Modelling a Road Trip for an Icon

So, what seems like it was eons ago now, way back in 2012, the National Railway Museum in York England was preparing for the 75th anniversary of the London & North Eastern Railway’s A4 Pacific locomotive Mallard setting the world speed record for a steam locomotive on July 3, 1938.  I’m not going to get into the debate as to whether Mallard went 126mph or not, or whether others went faster on undocumented runs, because frankly, its impressive however you slice it.  If you’ve ever been on the footplate of a steam locomotive when its going, you understand why!!

As part of the celebrations of the 75th anniversary in 2013, the NRM decided to host an event they called the “Great Gathering”, where all six of the A4 locomotives which survived into preservation would be brought together.  For four of the locomotives, this was a reasonably easy task.  4468 Mallard is at the NRM; and 4464 Bittern, 60007 Sir Nigel Gresley and 60009 Union of South Africa are all preserved in the UK and were all operational in 2013.  The last two, 60008 Dwight D. Eisenhower and 60010 Dominion of Canada were however, slightly more complicated.  Both of these locomotives had been donated to the respective national railway museums of the USA and Canada in Green Bay Wisconsin and Montreal Quebec in the 1960’s after they were retired.  Suffice to say, shipping a pair of irreplaceable and heavy pieces of railway history home for less than a year was not a cheap or easy task.  On top of this, both Dwight D and DoC had gotten tired in their time on display.  Both were in need of some care, as Dwight had been repainted without a lot of consideration for accuracy, and DoC had been stored indoors, but not climate controlled, and had damage to the streamlining from a shunting accident.

7852338522_7cc2dbff42_oDominion of Canada being shunted on August 18, 2012 in the Exporail yard to get lubrication into all the axles before loading to ship to the UK.

UK heavy load specialists Moveright International were brought in by the NRM to ship the two locomotives home to the UK for the Great Gathering, and to be cosmetically restored by experts in the UK.  To do this, thanks to the more generous loading gauge in North America, the locomotives could be loaded on top of heavy load flatcars and moved by rail from Green Bay and Montreal to Halifax Nova Scotia, where they would be loaded onto a roll-on/roll-off ship used to ship cars and heavy equipment, and brought back to the UK, where they could be moved by road to York and Shildon for restoration.  Moveright has a great set of photos of the moves on their Flickr page.

This heavy move caught my interest as someone with a foot squarely planted in both Canadian Railways and UK Railways and their respective preservation scenes.  Since the first time I went to Exporail as a kid, a British Locomotive named Canada was one of my favourites, so seeing her make a big move, and get spiffed up to boot was a big deal for me.  But, i don’t model modern railroads (despite being in my mid-late 30’s, my modelling interests are stuck in the 1950’s, go figure right?).  Despite this, it’s an awesome looking oversize load, and i decided to model it.

The two cars used to make the shipment were TTX heavy load cars. QTTX131207 is a 60′ flatcar, which was used to haul a container of tools and parts, and the tender.  QTTX131344 is an 85′ car with a 70′ deck supported by two span bolsters with two trucks on each span bolster.  This car carried the locomotives themselves.  These, are cool looking cars, especially the 2nd car.  While there are commercial RTR models of heavy load cars out there, none are an exact match for 131344.

131207 was a bit easier, as Intermountain makes 60′ Trailer-on-Flatcar flats, which made a decent starting point.  To turn this car into 131207, I sliced off the overhang on the car, built new car sides from styrene, removed the wood deck, and constructed a new plate deck from sheet styrene, with styrene angles for the supports of the overhanging steel deck.  I chose an RTR car as i knew it would track, and it meant I didn’t have to produce the underbody detail myself.


Intermountain 60′ Wood Deck Flatcar (picture from Intermountain)

I took a 20′ container, resprayed it, and made decals for the “Grimaldi Group” as the box on the flatcar were labeled.  This was the end of the “easy” part of this project.

One of the problems is that models of A4 locomotives are easy to find, in British OO Gauge, or 1/76th scale.  They look like beasts when they are loaded up on HO Scale, 1/87th flatcars.  Suffice to say, they aren’t readily available, if at all in HO scale (there is a small community of UK HO Scale modellers, but anything they have is far tooo expensive for a project like this).  UK locomotives should look reasonably small on top of the flatcar and not dwarf other freight cars around them.  So, with a heavy load flatcar which wasn’t available, and a locomotive that is only available in the wrong scale, nothing that can’t be overcome.  Fortunately, as I’ve discussed previously here and here, I have access to 3D modelling software and know how to use them to produce 3D printed models.  Drawings are readily available from a number of sources for the A4 locomotives, and, the locomotive was covered by a tarp, which means, I didn’t need to successfully model the complex curves of the streamlining, only get the overall shape right so I could tarp it.  The tender wasn’t tarped, but its shape was reasonably normal compared to the locomotive.

