Friday, March 31, 2023

RMMBC 2023: Modelling Pre-Nationalization Railways in Canada? Can Do!

For a second year, the good folks at Railway Modellers’ Meet of British Columbia (RMMBC) have invited me to present a virtual clinic at their 2023 event in later this spring. It’s always a pleasure to share ideas with fellow Canadians living on the West coast and thus, I had no reason to refuse their kind invitation.

GTR 2215 sitting idle at Stanstead Station, circa 1914

I’ve been torn apart about what to present, but after a few discussions, I became clear my work on the Stanstead diorama would make a lot of sense. Over the last few months, I’ve sensed a lot of interest in smaller subjects to model and it seems there is a lot of latent desire to model pre-nationalization railways in Canada.

The clinic will explain how this small rural diorama slowly made its way in my mind, the challenges of modelling pre-1918 Canadian railways, kitbashing and printing decent models using easily readily available data and finding efficient ways of building a layout. This project wasn’t about getting everything 100% right, but rather about proving you can do a lot if you are ready to leave being you the RTR approach.

The clinic will be held on May 4th at 7:05 PM Pacific Time on Zoom. For more information and access links, please visit RMMBC 2023 page. To be noted, good friend Chris Van der Heide will present his excellent work on creating prototypically accurate wrapped lumber loads for freight cars. Having experimented myself with his technique, I can say it is an essential one for modellers interesting in Canadian railways in the modern era.

See you soon!



Friday, March 10, 2023

Clermont - Lawns and grass

The latest work session on the club layout was all about completing the village scenery. Louis-Marie has been very adamant about it for a few months and it’s long time due to act.


The goal is always to blend everything together in a coherent picture

Having learned new techniques on how to create grassy patches of vegetation with Stanstead, I decided to reuse them for the small rundown farm house. If the houses on the other side of the road have very well kept lawn, this is not the case with the old farmstead.

On the horizon, straw colored grass blends with the backdrop 

I applied a generous coat of white glue, pinched static grass of varied length and color and dabbed it. It was all about creating random patches, but also taking into account where dead grass is more prevalent and were new growth manifests first. In that regard, the photobackdrop had that caracteristic straw colored field at the junction with the layout. I thus used static grass of similar color to blend the photo with the 3D world.

The randomness follow patterns observed in real life

As always, I also sprinkle ground foam and dead leaves to add texture and create the illusion of weeds growing everywhere in a haphazard way.


Well-kept lawn at right and untidy grass at left

As you can see, the difference between the manicured lawns and the more natural one is striking. One looks very artificial wile the other is organic and blends together with the rest of the scenery. There is indeed a lot to be learned about applying static grass that go far beyond using an applicator.


I’m also myself impressed by how far my modelling has gone. It is reaching levels far beyond my initial expectations and I’m delighted at what I see taking shape before my eyes.

Thursday, March 9, 2023

Model Railroading as an Art

Many years ago, when I launched my series of “Thinking Out Loud” articles, I had that urge to shout my anger at my approach to the hobby. It was a call for freedom of thoughts in a hobby where I felt I had to check boxes. It was more against my own delusion than the hobby itself, which can be practiced in various ways. Almost 10 years later, as my modelling skills mature, I have the great satisfaction to have finally found my groove, or should I say, my own personal style. Sure it has been informed by many modellers, but I’m far beyond copying others and expecting “realistic” results. Like a painter, I look at a scene and reinterpret is using my own palette.

And to be bluntly honest, it has been quite a surprise. It’s not exactly the way I expected my work to turn out. I has a rougher edge than previously imagined in my mind, but it is counterbalanced by texture and colors, two things that I learned to appreciate.

There is this myth that recipes exist in model railroading, which is true. However, these are tools we master to acquire a vocabulary. They shouldn’t be restrictive but enable us to tell the story we want to craft for ourselves and others.


I’ve learned to frame scenes, I’ve learned to balance space around tracks, to create natural landforms that compliment trains… I’ve also learned I don’t care about what is exceptional in railroading, preferring to put my effort on mundane things, the ordinary life and way we appreciate real trains. Lowly boxcars, unassuming houses and F-units are, as they should always have been, part of my vocabulary. Techniques are no longer how-to but extensions of myself, like a pen and a brush.

