Sunday, August 30, 2015

Clermont: How You've Changed!

We layed track in Clermont yesterday using the new Shinohara 24"/20" radius curved turnout which end up to be a 24"/16.5" radius turnout in reality. Another reason why I don't have a lot of fondness toward Walthers. What's the point in not labelling products correctly? You'll see the west side of the siding is quite sharp. It's gonna be a restricted area to some material. I'm seriously thinking to commission a custom turnout with a 24"/21" radius to make this spot looks better and run better. But for the moment, it should do the work for a while. If you have recommandation about people building custom turnouts à la FastTrack, let me now.

The new siding can hold eleven 50ft cars which is one more than previously thought. Since we still use a few 40ft boxcars here and there, it means a 10 car trains with a caboose and 2 locos can be spotted there without problem. Exactly what we wanted.

The siding is installed on N scale cork to make it lower than the main track, like the prototype. For some reasons, it doesn't show well on camera. The new team track is lower and nailed directly on the benchwork.

The east curve toward the bridge is very broad and should work well to switch car. On the other hand, the west side is quite sharp at 24" and 22" radius. That a compromise I have to live with. Space is at premium and rebuilding the benchwork wouldn't have giving enough benefits to be worth doing. Anyway, this area will be "hidden" by the rock cut through the steep Cap-Brûlé cliff.

We tentatively spotted the old rotting boxcar at Clermont's west end. It's not definitive, but it gives a good idea. If we keep this setting, a speeder shed will be added.

Clermont's team track is also longer than first designed. Instead of 3 feet, it is now 5 feet long, which is far better. We will be able to store some MoW rolling stock while spotting cars.

Generally speaking, I'm quite satisfied with the scene. It looks broader than though and there's a good visual separation between scenes because of the severe S-curve. Scenery will be minimalist with one or two houses on the hill, a street and a dirt parking lot along the team track.

Operation: Special Train to Villeneuve

Before our building session yesterday, we played a little scenario involving limited rolling stock but enough to last at least a good 45 minutes.

Action start at D'Estimauville when a set of for cars are left by Limoilou switcher to be part of an extra train to Villeneuve. Cars include a grader on a flat car, an empty gondola and two empty cement boxcars to be loaded with bagged cement at CSL warehouse. 

Here's a close up of a breach of security as the grader isn't secured at all on the flat car. Will have to remedy to that someday!

Extra train will be pulled by a single GMD1. It should be enough for such a minimalist freight manifest.

A few minutes later, the train now has a caboose and is ready to leave D'Estimauville as soon as instructed by the dispatcher.

The extra train crosses D'Estimauville Avenue at 15mph even if it looks faster on the picture!

A few minutes later, our train arrives in Villeneuve, taking the siding and ready to start doing it's switching chores.

GMD1 performs various moves at the cement plant to spot the cars. It ends up many loaded cement cars are ready to be shipped on the upcoming Limoilou switcher run.

Limoilou switcher's GP9s are now ready to lead a 20 cars train to Quebec City while GMD1 still perform a few extra moves while spotting gypsum hoppers at the conveyor.

And here ends a typical working afternoon on CN Murray Bay Subvision in the early 1980s.

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Weathering Proto 2000 CN Double Door Boxcar

I purchased this car many years ago from a local store when it was heavily discounted. I didn't have use for a 50ft automobile boxcar, yet thought it could be useful in the future.

While reading Richard Yaremko's excellent Canadan Car Pictorial book series, I found out they were into lumber service in the 80s which could fit my prototype.

It didn't alter the model, a straight forward build, something I rarely do nowadays.

I decided to keep the weathering subtle. From my childhood in the 80s, I remember very few rust buckets. Cars were mainly faded, dull and slightly dirty. It was uncommon to see heavily weathered cars. I decided to go this way with this boxcar.

Weathering was essential done by airbrushing a thinned tan color to fade the car paint. It was followed with a thin wash of alcohol and India ink. Dirt was built up by applying several coats in specific areas, particularly the doors, the sill and the roof.

