Monday, January 30, 2017

Fine Tuning the Era

Determining your era when modelling in Ho scale is a matter of preference. Whatever you choose, there is a chance you'll find out what you want in the long run.

In S scale, you got to tailor your goals according to what is available or doable. In my case, finding freight cars isn't exactly a walk in the park, but nice stuff like Fowler boxcars, early steel twin hopper cars and good old wooden gondolas and truss rod boxcars and reefer can be found or scratchbuilt.

However, finding decals is another matter and as you can't do everything, I decided to see what was available. I was lucky to find a bunch of CDS Lettering dry transfers for classic Canadian roads of the day: Canadian Pacific, Canadian Northern, Grand Trunk/GTP and Intercolonial. These cars were often seen in the area back then. However, there is a catch. Most decals represent cars in service between 1906 and 1914. While I set my era in 1911, it means I should push the date forward to the eve of the Great War. It seems 1913 would be my safest bet. Does it change anything on the layout? Nothing at all but it's good to know that at that time, the National Transcontinental Railway was now serving Edmundston and interchanging with Temiscouata. Also, it wouldn't be out of place to see a motor car by the station at this date and newer railway designs such as the Fowler car can run on the layout without creating discrepancies.

For Temiscouata, the decals available are all for cars repainted in the mid 1930s. I think the reporting marks and data can be salvaged.

And as crazy as it sound, I love dry transfer. I used to hate them until I made a bunch of cars last summer for a friend's layout. When you know how to work with them, they are much pleasant than decals which always leaves some weird ghosting whatever you do. Dry tranfers also works better on real wood cars than waterslide decals.

As for locomotives, given S Scale is a rich man's world, I decided it was better to start of with one excellent model rather than waste my resources on many of them. I'm convinced a good old time 4-4-0 will do the job better than anything else. It will have to be built from scratch so I'm in no hurry. In that regard, I've examined many old Temiscouata locomotives and it is evident that in the 1910s, their boiler jacket sheeting had got a serious amount of abuse over the time. They were no longer the new kids on the block and I feel it would be neat to model boilet jacket full of scratch and dent. I've never seen that kind of weathering and think it would be very neat to represent an old lady doing her last waltz on the dance floor.

To be noted, I don't expect to work on S Scale projects in earnest before next fall. My schedule is loaded beyond control until then and I'll be happy if I can buy and build a freight car. I must admit I'm lured by the idea of building a Ridgehill Intercolonial Fowler boxcar.

Until then, I'll concentrate my efforts on Hedley-Junction and building my new 1:1 workshop. I reworked my design from last year to look more like a 1890s-1910s building. I'm seriously thinking about applying wainscotting and moldings to the second floor future train room to get a nice turn of the century railway look. The main floor will be the real workshop and I plan to have a comfortable space for modelling. I think most people would be facepalming if they knew I'm modelling and airbrushing on my computer desk which generally have no more clear space than a 1 square foot area!!!

Sunday, January 22, 2017

First Ballasting Test

Yesterday, while scenery was drying on the club layout, I made a quick ballasting test using my homemade ballast. This material is sampled and sifted from an abandoned limestone and clay pit located nearby.

To be blunt, I'm far to be satisfied by the results for many reason I'll take a few minutes to explain. This isn't what I'm looking for at all and it doesn't fit Temiscouata pictures.

Let's talk about the prototype. On all picture, there is virtually no roadbed. The track is at ground level except when topography required a fill, an embankment or cut. The very notion of ditch seem to have been highly ignored by Temiscouata Railway. The ballast isn't ballast as I suspected. It is nothing more than earth and dirt. Very fine dirt in fact and exactly the same that can be seen on adjacent lots. When you look at this picture of a construction train back then, you can clearly understand anything goes on.

Temiscouata Railway construction crew (credit: UMCE)

Let's take a look at the prototype ballast before analyzing my test. The first picture was shot at Rivière-du-Loup with the glamourous Madawaska business car (which I'd like to reproduce). The ballast is plainly dirt.

Rivière-du-Loup station (credit: Musée du Bas-Saint-Laurent)
On this other picture, taken at Cabano, the ballast as some bigger chunk in it, more akind to a dirty gravel. But still, is not what you would call real ballast.

Cabano station (credit: Musée du Bas-Saint-Laurent)
Now let's look what I did and why I think I failed...

First, my ballast is too coarse compared to the prototype. Given the ties are roughly 9 inches wide, it means some rocks are about 3 inches in diameter, which is clearly too big. It doesn't look like earth to me.

Another problem is the ballast "powder. that gets into the distressed wood grain, killing a good deal of the effect by making the cracks look whitish.

I tried to remedy to that problem by cleaning some ties and applying another light coat of alcohol and India ink. The improvement isn't that much great.

Finally, I put too much ballast, even if I tried to not bury the ties. The big problem is that ballast get caugh under the rails which kills the effect of "floating" rails so typical on Temiscouata.

Also, I'm not too sure about the ballast coloration. It is far too gray to my taste. I believe it should be a little bit browner, maybe slightly tan. I'm not sure. Should there be more contrast between the ties and ballast? I'm not sure either. Maybe the soil should be slightly darker to make the greyish and decaying ties pop out? Or maybe the ties should be a little bit more brown/tan. I say that because I've just looked at some old color slides from QRL&PCo - namely an old stub switch - and the ties are squared logs and seems untreated and they have a nice golden coloration... very similar to what Bernard Kempinski does. I think he was right!

