isn’t exactly the end of the year, there is very little time left to undertake
any significant task on the layout at this point. As always, even if I didn’t
have any expectations, our output wasn’t as impressive as I thought. Most of us
were quite busy all over the year, which explained why we met more infrequently
than usually. Also, and I’m to blame, my tendency to overthink every minor
detail once again kicked back… but at least, I think I managed it better than
layout itself, progresses were slow but nevertheless significant. Ballasting
and starting scenery in Villeneuve certainly improved the overall project and
freed us from the Plywood Central syndrome. Experimenting with new ways of
painting, weathering and ballasting track was also an excellent positive
experiment. Once again, it proved us it was worth our time. Nothing was rushed
and the results show off: it doesn’t look likes plastic. I still can see
improvement in the future, but the foundation work is sound.
In term of
structures, 2017 was sincerely underwhelming. I wished the cement plant would
be done by Christmas, but alas, it is now a 2018 project. Designing this
structure is extremely complex. It could be done fast and dirty, however take
in account details, accessibility issues and warping add an extra level of
difficulty. Nevertheless, I almost found the solution and will likely implement
it as soon as possible.
layout design perspective, I also ventured into the other extreme, trying to
oversimplify D’Estimauville for the sake of realism. As Simon Dunkley once cautioned
me, it was a slippery road that was as fallacious as cramping out the place.
The danger became evident when I reach the point scenes could no longer be
recognized because they lost their personality. Like salt in a recipe, it was a
matter of bringing out the taste. No salt would have simply meant a tasteless
project devoid of interest. For this, I’m really glad Simon had the courage to
clearly warn me. Not that it stopped me trying, but when I failed, I knew why
and his words in my mind I was able to figure out what went wrong. You can’t
learn without breaking a few eggs. Flattery wouldn’t have been any good for me.
And this anecdote once again proved my late grandmother’s right: “the first
idea is always the right one”. Looking back at my initial design, it was clear
scenic elements were carefully balanced, thus I went back there.
In terms of
layout identity, I was surprised to discover a manufacturer would help make
this project even better and closer to my childhood memories. Indeed, when
Rapido announced their 3800ft cylindrical hoppers, it enabled us to build a
correct fleet of cars to serve the cement plant. Before that, it was a matter
of using stand-ins or older prototypes that didn’t fit the era. Finally, the
future release of SW1200RS locomotives will enable us to replicate Chemin de
fer du Québec’s three switchers that used to serve the line during a decade
starting in 1993. Yes, the project shifted yet again in era, but it now reached
a stable spot. CFC operations are well-documented and known. Their operation
practices and train routes are also easier to implement on our layout. All in
all, it simplifies the project around its core identity elements. Certainly we
won’t drop completely CN trains, but focussing on CFC clear off the road from
many unwanted issues. And also, we also reached the point we have acquired
every piece of rolling stock required to run the layout… Hard to believe, but
yes we did.
rolling stock, we learned the hard way this year to standardize the fleet
(weight, couplers, wheels, etc.). We used to be negligent fellows, but at some
point you hit a wall when you want smooth operation. Over the last few months,
we had to teach us simple but efficient practices to make sure we could track
down every bug. It’s not complete, but we can already see the positive results.
2018 will be the year the new Proto Throttle developed by Scott Thornton and
his friends of Iowa Scale Engineering will be released. This new product is
promising and the idea of coupling it with our NCE DCC system and Rapido SW1200RS
could be extremely interesting. Our realistic approach to railroading and our
track plan seems perfectly suited to such a ground breaking technological
advance. Oh, and one’s gotta love the throttle’s vintage design.
2017 was also another interesting year for my other project Harlem Station. It
allowed me to go back to building and bashing freight cars. I’ve learned a lot,
improved my skills and took a strong commitment into freight car accuracy. I’m
not river counter, but when you start understanding how real things are built
and work, you naturally care about details other wouldn’t. Discovering the
history of boxcar development between the early 1900s and the early 1950s was
the end of the day, I consider the year was extremely positive in term of model
railroading. I also tried to have an active presence on social media, but I
must admit I’m not a fan. I loved the
interaction with other fellow modellers, but I lack the regularity to take
advantage of that. I’m a solitary man and it hardly fits my laid back pace. Blogs,
forums and emails are still my favorite places to share and learn. Places where
it is possible to hold a detailed discussion with a fellow modeller, archive it
and revisit it from time to time. In the long run, instant gratification doesn’t
hold long before it wears off. I hope people who wonder why I’m no longer
following Facebook groups regularly can understand I’m hardly motivated using
that channel. To me, model railroading has always been a “monastic” endeavour.
A time of introspection and betterment. I’m less attracted by the idea of
making friends for the sake of filling my social life than having a few deep
discussions with like-minded folks. To each his own… this hobby has certainly
variety for ever kind of people, which is great!
I hope your
own year was also a positive experience whatever your progress. 2017 was a
gloomy year and finding solace in a positive and constructive hobby is a
blessing. I certainly wish every model railroaders and other hobbyist are aware
their passion is much more than a childish caprice. Never forget people without
hobbies or personal endeavours are sad and often prone to distress. Consider
your passion has a great gift, because your still is still alive and sparkling!