Doubleheaders Layout Tour – March 25, 2017

Next weekend the WRMRC layout will be open to the public as part of the annual Kitchener-Waterloo-Cambridge-Guelph area layout tour organized by the Doubleheaders Model Railway Club on Saturday March 25, 2017.

This is a self-guided tour of a large number of club and private home layouts in the area. For more tour information on some of the other layouts that will be open, and where to get tickets and layout information packages to start the tour, please visit the Doubleheaders Model Railway Club web site.

Note: the WRMRC layout will be open from 9 am to 5 pm only.

March Operating Session – Mar. 11, 2017

A reminder that the next regularly scheduled WRMRC operating session is next weekend on Saturday March 11, 2017, from noon to 6PM with the session clock beginning at 12:00 PM.

If you are interested in attending the operating session as a guest, please let us know via email (wrmrc@hotmail.com) or our facebook page so we know how many people will be coming!

For a full list of upcoming club events, see the calendar page.

January Operating Session – Jan. 14, 2017

A reminder that the next regularly scheduled WRMRC operating session is next weekend on Saturday January 14, 2017, from noon to 6PM with the session clock beginning at 12:00 PM.

If you are interested in attending the operating session as a guest, please let us know via email (wrmrc@hotmail.com) or our facebook page so we know how many people will be coming!

For a full list of upcoming club events, see the calendar page.

November Operating Session – Nov. 12, 2016

A reminder that the next regularly scheduled WRMRC operating session is next weekend on Saturday November 12, 2016, from noon to 6PM with the session clock beginning at 12:00 PM.

If you are interested in attending the operating session as a guest, please let us know via email (wrmrc@hotmail.com) or our facebook page so we know how many people will be coming!

For a full list of upcoming club events, see the calendar page.

WRMRC Annual Fall Open House – Oct. 15, 2016

Thanksgiving is here and to the WRMRC that means that next weekend is our annual fall open house! Everyone is invited to come down and see what we’ve been working on this year.

The club will be open from 10 AM to 5 PM; admission is $5 for adults or $3 for students and seniors. Children free (must be supervised).

For directions and more details, see the Open House page.

September Operating Session – Sep. 10, 2016

A reminder that the next regularly scheduled WRMRC operating session is next weekend on Saturday September 10, 2016, from Noon to 6PM with the session clock beginning at 12:00 PM sharp.

*Please note the new time compared to previous years. An additional reminder that sessions this year will be every other month. Please see the calendar page for up to date event information.*

If you are interested in attending the operating session as a guest, please let us know via email (wrmrc@hotmail.com) or our facebook page so we know how many people will be coming!

Got Slag?

An event of some significance for our club layout occurred recently when a trio of Atlas ballast hoppers were grimed-up and weathered over the course of a regular Wednesday work night. While that may not seem particularly significant, after all I paint and weather equipment at the club’s spraybooth all the time, it did signal a big change in the ever-evolving rolling stock fleet of the CP Sudbury Division. These were the final models of a new fleet of slag hoppers to roll out of our shops, and they will replace our old MDC cars that had been in service with the club for over 20 years.

The complete fleet of 16 recently added Atlas ballast hoppers, all weathered and ready to begin hauling slag over the CP Sudbury Division.

Another view of the fleet of new ballast cars entering service on the Sudbury Division.

The MDC-Roundhouse hoppers are crude by today’s standards – the molds were produced in the 1970s and it shows. Not just the thickly molded grab irons and lack of interior details, the worst part of the model was how low the hopper body sat and how shallow that made the unloading bays below. They are almost undetectable. (If someone knows of a prototype car that MDC patterned this after, please post photos/info here in the comments section.) However this was the only longitudinal-bay hopper model available when our club began modelling the CP Sudbury Division, so we assembled a small fleet of MDC models due to lack of alternatives.

Side by side comparison of the Atlas model (left) with the old MDC car (right). Coupled together, it is easy to see why the old Roundhouse models are being retired.

