Saturday, December 31, 2016

2016 Wrap Up

Today, I took some time to look back at the blog and see what was achieved during the last twelve months in model railroading. While 2016 was a weird and disruptive year in other aspect of our lives, I must confess that from a model railroading standpoint, I really felt I raised the bar. As a railway modeller, I no longer fear to experiment or tackle complex projects, I also learned to lower my expectations on some aspect of the hobby to ensure I can get results. This was a huge set back for me during so many years and now I can truly find some freedom. Better moving forward than sitting in the armchair and fearing failure.

Here I'll be reviewing what was accomplished over the course of 2016:


Among the biggest results of this year was how I finally found an answer how to use the peninsula. Leaving the prototype aside and working with the actual benchwork made things far easier while staying true with the sense of the place.

This is the first time I was able to model a scene following my principle of less is more and it paid off. In a matter of a few weeks I was able to build 3 realistic structures (a house, a feedmill and a dilapidated shed), which prooves it's better to keep things simple and strike for quality.

The track plan was also simplified as much as I could without impairing the operation potential. Jérôme worked out many operating sessions and no problem related to diminutive trackage ever materialized.


It was also the occasion to finally experiment true scenery. I kind of found my own style of doing scenery. It's very personnal and intuitive, partially inspired by Mike Confalone and my observation of nature over the last few years. I'm happy it received a positive welcome among fellow Canadian modellers.

D'Estimauville was the test bed and Clermont the large scale application of my new technics. I certainly see a lot of room for improvement and can't wait to do it. But before moving forward, I have to finalized once for all the printed photo backdrops which plays a huge part in setting the mood. I certainly took the hardest way when I decided to set the layout in early spring when leaves start to appear. Getting the color right isn't always fun, but at least the results are attractive.

I must also add we built our own static grass applicator, which is truly a good tool to have when you want to seriously do scenery work.

MLW M420 & other locomotives

I would have never thought this 15 year old project would finally see it's end. It sure took a lot of time, but I think it was OK because I didn't had the skills to make it good before. It was also one of these projects when you learn again and again that a model you put your soul into it is much more fun to operate than the nicest RTR model. Not that I hate RTR, far from it, but I prefer when my models have a little personal touch. It may be detailing, bashing or simply a good weathering.

I also started to work on 4 other MLW RS-18 to expand the fleet and permit us to operate in other decades. Sourcing part is also in progress for building a fleet of RSC-24. This will be my biggest locomotive challenge ever and it is only possible because other modellers like Chris Mears and Taylor Main did a wonderful job providing parts to make this possible.

Kitbashing rolling stock

A lot was accomplished this year. Many for another project (Erie Harlem Station). A lot of woodchip cars were put in service and I even completed a 3D model for a correct CN Transcona woodchip gondola. I do hope this model will find it's way in kit form so Canadian modellers can finally have a decent woodchip car available. A special thanks goes to Justin Babcock for provinding first hand information about these cars.


We started a lot of projects this year, but most aren't completed. Among them is working grade crossing signals. Louis-Marie made a special program which is ready to be put in action as soon as we build the signals. He had to work with extremely complex track arrangements to make it possible and realistic.

Louis-Marie also created a system for ambiant sounds. It's not complete yet, but so far it's promising. I hope we will be able to put it in service in 2017.

Also, a weighing station was added at Ciment St-Laurent which now provide more operation interest at the large plant.

Social media & the community

I generally focussed my energies on this blog and some old forum. I'm not the kind of guy seeking the crowd and I was happy with that. However, it quickly became apparent this year I couldn't even connect with other modellers and railfans living next door. It was quite awkward and I finally decided to interact a little bit more.

Some of you probably know I started to use Facebook groups to show our work. Though I still have that website for it's lack of archives and "m'as-tu vu" show off attitude, the advantages do exist for model railroaders. The most positive aspect is there is so many people there that when you talk about something or have a problem, it is almost certain someone has an answer. In that regard, I was pleased to be in contact with well-respected modellers with ease.

2016 also marked the first time I attended a model railroad show. It may sounds weird a guy involved in this hobby since his childhood never attended this kind of event, but yes, it's possible. It was nice to meet other modellers and their work in real. Trevor Marshall and the S Scale Workshop group made a  huge impression on me.

