Friday, November 4, 2016

See you in 2017.....

Apologies for those checking in to see how things are progressing on the Harte Siding a word...nothing.  :(

Since September (well more correctly since last April), we have been adding an addition onto our house and doing some remodelling on the existing house. Along with all the other regular property ownership duties, grass, garden , flower beds and just general day to day living stuff, there has been precious little time for model railroads.

We are now at the end of the first week in November and my schedule doesn't show any real slow down till the New Year. With that said I don't see any time or monies available for the Harte Siding till then.

Check back in the New Year and we'll see if I've made any progress. In the mean time have fun with your railroads and I will live vicariously thru your model railroading fun.


Monday, September 19, 2016

Another Layout Design Tweak......

OK....the benchwork is now completed and with that brings the final update to the track plan. Or at least the mainline branch, including the swinging gate to complete the "around the walls" continuous run.

Benchwork as completed looking from south to north.

Benchwork looking from north to south.

Just finished up the swinging gate, very similar to the one model railroader did on their video series, "Rehab My Railroad" on Chuck Sable's layout. The plywood tops are all on, legs braced and squared up..

The 'dock' where the swinging gate locks into.

The swinging gate in the down position.

Swinging gate in the 'ready mode' for running trains.

Now I can turn my attention to transferring some sort of track plan to the plywood. At this point I will most likely be running a single line around the room, passing thru the scenery only once. There will be various small towns/whistle stops along the route...including Harte Siding/Charleswood, Sanford, Brunkild, Sperling and possibly Carman.

The peninsula will be designed around either a cement plant or potash plant. This will be down the road aways though. For now, my main priority will be to get the circuit around the walls done and start running some trains.   :)

Also have a few model kits in the works, still in box. All three will be kit bashed and modified to a lesser or greater degree so as to fit the parameters of my layout. They will not be built as per stated names on the box cover. As Tony Koester liked to say, "There is another model hidden in the box"

A few kits to start.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Mining The Ballast Quarry

So it looks like I will now have well over 140 feet of main line track, not counting yards and spurs and sidings and what have you's....hmmmm.....and have you priced out Woodland Scenics ballast these days? Or any similar manufactured ballast?  Wow...going to cost me an arm and a half a leg to ballast what I have (or will have)... and to to top it all off, Fred from Warehouse Hobbies says it way too big for anything prototypical.  Ok...what to do?

Harte Siding.

On one of many trips to visit the master (Fred)...on the subject of ballast I was offered an alternative solution.  Fred points out the window in the general direction of the road and curb in particular and says.."There, it's free and you can have all you want. "

Of course what Fred was pointing to was all the curbside sand and gravel from a winters worth of sanding and salting from the City of Winnipeg. He asked what I was modelling and he said that stuff would be perfect, as well as a healthy heaping pail of sand from Grand Beach.

The sand (ballast) pile.

Why buy the pre packaged stuff, when you can get your own for free and sized the way you want? Don't have to ask me twice, I'm in.

Some initial screenings.

Over the summer months I have been mining the "quarry" for various shades of ballast. And so far, it's all free. Just a little work on my part in the great what's not to like?
I have some sand that was leftover from a concrete project. Very much like play box sand in consistency and colour.  Also from a leftover project was some road gravel...yep..that will work.
My kids live in the city and low and behold there was some sand/gravel from snow removal days kicking around. Yes...a couple of shovels of that please.

A little finer still.

A few different sizes of window screens and a little sifting and I had exactly the colour and texture of "ballast" that I required for my layout. Because I am modelling older rail lines and sidings...the ballast I required was very light in colour and small stone size....think CEMR rail line between Winnipeg and Sanford, Mb. No granite there, looks very much like roadside gravel.

Different colour shadings of ballast.

The only caveat here, being that you should sterilize the ballast prior to putting it on the layout. Fred recommends placing a thin layer on a cookie sheet and heating in a 225 F oven for 20 minutes and that should kill any little critters that may want to take up residence on the railroad layout.  We have a two ovens at our place and 3 racks in each. Loading up 6 cookie sheets at a time gets the sterilizing done in jig time.

The leftovers from the screening..should be able to use this somewhere on the layout.

So there you go....the colour and size of ballast that I require, and for the most part free. Beats the commercial stuff in price and quality. If you need some, grab it soon before freeze up and snowfall.