At this point, I'm alsolutely open to any suggestion to improve the look. Meanwhile, I've ordered some supplies including rails, ties and spikes. As you can see, my glued rails popped at the first occasion, but it's because ofo that I was able to discover ballast gathered under the rail.

This brings another set of question. Should the ties and ballast be placed before laying rails? Or should the final distressing should be done AFTER ballasting and before laying track, making sure the ballast wouldn't fill the cracks? The answer will probably be got by laying a few other test tracks and trying each techniques. My biggest concern would be for turnout...

Also, I think I'll have to make the tie edges rounder to better represent half-sawn logs.

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Early Temiscouata Track Standards (Tentative)

After looking at many pictures and trying to determine various dimensions from known components here are a few rough observations that will probably need to be refined when more information will be available. One thing is sure, the trackwork was so full of discrepancies many jigs available on the market just fail to convey that look. I'll probably have make a few of mine.


-60 lbs
-28 feet long (to be confirmed by standard 1890s practices, TMC built the line with 32 feet flat cars)
-4-bolt joint bars


-Height: 7 inches
-Width: highly variable, from 8 to 10 inches
-Length: average 8 feet 6 inches(it varies wildly in fact)
-Spacing: 24" center/center


-Type: stub switch
-Switch machine: wooden with large target

3-way stub switch in Ste. Anne de Beaupré. TMC had longer central post (O. Lavallée)


-Mainly dirt with some bigger chunk
-Doesn't reach the top of the ties (about 3 to 4 inches of clearance under the rail)

Telegraph Poles:

-Single pole, no crossarm, single insulator on wood corbel

Friday, January 20, 2017

First Time Handlaying Track

Today I decided to handlaid a 18 inches long piece of track to see what I could do with available materials and decide on ties looks and colors. While I didn't have spikes nor track gauge, I decided to go forward. I what to use this piece of track as a scenery design study case on color, ballast, details and vegetation.

Having watched again TrainMasters TV's Roadshow track laying episode, I custom-built a tool to distress wood. I used an old ruined paintbrush, discarded the hairs and kept the socket.

Four dulled old X-Acto blades were glued together with 5-minute epoxy then glued onto the paintbrush. Before gluing, I made sure the socket was shaped in such a way the new blade assembly would fit tightly. This makes for a sturdy yet almost professional tool. As you will see in the following pictures, I think it yields great results without effort.

19th Century Trackwork

As much as people like to complain commercial track lack details, when you model early railways, you quickly find out there is far too much details including tie plates.

All the pictures in Connors should Temiscouata never really improved the track up there and things were quite spartan. What I wanted to achieve was similar to this picture shot in Connors.

Yesterday I browsed Bernard Kempinski Aquia Line layout blog to seek information and find how he did model his tracks. Unfortunately, as much as I have great admiration for his work, I thought something was missing and it's not until this morning I found out what it was. Every picture of old railways I found, particularly the ones when they build track, ties are nice dimensional treated lumber but rather squared logs with rounded corners. In the case of Bernard, he does a great job at coloring and he even goes as far has laser cutting extremely irregular ties for a incredible effect. However, I've not seen him rounding the edges. I believe this is seldom modelled and I decided to try my hand at it.

I think the best way to replicate an element is doing it the same way it was done back then. Using rough 3.5mm pieces of wood I once made on my table saw for a wooden bridge project, I started to round the edges with a large rasp. Unfortunately, the result was far too perfect and smooth compared to prototype pictures.

Then I decided to use my hobby knife to trim the edges into the right shape just like it would have been done back in the days (OK, they squared the log and I rounded a piece of lumber!). When I was satisfied with the slightly irregular shape, I use my new tool to distress the wood. The next step was to use a metal awl to split the wood according to what we usually see in real life.

My ties were then given a bath of India ink and 70% ink to give them a light greyish patina. Some other ties had already got a silvery finish by applying a custom mix of peroxyde and steel wool. That old trick age the wood in a matter of a few minutes and have the advantage to completely kill of the natural tan color of new wood. The recipe is simple, in a closed container filled with hydrogen peroxyde you place chunk of steel wool. A quick reaction with rust and disintegrate the steel, turning the liquid a deep oxyde red color. The next day, you only have to apply this liquid after filtering the mix. If you wish a darker color, just repeat the process. This way, I got wood to turn a deep black when I built my Erie Harlem station pontoon.

The rest was easy but quite tedious since I glued every single ties individually to the plywood plank. I know there are much more efficient methods, but that not to bad.

Rails were ripped from an old PECO code 70 piece of flextrack, pre-painted and glued on the ties. Detail West plastic fishplates were added at every 33 feet and I made sure the joints were staggered. A good coat of dark earth weathering powder was added to the rails.

Gluing track with beads of CA glue is the most unreliable way to lay rails and I will surely spike them later when I'll have the material on hand. However, I love the results and it's definitely something you can't get with commercial track.

The color is quite close to what real untreated wood kept in the soil would looks like. The added grain is also very realistic. When laying track on the layout, I will probably use exactly the same process except I will glue and sand the ties on the roadbed before rounding the edges and distressing the wood.

I think going back to HO and PECO will be hard!

In the end, I can affirm track laying is fun as long as you see it as building a structure or a car. No hurry and attention to detail should bring good results. And certainly doing so in S scale really helps to easily add details compared to HO. I would certainly not attempt building a 19th century layout in HO scale!

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Gathering Information

The process of gathering information on that fascinating prototype sped up thanks to many fine folks. I'm actually quite surprised by their enthusiasm will certainly acknowledge their efforts in the future.

