Friday, April 12, 2013

Something A Little Different..

     I haven't had much time to work on Port Hood since my last post, but all the track is pretty much ballasted. So since I don't really have much to share, I thought I'd post a few pictures today.

A dozen empty hoppers sit in the storage tracks at Port hood. The Co-Op elevator is in the background.

Inverness 2-8-0 #1873 (ex CN 1873) rests on the main next to Port Hood Station.

Inverness 2-8-0 #1873 (ex CN 1873) rests on the main next to Port Hood Station.

Ballast just about done, and ground foam being applied.

Finally, some green.

More ground foam being applied.

     I still have to mount my caboose industries ground throws to the switches, but that will have to wait for a little while. The one thing I did manage to do this week was add a telegraph bracket under the eaves of Port Hood Station, and a Call Box on the end of the platform for crews to use. Now I just have to string some cable to the box.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013


     There hasn't been much to do around Port Hood in the last couple weeks, due to a shortage of parts from the states. First it was the South #7LH switch, then it was lack of ballast, and then it was terminal joiners. I say lack of ballast, because I don't want to use the woodland scenics black cinders I have on hand - those are reserved for live coal loads. The terminal joiners were ordered to provide track power, because I don't have access to my soldering station at the moment.

     So this morning on my way to pick up my ballast at the post office, I checked the mailbox and my terminal joiners had arrived as well. After I drilled a few holes in the roadbed to accept the feeder wires, ballast crews (read: me) were dispatched to the site and have been hard at work grading the ROW.


Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Intermountain Reefers

     Some time ago, dear reader, I told you about the four Intermountain reefers I scooped off of eBay. They've been sitting on my desk, calling out to me for some love and affection since I first sat them there about two weeks ago. Well today I decided to throw one together to see; a.) How hard they were to assemble and b.) How long it would take me to assemble one. I'm pleased to report that it only took me a little over an hour to do and it wasn't all that difficult. Below is the first finished car.

     It currently rides on Micro-Trains trucks, with Atlas low-profile wheels.  I opt for the Atlas wheels when doing replacements because they're brown, which is closer to the rusted wheels we typically see on the prototype, as opposed to the black that are also available. Atlas wheels are also manufactured to match the Atlas code 55 track I've chosen for the layout.

     Just for comparison, I coupled it next to a Micro-Trains 40' plug door box car for these photos and you can see a visible difference in height between them. It sure does look good though. That light grey stands out well against the oxide brown next to it. 

     Now you're probably sitting there wondering why a guy whose railroad hauls thousands of tons of coal every day, would need steel refrigerator cars. Well believe it or not, Nova Scotian farmers once grew vast quantities of apples and blueberries here. Granted, a lot of this produce is/was grown in the Annapolis Valley, much was also grown right here in Inverness County. So much produce in fact, that I've heard Nova Scotia referred to as the Blueberry Capitol Of The World.

     Weather or not that's true, I cannot say for sure, but research I've conducted indicates the period from September to April saw heavy apple traffic on the Dominion Atlantic Railway. Apples from over 150 warehouses were carried to ocean steamers at Halifax, often requiring double-headed specials. I know my grandparents used to go blueberry picking on the mountain behind their house when I was little. The employee timetables I have, also indicate several short sidings on the subdivision with no apparent use or purpose.

     One could certainly surmise these siding were used in the fall to spot a reefer here and there for loading by local farmers. After-all, one could put a hell of a lot of blueberries in a single 40-foot reefer couldn't they. The fact that it would increase my traffic levels during Op Sessions couldn't hurt either. The only question I have now is; do I need an ice house on the layout? Food for thought.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Four trucks and a fence

     Well it's wednesday already, and I was beginning to worry I wouldn't have anything to write this week. As luck would have it though, Canada Post had a couple packages for me this morning, and I have something to share with you. The first package was just another of many hoppers for my growing fleet.

     The second package however, yielded four new Classic Metal Works tractor trailers I picked up from eBay for almost literally, a steal.

      Two are lettered for "Wayne Feeds" and two for "Sealtest Dairy Products". One of the Sealtest units can remain in it's current livery, as the front half of the Port Hood Co-Op always did; and continues to sell groceries. The other Sealtest unit will have to be repainted though. Maybe a Ben's Bakery unit. Milk and bread would likely both be delivered within close proximity to each other first thing in the morning.