The longitudinal bay ballast hopper is an important car for the ‘70s CP Sudbury Division, all thanks to INCO and the CPR’s maintenance-of-way needs. The byproduct of copper/nickel refining (actually all forms of ore smelting and refining) is called slag; it’s the resulting rock waste you get once all useful minerals have been striped away. INCO has mountains of ugly slag piles growing all around the Sudbury area. And our two big transcon railways, both running through the Sudbury Basin and always on the lookout for cheap solutions to their maintenance needs, began using this crushed slag to ballast their right-of-ways. Take a look at any CP or CN photographs from the ‘60s to the ‘90s. If the tracks are ballasted with a very dark brownish-black rock, that’s Sudbury slag.

The prototype car, CP 360946 see here within a string of longitudinal-bay ballast hoppers in Calgary AB on 21 Oct 1977 – Andy J. Broscoe photo from canadianfreightcargallery.ca

Slag ballast is the reason why these longitudinal-bay hoppers are so important to our layout operations. Strings of these cars were everywhere in the Sudbury area, all to supply ballast system-wide for CP Rail.

So what happened to slag ballast? Well there were two problems with using slag; one that was immediately known, and the other that the Ministry of Environment figured out decades later.

Slag being refined rock was very brittle, and breaks apart relatively easily. This meant CP and CN had to continually re-ballast as the slag was pulverized into mud over time under the weight of heavy freight trains. That was not a big deal as slag, being a waste product, was pretty inexpensive.

CP 360548 was lettered with a combination of C-D-S dry transfers along with Microscale and Highball decals from various sets I had lying around. Outside weathering is a combination of oil paints, weathering powders and some airbrushing – mainly just a quick coat of “grunge” to dirty up the bottom of the car.

The other problem is much more serious. It seems the bedrock of the Sudbury basin contains a trace of naturally occurring mercury. That is not a big deal, provided the rock is undisturbed. Slag, however, is rock that has been disturbed quite a lot. Testing showed mercury was leaching into local water tables from the slag ballast, and so it began to be phased out over time. The situation was worst in the Prairies, where slag ballast was first banned back in the ‘80s. Southern Ontario, with its deeper water tables and lots of limestone, was a safer environment and continued to see slag used until the mid ‘90s.

Our new slag hopper fleet is made up of Atlas’ wonderful model of the ACF-built Hart Ballast Car. These were released about 10 years ago, but our delay in making the switch was due to the Atlas model not being a prefect match for the prototype CP slag hoppers. The actual hoppers, numbered within the CP 360000 to 361277 series, were all built between 1949-53. Though three different manufacturers built them (Eastern Car mostly for the CPR, though Canadian Car & Foundry and NSC produced them too) the visual differences between them are slight.

Weathering the inside of a ballast car is a very different process than for coal hoppers. Coal is acidic, and the hoppers that carry it become a rusty mess inside. Ballast does not corrode the interior, rather it bangs and scrapes the hopper bottoms to polished metal. To capture the look I first airbrushed the interiors with Model Master flat aluminum, then oversprayed the top with grunge (a combination of black, browns and greens to simulate dirt). I finish with Pan Pastels to simulate the rust and dirt that does take hold, and seal all the weathering work with Tamiya flat coat.

There are two visual differences between the real thing and the Atlas model, the first being the top end panels of the hoppers having a notch in them (where the end ladders meet up). The prototype cars feature straight beveled end panels. The other difference is seen in the hopper bays, which are longer and of a different design than the actual CP hoppers.

CP 360413 is lightly weathered, as the CP Rail paint scheme was only a few years old in our club’s modelling era, so it would be a recently repainted car. Weathering was done with Pan Pastels and some airbrushed “grunge” along the bottom of the car.

Despite our hope that maybe, one day, a perfect Canadian ballast car might appear on the market, we decided that the old MDC-Roundhouse cars really needed an upgrade. The influx of amazing new, super-detailed models that have been populating the Sudbury Division layout were really making the old ballast cars look out of place. And the Atlas model is well done, not only from its crisply detailed molding, wire grabirons, nice brake and end details; but this model also featured a fully-detailed interior complete with L-brackets and rivet-detail. The hopper bay doors actually open too, though since we operate these models with live loads we highly recommend our operators DO NOT open them when transporting slag.

Though not 100% perfect, these Atlas models are a very good stand in and they will begin hauling slag on the Sudbury Division starting with our first operating session of the 2016-17 season this September 10th.