3D Renders of the A4 Wireframe and Tender from Shapeways

Fortunately, while its big, the heavy load flatcar 131344 was a reasonably simple design to draw up, the biggest challenge was designing working mounting for the trucks and making sure it would actually have enough weight to negotiate curves and switches, and run on a layout.  It does, I think based on tests at a friends layout, but I’ll be doing more testing with the finished models before I offer them up to sale to others.  The design and testing/iterations to learn about how to make the span bolsters work deserves its own post, as it touches on some valuable advice for those looking at 3D design and printing for model railroad projects.

IMG_2281Testing the tracking and weight requirements of the heavy load flatcar QTTX131344

I started this post as a bit of an introducition/history on the project, mostly because I wanted to write a post on what I was working on Saturday night, which was rusting and weathering the deck of the 60′ flatcar, so I can keep that part of the project moving forward.  That will be a separate post now that I’ll hopefully write tomorrow on our Holiday Monday, but for a taster, a picture of the car with the tender and container in position is below.

IMGP6666QTTX131207 starting to take shape with the parts container and Tender in position, and the deck rusted up with weathering powders.

I started this post with a tale about the Dominion of Canada, and needing some restoration.  I’ve already posted this picture as one of my Tuesday Train postings, but I think it warrants brining up the rear markers on this post as well.

IMGP0947RawConvBritish Railways 60010 Dominion of Canada, back home at Exporail after her journey and restored to her original condition as London & North Eastern Railway (LNER) 4489 Dominion of Canada, complete with a bell from the Canadian Pacific Railway mounted in front of the chimney, a very non-British feature!

The Face of the Future….for a few minutes at least

My long term goal is to have space to build a layout, specifically, modelling a Canadian National Railways secondary line between Georgetown and Allandale (now part of Barrie) Ontario.  In the future, I’ll have plenty to say about the history of this line, the places and structures along it as I research, as I’m many years, probably at least a smaller layout or two, and a house away from actually designing and building this “dream” layout.  That said, one can never be faulted for working on things that will someday hopefully populate this dream layout!  One of the more unique features of the line, was an early experiment in streamlined diesel railcars that CN carried out in the early 1950’s. Self propelled motor car D-1, and coaches C-1 and C-2 were one of CN’s early efforts to reduce costs and maintain rural services.

cn009297CNR D-1 on a test run in Montreal in 1951.  From the CN Images of Canada Collection of the Canadian Science & Technology Museum (Image CN009297)

On the Milton Subdivision, as the line from Burlington to Allandale was called by Canadian National, there was a pair of daily local passenger trains, one southbound and one northbound.  In an effort to save costs, CN took a gas-electric car that was nearly life expired, and rebuilt it in their Montreal shops, along with two 50′ coaches, one of which was converted into a combintion mail/coach.  The gas-electric car was re-powered, given a new streamlined body, and converted to be all-baggage/less than carload freight for the lightly used route. Their daily routine consisted of a round trip from Burlington to Allandale (Barrie now) as train 661, turning into Train 61 from Allandale to Meaford, then returning back as trains 62 and 662.  According to reports of those around in the 1952-1958 era where D-1 was running this service, it wasn’t always reliable and was often dragged by a steam locomotive, or outright replaced by one.  To learn more about CN’s operations in this era, I can’t recommend Ian Wilson’s books enough.  The two which cover the line I want to model, Steam at Allandale and Steam Scenes at Allandale are invaluable resources to me.  CN’s efforts at providing a cost effective railcar service was saved by the development of the Rail Disel Car (RDC) by Budd, which CN bought many of, rather than converting older gas-electrics.

A one-off, oddball, Canadian locomotive is not the sweet spot for any manufacturer to produce commercially, at least not if they like staying in business long term!!  As such, I have had to think outside the box to make this a reality.  With the growth of the 3D printing industry, and my abilities to design in 3D, I have been able to work from the limited available drawings and produce a 3D model of D-1 and its coaches.  In HO Scale, finding a power train was actually reasonably easy.  Bachmann produce a “Doodlebug” gas electric car, that is very similar to the car D-1 was constructed out of.  It’s not quite 100% accurate, but applying one of my favourite rules, the “3′ Rule” of where it looks right from a normal viewing distance, then I’ve been successful, so it works.

ho_doodlebugBachmann Doodlebug, image from

I have been working on a model of D-1 and its pair of coaches C-1 and C-2 for some time, and my HO Scale version is nearing completion.  But simultaneous to me working on the HO Scale version, my friend Trevor Marshall has pestered me (which was really tough, he asked once and i said yes!) into submission into re-scaling the HO Scale 3D printed bodyshells into S Scale so that he can also model the train for use on the S Scale Workshop modular layout.  He is aiming to have the model running at a show at Exporail outside Montreal later this summer, which will keep me motivated to have the HO Scale version fully done as well.  My task list is down to a manageable roar (correct the under-body details on locomotive; and, complete interiors on coaches).