Monday, September 12, 2016

New Track Plan

Wow, what a beautiful change in the weather. Todays high was 14C.  My kind of weather. Now maybe I can return to the stratosphere of the barn loft and continue with some model railroad tinkering.

One change that I made over the last few weeks was to upgrade the electrical service coming out to the shop. I needed to install some more circuits around the shop for various tools and was running out of power and breaker space. We now have 200 amp dedicated service to the shop, not split off from the house as it was in the past. Manitoba Hydro had a special deal for customers if you upgraded from 200 to 400 amp service. Basically the increased service power was a minimal cost to me, of course you pay a little extra per month going from 200 to 400 service, but this now gives me oodles of power for my intended uses. And now I can run some more circuits upstairs for lighting etc etc. in the railroad room.  :)

New 400 amp, power distribution centre.
Been going back and forth over track plans and what not. This latest incarnation will incorporate continuous  as well as utilizing a lift out or swing down.

Latest sketch of benchwork footprint.

I guess at some point you have to call it good and start building some benchwork or this thing will never get off the ground. Must have studied a bazillion different track plans and read about all the pros and cons of the myriad layouts. Initially I wanted nothing to do with a lift out or swing away or whatever you want to call them. But because my entry to the room is from outside the layout, as opposed to stairs coming up the middle, the only feasible way to achieve continuous running using the full parameters of the room was to go with a lift out.

Probably 75 percent of the benchwork was cobbled together last season and another day with the woodworking tools should have the benchwork done and braced.

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Roster Update.

Just received a couple of TLT PSC cabooses, CEMR road name from Credit Valley to add to the fleet. They look good next to the Intermountain SD40-2W CEMR locomotives.

Cando CEMR

Here is the complete loco roster as of this writing.

All motive power thus far. ( more to come).

From left to right and top to bottom.

Rapido GMD-1  CN # 1121
Rapido GMD-1  CN #1027
Proto 2000 SW 8/900   CNR # 7151
Athearn Genesis GP38-2W  CN #4775
Intermountain SD40-2W  CEMR # 5311 (x2)..road #'s to be changed in the future on doubles.

All equipped with DCC and sound.

Seems like it's been a long hot summer. Bleh. Summer is not my favourite season. Can't do much outside when the humidex is in the stratosphere and can't work on the model railroad cause it's doubly hot up in the loft.  Fall can't come soon enough  :) .

We likes winter.

Now we're talking....bring it on.

Monday, June 6, 2016


After reading and studying Lance Mindheim's thoughts on shelf and switching layouts, I have cobbled together a hybrid benchwork of sorts. Incorporating a partial shelf layout and a freestanding peninsula. The Harte Siding layout resides in the hayloft of an old barn, now converted into a workshop. There is still some back and forth about final layout size, but at present it has an 18' x 46' footprint, incorporating a basic point to point railroad.

I have used SPF 1x4's, as straight as I can find, and then topping the open grid benchwork with 1/2" plywood.  The open grid work is on 16" centres, glued and screwed with deck type screws.  I have built it in a semi modular fashion, in 3 sections, that will allow for future expansion as desired.

There is some discussion on the optimum height for the benchwork. Normal table top or counter height of 32" or so involves too much bending over, (back killer), and gives too much of a helicopter view of the layout.  Closer to eye level is better for viewing, but too high and all but the tallest folks can't see it and makes for working on the layout almost as bad as too low. With all this in mind, I opted for a 48" to 50" height, depending on how much relief the scenery will have. Although flatland Manitoba, particularly Harte siding in Charleswood is table top flat.

The bench legs were cut from 1x6's, ripped in half length wise and 48" long. The two halves were then laminated together with glue and air nailed with 2" brad nails.  I then bolted the legs to the 1x4 frame work with 5/16" carriage bolts, for easy removal or adjustment. After I had installed the legs I got to toying with the idea of using T nuts on the bottom of the legs for minor adjustments. But that thought ended up being one of those, "close the barn door after the horses are out", thoughts. Didn't happen. Maybe later. Which of course brings to mind another truism...."There's never enough time to do it right the first time, but always enough time to do it over!"

1"x4" cross bracing for leg stability.

Attachment point for laminated legs, with carriage bolts.

