Sudbury Icehouse

Another WRMRC landmark structure has been completed recently, this time it’s the large icehouse that once stood along the backtracks of the east-end in Sudbury Yard.

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The newly completed Sudbury icehouse, being set into position on the WRMRC layout.

We have not been able to pinpoint when the icehouse was first erected, but photos show it already standing by the 1920s. It was decommissioned sometime in the mid-1960s after the CPR discontinued “The Dominion”, and the need to ice any heavyweight coaches had ended. However the structure managed to survive until late October of 1974 when it was unceremoniously razed by CPR bulldozers.

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The Sudbury icehouse, as it appeared in the early 1970s.

This project was seven years in the making, and the first structure (kitbash or scratch-built) ever attempted by our club’s treasurer, Phil. He agreed to tackle the icehouse under the tutelage of our late president (and experienced model builder) Chris Bennett. Armed with official drawings of the CPR standard icehouse provided by the Canadian Pacific Historical Association, Phil and Chris began working out the basic structure out of sheet polystyrene. Chris’ untimely passing resulted in this project being mothballed for years. But Phil began to work on it again recently with fellow member Julius (who constructed the Car Shops building and Doran’s Brewery).

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CP RS-18 #8799 and assigned S-2 switcher #7090 share time alongside the icehouse on the morning of 08 July 1970. We can now recreate this scene on the WRMRC Sudbury Division layout.

We believe that this should be classed as an excellent job by a veteran structure builder, let alone someone’s first attempt at scratchbuilding.

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The icehouse, looking towards the southeast.

Due to the building only surviving the first half of the 1970s, the plan is to make this a removable structure. When operating sessions set in the later ’70s are held, just a foundation will be visible here.

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Sudbury icehouse, looking west towards the Elm St crossing and CP Express sheds.

As per Phil’s suggestion, our Sudbury Icehouse will be dedicated in fond memory of Chris Bennett. The WRMRC hopes this story inspires some armchair modellers out there to move over to a workbench and start working on an outstanding project.

When a Plan Comes Together

It has taken a long time to collect all the information we have about CP operations over the Sudbury Division. Most of it has been acquired through dedicated research, photo studies, and conversations with former employees. Even though the WRMRC has been at this for, literally, decades now. there will always be new things to learn. Research and education are lifelong pursuits after all.

A case in point; within our photo archives we have discovered three separate instances of CB&Q 2-bay Center-Flow hoppers travelling over the Sudbury Division. As the WRMRC’s chief operations guru, I’ve developed some plausible waybill information for mid-western US covered hoppers to run over our layout (note – we will be publishing a series of club operations posts in the future). However, finding out the prototype shipping information for why these specific CB&Q railcars were showing up in Sudbury would be our desired goal.

Despite the hardships one should normally expect with prototype research, sometimes good stuff just falls into your hands when you’re not even looking. Recently, Mike Confalone‎ posted a model photo on his Allagash RR Facebook page of Minnesota Dakota & Western (MD&W) boxcars being loaded on his layout. He had seen these being used in Maine in real-life back in the 1980s, and had always wanted models of them for his own layout. The problem was that despite these FMC-built combo-door boxcars being available in HO-scale for years now, they were never offered in this particular ’80s re-paint scheme. So he painted and decalled his own.

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Mike Confalone’s MD&W boxcars on his Allagash RR layout.

Mr. Confalone is an incredibly skilled modeller, as you can see, so it is no surprise his efforts would be top notch. The surprise for us was; why the heck are Minnesota Dakota and Western boxcars being used to load paper in Maine? The answer is forestry giant Boise Cascade (parent company of the tiny MD&W RR) owned a paper mill in Rumford ME. Apparently some of these boxcars even had “Return to Rumford ME” stencilling applied to them.

This one model photo along with the real-world information about Boise Cascade’s Maine paper production helped to resolve a number of CP Sudbury Division puzzles, ones we didn’t quite remember even existed. This explained occurrences of Boise Cascade MDW boxcars on prototype photos of CP train 911, a manifest freight that had rolled daily through Sudbury ON. This train operated from St Luc Yard in Montreal to Sault Ste Marie ON; then continued via CP’s US-affiliate SOO Line to their Schiller Park IL Yard within the greater Chicagoland area. CP #911 carried a lot of New England paper traffic bound for Chicago during our 1970s modelling era, as many shippers were avoiding the transit-time mess created by the Penn Central merger. Service was so good in fact that CP Rail continued to ship a decent amount of New England rail traffic well into the 1980s.

