Ramblings of a frustrated armchair Railway Modeller

Everyone is entitled to my opinion, so I've decided to enter the blog-o-sphere in order to share them with you.
My focus is the rationale and development of my model railway, but I am likely to wander off topic from time to time.

Friday, December 31, 2010

Happy arbitrary day!

Whoever has the Gold, makes the rules!
I choose to mark my time as the ancients did, by the celestial clock: Not as a pagan, except that the seasonal celebrations of the agrarian year and the solstices and equinoxes make more sense than whatever formula they used to calculate the Julian Calendar and usurp the ancient rituals as their own.

Here it is, Friday December 31, 2010. A day that is arbitrarily chosen by a council of the most powerful organized religion in the western world to demarcate the end of one year. In this case, the other Golden Rule is applied.

On a lighter note: This is the annual excuse for some people to over indulge in their choice of intoxicants and while in a stupor, vow to somehow improve themselves during the next three-hundred-sixty-five-days. Of course no one can be held to their resolution because it was sworn while being of unsound mind and possibly under duress.

I resolve to remain resolutely me: Maybe/hopefully a few inches slimmer by this time next year. This is under duress because it means cutting out my evening snacks and *shudder* exercising.

Otherwise, it is time to start building components of my ideal model railway empire, which gives me a little over three months to create something for show and tell at the Sixth Annual Ontario Narrow Gauge Show.

Wish me luck as I wish all of you a happy and prosperous Julian Calendar New Year!

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Digging the Past

Prototype Model Railroading: Ha!

By my reckoning, in order to fill Southern Ontario with 42-inch gauge railways in the present day and into the future, I have to delve back into history nearly two hundred years to the point of divergence in order to rewrite it.

I want to better understand what happened to the canal that didn't get built. In order to do that, I should look at the canal that did get built. I think that I spent a portion of every summer as a youth on or near The Trent-Severn Waterway. It is a part of the fabric of my life. So another piece of the puzzle is contained in A RESPECTABLE DITCH: A History of the Trent-Severn Waterway 1833-1920, by James T. Angus.

Google abridged edition here.

The Ontario Simcoe & Huron Railway was the first one built in Toronto, Ontario, Canada in the 1850's: A bridge route between Georgian Bay and Lake Ontario which very nearly follows the path of the proposed Ship Canal. If the Toronto and Georgian Bay Ship Canal had been built in a timely manner, it would have totally changed the transportation routes and would, I think, have greatly impacted railway development and expansion in Canada.

Not to mention the impact that it would have had on my life, considering that I grew up very near the, more or less wild, Humber River Ravine and [mis]spent my youth marauding through it with my friends. Indeed, how much different it would be to live beside an industrial transportation artery rather than meadows and bush. Or, would it have become a recreational waterway like The Trent Severn Canal System?

Either way, it would surely have had an impact on railway development and expansion in Southern Ontario during the 1850's and onward.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

One for Andy - 1:55

Andy is an Englishman in Germany. He's working on Modern Image Narrow Gauge Model Railways in 7mm and 5.5mm scales. 55n3 That's 1:55 scale models on 16.5mm gauge [HO] track.

I've found his blog, Railway Misadventures, both entertaining and inspiring. Since Andy was kind enough to comment on my On30 Rail Truck, I thought I'd pitch this back to him...

Siku Mercedes Unimog U 1500
As if you don't have enough on your plate, how about getting one of these and converting it to a High-Railer?
Like these Zagro Road/Rail Unimogs
Siku Mercedes Sprinter 208
Or a Zagro Road/Rail Sprinter?

One thing to consider when bashing one of these is that the tires won't likely match the rail gauge. That's Okey: Use Friction Drive Hi-Rail
Which seems to be the sensible choice for Narrow Gauge High Railers according to Mitchell Equipment - Rail Gear Products.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Further Reading

The first two books that I've recommended are relatively light reading.

A heavier tome is Rod Clarke's Narrow Gauge Through The Bush:
If I am to depict a Modern Narrow Gauge Railway in Southern Ontario Canada, I have to travel back in time to an appropriate point of divergence in History and then bring the story back to the present.

This book outlines the rise and fall of Narrow Gauge Railways here.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Getting on my soapbox Again

Georgian Bay Canal
Hi Kids,

It has been a week since my first post.

Have you done your homework yet?

