Modelling the E&N in HO Scale in my basement


March 23, 2014

A brief update this time around.

Cam was over yesterday with a mutual friend from the Free-mo group named Carl. The primary reason was to show Carl the layout and the progress since he last saw it several years ago.

After Carl left, I figured we could get “something” done on the layout.

We decided on benchwork… And then proceeded to get the trackboard completed down the hill into Port Alberni, which we successfully completed along with a section of the plywood representing the paper plant and the first part of the yard. We’ll hopefully tackle cork and at least some trackage before SUPERTRAIN, as I’m wanting another ops session with some friends visiting from Toronto just after the show. I’d like to be able to run the Port Freight all the way into Port Alberni instead of just to Arrowsmith…


January 11, 2014

Yes, it’s been a little while, again.

Still busy with SUPERTRAIN stuff, but I have been trying to keep progress going forward in the basement. Maybe not really in the trackwork/benchwork realm but in the rolling stock. I now have three skeleton log flats which are nearly ready for decals and a couple 50′ long flat cars suitable for idler flats. More on the five pack later.

Cam has also been really busy over the week getting all the last details added and painted on 3000 and 3004, in preparation for the ‘Homecoming’. Friday night he escaped from work a little early and came with me to Dave’s place to get some last minute touch-ups and details done. All tested and these things are awesome.

The next day (ie: Saturday/today according to my dating scheme here), I was busy doing a ton of cleaning in preparation for the party. Cam arrived around 1pm and we got to work on niggling issues with the layout…specifically the problem turnouts, at Parksville and ICG Nanaimo. The former was needing rails spiked to the ties and some minor adjustments, the latter needed to be shifted and spiked. Will still need some work, so some flags (aka yellow and green pushpins) were setup and and a Daily Bulletin was issued to advise of the slow order through the turnout.

I also did a thorough vacuuming of the track and thought that would be all. Not quite as it turned out.

Guys started showing up just prior to the appointed time and the layout was deemed okay to turn on (oh yeah, forgot to mention… A fair number of frogs in the staging yard needed gapping) and the locos were fired up, assigned and coupled up to the Courtenay turn and Cam had the Honours to be the engineer to run the train containing a lot of his work (3000 and 3004, as well as the skeleton log flats) out to the end of the line and back.


That’s Jeff Simpson in the foreground admiring the train with Cam running in the background.

Jeff was accompanied by Josh Soles and Matt Cummins who gladly accepted a throttle and 6101 to run VIA 198 and 199 out to Courtenay and back. A little quickly mind, but at least most of the crews running freights gave the passenger service minimal delays. Chuck Johnstone, Tyler Federoshyn, Dan Hamilton and Kevin Pyle also made appearances and some of them had opportunities to run trains as well. Kevin has built a few of the Kaslo skeleton log flats and agreed that they’re too light to run empty, but he’s got a good means to produce the poles… I’ll be leaning on him for a drill press and his expertise to make the poles I need for the two industries loading them…

All in all, a good day, summed up in this picture of Josh admiring the two GP38AC’s:


It will be fixed

In some respects, building something gives you knowledge of how something goes together.

It also (hopefully) gives you knowledge of how to repair it.

Due to the cold outside, the non-functioning humidifier on the furnace and the fact the basement is warmer now than in the summer led to another rather nasty kink in a really unfortunate spot: Parksville Junction.


This shot, taken from above, illustrates what happens when things aren’t allowed to breathe.

The last time this happened, at the ballast spur turnout on the lower deck, I cut the rails and they managed to straighten themselves out.

Sadly, this didn’t happen here. After cutting some gaps, the rails did not return to where they should. As a result, some selective repair will now have to take place.

Here’s the progress on the demolition:


Wish me luck!


So the past few weeks have been primarily occupied with getting web pages done up for SUPERTRAIN – not so much for the public, but for the people who will bring their displays and wares to the show.

But that’s not to say I haven’t been doing nothing for the layout. Thanks to Dave Bedard for inviting Cam and I down to his place over a few evenings over the past few occasional weekends to do some modelling. He’s worked on some of his locomotives, a couple of mine (those GP38AC’s you saw in Jason Shron’s pictures? Now painted and decoderized, just getting the final details added like handrails, grab irons, lift rings, etc. I’ll fill you in on those, with pictures, once they’re complete.

Actually, that was more Dave and Cam’s work. I’ve been working on a rather unique car that was rather essential for the layout:

The CP skeleton log flats.

These cars are really spindly things, purpose built for carrying logs and poles. I’ll be loading them with the latter, and there in lies the challenge for modelling such a car: there’s nowhere to put weight when the car runs empty. Kaslo made a resin model but resin isn’t a heavy material, and there’s just a tiny cavity in the centre sill to put weight. To operate my layout, properly, I need to be able to deliver empty cars to the two industries in Courtenay, and the resin cars are simply not able to be made heavy enough to operate properly. Solutions were investigated, including photo-etch brass (filled with liquid gravity), shapeways metal, and borrowing the centre sill from an Atlas Trainman bulkhead flat car.

