September Operating Session: Saturday Sept 8, 2018

Extra 8798 West

Extra 8798 West rolls through Sudbury Yard on the WRMRC’s CP Sudbury Division layout.

A reminder that the next regularly scheduled WRMRC operating session will be held on Saturday 8 September 2018, from 12:00 to 6:00PM.

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 upcoming club events, see the calendar page.

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.

Louisville-Nashville-40-PS-1-Box-Car-No

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.

L&Nbox_paintshop

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.

 

The Saga of the Bellequip Geeps

Part 2 of That ’70s Rent-a-Wreck Fleet

The story begins in the early 1950s, as Iron Ore of Canada was nearing completion of their Quebec North Shore & Labrador Railway between Sept-Iles and Schefferville QC. This was a massive project, with a mainline consisting of two full operating subdivisions running a total length of 357 miles (over 200 of which were inside Labrador), and all of it located in the harsh and desolate landscape of Labrador and the Quebec north shore. The railway was completely isolated from the North American rail network, requiring all their locomotives and rolling stock to be shipped by lake freighters down the St. Lawrence River to Sept-Iles QC. The QNS&L locomotive roster began with a fleet of GMD-London built ‘Geeps’, specifically 24 model GP7 units (road numbers 100 to 123), and 54 model GP9 locos (road numbers 124 to 177), all delivered between 1953 and 1960.

BQ_118b

Bellequip #118 (ex-QNSL GMD GP7 – blt 1953) sporting neatly patched CP Rail-style Helvetica bold/italic font at Smiths Fall ON on 20 Oct 1971. Bruce Chapman photo.

On an interesting side-note, the paint scheme the QNS&L selected their new diesels to wear came straight from the EMD styling design scrapbook. While that in itself is not unusual (several railroads chose GM designed schemes) they selected the same one chosen by the New York, Ontario & Western RR over a decade earlier. For anyone unfamiliar with the NYO&W, they operated through the Catskill mountains of New York state while avoiding any sizable towns along the way; and thus unsurprisingly became bankrupt during the 1930s, and fully liquidated by 1957. The ‘O&W’ dieselized early hoping the cost savings could help their railroad, and as a result they never rostered anything newer than their final 1948 purchase of a couple of F3A/B sets. So for any NYO&W fans who might be reading this, if you ever wondered what an ‘O&W’ Geep would look like, you should check out old photos of QNS&L GP7/9s.

PNC_177

PNC 177 (ex-Bellequip, nee-QNSL 177) was the last GP9 received by the Quebec North Shore & Labrador Rly in May 1960. It is seen here by the Medicine Hat AB roundhouse along with CP GP7 8421 on 18 May 1974. Bruce Chapman photo.

Actually the QNS&L was not the only Canadian railway to select a GM pre-designed diesel scheme worn by a US railroad. The Algoma Central selected the Delaware Lackawanna & Western (Lackawanna Road) passenger scheme for their locomotive fleet. But unlike the ACR who kept their Lackawanna colours until the end, the QNS&L dropped their attractive NYO&W colours for a bland dip gray with yellow end-stripes scheme in the mid ‘60s.

PNC_108

PNC GP7 #108 (ex-Bellequip, nee-QNSL 108) is an example of the QNS&L’s 1960s repaint dip-gray scheme. CP Rail’s patching efforts on these was never pretty. Unit is seen at Alyth yard (Calgary AB) on 12 May 1973. Bruce Chapman photo

The Quebec, North Shore & Labrador is hard on its locomotives. After all they are an isolated railway that operates heavy ore trains over rugged terrain through extreme weather conditions. So the QNSL Geep-fleet started to be retired early, once the company began purchasing large numbers of SD40/SD40-2 locomotives to replace them.

Initially the QNS&L sold 17 GP7 units and 14 GP9 units to Canadian Bellequip Ltd of Montreal in September 1971. If you had never heard of Bellequip, you are not alone. They were a short-lived Canadian locomotive leasing company who only lasted between 1971-72. The rumour back then among CP employees was that Bellequip was started by some CP directors to see if leasing locomotives made money, but this was never confirmed.

