Sunday, August 20, 2017

Painting and Weathering Track in Villeneuve

As I stated earlier this year, I wanted to step up my game in terms of painting tracks in Villeneuve. After many years of hitting the rails with a good old can of Krylon Camouflage Brown, few randoms washes of cheap acrylic paint, a dab of weathering powder and calling it a day, it was time to be more serious.

Let's face it, it doesn't look right to me. Many trusted modellers got great results with this trick over quality flextrack, but I found out over time their prototype generally implied relatively well maintained mainline track. Such wasn't the case over the CN Murray Bay sub. As a kid, we used to walk the track for a few feet and I certainly recall the ties weren't that dark but rather silvery and lightly brownish from weathered away creosote.

To get that look, one must thing about track the same way car weathering is done: in layers. Since I'm using recent PECO North American style tracks I know they have enough crisp details to be correctly weathered without looking out of place. That said, I have also another limitation due to our club meeting structure. Once per week, often less, we gather together one evening. It means time is limited and we must go right to the point quickly if we want a decent amount of progress. Also, since painting tracks involves a fairly large amount of spray painting, we thought it would be best to do that on the same day to minimize exposition to harmful fume (even if wearing approved respirators).

Here is the procedure, which can be adapted to suit your need and prototype as you see fit. While the foundation color steps remain true, the finer weathering job should reflect the effect you want to achieve. Remember, these are  guidelines, not a creed to be followed. I certainly recommend readers to take a look at Mike Cougill's articles about track weathering on OST Publications. While Mike goes further than most would do, I suspect some people could discover an area of interest they never expected to be so interesting.

First, the track is entirely painted with white primer (or flat white) which will be our foundation color for weathering.

Second, when the primer is dry, mask the ties with tape.

Third, paint the rails with Krylon camouflage brown (or a similar color). This will be the rusted steel foundation color.

Fourth, remove masking tape on all the trackwork and touch up any white primer that could have lifted during the process. Use any acrylic or oil based paint you like and apply with a small brush.

Fifth, prepare an oil wash made of oil paint and odourless turpentine. Recommended color is Burnt Umber which can be mixed with some black to get a grayish color according to your prototype. Before applying this oil wash, make sure the spray paint is dry.

Sixth, add more wash where needed to get the right look according to prototype pictures. Some track work such as turnouts are generally darker in some area due to grease and oil spills.

Seventh, using full strength oil paint you can add small details like creosote seeping or drybrush some features. It is the time to darken some ties to make them like new replacement ones.

Eight, ballast the track with suitable material.

Ninth, using Dark Earth weathering powder, weather the rails and steel component to give them a realistic rusted powdery look. If you use details such as fishplates, it's a good time to hit them with lighter weathering powder so they pop up a little bit.

Tenth, using washes and/or PanPastel and/or weathering powder, add any oil dripping, spillage, dust and weathering required on the track center and ballast. This vary from prototype to prototype and era depending on locomotive used, fuel and other factors.

And now for a time accessment, it took us about 8 hours of work at a leasure pace to paint about 18 feet long of mainline, including a 5 tracks yard with associated turnouts. This represents about a quarter of the entire layout and I expect another 5 hours to completely weather the track. Given it will take about two work sessions, I consider this is quite a good investment in time. Particularly in a layout area where one can operate for a hour at slow speed and having the time to appreciate a higher quality track work.

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Weathered Intermountain Cylindrical Hoppers

When Rapido announced their new "correct" cylindrical hoppers for bulk commodities like cement, I knew a few of my Intermountain cement cars would be phased out in a distant future. With that in mind, I thought it was an excellent occasion to weather them and get some experience before messing up with the Rapido fleet.

Interestingly, cylindrical hoppers develop great weathering patterns over a relatively short amoutn of time, particularly cement cars. Cement is highly corrosive and take a toll on a railcar fleet in no time. Thus, armed with prototype pictures, I was ready to try my hand.

I certainly didn't reinvent the wheel, only using my habitual weathering techniques (oil, powder, washes, India ink, etc.) to get the look right. As always, a good weathering job should always be about layering several coats of dirty to replicate correctly the natural process. If you want to rush things or treat weathering as a single coat of dirt you will fail to capture the real thing.

Meanwhile, I've also started to work on a bunch of Procor cement car, which are even more interesting to weather. They are certainly not straightforward to do and I had to way a month for oil paint to dry, but patience is the only way to get good results. More on them on a later post.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Photobucket Mess and Blog Restoration

Like many other blogs and forums around the world, my blogs are also among the recent Photobucket new policy victims. While I have no interest discussing the great loss of information suffered in terms of knowledge, I certainly can recognize Photobucket was in its own right to do so. Most of us were there for the free ride and we should be glad it lasted for such a long time. I'm in no position to complain though I feel Photobucket made itself infamous in a matter of a few minutes.

That said, it means most of this blog posts were rendered almost useless. I estimate about 200 posts have broken links and that represents about 2/3 of everything I wrote on Hedley Junction until I switched to Blogger’s option to directly embed the material in late 2015. Given I generally use 3 to 4 pictures per post, it means I would have to restore more than 600 to 800 images. That’s a lot of work! However, I feel I have a duty toward the readers here to keep things in order.

As a matter of fact, over the last weeks I already started restoration work and can announce Hedley-Junction satellite blogs such as Quebec South Shore Railway, Temiscouata Railway Connors Branch and Erie Harlem Staion are now fully functional again.

