Trains or Brickwork?

Whilst we were in Kingston, Ontario on the weekend for a family event, we had occasion to stop at a Tim Horton’s outlet, as one does. Unbeknownst to me, my insufficiently deferential teens observed me standing in the parking lot, taking the subject photo. When the question was raised about what thing Dad might be photographing, the guess quickly came down to “trains or brickwork”. As we set off again, I began to expound about the photographic subject with its at least eight different sections of masonry and heard from the back seat: “Brickwork! Told you!” Hmmph!  Clearly I failed as a parent somehow. 🙂

In any case, here is the subject photo. masonrypotpourriFor those of you who, like me, do appreciate such things, you will note the wide variety of brick and stonework that has accumulated over the years. While I doubt that it had any direct railroad connection, the Grand Trunk(CNR) and Kingston & Pembroke Railways did run along the shoreline right past these buildings, all of which almost certainly dates from or before the railroad era. Modelling all this would be an interesting project.


The Only Active “Railway” Presence in Owen Sound

Algoma Central’s reach goes beyond the rails.AlgomaHarvester

Being laid up for the winter, she is as empty as possible which gave me the opportunity for a detail shot you don’t usually get. This one is for the boat nerds.boatnerdshot

For the non-nautically inclined set, that is a shot of the Algoma Harvester’s bow thruster from the starboard side. It is usually at least partially under water.

Weekend Reading: Trackwork Handbook for Model Railroaders by Paul Mallery


This the book I was re-reading this weekend to brush up before starting in on the diamond crossing for Comstock Road. I have had this book for many years and actually did a search of my previous postings because it seemed strange that I had not already done a post on this book.

This classic is THE book for those intending to hand lay model railroad track in the North American tradition. It covers all kinds of details of the prototype and then gets down to practical advice for the modeller. Written long before DCC or the advent of the Fast Tracks CNC made jig empire, the methods described are what you need to build any kind of track using flat bottomed rail, spikes and a few simple tools. I needed to re-read parts of it because I haven’t built a turnout frog from scratch in more years than I care to count but the asymmetrical diamond on Comstock Road is just the sort of situation where these methods shine.

Even if you do everything with commercial jigs or castings, I highly recommend this book as a reference for prototype practice and other practical trackwork matters. Published by Carstens, it is currently out of print and not listed on the White River Productions site although several other Carstens books are. It looks like the book stand at train shows is your best bet if you want a copy although you might turn up a reasonably priced copy online. (unlike the unreasonably priced ones I found when I checked while writing this post.)

Weekend Reading: CN Line Issue 70

cnlines70.jpgLast weekend I attended the Greater Toronto Train Show. In contrast to most of my show outings, I spent relatively little time looking at modelling and much more time chatting with various modellers and vendors. I also found several things available that I have been intending to purchase and did my bit to support the hobby.

One of the thing I have been meaning to do for several years and not got round to was joining the CNR Historical Association. The CNRHA had a table at the show and was offering a “past, present and future” package that included the past issues and data DVD, the current issue of their CN Lines magazine and a subscription to the next four issues. I made up for my lateness to the party by getting the lot.

I am quite pleased with the current issue, number 70. The photographs are excellent and the topics are varied and interesting. There is an account of a derailment in Saanich BC (Vancouver Island), a place I visited when I was in the Navy. There is an article about a private passenger car built on a 1910 Pullman sleeper that was converter to a troop car in WWII and did rules instruction duty thereafter. And it’s owner who DIY’ed its restoration! There is also an article on some 0-8-0 switchers CN acquired from the Buffalo Creek Railroad to provide a temptation for a would be locomotive scratchbuilder.

CN Lines is available in some hobby shops, at least in Toronto but if you are a CN fan you probably already know how to get it. My major recommendation is for everybody to join up for the equivalent organization for their favourite railroad(s). I will admit that I took too long to get to it despite the recurring recommendations in the hobby press but I am glad I finally did it.

Some Primary Research

I have previously mention my plans to detail my Atlas SW-8 as a Canadian National unit for Comstock Road’s primary Motive Power. I am lucky in that there are many photographs of these units to be had. The issue is that railfans have different photographic goals than model makers. They never include one of those dimensioned sticks for instance. They also are less concerned with underbody, pilot or roof detail although bridge shots do tend to cover the latter.

Thanks to a Tuesday Train post by Stephen Gardiner, I knew there was a plinthed CNR SW-8 in Memorial Park in Lindsay, Ontario. Which is conveniently on the way to this years canoe trip. I managed the time to stop by the park with notebook, tape measure and phone/camera in hand to gather some information. I am especially interested in the shop-built handrails that replaced the factory hood mounted ones.

I had a warm but enjoyable time climbing up and down over the loco accompanied by half a dozen railfans in the 5-8 year old age bracket. I was the only one taking notes and measurements and allowed to climb about unsupervised so nyeah! 🙂

I took many badly composed but useful detail shots and learned a few things you can’t tell from photos. For example, the handrail stanchion bases look solid from any normal angle but are actually formed from 1/4″ steel plate just like the stanchions themselves. I foresee a use for my Micromark photo etch kit in the not-to-distant future! stanchion_base_down

I also took shots of the brake gear, the pilots, the headlights, etc. Here is another shot railfans would see no reason for.8510_shorthoodpilot

All these shots are of a restored locomotive so there may be some deviations from the original (other than the missing spark arrestor and blocked off windows) so I will check for other sources where I can but this is way better than just working off shadows in photographs.