Since it's a Holiday, I'm inclined to give all of you an extension...

I'll start by giving a little background.

Many years ago [mid-1970's] when I was a lad, it was always fun to mark the end of summer by going to the Canadian National Exhibition [CNE] known locally as "The Ex" in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. This is during the last two weeks in August.

For me, the two main attractions were the Midway with all of the rides and amusements and visiting the Arts, Crafts and Hobbies building. A place to see Model Trains!
It was at "The Ex" that a printer/publisher was handing out samples of their work in the form of a map:
Produced From A Plan Of
Published In The Year Of Our Lord 1860
Now In The Possession Of
By Whose Courtesy This Reproduction Is Made
My Father now has this map hanging above his desk and only in the last couple of years had I taken notice of some dotted lines on the map that follow the Humber River and a notation:
It's that little bit of something-that-never-was that grabbed me!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Modern Image Inspirations

Hi Kids,

I'm taking inspiration from the prototype. So what better way to follow Modern Image Railroading than from the trade magazines. Here are two Websites with up to date industry news.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Fantasy Land access to Cottage Country

Here it is the beginning of Winter and I'm thinking about Summer...

I'm not a snow bird getting ready to fly south for the winter. I wouldn't want to drive there, although it would be nice to take the train; however I'm not interested in exchanging Pines for Palm Trees. A few hours on the beach to take the chill out of my bones would be fine but I can do that in the sauna without getting sand in my creases or getting stung by a jellyfish.

What I am thinking about is the crushing commute that occurs all summer long from the "May Two/Four" Queen Victoria Birthday Weekend to Canadian Thanksgiving featureing Friday night traffic crawling along the highway to cottage country and back into the city Sunday night.

People trying to escape their daily grind by enduring an even worse one as they suck exhaust in hot humid weather.

Did I mention taking the Train?

This brings me around to the idea of using Ro-Ro (Roll-on/Roll-off car carrier) service. There isn't any room downtown for an operation like this near Toronto Union Station. I'm thinking of using the former Canadian Military Airbase that is now Downsview Park.

It's close to Highway 401, and Allan Road... With connections to the TTC Downsview Subway Station and the GO train to Barrie... Making it a good spot for Suburban 905ers to use the service too...

Hey, while we're at it, let's close the much maligned Billy Bishop Island Airport and use Downsview for a full service transportation hub for Planes, Trains and Automobiles.... But I digress...

No offense to the residents of Barrie, but for cottagers, dropping them in the middle of no-where isn't very appealing... The added traffic in and out of Barrie for connecting trippers to points beyond Barrie will cause a bigger bottle neck along gasoline ally.

Ideally the terminus should be farther north, like Washago, which isn't likely anytime soon. (Especially since it is on a different line, but would put trippers within spitting distance of Rama.)

A better idea is to extend service to Collingwood which would put weekenders and day-trippers within spitting distance of Wasaga Beach and Blue Mountian for year-round recreational access...

Toronto to Collingwood via Barrie is the historic route of the Ontario Simcoe & Huron RR: cum Northern, cum Canadian National and more recently GO Trains and BCRy.

There's the Amtrak Auto Train and car transport in Europe like the BLS Lötschberg Car Transport, Vereina car transporter Rhaetian Railways AG and Albula car transporter Rhaetian Railways AG

What has this got to do with Model Railroading? It is the type of service that I want to depict on the Humber Valley & Simcoe Railway...

Tuesday, December 21, 2010


Greetings and Salutations on this Auspicious Day!

Under a Full Moon and a Lunar Eclipse to boot...

It's as good a day as any to wish everyone the best for the coming season.

So, Saturnalia, Alban Arthuan, Ring out Solstice Bells and a Merry Yuletide!

I can't accept that my ancient ancestors are condemned to some lesser heaven because "the one true god" failed to reveal itself in time. Organized Religion has done more to divide the world than to unite it.

I don't reject the possibility of a higher power but I haven't met it and I don't believe that you have either, so you may practice your spirituality any way that you please, just don't try and drag me into it.

Abide by the Golden Rule and we'll all get along just fine.

There's a great animated short that I found on the Atheist Campaign Website:

The Instruction Manual for Life:

It's food for thought....

Monday, December 20, 2010

On30 Rail Truck - Toyota RAV/4 Galloping Goose Cube Van.

