Monday, June 26, 2017

Rapido GMD SW1200RS vs Hedley Junction

Well, Rapido decided to take us by surprise announcing a new HO GMD SW1200RS model... Sure, this new product announcement generates its share of hype and ethic questions, but don't count on me to thread that field of mines.

Now possible in HO?

Far to jump on the bandwagon, I must admit the SW1200RS is a key element in the history of Murray Bay Sudvision, particularly when the line was sold to Chemins de fer du Québec and became known as Chemin de fer de Charlevoix (CFQ). Should I note that most railfans still call the line "Le Charlevoix", even if I feel this moniker is quite recent and erase the CN and QRL&PCo heritage. Being born on Côte-de-Beaupré, maybe I feel bad seeing my birthplace's railway being plastered with the name of a remote neighboring area. Oh! Nostalgia.

That said, I must confess the team behing Hedley Junction often discussed quite seriously the possibility to simply model the early days of CFQ back in 1992-1993 when the black and yellow trio of SW1200RS made its dramatic appearance. Yes, the lost of zebra painted M420s was a real shock for many of us... Truth to be told, as a kid I held for a few years the belief CN locomotives would return unaware the line was no longer a federal property. That said, they idea to model CFQ goes back to many years ago, but that could only be possible if suitable models would be available. Brass and kitbashes were out of questions for many reasons. Now, we have a more definite answer to that problem and it raise its share of questions.

Why would we be tempted to move in the early 1990s when we have already invested a lot of effort in the 1980s? Well, let's face it, this project started in the 50s, then moved in the early 1960s, later the mid-1970, the early 1980s and now somewhere in 1985-1987. Would moving up to the 1990s would hurt the overall project? Most readers know how much I'm tired of doubting my projects!

The short answer is no. The actual layout depicts the subdivision as it was in the mid 1980s. However, big changes and track modifications didn't occur before the late 1990s and early 2000s when customers started to die off and sidings were removed. Thus, from a scenic point of view, we are spot on.

From an operating point of view, Dominion Textile was still standing though it had closed by 1985. Ciment St-Laurent shifted from coal to oil (now trucked) and didn't seem to receive gypsum by open hoppers anymore (that question will have to be answered, I wouldn't be surprised it was shipped from the Maritimes to Quebec City then trucked to the plant). Only the cement was hauled by rail at that time.

On the other hand, the paper and lumber trades were doing fine. CFQ attracted a lot of business by using Wieland as a transloading facility for finished lumber often ship from Côte-Nord. At that time everything moved on bulkhead flatcars and centerbeam cars, with some Railbox-type boxcars.

As you can see, in a matter of a few years, a lot of diversity was lost in term of railcars. And God we know model railroaders love to have any kind of cars on their layout. Sure, it's our layout and we could do what we want (which is a rule I've never been fond of) and fudge things up (we are already by keeping the coal and gypsum while it ended in the early 1980s), but that wouldn't feel like the real thing. We should also note CFQ never used caboose which take out a big chunk of nostalgia out of the project.

Thus, there is a big choice in front of us: a typical CN subdivision with all the goodies or a CFQ branchline with less stuff. It's not an easy choice.

However, we noted not long ago that our memories of the 1980s are quite imprecise. My interaction with trains was scarce, from afar at best. I recall details and general impression but I would struggle in certain areas. In contrast, we all knew well the CFQ from its inception up to its untimely demise. CN planted the seed, but I grew up with CFQ. Even if my nostalgia for CN was intense (and still is), my first serious diesel kitbashing and repainting project was a pair of CFQ SW1200RS back in high school. I still have these engines which I painted in CN colors when I found out the hobby shop clerk sold me unsuitable models (Athearn SW7). As for Jérôme, being younger, his memories of the 1990s are more vivid while he remember almost nothing from the 1980s.

Would I make the move and switch eras? I certainly don't know at this point, but I'm able to see some merit in that idea, But as I noted, the layout would remain the same so I think sticking with 1985 is the right choice since running the CFQ only require to not serve Dominion Textile and keep the open hopper fleet in the drawer.

So, after talking for the last weeks about focusing our efforts and framing our project, I have to sit down and think about it without rush. Will I model CFQ SW1200RS independantly. Probably, it's on my wishlist since the late 1990s...

Saturday, June 24, 2017

The State of My Collection

While decaling my Procor pressure cars today, I took sometime to organize my rolling stock collection at home. It accounts for about half the total collection, the other half being store at the club layout.

I was aware I had too much stuff, but this little exercise proved me I should think twice before buying anything new without a good reason.

For the purpose of classification, I used different color Post-It to identify each box by its general theme:

Orange: Modern CN (post-1960)
Green: Old CNR (pre-1960)
Violet: CPR (all eras)
Yellow: American roads
Blue: Old Time

The results were astounding. American cars were the largest group, followed by CPR, Old Time, Old CNR and modern CN. While arguably most modern CN cars are in service on the club layout, it was disturbing to own so many American cars I have almost no use for. I recall many of them are realted to the Harlem Station layout, but the real problem is they were bought before that layout even came to fruition. It means I collected American cars for almost no reason except kitbashing purpose to such an extent I know have no idea what to do with them and no longer remember what conversion I had on my mind back then.

