Snowy Soo

Winter Railroading.

Thursday, 24 September 2015

I'm back ... and great layout visit piece in MRH


I think I may have mentioned in a previous post that model railroading is largely a seasonal hobby for me, a good way to pass those long winter nights. That's why I've been silent this summer.

However with the cooler weather now on its way, I'm getting some work done on the layout and a few projects going on the workbench. I will be posting about them here in the next few weeks.

In the meantime I'd light to point to a great layout visit story in Model Railroad Hobbyist, a free online magazine about this great hobby.

In an article you can read here, the magazine profiled Shaun Toman's HO scale Union Pacific Oregon Division. The layout itself is excellent. I was intrigued to read about this room-sized (10' x12') layout that models the modern era. Toman faced challenges squeezing it in, but he's managed to produce a nice-looking layout in not a massive space that's able to have large, modern diesels and longer rolling stock like auto-racks.

Using great backdrops and scenery, he was able to include some industries, stretches of mainline run and even a small yard and engine shop.

I found it interesting that he built his layout in a shed separate from his house. Of course, that's easier to do in Oregon's temperate climate than most other places in North America! Still, I think it proves you may not need a basement to have a layout.

I must tip my hat to MHR here as well. The Q & A style article was very thorough,  and it answered every question I had about the layout. The photos are excellent and it was nice to see a track plan in there.

I found it interesting that like me, Toman regrets not building his layout higher off the ground.

I'm always on the lookout for room-sized layouts that depict the modern era. If you see a good website or blog about such a layout, please put a link in my comments and I will put it in the links on the right side of this blog.

So to read more about Toman's layout, check it out on MRH here.

Also, Toman has a great flickr page with an album that has more than 300 photos of his layout. I've embedded a few below to offer a taste of his work:

Large, modern diesels and auto-racks ... must be a massive basement or club layout, right? No it's 10' x 12'.

Some nice mainline runs give the trains a bit of space.

June 2014 Model Railroad Update
Effective photo backdrops like this make a small layout seem much bigger.

photo 2-3
Here's what the space looked like before the track was put down. He built the layout in a shed separate from the house.

Friday, 24 April 2015

YouTuber NS Train fan is selling his layout


Almost exactly a year ago, I wrote a post about 5 MR YouTubers I liked.

To this date it remains one of this blog's most viewed posts (List stories, known as listicles, have become a staple of online journalism because the restive online audience just can't seem to resist them).

Anyway on my top 5 list was YouTuber NS Train fan (Ben Earp). I recommended Ben's channel to other modellers because he produced a lot of great how-to videos that chronicled his construction of an N-scale layout based on the Salt Lake Route track plan which was published in Model Railroader a while ago.

I've always liked this track plan for a compact N-scale display layout with a lot of operating potential, even though I model HO.

In addition to building his layout, Ben did a number of excellent videos about layout visits, trips to train shows, etc.

His videos were set apart by their high production quality, and his happy, humble approach.

But I knew something was up when last year, after months of weekly posts, his videos stopped appearing. The video silence was sudden and without explanation. Until yesterday.

In a video embedded below, Ben reports with some sadness that he's selling his layout, but not getting out of the hobby. He says he needs the money for college, something this one-time broke student understands.

His price is $500, which includes the track, some buildings and a Digitrax Zephyr system (locos and rolling stock not included). Not a bad price when you consider that the Kato Unitrack is probably worth a few hundred alone. The 4x9 foot layout is at the start of the scenery stage and fully operational. I believe Ben lives in North Carolina.

This layout would be a good buy for someone in that area looking to get into the hobby. It might appeal to someone keen to get a running layout right away, maybe someone who wants to get into the hobby but who doesn't have the skills or tools needed to build benchwork.

Ben won't ship the layout though; he's asking the buyer to come to him and pick it up.

Ben says he plans to build another layout in the future. Here's hoping that he will not only do this, but will also chronicle it with another great series of YouTube Videos.

In the meantime, Ben's past videos remain on his channel for everyone to enjoy.

Thanks Ben and good luck.

