Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Then Everything Ground to a Halt

For years, model railroaders have been applying scenic materials. First it was dyed sawdust. Then ground foam. Then blended turf. Now it's static grass. But until now, no-one has bothered to ask why the changes. Well, until now. It's because of the worldwide ground foam shortage. Trackside Treasure is here to answer the question no-one is asking. Sorry, that should read the question no-one else is asking [edit this before publishing this post - E]

Turns out that model railroaders have no-one to blame but themselves. Especially those modelling Appalachia and the Deep South. Spreading the stuff for years with abandon on veritable oceans of dilute white glue have led directly to the current crisis. Sustainability? Sidelined. Future generations? Forgotten. Nobody cared. As long as there was enough ground foam to cover this hillside or that open patch of plaster, it was let's-make-scenery-while-the-sun-shines.
Now, Woodlund Scenics is scrambling to find new sources of ground foam production farther afield. Countries that might be willing to allow their ground foam crops to be harvested, processed and exported are few in number, though. Outstanding in his field, this farmer did not want his identity shared. Look at this bountiful ground foam crop that he stands to profit handsomely from:
But there is not a total absence of hope in this story. The scenic flavour-of-of-the-month is static grass and that will certainly exert downward pressure on the pace of production. Recovery is possible. It remains to be seen if this will have any impact on the scenic spectrum available to model railroaders.
As you read this, the dwindling stocks are being closely-guarded and production is extremely limited. Having just painted the last patch of virgin plywood on my layout, I have to admit I'm part of the problem. My next step was to be to apply some Woodlund Scenics ground foam. But I'm reconsidering that. Is it ethical? Is it responsible? I'm considering making my own, using everyday supplies readily available in most Canadian households or at your local dollar store - sponges, green dye, kitchen blender, paper towels, sifter, chopsticks, a small trowel, elbow macaroni, rubber bands found on broccoli, wooden matchsticks with the heads removed, two or three water balloons, one and a third cups of aviation gas or JP4 jet fuel, a chocolate chip cookie, Montreal steak spice, 24 inches of dental floss, two bottles of beer (do NOT add to the ground foam, these are just for drinking while you think about how the hell this is ever going to work) and a quarter-cup of McDonald's special sauce.
LATE UPDATE - turns out those lines of cars being 'stored' on out of-the-way and little-used spurs include some cars that are actually carrying a precious lading - you guessed it - ground foam. They are stored on lightweight-rail branchlines - this stuff is foam after all. If you're trackside and see a covered hopper rocking and perhaps trailing a small stream of green particles trickling out, you may have found one of these cars of green gold heading to the Woodlund Scenics production facility!

AS IF THIS WEREN'T ENOUGH - Nobody listens anymore. I said...Light, RAPID and Comfortable. Pay attention, people.

Friday, March 24, 2017

Lionel HO T-20105's Long Life

Model railroaders are spoiled. Never had it so good. Especially modellers of Canadian prototypes. Back in the late 70's, other than occasional 'foobie' Athearn plastic car kits, there were no lines of Canadian prototype rolling stock available. Then Lionel HO happened. The Parker Brothers product line catalogue (top photo) shows the stock numbers. Which were also the car numbers. That's right, there was none of the prototype fidelity we have been treated to today (including road number-specific details from Rapido Trains). So every car number started with a T prefix!! Whaaaaat?
Where am I going with this? Well, I'm going to Prince Edward Island, that's where. And that's where Chris Mears takes up the story on his Prince Street Terminal blog. Proposing some layout design mockups, Chris used an historic piece in his photos. It was Lionel HO CP Rail 40-foot boxcar T-20105 (oh, there are those awful T-series car numbers again!) Oh, the 'breeding pair' in their natural state above? I found the photo on Ebay, going for $89.99 or best offer. I am not making this up. Box-end view:
My 1978 car roster from the Cataraqui Northern Lines, the early name that my Dad chose for his model layout and I continued to use until the advent of the MWR - Manitoba Western Railway - shows two Lionel HO products. Check out the fourth and fifth boxcars. Even then, at fourteen years old, I knew the T-prefix was folly and so did not list it!
But then, on August 9, 1980, another Lionel HO product joined the roster (last line in photo below). You guessed it, CP T-20105. I listed it here for documentary purposes:
For $2.25! Notice my attempts to add Canadian prototype cars to the roster. Also, notice the prices! Jeesh. By the end of the month, I'd added a 1, making it CP 120105:
In October 1980 and March 1981, CP 120105 was now in grain service
The same month, the Department of Motive Power and Car Equipment recorded some tuning-up with truck-swapping upgrade. Of course, no coupler-swapping:
To reflect the application of wheat sheaf logos to boxcars that CN and CP refurbished with financial support from the federal government, it was time to apply the wheat-sheaf logo in November, 1982:
But within a year, things changed. With better-quality Athearn and Roundhouse grain cars entering service, I downgraded Lionel HO's product to woodchip service, driven by my prototype observations of converted CP roofless woodchip boxcars and grain cars during travels west aboard VIA Rail. The car's roof was removed and a renumbering to CP 30490 and touch-up painting was done, along with a new set of hinged doors to replace the troublesome Lionel HO sliding door's weak door guides. After reading Chris' post, I went looking for CP 30490.
And I found it. No underframe. No wheels. When Winnipeg was my modelled prototype, I needed some scrapped freight cars to complete the scene at Mandak Metals. Not needing woodchips in Winnipeg, CP 30490 was repurposed yet again. And it still makes its way in a gondola car, now to Vancouver's Coast Steel Fabricators:
Perhaps an ignominious end, but still serving. Thanks for your service, humble T-20105
Ready to be repurposed yet again? Thanks to Chris for sending me on this interesting and rewarding journey back to my model railway roots of over 30 years ago! And, thanks to Lionel HO for being perhaps the first manufacturer to peddle Canadian prototypes!

