Monday, May 20, 2019

Clermont - Painting tracks

Painting track is far to be on top of my list, mainly due to the 3-step process I use. However, all the time invested in this step do pay off later on and it can be fixed later. Thus, it was time to move forward and paint all the shiny tracks in Clermont.

First, tracks are primed in white. To make sure primer will stick during the next step, it is let to dry and cure for about a week.

Then, ties are completely masked with 1/4" tape, leaving only the rails and tie plates visible. When done, a coat of Krylon camouflage brown is sprayed over and the tape removed.

Mask and ventilation required!

Unfortunately for us, it seems our tape was a little bit old and not that much sticky. In some areas, the tape lift and overspray happened. Also, some white primer on ties did lift up.

With a small brush and white paint, I touched up every annoying brown spots until I was satisfied.

Jérôme cleaning up the track... A crucial step!

Jérôme, using MDF blocks and very fine grit sand paper cleaned and polished the rail heads. To make sure we didn't miss any spot, we took our most capricious locomotive - a Rapido 6-axle GMD-1 - and ran it over very piece of track at step 1. Quite slow is you ask me, but only a crawling engine can track every issue with trackwork.

Now, all this paint will be left to dry another week before we apply several oil paint washes to create a convincing weathered wood effect. This step is really worth all the efforts!

Meanwhile, Louis-Marie have been working hard on the topography. He did a terrific job and with minimal sanding, we now have realistic rolling hills and a nice set of streets. Still a lot of work ahead, but the most complicated areas are now done and ready for scenery.

Speaking of scenery, we started to fill all the gaps in scenery with mud (Celluclay + water + flat latex paint). Can't wait to ballast and add vegetation. I'm growing tired of seing plywood and foam. It's time to bring back some life to the layout!

Thursday, May 16, 2019

CN Woodchip Car - Live & Learn

Designing 3D printed product with a goal toward semi-commercial replication isn't something that can be done seamlessly. The learning curve is indeed steep and I had to master 3D modelling in a way I wasn't accustomed to.

Modelling 3D architecture is one thing, but creating solids that will print correctly is another thing. When I ventured into this project, I certainly didn't know the subtle differences between both type of 3D models. In my mind, 3D was 3D. But STL files and 3D printer were quick to teach me otherwise.

It’s not my goal to detail all the problems I encounter, but it was a good occasion to learn about my own ignorance on the subject. I also came to appreciate how 3D modelling isn’t that different from scratchbuilding. Basically, it’s the same process of looking at something, trying to figure out how it is made and then proceeding to create complex assemblies using basic shapes.

Another pitfall for a while was my use of SketchUp. This free software is well-known for its ease of use, but we dealing with solids, it can be tricky. I quickly found out it wasn’t wise to draw to HO scale. The software has a hard time dealing with very small complex shapes. Thus, it is required to work on a larger scale (let’s say 10 times 1:87) to ensure a trouble free experience. I also had to learn using software extensions that made some process easier.

Had I known all that from the start, my life you have been easier and I suspect design time would have been decreased by a fact 4. But you’ve got to start somewhere anyway and I feel this project was simple enough to be tackled yet providing substantial challenges to improve my skills.

With that said, I hope to get some printed parts in my hand by the end of May as promised.

Monday, April 29, 2019

CN Woodchip Car - Toward a Second Prototype

I'm glad to report the project is progressing well. To make your life easier finding information about this project, I've added a "CN Woodchip Cars" tag and shortcut on under the blog's header. It will helps tracking relevant information without having scroll down the entire blog.

During the weekend, the 3D models of both cars have been revised and completed. I made the mistake of initially using 36" wheels which brought in a lot of discrepancies until I found out the cars were equipped with 33" wheels. What a beginner's mistake! Fortunately, I was able to rectify this before starting to 3D print the cars. I feel a little bit idiot missing this essential data. It was written on all CN official drawings and even painted on cars themselves!

Also, I've completed the decal artwork. I'm quite satisfied with the result. I also adapted the CN logo so it can fit perfectly on the ribs without cutting or liberal application of decal solution. This is a test and I hope it will work well on the prototype. It may have to be revised later, but I needed to start somewhere.

I'm also glad to report cars 378000 and 379000 are actually getting 3D printed by Bruce Barney. Keep in mind this isn't the actual production models, but prototypes to weed out any gross errors I could have done and test running and operation capabilities (trucks and couplers heights, etc.). It will also be an occasion to find out if and where warpage could happen. These are open cars and it could happen. It must be addressed.

