Sunday, January 15, 2017

Temiscouata Railway Connors Branch - New Blog

I'm happy to report my new blog about my Temiscouata Railway Connors Branch is now online. For ease of navigation between my different blogs, a new set of tabs are now display under the header.

Named "Connors Branch - The Sportsman's Route in S scale", the new blog will report on the progress made about this project that started many years ago but reached fruition last summer during the Thinking Out Loud series. As a matter of fact, I moved this series over the new blog to for ease of reference.

While modelling the Temiscouata is no breaking news, doing it in S scale may sound a little bit weird at first. I think Trevor Marshall probably saw in my eyes that I was convinced it was the way to go if modelling a small steam era branchline.

I've acquired my share of small HO steamers over the years... 0-6-0, 2-6-0, 4-4-0 and 4-6-0. All of them cute but so underwhelming. It's like looking at a bug crawling on a countertop which is far to be my description for a steam locomotive. Even the small 19th century 4-4-0 had presence. Sure they were small by today's standards but if you visit any railway museum, you'll see they command respect. You can't get that feeling out of an HO scale 4-4-0. However, it's a different matter in S scale.

Finally, the proposed layout is small, most track work will required a certain amount of hand-built stuff, all locomotives will require a crazy amount of kitbashing and cars need to be virtually built from scratch or from craftman kits. At this point, there is no real advantage going HO... at least, S scale makes model building, detailing and fitting electronics much easier. An importantly, have far better performance.

So welcome to the new blog. I hope you will enjoy the new retro design inspired by the official 1912 Temiscouata Railway timetable. I also made sure the blog was more streamlined than Hedley-Junction too.


The Revenge - Rebuilding an IHC 50ft Boxcar - Part 5

Another project comes to an end. The IHC 50ft combo door boxcar is now completed and weathered, bringing life to one of the worst toy in my collection. This car will now haul dimensional lumber between Québec City and Clermont. Enjoy.

The Reasons Behind a Hobby

Mike Cougill published a neat article last week about why he is doing railway modelling. He further developed his ideas but the first few paragraphs dealt about using his hobby as a tool for personal development and that strikes a cord with me.

Over the last few years, I often told my friends and family that I achieved more significant things in my hobby than at work. As much as my profession is about building, there is little incencitive to develop someones talent, skills and actually build something, often meaningless or outright embrassing. It's not my goal to talk bad about one of the great arts here on Earth, but when I come back home after a day of work, I rarely feel I can brag or talk highly of what I achieved during the day. Our society - whatever it says in media - doesn't want to put effort in construction. Low cost, cheap materials and half-baked design are the everyday lot.

I've often asked myself if modernism in architecture wasn't just a excuse to make acceptable cheap things. "Looks! It's minimalistic, that's the new trend!". Some young colleague recently commented he was tired of designing boxes, cubes, planes and other featureless shapes devoid of any sense, artistic value or challenge. Another one, older, told us he work all his life trying to figure out how to fake solid shapes with flimsy materials that aren't made for this. I'm not implying that minimalistic arts are crap, but unfortunately they offer a very nice ground for many to find a lucrative shortcut.

So no wonder - during the weekend or while in vacation - I start building models. I'm simply doing my own profession again and again, but with the possibility to get better at it and actually satisfy my need to build good things. I could use the hobby for the sake of escapisim, but it's more than than. I wouldn't get it from other kind of modelism because model railroading imply a large array of disciplines that range from topography to mechanics to architecture to transportation. Not only we work at the rivet level but we also manage many acres of real estate. And this is my own global approach to this hobby and probably why I'm always puzzled to see people able to build the most incredible models possible only to run them on the cheapest plank of plywood you can find.

As pointed in the comments to Mike's post, model railroading is a weird and large community in which very different and often contradictory pursuits are bundled together for the better and for the worst.

For me, model railroading enables me to practice my profession with the possibility to aim for excellence: architecture in a nutshell.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Temiscouata Railway - Moving Forward

Hi folks! Many of you followed with interest last summer Thinking Out Loud series about layout design and modelling the pre-CNR era (before 1918 or even WW1). As we often do, I recently had a long chat with Jérôme about that project and the CP Rail-Quebec Central based home layout idea.

We both think the Temiscouata Railway is a tremendously fascinating prototype to model, particularly when done in it's heydays before National Transcontinental, Canadian National and Canadian Pacific threw several monkey wrenches into their plan and seized their turf.

