Sunday, June 20, 2021

Extreme Weathering - CN CCF Snow Plow - Part 1

Snow plow CN 55550 at Wieland in 2017 (credit: Matthieu Lachance)

Most models are a matter of putting together standard parts, a good coat of paint, some decals and a subtle weathering job. And sometimes, you stumbled upon objects that completely throw your preconceptions by the window. In the case of Charlevoix Railway, it is the rusting hull of an old CN snow plow parked in Wieland.

Since as long as my train-related memories of Clermont can go back - circa 1998 - there always have been a rusted snow plow in there. Sometimes on the engine track at the shops or sitting, as it is still the case, on a MoW siding by Route 138. According to my pictures, it hasn't always been the same plow, but the the general state of disrepair associated with the said plow has now been ingrained into the CFC mythos for almost three decades now.

When I was in high school, it was common to see old ex-CN snow plows operated by Charlevoix Railway on Murray Bay subdivision. It was always a cool but unpredictable sight and it was the kind of unusual thing that would catch the attention of my young mind. On that faithful day I railfanned the line in 1998, I was able to shoot a picture of the snow plow sitting at Clermont's shop on the engine track. It was the first time I could admire it for what it was and not a blurry orange blob engulfed in snow.

Snow plow CN 55254 at Wieland in 1998 (credit: Matthieu Lachance)

Not long after, probably in the very late 1990s, my LHS got a beautiful HO scale snow plow perfectly weathered under a glass case. I never asked, but given the retail price somewhere near $300, it was probably a brass model. I've asked the shop owner if such model existed and he kindly shown me a Walthers Great Northern Russell snow plow, telling me I only had to shorten it and had a few details. It was that special era of my life I started to dabble in kitbashing and I probably thought it would be easy.

My rebuilt Walthers kit a decade ago.

Using a metal saw, crude files, grabirons made of staples, aluminium foil and a drill bit that was basically a needle, I ventured on that project. The result was crude and I quickly found out I hadn't the skills and materials required to make it work, thus it stayed in poor shape in its book. Much later, I reassembled the model as a Russell snow plow by splicing it back together. Using aluminium foil stripes, I hid the seams. A coat of Orange CN and decals based on the 1950s practice made it again a rail-worthy snow plow. Unfortunately, I had no use for it and was following with great interest the prototypical CCF plow True Line Trains were developing back then. When it became certain this project would never rise from the deads, I decided it was time to make a real CCF plow as intended many years ago. Fortunately, Steve Hunter now offer 3D replacement parts for Walthers plows on Shapeways.

With my enthusiasm for the layout revived, I started working on the plow once again after a two years hiatus. Basically, after stripping the paint, I disassembled the model yet again as I did 20 years ago. Parts were squared and reassembled carefully. All holes were plugged with styrene rods.

Many rivets and details were removed to laminate styrene sheets in several places. It was required to make sure the new doors would be perfectly aligned with the plow itself. The plow side had to be rebuilt so the model would be larger to accommodate the door thickness.

The plow "roof" was modified and extended forward with various styrene shapes like the prototype. Movable "teeth" were also fashioned in styrene at the bottom of the plow. These are controlled by a set of rods to clear grade crossings, turnouts and bridge guard rails in real life.

This meant I add to build from scratch a front knuckle, which is missing from the Walthers kit. I originally purchased a Custom Finishing white metal detail part for this, but it is useless. It looks nothing like the real thing and I'm not fan of gluing large metal parts to kits. Fitting a knuckle in it was also going to be a nightmare, so I built mine using a dummy coupler from an old Roundhouse 3-in-1 rotary snow plow kit. Looks much better if you ask me and all the linkages are now in place, giving more visual interest to this piece of rolling stock.

A new smokestack was fashioned with styrene sprues which I drilled out for more realism. Then, I added several riveted steel straps made of paper and cemented in place with solvent. This is one of my favourite trick. Other small details such as old roofwalk brackets, door locks and access hatches were added.

The roof railing was made of Tichy 0.32'' phosphore bronze wire. It is a little bit thick, but I preferred to make it sturdy as much as I could because it will suffer a lot of abuse when the car is handled. When painted in black, it shouldn't be that much obvious.

The last step was to spray a good coat of Tamiya primer and apply several rows of Archer's resin rivet heads. On the plain plow wings, rivets really add a realistic depth!

Now, the model is ready for the experimental part of this projects: creating a heavy paint flaking effect. This is by far one of the most challenging effect I ever tried to replicate. To be honest, it is such a signature feature for the layout, I had a hard time to decide how I would approach it. I barely found nothing of value about it on military modelling forums, most information coming from painting miniature wargaming figure bases and dioramas. But that's a long story for next time!


  1. Perhaps salt for the rusting effects?

    1. This is not a typical rusting/chipping effect so I'll use a crackling paint to get the right texture. More in a future post.