Back In The Game

“I’m back.“

While some people found a great opportunity to focus on their modelling during the COVID lockdown, I found myself in the exact opposite headspace.

It’s difficult to articulate in writing; however, with so many big life changes, world changes, etc. occurring in such a short time frame, my brain was knocked into such a position in which the things that I usually love to do and enjoy no longer brought me any joy or interest.

In summary: depression happened.

As I am no stranger to depression (something I’ve battled my entire adult life), I was able to recognize that I was not myself and knew that it was something I would have to ride out until I worked through it.

Yesterday while I found myself collecting a bucket of ballast [which will likely make its own post someday soon] on the abandoned Borden Sub in the rain, I realized that what I was doing was being done out of genuine interest. “I’m back,” I said to myself, out loud.

The brighter days are indeed on the immediate horizon, and I am starting to find interest in the things I enjoy again: one of which is my interest in railroading and modelling.

I’m not writing this for sympathy; I just don’t think it’s something we as modellers talk about enough. It’s important, and we all deal with it at some point.

Let’s face it, we’re all artists here: artists historically feel their emotions vividly, and we all do things to escape our realities, aka modelling.

But sometimes, even those reality escaping mechanisms don’t work.

I am writing this to say that if you didn’t do any modelling at all during this pandemic and maybe are still finding it hard to concentrate or be interested, don’t beat yourself up. 

It’ll come back. I did. Talk to me if you want.

C.M.

Scratch-building CN’s 40′ Wood End Bunker Reefers PT:4 [Rivets & installation of the centre sills, z-bracing and crossmembers]

Well, it’s been longer than I would have liked between updates.

This whole COVID-19 mess has certainly affected every one of us, and us in the aviation industry, especially in terms of employment. My employer has placed myself and roughly 15,000 other of my union brothers and sisters on off duty status, which has admittedly been hard to comprehend given how quickly all of this has erupted.

Without getting too personal, I’ll just say this whole mess really hasn’t left me with much motivation to write. However, as the dust of our new reality begins to settle, I’m starting to feel a little better. That said, this post isn’t nearly as beefy as I’d like it to be, and I must apologize.


Progress has continued on the reefers, and I’m really starting to get excited about where this project is headed. The fishbelly sills have been riveted with MicroMark surface decals and installed along with the z-bracing, cross-bearers, cross-members and train line.

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After installing the z-bracing (which I put on the wrong way somehow! whoops!), I used my UMM saw to cut through the bracing and installed the cross braces and cross members. I went with 4×4″ Evergreen for the cross members and used my Cricut Maker to cut the cross bearers from .030″ Evergreen sheet. The cross bearers will receive a 1×6″ cap over them after the floor is glued into the cars.

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With the sill, z-bracing and supports installed I figured now would probably be a good time to install the tramline as it needs to be threaded through the cross-bearers. I bent .020″ Tichy PB wire directly over top of the scaled down general arrangement drawings, cut it into two pieces and installed it into the car with CA. This was repeated for both cars.

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Another view of the under frame.

Next time, I intend to make a drill jig for the side and end grab irons using the engraving tip on my Cricut Maker. I plan to design the jig in 2D with CAD, engrave it onto a .010″ brass sheet (or a soda can), cut it out, fold it against a vice and then use my pin vice to punch the holes before using it to drill out for the grabs.

We’re all facing a lot of stress right now… I encourage you to take some time and work on or run your models. We all need to get our minds off of things. Please wash your hands and stay home.

CM

A new tool arrives at the Charlottetown Car deptartment- a brand new Cricut Maker.

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I have a confession.

Out of the many aspects of this hobby I absolutely love, some of which are pretty niche in nature, there’s one prevalent practice that I abhor: cutting styrene.

I could say I don’t know why this is problematic for me, but I do.

I’m a perfectionist to a fault. I need my parts to be identical, my cuts to be perfectly straight- the same measurements every. Single. Time. I will not accept less; it’s just built into me- and it’s not only within the bounds of the hobby.

The amount of time and materials I go through to get the perfect cut and fit is incredibly frustrating. Even with lots of practice, and I’ve had a lot of practice, it’s just not something I enjoy.

Until now.

An employee rewards program has allowed me to obtain a brand new Cricut Maker and Knife Blade attachment at a very reasonable cost.

I’ve had a few chances to use it, and I am absolutely thrilled with its performance. This machine will be an absolute game-changer for me, and I can’t wait to explore its abilities in more depth.

Of course, I will blog about my process and findings as I put this new machine to use on my workbench.

CM

Scratch-building CN’s 40′ Wood End Bunker Reefers PT:3 [Fabricating Fishbelly Centre Sills and Z-Bracing]

After a brief break from the CNR Wood Reefer project, this weekend seemed like a good opportunity to get back to it; with the recommended social distancing and all. Might as well use a not-so-good situation to have some fun at least, right?

