My 2018 Model Railroad Year in Review

Whew, what a year it has been in 2018 for my hobby. I have a layout under construction!! Since I last wrote a year in review post at the end of 2017, it’s been a whirlwind. We bought our first house, moved, I finalized the layout plan for The Liberty Village Line, and about 85% of the benchwork is in place (only the peninsula to go once track is up on the wrap around the walls). 2019 promises a lot of excitement as track starts to get laid, and trains hopefully run, but in what has been an amazing year in the hobby, I’ve done a lot, and made a lot of progress, but haven’t finished many models compared to past years, but that’s OK all things considered. Did I mention I started construction on a layout?? A summary of my year is below, followed by some brief thoughts on things:

Projects Completed in 2018

Projects In Progress


  • Weathering – Did some, got a bit better, still a long way to go
  • Soldering – Did some, got a bit better, still a long way to go
  • Track Building – Didn’t do any.  Will need to in 2019

Thing’s I’m expecting to arrive in Stores

  • Rapido Trains Royal Hudson – They are in production, and should arrive in 2019, I look forward to receiving mine and writing about it when I do.

So, with that high level summary of the “plan” (insofar as one can plan a hobby), a bit of a chat on what I did is below:

Completed Projects

Didn’t finish a lot, but damn proud of the ones I did finish. A personal interest model of a place I loved to go before it was demolished (Bar Volo), a new workbench in our first home, and a freight load for the layout just because.

Finished Projects! Always a good feeling!

Projects in Progress

As many things as are listed up there, there is really only one that matters, everything else really flows from that. The construction of my layout in our new home. I still don’t have as huge a pile of unbuilt freight car kits as some people do, but I’m up to 6 or 7 now. I’ll need to get organized and start building them once some track is laid on the layout as the rails will look empty with the limited amount of freight cars I have for the layout at the moment.

Layout in many steps, lumber, to building with friends, to backdrop to checking templates to having a train run on it on temporarily set out flex track!

The other projects, finishing the BR Coach, working on the 3D print/design for the GO Coach, and the narrow gauge shelf were only peripherally worked on. The BR Coach will be done in January, I’m on the penultimate task now of installing window curtains before I apply the final decals for the first class and no smoking warnings to the windows, then it will be done.

Skill Building

This is a tough one, as every time you do something, you build the skills, but there are things I want to work and continue to get better at, like weathering freight cars so my models on the layout look better and more realistic. Same for track building and soldering. While a friend has generously offered to and is building my switches for the layout, I really do want to learn how, and will need to get so much better at soldering than I am to do the wiring on the layout.

Weathering and Wiring in action, two things I’ll get to do a lot more of in 2019!

So, that’s about it. I’ve tried to keep this years year in review short and sweet, not because it hasn’t been a good year, but because it’s just easier to be short and sweet to collect things and link back to stuff I’ve already written. All the best to you and yours, have a wonderful New Years Eve, and happy modelling in 2019!!



A couple of Workbench Tasks

Getting back to modelling, means a couple of things have become evident that need some improving in my new workbench in our new house.  One I was able to solve tonight in about 10 minutes, the other, will be easily solved, but needs some research/thought.

1 – Paper Towels

I use a lot, between cleaning spills, brushes, sweating, its a consumable I use a lot of. I also hadn’t come up with a good location for a paper towel roll until recently.  I realized I can make use of the space beneath the staging traverser at least for now (it may need to be relocated later to make sure wiring is clear), but a couple of bits of metal and a bit of 1″ dowel I had laying around, and I now have a paper towel roll that’s easy to grab paper from, but not in the way of tools or work space.

Home made paper towel holder. A metal pipe clip, a framing bracket, and a knob on a piece of 1″ round dowel.  Does the trick!

2 – More Light

Let there be Light!! Light and being able to see what you are doing is critical.  I’ve written in the past about improving my lighting at the old apartment here. Now that winter is closing in, its become readily aparent as I was painting tonight after installing the paper towel holder, that I need more light, in a couple of ways. I’ve known for some time that I am going to need to add more lighting to light the layout when it is complete.  The layout of the 3rd bedroom which is now my office/layout room is great for a modeller, 4 walls and a central skylight, no windows in the walls.  Where this poses a problem, is in the winter where there is no light at all coming in the skylight. It means there is almost no light coming from behind me to light what I am working on.  This is a fixable problem, I just need to get a light on an arm that I can position so its lighting from the same angle I am looking at the project from. I’ve looked at Ottlites in the past, as they are well regarded, but my legendary cheapness has held me back. Looks like its time to re-visit that thought process again and look at some swing arm lamp options! More to come on this one!

