Saturday, March 28, 2015

CN Boxcars Completed

Well, another small project completed. Both MDC Roundhouse and Athearn 50ft boxcars are ready to operate. I didn't weather them and when I'll do it, I'll keep it minimal since these cars were freshly repainted in my era. I'll probably paint the wheels and dirty up the trucks at some later time.

Decaling was relatively straightforward. Since I use 2 Future base coat before decaling, I find it is quite easier and I get far less silvering. Better, it seems Solvaset react a little bit with Future, making the decals real "sink" into the gloss coat. In the end, decals become almost invisible. I also added some lead into each car to bring from 4 oz to 10 oz.

I'm quite satisfied how this little project end up. All in all, the project cost about 4$ per cars, which makes it a wise choice to upgrade them. With actual cost of cars, this is a decent way to build up the fleet without ruining myself. I still have many older cars that could benefit from a similar treatment in the future.

It was fun to bring back to life some very old cars I ruined many years ago when I wasw experimenting custom painting for the first time. Now, if I can find time to decal my last batch of 5 woodchip boxcars...

Friday, March 27, 2015

Plowing Snow in Château-Richer

Jérôme sent me today this promotional video from the 90s made for French tourists visiting Quebec. At some point, there's a short sequence showing a pair of M420 pushing a snow plow in Château-Richer. To be exact, the location is just behind where Louis-Marie grew up. Unfortunately, the sequence is quite short, but it still shows us what snow fighting on Murray Bay Subdivision was back in the 80s and early 90s.

This very plow still exist and is stored in Wieland, near Clermont.

It hasn't seen action for almost a decade and the paint is pealing off badly.

I've always wanted to get a model of this particular plow. Long time ago, I went as far as hack and saw my Walthers Russell plow. However, the result was less than good and I rebuilt it as it was intended. My best bet would be the proposed project by True Line, but like many canadian modellers, I'm more than suspicious about their "on going" products. Anyway, the big question about MoW material on a layout is having place to display it. Particularly winter fighting equipment. It would have been nice to have some useless siding for a work train, but that won't happen soon. So not getting right now a plow isn't a bad thing in the end! Getting the M420s is a much more important priority!

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Railfanning CFQ In 1995 With Gerard Donnelly

Lately, peoples keep sending me pictures from Murray Bay Subdivision. That's probably the greatest thing about blogging: at some point, you make contact with many people you wouldn't have otherwise meet. Sharing a hobby and a common passion makes them particularly aware of what you are looking for.

Today, Stéphane Melançon whom helped me a lot in defining Ciment St-Laurent and Dominion Textile operation patterns sent me a few links. Once again, they are extremely helpful to better develop the layout concept.

The first one was shot by Gerard Donnelly Jr back in 1995 at Villeneuve. For once, the track layout under the silos is clear, but better, there's a train doing switching chores. It appears that as alte as 1995, cement bags were still shipped in boxcars. Those are NSC insulated and heated boxcars. I would guess cement is quite sensitive to humidity and such cars were useful to make sure cement bags were kept dry. Of particular interest is the vegetation growing all over the place. At that time, the plant didn't use coal anymore and we can see the coal unloading siding isn't in use anymore.

The second photo is also from Donnelly's and taken on June 8th, 1995. This is the same cement train we saw in the first photo. The location is D'Estimauville and Domaine Maizerets is in the background. Trees aren't as big as nowadays and the scene feels more open. Remark the amount of vegetation on mainline (the train is on the siding). This shot will be extremely useful for my actual scenery efforts. I must admit I always wanted to model these CFQ SW1200rs. I remember buying two Athearn blue box EMD SW switchers back in 1998. Finally, I painted them as CN units.

The third one, from Donnelly's collection, date back to 1978 and show us a neat RS18 in Limoilou yard. Must I say I'm tempted to paint my pair of kitbashed RS18 in zebra instead of wet noodle... I'm still not sure. Of interest are the numerous colorful american boxcars from the "per diem" era. Murray Bay was crowded uniquely with CN rolling stock and subsidiaries, but Limoilou saw much more variety back them. Marc Carette's collection is quite educative on this subject.

