2016 in Review

In retrospect, I will remember 2016 as the year that I discovered operations.

I knew early on that I wanted to build the layout so that it would be more than a railfanning concept and could eventually grow (with me) into full operations. But I had no idea what that practically meant. Like most things, reading about it theoretically wasn’t doing it for me – I really needed to see it and experience it.

This year I got to operate on four very different layouts, each of which was a complete joy and all of them have informed my thinking and have contributed to the evolution of my trackplan.


First up, was the N scale Grand Trunk Southern layout of John Johnson (CARM founder and Canadian editor, above) in Hamilton, ON.  You can read all about it at the blog post here.


Then in  June, I was invited to operate on Sheldon Frankel’s fantastic Quebec & New England layout. I first discovered the Q&NE on Sheldon’s YouTube channel and was amazed to learn that this was a local layout. I have since become a regular monthly operator on the Q&NE and very much enjoy being part of an operating group.


Trevor Marshall, who I met at the Copetown Show this year, invited me over to operate on his S scale Port Rowan in 1:64 and blogged about it here. I had listened to Trevor on his podcast, The Model Railway Show, watched him on trainmasters.tv and was an avid follower of his blog. This was another layout that I was on my ‘TOP 10 to visit’ list!


Finally, I had the pleasure to be a guest operator on the Waterloo Region Model Railroad Club. I was invited by Chris van der Heide because he knew of my interest in learning more about OCS operations.


In addition to being a ton of fun, I learned something from each of these experiences. A little bit of each of these layouts will make it into my trackplan and operating concept.

Which beings me to the second theme of 2016… the year that I ‘finalized’ my trackplan. I was really struggling with the trackplan and had actually thought about soliciting some professional help and purchasing some design services. Like most things, a number of people/factors came together to break the logjam.

After watching Bill Beranek, The Track Planner’s excellent Operations presentation on the YouTube Model Builders channel, I became very interested in the AnyRail track planning software. It was fun, easy and finally I was able to try out ideas and really see what would work!

This got me to a trackplan – good but not great. Many thanks to Sheldon Frankel, who in addition to being the owner of the Q&NE is a professional civil engineer and happens to have worked for the railways. No better person to take my previous mess and clean it up with some good, practical, prototypical track design. You can view the revised track plan as a more detailed PDF here.

The final theme of 2016 is friendships. None of the above would have been possible without the friendship of some pretty incredible people.

Being located in Toronto, ON means that I am lucky to be surrounded by hundreds of fantastic modellers and their layouts. I’ve said it before, but I am constantly amazed how generous this community is with their time and encouragement and I have had the good fortune of learning from some of the best. Thank you.



September 10th, 1976


Yesterday I had the pleasure to be a guest operator on the Waterloo Region Model Railroad Club. I was invited by Chris van der Heide because he kindly replied to my last post regarding my interest in learning more about OCS operations. The club uses this method in its operations and he thought that it would be of interest to me to learn how they approach this. Thanks Chris!

The Waterloo Region Model Railway Club (WRMRC) is a 2000 square foot, HO-scale (1:87) recreation of the Canadian Pacific Railway’s Sudbury Division, as it appeared and operated during the 1970s. The layout features include:

  • a multi-level (mushroom) design over 2 floors with tracks interconnected by helices
  • track arrangements of the modelled towns are duplicated closely to the prototype locations
  • locomotives and rolling stock match real equipment that operated in northern Ontario during the ’70s
  • long freight trains rolling smoothly over handlaid trackage powered by NCE Digital Command Control

The session started at Noon and first task was to sign in and get on a crew. I joined Crew 4 and my partner was a 20-year club veteran Peter Korschefsky. Trains are operated with 2-man crews and we communicated with the isolated dispatchers via Motorola radios. Real freight and passenger schedules were followed, along with proper blocking of freight traffic between trains. Freight delivery was governed by a car-card and waybill system mimicing the prototypical generation of traffic by railway customers. In short, we were operating the Sudbury Division prototypically – as a miniature transportation system.

Peter at home in his dispatcher’s chair.