As I'm writing, many new facts surfaced and started to bring a new light on Temiscouata Railway. In that regard, the work of Carl Riff is absolutely pivotal in providing first hand account and evidences.

While I won't publish parts of their collection by respect toward the ones that put hard work for years, I can assure you the line is much more fascinating than I ever thought. The small doubts that lingered in mind yesterday have all been swept away this morning we I saw the old pictures.

As a matter of fact, an extensive collection of good quality photographs of rolling stock at various epochs exist, showing the variation in paint scheme. Among that, many cabooses, roofless boxcars for pulpwood, strangely braced and probably custom-built boxcars and flat cars with their load of squared timbers. Add to that a generous amount of passenger equipment, including the very neat president's car "Madawaska".

Also, while not in great quantity, at least three old original 4-4-0 are now documented, including locomotives #1, #3, #4 and #5. The more modern 4-4-0 and 4-6-0 are also very well documented which will be useful in recreating these proud iron horses.

I've also got the photographic confirmation stub switches survived at least until the 1930s at Connors.

A friend also gave me recently a CNR reprint of old Intercolonial and Grand Trunk Railway plans of various trackside structures and elements. It includes stations, fences, turnouts, culvert, telegraph poles, signs, mile post, etc. All that is relevant to my era and the good thing is we know Temiscouata Railway took inspiration from Grand Trunk practices even if it was quite low scale.

Motive Power

Investigation on motive power continued over the last days. After figuring out Bachmann's On30 locomotives critical dimensions I can affirm none of them are close enough to be bashed. In fact, they are quite far from Temiscouata locomotives specs. Their 4-6-0 were extremely small!

That means all locomotives for the layout will have to be built from scratch. While it will cost a lot, it means the results will be closer to the prototype, which is a big incentive for me. The next step will be to find technical drawings for these locomotives.

The 4-6-0 being MLW products, a search in Exporail could yield results. We already have the builder photo and the CNR diagram, which is a good start.

The newer 4-4-0 used at Connors were Portland-built and originally owned by Quebec Central. I have good access to their archives so maybe I can find something there.

The older 4-4-0 were of various origin. #1 was a 1872 ex-Intercolonial Dübs-built engine. We have a picture of it and there is a good deal of information available online about CNR #40 (Museum Train) and its original appearance in 1872. While not from the same builder, general dimensions were quite standard between companies. Don McQueen's Canadian National Steam! books have a few pictures of Dübs product. It could be doable.

Other 4-4-0 built in 1887 were from CLC. I have little info on them and would like to know where in the world CLC archives and technical drawings ended up.

Finally, the last pair of 4-4-0 was built by Manchester, which was merged into ALCO. Yes, even when doing steam, it seems I always have a soft spot for MLW and ALCO. As of now, I have no idea where Manchester archives are stored. I'm well aware the ALCO legacy is well alive and some historical associations exist. Finding technical drawings would be great and probably a builder picture did exist.

Yes, it's the beginning of the search, but at least it's promising. Over the last 10 years I've been doing research on New France colonial monastic architecture and I can tell you looking for documents made 400 or 300 hundreds year ago isn't exactly a walk in the park. Their archives often burned once or twice in their long history, leaving large gaps in the collective memories. At this point, the Temiscouata has already shared a few secrets.

Track plans

Temiscouata and Quebec Central shared the same management board during my era. A recent visit at Groupe TRAQ in Charny shown QCR kept extensive records of their customers and stations. Every little upgrade and modification was drawn on paper or survived as blue print. I'm pretty sure Temiscouata did exactly the same thing, both routes had too much in common.

Now, the big question is finding where the Temiscouata Railway archives ended up. It's a given CNR inherited the papers, but right now, I have no idea where they are located. Maybe Exporail, maybe the Canadiam Museum of Science and Technology, maybe somewhere else. One thing is sure, before driving any spike on the layout, it would be truly useful to find such documents. Connors being a terminal, it's almost certain several plans do or did exist.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Updated Track Plan

I finally updated the original HO scale track plan after a lenghty process of scaling and adjusting each element. I generally use xTrackCAD to draw my plan, but I couldn't locate a Fast Track S scale Library, so I draw it by hand using Tim Warris PDF templates as a guide.

Redrawing the plan allowed me to find out new details I overlooked in the past. Among them are fences and each of them tells us a peculiar story related to its function.

The first fence is the ubiquitous one separating the right of way from the fields. I think the old picture showing a cow grazing on the siding at Connors is enough to make this point clear! While we, modern people disconnected from large animals, can hardly imagine how a cow could be a match against a steam locomotive, we ought to remember 19th century locomotives, particularly 4-4-0, were extremely lightweight by today standards and could be easily derailed at the most insignificant obstacle on the track. Forget your YouTube train videos plowing through trailer trucks as if they were paper toys. Back in the days, any large farm or wild animal posed a serious threat that could results in serious injuries, casulties and material loss.

This became quite clear in my mind when I recently read the book The Old Somerset Railroad: A Lifeline For Northern Mainers written by Walther Mcdougall. The author had the pleasure to meet several former employees of the Somerset that worked in the early 20th century under the old management. Many of them recalled tales of 4-4-0 badly derailed by cows taking advantage of neglected fences. The most fearful event occured when a train met a bear crossing the large Gulf Stream steel trestle up Bingham. The train crew knew perfectly they had no chance. The locomotive would hit the bear, derail and crash in a 125 feet deep ravine. Chances for survival were inexistant. Fortunately, when the train was about to strike the dangerous animal, the afraid bear simply forgot it's instinct and jumped off the bridge, meeting its deadly demise on a rock by the stream.

