A Visit with the Model Railroad Enabler

So, for some months now, I have been blogging about the Liberty Village Line and my plan to model Liberty Village in the spare bedroom/office/workshop room in our two bedroom apartment.  I had hoped to have started construction by now, or at least the prep work of a new workbench, but life and making sure I’d gotten to a point I am really happy with in terms of the layout design have kept preventing me from actually starting anything.  With no where to actually build the benchwork at or in my apartment, I don’t want to impose on those who have offered me their garages and assistance for a construction day until I’m really sure I’m building the right benchwork!  I really can’t get half way and make easy fixes.

One Room to bind them and do all things in…my current layout space in the apartment and the current plan for the Liberty Village Line.

My friend Trevor Marshall, of Port Rowan in S Scale fame (aka “The Model Railroad Enabler”) has been busily spending his days of late blogging about the Niagara St. Catharines & Toronto Railway and possibly switching his prototype and doing away with his current layout, to replace it with one based on the former electric railways around St Catherines (though still in S Scale).  That’s fine, he’s only making his own life maddening with that.  Then, last weekend, I got invited out with him and Pierre Oliver who was in town to talk trains, see some stuff in Trevor’s basement, and go for dinner at Harbord House, a very civilized way to spend a Sunday afternoon/evening.  That is until, the Model Railroad Enabler Struck again….

kapowThe Model Railroad Enabler Strikes (If I had any kind of free time, or graphics skills, I’d create a logo for him rather than lifting a good ole comic book kapow!)

Poor Pierre, the Enabler got him and now he’s gone to the dark side and is migrating from the Wabash Railroad in St Thomas Ontario to the Clovis Branch of the Southern Pacific in California (see Pierre’s post here).  Having just visited Pierre’s layout in progress recently, I can see the things he describes in his post as bothering him about it, and frankly, getting to that half way point and realizing you aren’t happy is probably been holding me back from even starting construction.  My track plan still has some compromises for space, which aren’t fatal to it, but they keep me coming back to look at other ways to organize the office or design the layout to tackle them.

I only brought a simple problem to Trevor’s basement on Sunday, my lack of a DCC system to test and configure my Scotrail Class 156 on (it works fine BTW, forgot to take video of Trevor playing with the toilet tank flush sound…).  Now I’m terrified the next time I see Trevor he’ll have drawn up some track plan for my apartment benchwork featuring some obscure branchline of the Great Western Railway pre-grouping of the UK’s railways in 1923!! (no seriously Trevor, no new ideas!!! I have more than enough bad ones of my own).

I’m still working on finding ways to reduce some of the compromises the current layout room poses, hopefully some thoughts on that will shake out in the near future.


2018 Toronto Railway Prototype Modellers Meet

This past weekend was the annual Toronto Railway Prototype Modellers Meet, held at Humber College in the northwest of the City.  It was my third time attending, and it was a good chance to catch up with friends and see some fantastic modelling and learn a bit as well.  The number of attendees was around the same as my past times, about 50 people, though it felt like everyone brought fewer models with them as we got through the show and tell portion of the day in a lot less time than past years.  Maybe that just means we all talked a lot less?

Scenes from an RPM -Checking out the models, and hearing about them from their builders.

As has been the case in past years, it was a very HO Scale centric event.  I don’t know if that says more about the nature of prototype modellers, or the Toronto modelling community.  There was one S-Scale modeller, and everything else was HO.  I know in N and O scales it can be a lot harder to find models to use as starting points or detail parts, but it seems strange to me that 99% of the room is HO.  Having not been to any of the RPM meets in the US, I don’t know if the ratio holds there as well or not.

Casting Masters, test pier, part of the deck and the new in progress centre pier of Dylan Harris’ Kettle Creek Bridge.  The second photo is the bridge in 2012 at the Barrie-Allandale Train Show, the last shot is one of Al Welch’s Brass CPR Steam Locomotives on the right.

