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Saturday, October 26, 2013

Restructuring needed, mayor says

There has been very little said on the ONTC file for quite some time now. Any relevant news has been focusing on the issue of the Ring of Fire and whether government decisions and delays would mean a delay in the mining development plans.

However, North Bay mayor Al McDonald has publicly stated that his vision for the future of the ONTC is rooted in the refurbishment work for Metrolinx, a contract which has been lost to a company in Quebec. McDonald believes that it only makes sense that one provincial agency have its rolling stock refurbished by another provincial agency. I am inclined to agree.
>>>Restructuring needed, mayor says | North Bay Nugget<<<

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

A New Start: Recycling your Model Railway

To drag out the oldest cliché in model railroading, a layout is never really finished. I don't know who first used this phrase, but they should have trademarked it! All model railroaders get the urge to change something once in a while. In my case, I have been mulling a change for the last few months. The catalyst was buying an Atlas tank car which didn't like my layout's tight-radius curves (below 18" in some places). Something had to change.

From Thomas Blampied's Railway World

Back in 2006, I started work on Crick Road, a 4x8 OO gauge layout set in Northamptonshire. It was fun and I enjoyed building and operating it. However, over time I began to see its limitations. British freight trains might only be 30 or so wagons long, but they do not have any local services or mixed freights to speak of. As a result, any train on a 4x8 circle was bound to look too short. In 2009, I had started a second modelling project, the IC&L, which was reintroducing me to Canadian model railroading after seven years modelling the UK scene. My next move was clear: time to go back to a Canadian theme on a larger scale. Of course, starting a new layout is both expensive and time consuming. Instead, I decided to recycle.

Last year, I began to model a freelanced version of the Ontario Northland, only two weeks before the whole divestment process began, over top of the existing Crick Road layout. To date, I have remodelled the Crick Road Depot (now the Heron Yard and maintenance facility) and I have built Green Bank as a snow-scene on a previously-unused portion of the track. By changing the track plan, scenery and details, it was possible to make Northamptonshire appear to be Nipissing. Now, I embark on the last chapter as I transform Daventry Station into Foulard, an interchange with CN and the terminus of the passenger train service.

Not only is reusing a layout much cheaper, but it gives you a head start on your new layout: bench work, track and basic scenery are already in place. The process isn't necessarily easy, however, because it all depends on how you built the initial layout. In my experience, the following pointers make a recycled layout easier to build:
  • Track: I use Peco flex-track and points (electrofrog where possible). They are built to a very high standard and their durability allows them to be reused. Most of my track was salvaged from the staging yard on a local model railway club's layout when they retired it. They were planning to put the whole thing in the dump, so I jumped in and saved as much track as I could. I still have enough track spare for another whole layout! While I was at it, I also saved as much scenic material as I could. I have yet to buy any shrubbery material.
  • Fishplates/Rail joiners: I don't use Peco's fishplates. Instead, I always use the Atlas code 100 rail joiners as they are bigger and more sturdy (I don't mind sacrificing the scale for practicality). I also never use them twice. When I first started in model railroading, I used to use them multiple times and then wondered why the trains wouldn't run. D'uh! Used rail joiners loosen easily and do not make good electrical contact between the rails. They are inexpensive, yet so crucial to an efficient layout and should not be reused.
  • Nails: There are many different ways to attach track to a layout. Some people attach it with the ballast in one operation, others use contact cement. I use nails. Again, I turn to Atlas for their track pins, which are much bigger than the Peco equivalent, but very sturdy and can be reused. I have been using the same supply for the better part of a decade, only throwing them out if they get bent too much out of shape to be useful.
  • Cork: Cork roadbed is the traditional was to elevate the track above the height of the surrounding scenery, thus simulating the right of way and deadening the noise of the trains. I use the aforementioned Atlas track pins to attach it to the layout and then nail the track on top. By not using glue, the track and the cork roadbed can be lifted and reused with minimal effort and damage.
  • Ballast and Scenics: I have used Woodland Scenics' Scenic Cement since 2005. Unlike conventional white glue or PVA glue, the cement remains somewhat flexible even when dry. This makes removing scenic material much easier. Adding a little water can also help further soften the material for removal. Much of the material can be reused as the adhesive is so soft that you can grind the ballast back into fine material.
I started to erase Daventry by lifting the station platforms, which were lightly glued to the cork roadbed. I used a wide paint scraper to help lift them. Then I removed the ballast from the sides of the track, using the scraper to pull it away from the ties. After removing the nails securing the track, I slid the scraper under the track and gently broke the bond between ballast and track. It all came up easily and enough ballast remained attached to the track that half of my ballasting for the new layout is already complete.

The surrounding scenery was removed using the above techniques and all usable ballast and ground covering were saved for reuse. Most of the cork roadbed lifted easily with the help of the paint scraper once the nails had been removed. In a few places, the Scenic Cement had adhered the cork to the table and needed more coaxing.

This process allowed me to essentially start building a new layout without the need to buy any new supplies. I am using the same preparation techniques to build my new layout. At this rate, I might be able to reuse the same layout for decades to come!

You may have noticed in the accompanying photo that the Daventry street scene has been preserved. I hadn't the heart to attack it, so I have instead moved the backdrop forward, meaning that I can preserve some of my work without it interfering with the new project.

Tuesday, October 08, 2013

My Alter-ego at the Ontario Jewish Archives

As I have said before, as much as I enjoy working on Call of the Northland, it is not my full-time occupation. At present, I am a student working towards a degree in History. Much of the summer was spent in Toronto conducting research at the Ontario Jewish Archives. The Archives have now published a summary of my work as an example of the sort of work that they deal with.
>>>Ontario Jewish Archives Blog: Archival Missives: Research at the OJA<<<

Friday, October 04, 2013

ONTC the next government cover-up: Fedeli

With little obvious progress on the ONTC front, the personal attacks that were so common a year ago are back. Vic Fedeli may be investigated due to emails deleted by North Bay city hall. This is, of course, utterly irrelevant to the ONTC, and it just becomes a petty mess. Meanwhile, thousands of people have lost their train and don't know what other services might be next.
>>>ONTC the next government cover-up: Fedeli | Your online newspaper for North Bay, Ontario<<<