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MLW C-424 #4232 leads train 911 at Sault Ste Marie ON on 05 Sept. 1981. Note the four MD&W boxcars behind the CP steel-coil service gondola trailing 911’s locomotives.

Our original assumption was that these MD&W boxcars were lumber empties being returned to the US mid-west, with no idea of their true origins. The truth was they were hauling newsprint bound for the Chicago area, and for all intents and purposes are as New Englandy as any paper-service boxcars painted for the Maine Central or Bangor & Aroostock.

Topping this off, one of our club members had purchased two recently released Athearn HO-scale models of FMC-built combo-door boxcars painted in the 1970s as-delivered MD&W white scheme to operate on the WRMRC layout. Being uninformed at the time, they were placed within our “Pool 733 – US mid-western misc boxcars” category (more information about our pools when we publish operations articles) and tried to stretch excuses for why some lumber might be rolling through Sudbury from International Falls MN (where the actual MD&W RR is located). Knowing the real story about why these boxcars were rolling though Sudbury, they have since been re-classed into our New England newsprint service boxcar pool. In fact our layout could now use a few more models.

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Produced by Athearn, MD&W 10009 wears the as-delivered 1970s white Boise Cascade corporate scheme. This car is now in New England paper-service on the WRMRC layout.

This information comes at a great time, as the Coronavirus break from operating sessions has given our club a chance to update and fix a number of older waybill shipping inaccuracies. But this MD&W boxcar mystery has to be one of the easiest puzzles we’ve had solved. When something just falls together like this, one is reminded of that old catch-phrase that Lt Col Hannibal Smith used to say on the old ’80s television series ‘The A-Team’ – “I love it when a plan comes together.”

WRMRC Op-Session and Activity Update

Due to Ontario’s extension of emergency orders regarding COVID-19, the WRMRC has cancelled the annual Junk Night operating session which was scheduled for Saturday May 9th; 2020.

At this point the club is planning to start the 2020-21 operating season again in the fall, with the next scheduled op-session planned for Saturday 12 September, 2020. Please continue to monitor this blog along with the WRMRC’s Facebook page for future updates.

While layout progress may have been hampered by the public health crisis, our members have been busy working on many projects from home, or coordinating amongst themselves to limit numbers when visits to the club are required. Here are just a few club ventures while under quarantine.

Romford/Coniston signal project

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Romford Operator Panel

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Reverse side of the Romford Panel – for those who love wiring

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Searchlight signals for Romford and Coniston

Wanapitei River Bridge

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Wanapitei River bridge (in development)

Nelson Street Bridge

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Bridge abutments and scenery repairs (in progress)

Sudbury Ice House

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Ice House (in development)

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Ice House

The club is also preparing to work on scenery in a number of areas which will require trees. Many, many trees.

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One silver lining to the cancellation of operating sessions is that preparations have begun to build the permanent trackage into Espanola, home of the large E. B. Eddy paper mill. Thanks to Fast Tracks, a number of code-70 turnouts have already been built towards this goal.

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Code-70 right-hand turnout built with Fast Tracks jig.

While we certainly miss the comradery that comes with our group work sessions, we are fortunate to live in a time where we can connect digitally. All of us at the WRMRC wish you good health, and to keep up your spirits with good model railway projects.

 

WRMRC March Public Activities Cancelled

On the advice of medical officials, is with reluctance that the WRMRC executive has decided to cancel all club public activities over the month of March in order to help contain the spread of the COVID-19 virus. This includes the operating session scheduled for tomorrow, and our participation in the 2020 Doubleheaders Tour. The following is a letter from our president.


Dear WRMRC Membership,

As you know developments in the COVID 19 corona virus situation have been coming fast and furious. Since my email to the group earlier today changes in advice from public health professionals have led the officers of the club to take a hard look at our plans. I have also been receiving emails from members indicating that they will be restricting their activities in coming days. As a result the officers have decided by unanimous consent to cancel the March operating session which was scheduled for this Saturday and to cancel our participation in the DoubleHeaders Tour scheduled for Saturday, March 28. We will decide on the May operating session as we get closer to the date and see how the situation develops.

We have taken this action reluctantly. We all do love to “play with trains” and were looking forward to the session. We also enjoy sharing our hobby with others and regret missing the tour. Given the advice from public officials and concerns of our own membership, we believe that this is the more responsible option. Since the Wednesday work sessions involve smaller groups we have not cancelled those at the moment, but individual members should feel free to take a break from Wednesdays as they feel necessary. Continue to monitor this group (our groups.io page) for further news.

