Sunday, September 30, 2018

Rebuilding Clermont - A Follow Up

Yesterday evening was the perfect moment to put our plans to execution. With the help of Jérôme, several sections of the layout were rebuild, cork roadbed installed and track geometry refined to improve operation reliability and long term performance. Many issues were found during the process, which took us an additional hour to solve. Given we started working at 18:30 and turned off the lights almost at midnight, we can affirm it was an extremely productive session. To make sure Clermont will be back in service as soon as possible, we will take advantage of Jérôme's last vacation week and work on the layout next Monday, Wednesday and Friday. By the end of the week, everything should be functional and wired. Here's a summary of what we did last night...

The first step was to replace several sections of fiberboard that were altered by scenery and didn't provide an even surface for track laying. Since the new yard will be larger than the original mainline, it was also the only practical solution to get rid of too many joint between board. Once firmly secured on the benchwork, a cardboard template was used to draw the centerlines.

After a good discussion, it was decided to start tracing from the yard east end since it is were existing tracks and turnouts are located.

Working from that end, the new 30" radius exterior siding track was located, then the mainline and interior siding. Using a flexible stick, we connected the dots and made sure our curves had nice easements to offer more realistic and reliable transitions.

This new turnout is our new reference point.

The yard west end prior to a massive rebuild.
At the yard west end (toward Wieland), we found out the original fiberboard roadbed was completely out of alignement on a 4 feet long stretch. At some point, elevation could vary up to more than 1/8" over less than 4 inches! After throughout verification, it became evident the benchwork was perfectly level, but the fiberboard had been sanded and modified some many times since the peninsula original construction in 2011 that it was no longer salvageable. Everything was trashed and a new roadbed was built.

It seems the original roadbed was built on July 28th and 28th, 2011...

The next big question to answer was how to find a definitive track geometry for Wieland. Jérôme made quite a compelling point the wye leg should accommodate three 72' centerbeam flatcars. My initial design called for three 52' bulkhead flatcars. After fiddling for a while with track, it was evident we could accommodate that particular demand by pushing the turnout a few inches toward the furnace room. It did work and didn't had any significant impact on the small Reynolds spur. Also, on a positive note, it meant we can now have a 36" radius mainline with a sweeping easement for better operation. Quite useful given it is where our longest cars will be switched.

The wye leg can now hold 3 centerbeam cars
Reynolds looks fine for what it is. Major "wall surgery" is expected in this area.
When all the benchwork was repaired and track alignment set, we started laying the main line cork roadbed. It didn't take that much time and we had even time to temporary lay some flextrack to see how cars would perform in the new yard.

The new west end yard throat

The same area full of cars
From that moment, we now had an idea of how things would look in the future. And to be honest, we were more than pleased. Certainly, the new yard adds a lot of track density, which isn't something I'm generally advocating for. But in this particular case, the yard was a key element to operation and not just a fancy caprice. It was needed to perform the task and now we will have all the freedom required to do it.

The other yard end vanishes behind the hill creating an illusion of vastness

From a visual point of view, the results are stunning. Not only having the yard wraps around the peninsula takes advantage of an ingrate geometry, but it also makes the scenes seem larger. When you are standing in Clermont, you see the tracks and cars disappearing behind the hill with no idea of where it will end. This give the impression the yard is quite long and create a visual illusion that expands what you perceive. Interesting because we didn't enlarge the benchwork... It should be streed that illusion didn't work before.

It also should be noted that since the yard can now hold a lot of cars, it gives the peninsula a very "railroady" look. It doesn't feel like a model, but you really sense a lot of things happen here and that the huge paper mill on the other side of the river must be feeded with cars... lots of cars. From that point of view, it feels like our layout is now about moving heavy tonnage on the rails, rather than a cutesy branchline. We've upgraded from a parochial vision to an industrial one... just like the prototype.

Another interesting point is the west end yard throat. If you recall my allegory of layout planning as a song, I'm happy to report it indeed works! When you are in front of the turnouts, you are indeed separated from the other scenes and feel completely immersed in what you do. This is also reinforced by the fact this new operation spot is located in an alcove instead of being in the middle of a peninsula.