However, there is very little reason at this point modelling a portion of Connors Branch. While visually beautiful, modelling a very long stretch of railway in the middle of fields for several feets and going to staging isn't exactly an interesting way to use space, ressources and time. We came to the conclusion this idea could only work if both end of the Connors Branch are modelled: Edmundston and Connors.

At this point, I have very little idea what was the track plan in Edmundston back then. Several pictures exist from the early 20th century and they give a good idea of how the station and freight shed were set into the landscape, however, you can't deduct any track arrangement and figure out if there was an engine house and turntable. But one thing is sure, Edmundston station can easily be modelled with success without using to much space.

I'm thus faced with some issues. I need to find a track plan of Temiscouata's Edmondston facilites. Fire insurance maps and railway archives would be great to find this out. However, my searches have been fruitless in that regard. Any information is crucial to make this possible and your help would really be appreciated.

This brings me to say I will only model Connors Station for the moment and using a modular approach so when information will be available, other modules will be added. Whatever happens, I'm pretty sure it will make an early 1910s layout very fun to operate. It would be about 13 feet long by about 18" large if I reuse module frames I've already built or 24" if I start from scratch. In a perfect world, I would probably build 3 sections of 4-5 feet and bolt them together. In that regard, I would probably follow a similar path to what the S Scale Workshop did with their modular layout I've witnessed at Exporail last summer. And then you can ask it I would dare to try this in S Scale as I hinted a few months ago? Maybe... because small steamers in HO have no presence at all on a layout and a 36ft boxcar is smaller than an HO 50ft one. Now, try to convince me!

By the way, such a layout could even be moved around to local exhibitions which would be coherent with my goal to interest Canadian modellers into their own history, particularly this very year in which we celebrate the Canadian Confederation 150th anniversary.

Now is the question to the readers. Do you prefer I make a separate blog for this project? I think it would be a good idea to manage the information. I'm not into mixing content. Hedley-Junction is about Canadian National diesel operation in Québec City and Charlevoix ares and Quebec South Shore Railway is about Canadian Pacific decaying rural branchlines. Since the Temiscouata layout would be about steam and pre-WW1 modelling, it shares nothing in common with my two other projects.

Until then, I'll try using my HO surplus material to build two mock up modules and test for real ideas about a Temiscouata railway layout.

Quebec Central Tring Subdivision

Jérôme was quite interested in that new layout project, if it ever comes to fruition. He particularly like the idea to make this layout built as a different game than Hedley-Junction which is about heavy industrial switching. Like me, he loves the current layout, but would like to have the opportunity to experiment with other types of operation. The Tring Subdivision is about running trains over a somewhat ingrate topography and planning meets. Switching isn't the main goal and will be achieved by very short local trains (3 to 6 cars maximum).

To make sure the layout is a real challenge to operate, I'm actually in the process of streamlining the track plan to reflect a decaying line, making the passing tracks longer, keeping only a handful of customers (à la Jim Mcnab's Grimes Industrial Line) and using #10 turnouts. Yes, it's not a typo: handlaid #10 Fast Track curvable turnouts. I've reach that point I'm no longer satisfied by commercial turnouts. They don't fit my needs anymore, at least for that kind of project.

I will also incorporate something I generally don't do on my "serious" layouts and add grades. With LokSound Full Throttle decoders and Scott Thornton's Proto Throttle in development, you really can simulate running a train. Tring Subdivision crossed a divide between several rivers before reaching Megantic. I did the maths and main line went down into the valley from Tring and started to climb up after St. Évariste when reaching an important mountain ridge there. In the valley, most grades were about 0.6% to 0.8% but near St. Sébastien, they reached about 1.8% in so areas.

When you think in term of simulating way freight trains, the combination of grades, curves and heavy freight cars (about 8 to 12 oz. each) can make this a very nice challenge and that's exactly what we are looking for. It certainly is not a coal hauling main line like Saluda in the USA, but it offer a decent challenge. Given your typical way freight train is about 10 cars and a caboose (about 6 lbs), it's not a walk in the park and it really makes your quality sound decoders interesting. You can even add some IR triggered train sounds under the layout in the sharp curves.

You remember I often say we can't have it all. I mean it and certainly separating clearly distinct objectives as distinct projects helps a little bit.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017