PNC118_Alyth_9Sept1975

PNC 118 with more hastily patched lettering (see photo of Belllequip 118 above) is seen here stored at Alyth yard (Calgary AB) on 09 Sept 1975. Photographer unknown

All ex-QNSL Geeps were loaded onto lake freighters for their one-way trip to Montreal, and of these most were immediately leased to the perennially powershort CPR. Once they arrived on CP property they were all cycled through St Luc shops, where their QNS&L markings were removed and replaced with ‘Bellequip’ lettering and road numbers in a black Helvetica bold/italic lettering font, the same used by then new CP Rail. While the dip gray ‘60s repaints did not look so great with the patched Bellequip lettering, the units still wearing the original NYO&W-inspired scheme seemed to be treated better, as most were carefully patched to mesh with their original paint jobs.

On February 29, 1972, established US locomotive dealer Precision National Corp purchased the entire fledgling Bellequip locomotive fleet, and these Geeps changed hands yet again. As before they were cycled through the CPR’s shops, but this time more brutally patched with new PNC lettering. In June 1972 a further 3 GP7’s and 17 GP9’s were sold to PNC with some leased to CP and 15 to CN. Eventually the 15 units leased to CN also wound up on CP Rail by November of 1972.

PNC122_Squamish BC 4-26-75

PNC 122 at Squamish BC on 26 April 1975. The 122 was one of a few ex-QNSLs be leased short-term by the British Columbia Rly in 1975. Photographer unknown

For the record, the 24 original Bellequip units on CP Rail (as of 01Nov71) were ex-QNSL – BQ (Bellequip) #’s:- 100 104 108 110 111 112 113 114 118 121 122 123 124 126 127 130 135 142 148 150 152 158 162 166.

By January 1973, when the CN leased units were added to the now PNC (ex-BQ) fleet, the 36 ex-QNSL units on CP Rail were #’s:- 100 104 108 110 111 112 113 114 116 118 120 121 122 123 124 126 127 130 132 135 137 138 142 143 144 145 148 150 152 158 162 164 166 170 171 177.

There is some discrepancy to whether QNSL GP7 #117 was ever within the PNC fleet. Bruce Chapman records it was leased in June 1974 (from his personal records when working for CP’s power bureau at the time) but this was never listed in a published all-time list in Extra2200South. This also would incorrectly put 46 PNC geeps on lease to CP Rail between 1973-74 when records only show 45. It is possible that the 117 was planned to be part of the fleet, but ended up becoming a parts source instead.

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

PNC’s other non-QNSL leased units on the property were GP7s 969, 970 and 971 (ex-Detroit, Toledo & Ironton), GP7s 1505, 1506 & 1507 (ex-Florida East Coast) along with GP10s 3419, 3445 and 3634. These final three were ICG Paducah-shops rebuild units that were refurbished specifically for Precision National, and they wore the full PNC green/yellow paint scheme.

Following the QNS&L’s lead, by 1975 the CPR had purchased over 200 new SD40-2 locomotives from GMD of London. With all these new units, an economical slowdown, and decreased grain shipments to the USSR and China; they began to return all their leased units. CP Rail also retired a large number of older units over 1975, including the entire fleet of CLC and Baldwin built units, in addition to storing all MLW FA- and FB- locos, and a good number of RS-3 and -10 diesels.

cnw4352

Chicago & North Western #4352 at Oelwein IA in 1976. Unit was ex-PNC, exx-BQ, nee-QNSL 145 (GMD GP9 blt 1955). Jim Sands photo

By April 1975 all the PNC units went off-lease and were either stored at St Luc or Alyth yards, or returned to Precision National. Several of the tied-up ex-QNSL units went on a short-term lease on the British Columbia Railway for a few months in 1975. After they all returned from lease, PNC sold most of these units to the C&NW and ICG. Many of these units went on to various regional and shortline railroads in the US through the 1990s and 2000s. In fact there are still a handful of ICG-rebuilt GP10s of QNS&L heritage still active as industrial switchers. So the saga of the Bellequip Geeps has yet to finish completely.