Friday, 17 April 2015

Great video: Area H spur being worked

Here's a great YouTube video showing the top end of Area H spur being worked by CP crew:


The YouTuber here is CitySlicker.

He shoots a lot of great Toronto-area railroad videos. He also has a very good flickr site.

Chances are if there's a strong photo at the top of my blog showing Area H or Canpa switching, it's a photo link to his flickr!

I realize there's been more prototype material than model material here lately.

I've haven't been able to get to the layout. Progress there has very much been slow motion I'm afraid.

I've not given up on the project however. I'm hoping to post part II of the Hymopak structure build soon.

In the meantime, enjoy this video.

As always, I welcome your comments.

Sunday, 22 March 2015

Building Hymopack (Part 1.)

The lawn sign of Hymopack, an industry that manufactures plastic merchandise bags and will soon be represented on the West Toronto Junction.

The Prototype 

In an earlier post, I'd mentioned the process of modelling Korex, a large industry that takes rail deliveries of plastic pellets in covered hoppers. The industry I'm modelling now, Hymopack, also takes plastic pellet hoppers. Located on Medulla Avenue in Etobicoke, Hymopack makes merchandise bags for retail stores. According to their website, the company's clients include Home Depot, and other retail stores such as Canadian Tire and The Beer Store.

Interestingly, there's another rail-served plastics plant on the main spur I model: Polytainers. There they turn plastic pellets into containers you find at the grocery store, the kind that hold everything from Hummus to ice cream. I'm not modelling Polytainers but it's interesting that three rail-served plastics facilities are located fairly close together in one area of Etobicoke (West Toronto).

The Building

This is the exterior of Hymopak. It's the brown brick building on the left with metal cladding. You can see the tops of the white tanks above the yellow brick building on the right.

Hymopack operates out of a brick building with metal cladding, typical of modern industries. The spur that serves the building descends southward from the CP east-west mainline and curves west into the back of the building. The hoppers are unloaded into a series of at least 10 large storage tanks. The tanks are placed well back of the street.

You can see the aerial view below. Medulla Ave. is visible at the left:

An aerial view of the industry. The road is at the left, the industry stretches a few hundred meters away from the road. You can see a cut of four covered hoppers used to deliver plastic pellets on the spur. There is no way to get near the spur track without trespassing, so I have to rely on this Bing maps image and what I can see from the road, which is more than enough. 

Obviously this industry is too big to model to scale. When I'm aiming for here is something that captures the look and feel of this industry. At a train show recently I picked up a preowned (but still unbuilt)  Walthers Plastic Pellet Transfer kit.

Here's what image from the kit's box:
Tanks from this Walthers Plastic Pellet Transfer kit look almost identical to the ones in use at the industry I'm modelling.

Here's a shot of the top of the tanks at Hymopack. This is as close as I could get to the tanks without trespassing!

This kit features four silos almost identical to the ones in use at Hymopack. They are white, appear to have a similar proportions, are connected by overhead walkways and have cage ladders for access.

My plan is to combine these four silos with a brick building flat set against the backdrop. The spur that will serve this industry is located in the southwest corner of my basement. Now I realize that I'll have far fewer tanks thank the prototype industry. For anyone planning to play 'spot the differences" I'll just say that I'm trying to capture the general "look and feel" of the prototype, not build a flawless scale replica of it. If I ever come across a second Plastic Pellet Transfer kit maybe I'll add more tanks. Foor now, I'll just stick to an array of four tanks.

I like how the company logo appears on the two tanks closest to Medulla Ave. The logos are positioned at different viewing angles.  I'm going to try to recreate that using an image of the logo from either the Internet or the lawn sign picture.

One interesting thing about the Hymopack tanks is that the two closest to the road have the company's logo painted on them. I plan to do the same on the model.

More on that process in the next post. I will also show how I'm scratch-building the structure itself.

Saturday, 7 February 2015

Cool video of the SoundTraxx Soundcar

No time for a layout update this weekend, but here's a cool video demonstrating the SoundTraxx SoundCar decoder.

From this video, it looks like a few of these would add a lot of atmosphere to any layout. I really like the flange squeal sound.

Thanks to YouTuber TManN for posting this video.