View of my workbench. The skylight is great in the summer, but as winter sets in, there isn’t any light coming in. The single light fixture for the room is above my chair. I am going to replace it with track lighting to allow me to better light the layout, but more workbench light is needed too.

Tuesday Train #126

IMGP0759RawConvThe third Ontario Southland Crew out on September 24, 2018 had this pair of Ex-Canadian Pacific Railway SW1200RS locomotives.  No’s #1245 & #1249, built in September 1960 are seen here leaving the CAMI Automotive plant with autoracks for interchange with Canadian National in Ingersoll.  From the plant lead here, they highballed straight out and onto the mainline and through Ingersoll to the CNR interchange without stopping.

The previous Ontario Southland Tuesday Trains from my day chasing are here at #124, #124.5 & #125.


Why I love trains – A memorial to my Grandfather

We all have different people who influence our lives in many ways.  Today my grandfather passed away after 84 years on this little rock hurtling about in the universe.  I can safely say, I don’t believe I would have nearly the interest in trains and railways, or be a model railroader without him.  Some of my earliest memories are of going to Scotland and Ireland in the summer and spending big chunks of it with my grandparents.  I never did all the things that are stereo-typically Canadian in the summer like playing sports or going to camp.  More often than not, our summer was a trip to the UK.  Arrive in Scotland, head to Northern Ireland for a week or so with my dad’s family, back to Scotland, dad would go home to work, and my mom, sister and I would stay on in Scotland.  These summers are something I cherish, because I got to spend time in a different country, maybe not crazy different, as it always has felt a bit like being home when I go anywhere in the UK, but worlds away from southwestern Ontario farm country in Chatham where I was born and grew up.  As my wife can attest, before my grandparents moved down to England to be close to my aunt to help care for them, I shed a tear when we left their old house for what was almost certainly the last time for me over all the happy memories of vacations spent there during my childhood.

So, back to why I love trains.  While my Grandfather wasn’t a railroader (he was an Ambulance Driver for the Scottish Ambulance Service), he had a couple of old Tri-Ang model trains, and a small stationary steam engine, and if my sister and I were good, they would come out in the evening a few times over the course of a summer visit.  Getting to play with his trains was something that I very much remember looking forward to, and it would eventually lead to me getting toy trains at home in Canada to play with.  He also had great books on trains and railways that I was able to look at, and I was further encouraged by other relatives who passed on old railroad magazines for me to read while I was there (or at least pore over pictures and imagine going somewhere being Flying Scotsman or Mallard).

IMG_5402.JPGMy grandfathers Trainset, now safely in my storage locker here in Canada. Aside from the double ended Aussie locomotive, I always imagined this was the CPR Canadian.

He also took us out to their location station at Lenzie (on the main Glasgow-Edinburgh line) in the evening to watch trains go bye.  Those were good days. Diesel Multiple Units, early InterCity HST125’s, and locomotive hauled coaches all mixed in.  I learned to know a train was coming by listening for the high pitched whine of the track as a train approached the station at speed from around the corner.

Lenzie 1988 - 02
Summer 1988 at Lenzie Station with my sister and Grandfather watching trains go bye (pretty sure this is 1988 based on my Chattanooga Choo Choo hat).

When he and my grandmother would visit us in Canada, we managed to wind up a train ish places as well, as trips to Tennessee for Country Music stuff lead us to the Chattanooga Choo Choo and places of that ilk.  He was also responsible for convincing my dad to build my first layout, a good old 4’x8′ plywood pacific in our basement in Chatham.

1989 - First Layout 02My grandfather looks on at my first layout in progress.  Green carpet sheet over a 4’x8′ plywood sheet, with track nailed right down to the plywood.

My first trip on a train hauled by a Steam Locomotive was with my grandparents at the Bo’Ness and Kinneil Railway about an hour from their home in Scotland.  I remember being so good and begging that we go for a visit before we had to go back to Canada. Guess it worked as we went there in both the summer of 1986 and 1988!!

BoNess1986-07With my grandparents at Bo’Ness in 1986.  Nice toothy grin on me.