Finally, the fourth one shows a CFQ train in Villeneuve, west from the cement plant (which can be seen in the background). This is where the brick plant was standing. On our layout, this is the area located in the furnace closet and where we enlarged the hole in the wall.

Mr. Donnelly did a great job capturing those pictures. It remembers us 20 years ago, Murray Bay Subdivision was still a healthy railway with a strong industrial base. Nothing remains of that era. Bach then, when CN sold the line, we felt this weren't good. Funny how the historic perspective can change our perception.

I'm quite happy I was direct to this nice collection. It is exactly the information I need to start my scenery work.

MWS: Mainline Without Switch

Often, we see people stating the length of their mainline run. This is habitually considered as an easy way to appreciate the layout ability to offer a good rendition of mainline run. I think this is a little bit simplistic to address this question because there are other factors that affect our visual perception.

Personally, I consider a train is running mainline when travelling space between rail-served locations (be it a station or an industry). This is the real space where a train can do its main job of linking two destinations. An easy way to determine it is to measure the length of unspecialized track work located between switches. I call it Mainline Without Switch (MWS), this is a derivation of Mindheim’s concept of Scenery Only Zone. The difference is that I consider iconic landscape features reset the perceived length because they become “scenic destinations” which contradicts their role as scene dividers and operation buffers.

In our case, a perfect example would be the distance between the right-most turnout in Villeneuve and the first one in D’Estimauville. This gives us a good idea of space separation between focus scenes.

I didn’t go very far in my calculation, but I believe there’s probably some rule of thumb about effective spacing between scenes. We have also to take into account a visual divider (like a tunnel portal or an overpass) reset the length and gives us the effective impression the train is coming from a faraway location.

For open space areas, I feel the length should be about the longest train running on the layout to be effective. However, it is not easy to achieve since it could be quite important in term of space requirement.

When I look at Hedley-Junction, the most irritating area is between Villeneuve and D’Estimauville Avenue (where the staging area switch is located). The MWS length is about than 5 feet. No need to tell you a train reach quickly the Cement plant when leaving staging.

But there’s many ways to fight this visual perception. The first one is to treat the scenery in D’Estimauville as nothing special so turnouts – that habitually give the impression to reach a specific location – are blending into generic mainline scenery. That way, we can achieve to fool our eyes by thinking this is true mainline until it reach the closet hidden staging area. It helps us to lengthen the MWS to about 17 feet which is a very honourable result.

There’s also another way to make this distance to be perceived as longer. It is to implement a space divider between Villeneuve and D’Estimauville Avenue. In our prototype, there’s a long tree tunnel over the track in that area. Modelling that feature is a good way to fool our perception. Every train entering or leaving Villeneuve will have to “disappear” – or at least get blurred – by the vegetation. It won’t be possible to have a direct and clear line of sight of D’Estimauville, which is the goal.

With that in mind, we will be able to visually make room for more generic mainline run, giving us the impression our trains are travelling a long journey without adding extra square feet to the layout.

All my actual scenery work is accomplished toward this goal of making the location looks as generic, natural and realistic as possible. That means to minimize the amount of extraordinary structures that screams “specific and recognizable locations” and maximize generic track scenic treatment so the line is perceive as one long steel ribbon crossing a coherent landscape.

This is probably why I refrained from using large symbolic bridges on the layout. Most of them are diminutive, more akind to culvert than real bridges. That way, they don’t disrupt the scenery but offer just enough topographic variations so we feel the railway was built for real in the landscape. The only large bridge on the layout is located at the end of the line, in Clermont. But that’s okay because is role in the layout is important in marking ostensibly you reached the end of steel, the final destination, the “valley”, the large river that is the main reason it was worth to build a paper mill and a railway up there. That bridge acts just like the arrival line in a marathon. In the same vein, the scenic device that will hide the closet staging area will act as a depart line.

I’m particularly aware this theory will work differently on heavy industrial or urban layouts. But I feel it is an important factor in scene balance. On our layout, industries are built as closely as possible to full size. Donohue is about 10 feet long, Dominion Textile covers about 7 feet and Ciment St-Laurent eats up more than 15 feet. Having a good ratio of generic trackage between locations is the only way to ensure these large buildings won’t dwarf the layout significantly.

