Nostalgia

The Quebec Central

This season’s (Winter 2018) Classic Trains magazine has a nice article by the late Jim Shaughnessy on the Quebec Central. The QC has always been of interest to me.

Back in the 1990s I was railfanning the CP Lyndonville and Newport subs watching Montreal Alco RS-18u and C424s hauling freight at speed in and out of Newport, Vt. They were still running 5 man crews and cabooses. A few miles of the Quebec Central were still in operation north out of Newport.

The original Dominion & New England Railway concept usurped the Newport sub from Newport, Vt to the Canadian border past Richford, Vt. including a short bit of the QC. But it proved to be just too much model railroad for me.

My much more modest fictional short line D&NE is situated in northern Vermont and once ran into Quebec to a connection with CP’s transcon. St George, just a little south of the Canadian border, is now a terminal but once saw through trains to Canada.

I’ve actually ridden on the QC. About 20 or so years ago Jack Keene, John Nichols and I rode a fan trip from St. Johnsbury down the Lyndonville sub to Wells River, back north through St. Jay to Newport and on to the Canadian border just past Newport Center (we couldn’t cross the border for insurance reasons). Then, back to Newport and up the first bit of the Quebec Central before returning south to St. Jay.

 

 

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Layout Construction · Model Building · Narrow Gauge

The Crowsnest Tramway Co.

Off topic, I suppose, but I thought I’d share a few photos of one of my favorite layout themes: Roy C. Link’s Crowsnest Tramway Co., the 1:32 version. It was on display at the 2015 Narrow Gauge Convention in Augusta, ME. I had seen the odd B&W photo in publications but never dreamed I’d get to see it in person. What a surprise when I walked into the convention display room!
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If you are familiar with the Narrow Gauge & Industrial Railway Modeling Review magazine then Roy Link needs no introduction. He’s as famous in the UK as Bob Brown and the Gazette are over here. Roy is a master model builder. The Crowsnest Tramway is an ongoing theme. A new diorama pops up from time to time in whatever scale Roy chooses. There have been versions in O14.5 (On2 over here) and 16mm (a popular large modeling scale in the UK) in addition to the one pictured here in 1:32. [A collection of photos gathered from the web.] See the Crowsnest in action at this link: Crowsnest Tramway I love everything about it. The scenery connotes an airy, sparse landscape up in the hills. The backdrop is beautifully done. Trackwork is typical industrial narrow gauge. As far as I know most everything is scratch built. The detail is enchanting. Notice the chickens next to the scale house. Roy sold the diorama to another notable UK modeler, the late Mike South, who brought it with him to Calgary, Canada. After Mike’s passing, it passed into obscurity until located by Canadian Craig Parry. Craig restored the diorama and built the wonderful display cabinet you see above. He has been bringing it to various conventions in North America. As I recall, this Crowsnest Tramway diorama represents the end of the line where lead ore is weighed and then tipped into road vehicles. The D&NE is a modest achievable layout intended to be built to a high standard. And then you see workmanship like this and just ponder…
Model Building · Structures

The Freight House at St. George (part 1)

In 1953, much railroad freight is LCL (Less-than-Carload-Lot) and most towns had provision for handling these smaller shipments. In the case of a large market town like St. George a free-standing freight house was often the answer. There are a number of freight customers in town that ship smaller consignments such as the busy Green Mountain Basket Co. Piano stools, crutches and furniture made locally often go out as LCL. The lumber and feed store receives bagged feed and lumber by the car load but products such as paint, fencing and appliances might come to the freight house as LCL. Railway express shipments, on the other hand, are handled at the express annex in the passenger station.

The St. George freight house is based on one described in an article in Dec71 RMC by former MR editor Paul Larson for his O scale CMR&P. Modeled after a freight house built in the late 1890s on the St. Louis, Keokuk & Northwestern (CB&Q) at Louisiana, MO, it’s the perfect size for St. George. The design is archetypal railroady. I built the model pretty much as drawn.

Thinking it would be more common for New England, I thought of substituting clapboards for the board and batten siding in the plan. But the other day, while over in B&M Mogul country in Goffstown, NH, what did I see but the old freight house sheathed in board and batten!