Peter is usually a dispatcher on the WRMRC, however yesterday he and I were Conductor and Engineer on three Manifest trains. Peter and I quickly started scheming about how to model CN 1501 using Rapido’s upcoming RDC-1 Phase 2 and I fear that I might have pulled him over to the dark side. Sorry about that Peter.

Over the course of a 6 hour session, a group of around 14 guys ran 21 trains – all simulating the traffic found around Sudbury on September 10th, 1976. And man was it FUN!

Peter and Phil are trying to figure out where we are – or more specifically -where we are supposed to be.

This was my fifth time operating (each time a different layout) and I have to say that I am hooked. Every session has been very unique; whether its been N-scale or  HO-scale, big club layout or small basement layout; fully sceniced or ‘plywood pacific’; mainline freight operations or switching layouts – it doesn’t matter. Each experience is fun and teaches me a little bit more. The more I operate on other layouts the closer I feel to knowing what I want for my QGRY in HO scale.

Hunter Hughson‘ working the Sudbury Yard Switcher.
Bob Fallowfield looks to be up to no good in the Sudbury Yard.

I really enjoyed my time on the WRMRC and hope to be back for another visit. Special thanks to Chis for inviting me, Peter and Ted who showed me the ropes, and everyone else that made me feel welcome.

If you are interested in a club with great prototype operations check out the WRMRC at their upcoming  2016 Annual Fall Open House on October 15th.

Toronto Railway Prototype Modelers Meet

“It was 4 feet too long and the ribs were a little off”, is not something that you’d ever hear me say, so I was a little wary when I decided to attend the 2016 Toronto Railway Prototype Modelers Meet at Humber College on Saturday.


Here was I, a beginner/intermediate (at best) modeler, going to an event that attracted the very best of the best prototype modelers, the guys who had been the the hobby for years and years perfecting their skills and honing their craft. Was I crazy?

A very big part of the day is the “bring and brag” component, where modelers display models and answer questions about their techniques. We were each encouraged to bring a model and I wondered if I was worthy – should I bring something?

I decided that I couldn’t very well show up without something in hand, so I’d give it a try. I brought three things; a Russell Snow Plow that I am trying to replicate from my CFL post, an HO scale headless horseman that my then 7 year old son asked me to build for him, and a scratchbuilt dumpster that I saw behind my son’s school. To my amazement my stuff was very well received!


The day also included three excellent clinics:

John Chipperfield discussed how he built the CPR West Toronto station and express building in HO scale. As I am planning on scratchbuilding most of my structures, I found his discussion of how he approached the build especially interesting.

Trevor Marshall extolled the virtues of S Scale and  discussed the opportunities and challenges of modelling a specific prototype in 1:64 in his clinic entitled When I’m 1:64. He also talked about why he writes a blog about his layout http://themodelrailwayshow.com/cn1950s and why he considers it as essential to building a layout as having a good supply of ties and rail.

And finally, Sean Steele (pictured above) showed the use and effects of using commercially available chipping fluid to mimic severe paint flaking and damage in his talk: Chipping Fluid for Weathering. I am off today to get a cheap bottle of pump hairspray to give the technique a try. Thanks Sean!


In addition to all the great info and inspirational models, the best part of the day for me was meeting some really great (and talented) people. I was especially happy to bump into Chris van der Heide who has commented on this blog in the past and who blogs on his excellent Algoma Central in HO Scale. Chris has put together a fantastic step-by-step article on how to construct the custom flatcar lumber loads pictured above.  In addition, Chris has made available over 60 printable templates on his blog for different lumber wraps. My goal is to make one of Chris’ lumber loads and bring it to next year’s meet.

It was also great to see ‘Muskoka’ Steve Juranics, Trevor Marshall, Steve Hoshel, and to meet Barry Silverthorn, the Executive Producer of trainmasters.tv. Which brings me to my last observation; it was incredibly inspiring to me that all of these fantastic craftsmen are so generous with their time and so willing to share their tips and techniques with other modelers. I felt like I came away with a ton of new ideas and ideas that I’d like to try.

A very excellent day with a great group of guys and a day that will now be on my list of not-to-be-missed model railroad events.