     That leaves the two Wayne Feeds units. I'm not sure exactly what to do with those just yet. Part of me says they should be painted for Atlantic Co-Op, obviously in use for local farm deliveries. Yet part of me says they would look better decorated for a large feed retailer like Purina or Shur-Gain. 

      In either case, they make the scene look a lot better around the back of the mill.

"Hurry up and wait." Two drivers sit in line for the Co-Op dock.

A Sealtest driver waits his turn for the dock.

     Now that you're caught up to all the excitement going on over at the mill, I'd like to point out the cheapest fence ever built. It's made up of a hand full of round tooth picks and some sewing thread. I simply cut the tooth picks in half with my wire cutters, pushed them into the foam board and wrapped some sewing thread around them. I guess it took me all of an hour to build and it looks great. All I need now is some dirt to make a driveway and a farmhouse to put at the end of it. Oh, and some trees. Hundreds of friggin' trees.

The Inverness Hopper Fleet Part II

     Well it's friday morning and the weekend is almost here. Time to update you on the status of those hoppers from last thursday. I'm happy to report all 38 hoppers currently on the Inverness and Richmond roster are stripped, and awaiting a trip into the paint shop. Of course that will happen as soon as the weather co-operates, as I only have the balcony to paint on.

     I also spoke to my "corporate artist" last night and things seem to be progressing nicely. He sent me a sample of the cars' data layout and it should look like this:

I. R. R.
CAPY.       130000         HM
LD.LMT.     134500
LT.WT.         34500         H-Q, 9,60
     Of course, one has to imagine the graphics are white on a black car. But you get the idea.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Custom Artwork

     I've mentioned before that I picked the corporate identity of the Inverness & Richmond Railway based on it's historic ownership by CNR, and the many subsidiaries CN owned. This choice allowed me to integrate my model into the CN family next to Central Vermont, and Grand Trunk Western.

     I'm not the first one to do this however. See Marty McGuirk's awesome HO scale Southern New England Boxcars as an example.

     So where does that leave me? Well, I'm currently collaborating with a gentleman on The Rail Wire who has experience with creating artwork and custom decals for model railroads. I may even have a sample JPEG by next weekend. I can only hope they look as good as Marty's.

Monday, March 11, 2013


     So last week I picked up these nifty little reefers on eBay. I bought them because I like the way they look, they'll add a little character to my fleet, and they're perfectly suitable for the Nova Scotia blueberry harvest. In fact I like them so much I'm hunting for about six more. The problem is I cannot find any. 

     They appear to be a custom production run for an outfit called Crowley Scale Models, but his website hasn't seen an update since 2010. So what am I to do? I've posted my query over on The Rail Wire as well so hopefully I find an answer.

     Feel free to leave a comment if you have any intell on these cars.

Thursday, March 07, 2013

The Inverness Hopper Fleet

     Today I decided it was time I got to work on part of the Inverness hopper fleet. For the last six or eight months, I've been scouring eBay looking for any reasonably priced 55Ton hoppers. As of right now I have about twenty-five hoppers, split 50/50 between Micro-Trains and Atlas. The MTL cars are superior in detail to the Atlas cars, but are twice the cost. Some are flat-end, some are peaked-end, some are arched-end, and some are notched-end, but all are painted for foreign roads that would likely have never shown up in Cape Breton, with the exception of CP 354116.

     Canadian Pacific operated the Dominion & Atlantic Railway for a number of years, so it's quite conceivable that one of their coal hoppers may have been "borrowed" by CNR, or even sent to CNR empty for a load of coal - thus it shall remain in Canadian Pacific Script livery.. but I'm wandering off-topic.

     So into the 99% Isopropyl Alcohol bath the rest of them will go - probably in batches of 9.

     The first group taking a bath.

     About fours hours later, a gentle scrub with an old toothbrush, and I'm left with these:

     They're all ready for paint and decals. Stay tuned for more on that later.

Thursday, February 28, 2013

The Port Hood Co-Op Feed Mill

     So I managed to get the roadbed for Port Hood down this week, but one of my switches is broken. So that means that not only do I have to get it replaced - I can't ballast any track until it arrives, is installed, looks satisfactory, and is positioned properly.

     So in the mean time I've spent yesterday and today working on the big feed mill for Port Hood. It's a mish-mash of about four different Walthers kits including:

     I also picked up some neat little resin castings of sacks on pallets in various sizes a while back, and I made a little storage area and covered loading dock. This will sit at the rear of the feed mill. And I suppose I should find an appropriate tractor-trailer and forklift to complete the scene.


Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Town Erected Overnight - Residents Baffled

     I really need to stop playing Sim City 300..

     There's still plenty of roadbed to cut, and glue in place for the Port Hood West Siding (on the left by the sanding pad), but it's coming along pretty well.

     I'm hoping by tomorrow to have the last of the roadbed done and start ballasting. Sadly one of my #5 Right hand switches seems to have broken, but a replacement was ordered tonight and should be here in a few days.

     And here we are Wednesday morning. All the roadbed is in place and adhering nicely. Now it's off to the post office to pick up three parcels from eBay.


Thursday, February 14, 2013

Port Hood

     Back in the early 1900's, Port Hood was the site of a large coal pier where coal was shipped to Montreal and the New England states. Today however, the train station has been moved into town and re-purposed as a funeral home. The coal pier is but a distant memory.

     So what is a modeller to do? Well I know that in the late 1950's the CNR line was still at the south end of town, but as far as my research can tell, there was never anything more than a siding here. I guess this is one of those times where I have to open up my wallet and whip out my Modellers License. Since there was once a coal pier here, there must have been a short branch off the main line to access it. Therefore we can plausibly surmise that the branch may have served the Atlantic Co-Op and Home Hardware Building Center as well.

     I won't be modelling the coal pier, as it was no longer in existence in the 1950's, but the Co-Op is still alive and well selling animal feed, coal, groceries, and occasionally farm equipment. Just across Main Street from the mill will be the Home Hardware Building Center - a Cornerstone kit, Walton & Sons Lumber is a perfect stand-in.

     The crude Atlas Right Track drawing you see above is basically how I've decided Port Hood should be laid out. Although it looks like just a couple simple sidings off the main line and a short spur for Home Hardware, it will be tricky to switch with an RPO/Combine loading/unloading baggage and passengers in front of the station and box cars parked in front of the Co-Op. The center track can be utilized as a run-around, when it's not storing empties or loads for the industries in town. 


     eBay. Love it or hate it, almost everyone would admit to surfing around the popular auction site at one time or another. It's like a global flea market that's open 24 hours a day and ships right to your mailbox.

     I personally love it. I've acquired all my out-of-production/discontinued/retired Walthers N Cornerstone kits this way. Co-Op elevator, lumber dealer, roundhouse, coal mine.. Even my Russel snowplow was an eBay find.  Why just yesterday I won a handful of auctions, increasing the Inverness freight car fleet. Eight 33' twin bay hoppers, three CP Script cylindrical hoppers, three 40' boxes, and a pair of these neat little unloading conveyors are all in the mail from various States;

     I never would have found this neat little conveyor if it weren't posted on eBay, and yesterday I managed to win a pair of them (four pieces total) for under $20. I know one of them will look right at home at the Port Hood Co-Op feed mill, but more on that later.

     The only problems I encounter with eBay, are when someone is willing to pay more than you are and you lose an auction, or a seller has posted a great deal, combined with a retarded shipping cost.

     Now if Walthers had only produced the car float and car apron kits in N, I'd probably be able to find them on eBay too - but alas they were never made.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Ian Wilson's Steam series

     If there's one thing a model railroader can never have enough of, that's NOT rolling stock or locomotives - it's reference material. Books, time tables, car drawings, blue prints, or even Car Control Manuals. What ever helps shed light on your modelling subject.

     So with that in mind, I was excited to get something from Canada Post today. My Ian Wilson collection has arrived. Ian some times contributes to a yahoo group I belong to, and he had mentioned a couple weeks ago that his books were on sale for something like half price. I had to have them.

     Published by Canadian Branchline Miniatures, they're full of crisp black and white photos, track maps, and timetables from southern Ontario. I've got to tell you these are the most beautiful books I've ever purchased on the CNR, and I'll be looking for the other four in his collection later today. Hell, even some of  the included track maps would make for some really great shelf switching layouts. Do yourself a favor and head on over to the Canadian Branchline Miniatures eBay Store and pick a couple up. You can't possibly be disappointed.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Live Loads

     So yesterday I posted about realistic car movements and realistic operations. Today I want to talk about Live Loads.

     When you spot or pull a 40' box car for a customer - visually, you can't tell if that car is loaded or empty - unless the door is open and you can see inside the car. Sure, the switchlist tells you what is or isn't inside the car, but that means most of us run cars with closed doors. To help us maintain the illusion. Right?

