Search This Blog

Tuesday, 26 June 2018

NMRA PNR 6 Div Meet

Hi all

 My wife and I spent the past weekend June 22-24  in Blairmore Alberta which is in the Crowsnest Pass area for the the NMRA PNR 6 Div meet. We had a very good time along with 39 other participants from Saskatchewan, Alberta and British Columbia.
There was a meet and greet in the park on Friday evening.
Saturday started off with 2 tours beginning with  Frank's Slide and the other was a tour of the Bellevue Coal mine. There were a few showers in the morning but it didn't deter us from having a good time.The afternoon consisted of 3 clinics and in the evening we enjoyed a presentation by Riversdale Resources proposal for a new coal mine.
Sunday morning consisted of 2 clinics followed by lunch at the Crowsnest Museum in Coleman. The afternoon was spent doing model railway home layout tours in Lethbridge Alberta. There were 7 possible stops we made it to all 7. Each was different and interesting and they all had gracious hosts. Thank you to everyone for letting us in to see their work.  Thank you to everyone that worked to put this event on.
The next event for me is Northern Rails Sept 7-9 in Edmonton and Camrose. This is an operations event.

Thursday, 31 May 2018


I participated in my first ops session back in 2007 at my buddy Norman's layout, who I had never met before. Now I can't imagine having a layout and not running ops or getting to run on others. Even if you never run an ops for other people you should run your trains this way for yourself. It gives purpose to your layout. This will be the first in a series of post on operations.

 There are some design features that will make things work better for operations that can even be added into an existing layout. Those of us that run ops sessions spend a lot of time talking about how to make the experience better for the operators, especially new operators and promote the hobby.   Those discussions include topics like fast clock speed, amount and types of trains, TT&TO  ( Time Table and Train Orders), signals, paper work, how busy are the yards, use of basic railway rules, use of decoder functions like lights, horns and bells, labeling,  all the aids to help people operate. In a nut shell anything that people struggle with really needs to be addressed to enhance their enjoyment.

The purpose of having operations is to add more interest to your layout rather than running trains round and round. Almost everyone starts out with the around and round concept in their head myself included. I do have the ability  if all I feel like doing is rail fanning. Back in 1995 I never envisioned having ops sessions. Now I can't imagine not having them.  It helps if you have had exposure to operation sessions at some point and not everyone has that opportunity. You then move in to your own ops sessions with other people to run trains prototypically.  Most people have not had exposure to that either. I have said in other posts I have been very fortunate to have access to engineers, dispatchers and other railway people that are in the Edmonton area, as a bonus they mostly have worked for CN which works well for me. If it becomes too much work for your new operators they will loose interest and not likely return for another session. Most new people are very intimidated and apprehensive to participate because they do not understand what is going on. This reaction looks similar to asking someone to public speak. In my opinion that is why the paper work generated by JMRI works well as it alleviates some of the stress. I will operate on 4-6 different layouts in a year, one of which is the EMRA in Edmonton which is one of the largest layouts in Canada. It is not possible for me to have all those layouts in my head like I have my own. This is an important point to remember is that you understand how your layout runs crystal clear but not everyone else understands it as easily. When I ran ops on my layout for the first time for 2014 Northern Rails my wife thought I was going to crack, especially in the last 2 days leading up to that event mostly because all of these people some of which had traveled hundreds kilometers. I had never even met most of them before and they were going to be operating on my layout.  I am a confident public speaker  and have held high pressure jobs and I still found it very stressful. "Hey" my definition of stress is "fear of the unknown" . I guarantee every time you feel stress that it is generated by some unknown thing. Think about it, the better prepared you are the less stress there will be and you can keep most of the gremlins at bay. It has never been that stressful since.Below are some of the topics I will cover in future posts.

Fast clock speed see my post Fast Clocks

Amount and types of trains

TT&TO or signals, train order and clearance paper work

How busy are the yards

General maintenance of locomotives, passenger and freight cars

Basic railway rules

Use of decoder functions, engine cards

Labeling including signage on the right of way

Aids such as maps, descriptions, aprons, train line up sheet,

Wednesday, 18 April 2018

My first locomotive

This is the first locomotive I ever researched, detailed and painted way back in 1996. At this point in time I was still leaning the difference between an GP and SD, what a dynamic brake, sand hatches, steam gen details were...hard to imagine now.
It was the first
  • thing I ever stripped
  • thing I had air brushed
  • time I tried and did weathering
  • time I had used AC for modeling
  • time I had ever done wet slide decals
  • time I had done any extra wiring

