Tuesday, May 12, 2020

Real life inspiration for a fictitious branch

The good news for my model railway in my basement is that the main line works and three spurs are essentially operational. There are rough spots causing derailments and the wiring is about 90 per cent complete. I have a rough idea of a piece of my town and a plan for a railyard and interchange track.

The bad news is I need a tonne of supplies and time (which I don't really have) to complete some of the important next steps. I'm trying to decide what next steps I can take with what I have. But I will share a few details of things I have done so far and give you an idea of where I found the inspiration in the actual railway operations I have photographed over the years.

A bit of context. I am not modelling any actual part of the CSX Sarnia Subdivision. Instead, I am taking elements from both the north and south ends of the line (Chatham had a number of rural agricultural customers while Sarnia had the industrial and petrochemical customers). There were points on the old Sarnia Subdivision that had both the agricultural and industrial customers. I am modelling what I would imagine to be a branch off the main sub that would include many of the elements one would have seen along this operation in the early to late 1980s.

One thing I am proud of is my maintenance-of-way spur that sits next to the mainline near the station.

One half of the MoW consist has an old Canadian Pacific baggage car, which was not an uncommon thing for railways to use during this time. Since the Sarnia Sub intersects with the CP in Chatham, I took the liberty of blending both railways. You will also notice an old wooden TH&B boxcar. Some of these old wooden boxcars lived well into the 1990s as MoW cars. The photo below from the Sarnia end of the the CSX operations gives you an idea of my inspiration. I would love to one day put together a detailed C&O MoW boxcar like the one below, but the TH&B boxcar will have to do for now. It was once part of the CP empire, so it's a stretch, but I am not one for strict adherence to prototypical operations. I like to freelance a bit.

Here's the other end of the MoW consist. It features an old Cotton Belt gondola and a CP flatcar, which I built from an old Ulrich kit. I had to look up this company to see what it was. When I bought this car, I had never heard of this model train maker before. You can see the rooftop of an industrial building in the shot as well. I'm not sure what it is going to be yet. You can also see a short train on the mainline with AT&SF, Bangor & Aroostook, RF&P and a green PC boxcar trailing a set of F units. All of these boxcars, except the PC, were given to me last year by a friend who had them in his basement collecting dust. What a gift!

Here's a closer shot of the CP flatcar. It took a lot of work to put this 60-year-old car together and get it operational. The couplers that it came with I had never seen before. I had to put in a conventional coupler and modify the car a bit to get it to fit properly.

Here's a shot of a MoW gondola I saw once in Sarnia, which gave me the idea that I needed one on my own maintenance track.

Here's a final shot of the mainline train and the station spur, below. You can get an idea of the developing town from this angle. There are a couple of things to note in this shot.

One is I bought an extended platform kit for my train station but found that it wasn't needed for what I was modelling, which is essentially a small town. So I used the extra platform for a railway themed park across the street from the station.

The next thing is the Chessie System F unit. You will see that it is mated to an old vintage Canadian Pacific unit, which needs a lot of work to make it look a little more realistic. Again, the old CSX Subdivision from my youth did not include shared power, but there were instances in Southern Ontario, particularly in the case of the CASO Sub near Windsor, where shared power did happen. So, it's another liberty I am taking. To be honest, I was just testing the old CP dummy to see how it handled the tracks. It has a temperamental coupler in the back, but it's working really well so far.

Try as you might, you will not find any real world example of a Chessie-painted F unit. I looked into it and discovered that the Chessie System did not retain any F units for revenue service, so this F unit is someone's idea of what it would have looked like if the railway had saved any of the covered wagons from its predecessors' long gone passenger service. The closest thing I found was that the old Seaboard System retained a set of F units long after it gave up its passenger operations.

You will also notice that the station is sitting on a block of wood. It will, of course, be elevated from the town, much like the Guelph Via Rail station is situated well above that city's downtown. The station is a common kit from Atlas. I like the look of it, since it reminds me of the old C&O station at the foot of Clifford Street in Sarnia, nestled behind the Esso refinery. The station looks different these days. Back in the early 1990s, it looked pretty rough. My station is a bit more tidy, for sure.

So that's one part of my set that could be close to getting some scenery in the near future, since it is pretty much set from a functional point of view. There is another part of that spur, which will serve a small farming operation. The building itself (you can see a piece of its power in the second last shot) is an old lumber mill, but it's generic enough that it can double for just about any old industrial building. I'm hoping to convert it into a feed mill, so I can use my hoppers and cylindrical hoppers there. That's a topic for another post.

Tuesday, May 5, 2020

Takin' it to the basement

The trackside time has pretty much dried up for me, since there is so little happening in Ottawa to begin with, but with the stay-at-home orders, it's even tougher. I've been thinking of things to share in this strange time. I have a model railway in my basement, which doesn't receive a lot of attention in busy times. But it's seen a little bit of love in the last few weeks.

I have been trying to figure out how to take a decent shot of the set, which is far from finished. The walls of my den are also adorned with pictures and framed copies of some of my old newspaper stories from my journalism days. It makes photos pretty tough. There's also a lot of bare wood still showing and a lot of unfinished track work, particularly in my rail yard.

So, I decided I would content myself with a few shots of a few test trains that I have been operating, just to ensure my main line is somewhat operational. So far, my operations have gone quite smoothly, with almost no derailments. That's a real step up from my days of model railroading back in my teens, when persistent operational problems were enough to make me quit the hobby for long spells.

Here's a shot of my test train, led by Chessie System SD40-2 7614. It is passing by a spur that will serve some sort of plastic or petrochemical customer in the near future. I have a storage tank, tankcare unloading platform and a general purpose industrial building.

Right now, I have some intermodal cars parked there for no reason at all. Possibly my railway is relying on car storage fees before its official start-up. Those container wells were actually given to me. They don't really fit in with what I'm doing, but they look okay parked.

The covered hopper I picked up used a few months ago. Someone tried to apply their own West Virginian livery on the car alongside the Chessie cat, but I was able to get rid of the hand-drawn logo for the most part. What's left looks like old graffiti, which is okay by me. I used to see these hoppers an awful lot on the Sarnia Sub when I was a kid.

I should mention that the SD40 was an engine which did not prowl the Sarnia Subdivision, but I like to use it anyway, as it was a Christmas gift from my parents many years ago. I am not one to strictly follow prototype rules. I'm not sure what part of the old CSX Canadian operations I am modelling, but I am trying to blend a few of its operations in and around Southwestern Ontario.

My diesel roster also features a B&O GP35-2 and a Seaboard GP38-2. There was sometimes a blend of pre-CSX power on the Sarnia Sub before the CSX units began to take over. The Seaboard units were exceptionally rare, but they were not unseen, in my experience.

I also recently finished a secondary spur that ends at my station. The spur now houses an old Canadian Pacific baggage car, a wood box car, a flat car and a gondola, which will act as a MoW consist, if I ever feel the urge to operate one of these trains.

It reminds me of this MoW consist I once captured in Sarnia. In fact, this photo below was my inspiration.

I would be happy to share some thoughts about my model railway endeavors, but rest assured that I intend to continue my focus on real world railways when the world opens back up.

Take care. Stay healthy.