The west end yard throat

We also discussed the possibility to model the wye east leg near the electrical panel or even add the propane (LPG) dealer siding. It would have been cool ideas, but the more we tried to fit them together, the less convincing the scenes became. I was aware of that since the initial planning steps, but it was interesting to try these ideas in real and see why they didn't work that well. Once again less is more, and this will be less work for us!

Finally, from a very technical point of view, the new yard can now hold up to sixteen 50ft boxcars per track. This will be more than enough to stage real trains without compromise.

Saturday, September 29, 2018

MLW RS18 Madness - Part 17

The RS18u is progressing well. Over the last few weeks, a good coat of faded Action Red was applied over the shell... then I found out installing the handrails before priming was a nightmare when the time came to mask and airbrush the black. Fortunately, with some patience and care, the result was as good as if I did it prior to installing the handrail. Lesson learned, but at least not at a far to high cost.

Ready for decals - Look how black parts are slightly weathered

Interestingly enough, I decided to continue my military weathering approach. Some slight fading and color variations were applied over the initial coat of Red Action. the reason is simple, I don't want to contaminate the white lettering with orangish colors at this point. Also, when I applied the black, I didn't airbrush a thick coat but rather several light passes to build up the color. Indeed, on the prototype it is evident the black paint was badly fading and eroding, making the red paint under neat show through. I prefered to do this effect right now rather than wait and add it. This way, I know my weathering is closer to the real effect.

Thread plate - A detail I'm glad to have added

Another thing I did was to mix some roof brown and red oxide with black paint to create a kind of faded black that I then lightly applied over the nose, the plows and pilots. Once again, I could do this later when the model is decaled, but slowly building the effect from step one is more natural to me.Later, oil paints, panpastel and fading will help to blend everything together.

Meanwhile, I've reached the point I can now spray a coat of Micro Gloss and start applying the decals. This will be done in several steps to recreate the patch NBEC put on "CP" when they took ownership of this locomotive. Once done, missing grabirons, headlights, grabirons, brakewheel and rear numberboards will be added. Then, the big fun will begin!

Friday, September 28, 2018

Rebuilding Clermont & Learning From Past Experiments

Rebuilding Clermont was a last night priority and it quickly became obvious we had to scrap most tracks in Clermont up to the grade crossing to ensure a good track alignment. Some scenery we thought we could salvage had to be removed too.

The scene before destruction
It could be seen as a step backward but in reality, it was among my first serious scenery attempts with this layout and I was far to be impressed with how I painted and ballasted the tracks. As far as I was satisfied with my work at the time and got a lot of good words from many modellers, it was time to upgrade my game.

Solid brown ties muddied with clay contamination, not very CFC looking.

A solid dark brown made the ties very unrealistic and the use of a very powdery ballast mixed with sand gave the illusion the area was sinking in a mud hole, which wasn't the case. If I was trying to model bad secondary trackage, it would have been great. But it wasn't the case.

Clermont yard in 2014 - Wasn't in regular operation since 2008

Typical ballast and tie color on CFC with vegetation growth.

Clemont was always ballasted with quite chunky granite in a similar fashion to what I did with Villeneuve. Even in time of neglect, the rail line didn't look that bad. I'm eager to remake the scene in a more convincing way.

Ballast & painted ties in Villeneuve (2017).

We also discussed a lot about track radius. Originally, the peninsula mainline had a 24 inches radius which was always quite problematic during operation and didn't very convincing. We aren't really interested in enlarging the peninsula benchwork, however, it was found we could bump up the radius to almost 30 inches, which is much more acceptable. Not perfect for 72' centerbeam flatcars or 61' woodchip gondolas, but certainly better. Now, the radii of Clermont's three tracks will be about 30", 28" and 26". It already looks better.

Trying to fit a 30" radius template

Also, some shady benchwork construction techniques were used back in the days. It wasn't dramatic, but we will upgrade it a little bit with newer material. At some point, it was a fiberboard patchwork testifying of years of modifications.

Shady benchwork techniques?