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A board and batten vignette courtesy of the ex-B&M Freight House in Goffstown, NH.

Paul built his O scale model from Northeastern basswood and Grandt Line windows. But Northeastern doesn’t carry the board and batten siding in a suitable spacing anymore. I’m favoring styrene these days anyway but as it ends up Evergreen doesn’t carry appropriate sized board and batten siding either (they used to — my Monson Jct. freight house is built from it). One night, at the stroke of midnight, the ghost of Al Armitage appeared and encouraged me to suck it up and build my own board and batten siding. The next day, I was at the workbench laying down the battens by hand.

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Al Armitage’s booklet on styrene fabrication has been the bible for decades. It focuses on extreme scratchbuilding before styrene strips and shapes were available.

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Evergreen’s Styrene Modeling, edited by Bob Hayden, has more up to date tips and techniques.

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Adding battens to the trackside wall. With the spacer strip and square this goes pretty quickly. I use Testors Liquid Cement for Plastic and an 000 brush for styrene construction.

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Work in progress. One end has had battens applied. Tichy windows and doors are modified for a New England look. Freight doors are scratchbuilt as a drop in unit.

It’s a large building about 28″ in length including the loading dock. The 4′ foundation raises the structure to an imposing height. Along with the passenger station it’s going to dominate the scene.

The base material for the structure is #40 styrene sheet. You can get it in large sheets if you ask around which alleviates the need to splice up the long sides. I cut out all of the openings for doors and windows first and then laid up the battens cut from #20 by #40 styrene strips. The 1″ by 12″ weather boards around the foundation are represented by #20 by #250 styrene strips cemented directly to the base layer. They enclose what would be an open foundation of brick pillars. The chimney comes from Bar Mills. I also used part of one as a foundation pillar where the weather boards have gone missing.

To speed things up, Tichy doors and windows were used but modified to look more like those we see here in New England. The freight doors, stairways and the loading dock are all scratchbuilt in styrene.

The structure is braced with #125 by #125 styrene strips. The walls are raised around a solid floor of #40 styrene that, with the help of a couple of internal partitions, squares everything up nicely.

I added a couple of #40 styrene pads under each end of the building to keep the weather boards from picking at the scenery and to support the stairways and loading dock. They’ll be hidden by ground cover when the building is in place.

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Shingling the roof took forever.

The roof is a story in itself. Built on a base of #40 styrene, it’s heavily braced and removable. In northern New England, buildings of this type might have a shingle roof of Vermont slates. The cost of enough commercial hobby slate roof material to do this structure would be more than everything else combined. While I laid awake one night fretting over this, around the stroke of midnight the ghost of Al Armitage reappeared. He admonished me to not be a snowflake and just scratchbuild the slate shingle roof. Next day, I’m slicing off 8-14″ wide strips of #10 styrene at 24″ lengths. The work actually goes pretty fast, I guess. Boy, that’s a lot of roof. Actually, it took a long time. I topped the roof with #5 styrene copper cap. As a final touch, 162 Tichy “snowbirds” were added for protection from falling snow and ice.

Styrene representing wood was roughed up in the traditional way with a file card, wire brush, Zona saw and sandpaper to knock down the plastic sheen and to give the weathering something to hang on to. The wood grain effect is not overdone. I’m not a big fan of nail heads. They just aren’t visible at normal viewing distance even in O scale.

D&NE structures are painted an amber color with medium green wainscoting and doors. Windows and trim are white. The scheme is reminiscent of Vienna station as I remember it on my hometown Washington & Old Dominion Railroad.

And this is where I leave off for now. The structure is complete and being prepped for painting. I’ve already started on the roof.

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I popped in some windows and doors for this photo. Getting ready to paint.

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It’s a beast! The roof, platforms, doors and windows will all be painted separately. The styrene pads under the platforms will protect them, I hope. They’ll be hidden by ground cover once it’s all in place. The roof is already primed.