In the case of Hedley-Junction, the sheer amount of information means I’ll do the work as time allows. Don’t expect a swift restoration as I have many other commitments. However, I already restored the first posts describing the origin of the project and now plan to restore posts from the most recent to the older since I think older content was less relevant to the actual version of the layout. I certainly hope the blog will be back in its glory by September.

Finally, my summer vacation starts today and will be quite busy, including a large scale home improvement project. I suspect I won't have time to model as much as I would want, but probably will continue working on my cement car weathering which is quite much involving that I first thought.

Saturday, July 8, 2017


As I'm moving forward with my intention of getting rid of useless material so I can start renovating the "old kitchen" - an unnoccupied room in my 1875-built house, I can see in front of my eyes many layout projects, ideas and ephemeral inspirations that shaped my vision of railway modelling. While it is easy to look down on such artefacts and consider them incredible waste of money and time, they are, in fact many steps that helped me to achieve a better understanding of my hobby.

A fraction of things that no longer have a place in the collection...

No toddler starts walking on his two feet the first time he tries and the same applies to all the aspects of our lives. At some point, you've got to experiment and start grasping the several aspects of the surrounding environment. The small 0-6-0 saddle tank speaks of a time when I was investigating local limestone and marble quarry operations, which led me to discover the presence of Maine Central in Southern Quebec which opened a larger door into Northeastern railways in general, both in Québec, Ontario, New Brunswick, Vermont, Maine and New Hampshire. Even a single picture of Ciment St-Laurent plant put me on the track to discover the Shawmut Line, its coal mines and the intricate history of Pennsylvania Railroad's coal hopper fleet.

At some point, I'm doing archeological work on my own life and turning upside down at least 15 years of active modelling since I decided to get a layout of my own once for all.

As I recently said, what recently surprised me was the large fleet of American cars I had while I generally don't model such roads. However, looking back at Harlem Station, I couldn't help but see many interesting projects that would fit perfectly that layout theme. Funny how I'm constantly brought back to that layout since the first time I witnessed that prototype back in 2010 when Jack Trollope was creating a version of it presented by the late Carl Arendt on his wonderful Micro-Layout website. Little I did know at that time Harlem Station would became a fascination for me. And while all the other New York harbor terminals are much famous because of their intricate track plan, I was in fact attracted by Erie's diminutive yet highly efficient use of space. At Harlem Station, you can't add or remove a track, everything is highly optimized in that weird spartan railway fashion. And while small, this terminal - for me at least - is a window on the 1950s United States since cars from everywhere in the country gathered on that small city block.

And while you think I'm diverting from my propos, in fact I must admit thinking about the Harlem Station layout is a good way to see if something can have a second life or if it is truly unneeded in my collection.

Except a few emotional pieces, many were steps I won't visit again and if I ever do, my approach will be drastically different and shouldn't be tied down by a collection built when I was ignorant about the subject. They served their purpose and clinging to them wouldn't make me move forward.

Friday, July 7, 2017

Ciment St-Laurent - Part 3

Villeneuve is progressing at a steady pace! Among various chores that had to be done, we raised the landforms around the cement plant and tracks to better match the buried look that could be seen on the prototype.

To do so, a new layer of cork sheet was glued down and nailed on the benchwork. This layer of cork is slightly lower than the surrounding cork roadbed to still keep some topography there.

The track was also painted Krylon Limestone Gray. This may sounds absolutely weird, but when the ties are weathered with oil paints and rails painted dark camouflage brown with some weathering powder, the results is quite good. I tested it on a scratch of flextrack beforehand.

Jérôme is putting the cement plant mockup back in place.

As for the cement plant itself, a new 5/8 high MDF base has been made and fitted on the layout. This baseboard will serve as the foundation for the plant and will be removable so we can build and detail the structure on the benchwork.

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Railfanning CFQ SW1200RS

The new Rapido's announcement about the SW1200RS got us digging our photo albums from the late 1990s to find what pictures we had of these emblematic locomotives when they served the ex-CN Murray Bay Subdivision under Chemin de fer Charlevoix tenure. In fact, we found out very little pictures of that era can be found online.

While it appears our teenager budget didn't allow us to take a lot of pictures, we managed to snap all three locomotives in different locations. While we didn't care about write the date, these pictures were shot between Summer 1998 and Spring 2000. They aren't very crisp, but at least we get the gist of the paint scheme and weathering.

Let's start with locomotive 1303 parked at Clermont's Wieland shops circa 1998. I took this one while visiting a my grandfather's friend back then.

The other one is locomotive 1323. It was also shot by myself on Fall 1999 or Spring 2000 in Sainte-Anne-de-Beaupré. The field at the right of the locomotive used to be the old QRL&PCo roundhouse and turntable. Not a great shot I must concede, but it gives a good idea how CFQ operated their SW1200RS cab forward.

Finally, the last one - locomotive 1330 - was shot by Jérôme in Maizerets. You can recognize the large oil reservoir in the background and his bicycle in the foreground. He certainly had a better camera and skill than I back then! This picture is particularly interesting to understand the weathering pattern on these otherwise rather pristine and clean locomotives.

These pictures, while not great, will provide a good starting point to detail, paint and weather models on our layout.