Junk Night – Nuit de Junque

This past Saturday, the WRMRC marked an annual tradition that dates back to times before the formal creation of the club. Our infamous ‘Junk Night’ operating session.

Junque_20180512_125202

Engineer R.Bosma carefully backs a cut of Toronto-bound cars into the interchange track at Romford ON. Locos for this Junk Night edition of the North Bay Turn are a CN GMD-1 / SD40-2W motive power duo.

It is much better described as a non ’70s CP session, where our usual Sudbury Division trains are powered by whatever locomotives our members wish to showcase. Railway, era, prototype or totally fictional; for one day none of that matters.

Many have asked us how we came up with the name. After all, none of the motive power is ‘junk.’ All are high-quality models.

Well, there is a bit of history to it.

Junque_20180512_161950

A fictional MR&T widecab GE Dash-8 leads two Conrail GP40s on a Junk Night edition of CP train 921 near Sprecher ON.

Like many model train clubs, the WRMRC was born from a private home layout. That owner (and founding president) had a large pike depicting the CP MacTier Subdivision, forged from his memories of cottage country in the 1960s. As the MacTier Sub motive power fleet was being improved, earlier locomotives purchased to get the layout up-and-running had been retired. These were mostly old ’70s-era models, mainly Athearn ‘blue box’ and Atlas ‘yellow box’ locos painted for various US railroads. So in the middle of a regular CP MacTier Sub operating session, he once quipped that we should hold a session where we break out all this “old junk power.” And from that our junk night sessions were born.

Junque_20180512_133840

WRMRC member S. Lyons brought out his lovingly rebuilt brass model of CN J-4-e #5126 (4-6-2 MLW-built ‘Pacific’) to fill the duties of the Sudbury east yard switcher. Models like this are what cause some to question our ‘Junk Night’ moniker. Now you know the full story.

It should also be noted these sessions had been held on Saturday evenings in the past. This explains the ‘night’ part in Junk Night, as we’ve switched to afternoon-held operating sessions for a number of years now. Finally, the traditional day for Junk Night was always the operating session that fell closest to April Fools Day. With the WRMRC eliminating April sessions in recent years, this now applies to our May operating date.

Junque_20180512_162403

No, this train did not take a wrong turn at St Thomas. Baltimore & Ohio power finds its way to Sudbury on this Junk Night operating session.

Junk Night has always been a big hit at the WRMRC. It often morphs into a show-and-tell session, with members often displaying their models in various stages of completion, sometimes even in different scales. So if you ever visit the layout for our May operating session, don’t be surprised if you spot an Erie Lackawanna SDP45 leading one of our trains. It’s not leased power, and it’s not a detour; it’s ‘Junk Night.’

Doubleheaders Layout Tour – Saturday 24 March 2018

This coming Saturday March 24, 2018, the WRMRC layout will be open to the public as part of the annual Kitchener-Waterloo-Cambridge-Guelph area model railway layout tour organized by the Doubleheaders Model Railway Club .100_2860

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.

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

 

WRMRC at the Kitchener Train Show – Sun 18 March 2018

The Waterloo Region Model Railway Club will have a display at the upcoming Kitchener Model Train Show being held next weekend on Sunday March 18th, 2018.

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 Ontario Train Show website, and on this Facebook page. The show features many vendors, displays, several operating layouts, and memorabilia.

TrainShow2016

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.

Old Soldiers

CP_8448

CP # 8448 leads the Espanola Turn through Nairn Ont. in the summer of 1973. In reality; this is a Van Hobbies brass model rebuilt with a Kato RS-3 drive. It is equipped with an ESU LokSound decoder with a 12-cylinder 244 diesel sound file.