As is the usual case, the catching up was interrupted by three seminars.  This year, one was by Dylan Harris on his modelling of the Kettle Creek Bridge in St Thomas.  This bridge is massive, the model is around 12′ long, he only had representative parts to show.  I’ve seen it as part of the CASO modular layout, and he takes it to other Free-mo meets.  It’s impressive.  The second was by Tony Kerr on railfanning in Toronto in the 1960’s and 70’s, lots of pictures from his misspent (well spent?) youth train watching.  The final was from Al Welch and was on his tips and techniques for tuning and improving the running of brass steam locomotives.

A selection of models from others at the 2018 RP, in various stages of completion.

The caliber of the models on display always amazes and inspires me.  I love seeing what railroads or eras or types of equipment excite others.  Even when I am not as knowledgeable or as interested in a prototype, seeing others who are helps motivate me to have my models inspire the same in others about what I’m doing.

My models at this years show, the nearly done 587 Yonge Diorama, the first test GO Coach, and the completed Dominion of Canada shipment.

Realtrack Scotrail Class 156

A few weeks back I wrote about my list of pre-orders.  Well, the first one completed its journey around the globe from the factory in China, to Yorkshire England and now to Toronto.  It is a Realtrack Models British Railways Class 156 DMU.  The model is manufactured for Realtrack by Rapido Trains, the Canadian manufacturer.  The Class 156’s were built between 1987 and 1989 to replace aging DMU’s that replaced steam locomotives hauling coaches in the 1960’s.  They entered service branded as “Super Sprinters”, and I received a model of one from my Grandfather, and it was one of my favourite units to run on my old 4’x8′ layout.

IMGP5263RawConv.jpg1980’s Lima class 156, look at that fantastic underbody detail, solid chunks of plastic with some details molded into it.

The technology of design and production, and the expected level of detail has come a long way since the late 1980s.  And with that in mind, when Realtrack announced they were producing a modern Class 156, I decided that I wanted one.


Scotrail Class 156 at Maillaig Scotland in 2014. Still going strong into privatization after British Rail was broken up. In the “Spotrail Saltire” scheme.

After what seemed like a never-ending wait from when I ordered the model in November 2016 after it was announced, it finally arrived today.  Some of that was production delays, some of it credit card issues on making the final payment, but regardless, any Friday night at the end of the work week where I can come home and find something exciting waiting is a good reward!

IMGP7040RawConvThe very classy looking box the models come in.

When I opened the shipping package, and started to go through the bubble wrap, the large box was uncovered, along with two of the plastic clamshells Rapido ships their products in.  I was confused by these, until I opened the box and discovered that Realtrack had taken the models out of the clamshells, and bubble wrapped them inside the foam to try to ensure handling by the mail for their final leg didn’t damage them.  I’m pleased to say both appear to have arrived safe and sound, just need to dig out my track to actually test run them.


Unboxing Realtracks Class 156 and some detail shots of the model.

Once I get it checked that it runs ok, I’ll take some videos too.  It has full sound for the DCC, but since I don’t have a DCC system to program it, It will be a while before I can play with the sound functions.  after a quick look around, it’s a fantastic looking model, and even though it isn’t a place/era I model, I’m glad to have it in my collection.

Modern HO Scale Vehicles for 587 Yonge St.

One of the bigger gaps in the model railroad world is modern (really 1980’s onwards) cars for layouts.  If you model the 1950’s and 60’s, finding cars and trucks to populate your scene is relatively easy in terms of both ready to plant cars, and a variety of models in white metal or resin.  For the diorama of 587 Yonge Street I am building, its set circa 2016 before the building was demolished.  This poses a bit of a problem, as suitably generic cars appropriate for the era can be hard to find.  I’ve never bought any as my previous and future layout as planned are set in the 1950’s.  The only modern car I have ever bought was an Atlas 1996 Ford Taurus, and that’s only because my 2nd car was a used silver 1996 Ford Taurus my parents helped me purchase me in university to replace a life expired hand me down 1986 Mercury Sable!!

IMG_4949.JPGYup, I bought this years ago when I owned a silver 1996 Ford Taurus. Now it has a home on a diorama project.