Thinking Out Loud series

This was the most imprevisible thing that happen this year. Born of necessity and boredom because the layout room was off limit for months because of home improvement work, that series helped me to crystalize my philosophy in model railroading. It's was a collection of impressions, of experiences learned the hard way and of observing others' work and philosophy.

Writing these articles made me realized what was essentiel in model railroading for me and many others that don't find solace in mindless collecting. While this series was motivated by a search of the perfect prototype for a specific space, it quickly went beyond that to the point I now have a very clear idea of what makes sense to me when I see a layout or want to create one. I still have many projects in my head about how I'd like to handle a future minimalistic layout. I tested a few ideas on Hedley-Junction, but that project is limited by outdated parameters fixed many years ago when we had very little idea of what we wanted to achieve.

Thinking Out Loud was also an excellent occasion to discuss ideas with other modellers working on very different projects but sharing common principles. I'd like to sincerely thank Simon Dunkley for his incredible insight. His generosity in sharing his own ideas and thoughts was and is still highly appreciated. I'm really happy to see that things we discussed and that I implement in Clermont this year are now the proof we weren't just discussing philosophical bullshit! Rick de Candido was also a driving force behind the series and analyzing his very personal take on model railroading really shown how thoughtful he has been and how appearance can be truly deceptive when you judge a layout by it's size! Finally, Trevor Marshall also provided very interesting ideas during our discussion at Exporail last summer. Many things we talked are still fresh in my mind and I do hope, someday, to put them in action.

When your hobby is fun...

Maybe the biggest discovery in 2016 was that model railroading was extremely fun. Every week, the three of us were eager to work on the layout. We had new challenges and seeing the scenery finally revealing the extent of what we could do made us proud of our achievements. We no longer were ashamed of our Plywood Central when visitors came to see the layout. It also seems our group now share a  common philosophy about what makes interesting model railroading. It was not the case one or two years ago. The goals are now clear and we agree on many points now. It helps make our efforts pay off. This wasn't achieved by trcikery, cheap compromise or force, but rather by experimenting the real thing first hand. Prooving that less trackage made for a more interesting layout could only happen by removing the track and setting trains. It could have backfired, but so far, everybody that operated the layout found the experience positive and nowadays, all people saying removing turnouts was a  real bad idea are now convinced we were right. In fact, during a recent discussion with another railfan this week, he expressed how he was tired of operating on large layouts full of tracks but lacking true purpose. I've heard that from many other young miniature trains enthusiasts recently and it seems a shift in paradigm is slowly but certainly occurring. What is weird is the fact people that loves big time operation are now advocating it! And I must stress they aren't layout builders, but simply operators... I find it extremely interesting and encouraging!

And 2017?

I won't list what I'd like to do... I sincerely don't care anymore at which pace the layout will progress. What I wish, and I know Louis-Marie and Jérôme think the same, is that we will continue to have fun in this hobby. In our crazy lives, this hobby is often the rare occasion to make things by ourselves, improve our skills and express ourselves by creating something meaningful with our hands. Meanwhile, I do hope documenting our endeavour was a pleasant experience to follow. Be sure all your comments are taken in account and always a push toward excellence for us.

In the name of Hedley-Junction crew, I wish you to find the same happiness in pursuing your long life passion for trains. This hobby never ceases to fascinate me and never gets old. May your passion keep yourself in high spirit for another year!


  1. Great recap - it has been a real pleasure finding your blog and getting to read posts through 2016.


    1. Thanks Greg! It's always a pleasure to see you hanging around! I wish you a Happy New Year!

  2. Thank you for the kind words, Matthieu. I am sure I did little more than provide a sounding board for you, but it is these words I would like to draw out:

    "Better moving forward than sitting in the armchair fearing failure."

    What a great way to put it.

    Best wishes for the New Year!


    1. As humble a sounding board can be, it is a great asset to push forward one's ideas.

      I'm looking forward to future discussions!

  3. Fantastic recap, Matthieu! I have really enjoyed reading your writings and watching you stretch to attain some really impressive goals this year. Very inspiring and I can't wait to see what you do in 2017 and beyond.

    1. Thanks Steve, it's always a pleasure to read your comments! I have many ideas for 2017 and maybe I'll have the chance to start working on a small layout as discussed last summer.