disappeared buildings from the city—like the Five Roses flour mill and the Codville building.












Presented this way, as static stand-alone photos, the buildings don’t look very convincing, I know.

But seen on the periphery of the eye, while focused on a train moving through the foreground, they cause the brain to “see” a real building there—one of the ways our brains and eyes play tricks on us.

(See my earlier post on photography, titled The Ghent Altarpiece, Model Railroading and Seeing With the Brain.)

Anyway, like I said the Nutty Club building lives on on the layout—whether or not it remains in real life. Which it just might be able to do now.

Here are some photos of other buildings on the layout.





Saturday, April 15, 2017

Jeff Pinchbeck's CPR Sutherland Sub.: A Great Canadian Model Railroad


















Earlier, I posted a photo of Jeff Pinchbeck’s Great Canadian Model Railroad in a post about the recent Doubleheader’s layout tour.

Jeff’s layout is an around-the-walls style in a 12 by 34 foot room, with hidden staging in a separate area (but visible via closed-circuit TV).















Set in 1938, it features the CPR Sutherland Sub., a 20 kilometre stretch of track east of Saskatoon.

Scenery is partially completed. Most of the structures are yet to be finished. (Which is kind of cool, since visitors can get an inside look at Jeff's construction techniques.

Jeff also helpfully posted photos and other information about the towns and area hes is modelling to help visitors see what he is trying to recreate on the layout.



















After I got home, I sent Jeff a note asking if I could post more photos and info about his layout. Here are his replies.

Why did you choose the 1930s for a time frame?

The period from 1936 to 1938 represents the remaining days of early 1900s steam locomotives and rolling stock. At the same time, the railway was modernizing with larger locomotives and semi-streamlined equipment. 



















Why did you choose that section of the CPR in Saskatchewan?

In the late 1930's the schedule was changed so that the East and West bound of the "other" trans-continental train, the "Great West Express", met in Colonsay every day for 25 minutes.

There were also 14 trains scheduled a day in 1938; an equal number of freight and passenger. The majority of train meets occurred in this area.



















What kind of traffic will you represent on the layout?

Aside of passenger trains, the majority of the traffic will be grain, and commodities like coal and lumber. 



















When did you start construction?

Benchwork was started in the fall of 2003.  Trackwork started in October, 2004.

The visible area is detailed hand laid code 70 and 55 track. It is handlaid on home cut basswood ties. The minimum radius on the mainline is 30", with the minimum siding radius set at 26”.

Track in the hidden staging yards is code 100 Atlas flex track with Fast Tracks switches. In retrospect, I should have hand laid it too.



















Are there any special challenges modelling that area and era?

Not really—just the typical scratch or craftsman kit building you’d expect from doing something this. There is some commercial stuff available, but repainting and lettering needs to be done because they come lettered for a later time period.




































If anyone has more questions for Jeff, leave a message and I will pass it along.