I love to travel, and for all the places in the world I want to go that I haven’t been too, more often than not when time and money have let me go on vacation, my travels have taken me to the UK to see family, even if only for an evening passing through as part of a longer trip to go to school or just travel/be a tourist.  As they’ve aged, the long trip to Canada ceased to be one my grandparents could make, so the only way to see them was to go to the UK.  I last visited the Newcastle Upon Tyne area where they live now to see my grandparents in January 2017.  I’m glad my last memories of my grandfather are happy when he still had his health, but I’m devastated that I couldn’t go “home” with my Mom this week to be there for her, my aunt, and my granny as they’ve dealt with him slowly leaving us.

IMG_6896With my grandparents in January 2017. I’m never winning any awards for being a sharp dresser.

More than ever I’m looking forward to a trip back to see my granny and give her a big gentle hug, but I already miss my grandfather knowing that we can’t both be stubbornly right about whatever we were discussing again.

And the Packing Begins…

PackingModels.jpgBoxes boxes everywhere…at least saving the packaging means stuff should be safe during our move.

Yeah, I haven’t been doing much modelling lately.  While we don’t move until mid June, I’m trying to use the available time to good effect to pack and organize things slowly and carefully, vs. doing it in a rush.  Last night I had the tub of boxes for British Models up, and packed away all the British Models that were on display in our home office/spare bedroom.  My current goal is to pack away as many models, lego and other collectables so they are all in our storage locker ready to move, which will let me clean up the spare room, and find stuff that can be sold/donated/passed on to others that we no longer want.  By early June when the packing tubs arrive (shout out to Frogbox for reusable plastic moving tubs), I want to have the office/spare room packed/cleaned up so its open for putting tubs in once they are packed and ready to go.

I won’t be doing much modelling for the next couple of months, but will keep on with Tuesday Train posts, and I have a few things on the future layout to write, along with some thoughts on last weekends Great British Train Show 2018 over the coming weekend.

The Waiting is the Hardest Part

A wise man once said, The Waiting is the Hardest Part….

I don’t know about others, but for me, the longer I have to think about a project or something, the more I find ways to psyche myself out.  I’m better when I can just move ahead on things, even when I don’t have experience or know what I’m doing.  I find I learn from doing and failing, and from forcing myself to pick myself up from my failures to complete a project.  This post I think is a bit of a self-help post to just say what’s rattling around in my mind about the prospects of starting construction on a layout in the coming months.  Lets call a spade a spade as it were, I’m going to spend a lot of money in the coming months on this, and while I’ve been saving and doing things to raise money, I can’t afford to make mistakes that cost hundreds or thousands or dollars in building the layout.  Those kinds of mistakes will lead to me having a spare room that causes me nightmares instead of happy times building models and being able to eventually invite friends over to run trains!

Over the past few weeks, I’ve been working on a revised track plan for the Liberty Village area, taking advantage of the increase in space afforded by having a whole room to work with for my workbench and layout in our new house when we move in late June.  I did briefly consider If I wanted to take the opportunity of the house purchase to look at a different prototype, but I’ve decided I still really like the concept and the location, and being able to design out some of the compromises of Version 1.0, has made me much happier with what I am looking at building.  I’ve been chatting with the Model Railroad Enabler (Here, here, and here to explain), and as a very experienced track plan designer and builder of layouts, not to speak for him too much, but his feedback on the track plan has been positive so far.

Here’s where the waiting becomes a problem for me. I have the great fortune of having made friends in the past few years thanks to the Enabler inviting me to the supper club of modellers and railfan’s he was organizing in Toronto, and I have the good sense to know what I don’t know, and to try to ask for help, but I regularly feel like I need to ask for help and advice and someone to help me learn how to do so many things in building a layout, that I almost feel like I can’t do anything on my own.  While I know this isn’t the case, at times I feel like I am desperate to rush the clock forward to July/August once we are in the house, and I can be certain that benchwork can be installed, and the dimensions of the room and spaces are right, I alternately feel really excited and really daunted at the same time (I’m not good at inertia or sitting around doing nothing, just ask my wife. I’m a putterer, I like being able to just putter around at something when I’m home. Doing nothing isn’t one of my great skills). I feel like I’m just super eager to get on with it, but with relying on the help/guidance of others to do so much, I sit around feeling like I’m taking more from my friends than I’m giving to ever build.