I then installed some 1/4" panelling ripped to 7" in width for the fascia, attaching same with some 3/4" pan head screws. Once I paint over the screw heads they will hardly be noticeable. And with the screw attachment I can always remove the fascia to access the leg bolts or other under benchwork stuff. However with the 48" sub roadbed height, that still leaves plenty of room to work under said layout.
 Then paint same with a darker colour, possibly medium to dark green, so eye attention is focused on the layout and not the substructure and bench legs.

1/4"x7" fascia installed with 3/4"pan head screws.

Another point regarding the fascia. I left a 3/4" lip above the plywood bench top. Some of the scenery and ground work may end up tapering into the fascia, but the other reason for mounting it high was to give an uncomfortable edge in case some folks feel they want to lean or rest on it. Found that little tidbit on one of the model railroad forums. Good thinking. Don't need folks using the layout as a convenient spot to rest their arms.

Probably not a whole lot will be accomplished in the next couple of months, due to other summertime commitments. Once September rolls around, along with the cooler weather, I shall be moving ahead full throttle with track work.

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Spray Booth

One of the small mini projects I cobbled together over the winter was a small, semi portable paint spray booth for painting structures and rolling stock, and whatever else happened to fit inside.

Again I went searching the net and found one design in particular that appeared would suit my needs and budget. My budget this time around was pretty close to zero (had to save a few dollars for groceries), so with that in mind I went scrounging. With what materials I had on hand in the recycling bin, I came up with this.

Argh, the cats have to get into everything.

Built this with extra stuff on

It's a basic 1/2" plywood box, with approx. measurements of 29" wide, 20" in height, and 32" deep at the bottom and 23" deep at the top. An old sealed glass window pane taped to the top, and for a fan I used a 2 speed downdraft fan motor from an old stove., with suitable galvanized ducting to match. And a furnace filter mounted inside in a slide in frame. That's it, simple as she comes.

I've used it minimally thus far and it seems to function as intended. Not such a big deal with water based and acrylic paints, but the solvent based rattle can odours, kinda get to you after awhile and they hang around forever while the painted part dries. Not to mention it's not too good for your lungs or brain cells as an aside.

2 speed downdraft stove fan.

Top view showing filter (sorry bout the fluorescent lines).

Front view, there is ability to hang parts from the glass top if desired.

There were also a few disclaimers mentioned in most of the articles from the net. One being the volatility of the paint fumes possibly exploding after being drawn out of the box and thru the fan, with brush type motors giving off sparks. Also worth noting the fume volatility levels would need to be extreme for this to happen, and unlikely to in this paint booth apparatus. Just turn the fan on before starting to spray and your good to go. Not even a remote concern for me.

The other main concern was the length or run of exhaust pipe to the great outdoors. Place the fan motor as close to the spray booth as possible. I managed to get the motor fan housing right at the back of the box. I seem to recall there was a figure thrown about, like maximum 15 feet of exhaust pipe from the spray booth and as few turns (elbows) as practical. The amount of galvanized duct work you see in the photo is my full run. It goes out of the building right where you see the pipe supported by the plywood.

Thursday, May 5, 2016


Moving on from the "where" to place the layout, I next had to consider scale, time frame and size.

The scale issue was pretty much a no brainer for me. With my challenged senior eyesight  Z and N scale were right off the map. Don't have the room for O or G scale, so by default that lands me at the doorstep of HO scale.  The size is doable. I can still read most of the lettering on the sides of rolling stock, save for the really miniature stuff. With this scale there is probably the most selection out there, be it locomotives. rolling stock, structures, you name it.
Speaking of HO scale locomotives, here are a few of mine that I picked up awhile back, the detail is amazing. The Athern Genesis GP38-2w and Rapido GMD-1, both with DCC/sound. They weren't like that 40 years ago that's for sure. All locos have DCC/sound, there are no other options..period.
I have an RDC and another GMD-1 on order from Rapido.

Athern Genesis GP38-2w #4775.

Rapido GMD-1 # 1121.
I have a real soft spot for switchers.

Intermountain SD-40

 Proto 2000

The time frame chosen will be  mid 70's to late 90's. using the CNR and CEMR. It's what I grew up with and most familiar. So whatever CN and CEMR ran in that time period will be fair game for the Harte Siding. Doesn't matter when it was actually manufactured, so long as it was running in that time period, good enough for me.