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Avenue du Sous-bois

The first visible change in VIlleneuve is the new Avenue du Sous-bois asphalt road. While I recently experimented with spackle and other similar products, I find it easier to work with illustration board as done by Gordon Gravett. Not only it is less messy and easier to control the final result, but I can take the part on the benchwork and work under better conditions.

Since the track geometry is not parallel where the road crosses the track, I had to find a trick to ensure all the parts would fit perfectly. To do this, I used a sheet of paper and placed it exactly were the road will go. Then, using a truck equipped with metal wheels, I rolled over the paper and track. This little trick left flanges impressions on the paper that were used as a template to cut the illustration board.

After an hour of cutting and fitting, the road is now done and ready to get cutters and a good coat of paint. It won't be installed until the tracks are painted. In that regard, I'm actually developing a new approach to painting track with oil paint washes.

Monday, July 3, 2017

The Last Train To Clermont

Not so long ago, back in 2011, the last freight train to Clermont ran over the hundred years old rail linking Quebec City, Montmorency County and Charlevoix. The goal was simple but charged with deep meaning as all freight cars were towed back to Quebec City, ending effectively regular railway traffic on the line since 1889. Not only it was a sad say for railroading, but it also meant Côte-de-Beaupré and Charlevoix's industrial core was no longer viable enough to support rail service. While the first will be succumb to Quebec City's urban sprawl, the fate of the latter is still unknown. There is always a limit to what tourism can accomplish.

That said, someone took the effort to document that last trip over the subdivision and as since posted his pictures online. This is a rare and late glimpse at what regular operation on the line looked like. At some point, it is quite weird to model a railroad that is now gone when that was only 6 years ago. I must admit the last few years made this particular railway a nostalgia vignette similar to a transition era prototype. What used to be the peaceful and almost uninteresting line got a new veneer of respectability as memories of it started to fade away.

Sunday, July 2, 2017

CN Chevrolet Suburban - Part 2

Another wrap up! The CN truck is now complete with decals by Highball Graphics and a light coat of weathering per prototype (which incidently isn't picked up by my camera).

I'm glad to see how this little project was a fun break from trains. However, as I look at the photos, it seems to me the truck is riding quite high. But as matter of fact, the truck is now in service, guaranteeing the security and maintenance along CN Murray Bay Subdivision.

Saturday, July 1, 2017

Marketplace - Rolling Stock and Motive Power For Sale

Welcome to marketplace! A space were extra rolling stock and motive power in my collection is put up for sale.

This post will be made permanently accessible through a link in the headbar. New items will be added as required.

A few rules:

-All item prices are in $CDN. They are suggestion and feel free to make offers. Buying multiple items will likely translate in discount.

-Shipping via Canada Post is at the buyer expense. I will only ship to Canada (maybe the USA is requested, but keep in mind Canada Post fees can be quite high). Due to my schedule, shipping will be done according to my free time, generally on Saturday.

-All items are used, but many of them saw little to no action on a layout and were kept in their original boxes. I can't guarantee lubrification and running performance out of the box will be good since the model were in storage for many years. However, models are in working condition except is otherwise stated.

-If an item has been customized, it will be stated in the description. If an item is in bad shape only good for spare parts or kitbashing purpose, it will be noted.


P2K CNR Alco FA1 #9403, custom DCC, LED, light weathering,
P2K CNR Alco FA1 #9407, custom DCC, LED, light weathering,
P2K CNR Alco FB2 #9413, Dummy, custom detail & paint, light weathering
$200/set ($75/loco)

P2K CP Rail Alco FA2 #4085 DCC, LED, custom details & paint, weathered
P2K CP Rail Alco FA2 #4086 DCC, LED, custom details & paint, weathered
P2K CP Rail Alco FB2 #4467, Dummy, custom details & paint, weathered
$200/set ($75/loco)

P1K 500024 CNR C-Liner #8708, custom DCC, LED
P1K 500025 CNR C-Liner #8720, custom DCC, LED
$150/pair (75$/loco)

Ad Mare Usque Ad Mare

Canada is 150 years of today, or rather should we say the Confederation - a political body - is now celebrating its 150th anniversary. As with everything happening in our peaceful and monotonous country, the celebration are low key for the most and quite cheesy. Don't expect fanfare, military parade or anything else... business as usual.

CPR No. 374. 23 May 1887 (Library and Archives Canada, MIKAN No. 3191726)

Most Canadians (I hope!) knows the country as we knows it it far older than that in a similar fashion than United States were officially proclaimed in 1776 but their real foundation goes back 400 hundred years ago, just like Canada.

I generally try to keep myself away from politics when blogging, but that political anniversary can't be understood outside the realm of railways. Without trains, which were a condition for many provinces to join the Confederation or to be created, the creation of a unified federal administration would have been almost impossible. In 1867, most of the population centers and activities took place along the St. Lawrence River and Gulf and the Great Lakes, exactly the same areas explored and envisioned a future prosperous country by Samuel de Champlain in the early 17th century. By the First World War, the geographical expansion of the country was achieved. Imagine, in about 40 years, more territories were developed than before in three centuries. The same happened in the USA at a similar rate and often, by the same companies, railway tycoons and engineers. Sure, a lot of odious acts occurred during that era of transformation and I certainly won't gloss over it.

The funny thing is that Canada is now completely forgetting the force that gave it a coherent shape. Talk to anybody under 30 years and they are oblivious to trains. As if it never existed. However, they travel a lot in foreign country, discovering the advantages of railways and when you tell them we had it all less than 50 years ago, they ask what happened to reach such a pitiful state.