I know what parts of the hobby I’m good at, if I can get to the point of having benchwork built, track laid and wired and working, I can build the buildings and do most of the scenery in my sleep (other than maybe ballasting track, I have kinda historically been lousy in my efforts at that).  Every time I look at it I feel fringes of depression and dread at the thought of building benchwork, or laying track, or doing wiring, all things I have friends I can ask for help and education with doing, but historically, I’m not good at accepting the help of others. I get guilty pangs from not being able to do it myself, I don’t know why, I just do.  Turns out, it really is hard to say “I don’t know” when you really feel you should know how to do something.

Image result for i don't know you can't do that on television alanis
Alanis Morissette (yes, the famous singer) gets slimed on “You Can’t do that On Television“, a kids variety show from the early 1980’s where you got slimed if you said “I Don’t Know”. My sister and I weren’t allowed to watch it, so of course we snuck about when my parents weren’t paying attention to watch it. Part of my feels like this is what’s going to happen to me if I admit to not knowing how to do something in building my layout.

I think much of this is the list of things that I haven’t done that I want to do in building the layout feels longer than the list of things I have done…

  • Build Benchwork – My 2 previous layouts where a 4×8 sheet of plywood my dad built for me when I was about 10 years old, and a shelf layout where we built the benchwork out of flat pine shelves and shelf brackets. Box girder benchwork with a plywood top and then likely a foam layer isn’t rocket science, but on this especially, I can’t possibly ever build a layout without the kindness of my friends to offer me their garages/tools. I don’t have a driveway or a workshop at the new house, and I don’t own the tools to cut the lumber. I constantly feel guilty at how can I repay those who keep offering me their space and experience to build the benchwork at their place so I can bring it home and install it.
  • Build a switch – I want to do this. Could I build the layout using all ready-made switches? Yes, I think I could, but I don’t want to. I think (know?) it will look better if I build switches, almost 99% using the Fast Tracks system, But I’ve never done it
  • Install a switch machine – To go with building the switch, I want to use hand thrown switch machines, under the layout. My past layouts have all used ground throws. My layout will be high (around 62″) to facilitate bookcases beneath it, that rules out ground throws vs having the pull handles on the fascia.  So many questions again, I’ve never assembled a machine (again likely Fast Tracks Bullfrogs which friends use and seem very reliable).
  • Wire a layout, what, but you said you had two layouts? Yup, and the 4×8 had four wires, two from the controller for the inner loop to the track, and two from the controller to the outer loop for track.  The Shelf was a bit more adventurous, but I think 90% of the layout got its power from on set of feeders wired to one track. I had no idea that you really needed to wire feeders at regular lengths or to every piece of track as some people do.  Having reached the point where I am definitely buying a DCC system will ease some of this, no messing around with dead zones or isolation tracks as I did on the shelf, but I need to learn enough at least to wire the switches and where I need gaps to not short out the system and fry it.

I’m sure there are others, but a significant chunk of actually building  a layout is covered in the list above.

I think a lot of this comes from the fact there are so many different ways to do the same thing in the hobby. Person A will say the only way to do things is X, Person B will say the only way to do the same thing is Y, and then Person C will say person A&B are insane and you should be doing Z.  I’m reasonably experienced at lots of aspects of the hobby, but for the parts I’m not, I find these kinds of discussions dread inducing, so much so that sometimes when I look at my track plan, I can feel a nervous twitch coming on about whether I actually do want to build it, or if at heart I’m really an armchair modeller.  I’m not, I want nothing more than to be able to build something and actually operate all the models I’ve bought or built or will build.

So, with all that, if you are still reading, the reward is a first look at Liberty Village Line version 2.0 Trackplan:

Apr 23 18 - Liberty Layout V2.jpgLiberty Village Layout Version 2.0 – Download a PDF version for easier viewing

Some notes to help make sense, the yellow box is my future new workbench area, the blue boxes are bookcases beneath the benchwork or elsewhere in the room.  The room has a full width walk-in closet.  I’ll be taking the door off once side of the closet to allow the layout to pass right into the closet.  It’s not labelled, but the staging on the left of the plan is Canadian National, and on the right Canadian Pacific.

I’ll put a proper post up on the new layout plan sometime in the coming days when time permits. Thank you for reading today’s bit of a ramble on my state of mind about layout building. I feel better already having typed out my thoughts and fears above.