Running extra...

While my upcoming book Trackside with VIA: Research and Recollections is with the graphic designer, there is still VIA-watching to be done. Namely, CANADA 150 wraps that have been applied to 16 cars and seven locomotives and counting. The first wrapped locomotive, VIA 6454 is currently heading for Vancouver leading VIA No 1. Steve Boyko caught the train in Winnipeg. Also, watch for Vimy 1917-2017 logos on VIA Business Class cars. Who says VIA is boring these days? 

Steve also got busy for my recent birthday, re-wrapping Mark Sampson's photo at the Toronto Maintenance Centre (spot the GO bilevel!) of VIA 6454 with a unique scheme:
I was also pleased to receive artist and NS Heritage Unit program idea-shipper Andrew Fletcher's birthday greeting depicting Trains of Canada. Andrew has a striped FPA4 that looks a lot better than Lionel's "FA-1" did in the top photo of this post!

Saturday, March 18, 2017

March Miscellany


Spring is just around the corner. I've been splitting my time between shovelling drifts, pushing drafts of my upcoming book on VIA Rail back and forth to my graphic designer, and creating some VIA-related memes. So I give you this pop-up post of spring miscellany. Tim Hayman snapped a photo of the first CANADA 150-wrapped VIA F40PH-2D 6454. I used the expansive nose to do a bit of publicity including Tim's role as a valued contributor (top photo). Have you ever wanted to be in the 1%? Here's an onion diagram that reveals how you can be:
VIA has wrapped Business Class car 3476 in the attractive 'leaves' variation of the CANADA 150 scheme similar to that applied to lounge car Glenfraser. Shaun Hennessy snagged the kaleidoscopically kolourful kar at Fallowfield station:
 My initial enthusiasm for the CANADA 150 scheme has not waned:
However it has come to my attention that trackside photographers are taking WAAAAY too many photos of the CANADA 150-wrapped locomotives and not nearly enough of the coaches:
We'll see how that works. Meanwhile, last Sunday's VIA Nos 648/650 featured 650's consist led by VIA 905 trailing the 50/50 consist tailed by VIA 916. Remember that 916 was initially released with white cab numbers which were soon replaced with the far more visible black numbers:
Logan Cadue kindly shared his notable nose-to-nose view at Kingston, and the same night Mary and Malcolm Peakman captured the nocturnal niceties at Napanee:
Some would say the wraps are being applied to cover up less-than-stellar paint jobs on non-refurbished non-Renaissance-scheme cars and there are more than enough photos of the gnarled noses of the P42's that warrant a little covering up:
Hyperbole at the White House:
Hyperbole at Halifax:
Meanwhile at Napanee, ON not much has changed over 150 years:
Last weekend's Kingston Rail-O-Rama netted some fine finds. Vice-Regal, preserved 6917, Brockville, Sudbury, Montreal and back-to-back 6400's added to my photo collection:
And afterwards, a trip to the Kingston station to see an unusual consist on VIA No 63 - LRC's replace the normal HEP consist:
'Orange you glad'? Citrushelf down and consider the navel-gazing I did at our very own city wrap that's appealing and not yet a-peeling:
And a Kingston Transit NOVA bus 1689 pausing proximal to the platform:
Getting a 'D' for E-series Edmunston or EdmunDston:
No longer available - we will no longer have a monopoly on what game pieces we use. The thimble, boot and wheelbarrow have been replaced by updated rubber ducky, penguin and dinosaur. Updated dinosaur??
And a view no longer available. Bright morning sun and dome haze cannot obscure the fact that this photo, taken from the eastbound Corridor Canadian Park car by my Dad in 1983 shows a shimmering stainless steel consist spread ahead as the train crosses County Road 6 near Amherst View, Ontario.
It's photos such as these that I was proud to include in my upcoming Trackside with VIA: Research and Recollections. My Dad's trip accounts, early-80's Corridor Canadian consists and photos get a well-deserved airing. Sharing this material is a fine legacy for data that I hadn't even known existed. I'm really looking forward to making it available to a new generation of VIAphiles, and leading off my book with this fitting tribute:

Friday, March 10, 2017

Mud Season at Morningstar/Trenton, February 2017

While part of the family was skiing at nearby Batawa ski hill, I picked a grey, foggy, slightly damp day to try out Trenton, ON. Specifically, the remnant of the former CN Marmora Subdivision which once ran north from Trenton Jct to Marmora, and south from Trenton Jct to Picton. Located near CN's Kingston Sub and CP's Belleville Sub, this is a neat little spot located just north of Telephone Road (top photo).
Parrish & Heimbecker (P&H) recently took over the former Trenton Grain Elevator, formerly Thrasher Feed Ltd. Located at Mi 32.20 of the former Trenton Spur, before that CN's Marmora Sub, track TB76 was a 1300' (now marked as 1140') spur that served the elevator then veered off to serve Tri-County Agro Mart. The Trenton Spur continued north to serve Trent Valley Paper Board, five miles north. The track to the mill was removed in 1988. The spur now ends before reaching Highway 401. There is still a run-around track just north of the ag facilities, just visible to left. It's designated CN track TB75, 1900 feet long:
P&H covered hopper PHLX 101 was spotted at the elevator. Having profiled these uniquely-painted P&H cars, I was happy to find one doing its job.
Looking south along Telephone Road, CN's section building (used to be Insulbrick) (2014 photo from aboard VIA Rail) and the track beneath the Kingston Sub at Mi. 232.9 are visible. Marmora ore trains used to run here, to be unloaded at Picton Harbour. (Lake Ontario Cement at Picton was the last customer before the trackage was removed in 1995-96.) Now, CN No 518 must traverse the 1455-foot downhill connecting track KP50 to serve the feed mill. The tail of this track is about 800 feet south of the Trenton Spur switch.
Across Telephone Road and up a short driveway if the Trenton Junction VIA stop. Connecting track KP50 is just visible, heading downhill at left. A westbound auto-rack train, likely CN No 371 scooted through, but CN freights made themselves scarce for the remainder of the day. CP's freight haul amounted to...one hi-rail truck! I entitled this post 'mud season' because Mike Confalone, among others, choose to model this uniquely eastern North America season, when snow, mud, cloud and fog all intersect. Just like this day...
Like Kingston, Oshawa, Dorval et al, VIA has added a peaked roof and tower to the diminutive drop-off:
Out at Morningstar Road, it was an all-VIA show through the fog. Rather than posting individual Youtube video links to match these video captures (below), just click on my Youtube page to see four short but dramatic videos!
 At 1112, VIA No 51 Eng 6407:
 At 1245, VIA No 63 Eng 6401:
At 1315, an eastbound - VIA No 64 Eng 6451:
 At 1333, VIA No 45 Eng 6427:
 At 1402, sun and VIA No 42 double-ended consist with 910/911:
One parting P&H shot: in the sun, the view north from Telephone Road, with Highway 401 just visible in the distance:
CANADA 150! VIA's wrapped cars and units continue to proliferate. Read Steve Boyko's interesting review of reactions to this colourful scheme. I caught three units in one day, without even trying. VIA No 655 Eng 916 at 0645:
Grocery cart view! VIA No 47 Eng 905 at 1439:
Parking lot view! Video capture of VIA No 644 Eng 904 at 1530:
Speaking of being trackside with VIA, I'd like to share the draft cover for my upcoming book, Trackside with VIA: Research and Recollections. This book includes a few fingerprints - a team of contributors including my brother, whose photos take the top two positions on the front cover! And there he is, standing beside your humble blogger as he begins a VIA journey aboard an RDC-1 (centre photo on back cover). Watch for an April release.