As far as DCC w/sound, or DCC or DC.  I like the ability to be able to control 2 or more trains on the same track, and not have to worry about section blocks and all the nightmare of wiring that goes along with DC control. And sound just adds to the atmosphere.
 Advice from many long time master modellers....don't cheap out on locomotives. Buy the best there is at the time, and Athern Genesis and Rapido are right up there, but not cheap.

What size to build the layout?  Most advice I received was to build small to medium size first time around. With a definite caution not to do 4'x8' plywood table affair. Best bang for the buck seemed to be around the perimeter of the room, with a peninsula at most. Build it semi modular benchwork and then it can be expanded at a later date. So.... around the room it is. That was easy. Given my rough dimensions in the hayloft, I have an approx area of 20'x48'.

This looks to be the right location, up against the south wall, (painted light blue of course).

Some of the existing lighting will have to be repositioned and add some  LED track lighting as time and funds permit.

So there we are...the, 'where, scale, time frame and size' answered, for the meantime. 
And like the fine print disclaimer always says, E&OE (errors and omissions excepted)  ;)

Monday, May 2, 2016

Scenery structures, Grain elevators.

Earlier this past winter I headed down to Warehouse Hobbies and picked out a couple of plastic structures to build for my future model railroad layout. As I have a unrelenting fondness for grain elevators, I naturally chose two from an earlier era that I thought would be a good fit for the layout.

The  "Grain Elevators".

Both are Walthers kits; the Valley Growers Association Steel Grain Elevator and the Farmers Cooperative wood sided elevator. Back in the day, like half a century or so ago, when I was building plastic car models, we used Testors plastic glue from a squeeze tube. Now it's Testors  liquid cement that in effect melts the two halves of the plastic and then rebonds when brought together.

The work station and tools of the trade.

I did a primer paint from a rattle can for both structures while the individual parts were still attached to the sprue. I don't own an air brush as yet, so for now, the rattlle cans will have to do. Further to that subject, I talked with Fred from Warehouse Hobbies, and he said he can't remember the last time he used his air brush. Apparently the set up and cleaning of same takes a lot of the fun out of using the air brush. Two minutes of painting and twenty minutes of set up and cleaning. I hear ya.

As of late, the there is a huge push towards using acrylic (read, non smelling, easy cleanup with water) as opposed to the solvent based lacquers of old.  Of further note, when I went looking for paints at Warehouse Hobbies, their paint rack was near empty. I thought that a bit strange, maybe they had a blow out sale recently or something, until Fred clued me in. They don't bring in paints during the cold months due to possible freezing and ruining of same. So if you want specific model railroad type paints/colours, you have to get them in the summer months and stock up for winter building. Good to know. Although again, Fred related that you can do as good a job with a rattle can, once you've practiced up.

Design and planning hotspot.

On the initial assembly some of my joints didn't hold together quite the way they should, so I had to redo. Don't think I was holding it long enough for the bond to take hold. When you watch the Model Railroader videos and that Tenax stuff they use, it looks like it bonds almost instantly. Can't seem to find it here.

The semi-finished  elevators.

On one of my visits to the hobby shop I purchased a pair of Xuron sprue cutters. A little pricey but they sure cut nice and clean and close, almost eliminating the need to sand. Lots of sanding sticks and an Xacto modellers knife with the #11 blade.

A close up view of some weathering applied.

I then tried my hand at some weathering which turned out only so so. But like the master modellers keep saying, it's not so much a technique but an art form unto itself. Practice, practice, and more practice. I used some india washes, lights coats of white spray paint and then dry brushing, and  of course some acrylics. I haven't as yet used any dull cote, I think they want $10 bucks for a small puny can at the hobby shop. Fred says a suitable alternative would be Krlyon clear matte finish from Canadian Tire. Have to look for that.

I'd love to try my hand at kit bashing and scratch building. But that will have to wait for another day. In the meantime I purchased another couple of plastic kits that I want to assemble and maybe a little kit bashing. Stay tuned.

Sunday, May 1, 2016

The Plan.

The layout room will be on the second story of the workshop. For the most part it will be an around the room layout,i.e. following the outside walls around the perimeter of the room with two peninsulas into the centre. Approximate size will be 18' x 46' or about 800 sq.ft.

