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)