An Edwardian Era Railway Steamship on the Move

The Canadian Pacific Steamship SS Keewatin has a long history. Built in 1907 in Govan Scotland, it plied the northern great lakes from Port MicNicoll on Georgian Bay to Thunder Bay on Lake Superior until the end of the steamship service in 1965. In 1967, she was purchased and moved to Saugatuck Michigan, where she remained until 2012, when she was purchased by a land developer building a resort community at the former port in Port MicNicoll. She was restored, and the Kalamazoo River dredged to let her escape her berth, and moved home. I was in attendance in June 2012 for the grand return to her Forever Home at her old home to become a floating museum. Sadly, the next 11 years brought many challenges. Starting with the developer going under and selling the land, the new owners not wanting her on their lands, to the Covid Pandemic, to the inability of the small community to raise sufficient funds, another move sadly became inevitable. The silver lining, is that another museum in Ontario, the Marine Museum of the Great Lakes in Kingston has been able to acquire her, and raise funds for a restoration. Her destination on this trip, is a dry dock in Hamilton Ontario for repairs, prior to a move to Kingston and display targeted for May 2024.

The Keewatin in happier times, arriving home in Port McNicoll in June 2012.

I had been following the move thanks to and the AIS for the lead tug towing her. When she was scheduled to arrive at Port Colborne for 6am Friday, I assumed that I had no chance to catch her on a work day. As the day progressed, it became apparent that she would be in the canal long enough for me to have a fighting chance with a bit of luck in Friday Traffic to get to St Catharines and catch her, so I got my gear prepped and I hit the roads to battle Friday traffic and the weather. Its 105 kilometers from the house to Lock 2 according to Google Maps, so doable, but challenging, especially in sometimes heavy rain. I however, have realized sometimes I love the chase as much as the catch. That said, as I approached Lock 2, it was clear how many people were out, so I parked at the end of the row along the Welland Canal Parkway and could see the safety bar on the lock was up, which meant the lock doors were open and they were ready to depart. I hoofed it so fast to try and get to a shot, I forgot my tripod! So I got no video and bad video to start. That said, I got the shots I wanted, chased along on foot a bit, before I was soaked and running out of gas, and turned to trudge back to the car.

The SS Keewatin being towed out of Lock 2 by the Molly M I and moving north toward Lock 1 on the Welland Canal.

After drying out for a bit, I decided I would at least drive up toward Lock 1 and see if I could get any more shots. I saw there was maybe a shot from the bridge looking over the ship from above in the lock, but I decided to go around and see if I could get better shots of her coming out of the lock and be a bit less helter skelter than at Lock 2. I succeeded, and found a great spot where many people were at a Tug Boat Dock, where there was a little concrete jetty with a handrail that a couple of people were out on, and I duly joined them. I even remembered the umbrella in the car to combat my mortal photographic enemy of rain…I hate rain so much.

The SS Keewatin coming out of Lock 1 at the north end of the Welland Canal, and some of the big crowds everywhere in St Catharines for the trip through the locks on a very rainy Friday evening.

I will hopefully get a 3rd kick at seeing the Keewatin sailing when she moves from Hamilton to Kingston in 2024. That will be a much more celebratory trip than the one from Port McNicoll to Hamilton which sadly had many online moaning about how she couldn’t stay in Port McNicoll. I am, very prosaic about these things, the best outcome is restoration and care, and if that is in Kingston, that’s where she should go. I think its more important that a ship with Canadian history stays in Canada and on the Great Lakes. That she will be open to the public again is better than the outcome so many historic ships face of being cut up, or slowly decaying to the point where they just sink into the muck. Here’s to many more years of people appreciating the Keewatin in her new home starting in 2024!

Tuesday Train Extra: I’m learning to fly…

I’m learning to fly
But I ain’t got wings
Coming down
Is the hardest thing

Yesterday I got my drone, today, I started to learn to fly it. In the interests of my sanity, and not breaking it on the first day, we went over to the public school yard a ten minute walk across the street, a nice wide open space where I could set up in the ball diamond gravel, and have it and the expanse of grass that is the soccer field to fly over and not be buzzing anyone’s house, flying into trees or wires, or any other pratfall that would ruin my first day out with it.