The same thing apply to the Old Time cars which I bought in numbers back in the days in hope of making a QRL&PCo layout, or a logging layout or something else. They piled up, and now I have a bunch of half kitbashed cars in such quantity it could crowd a medium sized layout. I even found out a disturbing amount of small Bachmann, IHC, Pocher, Roundhouse and Mantua steam locomotives... In fact, I'm starting to believe I could build the Temiscouata layout in HO without buying a single piece of new equipment... It's frightening.

But to speak frankly, the problem is that most of these cars (Canadian, American or Old Time) were bought with the future in mind. "Just in case" or for the "future layout". Most of them require extensive kitbashing, detailing and painting, which can be a serious investment both in time and resources. Unfortunately, they are also models from another era, mainly blue box kits, sometimes detailed plastic models or craftman kits. It means they no longer fit the level of detail and accuracy I want from my model. Also, meanwhile, many cars I bought for the sake of kitbashing a particulay prototype have been superseeded by accurate models. What's the point in installing state of the art decoders in old P2K EMD and ALCO locomotives. I have lots of F and FA units I have absolutely no purpose for. They don't fit my interests but they sure eat up a lot of space.

While I'm confident many cars and locomotives will find a purpose someday, I'm also aware many of them no longer hold value in my eyes. As much as I would like, it is not realistic to think I'll kitbash dozens of cars for the sake of completing long overdue projects. One day or another, I'll have to trim down the tree... You can't have it all and these models, as fun as they were and supported my dreams, must be shed like a snake shed its old skin...

Maybe layout design ideas are just a nice little cute excuse to buy more and more... because we can justify impulsive consumerism with vague and idealized dream layouts.

By the way, don't expect picture of that messy collection, it is quite humiliating, even for me!

On a positive note, I'm glad to find out I don't need cars for Hedley Junction and can now put my effort on detailing, weathering and fine tuning the fleet. Rapido's cylindrical hoppers are likely to be the last cars to be acquired next Fall.

Friday, June 23, 2017

Relettering Intermountain CN Procor Hoppers - Part 2

The three Procor cars are now repainted in CN Grey No. 12 or should I say, a custom mix made to fit the rest of the Intermountain fleet.

As a matter of fact, paints are always tricky when it's time to choose a color. By mistake, I sprayed the first car with True Line CN Grey No. 11 only to discover is was too far off and didn't even match my other True Line hoppers! Maybe the color is right, but it seems to be far to greenish. But the mistake didn't end there. CN indeed changed it's hopper color to Grey No. 12 in the late 60s, exactly when the Procor cars were built.

A quick search in local and online hobby shops yielded poor results and I had to make my own mix. As I often hear from my older architect colleagues "a good painter should be able to eyeball any color". Well, I guess that's true. In my case, seeking the perfect color was trivial since the cars will be heavily discolored and weathered per prototype. Thus, it was much more important to blend the color with the existing similar cars in my fleet.

In fact, getting the mix right took about 1 minutes. A lot of white, a sizeable amount of Tamiya German Grey XF-63 and a bit of Tamiya Flat Flesh XF-15 yielded quickly a satisfying mix. The color was tested on a prepainted Intermountain car until a perfect match was achieved. In a matter of a few minutes, the three cars were covered in a nice coat of warm grey paint. Later, a coat of Future gave them a nice glossy finish for decalling, which I hope will occur during the weekend when the paint will have cured.

When completed, this will bring the Procor fleet to 9 cars. Add to this 2 Intermountain cylindrical hoppers, 12 Rapido new cylindrical hoppers and we've got enough car to serve the cement plant. Meanwhile, the slabside hoppers will be phased out when the Rapido cars will be available next fall. By the mid-80s, none of them served the plant anymore. However, they could be extremely useful if we want to backdate the layout a little bit.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Ciment St-Laurent - Part 2

I'm back to the drawing board! This time, to design a way to build Ciment St-Laurent loading facilities. While the building is rather spartan, its size (42" long in HO scale) and structure offer a structural challenge.

I have also to take into account how I will detail the interior and maintain the rails located right under the structure. Our initial approach was to build a single structure with protuding columns. While definitely feasible, this option has a few disadvantages. First, it's hard to make all columns sit correctly against the soil without having some small gaps. Second, the aforementionned columns lack bracing and are quite flimsy. It could be worked out though.

I'm exploring the possibility to break up the building in two parts: the structural columns and the superstructure. Columns would be inserted and glued into a sturdy base and connected together with a web of structural members similar to the prototype. The base could be scenicked and detailed while tracks could be embedded in the base. The superstructure would sit on top and could be removable for maintenance. It is quite more complex than the original one-part concept, but would ensure a more realistic approach.

As for materials, no definite choice is actually made but whatever is used should be braced and sealed to some extent to reduce warping.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Memories of QRL&PCo

I often lament the disappearance of QRL&PCo-related heritage in Quebec City area. While this is inevitable and I'm coming to term with that, I was quite surprised to discover a 60-years old manhole cover installed by the defunct utility company probably in the early 1960s on Rue Vallière. My estimate is based on the fact the text is French, which was a trend in the 1960s as seen on CN bilingual car lettering. Quebec Power was absorbed in Hydro-Québec by the late-1960s.

Meanwhile, I walked the bike path up to D'Estimauville to see the state of the track after a long winter. Well, nothing changes here but vegetation do grow. At least, it will be handy for scenery reference.