Everyone stay safe and, as best you are able, healthy.

Bob Kelly

WRMRC President

 

March Operating Session: March 14, 2020

A reminder that the next regularly scheduled WRMRC operating session will be held on Saturday 14 March 2020, from 12:00 to 6:00PM.

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If you are interested in attending the operating session as a guest, please contact us via our Facebook page so we know how many people to expect.

For a full list of club events in 2020, please see our calendar page.

 

WRMRC at the Kitchener Train Show – Sunday 08 March 2020

The Waterloo Region Model Railway Club will have a display at the Kitchener Model Train Show being held Sunday, March 8th, 2020.

The show will be at the Bingemans Conference Centre (Marshall Hall) located at 425 Bingemans Centre Drive, Kitchener ON from 10am to 3pm. More information can be found on the collectorshows.ca website, and on their Facebook page. The show features many vendors, displays, several operating layouts, and railway memorabilia.

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Our display features club photos, an electronic slide show, and hands-on demonstrations with members working on various modelling projects. There is also a side table with second-hand or surplus models and equipment for sale. If you are attending the show please stop by and pay us a visit.

Hope to see you there.

Signalling the Sudbury Division

Since our club’s initial decision to model the CP Sudbury Division in the 1970s era, it was understood by the membership that at some point railway signals would need to be installed on the layout. Not only did we want our layout scenes to look close to their real place counterparts despite having to selectively compress them, or operate equipment that appeared just like what really ran through northern Ontario in the ’70s, but we also wished to operate the layout in a realistic manner too.

The CP Cartier Subdivision between North Bay and Cartier was all CTC (Centralized Traffic Control) territory during the 1970s, with the exception of the six mile double-track section between Romford and Sudbury yard which was ABS (Automatic Block Signal System) signalled in one direction for current of traffic. Regardless of the two signalling methods it meant the club’s entire east-west mainline was protected by signals, and therefore we would need to duplicate this if we wished to achieve our goals of both looking right, and running right.

That said, we can report that signalling a model railway is very much more easier said than done. However after 20 years of planning, and of delaying a lot of scenery work from being started due to the wiring and complexity of the project, the 1/87 scale Sudbury Division is seeing its first signals begin to sprout around the layout.

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Temporary dual-head and permanent dwarf signals installed at Romford. Once fully programmed they will protect this busy junction just like their real-life counterparts.

Though much of the hobby has progressed quite dramatically over the past 40 years, sadly the process of signalling a layout has lagged behind despite the pioneering efforts of Allen MccLelland’s V&O, or Bruce Chubb’s Sunset Valley back in the 1970s. Yes, there are multiple sources of hardware available, and JMRI (Java Model Railroad Interface) software is free, however none of this is really plug and play. You need to program signal scripts and modify JMRI for any of this to work. Between knowing where the signals need to be installed, planning and wiring the signal blocks accordingly, selecting the detectors, switch and signal controllers and then programming it all to work, there is one other big problem for us. No one out there offers ready-to-run Canadian-style searchlight signals.

Romford, ON in October 6, 1971

From the cab of ‘The Canadian’ at Romford, ON – 06 October 1971. Photo by Roger Puta, from Marty Bernard’s Flickr album.

Though searchlight signal kits do exist in HO scale, they are US-based and need to be disassembled and pretty much scratch-build to have them appear like the real deal did. This and both CP and CN did have some differences in their ladder assemblies. For this reason, the WRMRC has decided to build their own, and to use temporary signals in the meantime. But it sure would be nice if a Canadian model manufacturer considered reproducing them for HO modellers at some point. Hello Rapido; wink, wink, nudge, nudge!

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Westbound signals guarding Romford. The mainline is on the right. The wye tracks to the left connect with the Parry Sound Sub to Toronto. The track in the middle is a set-off siding.

There is also the little wrinkle of the dispatcher needing a CTC panel for this all to work. However the good news for the WRMRC is the CP Cartier Sub was signalled in the 1960s, and thus never used one of the ‘classic’ CTC panels that railfans usually imagine. CP had their own hybrid system housed on the second floor of the Sudbury Division HQ building, featuring a large white wall panel with a black trackage schematic, and yellow lights displaying track occupancy. The dispatcher set switches and direction of traffic with a keypad assembly. Frankly, this sounds a lot like something you can duplicate on a computer screen and controlled with a keyboard, and so that’s exactly what we will be doing.