Getting set to go, and a collection of shots from the Drone looking back at us, and of the area around the school we were flying at. For a tiny lens, the camera gets good shots with the 12megapixel sensor it has.

This was, a basic get to know you series of flights. Use the auto takeoff and auto landing features. Do the same manually, see how the “Quick Shot” pre-set flight patterns for videos work, and start to get a hang of the controls. I even managed to fly it far enough away that we lost sight of it in the skies, so we tested the “Return Home” GPS feature to have it automatically fly back to where it took off from. I did not play around with settings much. One I will need to look at is the Return to Home and its default altitude. It was just windy enough today, that the default of 400′, which is set to clear anything around normally, once it got back close and we spotted it, it was clear it was fighting the wind, so instead of letting the auto return finish, I reclaimed control and brought it back down to almost ground level and flew it back to base. That said, my initial impressions are, wow. A number of people I know with them said that they are super easy to fly, and they were not kidding. Even as I was fumbling to get a feel for which movement on the control sticks does what, the video I was getting was so steady.

Post fly about screen caps from the DJI App, listing of all my flights, and you can go back in and view your flights on a map, review what controls you did, etc. This was the furthest away from myself that I got (we couldn’t see/hear it in the sky).

I assembled a brief video of the days flying, a combination of footage from in the Drone, and from my wife’s iPhone of me flying it. I have to say, I am really impressed that even on a first flight, the video and photographs are really good. I can’t wait to get some more flight time in to get really comfortable with how it flies and moves, and get out trackside with it to get a new angle on some trains!

As always, when my wonky musical mind starts with a song, I leave you with the late great Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers “Learning to Fly”

Tuesday Train Extra: It flies…I hope…

Oh dear…I appear to have given into temptation for a new “toy”…er em, tool, in my train chasing railfan photographer arsenal. After some months of thinking about it, and mulling, I have broken down and bought a DJI Mini 2 Drone. I have, been feeling stale in my photography and videography of late, and looking for new ways to open up opportunities, I have settled on trying out a drone. I have a number of friends who have drones, and I know a few other railfans (Steve Boyko in Winnipeg springs to mind, his work well worth a look compared to mine if you haven’t seen it). This one came highly recommended as a first drone for new users. It is, apparently easy to fly and easy to learn to fly, and takes good quality video and pictures. I am planning a trip in early May to go and do some railfanning and riding of passenger trains in places well away from home (all in good time, that’s a bunch of future posts), and I have decided that I want as many tools in my bag as possible for this, and the Drone is going to be one of them. Once I decided I was actually going to do the thing and order it, I wanted to do it plenty early so I have two months+ here to learn to use it, and see how I integrate having it with me into what I do when I am out and about.

Oh my…what have I gotten myself into…

My drone arrived yesterday, and after some quality efforts by the staff at our Condo to lose it in the parcel room, I got it home this afternoon. I have successfully fired up the software, linked and registered the device, and confirmed the camera works, by taking a really bad selfie while the drone was sitting in my photo cube (no I won’t be sharing that thanks for asking!). So far, I would say everything has been reasonably intuitive and has worked the way it should. I am hoping to go over to a school down the street tomorrow where there are some wide open spaces to set up and learn to fly. While to get good use while chasing trains, I will need to learn to fly around obstacles and miss things, at least for learning basic operations like how to take off and land, and where all the different control settings are, I figure a wide open space is probably the way to go!

DJI Mini 2. It is about the size of two HO Scale 40′ boxcars side by side with the rotors folded in. No I’m not making my first test flight in the house, that has disaster written all over it.