These prototypes will be painted and decalled for promotional purposes. So far, Bruce confirmed parts printed nicely and he's quite positive the models will be very nice.

I wouldn't be surprised if I have painted cars to show by mid-May.

Finally, the next big step will be to understand, then draw, these cars brake rigging. I'm not a pro in brake systems, so I expect it will take some time to figure out everything.

Production and marketing

This is a big project and it means it need to be clearly framed. I'm still trying to figure out how people will have access to this product. Many options are on the table and I've yet to find a way to handle this that will be practical for everybody while not being a prison for me. I'll take the next few months to work it out and hope to start taking orders and start production after summer. It would be quite neat if the cars were available just before Christmas. This is my goal.

Sunday, April 28, 2019

Brompton Paper - Breaking Down Operations

I recently revisited my old idea of modelling an entire prototypical mill on a 12" wide shelf recently. While I addressed the track plan, scenery and concept, I didn't venture as far as depicting operations. Meanwhile, I've read some articles about Quebec Central and discovered interesting tidbits of information that makes this layout much more than a small industrial switching layout with a typical scenic staging area.

First, Quebec Central did use to serve this paper mill. It seems there was no industrial switcher working the plant and QC trains en route to Sherbrooke had to do it.

Second, most paper products were shipped via Sherbrooke while some chemicals came from that same direction.

Third, raw supplies including woodchip and other products came from QC interland beyond St- Georges.

Put together, these elements means the staging area is no longer a soulless and practical area, but rather participate to the story. At the beginning of an operation session, some cars would be left on the siding. These would have been dropped by the train coming from Sherbrooke. Typically, we could assume some chemical tank cars, covered hoppers, empty newsprint boxcars and possibly woodpulp. On the mainline would be staged a train coming from QC interland (Vallée-Jonction). This train would have a new supplies and many woodchip boxcars.

Now, our train would have to build a short consist with all inbound cars for Brompton Paper, then move down the spur and switching empties and loads. On the return trip, cars would have to be sorted on the siding according to their final destination. Then, the session would end when the train would be ready to leave East Angus.

Nothing complicated, but enough to model the entire job without compromise.

Finally, the last point would be to decide if the track would be level or if this layout could benefit having a grade between both the paper mill and the interchange. In real life, there was a somewhat steep grade between them. I suspect it could be an interesting challenge if not overdone and a good occasion to put LokSound Full Throttle capabilities into action. But this is the kind of stuff that can quickly become annoying in the long run.

Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Q.R.L.& P.Co. - What can be done?

Since my early high school days, I've been wondering what could be done with Q.R.L. & P.Co. as a model train layout. This idea haunted my model railroading dreams for years and is still lingering in the back of my mind. Unfortunately, I came preposterously to the conclusion - after many failed efforts - it couldn't be done. Given I've been sporadically visiting this concept over almost 25 years now, one could expect I've ran out of idea. However, it seems there is some hope.

As you know, I'm a freight train guy. I don't care about passenger operations (if not mixed) because they offer very little opportunities if not done properly and with serious efforts at scheduling. Thus, modelling a mainly interurban road like QRL&PCo wasn't an easy task.

However, a recent discussion with Jérôme prompted this "new" idea. He suggested a small layout depicting QRL&PCo iconic traction motors pulling freight consists would be neat. I totally agreed with him! Honestly, it a shame this beloved prototype never got any love from modellers, except for Simon Parent.

Why I've always had a hard time figuring out what should be modelled if the entire line can't be done, I simply don't know why! I suspect I know the prototype too much and can't bring myself to edit out some scenes I find required. Some readers will remember I once proposed, a few years ago, an S scale version of Beaupré including the large bridge and a continuous run. It wasn't a bad idea and I thought it would be worth exploring what could be done in HO scale. I also proposed several time a small switching layout based on Dominion Textile or even a long and narrow shelf layout depicting Sainte-Anne-de-Beaupré sprawling yard and shops. One of my first concept back in high school was simply to build a diorama of Limoilou Shops, which I partially built. Last fall I restored my DPM kitbash and hope to turn it into a blog article when the time will be right.