As far as I can recall, I've heard about fast trains linking Quebec City to Windsor via Montreal, Ottawa and Toronto. How many fruitless studies were made? It took more decades to write these useless shenanigans than to link British Columbia through wilderness with the rest of the country. Can you believe they built several thousands of track using man power and early industrial machine on hostile terrain while just putting a passenger train on existing rail seems to be an impossible task. This is fascinating and at the same time, the most horrific truth about Canada: nothing ever gets done... and unfortunately, not by lack of talent or resources, but by some psychological blocage. I can't help but think about the Arrow plane which was cancelled and almost completely erased from the records, the same happened with the Turbo train and many other breakthroughs.

If I could only wish something for our country before the 200th anniversary would be that citizens rediscover the railway's fascinating history shaping the landscape and lives of millions... in the past and in the future.

With that said, Happy Canada Day from Coast to Coast!!!!

Friday, June 30, 2017

Here Comes Miss Modern...

Maybe the extremely obscure reference will go unnoticed by most readers, however, I suspect the meaning behind it isn't missed at all. Hedley Junction is modernizing and improving.

An artist impression of things to expect...

After a good discussion at the club yesterday, it was decided not only to upgrade the car fleet but also the locomotive fleet. I don't want to sound like a broken record, but while browsing through the locomotive drawer, it was evident the poor thing was cluttered with absolutely useless items. Imagine... CP Rail F9s, Atlas GP40-2W with wrong noses, GE Dash 8 and an incredible load of RS18s. They will have to go... along with other stuff to make room for more relevant stuff. Some will be sold, others will enter the display cabinet.

It certainly isn't a new subject here. But managing a layout (yes, owning a layout is much more than just building and operating the thing) can be a hard task. While I admire guys with large layouts and dozen of locomotives, my context is different. For example, I have no time or interest in fine tuning a large motive power fleet for the sake of using almost never. On the other hand, Putting a lot of efforts on a very few models is more appealing to me because there is a reward at the end of the day. As I explained on my Quebec South Shore Railway blog, I've come to love doing smaller layouts with focussed scope because I feel, when I work a few hours on them, that I can see substantial progress. This is an important motivational factor, particularly for a motley crew like Hedley Junction.

But I also feel it is a good way to clarify the story we are telling to ourselves and others throught the intermediary of the layout. Should it be a cluster of nostalgia? Should we approach it as a messed up collection of "likes" or should we simply tell the story through the lenses of our artistic choices? As it stands, Hedley Junction (which incidently is misnamed) is nothing more than a vehicle showing us how freight was handled in rural Quebec City area before desindustrialisation killed landmark industries. I think we should see it as a canvas, or a series of vignettes. Just like a professional photographer, we have selected and framed a few subjects we thought would help to understand the big story behind all this.

In this regard, nobody will be surprised that I officially announce we have pre-ordered a fleet of three undecorated Rapido SW1200RS that will be painted as CFC 1303, 1323 and 1330. And no, it's not a matter of jumping in the proverbial bandwagon, but rather an excellent occasion of focusing our project and giving it more personality and individuality. It shrinks the fleet drastically while creating a sense of uniqueness to the layout, rooting it closer to its identity, which in return strengthen that goal of telling a story.

Technically, it won't have any relevant impact on the layout as built and designed, except it will help a lot to push our modelling and scenery efforts to another level, particularly in Villeneuve district. I'm already working, as we speak, to develop coloration for track and ballast on scrap of flextracks. So far, what I see is well worth the time and effort and I hope to soon document it on the blog.

Upgrading Rolling Stock

Sometimes, I'm absolutely stunned to see how I can take years if not decade to adjust to common practices. Most people would be surprised to hear I hear owned a coupler height gauge nor a NMRA gauge until a few days ago. As you can guess, coupler height had been a recurring problem that was addressed with a lot of guesswork.

Now these days are gone and we've started to standardize all the fleet for flawless performance. The work involves replacing defective couplers, check wheel gauge, replace wrong era wheels (all those ribbed back wheels are now discontinued and will be installed on older cars in the collection).

Another aspect of the fleet improvement program is adjusting the weight of every car so that each conform, as much as possible, to our standard.

As you can expect, a lot of discrepancies were discovered. The most worrying one was Kadee wheels which seem to never fit plastic trucks without some work. I've decided to remove every Kadee wheels on the layout with remaining P2K stocks on hand. They roll freely without having to mess up with the trucks. Kadee wheels will probably be assigned to another task later on.

As for locomotives, no upgrade at this moment, but the fleet will be streamlined as much as possible before. Lots of unused locomotives we have no purpose for.

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Weathering Intermountain CN Cylindrical Hoppers

While I'm eager to get my fleet of 12 Rapido cylindrical hoppers later this year, I still have two Intermountain foobies that could serve another purpose. It's for this reason they were slated to receive a coat of weathering.

It's been almost 17 years since I last weathered a cylindrical hopper (a Model Power Canadian Government grain car) and I wanted to try my hands on models I wouldn't cry if I messed up.

The weathering was do with various media including PanPastel, weathering powders, India ink and alcohol and various washes of oil paint. Nothing fancy here, but trying to get that abused look so common on cement hoppers. While weathering patterns change from car to car, it must be noted the dirty streaks running down the running board supports seem to be a constant on these cars.