Thursday, 29 January 2015

CP plays host to 7-year-old Toronto railfan and blogger

Railfan and blogger Nathan O'Neill, 7,  meets with a CP crew member. The railway has regular visits from Nathan, who writes about what he's learned on his railway blog. (Photo credit:

' I don't want kids, I just want to drive trains'

An excellent story in today's Toronto Star about a 7-year-old railfan and blogger from Toronto, whose love of trains has been recognized by Canadian Pacific.

As the story by Rebecca Eckler tells, Nathan O'Neill is very into trains. But what sets him apart from his Grade 1 peers is that he started his own blog about them. His work was noticed by CP and the railway has hosted him for regular visits to learn about how the railway works.
He's climbed into the cab of a locomotive and even been issued his own engineer's vest. His blog is worth a visit, even if some of the photos are upside down!

In my favourite quote from the story, he tells Eckler: "I don't want kids, I just want to drive trains."

Nathan has had a ride on the CP Holiday Train and his grandparents bought him a share in CP (quite a gift considering the share price!)

It's nice to see a kid so interested in railroading, but it's also great to see CP recognize this and give him behind-the scenes access to their operation.

Obviously they got a nice PR boost with the Star story and maybe down the line they'll get an enthusiastic engineer in training!

Wednesday, 28 January 2015

Late January layout update

Basic level of ground cover is down here with many areas still needing ballast. I will go over all this ground cover again and fine-tune things. 

It's been a while since I've posted an update but I've been managing to get some work in on the layout. I've been doing a lot of ballasting, adding a few buildings and fixing some electric problems than have cropped up though regular running. I've also had to sort out problems with one pesky locomotive, the details of that problem I'll explain in another post.

New warehouse background building

This is a Walthers warehouse kit I tuned into a background structure. It's the longest spur on the layout. I may add tanks on the left side to make it more of a manufacturing plant that also takes plastic pellets as a way to add to the operating potential of this industry
Above you can see a new background building. This is a Walthers Lakeville Warehouse kit turned into a background building. It came together quite well. I'm not sure about the colour but I've still got to weather it down. There are many rail-served warehouses like this in the west Toronto area that I model. I mainly wanted a destination for boxcars because other than this industry, only the team track (see below) will take boxcars.

I've got to add roof details and a few other bits yet.

Quonset hut/maintenance area.

This little space will be a maintenance area. The quonset hut right next to the Lambton Yard office is similar to one on the prototype. 

This Quonset hut sits just to the left of the Lambton Yard office. It matches one on the prototype. I also stained a few wood pieces to represent tie piles. I plan to add extra rails, barrels, maintenance vehicles, dumpsters, etc. here.

Team track/transloading area

This is the team track. The pavement needs some weathering. This spur will take any kind of rolling stock. 

Here you see the team track area. The pavement is plaster stained with grey acrylic paint. It needs some weathering to make the colour less monochrome and a bit more dirty. Here I will add some containers, forklifts, loading docks, trucks and a modern prefab steel office/warehouse. 


The plywood block at the back will become Hymopak, which is a plastics plant that makes shopping bags.

I'm going to write a full post about this industry in the future but that plywood block at the back corner will be Hymopak, a large plastics company that makes take-home shopping bags, like the kind you get after buying stuff at Home Depot. 

The prototype is a large brick building (with black corrugated steel trim) that takes plastic pellet hoppers. I've got a Walthers plastic pellet transfer station kit that I'm going to use for tanks here. I've also got some brick sheets to laminate to the wood.

Below is a bing screen shot image of Hymopak. I will be modelling one wall and four of the white tanks.

A Bing maps aerial shot of Hymopak on Medulla Avenue in Etobicoke (West Toronto). This large industry takes rail delivery of plastic pellets (seen at the right) and turns them into shopping bags, like the kind you get at Home Depot. 

Two final wide shots

Here's an overall view from near the window looking to the left. 

Here's another overall view. looking to the left. The LaFarge cement silos will go in the back corner. 

This work is all happening on one leg of the peninsula. The other side still has plenty of exposed pink foam board. 

My goal is to at least paint out all the pink before the end of winter. 

Sorry it took so long to post an update!