I bought this Athearn SD7 second hand as an SP that is old enough to have metal side frames. I stripped it and then added grab irons, lift rings, hoses, sunshades, wipers, chain in the end walk, a set of Microscale decals, MV lens for the class lights and 1.5V grain of wheat bulbs for the headlights. An interesting  note is that the bottle of paint that I used for this project is still usable even though it  is 21 years old.!  (I will explain  how I keep my paints and brushes alive that long in another post).  Back then I  had a Badger airbrush and this engine was painted with acrylic paint. This loco has always been a little noisy but it still looks good. 990 gets to run as loaner power every once in a while. It is a little old to be used as a demonstrator in 1959. It had a decoder installed in 2006 but still no sound. 

Monday, 2 April 2018

CN Wood Trestle Part 1

I scratch built this from CN plans that came in a bundle from the CN Lines. The bridge is a wood deck 174' long and 36' high. When you come down the stairs in to the basement this bridge and the associated scene is the first thing you see.This type of bridge was relatively common in the prairies, although there are many different types.They usually cross some type of small creek or river.

This bridge is built from scale wood from Northeastern and Kapple. I used the drawings and some pictures that I had taken of similar bridges. I used the pictures for for details that the plans didn’t show. I partially drew it out in Cad so I knew what it would take to cover the span.

I laid the cork road bed up to were I wanted the bridge to start on both sides. I then laid a piece of wood the same depth as the deck would be across the span. From this I could tell were the bents would be placed and how long they would be. This also gave me the opportunity to mark out the creek. It also gave the opportunity to check this against my drawing and make the changes needed.
Then I created some other drawings in Cad to use as gluing templates for the deck and the bents. The wood was all stained before I started the build. I then taped wax paper over the printed paper so the wood glue would not stick. I assembled the deck and bulkhead and then set it in place to ensure the length and height was right and it also made it possible to measure and check the height against the numbers I had in the CAD drawing. The ME bridge tie strip was then cut and glued to the deck and was put in place and checked again. The deck on its own was remarkably strong without the bents. The bents were built and the bolts added to the bracing. I then glued the bents to the deck. This was done with the deck upside down. I had to build some clamps the would hold the bent straight until the glue dried. The bent main posts were left intentionally a little long Once all the bents were glued on the bridge was put back in place and the spots were marked where the posts touched the scenery. I put a little bit of lipstick on the end of each post which left a mark easily. I didn't care if it was on the end of the post because it would be buried in the scenery, then I drill holes in these spots for the posts to slip into.
Once all this was done the bridge was removed and replaced a few times as the contours for the scenery were touched up. What I should have done was finish all the ground cover in this area first before installing the bridge permanently because it was hard to work under the bridge once it was installed.

I add then added the main rails code 83 and the guard rails down the middle using code 70 ME rail and glued them in place.

  • 1/8th wood dowelling for post
  • Northeastern 12x14” cap
  • 6x10” longitudinals and bulkhead
  • 4x6” bulkhead bracing
  • 3x10” bracing
  • 3x10 waling
  • 8x16” stringers
  • track ties are ME bridge ties
  • rail is ME code 83 for main rails and code 70 for the guard rails
  • bolts are from Tichy

This is what it started out as back in 2006

This is taken Jan 15 2007

This was taken Jan 8 2008. It is just sitting in place with the holes drilled for the bents.

Oct 28 2008. It has been installed permanently by this point and the rails are in place

May 17 2016 by this point the fascia is done and there is water in the creek

Jan 29 2017 the backdrop has been painted.

Oct 25 2018 all the scenery (34 sq Ft ) has been completed around the bridge

A car derailed on train 202 to Regina and took out part the safety stand and a repair crew had to come out and fix it. Thus the new wood.

Sunday, 25 March 2018

Keeping your tender coupled

This seems to be a problem with my steam tenders. They pick a point and come off the rail and by the time the engineer has it re-railed the tender has uncoupled from the draw bar. Unfortunately the engineer doesn't always notice  and now we are pulling the tender and cars with the decoder wires. Even I have been guilty of this. Some of mine come off easier than others. I have wanted a fix for this for some time and could not come up with an idea that would  make it easy to uncouple the cars when you needed to. I do not uncouple them often but I  did not want to make it a chore. I tried a couple of different sizes of styrene tube but by the time I got it to fit it would not stay on very long. I was looking at a piece of wire on my bench the other day and thought maybe it would work if I stripped the insulation off. The loco I was working on required an ID of .09" to cover the pin on the tender. I came up with a 12 guage wire and stripped off a piece, expanded it with an awl and I could slide it on as a tight fit. It is cut to be about 3mm long and I coloured it black with a sharpie marker. If I need to take it off I can just pop it off  with a flat blade screwdriver. The next tender needed  something smaller so I went down to a 16 guage wire. Things are easy once you get there.