Less impressive and dramatic are other fences found near the engine facilities. Near the coaling shed, a snow fence protect the turntable pit from getting filled up with snow. To complete this defensive wall, a cedar hedge was planted between the coaling shed and the engine house. This is the first time I see a railroad using deliberately vegetation as a mean for snow fighting. It was a common knowledge back in the days in rural areas, which is implemented again by farmers since the 2000s. I think it would make a very neat detail on a layout, one seldom seen, even on diorama.

The last fence is a large and opaque one located south of the storage/MoW siding near the engine house. It separate the railway property from the public road. At first, I was surprised they cared to build such an elaborate fence in open country, but it makes sense since the most dangerous activities were perform in that area and it needed to be secure. Also, just on the other side of the road are employees houses which could explain with they bothered putting up a fence there.

These fences are neat little details that can be easily modelled, particularly in 1:64, and that gives a deeper sense of the place. Incorporating them on the layout add interest but also helps to visually frame the scene by creating hints at the railway property limits.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

TMC #8 - Cyber Kitbash

As I said, finding decent locomotives is a challenge. Jamie Bothwell suggested me to take a look at Bachmann's On30 4-6-0, saying some driver conversion kits do exists. It certainly would be an interesting way to get a unique small steamer at a decent price.

According to specs I could find, the Bachmann locomotive would have, in S scale, 60" drivers while the prototype had 51". Pilot wheels are also a little bit on the large size. Otherwise, the rest of the locomotive seems to be a fairly good starting point. Most parts could be kept, dome would have to be replaced, the smoke box shorten and cab highly bashed if not scratchbuilt. The tender wouldn't be a particular challenge to convert and its trucks would be swapped.

I will have to gather more information about the On30 locomotive to see if the overall size is compatible with TMC #8. I've located the CNR locomotive data sheet and will be able to make some comparison. If it is within a decent margin of error, I guess it could be a possible way to get some motive power for the line.

Meanwhile, I decided to slap together a quick little cyber kitbash to see what could be done. So far, so good. For the paint scheme, I'm not sure #8 had white tire in service. It was a common photograph gimmick used to get better contrasting builder photos. On the other hand, it does look extremely nice and would fit the era.

A New Operation Mindset & Old Papers

When I decided to model Connors, I knew having mainline run was a pipe dream. However, does it mean your layout isn’t interesting if you can’t run trains? Well, the answer depends your interest, but it certainly has some merit.

As Lance Mindheim, Rick de Candido, British modellers in general and many others proved us, a lot can happen with very little space. However, as ridiculously small and lacking substantial industries, Connors had much more in reserve than you run of the mill old time diorama.

As a matter of fact, the interest in Connors is that you have to prepare a departing train or break off an arriving train, including local switching at the freight house and team track. This is the reason why I decided last year to include the entire engine facilities no because they are cute (which is true) but also because they play a role in the story.

Now, imagine an arriving train set on the main line. You must move forward up to the station for a while until all passengers left the cars and baggages/parcels/etc. have been unloaded. Now, you back the train and place the coach and combine on the passing track so you can start break up the train and spot the freight cars where they should go.

After that, it’s time to visit the engine facilities, dump the ashes, take water, turn the locomotive and store it in the engine shed where some maintenance will be performed before tomorrow’s next assignment.

On the returning trip, similar tasks will be required to be performed including fueling the locomotive and turning some specific passenger cars that must be. Not until the train is backed off at the station for boarding passenger can you call it a day.

What’s behind an era

While looking for information about Temiscouata Railway, I found many official government hearings from the 19th century and newspaper clips from the early 1900s and 1910s. Many interesting bits of knowledge can be acquired there. In that regard, I found out that what CN used to call Connors Subdivision was known back then as the St. Francis Branch. Will I have to change the blog’s title? Maybe.

Also, according to old news articles, Temiscouata’s financial situation greatly improved in the early 1900s after they experienced serious problems in the late 19th century. This is probably why they massively invested in a new fleet of MLW-built locomotives between 1909 and 1911, before National Transcontinental Railway stole the traffic. Temiscouata could have been a major link between Central Canada and the Atlantic at some point and was initially bolstered by Grand Trunk which saw it as an excellent news.

All that historic mumbo jumbo stuff means that Connors wasn't a dead place and a decaying backwood location, but a rather a healthy settlement bolstered by agricultural and lumber trade. The 1894 picture clearly show the team track was almost at full capacity and plenty of other cars were stored on the siding located near the engine house. For the modeller, it means a robust traffic that supports interesting operation.

I also found that government papers often write “Témiscouata” in the French orthography rather than Temiscouata even in English papers. I’m pretty sure the company didn’t use that French orthograph on a regular basis, however it should be noted the company was incorporated in Québec and thus the law, back then, required railways under provincial jurisdiction to have an official name in French. While most companies complied, rarely they used they French names except for a few ones including Chemin de fer de colonisation Montfort and Chemin de fer Québec Montréal Ottawa & Occidental which was own and built by the provincial government and later sold off to Canadian Pacific (now Québec-Gatineau). Readers fluent in both language will find out “Occidental” – the French adjective for West – was an awkward translation of the common moniker “Western”. While “correct”, it sounds quite weird as nobody would use “Occidental” to means that. However, I must admit I would be at lost to find a better replacement word for that one! I guess the 19th century gents hit the same wall I did! But I’ll give it to them they largely compensated by choosing one of the most attractive paint scheme to ever grace a locomotive in the Laurentian Valley!

