Friday, June 30, 2023

Canadian Pacific E8 in St. Albans

 Here's something you don't see everyday:

CP E8 at St. Albans, photographer/date unknown

A Canadian Pacific locomotive sitting in the St. Albans trainshed. 

I had the pleasure of catching up with Ian Stronach at the recently concluded New England RPM. Somehow we got on the subject of CP E8 locomotives, and he mentioned the photo above. 

Just what was a CP E8 1801, in its original paint and lettering, doing heading a passenger train in St. Albans on the Central Vermont? 

The reason for this detour remains a mystery.  The most likely would have been because the CPR was blocked between Wells River and Newport. It is a shame we cannot see the switch stand to determine if the turnout under the lead truck is lined for the Richford Branch.  Since the train is facing north we can surmise it either arrived from somewhere south on the CV or it arrived from the north and has been turned at St. Albans to return north. The former is far more likely. 

We can assume two possibilities of where the train is heading:

1. Up the Richford Branch to Richford and then onto the CPR Newport Sub.  

2. Over the CV and then CN to St. Jean, Quebec and then onto the CPR.

One thing that may eliminate possibility #1 from consideration: 

The 1955 ETT states the following for the Richford Sub.:


Engines heavier than the 460 class must not operate. EXCEPTI0N 600 class may be used in helper or special service on main track and sidings only. So, is an E-8 heavier on the drivers than a 460 or 600 class?

In the meantime, the first possibility offers me a chance to run that beautiful CP E8 over my version of the Richford sub! 

Thursday, June 29, 2023

Southern New England Train

I was digging through the boxes of rolling stock the other day in an effort to fully populate the layout with cars. Just for the heck of it I posed an all Southern New England train and snapped some photos. 

Sharing them here:

The first two cars are from a special run of PS-1s Kadee did a few years ago. In both the older square herald scheme (above) and the maple leaf scheme (below). There was a LOT of debate on my old SNE Yahoo (now mailing list about which scheme was the most appropriate. Personally I prefer the square herald since it doesn't read like a CN car. But I sent the North Shore club (that actually commissioned and sold the cars) both sets of art work. Perhaps they couldn't decide and went with both?!!

The next three cars show how most of the SNE cars are decorated ("decorated" may be too fancy a term!) in accordance with Central Vermont practices. Cars are one color - CN Red #11, with plain white lettering. All three of these (Accurail) cars (the gondola, hopper, and single sheathed boxcar) are painted the same color. In fact I painted them at the same time. Guess I really need to weather that single sheathed boxcar!

Not in the train in the lead photo (it was already out on the layout!) is one of the SNE's 50-foot boxcars. Central Vermont didn't have any 50 footers until the early 1960s, but that's the magic of freelancing. This is either a Proto 2000 or Branchline 50 foot boxcar (I honestly don't remember which but suspect it's a Proto 2000) car. I got some feedback years ago (again, on the SNE chat list) that I should have used the square herald. I didn't since I didn't have decals for that herald, so I went with the maple leaf. I also opted not to spell out the roadname to the left of the door since the spelled out Southern New England lettering looked a little small on vast expanse of car side! Note the embarrassing obvious decal film showing around the reporting marks....

Walthers did a Grand Trunk three window caboose that I quickly adopted as the SNE standard long caboose. To make it look a little more like a CV van I replaced the Walthers cupola with one from Funaro resin CV caboose kits (each kit included a couple of styles of cupola) 

As I said before some days I really miss the ole' SNE stuff.... they're not necessarily the best models I've ever built but it's like seeing old friends. 

Friday, June 23, 2023

Farewell to the "northern" SNE

I'll never understand some model railroaders and their myopic view of things. Jason and Pam had their layout open for the New England RPM meet, but had very few meet attendees who bothered to come look at the railroad. I suspect the fact that it's a freelanced railroad turned a lot of RPM attendees off? Their loss. With the exception of two visitors in this photo, these visitors are contractors who saw the layout during previous week and thought it was so neat they brought their parents, wives, and kids by to see the SNE! 

I've mentioned Jason Fontaine's excellent Southern New England in this blog before, most recently reviewing a visit to see Jason's layout back before Covid. I refer to Jason's railroad as the "northern SNE" since he's using the same basic fiction - that the "Titanic Railroad" was actually completed - as I do for my proto-freelanced line. We came up with this theme independently - and he (and his wife Pam!) tell me the fact that my SNE appeared in print before his was a bitter disappointment for him at the time. In the years since he's become one of those model railroaders who I consider a friend I don't get to visit with half as often as I'd like. 

Here's an overall view of one side of Jason's version of the SNE. 

Sadly, that pervious trip (see a report HERE) was also the last time we'd have a chance to visit with Dick Elwell and his amazing Hoosac Valley. 

Walking down the aisle and turning back toward the layout entrance Mt. Fenton dominants one end of the layout - and nicely screens the stairs and entry to the staging yard area. 