I will be utilizing open grid framework, primarily using 1x4's, with the exception  of the main peninsula which will be 1x6's. For the sub roadbed there will be 1/2 inch plywood attached to the open grid and screwed down. The height of the roadbed will be 45 inches from the floor.
Width will be 20" to 24" along the mains. A couple small sections will have 36" wide roadbed, where there is access from both sides, and the main large peninsula will be 60" or 5' wide. The large peninsula will no doubt present some challenges for 'reach in', however that's still only 30" from aisle side so will still be doable.

Harte Siding Footprint.
Gray shaded area is benchwork.

On the aisle way side of the benchwork will be a 7" wide fascia screwed to the 1x4's. The benchwork legs are made up of 1x6's ripped in half and then the 4 foot pieces will be glued together to form an 'L', then bolted to the inside of the 1x4's.

At present time this will be constructed as a point to point layout as opposed to continuos or round and round. As point to point best simulates what the prototype railroads operate.

As previously mentioned I will be modelling the CNR Hart siding and Carman Jct trackage as it would have looked from the early to mid 70's thru the early 2000's. I realize this is a huge time span, but this will be a photo freelance or freelance...I don't know what or how to label it precisely.  This represents the time that I was most familiar with the railroad and it's operations.

Locomotive control will be NCE wireless radio controlled DCC (digital command control), using Power Cab and Pro Cab throttles. This will be a 5 amp system, with several isolated blocks or divisions.

NCE Power Cab and Pro Cab 5 amp system.

Saturday, April 9, 2016

Jumping in with both feet.

 This will be my first model railroad layout in about 40 years.  Coming from the dinosaur age of model trains to the present, things have changed a thousand fold.  Things like DCC, availability of structures, rolling stock and locomotives. It's a whole new ball game in more ways than one, not to mention a huge learning curve. But, we'll get there.

Subscribing to magazines like Model Railroader and Railroad Model Craftsmen has slowly brought me up to speed to the present. Watching the folks at Model Railroader Video Plus build their project layouts has been a huge incentive for me. Lots of good info for newbie modellers.

Another valued on line presence has been the blog(s) of Lance Mindheim's "Reality Based Layout Design". Can't say enough good things about this master modeller. Two of his books, How to Design a Small Switching Layout and How to Build a Switching Layout are top notch in getting someone launched in the scale modelling hobby.

I would also be remiss if I didn't mention Bev and Fred at Warehouse Hobbies, Winnipeg for untold countless advice on re entry into the world of model railroading. There is no question that stumps master modeller Fred. His encouragement for bringing new folks into the fold of model railroading is a solid 10 out of 10.

And last but not least, all the railroad modeller blogs, websites, and forums out there. There is a lot of information out there on the net..some of it good, some of it not so much. The trick is to try and sort thru that tangled weave and ferret out the right stuff.

Over the last year and a half or so I have been reading and researching anything and everything model railroad from all of the above venues.  Lots of questions, not as many answers.
Where would I build this layout? What scale? What time frame/era? What size? As I mentioned earlier, I have been reading Lance Mindheim's books and blogs. Lance has made answering those above questions a whole lot easier.

The "where" question will be the converted and remodelled hay loft of an old barn in the back 40. Years earlier I had renovated said barn into a heated machine shop. Just recently I turned my attention to the loft, by panelling the rounded quonset walls, painting and re lighting. Installed two dormers and several other windows for some natural light. The only real negative about a quonset style building, although pleasing to look at, is that the higher up you go on the inside, the more rapidly narrow the walls become. So what may have been a 30'x50' footprint at the base, now becomes a narrow 20' wide on the second level.

The shop, in the back 40, new home to the Harte Siding model railroad.

Friday, April 8, 2016

Searle Grain Elevator, Charleswood, Manitoba

This grain elevator  was constructed by the Searle Grain Company. Merged with Federal Grain in 1966, the 285,000-bushel elevator, with its two annexes, was sold in 1972 to Manitoba Pool Elevators. It was demolished around 1978.

Searle Grain Elevator, Charleswood, Manitoba

I hope to be able to scratch build this elevator and associated buildings from the many photos I took back in the day and add them to the the layout.

The above two photos were taken by Len Van Roon. A long time Charleswood resident.
If anyone reading this has more info or photos about the Searle grain elevator in Charleswood, I would love to hear from you. Either use the comment form at the bottom of this blog post or send me an email at Much appreciated.

I'll have to get my dates correct, but I believe it was around 1977 or 1978 that they demolished  the elevator. Sad times indeed.