CNR-D1-Resize_zpsorelcdl5HO Scale model of D-1, C-1 & C-2.  Picture taken by Trevor Marshall at the 2016 Toronto RPM Meet.

I had set both this post and the model aside for some time, as I just had too many other things on the go, but I’ve worked myself into a “lets finish some projects” mood rather than putting along with current and starting more new projects, so hopefully that will bring a completed model post soon!  As well, once Trevor and I are done our respective models, we’ll have to have a get together to pose the big and small D-1’s beside each other for photos!

Building Nova Scotia Part 2

Following on this morning’s post on the 3D printed version of the Dominion Atlantic Railway business car “Nova Scotia”, which was a post I’d started several weeks ago and somehow not finished, today, I wanted to bring things forward with a look at the car as things have advanced.  Firstly, the roof and car body have been painted and are getting close to being ready for decals.  The big holdup is needing the humidity to break, so that I can clearcoat after the decals are on to protect them.  I can’t spraypaint with my setup out on our balcony when its 30 degrees and crazy humid, thats a recipe for disaster!

IMGP2274RawConvTwo views of the partly painted Nova Scotia, the room side on the top, and the corridor side on the bottom.  The trucks and underframe hasn’t been painted, only primered.

Even without lettering, the car is really starting to look the part with the tuscan paint and the grey roof.  I’ve started to think about glazing for the windows.  Based on the photographs i have, any of the windows with a split pane had frosted glass above the split.  I will be able to replicate the look by sanding the back of clear styrene to basically rough it up.  I’ve never seen a clear picture to know if it was just frosted, or if there was a pattern to it.

The other area i talked about in the delayed post was the underbody.  It is now more or less as complete and detailed as its going to get.  While I have access to the car at the Toronto Railway museum, the way it is parked inside the stalls, and the way things are stored around and beneath it in the inspection pit, means I can’t actually get that close to the remaining underbody details.  From what is visible, and from pictures of the car in service, I have put together a good enough underbody.  Given the nature of 3D printing, if I get better information and really want to go to town, I can re-print the underframe and do another!

IMGP2282RawConvThree views of the underbody details of the HO Scale Model of Nova Scotia

As you can see, the biggest remaining task is to paint the underbody and trucks, which is on hold as noted above until we get some cooler and non-humid weather in the Toronto area!

The next big project is building a representative interior for the car.  I have very little information on how the interior was laid out before it got to Orillia and its time as part of the restaurant.  The current interior layout isn’t how it was laid out pre-Orillia.  I have some friends who were around in the Upper Canada Railway Society days looking to see if a newsletter was published when they owned the car with a floor plan diagram.  Failing that, I can guestimate something based on normal practice for other similar cars, based on the window locations so it isn’t completely see-through when finished.

The other major to-do is the railings for the observation platforms.  I have 3D printed versions, but they are super fine and fiddly, and frankly, fragile.  I haven’t tried to put any paint on them yet, and I have visions of my big hands breaking them once painted trying to get them into the holes on the end decks.  I am seriously considering re-drawing them and trying to see if i can get them etched in brass.  I think in the long run a brass etched part will both look better and be stronger for handling and use.

I don’t set timelines/completion dates on projects, as i find it leads to rushing and to mistakes, but this one has the feel of one that if the weather cools down a bit and i can paint, that i can have it done early in the fall.  The good thing is, as i’m working to no deadline other than liking the feeling of finishing a project, if i don’t, its not a big deal!

That said, as i type, i was just out on our balcony, its actually in the range of paintable weather, but i don’t see me pulling the gear out at 8pm on a Saturday night to setup the spray booth.  Maybe Sunday morning though if i wake up and its not raining like they are forecasting.  We shall see.

Out with the old…

Tools and in with the new.  While I don’t presently have a layout, I am always busy with many modelling projects, some of which I detailed here.  So while I’m not expending energy or money on building a layout, I am putting it into things that will be useful when I am building a layout, like buying good quality tools to either replace lower quality ones, or expand my supply of tools.  Having the right tools for the job makes things so much easier.

The most recent upgrade arrived last night.  While I’m far from any kind of expert at soldering, I’ve been using an ancient iron from Radio Shack (remember them?) that I bought circa 2003 when I was building a layout.  It’s not a “bad” iron for a starter, but over a long period of use, it had limitations, and it was impossible to find the proper replacement parts like new tips as Radio Shack evolved into The Source and has an ever shrinking amount of electronics hobbyist supplies.

IMGP2270RawConvRadio Shack 20/40 Watt Soldering Iron.  It’s been a fine tool, but long in the tooth now.  It will go to Value Village so hopefully someone who needs an iron but can’t afford a new one can give it more use.