2016-2017 Operating Session Times and Dates

After some discussion at the June Annual General Meeting of the club, the operating schedule for the 2016-2017 season has been set. Please note there have been some important changes from previous years.

Firstly, the times of the sessions have been changed, and beginning this fall the sessions will begin at noon instead of 4pm and should run until about 6 without a mid-session supper break. (Anyone that wishes may go out for an informal social dinner following the session.) There was a general consensus leading into the meeting that the time change will much better accommodate several of our out-of-town members and guest operators that travel a longer distance to attend as well as generally not have the sessions end late in the evening and encourage participation in the sessions which require a minimum number of people to fill all the positions.

Secondly, for the 2016-2017 we have decided to try scheduling the sessions every other month throughout the year (beginning with the September 2016 session) instead of every month. Historically certain sessions (particularly December due to work and family parties leading into the Christmas holiday season) have ended up regularly cancelled anyway, and trying to work in both an October session and Open House around the Thanksgiving holiday puts a serious crimp in construction activities in the fall.

Thirdly, with the change in schedule we are adding a summer session in July 2017 which has historically never happened as May-August was typically the major construction period. However the additional spacing between sessions should allow for better progress throughout the year and the added session makes up for any losses with the schedule change.

Accordingly, the formal operating sessions for 2016-2017 will be held on the following dates and times:

September 10, 2016 12pm-6pm

November 12, 2016 12pm-6pm

January 14, 2017 12pm-6pm

March 11, 2017 12pm-6pm

May 13, 2017 12pm-6pm (“Junk Night” session)

July 8, 2017 12pm-6pm

Additionally our fall open house will be held on October 15, 2016 from 10am-5pm – as always the Saturday following the Canadian Thanksgiving weekend, also known locally as the end of Oktoberfest.

See also the Calendar page for updated information on club events and activities.

That ’70s Rent-A-Wreck Fleet

Leased B&O F7A #4487 shares company with a CP RS-18 by the roundhouse at Quebec St Yard in London ON on an April morning in 1972 – John Brown Photo

Since our club’s layout models the CP Rail Sudbury Division in the 1970s, you might come to the conclusion that all the WRMRC’s trains would be powered by CP locomotives. Well, with the exception of the CN and INCO lines that we tie into, of course. So if you visit us for an operating session or an open house and spot a foreign road diesel (i.e. not owned by the railroad on which it is running) you may wonder, “What’s up with that? Are they goofing around? Are they pooling with other railways?”

Well, our gang does its share of goofing around; model railroading is supposed to be fun after all. But we try to minimize silliness on public tours.

Locomotive pooling, defined as competing railroads sharing their diesels for seamless operation between properties, had been going on in the US since the 1960s. The pioneers of power pooling were the NYC + CB&Q, and the Pennsy + UP who started the practice to get their hot freight though Chicago without taking days to interchange. But power pooling was not common in Canada until more recent times, mainly due to the fact that our nation’s two major railways were already transcons who didn’t need to share power, and free trade with the US was many years in the future yet.

However, in the years since the CPR retired their last steam engines in the late ’50s, they have experienced traffic peaks that outstripped their motive power capacity. Sometimes these peaks lasted for many years. That’s when Canadian Pacific needed to beg, borrow, and – in some cases – steal.

Welcome to the world of motive power shortages and locomotive leasing.

The CPR was leasing for most of the ’70s, but the height of it occurred in the first half of the decade. This was due to a motive power shortage stemming from the late 1960s when the Canadian government inked large contracts to export grain to the USSR and China. Additionally, Canadian Pacific began operating long unit coal trains to the newly opened Roberts Bank Superport in BC. Finally, the first generation of diesels (those that directly replaced steam) were getting tired and in need of rebuild, or outright retirement and replacement. This combination of events created a chronic locomotive shortage for CP Rail that lasted well into the mid ’70s. At its peak between 1972-73, the CPR had over 100 locomotives on lease.

CP4047_BO4517_BLE725A_London_27Mar73

A great example of the CPR rainbow lease fleet of the early ’70s, CP FA-2 #4047 leads B&O F7A #4517 and B&LE F7A #725A on a westbound freight through Quebec St Yard in London ON on 27 April 1973 – photographer unknown

As one could imagine, leasing over a hundred locomotives from multiple sources created a serious rainbow fleet. All those colours were mixing with the CPR’s own diesels which, by the way, was going through a corporate image change itself. If anyone wonders why the WRMRC chose such a seemingly unusual modelling era like the ’70s, this was an attractive reason for choosing it.