The next project will be to severely weather a set of four Intermountain Procor pressure cars. This time, I'll have to be much more bold in my approach to ensure I'm following the prototype.

Monday, June 26, 2017

Rapido GMD SW1200RS vs Hedley Junction

Well, Rapido decided to take us by surprise announcing a new HO GMD SW1200RS model... Sure, this new product announcement generates its share of hype and ethic questions, but don't count on me to thread that field of mines.

Now possible in HO?

Far to jump on the bandwagon, I must admit the SW1200RS is a key element in the history of Murray Bay Sudvision, particularly when the line was sold to Chemins de fer du Québec and became known as Chemin de fer de Charlevoix (CFQ). Should I note that most railfans still call the line "Le Charlevoix", even if I feel this moniker is quite recent and erase the CN and QRL&PCo heritage. Being born on Côte-de-Beaupré, maybe I feel bad seeing my birthplace's railway being plastered with the name of a remote neighboring area. Oh! Nostalgia.

That said, I must confess the team behing Hedley Junction often discussed quite seriously the possibility to simply model the early days of CFQ back in 1992-1993 when the black and yellow trio of SW1200RS made its dramatic appearance. Yes, the lost of zebra painted M420s was a real shock for many of us... Truth to be told, as a kid I held for a few years the belief CN locomotives would return unaware the line was no longer a federal property. That said, they idea to model CFQ goes back to many years ago, but that could only be possible if suitable models would be available. Brass and kitbashes were out of questions for many reasons. Now, we have a more definite answer to that problem and it raise its share of questions.

Why would we be tempted to move in the early 1990s when we have already invested a lot of effort in the 1980s? Well, let's face it, this project started in the 50s, then moved in the early 1960s, later the mid-1970, the early 1980s and now somewhere in 1985-1987. Would moving up to the 1990s would hurt the overall project? Most readers know how much I'm tired of doubting my projects!

The short answer is no. The actual layout depicts the subdivision as it was in the mid 1980s. However, big changes and track modifications didn't occur before the late 1990s and early 2000s when customers started to die off and sidings were removed. Thus, from a scenic point of view, we are spot on.

From an operating point of view, Dominion Textile was still standing though it had closed by 1985. Ciment St-Laurent shifted from coal to oil (now trucked) and didn't seem to receive gypsum by open hoppers anymore (that question will have to be answered, I wouldn't be surprised it was shipped from the Maritimes to Quebec City then trucked to the plant). Only the cement was hauled by rail at that time.

On the other hand, the paper and lumber trades were doing fine. CFQ attracted a lot of business by using Wieland as a transloading facility for finished lumber often ship from Côte-Nord. At that time everything moved on bulkhead flatcars and centerbeam cars, with some Railbox-type boxcars.

As you can see, in a matter of a few years, a lot of diversity was lost in term of railcars. And God we know model railroaders love to have any kind of cars on their layout. Sure, it's our layout and we could do what we want (which is a rule I've never been fond of) and fudge things up (we are already by keeping the coal and gypsum while it ended in the early 1980s), but that wouldn't feel like the real thing. We should also note CFQ never used caboose which take out a big chunk of nostalgia out of the project.

Thus, there is a big choice in front of us: a typical CN subdivision with all the goodies or a CFQ branchline with less stuff. It's not an easy choice.

However, we noted not long ago that our memories of the 1980s are quite imprecise. My interaction with trains was scarce, from afar at best. I recall details and general impression but I would struggle in certain areas. In contrast, we all knew well the CFQ from its inception up to its untimely demise. CN planted the seed, but I grew up with CFQ. Even if my nostalgia for CN was intense (and still is), my first serious diesel kitbashing and repainting project was a pair of CFQ SW1200RS back in high school. I still have these engines which I painted in CN colors when I found out the hobby shop clerk sold me unsuitable models (Athearn SW7). As for Jérôme, being younger, his memories of the 1990s are more vivid while he remember almost nothing from the 1980s.

Would I make the move and switch eras? I certainly don't know at this point, but I'm able to see some merit in that idea, But as I noted, the layout would remain the same so I think sticking with 1985 is the right choice since running the CFQ only require to not serve Dominion Textile and keep the open hopper fleet in the drawer.

So, after talking for the last weeks about focusing our efforts and framing our project, I have to sit down and think about it without rush. Will I model CFQ SW1200RS independantly. Probably, it's on my wishlist since the late 1990s...

Saturday, June 24, 2017

The State of My Collection

While decaling my Procor pressure cars today, I took sometime to organize my rolling stock collection at home. It accounts for about half the total collection, the other half being store at the club layout.

I was aware I had too much stuff, but this little exercise proved me I should think twice before buying anything new without a good reason.

For the purpose of classification, I used different color Post-It to identify each box by its general theme:

Orange: Modern CN (post-1960)
Green: Old CNR (pre-1960)
Violet: CPR (all eras)
Yellow: American roads
Blue: Old Time

The results were astounding. American cars were the largest group, followed by CPR, Old Time, Old CNR and modern CN. While arguably most modern CN cars are in service on the club layout, it was disturbing to own so many American cars I have almost no use for. I recall many of them are realted to the Harlem Station layout, but the real problem is they were bought before that layout even came to fruition. It means I collected American cars for almost no reason except kitbashing purpose to such an extent I know have no idea what to do with them and no longer remember what conversion I had on my mind back then.