Years after most other major North American railways purged their rosters of 244-powered ALCO diesels, CP Rail continued to employ a good-sized fleet of them throughout the ‘70s. Mainly due to chronic motive power shortages, and maybe a little by their corporate desire to milk locomotives for every mile they could to ensure their return on investment; the CPR would continue to operate 244-powered units until 1982.

In this light we find a pair of old soldiers in charge of the Espanola Turn on the CP Webbwood Sub, continuing to battle friction and gravity in defiance of the scrapper’s torch.

CP #8448, built by MLW in 1954, is noteworthy for being the second-last RS-3 to wear maroon and gray paint. She would eventually receive a new coat of Action Red in 1975, only to be retired the following year due to a major mechanical failure.

RS-10 #8464 fared a little better. Rolling out of MLW later the same year as sister #8448, she would persevere to the end of the decade. It should be noted that regardless of the differences in exterior appearance, the RS-10 is mechanically the same as an RS-3.

The model 244-diesel prime mover may have been plagued with reliability issues and earned a notorious reputation as a maintenance hog, but they endure at the time-warp known at the WRMRC – CP Sudbury Division layout. Here the 1970s never ended, and the burbling sounds of 244 diesels continue to echo throughout the Sudbury Basin.

Napanee Industries CP Flatcars

Tips for improving the Wheels of Time model

CP 315122

CP 315122 is a Wheels Of Time flatcar model with new decals added to represent an early ’70s CP Rail repaint, identified by the black capacity data lettering. The ACI label and 2-panel COTS stencil also set the era.

Flatcars are probably the most under-appreciated pieces of rolling stock in the world of railway modelling. Due to their being, well, ‘flat’, they appear very simple and lack the visual impact of a boxcar or covered hopper. But they are actually among the most specialized cars around, possibly second only to tank cars. This under-appreciation is likely why we still need more flatcar variety in model production. Fortunately the various manufactures are helping and have released a number of great new models over the past few years; the ExactRail 53ft GSC, Tangent 60ft GSC and Intermountain 70ton AAR cars just to name three.

Now we can add Wheels of Time to this list with their arrival on the HO scene. The company is not new; they’ve been producing fine quality N-gauge products for a number of years now. However they recently branched into HO scale with a 70ton Gunderson flatcar in both standard and bulkhead versions.

These Wheel of Time flatcars are excellent models. They come with metal grab irons, coupler lift bars, air hoses and #58 Kadee couplers housed in scale draft gear (nice touch). Additionally they come with ASF ride-control trucks equipped with free-rolling metal wheel sets.

This model is a boon for modern modellers (‘70s to present) in general, and a pretty big deal for us on the CP Rail Sudbury Division. Though it is a US prototype car and CP never purchased any Gunderson flats, the model does bear a very strong resemblance to the Napanee Industries 61ft flatcar.

CP 315097

CP 315097 – a Napanee car still wearing its as-delivered basic black scheme at Campbellville, ON on 28 March 2008. Photo by Chris vanderHeide – courtesy canadianfreightcargallery.ca

CP purchased 135 of these cars from Napanee Industries in 1967, numbered CP 315000-315134. All were delivered in the then current black scheme utilizing a larger font for the reporting marks and road name.  However, somewhat surprisingly, close to half the fleet was repainted into CP Rail Action Red by the mid ‘80s, allowing modellers more paint variety. The fleet is still in service today with only a few cars retired, though delivery-black cars are few and far between.

cp 315025

CP 315025 – Though missing an ACI label and sporting a more modern tri-panel COTS stencil, this is an example of an early 1970s repaint as identified by its black (barely legible) capacity data. Photo taken in Woodstock ON by David Graham on 25 March 2007 – courtesy canadianfreightcargallery.ca

The dimensions and details of the WOT model are very close to the Napanee car. The overall length of the model measures one (1) scale foot longer than the prototype, which comes to a little over 3 real millimeters. This a minor discrepancy; for more importantly the deck style, fishbelly profile and the flange running along the bottom of the car all match up well against the prototype. For the rivet-counters among us, the more serious inaccuracies between the two are in the stake pockets.

