Now Available in Paperback

I’ve just published the story of Canada Atlantic Number 10, my first scratchbuilt locomotive on Blurb. This is a compilation of progress emails I sent to a couple of email lists over the course of four years as I was completing the model. I got my own copy, and I must say, I quite like having this memento of the construction process. While the web page is always good for shock factor when someone starts to ask me about my hobby, there is something about seeing your words and photos in print that makes you feel accomplished.

I’m going to bring the locomotive and the book with me to Sacremento next week, and if you’re there, you’ll find them in either the big display or in the RPM room. More likely it will be the latter, where you’ll also find me on Wednesday and Thursday and whatever part of Friday I spend there instead of at the train show.

Clerestory Lights Installed

I’m not overly excited about them, except to say that they’re finally done, per the plan.

The windows in the clerestory are framed deeply for some reason, and the openings were screened over. The only screen material I ever saw that was convincing was some that my friend Brian Pate salvaged from an old anti-glare screen for a computer. And, I don’t know how I would have cut so many little rectangles of that stuff. Perhaps I could have etched them, but I doubt I could have got them fine enough to be convincing.

In the end, I printed some clear blocks that are shaped to fit in the holes, and scratched the suggestion of a screen on the fronts of the blocks. It’s not bad, but it’s not good either. Maybe on the next car I do, I’ll come up with a better alternative. Here are the blocks before installation

You’ll also notice that I’ve fixed the lining. The new lining is done with a coloured pencil. It reminds me of the tale of the first space pen that Nasa spent countless dollars developing; the Russians sent their cosmonauts up with pencils. Anyway, the pencil is very easy to control, and makes about as fine a line as I could want. I was even able to reproduce a little filigree in the corners.


Well, the lettering turned out quite nicely, but who let me near this model with that awful Sharpie gold paint pen? The practice runs looked good, but when I went to line the model itself, there was no way I could get anything nearly fine enough. The air turned blue as I tried to salvage it, but the more I did the worse it got. It’s definitely a repaint.

End railings etc

Here also are the end details. The railings are made by sandwiching the uprights between the top rail, and squeezing it all together. Then I filled them in with solder and filed to shape to make a railing that was round where it was vertical and flat where it was horizontal. The chains are an etching from Athabasca Scale models. I’ve always felt that the real chains are too heavy for most HO applications. Certainly on end railings, they are too coarse. These neat etchings solve the problem elegantly.

Lettering Arrived

For some reason, it’s always exciting to see the lettering for a model. Now I know I’m in the home stretch, and I can’t wait to see it on.

For all my Canada Altantic models thus far, I’ve asked All-Out Graphics to create custom dry transfers for me. It’s a bit pricey on a per-sheet basis, and so, I always squeeze as many cars as I can out of a single sheet. So, while a single sheet including negative came out to $55 for gold, I fit four passenger cars worth of sets on that sheet, which brings it down to 11 per car, and that’s not that bad considering it’s custom.

I like dry transfers because there’s no messing with decal film. Loads of people complain that they don’t like the one-shot deal, but I’ve never found that to be a problem. To apply the transfers, I always lay them out and tape them down first. Once they’re taped in place, and I’m happy with the positioning, I rub them down for good. I find it’s important to cut them straight to avoid any optical illusions.

Sure, in my youth I had to pull some up (they come off easily with tape as long as you don’t burnish them down with the backing paper), but mostly I find this method of applying dry transfers works for me. There, now I’ve probably jinxed it.

I’ll post once the car is lettered.

Goodbye to Pembroke I

I am often asked if I have a layout, and I’m always cagey about it. Technically, you could say I have a layout. This is the layout I described back in Model Railroad Planning 1999 (at least I think it was 99). Most of the photos in that article were of a little diorama I created, though, and there are few photos published of the actual layout. Here is the long, sad story of my first model of Pembroke, which never got off the ground.

In about 1996, I proposed an article on planning for Proto87 in Model Railroad Planning. The editor didn’t see the angle at first, but after a few drafts, I convinced him. Then, I decided to move to England in the summer of 1997. So, I decided I would get as much as I could done before we went so I could take some photos that highlighted it.