We can't be sure how much time it will require to get tracks and wiring done, but we believe about 3 work sessions should be enough to do most work and reconnect the railroad.If by mid-October trains can run, we will be more than happy. In the best case scenerio, I'd like to have the photo backdrop installed everywhere in Clermont room and track painted and ballasted. It is not unrealistic, but my health condition and various other things out of my control can throw a monkey wrench in the best laid plan. I'd be extremely happy if Clermont could be completed within next year. Giving most structures are now built and that we reduced the scope, most work will involve adding scenery and trees, which isn't exactly the most exhausting step in the process.

Our longest cars on a 30" radius curve

It must also be noted we will add operating devices including derails and maybe working switch stands to make our experience more immersive. Some testing will be required to convince other club members, but I believe it is worth a try.

Finally, we must not overlook some crucial preparatory work performed on the sideline by Jérôme: cleaning tracks from glue and ballast. He probably spend about 2 hours scrubbing flextrack with an old toothbrush!

Thursday, September 27, 2018

Bye Bye Montmorency, Welcome Wieland

It came to my mind I didn't have yet posted any pictures related to the partial reconstruction of Clermont.

Happily (maybe not so) destroying scenery

Work started on September 2nd with the removal of scenery, including the rip rap and tracks. The roadbed was enlarged to accommodate the new yard siding and turnouts.

As it was...

Removing the fascia

Removing benchwork extensions


Few days later, we removed several sections of benchwork that were added back when we wanted to model Montmorency. The improvement in terms of ergonomics can already be appreciated.

Testing track in Wieland

It is now time to relay tracks and start doing some mechanical and electrical work.

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Some More Hobby Room Thoughts

Trying to fit an island layout into a new room isn’t an easy task. No wonder this kind of design has lost favor of most modellers over the years. They quickly eat up space when you take into account decent aisles where an around the wall design would be much more compact. But reality is reality and Harlem Station is indeed an island design in real life. It couldn’t have been done otherwise.

Knowing that, I’ve started to look at my options and to better grasp the reality of the project, it was wise to set a few parameters that can’t be fiddled with. From the start, I decided to have aisles that would be about 42 inches wide. I know it is quite generous, but I’ve always felt the standard practice of 30” was a minimum rather than a recommendation. Operation is one thing, another is having enough space to work or build the layout… and to have enough space to contemplate our work. I see no point giving our best on a layout only to display it poorly.

Once I had to determine the layout and aisles footprint, I was ready to design the room. I know for sure I want an entire wall dedicated to my workbench, including a spray booth and a computer. I have an old desk about 60” long by 30” wide that serves me well for this purpose, so let’s consider we need a good 30” wide area for these things and add some more inches for the chair. Shelving and storage will be provided and several power outlets are required. Since the basement walls are stone masonry and can’t be hidden with new finishes, this modelling station should be located on a new interior wall to make my life easier with electrical wiring.

Another key aspect is the future Temiscouata Railway layout I’m planning to build in the future. This layout requires about 17 feet long to accurately replicate Connors, NB without any compression. This is a condition I’m not eager to sacrifice since I know longer believe compressing railway scenes when not required.

I have also some diomara ideas, but theses won’t require a lot of space and could be hanged on brackets over Temiscouata layout staging area.

A final key design element is that I have accumulated an extensive collection of rolling stock over the years and it is getting harder and harder to find a particular item among 300 or 400 boxes. If possible, I’d like to use the space under the Temiscouata layout as a storage area. It could be made of cupboard or shelving units where cars could be picked up easily. For Harlem Station, I’m thinking about using a small service table on caster to stage cars and store them under the layout.

Putting Things Together


Proposed hobby room layout

Architectural design, like any other design process, required a balance between technical requirements and aesthetics. Too often, we take a room and put a layout into it, not thinking how it will look. If Hedley Junction taught us a lesson, it’s that large aisle can truly make a layout stand out and that locating a nice scene on the peninsula, which grabs visitor’s attention when they cross the door step, is a mission statement in itself.

For my hobby room, I want the same thing. The layouts should command the area and be the main focal points. Modelling is an art and should be displayed as such. I particularly like the idea of Harlem Station standing in the middle of the room, basking in light and set up on a well-crafted support. Imagine a billiard table and you’ve got a got idea of what I have in mind. Some cozy, that focus your attention on the layout as if it was a game and where it is enjoyable to spend some quality time operating with friends.