To begin, there are 18 side pockets on the Napanee car versus 19 on the Gunderson / WOT model. I personally consider this a minor issue, because with that many of them who really has the time to stop and count during an operating session?

The more significant difference is the Napanee car has 8 end-pockets (4 per end) where as the Gunderson / WOT model has none. This is not easy to spot as most photographers shoot these cars trackside, but from any elevated photo you can see these end-pockets. One simple way to simulate these would be to use decals. These pockets appear as little more than small black squares on the deck, and unless you stare down at one on a 90 degree angle, a decal would be a clever way to represent these.

Regardless of the inaccuracies, this is a most welcome car for CP modellers. As new accurate rolling stock models keep being released for Canadian modellers, flatcars were a glaring omission. Hopefully this model is a beginning towards rectifying the situation.

Flat001

This is an unmodified model straight from the box. A few extra decals, weathering, and most especially a repainted deck will make this car really stand out.

Though out of the box these cars look great, with some work you can transform these into stand out models. One can begin by adding additional decals, as I find the models a bit Spartan lettering-wise. That, and our club models the ‘70s decade, so adding ACI labels and appropriate era COTS stencils are musts.

Extra lettering helps, but the biggest improvements comes from re-painting the deck and weathering the car. Wheels of Time painted their decks a greenish brown colour, whereas the lumber weathers to gray on any prototype car I’ve seen. This deck is molded in place, so replacing with laser-cut lumber is not an option.

Flat002

CP 315014 is a factory lettered car with extra decals added. The deck has been hand painted with PollyScale ‘New Gravel Gray’ before weathering is applied.

I begin by hand painting the deck with PollyScale ‘New Gravel Gray’, though any light gray will do. Paint evenly brushing from side-to-side, and continue from one end of the car to the other. If you brush lightly and carefully, you can avoid getting paint on the metal ends of the deck. If you accidentally do, thanks to the deck being raised it’s easy enough to touch these up with Action Red afterwards. Testors has discontinued PollyScale brand paints recently, which is unfortunate as it was almost as wonderful for brush painting as it was for airbrushing. Without thinning and despite taking any extra care, the paint dries flat with no brush strokes. In this case, brush strokes could actually help give the deck a wood grain look. Regardless, with PollyScale’s demise, I recommend any decent acrylic paint for this.

Flat003

Deck weathering on CP 315014 has begun utilizing AIM weathering powders.

After painting, I go over the deck with AIM weathering powders using three colours; grimy black, dark earth, and dark rust. Vary the powders board by board and have fun mixing. You end up with a very convincing deck in no time, and the powders really help the details stand out. The convenience of weathering powders is you can wash them off with water if you don’t like the result, and then try again.

Flat004

Mixing different coloured powders adds realism towards achieving the weathered lumber look.

I finish by weathering the body of the car itself, again mainly with the powders. Here one can use rust colours running down the car to mimic oxidization, and extra dirt where it naturally collects around the trucks. I highly recommend studying real flatcar photos to replicate these patterns.

Next I airbrush some grime on the underbody of the car, and most importantly spray the trucks in order to weather them. The best weathering jobs are thoroughly unconvincing if the trucks are left Delrin-plastic black with shiny metal wheels. Finally I airbrush the entire car with a clear flat coat in order to protect the weathering and extra decals.

Flat005

Weathering the deck really brings out the detail. Click to enlarge.

The first few finished Napanee flatcars have entered revenue service on the WRMRC layout; hauling steel slabs, gas pipelines, farm equipment and numerous other lading across the Sudbury Division. Future additions will see some of these models repainted into the basic black delivery scheme.

We wish Wheels Of Time great success with this car, and we thank them for helping out Canadian modellers.

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.