I was surprised when I heard from Jason a couple of weeks ago that he and Pam are moving to Florida and would be taking some, but not all, of his SNE RR with them. He was wondering if I might be interested in any rolling stock, structures, etc... 

Charlton is at the end of a branch. Jason tells me that Dick Elwell always enjoyed switching this area whenever he visited. The structures here (and across the entire layout) are extremely nicely built, painted and weathered craftsman kits. 

Luckily the timing actually worked for once and I was already planning to be in his neck of the woods for the New England RPM meet. 

Although I didn't have a chance to obtain any of Dick Elwell's models from the  Hoosac Valley I'll spill the beans a bit and mention that I have made arrangements to obtain this mill complex from Jason. Dick was involved in constructing this model. 

Long story short, I came home from the RPM meet with a nicely lettered and weathered SNE passenger train. We've also made arrangements for me to salvage some other elements once Jason begins the painful process (and I know how painful it is to take a sledgehammer to a model railroad having done it plenty of times!) of dismantling his version of the SNE. 

I've already given the SNE passenger train a couple of test laps around my layout - I think it looks great rounding the big curve between Williams Creek and the Junction. 

I'll hold off on describing what elements of the layout I'm planning to take off Jason's hands until we (1) work through some of the logistics and (2) actually get things out of his house and into mine in one piece. 

At that point I may offer some thoughts on saving pieces of other layouts, incorporating them into our own layouts, and whether the whole process is worth the time and effort. 

Tuesday, June 20, 2023

Framing the Picture

Compare the photo above with the one below - note how the trees help push the brick mill further into the distance and frame the building.

I haven't really had much of a chance to get down to the basement in the last week or so - bascially work was busy early last week and Stic and I headed up to NERPM where I had a great time seeing old friends and making some new ones. 

But before I left I did spend a few minutes Thursday evening playing around with the forced perspective scene in Stafford Mills. Something was bugging me about it, but I couldn't quite get a handle on what it was. 

I liked how the HO scale store and N scale brick factory looked - the forced perspective trick seemed to be working well - but the mill looked just a little too close to the store. 

I added a couple of vehicles and they didn't seem to all that effective at making the factory seem further away. I planned to replace the shorter trees (each tree about 3"-5" tall in the strip of land between the road and mill stream in front of the factory. But first I dug out some larger (7"-9" tall) "full size" trees and placed them along the road. I started with two trees to the right side of the scene. Then, remembering I'd heard along the way that an odd number of trees always looked better than an even number I added a third tree to the grouping spaced a little further to the left. I think the fact they're taller than the top of the tower on the brick mill helps make the brick structure seem further away. And I like the way the trees "frame" the tower on the building. 

Next step will be to add some leaf texture - but not a lot - the idea is these trees have gotten a gust a wind that shed most of their leaves - and then "plant" them in place. 

Speaking of trees, I also received a shipment of MBR trees. These are true foreground models. I saw them used with great effect on Tom Johnson's Cass County Railroad and ordered a few specifically to help frame some scenes in town. They really are quite nice. That's one to the left in the picture below. 

Wednesday, June 14, 2023

Second Section Podcast

 I appeared on the Second Section Podcast last night. Essentially I presented a "walking tour" of the Richford Branch layout as it exists, with some modeling tips and techniques thrown in. 

Thanks to Mike and Andy for having me - I truly enjoyed it although it was somewhat of a struggle to get out of bed and into the office this morning. 

If you were on the live show and asked a question that I didn't answer feel free to ask in the comment section here. (I purposely did not look at the chat while I was presenting). 

And if you missed the live show you can find it on You Tube on the Second Section Podcast channel.

Click HERE for a direct link.  

While there be sure to check out their other wonderful interviews and subscribe! 


Tuesday, June 13, 2023

Updated Richford Branch Trackplan

One of the frequent requests I get is for an updated "as built" version of the Richford Branch track plan. 

At long last, thanks to my good friend Bernie Kempinski's efforts, those requests have been answered. 

Posted above is the as-built trackplan of the Richford Branch. (Click on the image to make it larger). 

Couple of caveats: Although the benchwork format and track arrangements are accurate, the structures and scenery renditions are nominal. At some point Bernie will update those - likely when I get more of this stuff actually built! 

Thanks to all for their patience - this has been on the to-do list for a long time! 

Tuesday, June 6, 2023

Around the Layout Podcast


A few weeks ago I had the wonderful experience of being interviewed by Ray Arnott for his excellent "Around the Layout" audio podcast. For the record, Around the Layout is one my favorite model railroading podcasts (followed very closely by Second Section and Crossing Gate) - so I was thrilled when Ray asked me to appear on his show! 

We talked about my early days in the hobby, some of my experiences in model railroading publishing and of course my adventures in layout building, culminating with my current layout. 

If you've got a little more than an hour to waste listening to my ramblings, you can find the podcast here:

Podcasts — Around The Layout Podcast

Or search for "Around the Layout" on your favorite podcast app.