Future updates on my Learning to Fly will follow in due course…once the batteries finish charging…

A Dash 8 of a Different Kind…That’s no Train Part 14…

Yeah, I know, a railfan joke. I’ll show myself out in shame, but this is a Dash 8, just not of the 6 axle diesel locomotive variety. This is, a Bombardier (De Havilland) Dash 8 Q400 Turboprop, and the 3rd 1/144 scale aircraft I have written about and built after my first “That’s no Train” post and my 10th. You can read about the other “That’s No Train” projects here on a page where they are all collected.

This is not going to be a heavily detailed post. I basically built the kit straight from the box. In searching several years ago when I did the CFL 737 (That’s No Train 1), I bought decals for it from V1Decals, a small business run by a fellow Canadian who makes custom decals for commercial airliners. His decals are gorgeous. I was really happy with the CFL set, and in looking, I saw he had a set for a Porter Q400. Porter, for those who don’t know is a small airline based out of the Toronto Island Airport, where jets are not permitted. Their entire fleet up until February 2023 is the Q400. I have flown them to Ottawa, New York and Chicago, and their service and in-flight experience is excellent. When I discovered I could build a model of one of their aircraft, it went on my list of “that would be a fun” diversion project.

A handful of construction photos. The kit was nicely injected, not a lot of flash, went together reasonably well and straightforward. Also a size comparison with the 737 and Lancaster.

The Q400 kit (Ed: never said the scale, 1/144th!, about 8”x9” in size) is from Eastern Express Models, a Russian company. I am, not thrilled by this. I bought it from an Ebay seller. There is apparently another resin kit out there, that is both hard to find and apparently not as nice a build. I did not do anything strange, this was a straight from the box build. No lights, no modifications other than tossing out the Air Canada Jazz decals it came with and using the Porter ones. This was something easy to work on at downtime through Christmas. It was a good easy distraction that didn’t need my full attention, like most of my current layout projects do.

Gallery of the finished Q400 along with the 737. You think of jets being big and turboprops small, but the Q400 and 737-300 are really almost identical in wingspan and fuselage length.

I’ve taken a break through December and into January here from the layout and trains, but I am feeling the urge to get back to working on the layout, which is entirely the point of me doing these occasional no train projects. Build skills, practice skills, do something different just to stay fresh and motivated. I actually don’t have any more non-train projects in the house (but I might have ordered some yesterday…).

2022 Year in Review

Its that time of year again, the end, where we look back at what we’ve done, and think about what is to come in the new year. 2022 has been a much better year than 2021, though having ended 2021 in the hospital having surgery two days before Christmas set the bar really low for the year to be better. The good news is, by the time I made last years Year in Review post, I was already well on my way to feeling better. I have been (knock on wood) healthy through 2022, and am incredibly grateful for our Canadian Healthcare System that got me there, despite is problems and challenges. May those in power who seem more interested in driving it into the ground and privatizing it never succeed.

But, you don’t come here for political moaning, you come here for trains (and I am eternally grateful that so many of you do). I have no illusions that I am the best modeller, or the best writer, but I enjoy sharing my ramblings and adventures, in the hopes it helps a single other modeller. My blog has registered over 2,000 views every month in 2022, its best year ever. Every year it seems a few more people read, and I appreciate every view/like/comment as they help to keep me motivated to keep working on the layout and keep writing about it.

Liberty Village Layout Panorama, December 29, 2022. It really does make me happy to see how it looks!
The Canyon Road Diorama, finished in February, a nice start to the year finishing a big project.

Projects Completed in 2021

  • Canyon Road Diorama – See this page for all my posts on the project.
  • Freight Cars – Much to the chagrin of my friend Pierre Oliver, I have built every resin kit in my stash most of them from his Yarmouth Model Works, thus far I have not been tempted to buy more. I am close to as many cars as my layout can handle. I need to actually seriously work on preparing waybills for operation rather than add more cars!
  • Go Transit “MP-40” Stand in for the Toronto Railway Museum. A quick-ish repaint of an MBTA MP36 to be a display case stand in as the Museum has never gotten a factory GO Model for our display
  • Non Train Things – Lancaster Mk.X VERA, Iron-Man, 1966 Ford GT40, Riddles in the Dark