Monday, January 16, 2017

Step Up Your Game and 3-way Stub Switch

As I tread the halls of S scale, I feel so glad to have choosen a small prototype!

Yesterday, I came to the realisation not only I would have to build everything from scratch - which isn't a big deal in itself - but also to learn a new sets of skills I actually don't have. This is truly the big challenge behind this project and the reason why it is a leap of faith for myself.

To those who expect a swift development, be aware this project is going to be plagued by trials and errors. Among a few, I'll have to build freight cars almost from scratch (which is going to be exciting in fact), to improve my soldering skills, to hand lay track and build stub switches. In term of scenery, I'll also have to improve my current level.

The good news are all these skills are extremely useful and I know they will be a positive asset when continuing my other works in HO scale. I've long graduated from thinking you have only one "chance" at building your "dream layout". Temiscouata is a craftman dream and in that regard, I think it's worth stepping up my game for once and it's exactly why I selected S scale. I suspect I'll read again Bernard Kempinski's USMRR Aquia Line blog with brand new eyes.

Connors in 1894 (credit: University of Moncton, Edmunston Campus)

Fortunately, Connors is very small and graced by a very simple track plan. In that regard, things are not set in stone as I'm trying to piece together several sources to get a larger portrait of the place.

Among the discoveries is the presence of a 3-way stub switch located at the yard throat... Yes, you read well, a 3-way stub switch. At first I thought I was imagining stuff, but upon closer inspection, it seems to be true. At the left end of the yard, you can see both team track rails converging toward the mainline exactly where the passing track turnout is located. At this place, only one harp-style switch stand can be found. Also, the rail density near the frog is too high for a 2-way turnout. Feel free to comment or bring new information, I think this is going to be a really interesting prototype!

Building a Locomotive Roster

The biggest challenge any modeller faces when choosing a particular prototype is finding suitable motive power. The reason is simple, building a locomotive from scratch is far more demanding that cars and structures. Also, locomotives are the "face" of the railroad. If they are too far from the prototype, you loose a lot of the appeal.

In the case of Temiscouata, options are not numerous for someone who wants to bash a plastic model. However, there is some hope.

Let's start with the basics. We know that between 1910 and 1914, Temiscouata only ran 1887/1888-built old 4-4-0 and brand new MLW 4-6-0. In 1911, they experimented with a 2-6-0 but found it unsuitable and traded it for a 4-6-0 few months later. It means only 3 types of locomotives can be modelled. Since the Connors Branch was devoid of any critical grade and traffic was light, most of the time they used the 4-4-0 on that line.

Temiscouata #4 built in 1888 by Manchester (credit: Musée du Bas-Saint-Laurent)

I'm not aware of any model that could be easily converted into a S scale 4-4-0 with 62" drivers. If you know of any, let me know, that could be a very nice project.

However, Jamie Bothwell point out that a 4-6-0 is available in On30. Made by Bachmann, this little locomotive can be converted to S scale using some conversion parts from NWSL. While not spot on, it can be modified to represent a decent model of a TMC 4-6-0.

Temiscouata #8 as built in 1909 by MLW (Al Paterson Collection, "Canadian National Steam! Volume 4)

Unfortunately, the real 4-6-0 had 51" drivers and 28" pilot wheels. According to what I've read, the Bachmann model, when scaled down to S, have 60" drivers and 32" pilot wheels. While, I can live with 32" pilot wheels or can easy change them for better, I'm not sure the same apply with the drivers. There's quite an important difference between a 60" and a 51" driver that can impact the overall look.

Would it be feasible to swap the drivers with new ones while keeping the original rods is debatable. Maybe some parts would require to be completely replaced with new ones. On the other hand, I could probably live with the discrepancies if the rest of the model is correct.

That raises a serious problem before moving forward. Actual dimension data about the Bachmann 4-6-0 is required to compare it with Canadian National locomotive diagram of ex-Temiscouata engines.

Once the driver swap is answered and dimensional data is known, it will be possible to decide how to make this possible or if other options must be evaluated. At this point, being totally newbie in that scale, I can hardly know about all locomotives available. Fortunately, I've got a lot of time ahead to find suitable power for the layout. Oh, and should I had it's a blessing not having to build up a large fleet! One loco and you're done!

Sunday, January 15, 2017

First Time Here?

Welcome aboard!

This project have been in the drawers since many years and is now ready to take off. I hope you will enjoy this ride in the realm of achieveable layouts where you do what really counts to not burn you out.

Why Temiscouata Railway Connors Branch?

Because it's small, easy to build and a great little prototype that begs to be modelled. Ever since I stumbled upon that prototype many years ago on, I regularly thought about building it. Temiscouata Railway was local branchline that connected the Intercolonial Railway in Rivière-du-Loup, QC to Edmundston, NB from 1889 to 1948. During the railway building spree of the late 19th century, this railway was thought to be the missing link so the Grand Trunk Railway of Canada could reach Moncton and Halifax. Shoddy business strategy from competitor and political interference quickly reduce the wannabe class I line into a rural branchline to nowhere.

Why model pre-WW1?

Very rare are Canadian modellers daring to work in that era even if it is fascinating and diversified. While Grand Trunk is often the favored line of the era, Temiscouata as a timeless charm and wonderful landscapes. For those well aware of Mike Confalone's Allagash Railway, you can recall his line starts exactly where the Connors Branch ends.