This rainbow leasing fleet offers a bumper crop of ‘Rent-A-Wrecks’ for us to model. And yes, many of them really were wrecks. The fleet of B&O F-units leased from parent Chessie System between 1972-73 provides a good example. Chessie had these classic cab units in storage prior to leasing. A number of them never made it past Windsor because the CPR judged them to be unroadworthy and sent them back to Detroit. Of the 20 or so that were leased, many were promptly scrapped by Chessie after being returned. They were literally running their last miles on the CPR.

If direct leasing wasn’t enough, the CPR was also known to… umm… “borrow” power. CP Rail did operate a pair of pooled freight trains between Toronto, ON and Buffalo, NY in partnership with the TH&B and Penn Central known as ‘The Kinnear’. During the dark days of the Penn Central era, the TH&B and PC power that lingered around Agincourt Yard over the weekends could end up on any turn jobs out of Toronto, so long as the units were returned by Sunday night. Borrowing TH&B power like this was OK, given the fact that TH&B was partially owned by the CPR. But Penn Central diesels? The bankrupt PC was in such disarray they never checked the odometers of their units to notice the added mileage. It was not until Conrail took over that anyone looked and began billing the CPR for the added mileage. The practice stopped soon after.

The upshot for us is that a Saturday #955 could show up in Sudbury with pooled PC and TH&B locomotives during those times. Train 955 “the MacTier Bullet” (employee sarcasm) was a turn job running from Toronto to Sudbury, returning back Sunday morning as a 50-series 4th class all-stops local. For that matter GO Transit locomotives (properly leased) could also show up on weekends in the later half of the decade.

Without getting into specific road numbers, the following is a list of known leased or pooled locomotives that could be spotted on CP Rail trains in Ontario during the 1970s:

  • 1970-71 – Chicago Great Western F7A & F7B units (owned by CNW but still in CGW colours),
  • 1970-75 – Bessemer & Lake Erie F7A & F7B units,
  • 1970-75 – Precision National ALCO RS-27 units (#901 and 902),
  • 1970-74 – Boston & Maine F7A & F7B, GP9 and RS-3 units,
  • 1970-71 – Illinois Central ALCO C-636 units,
  • 1970-71 – Bessemer & Lake Erie ALCO RSD-15 units,
  • 1970-73 – Lake Superior & Ispeming GE U23C units (winter only),
  • 1970 & 1973 – Duluth, Missabi & Iron Range SD9 units,
  • 1971-75 – Precision National / Bellequip GP7 & GP9 units (ex Quebec North Shore & Labrador),
  • 1971-75 – Bangor & Aroostock GP7, GP9 & GP38 units,
  • 1972-73 – Precision National GP7 units (ex-FEC),
  • 1972-75 – Precision National GP10 units (rebuilt ‘Paducah Geeps’),
  • 1972-73 – Baltimore & Ohio F7A & F7B units,
  • 1973-75 – Pittsburg & Lake Erie GE U28B units,
  • 1973-75 – United Railway Supply ALCO RS-3 units (#101-103 – former Reading),
  • 1976-77 – Chessie System (C&O) GP30 & GP35 units (pooled power),
  • 1978-80 – GO Transit GP40TC, GP40-2(W) & F40PH units (leased on weekends only),
  • 1978-80 – Algoma Central GP7 units,
  • 1979-80 – Chessie System (B&O/C&O) GP30 & GP35 units (leased),
  • 1979-80 – Norfolk & Western SD40 units,
  • 1970-77 – Pooled ‘Kinnear’ power (TH&B or Penn Central/Conrail units, misc. models)
PNC3419_SmithsFalls_04Mar72

PNC GP10 #3419, a full Paducah Geep rebuild by Illinois Central Gulf for Precision National, rests in the back tracks at Smiths Falls ON on 04 March 1972 – Bruce Chapman photo

Many of these individual leaser fleets have interesting stories themselves, and will be the subject of future blog posts. Stay tuned for more episodes of “That ’70s Rent-a-Wreck Fleet”.