I used to draw a lot when I was a kid, mainly landscape with farms, old houses and trains… this passion of mine somewhat died out when I reached college years. Yet, progressively, this old passion of mine is blending seamlessly with model railroading, which makes me wonder if I’m no longer building layouts but drawing 3D train landscapes. Deep inside me, I’ve always wanted to build layouts like you paint on a canvas and it seems I’ve stumbled on that road in a clumsy but rather fascinating way.

Saturday, March 4, 2023

Stanstead - Painting a Backdrop

 I've always been a little bit intimidated by backdrop, be they photo or painted. For some reason deep inside me, I'm afraid of ruining my work. But as they say, if the mountain doesn't come to you, go to the mountain.

I suspect my fears were fuelled by the fact I had a very vivid mental image of what should be the correct backdrop for Stanstead and felt I wouldn't succeed to make it reality. Fortunately, I have a few cheap 1/8" MDF panels laying around, so I can afford to miss and redo the job. One thing was sure, I've been a big fan of Mike Cawdrey's painted backdrops for more than a decade and I wanted to try it myself.

My idea for the backdrop was informed by two pictures. One is an old postcard of the station, looking south toward New Port, Vermont with Jay Peak visible far away on the horizon.

Source: Eastern Townships Archives Portal

The second picture was from the late 1970s, shot at Highwater, QC, looking again toward the Jay Peak and I felt the mix of Appalachian mountains and rolling hills was perfect for Stanstead. To give me some help, I screenshot a view from Google Earth as inspiration and started to paint the backdrop.

Inspiration picture from Google Earth

The project started with a very light blue color which I used extensively on Charlevoix Railway. Using white, I feathered both colors to create a bright horizon and a darker sky just like my reference picture.

The second step was to draw the mountains profile with a somewhat darker blue-grey. What is interesting to know is the peak looks darker than the mountain base due to the atmosphere. I dabbed a lighter shade there and even added some burnt Sienna to it to get that warmer tone depicting deciduous trees.

It is then followed by a conifer tree line on the horizon. Once again, several shades of the same color are used to create depth and variation.

Then, the foreground is painted, including several wooden areas, bushes and fields which colors are selected to blend with the layout scenery. It really is that step that helps to tie everything together. Many details at the bottom of the painting will be lost behind the scenery. Is it a shame? Not really, as I believe the horizon line should be low and that mountains shouldn't be higher than structures surrounding them.

After two hours and 30 minutes of drying time, the backdrop was ready for installation.

At the end of the day, I've learned I can paint decent backdrops, that it's faster than stitching and tweaking photoshop pictures, and that it doesn't need that much talent. Could it be a interesting option for Monk Subdivision? Most likely because I don't see myself fighting with photos in such a crammed space.

Saturday, February 18, 2023

Weathering in the Steam Era

We generally have that idea that color reference pictures before the 1950s are inexistent when dealing with car weathering but as countless Morning Sun books and internet photo archives show us, it's far from being right.

Lots of Autochrome (the commercial name for color photographic plates used in the early 20th century) pictures survives and trains were of major interest to photographers. Jack Delano's pictures are for the right reasons extremely famous and should remind us the the world in black & white never existed.

Over the last year, I've been looking at Jack's and others' railroad yard pictures. They are often shot from a raised embankment, a roof or an overpass which means you have an excellent look at the roofs. This morning, by sheer luck, I stumbled upon an October 18th, 1932 photo of the West Bottoms and Kansas City Stock Yard by Frank Lauder. Compared to Delano's, it's a plain and boring picture which doesn't share the highly artistry associated with Jack's work. Even the colors are that well preserved, but it does show an important thing: the car roofs.