Through the spring, I worked feverishly on finishing some of the layout, any part of the layout, finally concentrating on the area around the crossover. Then I was ready to take pictures, but the weather wasn’t cooperative. I got some halogen flood lights because I didn’t want to plump for expensive photo floods, and attempted the photos with those. I also shot a role outside at dawn on one of the only nice days we got. Unfortunately I swapped the rolls of film (you remember rolls of film, right?) and wound up with one set that was totally yellow and another that was totally blue.

It was too late to shoot again, I was moving across the ocean in a matter of days, and the layout was already in storage under my friend Scott Calvert’s layout. So, I resolved to build a little diorama that would serve for the article once I got to England.

Pembroke looking south

So the layout sat under Scott’s layout for four years while we traveled around Europe and suffered in Henley on Thames. While we were there, some things happened. The first one was an encounter with Bruce Pappin, who had the first photos I’d actually seen of the townsite. Up until now I had been working from fire insurance plans, and some assumptions. Nothing like building a model to make a photo of the real thing show up, I always say.

In Bruce’s photos, you can clearly see that I got the level of the river completely wrong, and the gound around the station is not right either. Both of these are difficult to change, especially the river as it holds the fascia to the curve at which it is bent.

The second thing that happened is that one of the stock rails came loose. This shouldn’t have been such a big deal, but it was soldered to studs that were in turn soldered to PC board under the ballast. I can’t see how I can mend this without making a cold joint inside the ballast or lifting the ballast. That method of track laying was, it turns out, not especially good.

Frog detail

I could fix everything, but there comes a time when the list of things to fix is so long, it’s just easier to start over, and I think I’m there now. Certainly the fact that the layout sat for almost eight – count ’em – years partially set up in our current basement indicates that there is something seriously wrong.

So, I’m starting over. This is the year that we renovate the basement and make it a comfortable place for making trains and for the kids to play. Time will tell how these two activities mix.

Passenger Car

So here is the Turkish Rouge passenger car. Of course, the colour is impossible to get right, and with pretty much every monitor I see it on it is a different colour. It also shifts substantially depending on the artificial light. Overall, it was all a bit silly to go to such lengths to obtain the right colour based on a newspaper account. But here we are, the standard colour for my Canada Atlantic passenger coaches is now going to be NYC Pacemaker Red from Polly Scale.

I’m quite pleased with the way it has turned out thus far. Not much more to complete, except the lettering, of course!

The Search for Turkish Rouge

No sooner had I declared that the cosmetics industry couldn’t be counted on for historical accuracy, than I thought to myself that while that might be true of the industry itself, there are probably people out there who are interested in the historical accuracy of their cosmetics. After all, there is a slew of historical movies made every year, and I’m sure those makeup artists take their work very seriously. So, I set out to find such people.

It didn’t take long to come across the very friendly and helpful people on the EarlyPerfume Yahoo group. They not only knew what Turkish Rouge is, but how to make it (three different recipes!) and one of them even sold me a small packet of the key ingredient, Alkanet. Now, alkanet is the root of a plant, commonly known as Dyer’s Bugloss, and I’m pretty sure it hasn’t changed its root colour too much in the past 100 or so years.

So, all I had to do was to make some Turkish Rouge and then try to match it in paint. At the start, the root gave a very pretty pink colour, which I refuse to apply to any model I ever build. However, after a day, it’s now getting quite intensely red. By varying the depth of the container, I can get colours from the jolly pinky red shown here to a deep carmine and ultimately black.

There was an alarming shift from the orange side of red toward cerise when I brought it out of the halogen lights in the kitchen and into the daylight fluorescent down here in the train room. I see it has shifted again with the camera and my monitor. Meanwhile, the paint chips didn’t move nearly as much.

Oh what to do? And all this is because some reporter back in the late 19th Century chose “turkish rouge” to describe a new engine colour. We all know how reliable those chaps were. What if he was colour blind?