Tuesday, April 26, 2022

Railfanning the Monk Subdivision... in 1963

Enthusiasts of CN Monk Subidivision will be happy to learn that Bill Linley and Richard Manicom's iconic railfanning trip in 1963 is now immortalized in a fascinating article published in CN Lines magazine, Volume 21, #1.

CN Lines magazine, Volume 21, #1

At that time, Monk Subdivision still saw intense freight traffic thought passenger service was rapidly dwindling down. By 1963, service was often reduced to a mixed train to which a caboose and an old combine were coupled. This is the consist that Bill and Richard would ride and document without knowing they were probably the first and last people to ever railfan "seriously" this line.

Their travel, from Joffre Yard in Charny (yes, they embarked the train in the yard, in front of a conductor that was surprised to see rare passengers climbing the combine that day) to Monk provided plenty of photographic opportunities. Better, the trainmen interacted with them, which provided a rare insight of their mundane work on this ex-NTR subdivision.

"Mixed to Monk" by Bill Linley and Richard Manicom

If it was not enough, a yound Richard brought a camera and also a roll of color films. Beautifully shot, these color pictures are a testament to classic CNR railroading in rural Quebec at that time. These pristine images make tangible a long lost reality as if we where travelling with them. You can expect pictures never published before!

Bill and Richard made sure to well research their subject and having read an early version of their article, I can say it does a great job at providing a good deal of informations that helps to counter many legends or factual errors often repeated about Monk Subdivision. It will, no doubt, become a reference when researching Monk.

That said, nothing better to get even more motivated to build a layout of this subdivision!

Saturday, April 23, 2022

Running trains in Clermont

 After an intense marathon of scenery it was time to leisurely operate trains in the newly created environment. It must be said it creates all kind of interesting visual opportunities that weren't exploited until now.

Nothing beats the sight of a switcher pulling cars by the river down to the yard.

The new houses now create an interesting narrative and visual interest. Still a lot of work to do, but most pieces are now in place.

Looking a shoving move by the retaining wall is an impressive and accurate rendition of what happened  daily  in Clermont until the late 2000s.

And from the road, the entire yard and its relation to the town become obvious.

Simplicity, as always, is much more sophisticated that it may look for this bird view of the yard.

Wednesday, April 20, 2022

2022 Railway Modellers Meet of British Columbia

I'm glad to announce I'll be virtually participating to the 2022 Railway Modellers Meet of British Columbia (RMMBC 22). I want to thank John Geddes for is kind invitation and the incredibly professional approach of his team.

This year, RMMBC will host an hybrid real life and virtual event which will be a neat experience. Among the virtual clinicians, you'll find many respected modellers such as Marty McGuirk, Max Magliaro, Marc Simpson, Greg Amer, Rene Gourley, Geoff Bunza and many others. In fact, I'm a little bit humbled to be included in this group!

My clinic will be a condensed and revised version of my British-American Oil tank car fleet presented at Hindsight 20/20 earlier this year. Knowing how B/A is still a popular modelling subject in Western Canada, it will be a pleasure to present my work there.

More information can be found on RMMBC website.

Saturday, April 16, 2022

Crash Barrier in Place

Gluing in place the crash barrier was an exercise in frustration and compromise. Fitting complex shapes together is always a challenge, whatever the level of care you take so things can fit.

At the bottom of the slope, I had to cheat a little bit and leave a gap so the sidewalks would be at the right height. If I had followed the stone wall profile, the concrete would have been bellow the asphalt level. The obvious gap was closed with joint compound and will later be weathered to look like stone.

Speaking about stone, crushed limestone, sifted sand and Woodland scenic fine ballast were glued in place to fill the gap under the road by the grade crossing. On the prototype, a very similar approach was used.

A mistake I did when gluing the road was the it sit a little bit below the stone wall top. When trying to glue the sidewalks, it gave it a slight slope downward the street. It kind of throw off the crash barrier post angle a little bit and I had to soften them with solvent cement and pry them into a more vertical position. Once again, live and learn.

Otherwise, the result is quite interesting and I'm pleased with what I see.

Monday, April 11, 2022

Sidewalks and Crash Barriers

A noticeable feature of Clermont is the stone retaining wall. I poured a lot of efforts trying to replicate it as best as I could and now it's time to complete the job by crowning it with a sidewalk and some crash barrier.

I started with a 1/8" thick MDF plank cut to size on which I glued a 1mm thick styrene sidewalks. Each slab of concrete was individually scribed and the surface and edges were distressed with a metal point and a blade to replicate damaged concrete.

The next step was to cut and distress the wooden posts of the crash barrier. As always, I made a small jig to ensure each post would have a 8 degree angle to fit he retaining wall incline.