West Bottoms and Kansas City Stock Yard, October 18th, 1932 (credit: Frank Lauder, Kansas City Public Library)

Two things strike me the most. First, how washed out the freight car paint looks to be, covered in dust, soot and rain. They are no longer vibrant, but seen through a filter of dirt and UV fading. We often see modellers weathering their cars and as they move forward with the steps, it just makes it look darker and darker. In my mind, this is a mistake for two reasons.: First, color doesn't scale and small object should always be painted lighter than their real prototype to compensate for that. Second, weathering add layers of darker washes. They alter drastically the car color, meaning we should fade them much more than anticipated to take into account that filtering effect. This is a point Martin Kovac, the armour modeller, often stresses out. You need to make things much more drastic because weathering darken colors and tone down the contrast. This is a reason why I nowadays add a lot of white and buff to my initial color. I've also restarted using drybrushing to highly details that will be, eventually, covered in darker stuff. People who paint stonework knows how you can start with the most garish colors and bring them together later on with washes, filters and dirt. Ryan Mendell, at Binbrook RPM two weeks ago, called it the "rainbow effect" because it looks so silly when you start, yet makes sense at the end of the process.

This Accurail reefer has been drastically faded with white and buff filters

My second observation is about horizontal surfaces such as car roofs and tank tops. Look at them in the picture. They are covered in coal soot, yet they are the so light colored they almost look off white. You can barely discern the original red oxyde or brown paint, yet they are not black or dark gray. Like the previous effect, light plays a role in that perception. Horizontal surfaces receive much more sunlight than vertical ones, making them look brighter. Just like the albedo on the Moon surface is in fact very dark since it's mostly made of basalt, but direct sunlight over the powdery surface makes her look white at night. The same happens with our cars. And the powdery observation too! Indeed, soot is a powder than collects on horizontal surfaces and dirt and dust get mixed with it. It's no longer dark grey, but rather a light grey color. For this reason, I've recently started to paint my car roofs much lighter than the car sides to help me capture that effect. Not only it looks better and more realistic, but it also gives more depth to the car itself, it looks more 3D even if it sounds absolutely silly to word it like that. At the end of the day, it enhances that impression of looking at wood or steel instead of plastic.

The wooden roof on that car is noticeably lighter than the sides

Friday, February 17, 2023

Stanstead - Fields of Gold

The title of this post is indeed recalling the old Sting's song Fields of Gold which my music teacher in first year of high school (which is first of middle school elsewhere in the Anglosphere) had chosen  for us to practice recorder. It didn't go well and I can recall we didn't share a natural bond is I can say so. I switched to the art class mid-year and stayed there until graduation... which was probably a better fit for me as I'm atrocious at playing any instruments.

However, the subject today isn't about music but rather planting grass on a layout. The common assertion is that you need a static grass applicator to get good results. There is this deep rooted belief that you lay a lot of glue and cover an area with static grass. Be it the same color or a blend, you do it carpet style. On the other hand, talented people, such as Luke Towan have popularized the idea you should create random patches of glue, use one mix on them, them redo the process again and again with other mixes and length. This is also basically how Gordon Gravett describes things too in his excellent scenery books published by White Swan in Great Britain. However, like with the recorder, it seems I'm not good at playing Fields of Gold with a static grass applicator. I never get that lush aspect seen in publications. But, since I'm not fighting against a stubborn music teacher, I know I have both time and other ways to reach the goal.

Years ago, I started applying grass with my fingers, pinching a bunch of fibers between my thumb and my index and dabbing them into random patches of glue. I would do that to create color accents around some features before carpeting the entire area later with the static grass applicator.

After many conversations with Chris Mears, I've soon ditched the static grass applicator and simply continued with the manual method. At first, it seemed counterproductive, but truth to be told, I was able to cover an entire field (let's say 4 feet by 4-6 inches) in about one hour. Since then, I've completely abandoned the static grass applicator for Stanstead and I'm glad I did.

Using my fingers, I can control every patches of colors just like an artist painting a landscape. There is more variation in density, length and colors. After a while, I go back and dump more material to build up texture. It may be small branches, rocks, ground foam or dead leaves. Anything goes on. So far, it's the only way I have found to recreate that beautiful mix of greens and straw colors you can find on late summer and autumn fields. It can also be used when gluing patches of basket liner mixed with static grass and any other scenery material to be honest.

