Snowy Soo

Winter Railroading.

Saturday, 31 August 2013

Railfanning the Junction

Things were moving right along at Lambton on Saturday.

A commenter to this blog recently said he'd heard that Lambton Yard had closed and asked whether I knew if this was true.

I don't know the answer to his question but sometimes after stopping in and seeing long stretches of empty tracks at the yard, I wonder myself. There's been times the yard tracks are empty and no power is parked in its usual spot near the southwest corner of Runnymede Park.

Canadian Pacific Railway is undergoing an intense slimming down under CEO (and former CN boss) Hunter Harrison. This excellent story in Canadian Business magazine spells out some of Harrison's sweeping plans to streamline the railway's operations. They include selling off locomotives, trimming the payroll and closing certain yards, though Lambton is not mentioned specifically in the story.

I spent much of a sunny, humid Saturday on my bike photographing and railfanning movements in and around the yard and I'm happy to report it was a busy place with lots of freight moving. Of course, much of this traffic involved trains moving past the yard along the main but there was a lift, a crew change at the office and some power parked in its usual place in the few hours I was there.

So hopefully Lambton will remain a busy place, with lots of switching to see. Watching trains roll at this location is always a good source of inspiration as I attempt to model part of this area.

Here are some pictures of the excursion in sweltering weather.

AC44CW awaits its next assignment 

I've seen this AC44CW sitting at Lambton  a few times in recent weeks. This shot was taken through the fence from the Wal-Mart parking lot. Are they using this big guy for yard work?

Yard power ready to roll

CP 5994, an SD40-2 parked in the power spot

The following images are from one train that arrived from the west, changed crews at Lambton, then rolled north through the diamond after leaving the yard

Lead unit a leased unit

This leased CEFX unit led a long train out of Lambton and north at the diamond. 

Always fun to see a lash-up with leased power. This one led an easbound into Lambton where it changed crews before heading north up the diamond with a long train.

These leased units really get around. This flicker image shows CEFX 1051 working in Romulus, MI, back in Sept. 2011.

Steel coil cars

This was a long train (I didn't count the cars). The entire lead end was a long cut of these steel coil cars, like this one:
There must have been 100 of these cars alone. 

Great tags

Some of the cars on this train I shot because they had great tags. I often crop these image tags, print them out on photo paper and use them on models. I describe that process here

Nice bright colours on this boxcar. Modellers, you have my permission to right click and 'steal' this tag for use in your fleet! It's not like the artist (vandal) will come after you for copyright!

I liked this tag too. The blue robot thingy would look good on a model. 

Que Seca, Seca. This would look great on an auto rack model too. 

Another nice bright auto rack tag you could use. Sorry that I cut off the right side. This is why shooting stationary rolling stock is better for using the tag. 

Auto-Max cars

We make a lot of vehicles here in Ontario. Here's two tight shots of some AutoMax monsters. Again, all this rolling stock was in the same train. 

These Auto-Max cars stack autos on three levels. 

We're not in Kansas anymore. 

Hey, how did you get Soo rusty?

The guys over at the Rustbucket forum might want to take a look at this Soo boxcar.

As for the layout? I've been pecking away that the wiring and track laying. Though it's hot and sticky now the cool fall weather is surely on its way. Before we all know it the snow will start flying and modelling season will resume.

Thursday, 15 August 2013

The allure of modular model railroading

As a member of a modular club, I would only be "partly" responsible if the layout is terrible!
Having only recently made my re-entry into this hobby, I’ve not yet had a chance to actively pursue becoming a member of a model railroad club. I’m sure it’s great to share the hobby with others, but on Internet forums I often hear complaints about the challenges of being a club member.

Many report struggles with other members who are overly rigid about the adherence to a particular prototype, strict layout standards, etc. At the other end of the scale, others complain about members who are too flippant in their approach to modeling. It seems most club members have experienced at least some level of squabbling, difficult personalities and political infighting.

I’m sure most of you know how this goes. One member wants to model the transition era of a specific railroad; the other wants the rules relaxed so modern diesels can run alongside steam locomotives (including an HO version of Thomas the Tank Engine). Some members want a longstanding club to make the switch to DCC; others don’t see the sense in spending money to replace a block control system that’s worked well for years.

Almost any group, in any hobby, experiences these kinds of issues. It’s hard, if not impossible, to get a group of people who all want to row the boat in the same direction at all times.

This is partly what makes modular model railroading so appealing to me. You’re still part of a group, still get to run trains and share the hobby with others, but you’re also free to do what you want with your little bit of the layout (within the design standard parameters of course).

You can model as much or as little as you want, see and learn from what others have done and when the day’s done, your layout comes home with you (in most cases). Any interpersonal annoyances are minimized because you don’t have to iron out the intricacies of layout planning with three dozen other people.

Like anything, there are tradeoffs. My sense is that it’s more difficult for a modular club to achieve the same level of realism as a permanent club layout whose members have all agreed to put their collective efforts toward recreating a particular prototype.  Take the Waterloo Region Model Railway Club as an example. Although based in southwestern Ontario, the club models Canadian Pacific operations in Northern Ontario in the 1970s. I’ve not seen the layout myself but the results look amazing on the club’s website.

Obviously every member has agreed to this plan and as a statement on the club’s website explains, the adherence to such a specific prototype has actually helped the membership avoid infighting.

“By choosing a specific prototype, no one individual or internal group could determine what the WRMRC will or will not model, because the prototype railway has already dictated how it must be done,” reads the statement. “The decision to model a prototype freed us from a lot of undesirable politics, and united us towards a common goal.”
Interesting. Still I’m keen on checking out an HO scale modular club, which I also think better suits my (rather limited) skills as a modeller. There doesn’t appear to be one in Toronto proper, but if anyone knows of one or is interested in talking about it, please email me at

As for my layout .... I've got track and wiring to complete and only recently addressed a pressing wire shortage, which was holding up progress. Update soon.