It's also an era with small rolling stock and well-maintained and still elegant locomotives. Perfect to model a prototype with very little compression and a lot of details. The 1910s are also the end of what would be later known as La Belle Époque (the Golden Age) before Europe and the world got caught in one of the worst butchery in recorded history. It tells us of a time when companies cared about their public image and respectability... something that is still closely linked with the steam era glamour.

Why model in S scale?

I've always been a hardcore HO believe since 1986. I mainly dealt with transition era and modern rolling stock and felt it was the perfect scale to do that.

However, over the year I acquired several small steamers and was always seriously unsatisfied with their less than stellar performance. Worst, their small size makes them ill-fitted to be equipped with modern electronic technologies.

Since 1910s trains were still very small, the relative size of a car or a locomotive is similar to their modern era HO counterparts. HO small steamers lack presence when running on a layout. I know it, I acquired a few of them in HO for this project and found them at best underwhelming. Their diminutive size makes them a caricature of their prototype. On the other hand, even a small steam locomotive like a 2-6-0 have a lot of character in S Scale.

Finally, the nail in the coffin. Modelling a turn of the century branchline means most everything will have to be scratchbuilt or kitbashed whatever the scale used. At this point, it's not a bad idea to switch over S scale and make modelling small prototypes easier.

And the track plan?

It may sounds crazy, but the only aspect of Temiscouata activating my creativity is the terminal at Connors, NB. While everything else is interesting, it can be found anywhere in North America and typical. On the other hand, Connors is somewhat special and for this reason, I only model the last station on the line with it's engine facility and the end of steel. It is also good opportunity to concentrate my efforts on what counts instead of feeling crushed by an gigantic endeavour. As Mike Cougill likes to say, a dream layout isn't just about size but about what you feel when working on it.

The initial layout plan in HO scale.


Thinking Out Loud - Presentation

The "Thinking Out Loud" series of articles was written during 2016 summer. It's a direct conversation with myself and my readers about railway modelling and what can make a project successful. During nine articles, we explored what's going on in one's head when trying to figure out what kind of modelling you want to do.

Far to be a series of formatted answers or tips, it is made of musings, various thoughts and insights gained from practicing model railroading over almost 3 decades. Subject explored are numerous and cover such aspects of the hobby as layout design, track plan, operation, but alll focussed toward the "achieveable layout"  concept bolstered by inspiring modellers like Trevor Marshall, Mike Cougill, Lance Mindheim and many others.

While there are many ways to enjoy this hobby, often a good reality check is required to enjoy and develop our love for trains rather than be crushed by senseless consumerism.

"Thinking Out Loud" wouldn't have been possible without the input of several other modellers including, but not limited to: Greg McComas, Simon Dunkley, Gene Kruger, Steve Boyko, Rick de Candido, Trevor Marshall, Rene Gourley, Jamie Bothwell and many others.

Here are the nine original articles:

Thinking Out Loud - Part 1
Thinking Out Loud - Part 1 (with original omments on Hedley-Junction blog)

Thinking Out Loud - Part 2
Thinking Out Loud - Part 2 (with original comments on Hedley-Junction blog)

Thinking Out Loud - Part 3
Thinking Out Loud - Part 3 (with original comments on Hedley-Junction blog)

Thinking Out Loud - Part 4
Thinking Out Loud - Part 4 (with original comments on Hedley-Junction blog)

Thinking Out Loud - Part 5
Thinking Out Loud - Part 5 (with original comments on Hedley-Junction blog)

Thinking Out Loud - Part 6
Thinking Out Loud - Part 6 (with original comments on Hedley-Junction blog)

Thinking Out Loud - Part 7
Thinking Out Loud - Part 7 (with original comments on Hedley-Junction blog)

Thinking Out Loud - Part 8
Thinking Out Loud - Part 8 (with original comments on Hedley-Junction blog)

Thinking Out Loud - Part 9
Thinking Out Loud - Part 9 (with original comments on Hedley-Junction blog)

Thinking Out Loud - Part 9

I think it’s never a bad idea to revisit older concepts from time to time because new information is always unearthed in the most unpredictable ways. If you are like me, you have a dedicated folder on your computer hard drive with several subfolders dedicated to specific layout projects and prototypes. Over the year, most "newer" prototypes are rehashes and refinements of older concepts. A few recent examples are related to recently discussed ideas about a “future” layout of mine. Let's see how thing evolved over the last few weeks.


Last Friday, I met Jérôme to deliver the first batch of weathered boxcars to Erie’s Harlem Station. He showed me old CN Murray Bay subdivision timetables ranging from the 40s up to 1992. The information in it was very interesting because it puts light on the decade-long absorption of QRL&PCo into regular CNR operation from 1951 to 1959.

Another interesting aspect was that older timetable cared to identify private sidings by their customers’ name and car lenght. Strangely, only Dominion Textile never appears on timetables… my guess is their siding was considered to be not privately-owned. But the best part was about Montmorency Distillery. All timetables listing this industry mentioned two sidings for the company. One facing East and one facing West. According to CNR documentation, they were two distinct and unconnected sidings. I’m not the kind of guy to take information at face-value, but all other sidings listed in the timetables were strictly correct. The weird thing is that my copy of CN early 1980 movie over the subdivision clearly shows both Montmorency Distillery sidings to be connected: it’s a double-ended siding.

Unfortunately, later timetables dropped the concept of listing private sidings. So, the big question is if the sidings were merged together later in the late 60s or 70s or the listing of them as separate entities was an error. Surprisingly enough, Omer Lavallée’s 1959 track diagram of the line (otherwise very precise), don’t list any siding for Montmorency Distillery while they are attested by historic photographs and he travelled the road often. Well, that leaves me with something to search and only CNR engineering diagrams could put the issue at rest.