Projects In Progress

  • Building Liberty Village Layout – Did lots on this again in 2022!! See page here. This whole post could really be a look at the layout, but that would sell short the other things I’ve done. I will say that I am really pleased with the progress this year, structures and scenery progressing, my freight car fleet is really there
  • Another Diorama – I have an HO Scale 12″x12″ non-train diorama on the go. No details on what it actually is to share yet, but sometime. I did post about it though here, here and here.
  • Freight Car Kits – I actually finished almost all the cars in my stash! The only kit in the drawer is a Tichy USRA Rebuild, and I need Speedwich Media to re-run the correct doors, and order the decals from National Scale Car to advance it, so it sits in limbo land for the foreseeable future. I also have a second half built Tichy steam crane kit. I should really get back at that someday soon too.


  • Cricut Cutting – I bought a Cricut in February, for a variety of reasons, but largely as I have seen people using these craft cutting machines on model railroad projects. They have been derisively I think called a “poor mans laser cutter”, and while I see why, that is grossly unfair to them. They are not trying to be a laser cutter, but they can do many of the same things. They have many of the same uses, but don’t obviously work the same way. For my purposes, the Cricut has advanced a lot of building on the layout, and will continue to do so by making one of the worst parts of structure building, the cores and rough cut window openings a faster process.
  • Weathering – I have, done a basic weathering/tone down job on about 95% of my freight car fleet. I have a handful of tank cars and oddballs that require some more care to do, then I can look at applying myself to more intensive weathering on some cars.
  • Scenery – Doing it again. Actually taking the skills I have built, and going back to an area I wasn’t happy with. This was a big leap for me, but one I am really happy I did as the area at the closets edge looks light years better.
  • DCC/Electronics – Gremlins, oh electrical gremlins. I have fixed some, others are still baffling me. All part of learning from my mistakes as if we ever find out why one switch in particular hates me, we’ll hopefully not have to go through the extended stress in the future and I can come up with a maintenance/cleaning/operating routine that keeps things working!
  • Operations – I don’t know if this is a skill, or a project in progress, but someday I intend to operate the layout, both on my own and with friends over (visitors, what?). I took some further steps into this world, though largely in the area of maintenance and layout work to make it operate well. Need to put some hours in 2023 into working on paperwork to make operations actually happen.

Thing’s that actually arrived in 2022

That’s a lot of things that don’t belong on the layout, but I have wanted a GO Transit F59 for as long as I’ve been back in the hobby seriously after I finished University in December 2002 and started working in early 2003.

Thing’s I’m expecting to arrive in 2023

  • Bachmann LMS Patriot “The Unknown Warrior” – See Here
  • Accurascale British Railways Class 37 37043 “Loch Lomond” – See Here
  • Kernow Model Railway Centre Great Western Railway Steam Railmotor – See Here I haven’t actually ordered this, but I really want to, why? Why not? I can already hear Mears and Marshall typing comments and emails to try and enable me into buying it! Just have to decide on As Preserved 93 or the GWR Chocolate & Cream version with nameboards for the Severn Valley Railway…
  • Walthers SW9/900/1200 Undecorated – An actual layout project. Modelling an early CN switcher in the black paint scheme. As much as I love my SW1200RS and GMD1, neither are really appropriate for Liberty Village. While I have my brass O-18a steam locomotive as a long time project, something more representative of early diesel industrial switching in Toronto is needed.

Strangely, most of those have nothing at all to do with or on a layout set in Liberty Village in the 1950’s, but that’s what display cases are for! I’m sure there is more stuff out there to tempt me to open my wallet. I have seriously looked at a 3rd Atlas Alco S-2, as CN also used these, but I already have a pair on the CP end of the layout!

All things considered, it has been a very good year. I have finished some models, made progress on the layout, and chased a lot of trains in the real world. In just about 4.5 years my layout has gone from an idea on paper and a bare room in our new home, to something that resembles what I envisioned, and that even kinda runs when you try to run trains on it! I’d have never predicted that when we moved in, but here we are, I continue to surprise myself with the progress being made.