Idlenot Light Railway · Model Building · Narrow Gauge

Idlenot Light Railway Tool Van No. 2

Before I started on the D&NE I was building 7/8″ scale models of Welsh two foot narrow gauge equipment. Here’s the story of one of those cars…

“The Idlenot Light Railway Preservation Society proudly announces the presentation of tool van #2 to the railway’s operating department. The tool van was rebuilt from the remains of Glyn Valley Tramway box van #2 discovered some years ago in a farmers yard deep in the Welsh countryside. After decades of service as a chicken coop, most of the remains were quite unusable. But the lads in the car shop were able to construct what must be considered a replica from that heap of rotted timbers and rusted ironwork using only a few old picture postcards as a guide. They claim there are some original parts in the rebuilt van. You would be hard pressed to know which as the workmanship is done in the traditional manner and, I might add, in a superb fashion. Congratulations to these intrepid volunteers!”

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Volunteer work train trundling home in the dappled eventide with Tool van No. 2 in tow. Photo taken on Rich Chiodo’s beautiful Isle of Shoals Tramway.

This 7/8” modeling project was started as an interlude after constructing a GVT guards van for a neighboring restored railway line. The original idea was to march right into a second copy of the guards van for the Idlenot but I wanted to tackle something a little different first. Flipping through the pages of Bernard Rockett’s Glen Valley Goods plan book right after the guards van there are plans for the GVT box vans, similar in size and shape but different in detail. The box van is scratch built except for the running gear, couplings and a few detail bits.

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The brake lever details were cut from 16g steel. The chain is from an old piece of jewelry.

The frame is constructed from basswood timbers topped by a floor of 22 gauge steel. The sides and ends are built from individual basswood planks. All of the ironwork strapping is constructed from styrene. The innumerable square bolt heads are diced from 1/16” square styrene and dropped onto the side braces in a puddle of MEK. Much of the remaining detail, the door latches, the brake gear, etc… is constructed from brass and steel. Oodles of pot metal NBWs adorn the end braces. Sierra Valley Enterprises spoked wheel sets are running in SVE sprung axle guards. They sit a little proud but are a close representation of the GVT equipment. Accucraft 16mm scale chopper couplings – standard on the Idlenot – complete the car.

Complete, that is, except for the roof. After several failed attempts, a decent approach to the roof was uncovered with much help and consultation with the boys over at the car shops of the nearby Isle of Shoals Tramway and my good wife! First, with much planing and sanding, a block of balsa was shaped to the roof contour. Since this roof was to be permanent, the balsa block was simply glued into place. Next, a sheet of 1/16” aircraft ply, cut a little over sized, was bonded to the balsa with yellow carpenters glue. How was it bent to shape? I remembered a passage in D. A. Boreham’s classic, Narrow Gauge Railway Modeling, where he described mounting a roof on a passenger car. The car is propped over two bits of wood with the car sides aligned with the edges of the boards and then the car is heavily weighted. Next morning you have a perfectly formed roof. All it needs is careful trimming to the proper overhang.

For the finish surface, I was looking for a tarred canvas effect. I settled on some cotton material from an old bed sheet. The most important step is to iron it – it must be wrinkle free. How to bond it to the roof? Shellac! I covered the ply with a thick coat of shellac and then carefully draped the cotton cloth over the wet goop. It helps to cut a diagonal slit in the cloth at each corner so it drapes nicely. When that dried, I applied several more top coats of shellac. The final step was to trim the now stiff cloth with a single edge razor blade right to the edge of the ply. A few coats of variegated blacks and grays give the roof the look of tarred canvas.

The final step was, of course, paint and finish. The GVT cars were painted in what was described as a “holly green”. Actually, there are several descriptions of that color but the paint faded to blue and that gives a good clue as to the shade of green. I settled for Humbrol Acrylic #163 Dark Green with some Humbrol #3 Brunswick Green mixed in to punch it up. I was aiming for the shade of green on the rebuilt GVT coaches over at the Talyllyn Railway. Since this is a freshly shopped car, I brush painted it straight up with only a little weathering. The running gear was given a coat of rusty brown and then attacked with washes of blacks and darkened rust. A final dry brushing of dark rust was applied to the door latches and the many bolt heads.