Trucks and wheels were painted a dark brown color and weathered with Dark Earth AIM weathering powder.

I have nothing against rust bucket, but I feel you need to keep a balance between newly built cars, in service cars and junk cars.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Kitbashing Bachmann 50ft Boxcars - Part 2

This small project is progressing smoothly after a short hiatus.

A fellow modeller was kind enough to send me various sets of old Beavercraft CN freight car decals. A few sets were in good shape but one was altered by water a long time ago. Fortunately, I was able to salvage enough lettering to complete the second car. A few missing letters were replaced with a Microscale set I had. Not a perfect match, but with some weathering, I should be able to hide this with some rust spots.

Before final assembly, I added 6 oz. of lead to each car to improve their performance. This is becoming a standard on the layout with boxcars around 9-11 oz. each. So far, it works fine with me.

Finally, the heating apparatus was scratchbuilt using various styrene sheets and styrene round shape. A new air reservoir from Accurail replace the old Bachmann one.

I still have a set of C-D-S dry transfer lettering to make a 40ft insulated boxcar. I think I have a suitable model on hand that could be painted and could do the job.

I don't know if I'll do more cheap CN boxcar conversion projects, but with the Canadian dollar taking the plunge, it's no longer advisable to buy +US$30 cars. I still have plenty of old Roundhouse 50ft boxcars that could be converted to NSC cars and I'm thinking about merging a Model Power 50ft boxcar with an Athearn 50ft mechanical reefer to get a decent CN stand in model. The good side of bad economy is that it push you forward to develop your creativity and skills.

Friday, August 21, 2015

Relaying track on the Peninsula

Hedley-Junction is moving toward the last track upgrade phase. Yesterday, we ripped off all remaining Atlas Code 100 track and started to implement new Peco Code 83 tracks. The returning loop is now part of history after more than a year of debate. It was no longer useful to operate the layout, so it met its demise.

Gluing tracks with white glue (PVA) was a wise move and made removing the old track and ballast a piece of cake. I soaked the track with water with a spray bottle and started to pull the track less than 5 minutes later. Removing the ballast was as easy and the cork roadbed is now as smooth as when installed many years ago.

I also started to fit my newly-built structures for Donohue. Sidings had to be relocated to fit the new buildings. I also replaced the right hand turnout on the runaround with a left handed one to free more space for structures. All in all, I much prefer the new track arrangement. Funny how slightly realigning a few tracks can change the perception of an area. At least, now we have a better vision of what Donohue will look.

On the other hand, Jérôme replaced track in behind the furnace. Only two lengths of flextracks, but what a pain to install them in a less than 4 inches wide space!

On a sad note, we won’t be able to use Peco curved turnout to build Clermont’s siding. At least, partially. Instead, we will have to rely on Shinohara curved turnouts. Not my favourite brand, but we have very little choice left since we decided to keep the peninsula dreaded 24 inches radius for many reason. Oh, well… I feel this is gonna be a challenge... and we thought relaying the peninsula would take maybe one evening!

We also tested a few locos that never ran on the layout and were kept in their boxes. First one was Atlas new S-2 in Canadian Pacific scheme. The new improved version is awesome, the sound is excellently Alco-ish and details are very fine. This one is going to be bashed into Donohue’s switcher.
The other locomotive is a sound-equipped Atlas C424 in wet noodle scheme. It is an excellent performer, but plague with serious pick up issues. That will have to be addressed because the model is almost useless. Once again, the sound decoder by LokSound performs quite well.

Next challenge? Complete Donohue structures, mainly the woodchip unloader by bashing lots of bits and parts. Also, Louis-Marie recently travelled on Murray Bay Sub and came to the conclusion he wants to redo his rock faces on the peninsula.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Donohue's Steel Warehouse - Part 1


 The steel warehouse is now in building phase. The structure was built with cardboard and Walthers modular sloped roof kits. I followed the prototype as much as I could but I had to reduce the depth from half. However, the lenght and details are correct.