As a backdrop to this, Temiscouata Railway can be seen on the exterior walls, creating a backdrop that wraps around Harlem Station. It would also be carefully lighted and supported by nicely finished storage units.

Now, think about the lighting. Depending on which task you are performing, you can turn on Harlem Station independently from Temiscouata, helping you to focus on what matters.

As a final touch, instead of creating a bland room, large windows will be installed in the new wall so the layout room isn’t simply a box, but rather an environment basking in light and that can breathe. Finishes will probably be painted wainscoting with trims and old colors similar to what was common in railway architecture. Not too fancy, just some character to give personality and warmth to room.

In my modelling life, I’ve seen many modellers that can be considered the best of their trade. Their work is exceptional and breath-taking, however, how many times were I completely flabbergasted to see my favorite work to be literally buried in the most unimaginable mess ever. On the other end of the spectrum, you’ll also find great layouts but display in an aseptic environment basked in monotone fluorescent lighting. A part of a layout success as a lot to do with how we display it, be it in terms of enjoyment, operation and construction.

Monday, September 24, 2018

CN Woodchip Gondola - A New Prototype

Hi folks! I'm glad to report that my CN woodchip gondola project is back on track. This time, I'm doing the 879000 series (the 1974-built variety) which will be 3D printed on Shapeways.

Having learned a lot from my earlier experiments with 878000 cars (1982-built CN Rail version), I'm able to produce a better model that will be easier to assemble but also far more accurate. In that regard, I want to salute the excellent field work Justin Babcock did in surveying a real car and providing accurate dimensions and a load of useful pictures. Thanks to him, every welded seams and a fairly accurate underframe will make this model much more interesting than my first version. Also, interior details inside the gondola will be visible.

I don't know exactly when the prototype will be ready, but about 75% is done and it could be completed at a steady pace. Decals will have to be drawn and printed to accompany these cars. I have some ideas...

On a positive note, I was extremely happy to discover Shapeways costs have lowered to the point these cars should cost you the same price as a quality freight car. If you had trucks, wheels, small details like grabs, brakewheel and decals, I expect something the $50 range, which is quite interesting for people wanting to build fleet. My goal is to create a model that will be easy to assemble and that can be further decorated according to the modeller's tastes and patience. Coupler pocket will accept Kadee couplers and S-2 Barber 100-ton trucks by Rapido were used to design the bolster. To have a good model ready for paint, one will only have to install a limited amount of grabirons and cement the brakewheel and a few ladders (probably Tichy ones to make our lives easier). Basic brake components will be provided and it is up to you to add the piping.

When car 879000 will be done, at some point I'll upgrade the 878000 3D models a little bit.

Sunday, September 23, 2018

If Villeneuve was Beaupré... Maybe Not!

Prologue: Sometimes it is good  to know when to move forward and change things, but it is also as good to design things, mock them up then realize their true potential or absence of... Many ideas are good on paper, but hardly survive a reality check. Beaupré is an interesting concept that I'm sure could work nicely, but here is the tale why I wouldn't push forward with this scheme at this point.

As the layout concept coalesces around Chemin de fer Charlevoix's tenure of Murray Bay Subdivision, a lot of questions arise. One of them, after analyzing in detail train movements is about the selection of locations. To be honest, it is not an easy task and I'm not alone in the boat.

Clermont has been taken care of and I won't go back. I'm satisfied of having taken the decision to scrap impressive scenery for the sake of coherence. Some stuff will have to be decided on the benchwork in regard to fine tuning the track plan, but so far, it works well and makes sense. A single location for a room seems to be a reasonable choice.

Beaupré in lieu of Villeneuve

You won't be surprised to know I tried to apply the same logic to Villeneuve. I do love the scene, it has a very railroady feel with the yard and the large cement plant, but I wanted to know if things could be more interesting if I modelled Beaupré instead. Thus came this idea I described in previous blog post about having a layout fully dedicated to newsprint traffic.