This is also the main reason why I’m not eager to fully model Pointe-au-Pic wharf or to add any other industry, even if I want it. I prefer to put my effort on realistic industries than multiply unrelated vignette scenes. This is also easier to handle from a structure building standpoint. It helps me focus my efforts and energy toward a few selected goals.

And don’t be discouraged by that entire ludicrous model railroading blabbering. The next months will be spent building scenery upon these concepts. Images will tell us if it works or not!

Monday, March 23, 2015

Pointe-au-Pic in 3D

About one year ago, we moved on in our choice to model a more recent era (early 80s) and try to do a decent job at reproducing key features of CN Murray Bay Subdivision between Quebec City and Clermont. Looking back at what we have accomplished in only one year is enough to convince me it was the right choice for many reasons.

Having reduced our spectrum, we now have a better focus on what require our efforts. At first, cutting back a lot of trackage was received with lots of scepticism from Jérôme. But honestly, when I see him switch the layout once per week, I’m convinced he find more fun for simpler but more prototypical trackage. It is now evident he’s taking more time to do each task, wanting to perform them as best as he can.

Another key element is my own motivation which was quite low twelve months ago. The lack of focus and realism really bothered me. I can accept compromise, but if I feel they will yield valuable results. There was none back then. The same can be said of Louis-Marie whom motivation into this project sparked in the recent months.

I know many local railfans thought it was idiotic move that would impede operation and fun. But let’s face it, we do have more fun right now. Better, going our own pace is now starting to pay off as scenery is covering the bare layout. Both Jérôme and Louis-Marie now take a lot of pride to see long consist running on single track mainline. All that wouldn’t have been possible in 2013.

Sure, not everything is positive. If it was possible, I would rebuild the entire benchwork to stronger standards. We were lazy and tried to recycle everything we could from the old layout. Not a wise choice in the long term. We will have to address some issues over the time, but at least we are well aware of that and ready to take proactive measures.

The peninsula was the reason were completely changed our approach and era, yet, it is still the weak link in the chain. So far, the idea to move the furnace someday makes more sense to me. This is a huge endeavour, but the prospects are really enthralling.

I made a quick SketchUp 3D model of this new approach to the peninsula. So far, it is promising. I feared scenes would make the layout look cluttered, but in fact, they look more naturally spaced than before.

Pointe-au-Pic scene with the houses nested between the track and cliff find their place and offer a nice background to trains. The station building also acts as a gateway where you know you leave the mainline and enter industrial grounds over the bridge. 

The longer run along the river also gives the impression the train is truly traveling distance before reaching its goal.

This is true in Pointe-au-Pic, but also in Montmorency. The longer shelf there helps to reproduce the Dominion Textile at almost full size. It ceases to be a generic industrial backdrop and develop as a truly huge plant that is a valuable rail customer.

It is also possible to make the plant wider, which real enhance the appreciation of the structure. Lance Mindheim always stress how higher buildings must be several inches wide to looks decent on a layout and I must admit he’s right on that.

Now, will we move that path of rebuilding the peninsula? I don’t know. Until then, D’Estimauville and Villeneuve have priority. When they will be completed, it will be the good time to tackle this new challenge.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Sky Is The Limit

A talented ontarian modeller recently had the courage and willingness to share is concerns about the impact of double deck layout on scenery and photography. We talk a lot about level height and operation, but very little about the important aesthetical impact it can have on perception. His case is an interesting one to tackle a larger issue many people have or will face. It isn't limited to multi-deck layouts...

I'll be honest, I've never been a big fan of multi-deck layouts. I can understand how they maximize vertical space use, but they kill the impression of vast expanse of land. When I look at multi-deck layouts from the aisle, it's quite hard to appreciate the wonderful scenery that took years to plan and build. Everything end up sandwiched between two bulky layers of MDF. It makes the layout area nothing more than a residual space, not the main focus.

The ratio is about 1/3 scenery vs 2/3 fascia and the little actual layout we see is cropped. The only way to have a good sight is to look directly at a scene as if it was an aquarium. Many European small layouts use this framing method and it works well to hide the fact they are small by working as vignette. Not sure it does the trick when we are talking about basement-sized layouts. I only see lots of compromises for a very few advantages of longer mainline. The modeller also pointed out how working on the lower level is gonna be quite a tiresome task to not destroy the scenery.