Until Cam found, quite by accident on Walthers, a kit of the very car I need, made entirely from solid cast pewter (aka, metal), from Custom Finishing. In stock for around $27, an order for four cars was quickly placed and picked up when they arrived at Hobbytech.

The kits were produced back in the late 90’s and thankfully didn’t sell out (either that or the molds still function) so I could get them some 15 years later.

They are as old school as you can imagine. Though the direction sheet indicates these are an easy build, nothing could be farther from the truth. The amount of filing and fiddling with these kits is the most I have ever seen…I would charitably say that between Cam and I, we’ve filed about a half-ounce of pewter from the parts that make up a single car.

But the results I think will be more than worth the effort. Especially when I think of how much time I would’ve spent trying to learn and design the car from photos and crude folio drawings, without any assurance of the resulting parts coming out to my satisfaction.

You tell me: doesn’t this partially finished car look pretty good?


The car is sitting on ExactRail 70 ton trucks (complete with semi-scale 33″ wheels) with Kadee 78 couplers. The kit needs a thorough washing, shimming the two centre bunks and gluing to the sill, but otherwise ready for paint and decals. Two other cars are in process, coming close to the same state, and the fourth hasn’t come out of the bag yet. I’m likely going to leave it like that to get a rough idea what the starting and finishing weights are.

I suppose the caboose deserves mention too. It’s an older Athearn end-cupola steel caboose, factory dipp…err, painted in CP script for international service. That scheme is way old for my layout, so out came the windows, off came the roof walk and cupola. After a good long soak in 99% iso, plus plenty of scrubbing, the car is as you see it now. Cam also plugged the old roof walk holes, and it’ll be seeing a few coats of True Line Trains Action Yellow and decalled for CP Rail. So after that is finished and I have another one arriving from Florida via eBay, I’ll have, I think, enough cabeese to operate the layout. But all of them will be stand-ins.

And that is a bit of a shame. The cupola is wrong, the roof is supposed to be a peaked raised panel roof instead of a curved roof, and the windows are not right. Yes, they’re steel, have the cupola at the end and painted in the right colours. And for now, that will do. There just isn’t a kit (yet) available for the proper caboose, and I’m not going to scratchbuild five of them either. I did have an opportunity to get a proper brass caboose, painted in the right paint scheme, for $300-ish but the wife vetoed that purchase. And in some respect, I’m glad she did. Because what the island had was a consistent fleet of cabeese, and having one correct and several stand-ins would’ve made the correct one stick out like a sore thumb. So until I’m able to do a wholesale replacement, the stand-ins will have to do.

Sorry for the novel on such a tiny aspect of the building, but it’s something to read…


Milestone #(mumble)

With Athearn’s release of the 33,000 gallon tank cars suitable for LPG and Anhydrous Ammonia in the Genesis line, I picked up three of them labelled for Procor.

Shortly after getting home with them, Cam and I took inventory of them for coupler replacements. One thing shocked us both:

I have enough propane cars to fill every facility on the layout, their replacements and a few more to cycle on and off the island.

I’m done buying propane cars!

So with the exception of the skeleton log cars, I’m coming very close to having enough rolling stock to fully operate the layout. I just need to acquire enough metal wheels (hey, buddy, can you spare me some 33″ semi-scale Intermountain wheels?) and couplers to operate them with.

Amazing, eh?

August 27 & 28, 2013

Having cleaned my workbench quite thoroughly on Monday, figured I should get at one last bit of wiring: the tail track of the wye.

Ordinarily, it’s be a reasonably simple thing, just wire in the track to an auto reverser and be done with it. But, no… I have to complicate things by making the tail track a programming track as well as making use of the Digitrax Zephyr as an auto-reversing booster. So not only do I have to wire in a 14ga wire from the other boosters for a common, I also need to wire in loconet, and then gap the rails all over the place, creating an isolated bit of track to ensure the programming leads aren’t subjected to full DCC power and making sure it all works at the end.

So, with a 4PDT switch, it’s all done. Never mind the fact it took me two full evenings to get it wired in…. Pics to come when I finish tying up the wires.

August 25, 2013

Back at it in the basement yesterday, primarily to address some much needed tasks.

Saturday evening, Cam and I had a good amount of playtime with running a port freight (me) and a Courtenay turn (Cam) and found a 3 hour ops session is quite realistic after the length of time we took doing abbreviated runs like those. I also found I really needed to get power into Arrowsmith siding. Dragging equipment into a track takes away a lot of realism when you use 5-DCC (aka the 0-5-0).

So, Sunday morning I started tackling that by gapping the rails just past the summit and installed feeders into Arrowsmith. Cam and Dan showed up shortly after I finished with the initial set of feeders and while I grabbed some lunch, they emptied the railway of rolling stock, parking it all in Wellcox. Of course they had a lot of fun doing that!

