Sunday, January 15, 2017

Thinking Out Loud - Part 5

Selecting an era is a complex process made of conflicting interests. Most of the time, we want to find an era that suits our tastes which is often an intricate blend of operations, rolling stock, motive power, location, scenery and nostalgia.

The big problem is that most of the time, these interests doesn’t converge in a single point in history. Maybe the motive power you like didn’t run when that beautiful station was still standing. Maybe the rolling stock available isn’t suitable for the era you want to model. Add to that the fact documentation, particularly on less mainstream roads, is often about a specific time and doesn’t cover the entire history of the prototype. No wonder many modellers decide to focus their energy on a decade rather than a specific year. I know it, I do it myself; modeller’s license oblige.

In the case of Temiscouata, documentation about the road dates mainly from the late 1940s when the line was considered an artefact of the past and draw attention of railfans and magazines. Some information can also be deducted from the National Transcontinental and Canadian Pacific back in the late 1910s when Edmunston was a burgeoning railway hub. Finally, a panoramic picture of Connors taken few years after the line was built in the mid-1890s gives us the best view of the area and the only reliable primary source about the track plan and structures. There’s enough to have a decent portrait of the line, but some zones stay in shadows.

To be honest, a driving to most modellers are locomotives and this passion often dictate the era they prefer. It is quite a “superficial” criterion among many others, but it fuels our interest. In that respect, when you decide to model an obscure prototype, you first question is to find suitable motive power. Sure, you will have to kitbash a lot and you need to make sure there are good models available. Some bashes are so complex they can make a layout not viable.

In the case of Temiscouata, the roster was composed of 14 locomotives over 60 years of existence. It was mainly 4-4-0 for passenger and mixed trains and 4-6-0 for freight trains. A 2-6-0 oddball was tried for less than a year but was quickly traded for a 4-6-0. While this particular locomotive has an interesting backstory, I’m still questioning if it should drive the era choice. That’s a little bit far-fetched.

The good news about Temiscouata roster is that quality plastic models are available at decent price on the market. Among them are Bachmann Modern 4-4-0, Mogul 2-6-0 and Ten Wheeler 4-6-0. You can also add the AMH/IHC/Rivarossi Old Time 4-4-0 if you improve the drive.

Knowing that, how do we select an era? That’s a good question and I decided to translate the roster into a timeline using the years each locomotive was in service. The result is interesting and fits the financial situation of the company I know of. I think I should have done this graphic before when tackling other projects. It could also be adapted to passenger and freights cars.

The first locomotives were a mix of used and brand new 4-4-0. Except an antiquated 1872 4-4-0 bought to build the road, Temiscouata was largely operated with state-of-the-art locomotives from the start. Most acquisition occurred in 1888 before regular service started in 1889.

In 1903, Temiscouata’s business seems to have started to pick up and two used 4-4-0 were added to the roster. They were quite old locomotives and their service lives didn’t last long since they were retired in 1909.

In 1909, Temiscouata was quite prosperous. In fact, the 1900s and 1910s were excellent and a project to connect the line with Quebec Central was still discussed in London. Under such conditions, Temiscouata ordered three brand new 4-6-0 from 1909 to 1911. During that period, they also tried the new 2-6-0 I talked before which was unsatisfactory and quickly traded for an almost new 4-6-0 from the connecting National Transcontinental Railway. At the same time, a used but still recent 4-6-0 was also added to the roster.

Up until 1920, the roster had about 9 locomotives available, making an interesting mix of 1880s and 1910s engine. However, in 1920, Temiscouata scrapped or sold to industrial railway many of its original fleet of 4-4-0. Of interest is the fact they were only replaced by two 1888-vintage 4-4-0 acquired from Quebec Central. I’m still wondering why 1888 locomotives were traded for 1888 locomotives. Looking at #11 and #12, it appears these locomotives were somewhat more powerful and probably modernized by Quebec Central. On the other hand, the original ones were less powerful and probably of a more obsolete design. Maybe they had mechanical failure too. Hard to tell since this is pure speculation on my part. That said, from 1921, the roster didn’t change until the line was closed. According to available information, about half the fleet was not in service by 1948, showing the decline in activity.

Now, from a layout standpoint, what’s the most interesting era knowing kitbashing the locomotive won’t be a problem?

For the sake of variety in term of locomotive types and traffic, the 1910s can be considered the heyday. You have a mix of old locomotives still in service and brand new ones. Special business cars were common occurrence on passenger trains to bring wealthy patrons to hunting and fishing camps. Freight traffic was high and old photographs show a variety of long gone Canadian historic railways such as Grand Trunk Pacific, Intercolonial, National Transcontinental, Canadian Pacific and many others. This era is seldom modelled in Canada, which is a shame (more on that later). Most freight cars will be craftman kits, kitbashed or scratchbuilt. This is a big but rewarding challenge.

The next interesting era is the 1920s. No particular year. Only the modern locomotives were in service except for an old 4-4-0 which I have of picture of. The locomotive paint scheme of that era is also well documented. Traffic was still decent and suitable freight cars are readily available. I already own many of them. Definitely, a very nice era to model.

Finally, the late 40s are the easiest to model. The roster is reduced to easily kitbashed locomotives and cars are not a problem at all. Pictures of the structure at that time are available and I also have a good description of consists. At that time, passenger trains were replaced by mixed trains, which is extremely interesting from an operation standpoint.

Personally, I’m not eager to say an era is better than another. They all have strong points. However, to be truly pragmatic, I’d say it is more realistic to stick with the 30s and 40s first since I have a good deal of suitable rolling stock and locomotives. The physical plant didn’t really change since the last big investments in the early 1910s and it could be easy to backdate the layout later or to simply run older material from time to time.

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