Sunday, July 17, 2016

Pre-CNR Steam Locomotive Modelling Challenge

Before publishing this post, I took some time to verify my claims and to discuss the subject with Doctorwayne, a well-know Canadian steam era modeller from Ontario. Wayne has rebuilt and kitbashed dozens - if not hundreds! - of generic steam locomotives into very credible models. A gentleman and great source of knowledge, I must credit him to have pushed me to share my works with fellow modellers in a time when I kept my trains for myself... and indeed to have bolstered my interest in kitbashing.

But why am I talking about him? Because we share a common interest in Canadian steamers and particularly the medium-sized ones from the golden era.

Many years ago, Wayne took the courageous decision to backdate his layout from the ubiquitous transition era to the 30s. While he had to sacrifice the diesel locomotives, he faced the thrilling challenge of reproducing an incredible amount of freight cars from the era when wood construction was shifting to all-steel construction. Modelling this era isn't easy and you need to bash a lot of stuff. However, it is quite feasible if you really want to do it seriously.

With his help and patience, we hastily documented possible bashes. He quickly recommended me  Donald R. McQueen's "Canadian National Steam!", a 2013 multi-volume update of Clegg & Corley's "Canadian National Steam Power", from 1969. Each volume deals with particular wheel arrangement and often, CNR predecessors or builder photos are provided to show the evolution of a particular locomotive class.

While recently annouced Rapido's Icon of Canadian Steam HO CNR 4-6-0 and 2-8-0 are of Canadian Northern and Grand Trunk lineage, it will be a long time before they are released. Until then, if you don't go the brass route, kitbashing is your sole choice (meaning lots of fun). But even if you ever start with a Rapido one, you'll quickly find back dating them to their original appearance will require as much effort as kitbashing them. Yes, they truly changed a lot over the years...

Since I complained that nobody (to my knowledge) never seriously modelled pre-CNR steam locomotives, I decided to not rant anymore and show people it can be done without going crazy. In fact, the older the locomotive, the less complex details are, making it easier to kitbash. There is endless possibilities, pictures are available and we know the paint scheme of the turn of the century. Modelling an older era like the 1870s-1880s when Grand Trunk was king with the brightful schemes wouldn't be that much of a challenge. John Ott proved to the world it was an achievable and rewarding goal with his Miskatonic Railroad. With the new tolling Bachmann 4-4-0, there's no more reason to not model that era.

Anyway, while I fancy old time trains, I prefer to stay realistic for the sake of promoting pre-CNR model railroading in Canada and outside. I believe it is a formidable era with plenty of locomotives and rolling stock already available on the market. Structures found on transition era and modern layouts are often exactly the same, having being built back when railway construction was a big thing. Many Canadian Northern structures are available in craftman kits.

The Challenge

Mark my words, because I challenge myself and other fellow modellers to kitbash or convert a plastic or brass model into a CNR predescessor locomotive. I'm ready to complete the challenge before the next (and nearest) Railroad Prototype Meet in Canada and bring whatever I will have completed to spread the gospel of Canadian golden days of steam.

If you want to follow me in that crazy challenge, feel free to do so. It may be rolling stock, locomotives or passenger cars, whatever you fancy in the scale of choice, as long as it is pre-1919-1923 and not a vulgar foobie on which you slapped. If you want to model a CNR locomotive with the pre-wafer block lettering paint scheme from the 1920s, that could fit the bill too since nobody never cared about doing it and it's clearly a rip off of CNoR paint scheme.

If you are serious about it, know possibilities are infinite. Art Griffin and CDS Lettering offer some interesting decals and dry transfer from such roads as Canadian Northern, Intercolonial, Grand Trunk, Grand Trunk Pacific and Central Vermont. Be aware locomotive decals are almost inexistant. You'll have to make them yourself or order custom decals. If you are interested, I think it would be great to design sets that would be useful to most project and about the principal companies of the era.

Personally, I'm ready to kitbash a Bachmann Spectrum 2-8-0 into a Canadian Northern or Grand Trunk locomotives. After discussing with Wayne, we narrowed down a set of locomotives that can be good candidates to a bash and I wish it could inspire you. Here's the listing:

Legend: Ligh orange and green entries could be built upon a Roundhouse 2-8-0 while the dark orange and green entries can be done using Bachmann Spectrum 2-8-0. Here are some of the most important changes to do on the locomotive to make them more prototypical. As you can see, the need for brass parts and special casting is minimal and the overall cost should be very affordable.

For the moment, I will start kitbashing a Canadian Northern N-1-a because it's a little bit more straight forward and because I have warmer feeling toward CNoR than Grand Trunk!

However, I'm keeping an eye open for another Bachmann 2-8-0 to kitbash it into a GT Consolidation. And if I can find a good candidate, building a GT or CNoR older locomotive with a Russian Iron boiler is very high on my list!

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