It was a easy building to put together, only requiring about 4 hours. I only need to paint the it and it will be ready to put on the layout.

Donohue's Woodchip Unloader - Part 1

To complete Donohue's scene as soon as possible, I started building the missing industrial structures. The first one is the woodchip unloader, a very generic and simple steel structure.

I built it using thick cardboark and corrugated cardboard. Buildings with large openings like this one are always a challenge because they lack strong internal bracing and can warp easily. It happened, but I have a way to fight back when I'll put the structure on the layout.

Since the building is wide open, I decided to add some structural members to give it some details. Trusses are made out of cardboard while the vertical columns are Rix highway overpass steel girder cut in half. They will be painted baby blue like the prototype in Clermont.

 I also started to weather the structure. I think Krylon camouflage beige is an excellent base to represent concrete. Plain grey doesn't do the job. And you can lighten the beige with various washes if you think it's too dark.

The hardest part will be to scratchuilt the intricate steel structure outside the building. It is fairly complex with staircase. I'll probably take some artistic license on this one!

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Updated Track Plan

Here's the updated track plan with peninsula and Dominion Textile recent modifications. Domtex's warehouse was enlarged to serve three 50ft boxcars instead of two according to a suggestion by Jérôme.

I also updated Donohue unloading area to reflect our actual operation practices. So far, the warehouse and woodchip unloader are built. Another warehouse and a dilapited shed are to be built as soon as possible.

Friday, August 14, 2015

The First Idea Is The Good One

As we move forward toward completing Charlevoix trackage while reshaping the peninsula, the time has come to confront some initial concepts with reality. Yes, scene composition is one of the most tricky thing out there. Most of the time, we think a 100% faithful to the original prototype scene will is the best way to get 100% of the locale flavour. So false! In that respect, browsing through Troels Kirk's amazing On3 Coast Line RailRoad layout was a real eye opener. What he does is heavily proto-freelanced, many things would make the most discerning modeller suspicious and still, the results is amazing because extra care is taken to insure scene composition is coherent.

The funny thing is that a year and half ago, it was redefining the exact same area that sparked the brought idea to model more faithfully Murray Bay Subdivision, which I consider was an excellent move forward in term of quality and coherence, but also from an operation standpoint. I’m always surprised to see Jérôme operate the layout at every meeting. He will build a train at Donohue then work on the layout or repair some cars and locomotives. Later, he come back to the layout and switches a few industries. That speaks for itself, the layout concept works fine and FITS our needs.

Original Concept

The idea to model Murray Bay Sub came as I was building a generic industry mock up in a corner. A few minutes later, the heteroclite parts and buildings came out as a coherent and visually interesting  turn-of-the-century industrial complex reminiscent of Dominion Textile plant at Montmorency Falls.
As the layout design progress, I decided to reproduce the plant more faithfully. With pictures and old maps, I recreated a more prototypical plant. To be exact, I ended up with a very long plain brick wall along the wall. No more was the fancy L-shaped original fantasy factory that initiated the idea. But as the concept was closer to the prototype, it was becoming drab and without personality. To be honest, nobody who have visual memories of that iconic plant could recognize the model prototype!

Original Concept

In fact, Dominion Textile was known for its particular architectural features that put it apart from other similar complex. All those features could only be seen from the roadside, not the track side. It included highly decorative Italianate staircases, many elevator towers, a detached office building, small clapboard directors’ houses and a huge boiler house.

Original Concept

My original idea had all those features, making it an instantly recognizable building even if quite far from the geographic reality. The new concept lacks every one of them! Worst, the relation with the topographic landscape is clumsy and unbelievable. I prefer my original concept idea which structured coherent topographic transitions from mountains and the powerhouse ruins blending with the mill and merging into the plain until reaching the passenger station hiding the tunnel behind the furnace.