     But what about open cars, like flats and hoppers? Well some, or most of you, might have removable hopper loads - I'm just not satisfied with that concept. Operationally, I feel it's cheating yourself out of an aspect of realism we can't easily achieve with the average 40' box car. Especially on a coal hauling railroad like the Inverness & Richmond.

     Enter live loads. The idea is that hoppers aren't just spotted at a mine for loading with foam inserts between sessions - they're actively loaded with loose, simulated coal, by an operator during sessions. Now this system will have a couple benefits:

  • Increased weight of loaded hoppers for better tracking qualities
  • Extra train during Op session dedicated to mine load-out
     The procedure is as follows:

      During an operating session, an engineer will be assigned the Black River Turn - whose job will be taking ten to fifteen empty hoppers to the mine for live loading. The engineer will pull his train under the load-out, filling each car with loose coal until all cars are loaded. At this point the motive power will be run around the train and returned to Inverness Yard, where 30 car unit coal trains are assembled and taken to Port Hastings for interchange with CN on a separate assignment.

     If you look at the Black River Mine below, you'll notice five spots where tracks are designed to go. These will be the load-out tracks, although I haven't decided which or how many will actually load cars.

     You will also notice that a section of roof appears to be missing. Obviously I've not finished assembling the structure, and that's where the operator will be placing the loose coal.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Car Cards and Waybills and ShipIt, oh my!

     Ask any serious modeller what they enjoy most about running trains and a lot of them will tell you operations are key to having a good time. Sure, some people are content to just watch their trains run around the layout doing laps, but most of us would rather operate a train rather than watch it. After all - real rail cars travel from Point A to Point B, carrying freight from shipper to consignee, to earn real railroads money. Not just in circles around the country for us railfans to watch and photograph.

     So why then, should a model be any different?

     Well this is where operations come in to play. Operations give us the purpose of moving a particular train, or car, across the layout - through the use of Time Table & Train Order (TT&TO for short), Way Bills, and Car Cards systems - which are all forms of paperwork to justify moving trains. The hobby press is even full of how-to articles and books on Ops.

     However, the one draw back to the above options is all the down-time, or "re-staging the layout" as it's also known. That's where you have to go around the layout and either rewrite all your way-bills, flip car cards, or worse yet - make new car cards, reflecting updated locations of all the cars on the layout that are now loads instead of empties, or empties now loaded. I've heard of a couple layout owners that require 4 to 8 hours of staging every time they run an Op. That doesn't sound like a hobby. It sounds like a part time job.

     Enter Albion Software and Ship It!. I'd first heard of ShipIt! way back in the early days of my modelling interest but hadn't tried it until a couple months ago. To give you an idea of what it does, this is taken from their web site;

"Car movement is never random with Ship It! Just tell Ship It! what products your industries ship and receive, and it will create car movements between them, even across divisions. Never create another operating session by hand! Get rid of all the paperwork except the switchlist. Give your trains a reason to roll!" 

     I downloaded the free 30-day trial back in November 2012 and spent a weeks worth of evenings after work building my database. Inputting my current locomotive and freight car fleet (that took the longest), the yard capacity, the sidings, the industries I plan to have on the layout, what they will ship and receive, and finally - how often they will ship and receive it. Once I had all that down, I set up a couple of scheduled trains to "run" and generated a "session".

     Almost instantly, ShipIt! populates my layout with the cars I told it were on the layout (or will be eventually), generated a list of which cars are to be moved, and the corresponding switch lists. I on the other hand, didn't have to write any car cards, waybills, or switchlists whatsoever. ShipIt! takes care of all of it for me. All I have to do is print out what it generates - and you can even pick one or all lists to print.

     If you look at the following screen shot, you'll see what I mean.

     It really is a beautiful piece of software once you learn how to use it - which is pretty much data entry. I'm glad I discovered it, and I also encourage anyone who likes to run ops (or plans to on a furute layout) give it a try. It sure beats flipping car cards and writing waybills.

Friday, February 08, 2013

A web related post..

     Back in the day (read:1990) I fancied myself as being pretty damn good in the HTML department. I could understand pretty much all of it and wrote a few pages in raw HTML - back when people were all about the MS FrontPage and "publishing" their own web pages. My how times change.

     All I wanted was to change the font colour of my Title and description, but the blogger template I chose wasn't co-operating. Sure, I'd tell it what colour I wanted and click save changes. Then I'd open a new tab, go to the blog, and see the same wrong colour displayed. I also wished to alter the spacing a little so it fit my header image better.