However, from a layout point of view, the two-ended siding is a blessing. When I designed the S scale Beaupré layout plan, I was concerned only eastbound trains could handle operation but not, we can clearly assumed the distillery was switched on both directions, making it much more interesting in the long run.



I used to think sound was a gimmick and now I find I’m no longer able to operate without it. I made a scale mockup of Lehigh Valley New Woodstock station during the week end to test the operation potential. A printed track diagram on a hollow core door, tracks and a few boxes were enough to get into action in a matter of minutes.

However, operation was DC and quickly, making precise moves at slow speed without sound lacked interest. It seems to me the sound is much more than an ambiance, it is an indication about what’s happening. Every small action is accompanied by a sound “consequence” that makes sense and bring a touch of reality. Remove the sound and there is no longer consequence to the performed act of switching. In the end, I found out New Woodstock was extremely boring but I know I can’t use this experiment to ditch such a generic and common station track plan. Because of the lack of sound and the fact the layout height was low I wasn’t feeling I was part of the action going on. To me, being immersed in a scene is the primordial goal in model railroading. When I was 4 years old, I used to watch my Bachmann trainset with my head put against the floor and with an eye closed to see the action from a realistic point of view.

But the lesson is learned: never underestimate how the way you interact with a model can dramatically change your perception. Next time I mock up a layout, I'll do it at a decent height and with my NCE Power Cab DCC. It won't take more time to set up and I'm guaranteed to get results closer to the condition I would operate a real layout.

More Dangerous Gimmicks

Continuing with the concept of immersion, I’ve always felt Ciment St-Laurent was a nice big industry but that something was desperately lacking when switching it. Nothing is more boring that shoving hoppers over an unloading pits. Sure, you can set a time limit per car before moving the next one, but it feels fake and a pure waste of time because it seems nothing happens.

There is only one way to bring interest and it’s to “physically” make something happen. Setting a car over the pit must trigger a consequence, an action that legitimates that you wait before resuming your move. It can be performed by sound or by real action (or both in an ideal world), but simply looking at your watch for a given amount of time isn't enough. At some point, it's so artificial you'll skip it out of boredom or simply because your brain don't see the point to wait when nothing really happens. In that respect, sound is the easiest and most convincing way. When a hopper is spotted, the sound of an unloading car is heard for a realistic amount of time. When the sound ends, you remove the fake load and spot the next hopper. This is the easiest way out there. Add the ongoing surrounding sound of the conveyor and you are in business!

The next option is more akin to a gimmick, but nevertheless could be interesting if correctly implemented. You use live load and the hopper is emptied for real into the pit. While attractive, this system is far to be fool proof. I’ve seen many videos online of realistic loading of hopper, but unloading them is far less practical. But that said, the old toyish Tyco hopper car, while not prototypically interesting, self-unload pretty well. The system being basically a kid toy is almost fool proof. It could definitely be adapted and improved for realistic coal unit train operations. Unfortunately, the system works better with cars in motion, which doesn’t fit the criteria of a car that must be spotted first.

Another older design for a self-unloading scale hopper was made by Ulrich back in the 50s and 60s. This time, the hopper realistically reproduce a common 3-bay car that can be used on many layouts. The unloading mechanism is hidden in the underframe and subtle enough to not be detracting. Unfortunately, information is scarce and I didn’t find anything about the efficiency of the system or car unloading time. That said, after studying Ulrich original instruction sheet, I firmly believe one could fit their metal underframe and mechanism under a modern and well-detailed plastic shell. In fact, having an all metal underframe would enhance the car weight which would be a good thing.

Such systems, while extremely attractive in concept, needs to be experimented. In my case, the unloading track is also used to sort out other cars (including hoppers) which mean the unloading device between the rails should be removable or not interfere with other actions. Another problem is that while the Ulrich system is compatible with older 3-bay hoppers, it isn’t with more modern or larger prototypes. It means I would have to reproduce that mechanism in different sizes and configurations to fit other specific cars. That could prove to be a foolish attempt plagued with frustration.

Finally, while self-unloading scale hoppers are a nice idea, they seem to be extremely fast to unload (at least, the Tyco version). To be honest, they seem to be faster than a real car and a realistic sound file could last (but some real-life hopper unloading time is quite fast according to videos on YouTube). So we are back to square one for this one. In the end, it seems a decent sound file and removable loads should do a better job with less efforts. That said, I’m still curious about the Ulrich car. If anybody has experience with this hopper, let me know.

Temiscouata As It Should Be?

If people could probe my mind in the last two months, they would see a labyrinth of thoughts, concepts and ideas. I think the “Thinking Out Loud” series gave a good instant picture about how I can connect diverting interests. Among all that mess, it seems my interest to model Temiscouata railway as it was in the early 20th century is winning over a later period rendition.

I went back and studied my motive power diagram compiled from the roster. What will follow is only speculation based on available information and cold hard facts. The 1948 Railroad Magazine article by Mike Runey was interesting, but mainly covered operations after the heydays.