Anyway, many probably recall when I ran a What If article about turning Villeneuve in Beaupré. It wasn't a great idea for our club layout, but many ideas were sound. Consider this new track plan to be somewhat a continuity of this train of thoughts.

I set to myself a few constraints, shelves should not be more than 16 inches wide and if possible, only 12 inches and layout must use as much as possible structures and rolling stock I built over the year. Given I already have Beaupré station as it looked in the 1950s and Beaupré bridge, it was a good start.

I also thought it would be a good idea to have a continuous run. While I like to operate, it is still fun to watch trains going around and simply railfan them. I think some layouts benefit from this compromise.

After taking into account several scenes, it was clear my best bet was to use only stations that were relatively close from one another. Also, I wanted operations to replicate what really happened with freight movement on the line. It was clear Beaupré's industrial district and St. Joachim interchange with CNR would provide a good backbone for actions. Interestingly enough, St. Joachim had a small wye to turn steamers and traction motors. QRL&PCo didn't run double-end motors and had to turn most of their equipment on turntables or wyes.

With that in mind, I tried to see if I could fit Beaupré and St. Joachim in my hobby room... Interestingly enough it did fit! Taking into account freight trains on QRL&PCo were relatively short and stations were quite close, it should work. Also, bear in mind I'm replicating all the trackage from Beaupré and St. Joachim as it was. Only a large expanse of fields between both towns was compressed for obvious reasons. All grade crossings and turnouts are accounted for.

A typical consist would be staged left to the distillery. A traction motor or a small steamer would be used. QRL&PCo #22 2-6-0 steam locomotive was a common sight in interchange work until the early 1950s. From that point on, demoted old CNR power was used, mainly 4-6-0 but notoriously light pacific in freight service! Locomotives such as 5079 were a common sight!

A CNR 4-6-2 pulling an interchange freight train (credit: CABIC)

The train would then switch Seagram Distillery, which received a lot of raw materials and shipped a famous whiskey all over Canada. At Beaupré station, the crew woould work the team track with the locomotive move up and down the bridge in the process.

A train arriving in Beaupré, the bridge is in the background (credit: unknown)

Then, after crossing the river, a string of cars for Price Brothers Paper would be left on the siding waiting to be sorted out on the return trip. Meanwhile, we would have a glimpse of the small 0-4-0 switcher sitting idle on the plant industrial trackage. Finally, our train woul reach St. Joachim. The team track would be worked while cars for Clermont would be swapped with incoming cars in the interchange.

The locomotive would then turn the locomotive at the wye before picking up its consist and waiting their order before proceeding. It should be noted an interurban car could be met there, making things more complicated. On the return trip, Price Brothers would be switched, exchanging cars, then our train would complete its travel back to Quebec City.

Freights meet in Ste.Anne, 1958 (credit: Clark Frazier)

Am I completely satisfied with this layout plan? Well, not completely. The way St. Joachim yard overlap over the room entrance is far to be a great idea. In the best world, the layout should be fully functional even when the continuous run isn't possible. In fact, had the door been located where the door is standing, the layout would have been almost perfect!

However, on a positive note, I feel I've finally caught QRL&PCo soul. A neat mix of rural "Normandy-like" countryside, cute and colorful 19th century stations, powerful rivers and large industrial plants.

St. Joachim station seen from the wye... (credit: unknown)

The fact very little structures are required creates enough empty space to fight against the inevitable compression required between Beaupré and St-Joachim. On a positive note, it is interesting to note distances between in Beaupré and Price Brothers are almost reproduced in scale, meaning I didn't simply smash together stuff I liked. To be honest, I removed a lot of stuff to get this right! Every scene on QRL&PCo is memorable and getting rid of stuff is heartbreaking. I'm glad I succeed in my quest.

EDIT: Interestingly enough, with PECO soon releasing its new code 70 turnout lineup, this project could be doable in a not so far future. Q.R.L.& P.Co. was famous for its lightweight trackage that forced CN to create a specific type of locomotive known as RSC-24. They later had to use 6-axle GMD-1 to perform their duty. I feel using code 83 wouldn't work well with this prototype.

EDIT 2: Very little thing changed in Beaupré and St. Joachim for decades. Same customers, same track arrangement. This layout could be used to stage operation from the late 1920s until the late 1960s. To model the 60s, station buildings could be replaced with versions clad in asbestos shingles and some electric poles could be removed. Definitely, this layout concept has a lot of potential.