Ominous skies over Ciment St-Laurent.

His main concern is about the impact on photography and the unsightly superior deck underframe. Using software to rectify the photographs works well, but unfortunately, it doesn't work in real time when looking and operating the layout, which is the main concern. This modeller is well known for is realistic scenery and perfect mise en scène of rolling stock. I feel sad to see this double decking stuff is making him have to compromise in an area he excels. The new double deck will help him create new great scenes, but the cost is almost sacrificing what made the original ones great.

Many ways can be done to attenuate the problem. But it won't resolve it totally. I've got the same problem with our club layout: in one room, the ceiling is as low as 17" over the railhead and I get the same photography issue less the undeframe. Honestly, I quickly grew fed up erasing ceiling tiles after a while and I only do this for a few select images I want to pimp up a little bit.

Limitation of a low ceiling over Maizerets

In the end, this modeller's photographs tell us something about the importance of sky. We tend to overlook that critical aspect too often. For us, it's just useless empty space, but in fact, I feel it truly defines a space and can modulate our perception of vastness. This is a key point in model railroading where selective compression and very limited horizontal space make us take a lot of shortcuts. If we are now cutting the sky, what is left than can carry the impression of distance? Once again, I think we go for the obvious and cherry pick what feels extraordinary. As if sky, which makes a huge portion of our visible horizon was mundane and not worth modelling to create a realistic space. Crop, crop, crop... now you're in a shoe box!

I'm quite curious to see how this resourceful modeller will work out this issue. I hope my critic won't offend him since it isn't my intent. I owe him a lot for encouraging me to pursue kitbashing and scratchbuilding. Two things who make my modelling efforts much more rewarding.

No sky limitation over Clermont. Makes the scene more realistic.

Oh, next time you plan a scene, keep in mind the larger the scene you want to photograph, the higher the sky should be. The same applies for long perspective shots which are harder to photoshop later. After all, modelling sky is probably the easiest scenery work you'll ever do!

If I Were Born In The 19th Century

When I was a kid, I always dreamed of living in the 19th century. To me, it was like a Garden of Eden. Everything looked better. Machinery was fancy, architecture elegant, people well dressed, it was cool. As I grew up, this idylic stance wore off as I learned more about that fascinating century. My gentleman farmer's dream vanished but I still have a great fondness for La Belle Époque.

Recently, I was curious to see what I would have looked if I have lived in that era. With the help of Photoshop, I was able to get a glimpse of myself as a railway entrepreneur. I suspect I could have been some low ranking manager for a regional railway company, probably overlooking buildings construction and such.

Historically in Quebec, most French Canadians would be unable to get better jobs in railways though they were generally considered as loyal and valuable workers. When laying track, foremen would prefer to keep them working on safer jobs that needed more accuracy. Unfortunately, that meant Italians, Chineses and other immigrants had to do the dirty job. No need to talk about the death toll. Even some 19th century CEO felt they had walked a thin line and didn't think it made any sense to consume humane lives at such a rate.

As an anecdote, a friend's great grand father used to work his lifetime for one of our big national carriers. He was well-known among the establishment and at some point, he was offered to get a far better managing job. There was only one condition, he had to enroll as a Freemason which he steadily refused as most French Canadians of the time would have done. He never moved up anymore in the company until retirement. Such were the times...

Scenery At Maizerets

It's been about 2 years, maybe more, since the last big scenery work on the layout. It was the peninsula and involved doing rock faces and riprap.

Now the new challenge is to scenic Maizerets between the staging area and D'Estimauville Avenue. The first step was to paint the track. A trusty can of Krylon Camouflage Brown did the job perfectly. Later, this brown coat of paint will be covered with different acrylic color variation to weather the ties. Rail side will be weathered with powders later on, after ballasting.

Cleaning the rail heads was done while paint was still fresh, yet, there's always a small paint film that stays on the metal. We used a block of MDF to clean that and make the rails shine. We found out it did a great job without scratching the metal. That's probably going to be a favorite method to use in the future. Unfortunately, we found out quickly Rapido's GMD1 have a different wheel geometry that pick up electricity from the side of the rail head.