In terms of where I am going, I won’t be doing a 2023 Preview Post, but much like a year ago, I really want to finish the large Hinde & Dauch Paper company in 20223, that I had hoped to finish in 2021&2022. I have made progress, but it’s one of those projects that has kept getting pushed aside. I did advance it, along with a lot of smaller buildings. Hinde & Dacuh is the 2nd largest structure on my layout. One thing I do want to address in 2023 is my display situation. Over the CN staging I have two small cabinets. I would like to replace them with one larger 36″ or 42″ wide unit so that locos and cars can be displayed in context. It would make much more display sense if things were in context, and let me get some passenger car models out of boxes!

My one 2023 “preview”, getting a better display for this area to actually have short trains together on display.

So, with that, I hope you have a wonderful New Years Eve. We are ordering a Banjara Indian Feast for dinner and I am going to torture myself watching the US NCAA College Football playoff games (Go Blue!), because that seems as good as anything else to do on a Saturday night! Stay well friends.

Stephen Gardiner
December 31, 2022

52 for ’22

Something I don’t think I’ve done before. After two years of disruption, I made a conscious effort to get back to reading. Through 2019 and into early 2020, my daily commute was about an hour and a half each way, an hour or so of which was on the Subway. So long as I got a seat, I was reading. I know I was doing close to a book a week, but I wasn’t keeping track. Then, March 2020 happened, and well, I kinda stopped reading for a while. It turns out, my routine was so topsy turvey for a while, I couldn’t bring myself to read. Being in the house, I was too distracted. The transit time every day had become my reading/decompressing time, and finding it at home was a challenge. Chores, trains, TV, bed, so many things just overtook it. Then, for a large part of 2021, getting slowly worse during the back half of the year, I was sick, eventually leading to surgery December 23rd last year to remove a 16mm kidney stone (that’s around the size of a Canadian dime for anyone keeping score). So, for 2022, I decided to keep a list of how many books I read, partly I think to motivate me to get back to reading, but I absolutely started without a goal in mind. Then, about half way through the year, we had a week away at a rented Cottage, and I read 7 books in 7 days sitting by the lake, and I realized, that I was more or less on pace at that point to average a book a week. I didn’t know if it was possible, and certainly some books were longer than others, some easier reads, but only one (Adam Savage – Every Tool a Hammer at the Cottage) was a re-read. No, I didn’t buy all these, I own 4 of them, 1 was borrowed from a friend. All the rest were borrowed from the Toronto Public Library (Other local Libraries are hopefully still available where you live). All but one of them are physical books, one – “You’ve Got Red On You” was the first e-book I have read. I read all my magazines digitally now on my iPad, but I wasn’t sure how an actual book would go. It was OK, but I prefer a physical book and one of my stack of leather bookmarks (largely from places I’ve been in the UK where they are a pretty standard cheap souvenir).

At the end of the day, I feel better for this, “forcing” myself to make time to read in my routine, There have been as many days where I’ve fallen asleep reading as there have been ones where I’ve been enthralled and couldn’t but it down, but on balance, I feel its been a good year. I learned things, thought about things, and generally feel better for having pushed myself to get back to reading (being back in the office more helps with the baked in reading time on the subway for an hour each way). I am not reviewing the books here, and I’m not going to tell you which ones I thought were good and were bad, everyone finds their own interests and writing styles they like, but there were a range of good reads, and toughing it out for others.

So with all that, here’s the 52. Hopefully you find something that peaks your interest too!

And, because I reached 52 books so quickly, I finished a bonus book. I thought I might have finished another, but even with not doing anything at Christmas, I haven’t done much reading this week! No, you don’t need to be nuts and read a book a week, but I encourage everyone to read, be it fiction or non-fiction, its a good way to keep the mind sharp and improve yourself. To the Bonus Book!