At local NG model railroading meet, I was talking about making modern NG equipment. I like early steam and transition era railroading as much as the next guy, but I feel like this has been done to death. The bonus is that if it hasn’t been done before, there are no rivets to count.

I really like Galloping Geese and my thoughts on the subject of modern Galloping Geese are as follows:

It was suggested that a Lincoln Navigator or Ford Explorer be used. This is fine as far as it goes, but these are luxury automobiles. Not the sort of thing you would find on a shoestring budget NG railroad.

For Articulated Geese, I would choose something in a half-ton truck or van such as a Ford F150 as the motive power for the sake of size and utility, or perhaps, a GMC Suburban 1500. Any Box Car or passenger car would be suitable, but I was thinking that a fifth wheel trailer or perhaps and old Air Stream Trailer would be better. If I decided to haul trains behind this type of motive power, then I would consider something with more horsepower like the Ford F450/F550 diesel, but additional ballast-weight would be needed to enhance the tractive ability.

For smaller Geese, I think that more compact trucks and vans are appropriate. A Ford Ranger, Chevy S10 or perhaps Toyota Tacoma comes to mind. Anything in the quarter-ton range… For Non-articulated Geese, you can go even smaller with the motive power.

Relative HP is another consideration. The larger trucks have several-hundred-horse-power under their hoods. When you look at on road use for these vehicles, that much power is needed. A regular asphalt roadway may consist of upwards of 40% grades. On rails, however, you are facing much gentler slopes to be sure. I did a little research, and I found that the RGS Galloping Geese were running with only about 30 - 60 hp. I also read recently that Class 1 railroads only required 1 or 2 hp per ton on level track. It takes a lot less power to move the same load on steel rails with free rolling trucks than rubber tires on bumpy hilly asphalt.

The Toyota RAV/4 has 120 bhp under the hood. This is plenty of power for a small M of W truck. The Lincoln Navigator has almost twice the power at 230 bhp, which seems like overkill by comparison.

This brings me to the choice of the Toyota RAV/4 Galloping Goose. This first reason was cost and availability… I picked up the die cast model at the dollar store across the street from my house. ;-) Seriously though, it’s a neat little car and it fits right in on a modern NG railroad. There is no indication of what make or model the car is, but after looking around, it seems to closely resemble the Toyota RAV/4 2-door short wheel base car. I don’t know the scale either, but it looks O scale to me. It’s a case of “close enough”. I started out wanting to make it into a speeder but I couldn’t find a decent mechanism for it that would fit. I’m sure that there are plenty available, but none that were in my price range. (Free.)

I found an old Play Art HO/OO 0-4-0 mechanism in a box that a friend had given me. Part of the chassis was broken and so was the shell. The motor runs fine, and with some imagination and styrene I went to work. It has a can motor and a single worm gear to axle gear drive. Perhaps at a later date the motor will be upgraded with the addition of more gearing and a flywheel will be added for better operation. But for the time being, I will be happy that it runs at all…

I decided on a fiberglass cube van configuration. The front rides on an HO 33” Bettendorf freight truck and the rear is a single axle with O scale ~ 30” wheels. I want to modify the rear wheels to disguise that they came from a steam engine. I may end up hiding the rear wheels behind outside frame springs and brake shoes as well as adding sanding hoses. The box represents a scale 18’ fiberglass cube 7 ½’ tall by 7 ¾’ wide with a roll up rear door.

To complete this model I want to:

- Add pilot/plow, headlights and coupler to front.
- Foot boards and grab irons on sides.
- Air tanks and fuel tanks under cube along with brake lines and other hoses.
- Marker lights and reflectors to cube.
- Rear bumper with trailer hitches and coupler. Perhaps a small chase-car.
- Various detail parts like ladders, chains and tools on sides and roof.
- Driver and perhaps a passenger.
- Paint, decals and other lettering.
- Various other detail parts as they come to mind.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Getting on my soapbox

Hi Kids,

There must be something else you should be doing, but if you are resigned to wasting your time go ahead and follow along...

I'm going to keep this first post brief and simply say read these two books online:

The Georgian Bay canal : reports of R.B. Mason, consulting engineer, and Kivas Tully, chief engineer : with an appendix, profile, and map

Narrow gauge railways in America: embracing a sketch of their rise, progress and success... By Howard Fleming

These two books form part of the framework of what will follow...