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Temporary dual-head signals protect the CP Cartier Sub diamond crossing with the CN Bala Sub at Coniston, Ontario. The diamond, much like our signals, is a work in progress.

Regardless of all these difficulties, the WRMRC has a small team working on the project and they’ve been making great strides recently. As you can tell from the photographs, the layout is already looking dramatically different. We look forward to the day we can ‘un-bag’ these signals for a future operating session, and have our engineers operate their trains as per signal indication. This also means scenery can progress in these areas too. The WRMRC’s goals of ‘looking right’ and ‘running right’ are slowly being achieved.

 

WRMRC Fall Open House – Saturday 19 October 2019

On Saturday, 19 October 2019, the Waterloo Region Model Railway Club cordially invites you to visit our CP Sudbury Division layout for the club’s Annual Fall Open House.

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The layout be open from 10:00 AM to 5:00 PM. Feel free to invite any friends or family members interested in model railways, and plan on staying a while to see what’s new.

For maps and more information visit our WRMRC website, or our Facebook page.

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Admission:

  • Adults: $5.00
  • Seniors and Students: $3.00
  • Children (12 and under) are FREE, but must be supervised by an adult

 

Rescuing Old Kits

A while back I wrote a blog post on the Model Railroad Hobbyist forum about resurrecting old rolling stock kits developed in the ‘80s, back when the hobby finally began to move past the ‘blue-box’ era. Over the course of that decade, companies like Robin’s Rails, McKean, C&BT, Front Range and Innovative Model Works had sprung up to challenge Athearn and MDC. This was a big leap forward for HO modellers; as these kits were based on specific prototypes, were well researched, and offered a core model with all details applied separately.

Since those times we’ve moved into a model railway world of ready-to-run (RTR) pre-assembled models of exquisite quality. New manufacturers like Tangent, ExactRail, Scale Trains and Moloco (just to name a few) now offer 1:87 rolling stock replicas that truly are museum-quality models. However for those who crave the days when we used to build our models, and paid less than $10 for a freight car in the process, there is something to be said for resurrecting these old kits.

My latest example is this old McKean 40ft PS-1 boxcar painted for the Louisville & Nashville RR.

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A good friend and fellow WRMC member had this kit for sale amongst a pile of surplus model train stuff at a previous Kitchener Train Show. It went through two shows without anyone showing interest. What struck me was its 1960s paint scheme, a relative minority in a model railroad world where the popularity of the ‘40s-‘50s transition era dominates how manufacturers paint their products. However it was dismissed at the time due to it being a southeastern US boxcar, which I assumed would be a rare traffic event over the CP Sudbury Division in the 1970s.

My thoughts changed recently in my continuing efforts to update the club’s traffic/waybill system. It turns out the southeast US offers northern Ontario a lot more than just orange juice and kaolin. Using the OPSIG Industry Database I’ve found a long list of products that one could see routed through the Sudbury Division which are mainly supplied by the southern states. Cotton, rice, peanuts, casting sand and even mining equipment are just a few of the commodities that were uncovered over a couple of hours of research and coffee consumption. So it turns out the WRMRC had been neglecting a traffic source, and  this L&N boxcar was resurrected from the flea market table.

This photo shows it fresh from the ‘grunge factory’ (a.k.a. – the spray booth) after all paint, extra decals and final weathering had been applied; along with one of the prototype photos used to aid in its kitbashing.

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As described in the MRH blog, you pretty much have to throw away all the kit-supplied detail parts. I used better ones which are stuffed away in my surplus parts boxes. The underbody was completely gutted, and replaced with Intermountain underbody details – yes, they sell their detail parts separately. The brake detail on the ‘B’ end was fabricated from brass wire, a brake wheel and housing I had lying around, a bit of photo-etched roofwalk material, and a couple of staples I re-bent to hold the brake platform. Likewise I used staples as stirrups to replace the crude ones supplied by McKean.

It should also be noted I used the internet to research these cars, in order to find as many prototype photos as possible. Turns out the L&N 11xxx-12xxx series cars were 1960s rebuilds, with DF loaders, moveable bulkheads and other features added for specified commodities. However with more modern 50-foot cars being purchased, I’m certain that by the 1970s these cars were already relegated back to general service by the L&N.

Though it took a few evenings worth of kit-bashing and research, these efforts are what make the hobby rewarding for me. As the price of RTR models continue to climb, I hope more modellers come to discover these old kits from the ‘80s. There is real value to be found here, and you don’t need to dig too deep to uncover them at any train show.