After lunch, we got to work on benchwork for Port Alberni. Cam, Dan and I got a fair bit of it done but not really well secured to the shelf brackets due to impending deadlines. So the three of us finished that, and made plans for the rest of it next weekend… We hope! Sooner we finish with the benchwork, the sooner we can keep playing!

August 7, 2013

Went downstairs to do some work last night for the first time since the ops session. Work on some niggling details and generally cool down.

Started with the turnouts in the staging yard and repair one of them at the far end of the yard, as the pin dropped out of the throwbar. Fixed that, though required a second hole in said throwbar. Others had positions tweaked and one repaired point. All working now and I’ve ground the pins down with a dremel tool so they don’t catch locomotives and stop them dead.

Also wired in a couple bullfrogs to power the switches and while I was at it, hooked up the track bus to a UP5 at the south end of Parksville Yard.

My thought with powering the UP5’s was initially to have just the 12V power supplied through the barrel jack on the side, but after hooking up the track bus, figured that would definitely be the way to go for all Ux panels, and that goes for the UR92 and UR91 too. The 12v supply will still be hooked up as a backup power for when the track is shorted, but the readings off a dt400 throttle without a battery show much better power with the track bus than without. Plus I get track indication as well!

Best photo yet!

I think this photo warrants it’s own post. ┬áCam (left) and I standing beside a few trains (Arrowsmith on top, Parksville – complete with in-progress units 3000 and 3004, and Mud Bay below) and looking quite thrilled at the progress made on the layout.


Photo undeniably by Jason Shron, stolen without permission from Rapido Train’s blog.

Inaugural Ops Session!

A long overdue post, primarily because I’ve been waiting for a specific photo… Figured I’d go without it and post it when I get it.

So Jason Shron of Rapido Trains (a model train manufacturer who makes a lot of passenger equipment, save for the one I need on my model railway…yet) arrived in Calgary on the 30th of July and after his first gig at Chinook & Hobby West (North), we went for dinner with Sylvain Duclos at the Five Rivers. A vegetarian restaurant serving Indian fare. Interesting… About all I can say to that as I’m not one typically for curried anything. But the more important stuff for me was when we got home…

That evening was spent showing off the half-covered layout to both Syl and a really tired Jason. James Powell came by on the late side and had a good look around, but despite his offer to help with the cleaning, figured enough rest for his trip back to Vancouver Island was a better idea. All were really impressed, but I wish I had things a little further along to show them the layout without all the sawdust.

Wednesday was spent showing off the GMD-1’s at Eastridge and CMT. Glad to see a few more friends who have been asking when my layout is going to be on the tours for the CMRS. Likely next year folks… Also did a little bit of cleaning downstairs and finished off the wiring…

Close-up of Cam's work-in-progress on a pair of Atlas GP38AC's Photo by Jason Shron

Close-up of Cam’s work-in-progress on a pair of Atlas GP38AC’s
Photo by Jason Shron

Thursday saw Cam arriving early-ish and we seriously attacked the layout and got it all cleaned up, track polished and all ready to go for Friday. Got most of the Quad-LN’s programmed for basic addresses (the rest will come later) and a few more cars were prepared and the pair of Atlas GP38AC’s were unveiled. Sans paint and handrails but looking really good. 3000 and 3004 will be very special units when they’re complete – thanks Cam!

The first ops session crew - from Left to Right: Murray, Jason, Dave, and Cam

The first ops session crew – from Left to Right: Murray, Jason, Dave, and Cam

And then Friday morning arrived. First ops session and a few great friends made it for the big day. (Thanks Murray, Dave, Cam and Jason!)

Jason expertly pilots CN GMD-1's 1011 and 1021 past the Fletcher's Furniture spur.

Jason expertly pilots CN GMD-1’s 1011 and 1021 past the Fletcher’s Furniture spur.

On account of a lack of working motive power on the island, the superintendent of the E&N made some phone calls to CN and acquired the use of GMD-1’s 1011 and 1012. These locos were dispatched to service the Nanaimo Switch Job. I…err, make that the E&N Superintendent didn’t send them anywhere else on account of the larger trucks.

Joking aside, things went quite well considering the first ops session is supposed to discover all the bad things and after all was said and done (and Jason on his way back to Edmonton), there weren’t that many things discussed which were horribly wrong. Most issues could be chalked up to not having enough time prior to set things up. Yes, there’s still more programming of the Quad-LN’s to do, operations stuff to setup in JMRI (to generate the switch lists), and rolling stock to prepare. This will no doubt lead to a lot of re-numbering and patching of rolling stock, in addition to more wheelsets and couplers to change out. Memo to rolling stock manufacturers: please no glued on coupler box lids, okay?

All in all, Cam and I are really stoked on how well things went.

We’re still nowhere close to being finished though… But that’s enough for now!