Both GMD1 didn't perform well over the painted track while other locomotives ran just fine. So we had to clean the rail head interior side again. It took us two hours, involving two people, to clean about 15 feet of double track. Not a funny experience. We felt like North Korean laborers sanding down welded joints on Pyongyang's tramway using emery pad! Seriously, they really did that about then years ago!

When cleaning was done, it was time to work on the river bed. First, cork roadbed strips were used to make sand embankments inside the meanders according to the prototype. Then, using acrylic caulk, I sealed every little cracks I could find in the roabed. That is necessary to ensure diluted PVA and other liquid scenic material won't find their way under the layout, on the carpet. The riverbed was then completely painted a dark brown to hide the styrofoam blue hue.

Next step was to pour sifted river pebbles. They are actually real pebbles from Malbaie River gathered near Clermont bridge. They have the correct shape and color for this application. In Maizerets, the river bottom is full of round stones, some emerging from the waters and smaller ones covered the embankment where ducks gather.

Pebbles were poured over a layer of PVA glue. When I was satisfied with the rock material appearance, I wetted the rocks and sand with isopropyl alcohol then covered everything with a generous coat of diluted PVA.

Bridge structures were put back in place and we resumed operations right after.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Pointe-au-Pic Wharf

Félicia, a 1923 steam tugboat preserved in Charlevoix (Musée maritime de Saint-Joseph-de-la-Rive)

Pointe-au-Pic wharf is an interesting rail-marine feature in Charlevoix located a few miles southwest from La Malbaie. This is where the first ever steam locomotive was delivered in Charlevoix when Rodolphe Forget started to build the line. The original line linked the wharf to Clermont's pulp mill. Nowadays, the wharf is still used to export paper made in Clermont. Also, it was the quay where large steamships would bring tourists to famous Manoir Richelieu located just upon the cliff.

When Champlain explored the area in the early 18th century, he named gave the name La Malbaie because the bay there was to shallow to be used as a port. La Malbaie thus would translate as The Bad Bay in English. Later, the area was renamed Murray Bay to honor the first britannic governor after the Conquest in 1760. The nearest suitable place to locate a decent wharf was at Pointe-au-Pic where waters are deepers.

"L'Accalmie" - The last goélette preserved in Baie-Saint-Paul (Flickr)

The actual pier may be relatively small, but it can still serve quite large vessels. In the past, "goélettes" (schooners) were a staple on St. Lawrence River. Those ships did a lot of work, moving different bulk commodities like pulpwood, cement pipes and many others. Unfortunately, one of the last preserved in Charlevoix was lost in an arson earlier in 2015. A few years ago, many others were destroyed when a smoker had the very smart idea to throw away his cigarette inside a boat. Fortunately, three boats were saved from this disaster, including the famous St-André. There used to be one preserved on Côte-de-Beaupré... Guess what? It also burned to the ground during an arson! Nothing new under the sun they say.

Now, back on track, Pointe-au-Pic wharf as an interesting story. So far, photographs and maps helps us to identify three phases. The primitive structure date back to 1853 and was made of wood.

Wharf seen from the east.

The first real wharf, still preserved, was long and had a large shed for passengers and freight. A siding, facing east, ran along the pier's east side where freighters would be anchored.

Boxcars on the pier (Collection Roland Gagné, Musée de Charlevoix)

Many pictures of this old wharf can be see on Lise Lapointe's website. At some point, there was two sidings on the wharf. If you read French, there's many interesting historic notes about the wharf.

Later, sometime during the 1960s or 1970s, a new pier was built west to the old one. A new modern warehouse was added and track was relocated on the west side. The track was nested between the warehouse and the river, just like the first iteration. The picture posted on Flickr by Lorence Toutant depict this new setting.

The last phase: long siding (

Finally, between 1983 and 1993, the second pier was again enlarged as the warehouse. This is the actual configuration. The siding was relocated on the north side of the warehouse, then later reduced in length. It no longer serves the warehouse.

The last phase: short siding (

For our purpose, it is easier to model the 1960s-1970s variation because of space requirements and modelling era.