Second concept: poor use of 3D space

Also, by building a long building with many car spots, I was under the impression it would give more operation opportunities. In fact, it doesn’t. To be honest, Dominion Textile was on the verge of dying by 1985. Only raw materials came from the rail, all finished goods were trucked. Rail traffic was regular, but not very high. It means, only the cotton warehouse is required on the layout.

Second concept: not bad, but not inspiring

So here I am being puzzled how an unprototypical mockup is closer to reality than a servile exact copy! I remember when Trevor Marshall gave some thoughts about rethinkingis St. Williams scene to be closer to the real thing. Sure, the prototype has some very interesting features, but as Trevor explained, it would be hard to reproduce it at full scale. His actual setting is quite creative, but it is coherent, works well and have all the characteristic features needed to make it a believable part of Port Rowan area. I come to the same conclusion with Dominion Textile. The best concept is far from reality, but it is the one that creates the most believable scenic vignette for the layout. When you analyse my first concept, you find out only 1/6th of the structure is modelled. But the scene composition makes you believe there's much more behind the facades than seen from the track.

I prefer an incorrect scene that screams M-O-N-T-M-O-R-E-N-C-Y than a correct generic and boring scene. Also, as you can see, the “incorrect” concept better uses the ingrate benchwork shape and creates a realistic illusion of depth. Flat structures on walsl will always have serious limitations, mainly their inaptitude to compose scenes with depth.

Lesson of the day? I should have listened to my late maternal grandmother’s favourite saying: “The first idea is always the good one.”

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Half Year Assessment

I recently stumbled upon my “Goals for 2019” blog entry and decided to do a follow up to see if I strayed from my original objectives.

  • Install working grade crossing signals in Villeneuve
It didn’t happen. This is mainly because we are still debating about which detection system to implement. We are also unsure about which signal brand to use and Walthers 60s cantilevered signals were out of stock back then. I’d say this isn’t a priority right now.
  • Complete scenery in some area (more likely to be Brique Citadelle)
Far to be complete, but we did a decent job at adding scenery in Maizerets. Unfortunately, the early spring leafless trees concept didn’t work that well and photo backdrop in Maizerets is far to be exceeding our expectation. There’s talk about moving the season later in May when trees have leaves. Leaves are better at hiding seams and perspective problem than leafless ones. Also, avenue D’Estimauville backdrop isn’t easy to tackle. It’s hard to get a good road perspective.working when vegetation is scarce. I’ll have to rethink this area. By the way, no scenery work occurred at Brique Citadelle.
  • Build railcar drawers to store cars and enable us to stage trains
Louis-Marie did an outstanding job. The storage cabinet is first class and does a terrific job at storing and sorting cars and locomotives between operation sessions.
  • Paint and detail a set of kitbashed Atlas RS18 in CN scheme
Nothing really happened. Two Atlas locos are now DCC-equipped with sound. The main reason was that I couldn’t find intercooler grill parts. I tried casting them myself but it was an utter failure. Finally, I found out Chris Mears made 3D parts available on Shapeways. I ordered them so the project can go forward. Maybe I’ll build a third RS18, I have enough Atlas model to do so. Models will be painted in the old Wet Noodle scheme.
  • Kitbash several 40ft roofless boxcars into old CN woodchip gondolas
This is probably my most successful goal of the year. I kitbashed 10 boxcars, painted and weathered them. Earlier, I complained about the lack of information, but George Dutka came to the rescue with impressive pictures from the past to work with. It was a fun project that proved me it was possible to do many cars at once and get them done at a fast pace. They are now a staple during layout operation. Only my 3D printed woodchip gondola needs to be completed.
We also did unexpected stuff including enlarging the peninsula. Finally, a lot of kitbashing, painting and weathering brought many unexpected cars to the layout.
If there was a single goal to reach for 2015’s second half, it would be to move forward with Donohue and add some scenery there.