The next thing I needed before proceeding with the underframe of the car was Z-Bracing. The general arrangement drawings show two lengths of Z-bracing running end to end of the car. The problem I faced here was that Evergreen does not make Z-angle small enough, but I didn’t want to mail it in and use just a plain old strip in place of the Z-angle.

Luckily, while cruising around the internet looking for pictures of scratch-built fishbelly centre sills I happened across Chris van der Heide’s blog. Lone behold Chris had run into the same problem as me at one point and took the time to detail how he fabricated and used a jig to create his own Z-Angle stock in this post. I decided that this is how I would proceed.

The jig was not at all hard to make and the process of feeding the three strips of styrene (HO scale 1×3″ on the top and bottom and 1×2″ as the web) through the jig was made easier by brushing a little bit of powdered graphite into the hole as a lubricant.

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The final product.

As you can see the finished product is just as good as anything you could buy on the market. Thanks for your help Chris even though you may not know you helped! LOL. Make sure you check out his blog post for a better explanation of how this was done.

With the Z-Bracing out of the way the other major component needed for the underframe was the fish belly centre sill.

First, I used the scaled-down general arrangement plans as a guide to drawing the general shape of the sill plates in TinkerCad. Then, I used my Cricut Maker to cut the fish belly sill plates out of .030″ sheet styrene. The great advantage to using the Cricut for this purpose is that all of the sill plates will be accurate and of the identical measurement. One disadvantage is the cutter does create a bit of a burr around the cut but it is easily cleaned up by carefully using a single edge razor blade to slice it off. The Cricut Maker is an amazing machine and deserves a post of its own. I see a lot of potential for this machine in the hobby of model railroading…

After the sill plates were cut and cleaned up I added 1×6″ Strip to the bottom of the plates by pushing the strip and plate against 1-2-3 blocks and gluing them together. Then, I added 1×4″ strip to the top of the plate as well as 1×3″ along the bottom of the plate where it meets with the 1×6″ strip.

After all of the sill plates were built, I glued the tops of them to a piece of 2×12″ strip to create two full fish belly sill assemblies- one for each car. When the glue dried, I wedged strips of 2×12″ styrene vertically between the plates to prevent them from warping inwards. I trued the edges up with my NWSL true sander.IMG_1327.jpeg

One of two completed fishbelly centre sill assemblies.

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While the fishbelly isn’t glued to the car floor in this photo, this shows how it will look attached to the car.

I’m very pleased with how the fish bellies turned out. Once they are glued to the model a strip of 1×3″ strip will be glued against the car floor and the side of the sill plates to create an “L” channel with the 1×4″ plate on the sill.

I will use MicroMark surface decals for the rivets and I’ll likely apply them to the sill before gluing it to the cars (with the exception of along the previously mentioned 1×4″ strip.)

Next time I will glue the centre sills onto the car floor, install the z bracing and fabricate and install the cross ties/cross-bearers. After that, it will be time to install the underslung heaters and install the brake rigging (my favourite!).

[Worth noting: the underslung heater may become a project in its self, 3D printed part which may end up being molded and cast as a precaution- I don’t entirely trust the chemical stability behind Shapeways’ Fine Detail Plastic. We’ll see.]

Thanks for reading,

CM

Special delivery… (70 Tonner decals)

Just wanted to poke my head in and give a little mail-day update..

Backstory: Last fall I designed and 3D printed a accurate footboard assembly for my long-stalled Kaslo 70 Tonner project. This was a detail that had been bothering me for some time and I just couldn’t seem to get it right by scratch-building with styrene. This 3D printed part gets me over that hump, but in order to finish the project I still needed decals…

Receiving the test parts from Shapeways was the inspiration I needed to finally get off my behind and get decals made so I could finish the project.

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CNR #38 at the Moncton, NB diesel shops. CSTM Collection.

Shortly before Christmas I began talks with Bill Brillinger from PDC.ca to make a custom set of decals for the ‘simplified’ second iteration of the green and gold livery the CNR 70 Tonners wore. I mailed him some reference material and to work he went.

After a few weeks of back and forth, I was very excited to see the PDC.ca envelope full of 70 Tonner decals arrive in my mailbox today.

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As you can see, the decals turned out beautifully. Bill is an absolute joy to work with and he nailed what I was looking for. The decal set will do three locomotives with the ability to label any unit on the roster, although not all of them got this paint job.

While my super-detailed 44 Tonner will see lots of action on the layout, 70 Tonners were just as common and I’m excited to finish this project so I can run 70T #38 in mixed train service.

CM

Finding inspiration from a later era

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Loading potatoes at St. Peters Bay, PE – Late 60s 1970s? Jim MacKinnon collection.