Learning To Refrain Your Ambitions

The most dangerous thing about model railroading is overreaching. More than often, we think we need every detail from the prototype to ensure we get the right sense of the place and the scne is recognizeable. But just like a TV series scenario, a movie or theatre, most of the time, we only need to give enough hints to convey the core message.

Yesterday, I took some time to check out if Pointe-au-Pic could be easily implemented on the layout. The answer is in the gray zone and I tried working out something with Jérôme.

First of all, we found out Rivière Malbaie's riverbed was too large. It looks quite funny in fact and unnatural. Also, the river bed is almost 2.5 inches lower than St. Lawrence river which is only a few feet apart. Makes absolutely no sense. If we place a wharf there, the discrepancy will look pretty bad. So it's a no-go.

Also, space is at premium. The wharf will look cramped between the peninsula ends and the river. So this leaves u with little leaway to implement a wharf scene. On the other hand, the idea of a small road along the track with cottages work perfectly to set the scene right. I guess you can't have anything you want.

So, as things are, it leaves us with little option. Actually, the peninsula is the oldest surviving part of the layout. Funnily, it's construction standards are better, but track engineering standards are subpar. Maximum radius is 22" which is quite insufficient. Nowadays, I consider mainline minimum should be at least 30" and 36" or 42" when possible. Anyway, the track is code 100 and will need to be replaced some day with code 83. It means most scenic elements will be destroyed in the process. No big deal, but not something you decide on the spot.

As things are, we can improve a little bit the peninsula by implementing a 30" radius curve. But that doesn't help us to make the scene farther apart and more realistic. The only way to reach a good compromise is to extend the peninsula enough to make things more believeable.

Everything would be fine if the furnace wasn't there. This device takes a lot of place in the wrong space. If it was removed, we could extend the peninsula enough to get a realistic wharf and a longer run along the St. Lawrence river, which is a key element of this particular prototype. Also, it would make enough room to optimize Dominion Textile scene with a possibility to add the iconic Montmorency River bridge that was almost built against the textile plant. Better, the plant itself can be expanded almost to its true lenght, which emphasize the feeling it is a major rail customer and not some gimmick.

Going the bold and easy way

Well, all that is almost pipe dream. Moving the furnace isn't a small endeavour you undertake only to get one small siding running along a diminutive regional wharf. In the event we would get the space, would it really be a wise choice? More room is always a Pandora box. As you can see, it was quite easy to fill every little corner with "prototypical" postcard scenes. They may look great together but do they really mesh well? Are they even required? Yesterday, it was evident the biggest problem with the layout is the lack of space were the train travel along non-descript common landscapes. In a word, the ORDINARY.

As modellers, we always want to model unique feature, sacrificing any space available to conversation pieces. If I look back at my proposed plan, I can see many pitfalls.

First, how to merge together Montmorency River and the small brick plant? In real life, there was effectively a brick plant located on the other bank, but you had to be on Orleans Island to see them together because of topographic features. Also, we have to decide if the scene behind the bridge is Montmorency Falls or the more tame landscape of St. Lawrence River. I do feel the scene would crumble. Too many things doesn't mesh together. Something has to go... Probably the bridge and maybe, the furnace, in this case, is useful to make an effective separation between alien scenes.

On the peninsula, Cap-Martin tunnel is a fun scene, it can even be modelled full scale since the prototype is about 200 feet long. However, is it required? On 90 miles, only 700 feet of tracks are tunnels. Is it that much a determining aspect of the line? I guess no. But a sinuous mainline nesting between cliffs and the river sure is. To be honest, with its proposed location, I feel the tunnel is neither a bad idea nor a great one. It fits the place and its location is similar to the real one, on a sharp and vicious cape. Is it also a logical scene divider to make people understand you are leaving Côte-de-Beaupré and now entering the heart of Charlevoix. And we have to be honest, a tunnel is a great way to hide a sharp curve like this one. I'm not sure we would be pleased to see passenger cars travel this place!