Also, the method is much more relaxing, less messy and extremely enjoyable. You can work small patches as you see fit and come back later. You only have 15 minutes, then do some clumps. One hour and you have already two layers! It's is an additive process than leaves time and space to build up the scene gradually. Sure, it's not the 3-n-1 solution most would like to see in action, but I think it's scalable whatever the size of a layout you want to build.

Tuesday, February 14, 2023

2023 Binbrook RPM Post-Mortem

What we call the Binbrook RPM is an unofficial event hoster by fellow modeller Hunter Hughson in early February and surrounding his anniversary. Nothing fancy, but simply a wholesome gathering of like-minded souls. This year was particularly specially because it was the first meet after a 3 year hiatus due to the pandemic. Fortunately, almost everybody was able to find some time in there schedule and people gathered from all corners of the country with some special guest from far away in the United States.

I would have loved to travel by rail, but this year, the unforgiving VIA Rail schedules made it almost impossible. On Saturday morning, with Will Lawrence and Chris Mears, we visited a few hobby shops around Hamilton, including Otter Valley Railroad, Paris Junction Hobbies and Dundas Valley Hobby. The amount of time spent on the road was a testament to the fact hobby shops are now a few and afar. I dubbed that journey the Great Southern Ontario tour has it was as much as I can tell a disguised visit of hundreds of acres of farmland. While visiting these shops, one thing struck me quite a bit: I had nothing to purchase. Some could say I could have purchased supplies, but I didn't know what I really needed. With my approach to the hobby shifting more and more toward customization over acquired brand new locomotives, I've come to the point I'm no longer a good customer for a traditional shop. The same happened at the Springfield show too.

Later in the afternoon, we gathered at Hunter's place for the RPM. In the previous event, it was much more formal, but this time, people just chatted over models and dinner before we really committed to discussing modelling. I suspect the need for social interaction was probably was most of us needed. I won't name everybody that partake in the event since I will certainly forget a few names and I apologize in advance.

Hunter started by presenting us the two Athearn Ford trucks he modified for Penn Central and Conrail (?). These were the subject of a recent article in RMC and it was great to see them in real. What makes these models interesting is the simplicity of what was done to improve them greatly. By simplicity, I don't mean it's easy, but that the process is elegant and not convoluted. It's something that is achievable for most and which deliver great results.

Chris van der Heide presented a few Algoma Central drop bottom ore gondolas he has designed and 3D printed. Many dozens are currently printing. He explained to us how he was able to design a single part body that could be altered to represent various modifications done to them over the years, including different extensions. His models were both accurate, well printed and easy to assemble. Lots of thoughts have been poured in their design and it shows. Can't wait to see them painted!

Hunter's neighbor, a modeller who specialize in freight car weathering presented a few examples. While he use many different techniques, he wanted to explore more using only acrylics to streamline the process. He also shown us how silver color Sharpie pens can be extremely useful to replicate peeling paint on galvanized steel. Light weathering and dullcote gives the ink a realistic look that blends together well with the car.

Will Lawrence presented several models, but his work on a RSC-14 and a Cap Breton RS-18 were the most fascinating ones. Will still continue to convert Atlas RS11 in various MLW products. As he stated, the drive is excellent and they are easy to rework. He also does the same with Proto 1000 RS-10 and RS-18. According to him, the notorious height discrepancies are barely noticeable and if you don't mix them with Atlas locomotives, you will never notice it. He loves the drive and the detail quality, thus can overlook the inaccuracies. I do agree with that statement. 

Robin shown us is current effort at replicating a SW1200RS both in S scale and in O scale using an Athearn drive. He also use 3D printing to build these models and experiment a lot with part design. We only saw his work in progress, but it's quite promising... I also tried to convince him to model Chemin de fer Lanaudière in S or O scale. He's after all another fan of Quebec small branchlines.