So, with that, I had sought advice from several friends, which confirmed what I pretty much knew, that I wanted to buy a Weller.  I did a fair bit of research, into options and pricing, and decided upon the WES51 Soldering Station.

IMGP2271RawConvThe new Weller WES51, still waiting to figure out where it’s going to go on the workbench. As part of a cleanup/reorganization happening in the office, it may find a home where it comes out when it’s needed rather than always being on the workbench.

It’s a big leap up from my previous iron, and I’ll need to find some wiring projects to work on to learn its behaviours, but it will last me a very long time hopefully, which is the point of buying good tools.

The second recent upgrade was a new drill/impact driver set.  I’d been jonsing for this for years.  My previous drill was a $50 Canadian Tire Black & Decker special that I’d bought when I moved out of my parents for good after university, and needed my own things.  Back then, making entry-level money, I bought the cheapest/most expensive tool I could afford.

IMGP1613RawConvMilwaukee Hammer Drill/Impact Driver set.  Quality tools that have already been handy on some small jobs, waiting on helping build a future layout!

My new set is a Milwaukee Hammer Drill and Impact driver set.  This is something I really could have used five years ago when we moved into our new apartment.  Drilling holes in the 1960’s vintage concrete of our building with the old drill to hang pictures and curtains wasn’t fun!!  The couple of things I’ve done in the month or so I’ve had the new drill have been so much easier.  As with everything, having the right tools makes so much of a difference.  A friend has had the Milwaukee M18 series tools for years, and I’ve used his doing restoration at the Toronto Railway Museum.  A next purchase for me will be a Jig Saw the next time it’s on sale.  I love the Sawzall as well, but I have no real use for that particular tool at this time!  I may look at the M18 Circular Saw though whenever layout building time comes for ripping plywood and the like.

There will be more small tool upgrades to come as well, like a new pair of sprue cutters for kitbuilding as the ones I had are gone (presumed lost moving 5 years ago and just never replaced), and new rail cutters, as I’ve somewhat embarrassingly managed to chip the edges of the Xuron cutters I have.  I’m also looking to upgrade my styrene/strip chopper as the one i have has a partical board base that has gouged beneath the blade.  Lots of little tool shopping things that i can do so when I am in a bigger building mode in the future, I’m spending money on the project rather than the right tools for the jobs.

Building Nova Scotia

One of the great joys to me in receiving things you’ve designed and had 3D printed is also one of the great sources of frustration, finding out if you are as smart as you think you are in how your design actually prints and comes together.  Since my introductory post on the 3D printed Business Car Nova Scotia here, I’ve made a lot of progress in the intervening weeks.  I’ve cleaned the parts, primered them, added detail parts and even painted some of the parts.

27434323880_cdddcdd2a4_o.jpgNova Scotia in grey primer, showing the little details that are hard to see in unpainted 3D printed material.

One of the things that has become progressively harder is finding detail parts.  For this project, I basically left the 3D printed underbody as a blank slate and am adding all the detail with commercial parts.  While this saves me the hassle of designing my own parts, it creates the hassle of finding parts.  There is also the limits on 3D printing, i don’t think I’d want to do the Queensposts and Tension Rods on this wood bodied car as part of the 3D print, i don’t think they’d be strong enough.  I am blessed by having not one, but two full service model railroad only stores approximately 1/2 an hour drive in either direction from my house in Credit Valley Model Railroad and George’s Trains, and several general hobby shops before i get to them, but even i have a hard time finding detail parts.  After clearing out the physical stores of what i need, i still have to resort to Ebay or online sellers, or begging friends for parts (Thanks Trevor!).  For Nova Scotia, there is a variety of underbody tanks, battery/ice boxes and the brake system.  Even though i have access to the car and a fair number of photographs, on this first version, I’m not getting pedantic with the parts being 100% perfect, as long as the underbody looks right when compared to pictures of the car, I’m going to be satisfied, but even this goal has proven difficult.  As it seems from what people who work at the stores tell me, there is less and less demand for detail parts, which i guess is a symptom of the improved quality of RTR locomotives and cars (and i know some will argue people don’t build models anymore which is why parts don’t sell).

This post was actually delayed and i never noticed it didn’t post.  I’m posting it now, but the project has advanced since this was drafted and I’ll have more on the Nova Scotia soon.

Tuesday Train #13


Nickel Plate Road No.765 pounds through a level crossing with a vintage truck in front near Owosso Michigan on July 26, 2009 during the “Train Festival” hosted by the Steam Railroading Institute in Owosso.  The event was held to raise funds for the restoration of Pere Marquette 1225 (a Berkshire locomotive which is almost identical to NKP765 and famous for being the model for the Polar Express in the Tom Hanks CGI movie).