The large concrete slab over the retaining wall was also distressed. I added cracks and damages with a razor saw, a metal point and a hobby knife. Later, I came back and stippled Tamiya putty on the surface to add texture. This crude surface was then lightly sanded smooth to get a more realistic concrete surface. Indeed, with age, water erode the cement exposing the aggregate.

A crash barrier made of OO scale corrugated styrene sheet was then glued to the post. Small end pieces shaped with plain styrene were added per prototype. These little details generally do a big difference.

Painting was straightforward. Krylon camouflage beige followed by color pencils to highlight edges. Darker color pencil was use to draw attention to the damaged parts, including the cracks and sidewalks edges. Over the time, I have come to realize when concrete deteriorate, the broken parts are generally darker (because they attract dirt) with their perimeter is generally lighter in tone due to constant abrasion. This is easily replicated with pencils and really improve realism. I also use a sponge to add some aggregate, generally a very light pass of dark brown and another one of light cream.

The crash barrier was painted with various acrylic paint. To get a weathered galvanized look, I don't mix gray using pure black, but Payne's grey which as a nice subtle bluish tint that match galvanized metal better.

Finally, several coats of thin oil pain washes were applied to weather the model. From prototype picture, it was evident the concrete had a warm brownish tone and the wash was perfect to replicate this color. On the concrete edge, very light colored vertical streaks are brushed on to create a rain pattern.

I can't wait to install that model on the layout. It will be a great achievement after all these years.

Sunday, April 10, 2022

Hindsight 20/20 Virtual RPM 13.0

On April 16th, 2022, Hindsight 20/20 is back with new clinics. A cursory glance at the lineup reveals excellent modellers will once again grace us with their exquisite work. 

As always, registration can be done online at Speedwitchmedia.com.

Be aware that I will be also presenting a clinic at this RPM which will conclude my exploration of British-American Oil Tank Car Fleet. Some modelling ideas, a critical assessment of my own work and good news about the possibility of modelling correct Standard Tank Company cars.

Yes, I can be quite critical of my own work!

Saturday, April 9, 2022

The Jersey Wall

 A common sight on our roads, industrial areas and construction site are the ubiquitous concrete Jersey barriers. Useful and modular, they serve all kind of purpose and it's no surprise to find them in Clermont. 

A typical Jersey barrier (source: Game Asset Library)

An interesting detail about the railway line at Donohue is how it is raised on an embankment running through the parking lot and kept in place with a retaining wall. As you have probably guessed right, this wall is made of Jersey barriers.

A Jersey retaining wall at Donohue's parking lot

At first, Louis-Marie was very excited about making these barriers out of MDF. A previous attempt a few years ago was wasted when I lost it in the snow! However, I managed to convince him to build new ones and as always, he deployed is table saw wizardry. They will line gracefully the parking lot on the layout. 

Painting was relatively straightforward, but I still made some preparation. MDF is very porous and uneven when cut. For fight this unrealistic texture, I first primed the barriers, then sanded them smooth. This was followed by an application of very liquid CA glue to seal all the surface. It was then sanded again until a nice glass like surface was obtained. From that point on, it was just a matter to paint them with Krylon Camouflage beige and add various effects with a sponge and acrylic paint. White streaks were drybrushed and finally, a light raw umber oil paint wash was applied and let to dry.

These details aren't complicated, but when done correctly, they bring a lot of realism to a layout because they ground it into a reality we can relate to. Many manufacturers offer them in plastic and you can even 3D print these barriers. However, I like the imperfections of MDF which replicate well the wear and tear so characteristic of these barriers. Broken MDF is excellent to model badly damaged concrete after all.

MDF imperfections replicate perfectly concrete castings

With these walls done, it's only a matter of time before I can start working more seriously on scenery at Donohue. Meanwhile, I'll try to complete Clermont before as this is a more pressing issue.

Thursday, April 7, 2022

Finalizing Clermont Design

A familiar scene taking shape...

The scene in Clermont is nearing completion, at least from the design angle. Last weekend, I built a third house for the street corner, based on a real one standing there. It’s yet another working class cottage, but with an apartment in the basement.

The retaining wall and houses complete each other

I previously thought the hill on which stand the houses would be taller. If it would have been the case, another retaining wall would have been erected on the corner. However, elevation isn’t high enough to warrant such a wall, so I’ll instead use some rip rap to consolidate the terrain.

The hill creates an attractive stacking of roof lines

We also installed permanently the last bit of street. Some curbs are missing, but they will soon be added. Land around the houses will be made of Styrofoam and floral foam to create a natural topography.

Seeing the layout from within the peninsula

While the scene is still incomplete, we can understand better how it will work together. I think one of the most interesting views is from atop the hill, looking down toward the grade crossing.