Chris Mears, once again, decided to surprise us with something most people wouldn't do. He shown us two scenery and track mockups he made recently. As always, his obsession with colors, textures and space makes it a fascinating exploration. Basically, he's trying to figure out how to model a small layout that can be displayed in a book shelf. Using 1/2" thick foam, napkins and various ballast, tile grout, static grass and jute rope, he's developing a technique to create scenery without having to wait for material to dry. No clay, no plaster, no fillers, just the good stuff. It may sounds cheap, but the results speak for themselves and it's probably the most amazing grassy track I've ever seen. He also presented us his friend James Hilton's book, which he helped to edit and contributed some material. Having discussed with James in the past, I can confidently say it's one of the sharpest minds I've encountered in this hobby.

Finally, I think it's Ryan Mendell that summed up the meet with the most accurate remark. He mentioned that since 3 years, most people had changed their approach to weathering. We no longer care about "accurate" freshly painted colors and start weathering before applying decals. Are we witnessing the influence of armour modellers? Most probably.

Pierre Oliver's layout shows that a lot can be achieve with simple means

On day 2, the gang moved to Pierre Oliver's house in St. Thomas to have an operating session on his excellent Southern Pacific Clovis Branch between Fresno and Bryant circa 1951. This is a huge basement layout, yet depicting a very mundane and small prototype. Design is by Trevor Marshall and it has, to some extent, a similar modus operandi than Port Rowan did. Pierre is a car builder and likes operation, thus the layout has a very simple level of scenery. However, since southern California is quite arid, it fits well and what is there is good enough to immerse visitors into the site.

Pierre's layout is an exercise in simplicity

The layout is also commendable for having almost every single piece of track that existed on the prototype. No compromise, except the staging yard. Thus, when you operate, you get the full experience. It's also a fantastic prototype because it served the citrus and wine industries. So all these cool PFE reefers and wine tank cars are at home!

Wine tank cars in their prototypical context are a delight

While the track plan is simple, operations can be tricky due to a few moves that are required to perform the tasks. It's an interesting balance, because it's not a switching puzzle, though you have to think wisely before moving. I ran the local freight with Will Lawrence and it took us almost 3 hours to finish the job. At the end of the day, I felt like I worked on the real railroad. I think it convinced me to keep thing much simpler on my own home layout. That said, I think the Clovis branch is a good example of a layout designed for many operators, but that can work most of the time for a solo operator. Also, it's sheer simplicity makes it possible to build a very, very large layout and yet be able to scenic everything in a short time span. Pierre mentioned it took him about 1 years and a half to get everything up and running with a first pass of scenery. I don't know a lot of layouts that can boast that.

After a long day of work, it's time to go back to the roundhouse

Finally, we had a nice dinner at Pierre's which concluded a nice and relaxing weekend. On the morning, I rode Go Transit from Hamilton to Toronto as an enjoyable way to take my flight at Billy Bishop Airport. Once again, I'm reminded by the generosity and hospitality of my hosts which can hardly be described in words. In current years, that genuine display of warmth is worth much more than anything.

Wednesday, February 1, 2023

Grand Trunk Railway Caboose

Sometimes it takes times to come around and completed (or almost) a project. The GTR caboose was a novelty project of mine to try something old time, barely modelled and cool looking. Data was gathered from old car building encyclopedias, scale drawings in magazines and examining countless historical pictures. Several attempt were made, including many that failed. I try to over engineer the model as if it was plastic only to discover 3D printed resin isn't forgiving to structural stress during the printing process. 

Then, I discussed the project with Pierre Oliver of Yarmouth Model Works, who prompted me to model different cupolas to replicate several other cabooses that were based on the GTR original drawings. After a while, I let the project sit on my shelf, forgot about until two months ago when it became quite obvious I should get some sense of closure.

I fired up the printer and produced the missing parts. I also printed the trucks in one part, which worked quite well. Some brass rods, phosphore bronze grabiron, a coat of paint and weathering and voilà. I even used my custom decals to letter it.

At the end of the day, it was a fun project. It's both original yet down to earth. A lot of thoughts were poured in it, but it was well worth the effort. It was a pleasure to see it take shape under my eyes and bring to life something that nobody still alive has probably ever seen. It's probably what I like the most about old time model railroading, it brings to the real world artefact of an other era that have long been gone.