While looking for photos of tractors on The Prince Edward Island Railway Facebook page, I came across this photo of a reefer being loaded with potatoes at St. Peters Bay.

The author of the post incorrectly labelled it as the 1950s, but as we know by the noodles on the boxcars, this is post-1961. Further, the American reefer car’s presence makes me believe it might even be the late 60s or 1970s.

While this photo isn’t within my era, it really strikes some inspiration. The railway on PEI had many public sidings or team tracks- but not many of them had permanent loading ramps. The public siding at Vernon River did not have a loading ramp.

This scene might as well be Vernon River. It would be a very similar scene. The farmer or merchant backs truck or trailer right up to the car, plywood ramp bridges the gap, potatoes are transferred across- probably a lot of the time “hand-bombed

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I am very grateful to find this picture. It will be used as a direct reference to develop the scene and the public siding.

As mentioned at the beginning of this post, I’ve in passing begun to research era-appropriate vehicles for the layout. My first purchase was an Alloy Forms 1947 Clark Forklift, which will live at the Co-Op Warehouse… I just need to figure out the proper colour to paint it.

I’ve mentioned this before to friends, and you may disagree, which is fine. Still, I really find that too many vehicles are the easiest way to break a layout’s realism. Luckily for my era, Route #3 wouldn’t have been nearly as busy as it is today, hell it probably hadn’t even been paved to long before- there won’t be any vehicles on it, and that won’t look out of place. I’m thinking a car or two parked at the station, a truck parked at the warehouse, a tractor and potato trailer along the siding and maybe an abandoned truck in the corner of a farmer’s field will be sufficient.

CM

Vernon River Co-Op Warehouse: a study on shared building plans.

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The former Vernon River Co-Op Warehouse built in 1947. July 2013. Chris Mears photo, used with permission.

Since the very conception of this layout, a mystery has been at the back of my mind. That is the mystery of the Vernon River Co-Op Warehouse.

I guess perhaps not as much of a mystery, as a minor annoyance. You see, the photos I have are only but a tease- only providing partial views of how this building looked while it was still rail-served.

There is one fact working for me, and that is that the building still stands today- rails to trails use it as a workshop. Having an accurately sized model will not be a problem.. however, its freight doors and roof vents have been removed, and the roof and siding have been replaced.

I’ve reached out to local area Facebook groups to try to find a better photo of the building with its freight doors still intact, to no avail. I’ve reached out to the archivist at St. F.X. University, which does have a giant photo collection of Co-Op buildings, PEI included- to no avail. (One avenue I have not yet explored is to contact rails to trails and see if I could be allowed inside to see if the door framing is still visible.)

This has mostly left me to fill in the blanks myself.

However, just this morning, I had a bit of an “ah-ha” moment.

I don’t know why this didn’t hit me before now, but I had already been aware of direct evidence that the co-operatives routinely shared building plans, being co-operatives and all. One such example of this is the Co-Op Potato Warehouses at Morell, Tignish and Souris being nearly identical.

Could the Vernon River Co-Op warehouse just be a shortened version of these other warehouses?

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Morell’s Co-Op Warehouse. Year and photographer are unknown. St. F.X. University Archives.

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Souris Co-op Warehouse. Steve Hunter photo, year unknown.

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Tignish’s Co-Op Warehouse. Year and photographer are unknown. Note that the building is nearly identical to Morell’s warehouse, a county away.

What caught my attention is how similar the front of the Morell warehouse looks to the front of the Vernon River warehouse. The large double door and loft door are of identical construction. The chimneys are identical. While in different locations, the man-door and window are of very similar construction. What we can see of the first freight door shows us that these doors are also very similar, if not identical, to the Morell warehouse.

To corroborate my theory, I took to Google Earth and went back in time to 2015 when the Morell warehouse still stood. Now, the two warehouses’ lengths obviously differ- we don’t need Google to tell us that, but what I was most interested in was finding out if the buildings were the same width.

I’ll be the first person to tell you that Google Earth’s measurements aren’t always so accurate (they even admit this themselves). Still, I figured that if I measured the buildings from a satellite image taken on the same day, I’d be able to figure out if they were the same size.

What I came out with was this:
Morell warehouse= 43.24′ x 122.82′
Vernon River warehouse = 44.91′ x 82′

The widths are very close indeed, given Google’s inaccuracies and satellite imaging variables. I’ll take that as a win.

So now we know that the Vernon River and Morell warehouses were in all likelihood the same width. The similar width dimension, look, owner, and use of the building make me feel comfortable using the Morell and Souris photos as a reference for the Vernon River build. The Morell and Souris photos, along with a scale drawing of the Morell warehouse Steve Hunter gave to me, will most certainly get me most of the way there.