This is before painting. There is still room for the draw bar to move up and down.

Sunday, 18 March 2018

Grain Elevators part 1

On my layout I have 10 grain elevators. They are all in various levels of completion. I will make a series of posts in regards to them as I complete each one. Nine out of the ten elevators are scratch built and the only one that is completed is a Campbell's kit. The remaining are scratch built and use the same standard method for scratch built items which you can see in this post. How I build my scratch projects . They are all built based on pictures that I have taken and from my experiences in my farming background. Elevators are never built exactly the same and I have tried to incorporate different features into each one of them. There are not many decals available for my era of 1959. The only ones that are out there come from Microscale and the only ones that work are for United Grain Growers  (UGG), Parrish & Heimbecker  (P&H), and Federal. The others in the sets are too modern. Having said that we are lucky to have any of them. The decals for Searl, Saskatchewan Wheat Pool, Pioneer, National and Paterson were custom printed. As a point of interest Searl Grain is the only grain company that I am modelling that I did not actually deliver grain to while I was farming. There is an interesting article on the history of Canadian grain companies which is available on this blog This article is a time line for the Canadian grain industry Dates of Historical Interest. There is also an article that shows how an elevator works at this site .
Take note not to confuse American and Canadian elevators as they are very different. The most notable difference being the driveway into the elevator itself. The Canadian ones are almost all raised and the majority of the American ones you enter at ground level. To do a full elevator scene would require about 14'X22" so you can fit in all the details. We can do it with less suing some compression. The office, the walkway from the office to the elevator, parking at the office, the driveways going in and out, storage shed, an annex and possibly a fertilizer shed are all things to consider in your build.

The 3 in Melville have been modified to fit the space that was available. These are all scratch built, being narrower than they would normally be to fit the space at the back of the yard. They are built using the same methods as I used for the 2nd class station.

These 2 in Waldron also will have some features left out because of space restrictions. These two are also scratch build.

The 3 in Atwater also will have some features left out because of space restrictions. These three are also scratch build.

This is the elevator in Lorlie and is a Campbell's kit. It is the smallest of all the elevators and would be the oldest plan. The fertilizer shed to the left is scratch built. This elevator kit that got all the space it needed.

This elevator is in Foster and is scratch built.

Thursday, 8 March 2018

CNR 4-8-4 U-2-g Northern

 At rest in the yard waiting for the next assignment.

This is a picture of my True Lines 4-8-4 U-2-g 6226 Northern. I bought this locomotive at a very reasonable price. This is a beautiful locomotive to look at, runs nice when it runs but if you have problems with it you are on your own. There are no diagrams, spare parts would be hard to find and you get next to no help from True Line. I  had to take it apart to fix a wire that had come loose, (it would make sound but would not move) and that was a very touchy process. I needed all my soldering skill to fix it. I brought in my friends Ron and Norman for backup and ideas, we went slow and took lots of pictures as we went along. I was told that if you ever had to get at the motor good luck because  you would have to break parts to get that done. This is the problem with newer products like this, once it is off warranty (1 to 2 years) you will not get much help. You can just send it back if it is on warranty, but here in Canada that will be a cost of at least 50 to 75 dollars. They have nice lights and lots of details that may or may not be best for proper operation. The days of being able to get parts for a few years seems to be gone from some manufactures.  I would sooner have my brass steam if I had a choice as you can always get them running. Just like older P2000.  I will make the suggestion that you try to get part diagrams and an electrical drawing before you buy these engines as there may be multiple boards involved and the wiring can be next to impossible to figure out with out a drawing.

This picture shows the board that is under the cab. The wire that needed to be fixed was one of the black ones as the JST plug didn't jest any more. There is also another board in the tender.

Running as extra 6226 east bound just coming up on Cana Jct.

NMRA PNR 6 Div Meet

Hi all  My wife and I spent the past weekend June 22-24  in Blairmore Alberta which is in the Crowsnest Pass area for the the NMRA PNR 6...