Ste. Anne River bridge mock up

One of the key point of this concept was having Ste. Anne River bridge as a focal point in the room separating the paper mill from the staging area. To make sure my idea was sound and safe, I decided to kitbash the bridge with Walthers components and see if it would work. The answer is a big... I don't know. It is harder to imagine this scene working that I thought... much harder. Also, the new town of Beaupré would be extremely minimalist in approach, with very little structures. It means the success of the layout would rely on carefully crafted backdrops, which can always be extremely tricky.

For the moment, I think it is safer to keep Villeneuve as it is and operate the layout as is, focussing our efforts on rebuilding Clermont to a satisfying level. While I don't close the door to Beaupré, it is better to take a few months, even years, to access what we have and play with it. A lot of efforts have been invested in creating Villeneuve and Maizerets so far and it would be a waste to not finish them. Operating Beaupré and pulling very long trains may be alluring, but we've got enough on our plate at this moment and we should fully take advantage of the new direction in Clermont first of all.

As for Villeneuve, Jérôme has been pushing forward to improve the staging area which has always been problematic. I don't know how exactly we will do it, but the goal would be to replicate how trains reversed and picked up cars before returning to Clermont. Given the half-hidden nature of this staging, things could get complicated quickly. We shall see in due time...

Meanwhile, so new rolling stock have been acquired using the money raised by selling surplus locomotives and cars. Still on the hunt for CN, IC and NOKL centerbeam cars.

Saturday, September 22, 2018

First Time Here?

Hedley Junction is a HO scale layout based on Quebec City Area historic CN Murray Bay subdivision and we hope this project will be as inspirational for you as it is for us.

A Prototype

Our layout is all about capturing branchline railroading in Eastern Canada during the late 80s. Built by three modellers, this HO layout is mainly dedicated to the Old Capital former CN Murray Bay Subdivision linking together Quebec City, Montmorency & Charlevoix Counties. We also share an interest in its former and later constituent railways including Canadian National Railway (CNR), Quebec Railway Light & Power Co. (QRL&PCo) and Chemin de fer Charlevoix (CFC). This line was initially built in 1889 to bring pilgrims to Sainte-Anne-de-Beaupré Basilica and gained prominence as an electric traction interurban service nicknamed “Le Chemin de fer de la Bonne sainte Anne” (Good St. Anne’s Railway) between 1900 and 1959.

For more information about the prototype history, click here.

A Project

The current layout project has been around since February 2006. With a focus on accurate depiction of Quebec City area railroading, the project slowly evolved from a 1950s rail-marine layout to a modern mid-1990/early 2000s prototypical rendition of Murray Bay Subdivision under Chemin de fer Charlevoix management.

The layout depicts still prosperous newsprint and cement industries and small lumber customers which are a staple of Canadian branchlines. It is all about realistic freight operations of carefully selected areas, performed at a leisure pace characterizing the railway as we had the chance to know it when freight traffic was still in service.

A Vision

Like any beginners in this hobby, we started with big dreams of a basement filling transition era rail empire and refined our understanding of railway modelling drastically by leaning toward a simpler but much more achieveable project.

In more than a decade, we came across many pitfalls that shaped our approach to railway modelling. Taking into account limitations due to resources, time and health, we decided to go forward with quality over quantity. Over the years, we came to understand operation and fun didn't equate with size but rather with your own attitude.

While the project isn’t quality museum, we pride ourselves in trying to depict realistically railway operations in Quebec City Area as much as we can. For us, compromises are inevitable, but they can easily be dealt with by not trying to overreach which is why only two towns are physically modelled. By focusing our efforts, we ensure we can strive for excellence while having quality time together in the process.

A Team

The original founding crew, still in active service since February 2006, is made of Louis-Marie Huot (Provincial Government Official), Matthieu Lachance (Architect, O.A.Q.) and Jérôme Langlois-Lavoie (real-life Locomotive Engineer). Many fellow "brakemen" assist the group on a very irregular basis.

A special thanks goes to the late Mr. Jean-Pierre Veilleux (†2016) who was a precious source of historic facts and a dedicated railfan since the early 50s onward that helped us understand better our prototype.

At a Glance

Sometimes, pictures convey feelings better than words...