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I tried cutting stencils for the lettering with limited success.

The lettering is reminiscent of the Talyllyn Railway volunteer built tool van which itself is lettered in a style reminiscent of the Cambrian Railways, pre-1922 of course. Mine is not quite that fancy. Its hand painted with white enamel. Okay, I lied. I cut stencils for the “IDL RWY” and sprayed the white but the edges just weren’t crisp enough. I came back with a thin outline in black ink to clean up the edges and fix the line weights. It also gives a little snap to the lettering. But it’s not intended to be shadowing, as such. You shouldn’t really see it. The “No 2” really was hand painted – I couldn’t cut stencils that small and curvy.

A little more dusting and rusting, not much, and a final coat of matte spray completed the car. Hurray! It’s going to earn its living hauling tools and supplies out to the upcoming track work projects.

Nostalgia

Delta Lines Memento

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Traveled down to Marlboro, Mass., last Saturday to the NMRA Hub Division train show. Haven’t been down in a few years. Spent quite a few hours strolling the aisles and checking out the operating displays.

One fellow had a few O scale pieces for sale and what caught my eye but a Delta Lines caboose! I gave it a good looking over and it seemed genuine. On the bottom was the following tag:

“Orig: Delta Lines caboose by Frank Ellison from M. Philbrice Bridges, Westwood, MA Keystone Canyon R.R. 1981.”

Speaking with the gent I gathered this was his father’s. He did not know anything about Frank Ellison and the Delta Lines being too young and maybe not that interested. He came down to a reasonable price and it was mine.

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I remembered that the Delta Lines was sold to someone in the Boston area in the 1950s but was heavily damaged in transit. So it wasn’t surprising to see a piece of rolling stock at a Boston area show. And as far as the provenance of this piece, that’s all I have. I think it’s genuine. It will stay on the display shelf a treasured keepsake of a bygone era.

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Here are a couple of brief articles about Frank Ellison:

Wikipedia: Frank Ellison

Frank Ellison and the Delta Lines

Research · Structures

Oh, Well…

My visit to the Peterborough Train Show today yielded a treasure trove of information on the B&M Peterborough branch at Larry Kemp’s extensive display. If you’ve been following the blog, I just finished my rendition of  That Corrugated Shed seen in many photos of Peterborough.

Luckily I had placed it at the back of the scene with its rear facing the aisle because the front of the building was nothing like I had assumed. See the full sized shed in Larry’s HO display below. The prototype looks a little like the Atlas lumber yard kit but with corrugated siding. The front is actually a series of sliding doors for lumber storage bays. The angled loft encloses a veranda to the second story bays. Mine has just a single freight door. Oh well… We all know the real meaning of ASSUME, don’t we?

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Larry Kemp’s Peterborough Depot Square circa 1950

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Larry Kemp’s Peterborough Depot Square circa 1950. Front side of that corrugated shed.

I have no intention of changing my model. It is what it is. And you can’t see the front from where it is set in the scene. But isn’t that just how it goes!

 

Research

The Peterborough Train Show

Monica and I took a short drive out to Peterborough today for the Peterborough Train Show. The first person I met at the door was Randy Brown who wrote the article on modeling Peterborough in Model Rail Planning 2000! Much of my research on Peterborough as inspiration for St. George comes from Randy’s excellent article.

See St. George, Vermont 1953

What a pleasure to actually meet the author.

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Wayne (l) with Randy Brown (r) at Peterborough Train Show 10Nov18

Model Building · Structures

That Corrugated Shed

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That corrugated shed next to the public delivery track in St. George.

Photos of Peterborough, NH, in the 1950s show a crude looking corrugated shed next to the station. In the book, The Boston & Maine, a Photographic Essay by Philip R. Hastings, the shed shows quite clearly on page 140-141. The same photo can be seen on page 59 of Model Railroad Planning 2000. Since little is known about it, it’s generally referred to as that corrugated shed. I’m guessing the shed belonged to the nearby building supply business. There could have been roofing, bricks, fencing, maybe bags of cement or bales of hay in there. Who knows?

