Monday, June 26, 2017

Rapido GMD SW1200RS vs Hedley Junction

Well, Rapido decided to take us by surprise announcing a new HO GMD SW1200RS model... Sure, this new product announcement generates its share of hype and ethic questions, but don't count on me to thread that field of mines.

Now possible in HO?

Far to jump on the bandwagon, I must admit the SW1200RS is a key element in the history of Murray Bay Sudvision, particularly when the line was sold to Chemins de fer du Québec and became known as Chemin de fer de Charlevoix (CFQ). Should I note that most railfans still call the line "Le Charlevoix", even if I feel this moniker is quite recent and erase the CN and QRL&PCo heritage. Being born on Côte-de-Beaupré, maybe I feel bad seeing my birthplace's railway being plastered with the name of a remote neighboring area. Oh! Nostalgia.

That said, I must confess the team behing Hedley Junction often discussed quite seriously the possibility to simply model the early days of CFQ back in 1992-1993 when the black and yellow trio of SW1200RS made its dramatic appearance. Yes, the lost of zebra painted M420s was a real shock for many of us... Truth to be told, as a kid I held for a few years the belief CN locomotives would return unaware the line was no longer a federal property. That said, they idea to model CFQ goes back to many years ago, but that could only be possible if suitable models would be available. Brass and kitbashes were out of questions for many reasons. Now, we have a more definite answer to that problem and it raise its share of questions.

Why would we be tempted to move in the early 1990s when we have already invested a lot of effort in the 1980s? Well, let's face it, this project started in the 50s, then moved in the early 1960s, later the mid-1970, the early 1980s and now somewhere in 1985-1987. Would moving up to the 1990s would hurt the overall project? Most readers know how much I'm tired of doubting my projects!

The short answer is no. The actual layout depicts the subdivision as it was in the mid 1980s. However, big changes and track modifications didn't occur before the late 1990s and early 2000s when customers started to die off and sidings were removed. Thus, from a scenic point of view, we are spot on.

From an operating point of view, Dominion Textile was still standing though it had closed by 1985. Ciment St-Laurent shifted from coal to oil (now trucked) and didn't seem to receive gypsum by open hoppers anymore (that question will have to be answered, I wouldn't be surprised it was shipped from the Maritimes to Quebec City then trucked to the plant). Only the cement was hauled by rail at that time.

On the other hand, the paper and lumber trades were doing fine. CFQ attracted a lot of business by using Wieland as a transloading facility for finished lumber often ship from Côte-Nord. At that time everything moved on bulkhead flatcars and centerbeam cars, with some Railbox-type boxcars.

As you can see, in a matter of a few years, a lot of diversity was lost in term of railcars. And God we know model railroaders love to have any kind of cars on their layout. Sure, it's our layout and we could do what we want (which is a rule I've never been fond of) and fudge things up (we are already by keeping the coal and gypsum while it ended in the early 1980s), but that wouldn't feel like the real thing. We should also note CFQ never used caboose which take out a big chunk of nostalgia out of the project.

Thus, there is a big choice in front of us: a typical CN subdivision with all the goodies or a CFQ branchline with less stuff. It's not an easy choice.

However, we noted not long ago that our memories of the 1980s are quite imprecise. My interaction with trains was scarce, from afar at best. I recall details and general impression but I would struggle in certain areas. In contrast, we all knew well the CFQ from its inception up to its untimely demise. CN planted the seed, but I grew up with CFQ. Even if my nostalgia for CN was intense (and still is), my first serious diesel kitbashing and repainting project was a pair of CFQ SW1200RS back in high school. I still have these engines which I painted in CN colors when I found out the hobby shop clerk sold me unsuitable models (Athearn SW7). As for Jérôme, being younger, his memories of the 1990s are more vivid while he remember almost nothing from the 1980s.

Would I make the move and switch eras? I certainly don't know at this point, but I'm able to see some merit in that idea, But as I noted, the layout would remain the same so I think sticking with 1985 is the right choice since running the CFQ only require to not serve Dominion Textile and keep the open hopper fleet in the drawer.

So, after talking for the last weeks about focusing our efforts and framing our project, I have to sit down and think about it without rush. Will I model CFQ SW1200RS independantly. Probably, it's on my wishlist since the late 1990s...

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