Back in the 1950's, my Dad decided he had to have a transportation empire - settling on HO scale, he set about constructing a car fleet to operate. He christened his railway the Cataraqui Northern Lines, reflecting his interest in the Kingston, Ontario area. Reporting marks were CTQ. It's hard to find a CTQ car in the original scheme since over the years, my modelling efforts included re-working some of his original cars for painting and decalling. Let's take a look at some of this early HO rolling stock, keeping in mind the museum-quality ready-to-run cars of today. (There is no comparison, but hey, it was a different time!)
Photographed on my Vancouver Wharves layout - a basic CTQ tank car I relettered, and a cardboard-faced Strombecker caboose (top photo) with original Cataraqui Northern hand-lettering! The grabs are printed on, as are the windows. My Dad used a small square of green tape to depict the Canadian National maple leaf on the CTQ fleet, and traces of it can be seen on the middle of the caboose body. Two slab-side covered hoppers, also made from wood and cardboard, bracket a similarly-constructed mill gondola. The slab-sides were originally in CTQ grey, in the 580-series, and the originally-black gondola in the 560-series. All CTQ cars had three-digit numbers - it was a small fleet! I re-faced the script car with styrene sides and roof, and decalled the other for CP Rail.
A homemade snowplow with apple-green retractable wings, depressed-centre flat car (both with pencil-lettered cardboard letterboards) and a service coach that I later relettered CP Rail. All these cars have sprung trucks. At the time, cars decorated for Class 1 railroads came with pre-printed cardboard sides. Again, grab irons and ladders were printed on, and the doors really slid! Two of my favourite schemes even today: B&O Sentinel Service promised siding-to-siding dependability, while NYC's LCL Pacemaker freight service featured a distinctive red and grey scheme applied to boxcars, TOFC trailers and cabooses. (If you Google 'pacemaker' or even 'CPR' you'll instantly learn a lot about cardiology.)
These are Strombecker shelf model kits. In 1953, each sold for 35 cents! The kit trucks were wooden blocks holding wooden wheels in them, with no sideframes. These could be converted to operating trucks, as these were. Some early reefer kits - Illinois Central diamond and PFE dual-herald pre-printed cardboard sides:
Homemade boarding car that I relettered CP Rail, passenger express boxcar to which my Dad applied C-D-S lettering to match his CPR maroon Athearn passenger consist, and a double-door Katy auto box featuring built-up roof. The latter is a Comet kit, with a wood floor, roof-end blocks and embossed sides and ends that were applied over veneer sides.
Early metal cars made by Athearn and New One Model Toy Works Ltd in Tokyo, Japan - D&RGW and Santa Fe (above) and CNR and CPR (below). I added balsa wood grain doors to the CN car. All these cars rolled like bricks compared to today's free-running cars. In later years, my Dad would gleefully send just-assembled Athearn cars with plastic sideframes and free-rolling axles speeding around the layout with a push.
This week, the Rosetta Mission landed on a comet 500,000,000 km from earth. Launched in 2004, it travelled 6,5000,000,000 km to orbit Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerseimenko, a 4 km-long comet formed 4.6 billion years ago, which orbits the sun once every 6.4 years. A 100 kg robot named Philae deployed 22 km above the comet, taking 7 hours to fall to the surface, then drilling 25 cm into its surface to gather scientific data on the comet's molecular structure.
In a related story, also making the news this week, Kim Kardashian landed some champagne in a glass balanced behind her, in an orbit of about nine feet.
Speaking of Space Oddities, I've learned lots of fun facts about space travel reading Chris Hadfield's An Astronaut's Guide to Life on Earth. Starting his career as an air cadet, Royal Military College graduate, Canadian Forces CF-18 pilot, US Navy test pilot, astronaut and NASA CAPCOM (capsule communicator), Chris eventually lived on the ISS (International Space Station). In his book, he did not mention train-watching from space, but I bet it could be done.