Friday, January 27, 2023

Railroad Hobby Show, West Springfield, MA

For those interested and that may attend, just to let you that I'll pay a visit to the Railroad Hobby Show in West Spingfield, MA this weekend.

Feel free to talk to me if you recognize me which may be quite unlikely!

Tuesday, January 24, 2023

More Vintage Fowler Boxcars

It seems changing job means less time to post on Hedley Junction. I wish my posting could be on par with my modelling frenzy to be honest! But putting that aside, today I share more oldies: Accurail shells with custom decals. As a matter of fact, I'd like to give a shout out to William Brillinger who did a terrific job at printing the decals. Don't consider it an ad, but just a token of appreciation for the honest advices he gave me and the quality product he provided.

The first car is rarely modelled in HO or any other scale to be perfectly honest. The Canadian Government Railway car depicts an order of 5000 cars placed in 1917 equipped with Andrews trucks (a previous one of 1000 car having been placed in 1916). CGR was a crown corporation that managed the assets of various government owned railways and CNoR until the Canadian National was officially created. CGR placed the orders and distributed the rolling stock and locomotives according to the needs of each railway. Many of CNR large modern steamers trace their origins in these orders.

As for Intercolonial, they placed many orders between 1912 and 1914 for a total of almost 6000 cars. Being built years before the CGR ones, they rode on archbar trucks. I used Tahoe trucks which I consider a little bit pricey, but excellent in quality, very crisp, free rolling and worth every penny. They differed from the Accurail cars because they had a 5 feet door instead of a 6 feet one. Westerfield resin kits provide a more prototypical starting point for those interested in greater accuracy.

In the future, I wish to replicate a 1917 Canadian Northern Fowler car and several CPR prototypes and variants. At that point, I will have modelled almost every pre-1918 variations in Canada. If some people are aware of other Canadian railways owning Fowler cars before 1918, let me know! I've never seen a Grand Trunk Pacific Fowler car picture and would like to replicate one.

Wednesday, January 11, 2023

Great Northern Railway of Canada 34ft Boxcar

In the « Most Pretentious Railway Name In Canada » category, the Great Northern Railway of Canada is a serious nominee. The French version of the name was even worse, giving birth to a contrived translation that was so long it covered almost an entire side of the car. On the other hand, it must be acknowledged that at that time, only a handful of railways painted their French corporate name on their rolling stock. To my knowledge, only “Chemin de fer de Colonisation de Montfort”, “Chemin de fer Québec Montréal Ottawa & Occidental” and Chemin de fer de la Baie des Ha! Ha! did so. Most lines in Quebec City area generally went by with an English name even if a good chunk of the board and customers spoke French (which to be honest, was a serious rarity). It was, in a sense, more fashionable. In France, railways generally kept their name very short and poetic instead (Paris-Orléans, Chemin de fer du Nord or Paris-Lyon-Méditerranée). 

That said, the Great Northern is still remembered faintly in Limoilou where the old mainline is sometime refered to as “Le Grand Nord”. Aside that pompous name, GNRofC was a successful quick money scheme deviced by the infamous Charles N. Armstrong and John Eno, an American who fled to Canada to escape prosecution. The goal was to create a direct line between the Canadian Atlantic Railway and Quebec City to cut travelling distance by 800 miles and tap into the lucrative lumber and grain trades. Started in 1892, but fully completed in 1900, the line became highly profitable by becoming a grain pipeline between Depot Harbour and Bassin Louise in Quebec City. It was the fastest and most direct line to ship grain on the Atlantic and grain trains would depart at every 20 minutes in peak season. In 1907, C.N. Armstrong was able to sell that line to Canadian Northern who quickly made improvement with the goal of making it the backbone of it’s Eastern transcontinental line. The route was shortened by building a cutoff crossing Portneuf County between Garneau and Cap-Rouge. Had CNoR succeeded in its plan, this line would have reached Nova Scotia following a route similar to the National Transcontinental. In 1909, the Great Northern elevator in Quebec City caught fire and started a conflagration. The beautiful neoclassical Custom House was set ablaze and burned down, but was rebuilt quickly. While GNRofC and CNoR are distant souvenirs from the past, the mainline they built is now a major link between Montréal, Abitibi and Lake St. John.