Here is an overall shot of the long hood end just to round things off.8510_longhoodend

FYI, the side handrails are centered 3 feet about the walkway. Somebody liked round numbers. 🙂


Weekend, er, Canoe Trip Reading: Track by Jim Pike


Track by Jim Pike  is one of the book deals I got at the Great British Train Show 2018. It is also the unread book I chose to take on this year’s canoe trip with my teenagers. The apple not falling far from this particular tree, I had to set a limit of one book each since it all has to get carried over portages. The Ziploc freezer bag is inner line of defense. The outer line being the barrel pack it rode in.

This an interesting book for those curious about the history of railway track construction. Written from a UK perspective, it covers the evolution of guided ground transport starting from medieval mine carts. Jim Pike, the author freely admits that this is an arbitrary choice. He also wisely brushes off that whole how did 4’8.5″ become standard gauge. Signaling is also not covered since it is well covered elsewhere.

Track focuses on the construction details of the track systems themselves: rails, sleepers(ties), wheels and fasteners. Methods of handling diverging routes and crossings are covered as well as some lineside features such as mile markers. I use the vague term “diverging routes” because the breadth of track systems covered includes those where turnouts and the like are not used. All sorts of interesting oddities get a mention including a steam powered Irish monorail that made it up into the 1920’s and an inclined line of variable gauge! that survived long enough that the owning entity that closed it was British Rail.

I enjoyed this book and would recommend it to anyone interested in the history of track construction. You, too, can find out interesting things like why UK track workers are called platelayers. (And wonder why they are still called that.) Published in 2010, Track by Jim Pike is available through various online retailers in both physical and e-book form.

Weekend Reading: The Ancestral Roof

ancestralroofI have been seeking a suitable subject for my first attempt at applying the stonework modelling techniques described by David Wright in his book, Making Rural Buildings for Model Railways. This led me to a book I acquired a while back and had not actually got round to reading. The Ancestral Roof: Domestic Architecture of Upper Canada by Marion MacRae and Anthony Adamson is a detailed review of the housing styles of Upper Canada aka southern Ontario prior to Confederation in 1867. This is the period when the vast majority of stone construction took place so it is bang on for my purposes.

Published in 1963, the era of the book is evidenced in that the extensive collection of photographs are all black and white. No guide to colouring for modellers here. On the other hand, there is a detail coverage of Gerogeian, Loyalist, Regency, Classical Revival and Picturesque styles as embodied in houses built in southern Ontario.

The description of styles is illustrated with many photos and drawings; overall, floorplan and details. I also enjoyed the tales of how particular styles got to Canada and what the locals did to them to adapt to local conditions. A Georgian workers cottage executed in logs is not something you find in the UK.

The Ancestral Roof is long out of print but a quick E-Bay search turned up a couple of inexpensive copies so it is not unobtainable.

edit: photo…


Vacation Photos

The Nor’easter in Halifax has subsided enough for the casual railfan to venture out. Primed with excellent advice from Chris at Prince Street, I visited CN’s Rockingham Yard to see if anything was stirring on a blustery afternoon. Nothing happening at the north end visible from the public viewing platform.RockinghamNorth

But in the distance, headlights! For the first time in my life, I relocated in an attempt to spot some trains.

After a bit of a wait, CN 9576, a GP40-2L came out of the trackage leading to the container port. I presume that it had just spotted a cut of cars. Camera phone at the ready, I managed to take a lot of closeup shots of chainlink fence and one halfways decent one. Op success!CN9576_Rockingham.jpg

Perhaps I will manage to get out there in the early morning when more things are happening. Now off to a hobby shop!

Prototype Track

While I was out acquiring some brass screws to use in securing rails at baseboard joints, I took advantage of the nice weather and the proximity of the CN GECO spur to take some photos of turnout details. I am about ready to lay the first turnout and I was dithering about things like how many gauge plates and where do they go? One of the reasons I chose the GECO spur as a source of inspiration is that, if I have questions, I can just go and see.

  • What do the turnouts look like overall? Here is the siding into the Griffith Laboratories plant.griffithoverall
  • Is there really a grade or am I crazy? Not that these are mutually exclusive states but, yes, there sure is. This is a level shot. I bet the local residents enjoy the flange squeal when night switching is done.GECUcurveup
  • How heavy is the rail? 100lb’s and some of it was drawn in 1948. (This means my Right O’Way code 100 rail is too light but not by too much. I claim wartime expedient.)raildetails
  • How many gauge plates and how many rail braces? Depends. 🙂 There are two accessible examples and, of course, they disagree. The Griffith siding looks older so I will take that as a guide. I will consider mixing things up a bit for visual interest.griffithpoints.jpgGriffith has one gauge plate just beyond the points and four adjustable rail braces with a one tie skip for the last one. Note the short ties on the skip and last brace. I wonder what led to that?ipexpoints2The IPEX turnout has two gauge plates and five non-adjustable braces. Those braces look like somebody made them in a shop with plate and a welder.ipexbraces
  • Hook plates under the frogs? Not here, apparently.griffithfrog.jpg
  • What do the switch stands look like? This bit appears consistent between both turnouts. The Griffith stand also has a switch broom in a holder. A nice detail to add. I wonder if the crews carry shovel for when a broom doesn’t cut it?griffithswitchstand