The same thing apply to the Old Time cars which I bought in numbers back in the days in hope of making a QRL&PCo layout, or a logging layout or something else. They piled up, and now I have a bunch of half kitbashed cars in such quantity it could crowd a medium sized layout. I even found out a disturbing amount of small Bachmann, IHC, Pocher, Roundhouse and Mantua steam locomotives... In fact, I'm starting to believe I could build the Temiscouata layout in HO without buying a single piece of new equipment... It's frightening.

But to speak frankly, the problem is that most of these cars (Canadian, American or Old Time) were bought with the future in mind. "Just in case" or for the "future layout". Most of them require extensive kitbashing, detailing and painting, which can be a serious investment both in time and resources. Unfortunately, they are also models from another era, mainly blue box kits, sometimes detailed plastic models or craftman kits. It means they no longer fit the level of detail and accuracy I want from my model. Also, meanwhile, many cars I bought for the sake of kitbashing a particulay prototype have been superseeded by accurate models. What's the point in installing state of the art decoders in old P2K EMD and ALCO locomotives. I have lots of F and FA units I have absolutely no purpose for. They don't fit my interests but they sure eat up a lot of space.

While I'm confident many cars and locomotives will find a purpose someday, I'm also aware many of them no longer hold value in my eyes. As much as I would like, it is not realistic to think I'll kitbash dozens of cars for the sake of completing long overdue projects. One day or another, I'll have to trim down the tree... You can't have it all and these models, as fun as they were and supported my dreams, must be shed like a snake shed its old skin...

Maybe layout design ideas are just a nice little cute excuse to buy more and more... because we can justify impulsive consumerism with vague and idealized dream layouts.

By the way, don't expect picture of that messy collection, it is quite humiliating, even for me!

On a positive note, I'm glad to find out I don't need cars for Hedley Junction and can now put my effort on detailing, weathering and fine tuning the fleet. Rapido's cylindrical hoppers are likely to be the last cars to be acquired next Fall.

Friday, June 23, 2017

Relettering Intermountain CN Procor Hoppers - Part 2

The three Procor cars are now repainted in CN Grey No. 12 or should I say, a custom mix made to fit the rest of the Intermountain fleet.

As a matter of fact, paints are always tricky when it's time to choose a color. By mistake, I sprayed the first car with True Line CN Grey No. 11 only to discover is was too far off and didn't even match my other True Line hoppers! Maybe the color is right, but it seems to be far to greenish. But the mistake didn't end there. CN indeed changed it's hopper color to Grey No. 12 in the late 60s, exactly when the Procor cars were built.

A quick search in local and online hobby shops yielded poor results and I had to make my own mix. As I often hear from my older architect colleagues "a good painter should be able to eyeball any color". Well, I guess that's true. In my case, seeking the perfect color was trivial since the cars will be heavily discolored and weathered per prototype. Thus, it was much more important to blend the color with the existing similar cars in my fleet.

In fact, getting the mix right took about 1 minutes. A lot of white, a sizeable amount of Tamiya German Grey XF-63 and a bit of Tamiya Flat Flesh XF-15 yielded quickly a satisfying mix. The color was tested on a prepainted Intermountain car until a perfect match was achieved. In a matter of a few minutes, the three cars were covered in a nice coat of warm grey paint. Later, a coat of Future gave them a nice glossy finish for decalling, which I hope will occur during the weekend when the paint will have cured.

When completed, this will bring the Procor fleet to 9 cars. Add to this 2 Intermountain cylindrical hoppers, 12 Rapido new cylindrical hoppers and we've got enough car to serve the cement plant. Meanwhile, the slabside hoppers will be phased out when the Rapido cars will be available next fall. By the mid-80s, none of them served the plant anymore. However, they could be extremely useful if we want to backdate the layout a little bit.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Ciment St-Laurent - Part 2

I'm back to the drawing board! This time, to design a way to build Ciment St-Laurent loading facilities. While the building is rather spartan, its size (42" long in HO scale) and structure offer a structural challenge.

I have also to take into account how I will detail the interior and maintain the rails located right under the structure. Our initial approach was to build a single structure with protuding columns. While definitely feasible, this option has a few disadvantages. First, it's hard to make all columns sit correctly against the soil without having some small gaps. Second, the aforementionned columns lack bracing and are quite flimsy. It could be worked out though.

I'm exploring the possibility to break up the building in two parts: the structural columns and the superstructure. Columns would be inserted and glued into a sturdy base and connected together with a web of structural members similar to the prototype. The base could be scenicked and detailed while tracks could be embedded in the base. The superstructure would sit on top and could be removable for maintenance. It is quite more complex than the original one-part concept, but would ensure a more realistic approach.

As for materials, no definite choice is actually made but whatever is used should be braced and sealed to some extent to reduce warping.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Memories of QRL&PCo

I often lament the disappearance of QRL&PCo-related heritage in Quebec City area. While this is inevitable and I'm coming to term with that, I was quite surprised to discover a 60-years old manhole cover installed by the defunct utility company probably in the early 1960s on Rue Vallière. My estimate is based on the fact the text is French, which was a trend in the 1960s as seen on CN bilingual car lettering. Quebec Power was absorbed in Hydro-Québec by the late-1960s.

Meanwhile, I walked the bike path up to D'Estimauville to see the state of the track after a long winter. Well, nothing changes here but vegetation do grow. At least, it will be handy for scenery reference.