The wharf. Having an interface with the wharf is a neat idea. But do we need to model the wharf itself with the boats? We could easily, with little effort, only model the large expand of asphalt working as an intermodal pad to load ships. Anyway, in the modern era, a large warehouse was built there and most commodities were first stored there. It would be easier to get rid of the relative proximity of Clermont bridge and Pointe-au-Pic wharf, both located about 12 miles from each others.

Getting real and keeping only the essentials

As you can see in this streamlined version, most of our intentions are still intact yet they don't shout in your face there existence.   Everything is more subtile and blend together well. From my big schemes, only Cap-Martin survives intact and the reason is quite simple. It DOES have a purpose in telling the story of the layout. Among many other reasons, it tells us Murray Bay, Pointe-au-Pic and Clermont are part of the same valley system. That's enough for me. Think of it as Lynn River Valley on Trevor Marshall's Port Rowan layout a "scenic" scene divider.

Whatever the choice we make in the future, there's no doubt we will have to seriously think about how we will handle the new peninsula. Rebuilding for the sake of rebuilding the same thing doesn't make sense to me. We will have to find a balance between available space and the uncluttered feeling we want for our layout. However, the great thing about the human mind: it only needs a few recognizeable clues to perfectly picture an entire scene. We should try to work with this idea much more.

Rapido GMD1's Easter Eggs

Video game players are well aware of Easter eggs. These are hidden features - habitually unrelated to the game setting - planted by programmers. It can be anything, from ludicrous character's attire to funny gimmicks. However, you don't expect to find them is in model railroading.

Yesterday, I was playing with DCC features on my GMD1 when I selected CV14. What a surprise to hear the locomotive shoot a laser beam. I then continued with CV15, now I could clearly hear a missile destroying some unkown target. CV16 was a strange noise, akind to a fabulous monster roaring. Finally, CV17 was some dude talking about bullshit vessel commands.

I took my other GMD1, unit 1027, sounds were differents. And, the locomotive just warped... It was clear, since the beginning, these were Easter Eggs planted by some certifiable Star Trek nut. And it's not hard to find the culprit among Rapido's big bosses: Jason Shron himself.

I'm not alone to have found this funny feature on the DCC decoder. At some point, it could even be useful. Imagine there's some obstruction on the track, just shoot a laser beam and destroy it. The train in front of you is running late? Just warp your consist a few miles farther.

I'm just curious to see what will be the next thing Jason is planning to do with is next product. We don't, maybe he's the one to be surprised this time.

If you didn't find yet these feature, take the time to try those CV. I'm not 100%, but since my 2 GMD1s have different sound, I guess there could be many variations.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Restoring Old Boxcars - Part 2

 I applied the decals on one side of both cars. So far, so good. Nothing extraordinary, nothing 100% accurate, but I still feel they catch quite well the propotype feeling.

If everything goes accordingly, theyr should be ready to hit the rails by the end of the week end. The next big challenge will be to complete my RS18. Lorence and Denis' archives pictures really fired me up to do somethign about my MLW units.

Murray Bay Sub Archives Redefining The Peninsula

A rare shot of QRL&PCo #22 under steam. (Denis Fortier collection)

Today, while discussing with Denis Fortier – a well-known railfan from Charlevoix – told me recently about his new Facebook page. He published a large amount of photographs, most of them covering Murray Bay subdivision and QRL&PCo. I must stress most of them are inedited. It will be a tremendous source of information when time to do scenery comes.

La Malbaie Turntable, August 10th, 1956 (Denis Fortier collection)

I must admit this is starting to really convince me Pointe-au-Pic wharf should be investigated as a logical feature of our layout, both from an operation and scenic standpoint. I’m already working on a revised track plan. I think I’ll have to build a mockup model of the peninsula to see if this new idea works well with the already built layout. I wouldn’t like to overcrowd the scene with cluttered and unrealistic components. One thing is sure, adding the wharf doesn't add new trackage, which is a good thing. Also, this is an opportunity to install a prototypical passenger station (which existed there). Pointe-au-Pic is also a good location to model since it is a very narrow stretch of land at the feet of a cliff, which is exactly our peninsula setting.

What could be done with the peninsula...

Anyway, I know Jérôme loves rail-marine interface and that's a realistic way to add a prototypical one to the layout. Many goods were loaded there includind cement, pipes, paper, pulpwood and others.