Without a photo showing the Vernon River warehouse’s full side, we don’t know how far apart the two freight doors were.

I can figure this out in two ways:
– Obtain permission to enter the warehouse as it stands today and see if the door framing is still visible from the inside.
– Measure the outside of the warehouse and use the 1958 air photo to scale out the door centres.
These methods will have to wait until the snow melts, but I’m happy having figured out the process I’ll have to follow.

One final question I may never have a firm answer on involves the relationship between the truck door and the foundation.

In the Souris, Tignish and Morell photos, the land is built up to the top of the foundation to meet the truck door- meaning the truck door doesn’t go through the foundation. However, in the Vernon River photos, it appears as if the foundation has been cut to allow for a taller truck door. The man door placement above the foundation caught my suspicion. It made me believe that the ground was initially built-up like the other warehouses, and for some reason, the door’s height needed to be increased, so the foundation was cut into to allow for this.

As you can see in the 1981 Vernon River photo, it looks as if a whole new door frame has recently been installed and the earth around the foundation excavated. The man door remains above the foundation. Perhaps this is all the evidence I need.

After studying the images, I have come to the conclusion that it’s very likely that at some point, the foundation was cut to accommodate a taller truck door- most likely in the early 80s. If the building was initially built like this, wouldn’t the man door be cut into the foundation? I feel confident I can create the door as shown in the Morell photo, with it being accurate.

Unfortunately, I’ll have to wait until the spring to go much further with this research as it requires a field visit. Still, I feel confident that I have most of the information I’ll need to scratch-build this building.

If you’ve stuck with me this long, thanks for reading.

CM

A sunny winter’s day prototype visit.

After Wednesday’s hangout with Taylor, Chris and David I was feeling pretty pumped about the direction of things.

That feeling was only amplified after a Saturday afternoon spent in New Brunswick operating on Doug Devine’s Island Central Railway and Steve McMullin’s Carelton railway.

Even though we we’re very much in the dead of winter here on Prince Edward Island, spring was definitely in the air this Sunday afternoon. I couldn’t resist making the first of what is likely to be many visits to the prototype location.

I can look at photos all day but to catch onto the feeling of the layout I really needed to get out to Vernon River its self and get an idea of how the land lays in 1:1.

Instead of photos, I thought it would be easier to just make a short video which you can find right here:

 

I will return when the snow melts and again in the summer. I plan to take many photos of the right of way,  trees, buildings, farmers fields and farm roads in the area to get a good idea of how I’ll model them.

C.M.

Testing the track plan.

A little update…

Taylor, David, Chris and myself got together in Taylor’s shop on a Wednesday evening and laid the paper plan out on the modules. It was nice to have some knowledgable friends on hand to help me properly orient the plan and decide where the staging cassettes would go.

Of course, with a huge plan on the table we just had to put some cars and switches on it to give it a bit of a “look” test.

Seeing this plan come to life is so exciting. I was really excited to see the track plan on the modules, but I got even more excited after I saw the track plan with the cars on top of it.

A lot of work lies ahead but I feel really great about how it’s all coming together. This layout really is going to be more than a nice thought, this is really happening.

I will have the paper plan reprinted to include the high-res 1958 air photo I purchased from Natural Resources Canada, after that it will be time to finalize the orientation of the staging cassettes..which means road bed isn’t far off.

Hopefully next weekend Taylor and I will be able to finish off the benchwork.

CM

Benchwork!

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Preliminary layout plan. The plan doesn’t show tree lines or service roads.

With most of the planning of the Vernon River layout complete, or at least on the way to completion, I felt confident that it was safe timing to get some benchwork built.

Given the likelihood of a move in the not so distant future I applied the TOMA concept and based my track plan on two 2.5ft x 6ft modules and two 6in x 5ft single track removable staging cassettes- one for each end. The fully sceniced staging cassettes will use bolts and tee nuts to securely connect them to each end of the layout.

This modular setup not only allows me to easily move the layout when moving time comes; it will also allow for easier layout expansion once I have a house with a layout room. A little forethought now will hopefully suppress future tears.

It’s also important to note that the full 12ft of layout will allow me model the village with almost no compression at all aside from the neglecting of the curve of the track. There is one small potato warehouse that will be slightly cut off of the layouts edge. This provides an interesting opportunity to model the building as a cross-section. From behind the building, you’ll be able to see directly inside to a potato filled warehouse. From the front, all you’ll see is the exterior.

Taylor Main had previously offered me his help in anything benchwork related, so this past Saturday I took him up on that. We met and Kent, picked up the supplies needed, headed back to his basement workshop and got to work.

We made great progress- all that remains to be completed is the legs and the installation of 1″ foam. The foam will be recessed level with the top of the modules. We’ve made plans to complete the modules this coming Sunday.