This scene composition has reached maturity... time to finish.

 I must admit it’s refreshing to see the layout progressing at such a pace after two years of stagnation. It also builds confidence we can reach a decent level of completion within a reasonable amount of time. No deadline, but having the town scene scenicked by the end of the summer would be neat.

Wednesday, April 6, 2022

Glimpse of a Bridge

As scenery progress in Clermont, new railfanning spots emerge... this time, a small car waiting in Donohue's parking to see the switcher pull a string of newsprint boxcars...

Monday, April 4, 2022

Grand Trunk Railway 3D Printed Caboose - Part 3

I may pursue many projects at the same time, which is never a good idea, but I'm still committed to bring them to fruition. Among them are several of my own design freight cars. I hope to announce some good news about them in the future, but it things go as planned, these models could finally be available in some shape or form at a sooner date than I could wish for.

Among these projects is the Grand Trunk caboose. Many of you asked me about the possibility of that specific prototype becoming available as a kit. The short answer is yes, it will probably see the light and I'm currently retooling it completely for resin casting. I've also been asked to design several different cupolas to replicate several specific roads and eras.

So far, I'll be modelling the original TH&B version, the original GTR version, the GTR version with blanked out numberboard and CNR with blanket out numberboard and marker light. I'm also seriously tempted to offer a Wabash/Detroit Toledo & Shore Line version since these designs inspired the TH&B/GTR ones.

In that regard, I'm looking for information about modernized version of these cabooses under CNR ownership. I've been told the cupolas were rebuilt at some point to more "standard" design. I've no idea what it means. Could it be they replaced the cupola with a standard CNR one (most likely) or something else? More importantly, when did this design was phased out. In the late 1920s when CNR was standardizing its fleet? I know two pictures of CNR caboose with Bombay cupola, namely CN 77276 and CN 77387. If you have information about these cabooses or some data related to them (including later life pictures), let me know.

Sunday, April 3, 2022

The Second Empire Cottage - Part 2

The Second Empire cottage is nearing completion, only requiring me to add the steel chimney and add some weathering to tone done the stark black and white contrast. Even if the model isn't complete, it didn't stop me from trying it out on the layout to see how things will fit together.

Mansard roofs blend themselves gracefully with the surrounding

As a matter of fact, the cottage will be the house the further from the fascia. It will be mainly seen from the back, on the other side of the peninsula. This was my goal since the beginning to have a structure that could be seen from both side. It helps to create a sense of depth.

The village seen from Wieland add depth to the scene

I once tried to place a square two floor house there but it didn't look good. It was too tall and didn't create a decent transition toward the back side of the peninsula. In this regard, a mansard roof is perfect because the house can still be somewhat tall, but the roof design makes it look much more smaller.

From the main road, the house looks in the right place

With that out of the way, it became also evident the old Life-Like cottage could stay on the layout. Its style was acceptable, but the proportion are far too small. This house is about 20ft wide, which is seriously ludicrous. Such a large cottage would generally be at least 24ft wide in real life. Not that 20ft wide houses are uncommon, but to keep a sense of homogeneity, I felt it was better to scratchbuild something myself. Also, it will give me an opportunity to make sure all the structures share the same level of detail and craftmanship.

Another house will be nested near the intersection

As a matter of fact, the new house is already build and ready for painting and detailing.

Friday, April 1, 2022

Vegetation Grows on Malbaie River East Bank

Simple scenery yields the best results when handled carefully

For years, probably a decade, Malbaie river east bank was bare ground were nothing grew. While it was certainly attractive to add scenery elsewhere, I thought that unifying the river scene would help a lot to motivate me to complete Clermont once for all. I certainly don't regret it.

Tying together a signature scene is a powerful motivation factor

While it was a relatively straightforward (I reused the same methods), I decided to add more layers of texture to create a deep 3D unkept vegetation effect. To achieve this, I glued several grass tuffs into wet Celluclay before adding any grass. These tuffs acted as large bushes under dead grass. I also added twigs here and there that were later buried in grass, as is so common in the springtime.

Tuffs are barely visible, but they add volume to vegetation

A big deal of realism with grass and vegetation is achieved by addressing volume. If you don't, it's like carpeting the landscape, which is generally not what we want to achieve. It is also important to create contrasts in colors, representing various type of vegetation. Plants growing under trees aren't the same than in open air and vice versa. Dead leaves also accumulate in different spots, generally recesses, helping to add "shadows" and underline the relief just like a dark wash on a model define the nooks and crannies. Even dirt sprinkled and gently brushed over grass can enhance that 3D rendering of nature.

No solid colors, but gradients