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Peterborough 1950. Phillip R. Hastings photo.

Well, I just had to have an ugly shed like that in St. George. I love the angled loft.

With a couple of photos and an overhead shot of Peterborough, I sized the shed to be about 70′ long and 25′ wide. I thought a structure 40′ by 25′ would fit nicely in St. George.

I happened to have a passel of O scale corrugated strips from Builders in Scale. They must date back to the 1980s gotten in for some project long, long forgotten. They’re perfect for sheathing this building.

I started construction by making a mock-up in foam board. I don’t have a photo showing the front side of the shed. I’m assuming there was just a large sliding freight door on that side. From what I can tell, the other three sides of the shed are blank.

For this model, I used the mock-up as the actual guts of the structure so I took care to build it foursquare. An opening for the door was cut in the front wall section and the walls were assembled to basswood bracing with contact cement. The sliding freight door was scratch built from basswood. Trim boards are all basswood strips. This was a good point to paint the door and trim. I choose a dark green color.

Now for the corrugated siding. After a wash in 91% alcohol they were given a spotty coat of Model Masters gray primer from a rattle can to knock down most of the shiny galvanized finish. The sheets were cut into 4′ by 8′ panels and weathered individually with artists oil washes. I was going for some subtle variation in the base color of the panels along with a little rust and grime. The photos show a distinct difference between panels and I wanted to capture that effect. The panels were attached to the walls and roof with medium cyanoacrylate. Care was taken to overlap the panels properly. After a spray of Testors DullCoat, final weathering was done with artist’s oil washes and Pan Pastels.

I located the shed off of the public delivery track near the station with its back to the viewer. As work in the area goes on, I’ll surround the shed with lots of clutter like sewer pipes, pallets of bricks, scraps of lumber and whatever other junk I can come up with. There’ll be stacks of sawn lumber and spills of bagged material. An occasional box car or flat will be spotted nearby for unloading.

 

Layout Construction

Raise High the Benchwork, Carpenters

I built the D&NE benchwork high for several reasons. First, it makes for nice viewing with track elevation at 50″ and higher. Second, it’s easy to shove double stack storage containers on rollers under the layout. Third, I wanted to roll myself under the layout — in a low-rider office chair — so work down under isn’t such a chore.

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That’s me in my low rider chair connecting DCC bus wires.

I recently adjusted a few joists for the new pop out. Easily done from the comfort of my roller chair. Stringing DCC bus cables and tying in the feeders – easy! Installing switch motors. Well, that’s still a pain but made easier from the chair.

My good friend, the late John Peterson, had a roller chair at the duck-under entrance to his layout. I didn’t really appreciate it until I was a little older myself. My knees thank-you, John.

Layout Construction

Progress on the Layout

September has been a busy month to say the least. Finished up a software contract I’ve been working on since December and then had my gall bladder removed. Fully recovered from that and over the last few days have been able to get back to my much neglected layout.

Picked up a sheet of tempered masonite at Lowes and had it ripped into 8″ strips for fascia. Installed the first 20′ or so around St.George up past the French river. Putting this edge on the benchwork really starts to pull the scene together. I thickened up the benchwork around the creamery area as it was looking tough to get space for a good structure there. Also planning to build a large corrugated shed much like the one in Peterborough between the creamery and the coal drop. Decided to terminate Railroad Ave. just past the crossing as a truck park for the freight house. The scene will drop past there so the coal trestle can be modeled more convincingly.

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Coal trestle site. That’s the Monson Jct.  freight house from my 2′ days filling in for the creamery. A large corrugated shed will be located in between.

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Helicopter view of the area. The freight house will likely be the first structure I tackle.

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Removing the pop out gives good access to the crossover and station scene. Note how the freight house base projects over the pop out.

 

Adding to the benchwork for the creamery site has made the public delivery track back near the station a lot more difficult to reach during operation but I decided to deal with that. Maybe a two step kitchen ladder will suffice.

It’s nice to be back on the layout itself. I have a few workbench projects going but the layout is what drives everything. Can’t wait to get some switching going in St. George.