When you look at the roster, it seems the new 4-6-0 started to be added to the roster circa 1910s, mainly to pull heavier freight trains. Funnily enough, this is exactly the moment when Temiscouata ceased to be a relatively isolated branchline and became somewhat a bridge line between various between New Brunswick and Quebec. The new National Transcontinental line and various other factors probably increased local traffic over Temiscouata, requiring more modern and powerful locomotives which incidently, were acquired second-hand from contractors building the NTR line. On the other hand, we could speculate NTR was a shortcut and prime competitor for long distance traffic between Quebec and New Brunswick. The Monk subdivision was built over an ingrate landscape but to exacting standards, making it a fast mainline served by state of the art locomotives. It was far to be the case with Temiscouata. However, we must take in account railways were still in their pre-WW1 expansion without any worthy competition.

It is interesting to note that even if 4-6-0 were in use in the 1910s, a large amount of 4-4-0 were kept in service. This fact can indicate the need for power was substantial and new locomotives weren’t bough to replace older engines but to provide additional steel horses to catch up with growing business. The diagram show that prior to the 1920s, about half the fleet were 4-4-0. Interestingly, the longest trains and steepest grades were all between Rivière-du-Loup and Edmunston because the line crossed the St. Lawrence and St. John rivers divide. On the other hand, the Connor Branch was a relatively flat water level road following the St. John River north shore. Knowing Temiscouata operated 4 daily trains (2 on Connors Branch ), we can imply a substantial amount of motive power was allocated to service Connors to pull freight and passenger trains.

That means we can surmise most old 4-4-0 were used over the Connors Branch while the 4-6-0 worked on the mainline to pull freight consist over the steep grade near Rivière-du-Loup. In fact, old pictures seem to support this hypothesis because most of the time the 4-4-0 are shot while working at Connors when 4-6-0 are often seen near Rivière-du-Loup or Edmunston. Sure, we know 4-6-0 ventured to Connors, but that information comes from the later period and I suspect, at least circa 1910, the very first 4-6-0 available worked on the mainline. This is a personal hypothesis and I could also be wrong.

Temiscouata #8 as built in 1909 by MLW (Al Paterson Collection, "Canadian National Steam! Volume 4)

Now, when piecing together these circumstantial observations, I come to the conclusion Connors was mainly served by 4-4-0 for during the first two decades of Temiscouata history, maybe later. The grades and the traffic wouldn’t have made a good use of 4-6-0 when the rest of the line was far more challenging. With the acquisition of more 4-6-0, declining traffic and aging 4-4-0, the American Standard became a rarity rather than a norm over Temiscouata.

Temiscouata #4 built in 1888 by Manchester (credit: Musée du Bas-Saint-Laurent)

I'm pleased to say I already have all the required parts to build a good fleet (let’s say about 3 locomotives: 2 regulars and one spare). The Bachmann modern 4-4-0 is a good starting point to model the most recent locomotives serving Connors while the old IHC Genoa is an excellent starting point to model older locomotives from the 1870. A good picture of locomotive #4 exists and it’s a good match. Sure the IHC locomotive is OO scale, but given I’m not modelling an early 1860s 4-4-0 but something newer and bigger, it should fit the bill better. I have also an Athearn/Roundhouse 2-6-0 with high drivers. This locomotive could be converted into a 4-4-0 by removing the front driver and replacing the pilot wheel with a truck. Even the superstructure could be altered significantly by using a Bachmann 4-4-0 shell.

Also, it is interesting to note that Connors Branch, back in the early days, saw more traffic and was served by four daily trains (2 freight and 2 passenger trains). This makes for slightly longer trains and complex operation.

From a rolling stock perspective, old photographs also show more Temiscouata lettered cars in the first years of operation than during the late 40s, showing that the declining railway didn’t invest in its own fleet after a certain point in history (on the other hand, ORER are a very fine tool to figure out the fleet). As I said in a previous spot, I think Temiscouata is interesting in every period, but I must admit the sweet spot is still in the early 1910s when the line was connected with the National Transcontinental and Canadian Pacific in Edmundston. Add to this that the as-built Connors track plan is well-known while the later version can only be implied from partial photographic evidence until real track diagram or timetable can give a reliable overall portrait. 

As Trevor Marshall suggested, Connors could be operated both as an early 1900s railway and as a dwindling late 40s line. Each structures could be built twice; in its original colors and in an altered and weathered version. Since the amount of structure is very limited, that wouldn’t be a crushing endeavour, but rather a nice way to beef up the modelling potential. As much as I’m fascinated with early 1900s Canadian railways, I can’t brush off my interest for more modern eras. Trevor’s suggestion cover both bases without too much problem except for glossing over the fact Connors track plan did evolve over the time.

Finally, the biggest decision is to base Connors on a definite track plan. I drafted two versions showing the evolution of tracks. It sure ain't 100% accurate, but it gives a good idea of what can be achieved. As you can see, after a while, the turnouts were significantly rationalized to optimize operation. Personally, I think the oldest version is interesting for a particular reason: most moves are done in front of the station. Remember when I talked about immersion. This is particularly crucial on a small layout where you want to maximize the impression of distance. Concentrating the switching moves in front of the build structures is a good way to immerse yourself in Connors instead of using a non descript main line in the middle of meadows. To me, this is an important aspect. We pour efforts in reproducing scale version of fancy structures and I believe they should play a more important role than background decoration, particularly when they are directly related to the railway.

So, 1894 or circa 1948? I think I've made my choice! And you? 

By the way, if you are interested to learn more about Temiscouata Raiway, it's region, Rivière-du-Loup and Intercolonial Railway, it's nice to know Musée du Bas-Saint-Laurent put together a bilingual virtual museum named "À fond de train" (At Full Throttle) well worth a visit. Lots of very old photos of early Canadian railways including the original Grand Trunk line to Rivière-du-Loup.