Monday, June 19, 2017

Relettering Intermountain CN Procor Hoppers - Part 1

While I'm certainly not a rivet counter in terms of lettering, I still consider a car should reflect its era and while I've seen many people use post-1990 white-colored CN covered hoppers for gray-colored hoppers, it's certainly not a path I want to thread.

Colors and shapes are the most recognizeable aspect of an object (given we can't reproduce smell in a practicaway). Failing to graps these fundamental characteristics won't pay off if your goal is to reproduce something.

A few years ago, I made the mistake to buy CN Procor hoppers in the wrong color. More than once I thought about selling or swapping them for correct ones, but as high quality car prices raise, repainting them quickly became a practical option.

But at the same time, being practical has a lot of advantages. Instead of completely disassembling, stripping paint and repainting my fleet of white Procor cars, I've decided to erase the lettering. My technic is simple and only require fine sandpaper and Solvaset. This particular product is generally strong enough to soften pad printed lettering. In case of small letters, they disappear in a matter of a few seconds while large logo like the CN noodle can take more time and care. To prepare this model, it took me about 90 minutes, which may seem long but is a fraction of taking the longer route.

When lettering was completely removed, I repaired and glued back loosen parts, wiped the model clean with 70% alcohol and misted a light coat of white primer to give some tooth for the new coat of paint. As for decals, high quality Highball products will be used. Two others to go!

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Back in Villeneuve

Gosh, getting back on your feet after a few months far from intense modelling isn't exactly what I call a walk in the park. However, nothing moves on until you give some impetus to the wheel!

After a good discussion at the club yesterday, it became quite evident progress is slowed down in Clermont because I'm wasting a huge amount of time modelling roads. They take a lot of time and thus are keeping us tied down. However, all the grade crossing signals are now in perfect shape in Villeneuve and D'Estimauville which means we can now think about completing this scene.

Villeneuve... ready for an overhaul

Following Jérôme's lead, we started to plan out the new structure that will replace the cement plant mockup. Scale drawings are already done and it's only a matter of building them. I must admit Jérôme did a good job at researches recently and found out bagged cement shipped by insulated boxcar was an important traffic at Villeneuve even during the early 1990s. Having a few Walthers FGE insulated boxcars and the new excellent CN decals by Sean Steele on hands, it will be easy to add two cars to the fleet. I've also started to remove some weight from the cement cars. The reason is simple, there is a limit to Bachmann GE 45-Ton's performances. We are looking for someone to install sound and a small keep alive into this tiny locomotive. All suggestions are welcomed.

As for the plant itself, it will require a lot of corrugated siding material. I used to use corrugated paper but my stock is depleting and unfortunately, I've been unable to locate that product at local art and craft stores. On Internet, it was the same, probably because I didn't search using the right English words. Personally, I'd prefer to use paper than corrugated cardboard or styrene because it is more versatile and easier to glue and stack without looking out of scale. If anybody has a suggestion for a decent material that doesn't cost an arm and a leg, let me know.

Meanwhile, I've completed the CN Suburban truck and weathered it but forgot to take a picture! And I also started to try weathering a few Intermountain cylindrical hoppers carrying cement. They generally weather badly in real life. So far, I'm happy with the results, but feel they could be far better. I'll post a few pictures when they are ready to hit the rail again.

So, if I had to set up a goal, I'd say I'd like to complete scenery in Villeneuve and D'Estimauville by our next open house which is generally during Christmas holidays. And, as a matter of fact, I'd like to complete the main cement plant structures by the end of August. Is it realistic? Maybe. After all, they are a bunch of big steel clad boxes.

By the way, I started to build a baseboard and proscenium for the new QSSR layout. I certainly won't start a revolution with that layout, but I'll try to approach the diorama from an artist point of view instead of a model railroader. In that regard, I won't approach the layout as a chunk of real world I want to model, but rather as a canvas on which I'll paint my impression of a railroad if I wanted to boiled down my love of train and convey that feeling to others.

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Lessons Learned: Framing Your Approach

It seems summer is always about reflecting on someone’s approach to model railroading. It has probably a lot to do with winter being associated with the highest peak of modelling productivity for most of us.

My recent one-month trip to Japan made me realize how little North Americans struggle to compose a scene and frame a subject. While this art is well-known in Japanese gardening and traditional architecture, it can be seen in the most mundane streets and back alley of their country. If it was in some other country, one could infer it is an happy result due to sheer luck. However, it is so common there that you start to understand it is the result of their peculiar relation with space. While North America is blessed with vast expanse of space, this is also a pitfall since we are never faced with situation where we have to make the best of it. If we lack space, we quickly think about enlarging rather than focusing our efforts. Standing in a middle ground, European modellers, at least a substantial mass of them, have for a long time developed a sensibility toward smaller and contrived spaces.

Mike Cougill recently asked me what I’ve learned from that travel. Most people talk about the initial cultural shock, but it wasn’t. I saw what I expected to see, however, there is a huge difference between knowing something and experimenting it first hand on a daily basis.

But more seriously, I was impressed by that people's obsession toward excellence which can be quite humiliating when you come from a background where most people don’t care about result or quality. That excellence can be witnessed at every level, from a generic sidewalk to a nicely assembled sliding door. Even a gravel parking lot will be built and maintained with a care we don’t even think of for a more glamour object here. And that notion have nothing to do with objective beauty (if that exist), but is truly the embodiment of their approach with the physical world. Certainly, it wouldn’t fit our mindset, but lessons can be learned from that and I feel that model railroaders – who by trade focus on putting a lot of effort replicating the most mundane and ugly things – should easily relate to this dedication at some level.