Wednesday, January 4, 2023

GTR 2215 - A Classic 4-4-0

I intended to post a lot about my current old time projects, yet failed miserably because I was too immersed building these models. So nothing of value was really lost because it means more stuff to share.

Having a good locomotive on a project is generally the face of the layout. It's the ambassador, the motivator and the enabler all wrapped in one. A personal link is created between us and the overall world we try to create. Probably because the locomotive is generally where the human element plays a crucial role on the railway stage.

For this reason, I wanted to capture the essence of a classic Grand Trunk locomotive in the early 1910s. While Grand Trunk did use a lot of engine type, it must be acknowledge they had a humongous fleet of 4-4-0s crisscrossing the country from the 1850s up to the 1920s when many of these locomotives found a new life under Canadian National. Look online or in book, if you find a GTR pictures, odds it's a 4-4-0 are  extremely high...

Cows and engines are mutual friends, as long as there's a fence!

Interestingly enough, GTR 4-4-0s weren't generic but rather peculiar in appearance because Grand Trunk maintained huge locomotive shops in Pointe-Saint-Charles near Montréal. Several thousands people worked there, repairing, maintaining but also building entire locomotives from parts or scratch. Even the engines acquired for other manufacturers were poised to get rebuilt with typical GTR features such as slatted pilots, typical headlights and ubiquitous torpedo shaped steam domes. While paint schemes varied a lot in the early days, by the 1890s, GTR settled upon an austere black scheme with white lining. Some would say GTR was getting extremely cheap, which was true, but it was also the trend elsewhere in North America where ornate locomotives were getting slicker as the mid-1800s fad died out. I would try to capture that early 20th century vibe as much as I could.

To recreate such an engine, I started with a Bachmann Modern 4-4-0, which is probably one of the great RTR small steamer on the market. Bachmann was smart enough to provide a lot of customization opportunities to recreate various locomotives. All domes can be swapped for three different styles. The same apply to the stack, cab (wooden and two different steel ones) and pilots. This is, to my mind, a great way to get the most you can out of a tooling and a chassis. Also, the boiler and cabs are die cast, giving enough weight for the locomotive to perform adequatly.

Modifications were done on cab windows that were too small and the wrong shape. Hours of careful filing was required, but it was well worth my time. Modern domes were modified using Magic Sculpt putty and some custom 3D printed valve bonnet. Running boards were altered and the tender letterboards completely redone with new tool boxes. 

A crew is life...

Painting was straightforward and I used a lightly faded black paint. I could have gone with grimy black, but I have no idea what type of weathering I'll apply and GTR locomotives back then were quite clean and shiny. Decals were provided by Black Cat Publishing who made our lives easier since the old CDS Lettering dry transfers are getting hard to source and not always reliable to apply.

Once the locomotive was completed, it felt drab and soulless, which was a disappointment. It needed some figures to add life. Finding Edwardian locomotive drivers isn't exactly easy. A few figure makers in UK propose such products, but the people depicted are a little bit too British in their clothing. After looking at several pictures of GTR locomotive crews, I found out most people wore a flat cap and about half the guys worked without overall. Looking into my spare part box, I found two old 1950s Revell HO figures that could fit the bill. Their pose was wrong, but by cutting and moving their limbs around, they could be worthy engineer and fireman. Painting was straightforward, but I took care of never using bright colors. As is becoming common recently in my modelling approach, I prefer to use faded colors right from the start. Light colored shirts become tan or buff, heavy wool pants are a dirty grey and jeans overalls are a grimy bluish gray. Nothing must stand out.

With the crew onboard, the locomotive is now alive and ready to run on the layout. I like how the engineer raise is hand, as if his communicating with the crew or waving at someone. As for the fireman, he's small and focused on his task. He reminds me a railway friend of mine, Charles-Étienne, so I guess the figure is now unofficially named after him.

It still need to complete a lot of things on the module, but so far, one of the biggest hurdle is cleared and I'll be able to focus on new challenges!