So, with that, I’ve been searching online and at shows in recent months for a couple of more modern vehicles.  One was easy, one of the Rapido Trains GMC “New Look” buses in the modern TTC Scheme.  While these were retired by 2016, it’s a high quality modern transit vehicle that helps clearly set the scene as being Toronto.

IMGP4954RawConvNothing says Toronto like the TTC. A Rapido “New Look” bus in the modern TTC paint scheme.

While thinking about options, I decided that I wanted to have a modern police car in the scene.  After some searching, I found a few sources for Ford Crown Victoria’s, which currently form the backbone of the Toronto Police’s fleet, though they are slowly being retired after production of the Crown Vic ceased in 2012.  The Toronto Police retire cruisers after 5 years, but they bought a big surplus of Crown Victoria’s in 2011 and their last “new” one entered service in 2015, so they’ll be gone by sometime in 2020 if things go to plan.

IMGP6865RawConvModern Ford Crown Victoria Police Car in HO Scale from “Cop Car Collection”

There are a few different models in HO Scale for the Crown Victoria out there.  They represent different variants of the car, as there were subtle design changes over the years.  I was also looking for one that would be easily modified to add LED lighting to the car.  I figure why make the effort if I wasn’t going to go all out with it.  I eventually settled on a model from a company called “Cop Car Collection”, and found an eBay seller with old new stock of them going cheap.  When it arrived, I was both pleasantly surprised by the quality of the car, but the ease with which the all plastic car came apart, and the room inside for hiding lights and wiring.  All pluses for my project!!

IMGP6869RawConvCop Car Collection Crown Victoria stripped down to its parts for paint stripping the markings off the car

The car easily pulled apart, with nothing being glued together, its all pre-fit tight parts.  This meant I could put the body into some paint stripper, and the police markings quickly came off.  For lights, I ordered a set of pre-wired flashers from Evan Designs in the US.  The set contains a pair of headlights and taillights, and a pair of bulbs for the roof.  You can request different colour combinations for the roof.  Over the past few nights I’ve been slowly working on figuring out how I am going to get the LED’s installed and set in place.  The following videos show the work and the lighting effect better than pictures can.

Working on getting the LED roof lights into the right position for the roof light bar.

Re-assembled with the roof light bar installed and being held in place while the glue sets.

Flashing front headlights installed.  Just the rear tail light flashers to go, then I can get the wiring adjusted for installing on the layout.

I’ve got the front headlights and roof light bar installed.  For the light bar, I’m using a set sold by Herpa to hold the LEDs in place, when they aren’t on it looks like a modern light bar, and disguises the LED’s a bit.

I have decals on order from a small supplier of custom printed police decals for modellers to get the Toronto Police graphics onto the car.  In order to minimize handling after the decals are on, I wanted to have the lighting installed first.

I think for the diorama I want one more modern vehicle.  They are surprisingly difficult to find generic everyday cars.  Everything is either a truck/work vehicle, or a high end luxury car.  Good thing I’m not in any rush.  Sooner or later at a train show somewhere in the province I’ll find one.

EDIT: Update 1 March 8@9:30am

I hate being ham fisted.  I broke one of the battery leads off the wiring last night after installing the rear lights (and it looked so good with all the lights in too, didn’t get a video before I broke it 😦  ), and my initial efforts to fix it clearly didn’t work.  I’m waiting to hear back from Evans if my attempt at re-soldering the lead has somehow potentially melted something else in the wiring. Depending on their response, I’m either going to need to order a new set of lights, see if I can solder it back together right, or pass it off to one of my more electrically inclined friends to see if they can fix is.  Blah.

Damaged lead on left after cutting away heat shrink protection on lighting rig, and my re-soldered but now not working repair attempt on the right.

Update 2 March 8@3:30pm

Got an email back from Evan Designs. Basically what I screwed up can’t easily be fixed, that’s why the wiring rig is so heavily glued and protected with heat shrink (aka I broke it good, stupid fumbling around).   Going to get a replacement sent though, so my project is only setback and not killed.  The great customer service is appreciated as Evan Design is really fast at replying to queries on my orders in the past, and now my self caused issues with the product. Nice to know that there are still companies out there willing to help their customers!