The other lesson learned is truly about framing a concept, an idea or a space. Japanese have a special way to take one simple thing and bring it to an art level. Did I lose my breath often there, having no words to describe my amazement? Yes, often… and it happened with temples for sure, but also with lunch boxes and other such “insignificant” things.

How can that translate to model railroading? Well, it can be seen in term of operation which means focusing on a particular limited set of actions, but rendered and executed with care, thus bringing a lot of emotion with performing them.

It can also be seen in term of layout planning. When you visit a traditional Japanese garden, you rarely grasp the entirety of the plan… and it’s not required. You are treated to very focused and framed scenes that emphasized a limited set of well-proportioned subjects. Thus, a garden is no longer a single entity, but rather a succession of scenes. And if the garden is well designed, this succession will make sense and will some story… That, I think, could benefit many layouts.

In fact, it’s not that I didn’t learn these lessons from my modelling experiences, but rather they take a cohesive shape when witnessed in another cultural context in which they were actively cultivated for centuries…

Their art also lifted the last doubts I had about lack of space. It’s no longer a matter of lacking space but rather a question of how to frame and compose a scene the best you can using a given area.  And not only that scene will make sense, but it will also give hints of a larger world without revealing too much about it. This approach has also another tremendous effect on planning and composing: you now longer require to “compress” a scene to get the feeling of the place, but rather, you frame what could be realistically be seen and grasped in such a given space… At this point, you probably see a pattern in my explanations: frame space. You will also remark I’m no longer referring about plan, talking in term of elevation and depth. Yes, at this point, the plan, to some extent, is almost irrelevant. You model the perception of a location rather than a 3D plan. It may sound semantic, but it has an important impact how you interact with a layout.

If you think in term of small layout or even cameo layout, it’s no longer about vast panoramas, but rather about offering a point of view, a particularly significant perspective on a railway operation.

For this purpose, I tried to revisit my Quebec South Shore Railway layout and found out many things already discovered or hinted by other modellers. However, I’m taking this farther and propose something else based on my personal experience with railways.

When you are standing by a track, you never see the entire scene. Your own sight and the surrounding vegetation and structures clearly frame the scene. This is also emphasized by the fact we are standing still in a particular spot of a larger area while the trains are the moving parts of this world. The contrast between of small and fixed presence and the larger yet moving trains create that impressive feeling of standing by the track and experiencing an operating railway.
My experience in railfanning is often about the impossibility to see everything. At some point, you find a clearing or a street and enjoy the spectacle from there. You rarely see very far and only from a few angles, just like a movie or a painting. If you deal with a smaller layout, this can be a blessing since you don’t need to model a contrived fantasyland, but rather focus on a given perspective that blurs the junctions with the rest of the world. In term of scene composition, you only need to keep a few elements required to build the scene and give it purpose… And it can be drastic. Maybe you don’t need to show the turnout for that siding since it exists only outside of your line of sight. Are all cars required to be shown on the layout, maybe not… they could only roll in front your eyes, going to a nearby destination that you can’t unfortunately see right now but which you know and give sense to the move. In that regard, Chris Mears explored such a concept and Mike Cougill too. While I thought their ideas were cute, I failed to see nothing more than a desperate attempt at minimalism. However, when you take in account what I said, it’s no longer an obsession with nothingness but rather an ability to tell a lot more with a few but well-designed elements.

Therefore, I can propose a new version of the QSSR layout which get rids of elements that felt forced and were never the focus of my attention when switching the layout and framing what matters. In that regard, a 80” x 18” layout can be summed up as a 48” x 16” cameo layout devoid of any compression and compromise. In fact, this new approach creates an impression of a larger world out of less space than a larger layout. Operation use the same amount of cars and require similar moves, with the exception the scene composition focus our attention on them which is a direct incitation to carefully replicate procedure and bring a good deal of life to the revenue equipment that is now a true actor rather than a small part diluted in a large expanse of space.

For me, this approach has many direct benefits that can help to fit my apathy with building a home layout. First, space is no longer a concern about quality. No need to turn the house upside down or buy new furniture. A layout can now fit a living space without hijacking it. Second, building a layout is not about investing vast sum of time, money and resources, but rather how to assemble a few elements with care and replacing them with better attempts as experience is gained and modelling interests evolve. Third, framing a given perspective is an occasion to truly grasp how the real world is perceived by ourselves rather than recreating a large part of the world believing that a larger chunk of reality is the only way to immerse ourselves into the fiction called a layout.

By the way, what I just said is nothing new in the modelling realm, however, it may be the first time I have a better grasp at looking at model railways from another perspective, one more akind to a real life experience and freed from physical parameters we usually believe set the frame of our ideas. I'm well aware a lot of literature - which I often didn't read - has dealt with such an approach, however, I think we can never repeat enough how space is never a matter of quantity but rather a matter of composition. The first one can't be eluded, but it will never offer satisfying answers to most modellers nightmare about "lack of interest". I've seen plenty of large layouts devoid of any interest even if they fully reproduced a world... They were no more than magnified carpet central. And yes, I believe a lot of these lessons can be applied to our club layout while working on the scenery.