     Well bloody hell if it hasn't taken me a week of pouring over CSS (Cascading Style Sheets) tutorials, pages of Blogger code, and trying to ascertain which three lines needed editing. This morning I found those three little lines. They were mocking me until they realized I'd found them, burried in the header.h1:description line. They've swiftly been dealt with and I now have a black title where once I had an illegible white one.

     What do you think?

Tuesday, February 05, 2013

A Follow up to the 'To Do List'..

As a follow up to this post, I was able to get some decals on an old Atlas 40' car this afternoon. I haven't picked out a number yet, and it still needs a shot of Testors Dullcote - but overall it's coming together rather nicely don't you think?

Friday, February 01, 2013

Cabot Gypsum

     I just found out about this this morning - but I will certainly have to investigate the possibility of capturing this new rail traffic on my layout.

Company re-opens gypsum wallboard plant

Staff - Cape Breton Post

POINT TUPPER — Cabot Gypsum is launching production at a facility that has been in bankruptcy and boarded up for the past three years.

     The company has revamped and modernized an existing facility, that was once owned by Federal Gypsum before it shut down and went bankrupt in 2008, owing about $32 million to more than 90 creditors.

     Cabot Gypsum’s sales manager, Reg MacLeod, said the company acquired the plant’s assets earlier this year and is leasing the facility from the government of Nova Scotia.
MacLeod said the company’s received no government funding in getting the facility up and running.

     “We’ve just obviously opened and started our production but we expect ... significant job growth in the future once we getting going, probably 12 months down the road,” said MacLeod.

     “It depends on the economy and things like that, but we expect it to be nothing compared to the NewPage plant, which was a disaster for the area but we expect job growth to be growing as the plant grows.”

     MacLeod wouldn’t say how many workers are currently employed at the plant due to privacy and competition concerns.

     “Everybody sees gypsum abundantly as a mineral in the ground and yet you have to buy wallboard that’s produced out of the region,” MacLeod said.

     He said there are some former NewPage workers on staff at the facility.

     “We’ve been supplying our product throughout all of Atlantic Canada,” said MacLeod.
     “We’ve had material delivered to the various building supply dealers, and that’s who we target is building supply dealers.”

     MacLeod said the facility is the province’s only gypsum wallboard plant.


 This is from


Cabot Gypsum began production in September at its wallboard manufacturing facility in Point Tupper. The company, owned by Acadia Drywall, modernized the former Federal Gypsum plant that had been shut down approximately three years ago. Cabot Gypsum sells its gypsum wallboard in all provinces in Atlantic Canada.  (Port Hawkesbury Reporter, October 19)



Saturday, January 19, 2013

When the cat's away...

     Today finds me with an empty apartment - as the other half and her friend have gone to Niagara Falls NY to do some shopping. The perfect opportunity to get some work done. So far I've managed to get that GP38-2 I've mentioned previously, two wood sheathed vans, and two twin hoppers into the 99% alcohol bath for stripping

- while I take coupler boxes off a pair of RS-11 side sill walkways that were previously stripped. As soon as the Geeps' side sill walkways are stripped, the three of them are headed into the paint shop for a coat of flat black. Now if only I could get my hands on some Scalecoat II - CN Olive Green in a rattle can, I could get some of these hoods painted and decaled.

Update: A little scrubbing with an old toothbrush and a quick spritz with the flat black Krylon and the walkways are done.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

The 'To Do List' just got a little longer

     I received some Microscale decals yesterday, for Canadian National 40' "Manitoba" box cars in the mail. Between those and the jigsaw puzzles the wife keeps bringing home, I'll have lots to do after work this week.

     My GP-9RM #7320 is also in pieces on my desk as I attempt to figure out what DCC decoder will be easiest to install - as I'm totally not interested in soldering any little tiny friggin wires to this thing:

Friday, January 04, 2013

New Equipment Arrives

My latest eBay find has arrived. Christmas gift to myself.

A Walthers Proto (formerly LifeLike) GP38-2. I hadn't noticed at the time, but the fuel tank is too big. It's the extra large 3600gal type. I think these units look much better with the medium 2600gal tank - so the Materials Acquisition Department (Me, Myself and I) is currently sourcing a smaller fuel tank on the internet.

The other thing to consider is what paint it will wear. When I picked this up on Boxing Day I had originally planned to model CP Rail 4512 - a black/orange, Ex-Milwaukee Road, patched Soo Line unit just like this one. However, I'm now beginning to wonder how this unit would look if I painted it in CNR green and gold. Hmm...