Rapido 52′ Gondolas Arrived

This evening I stopped at the post office to pick up several packages – packages containing the new Rapido Trains 52′ Canadian gondolas. (I won’t tell you how many exactly I picked up, because this was partly a pooled group order of cars for the WRMRC layout, so better than half of the cars will end up belonging to others, but let’s just say I acquired “more than one” 6-pack of AC cars (plus a few CPs) for my own purposes.)

These models are based on a common design of 52’6″ gondola with riveted construction and drop ends that were built by Eastern Car Company during the 1940s-50s for most of the major Canadian railways. Similar cars were built by Canadian Car & Foundry and National Steel Car up into the early 1960s, with generally similar features, but some detail differences.


The prototype Algoma Central cars were built in 1959-62 in two batches by National Steel Car. (AC 601-800 and 801-875. Another almost identical batch was built in 1962 as AC 900-924 with covers for coil steel service.) They actually differ from the model in two ways. One, the AC cars have a different style of structural ribs on the sides. While the model features the distinctive Z shaped ribs fashioned from simple angle stock, the later AC cars had a stamped rib with a more of a hat profile (if you cross-sectioned the rib). The AC cars were also a higher capacity car with a 4′ interior height instead of the 3’5″ height of the model. However, the number and spacing of the side ribs is still consistent on all of these Canadian cars, so that still makes these cars a better stand in than any model of an American prototype. (The older Proto2000 gondola, based on a design built by Greenville Steel Car and Bethlehem Steel Corp., was previously the best stand in, but has a different number of side ribs and panels, which alters the layout of the Algoma Central billboard lettering on the side of the car.)

The models are well packaged, but even so exercise care when removing the cars from the packaging and check for any minor damage in shipping. There’s been some reports of the delicate ribs damaged in shipping (I haven’t seen much of this yet, but I’ve only removed a couple of cars from their packaging so far) and I had a few ends knocked free and rattling around inside the box (the drop ends are just press fit in place, so this is no big deal).

Here’s a few photos of a sample AC and CP (Action Red scheme) car to see some of the detail on these new models:

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The relief of the Z shaped ribs is a distinctive feature of this model. The individual ribs are actually separate pieces to achive this effect. So one will have to take some care when picking up these cars not to crush any delicate details.


These CP red cars feature trucks with converted roller bearing journals, a nice touch.


I weighed one car at 4.1oz, just slightly under the NMRA “recommended” weight for a 7″ car of 4.5oz (1oz + .5oz/inch), but then almost every factory car is slightly under this recommendation, and consistency is one of the most important things. The Rapido car actually weighed out exactly identical to one of the Proto2000 gondolas I had nearby.

And lastly, a couple of final shots of the two cars on my in progress switching layout. The cars both appeared to track and roll quite well, although admittedly I don’t have much track to roll them around on. The real test will be when we try dragging a set of these around in a train at the club layout.

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2014 Toronto Railway Prototype Modelers Meet

This Saturday I had the opportunity to attend the Toronto Railway Prototype Modelers (RPM) Meet. This is the first time I’ve made it out to this event, and it was an interesting time with a group of like-minded model railroaders.

The event is held at Humber College and consists of several clinic presentations in the morning, with a second room devoted to showing off models that the attendees are encouraged to bring along.


The model display room at the Toronto RPM meet.

I arrived on campus shortly after 8:30 am, and eventually managed to find the rooms where the event was being held. I signed in and slipped into the first clinic session, and would finish setting up the models I brought during the breaks between the sessions.

The morning consisted of 3 clinic presentations, each about 45 minutes in length or so, like small lectures on railroad topics, with 10-15 minute breaks in between each clinic. Sitting in a college classroom again to take in the presentation added to the feel of an academic presentation, but the clinics were interesting material. 😉

The first clinic was presented by Pierre Oliver focusing on the railroads and facilities in St. Thomas, Ontario, and the equipment and operations of the Wabash Railroad, which ran through on operating rights on the Canadian National’s track, and shared facilities in St. Thomas with other railways. He finished with a look at his model version of a portion of the Wabash in southern Ontario.

The second clinic, presented by John Spring, was a detailed look at the Toronto, Hamilton & Buffalo’s branch line to Port Maitland and showed various locations along the branch down to Port Maitland, and the changes and development at the port over the years. Both of these presentations used various railway maps and aerial and period photos from various sources to orient the viewer.

The third and last clinic, presented by Andy Mallette, was on modular railroading, with specific examples from experiences with the S Scale Workshop club, of which he is an active member. He talked about ways a modular club can be organized, why a modular club should have explicitly defined standards, different styles of construction, ideas of how groups should present themselves when on display and various mistakes and lessons learned.

After the clinics, we broke for a lunch break, and most of us found our way over to the campus Tim Horton’s for something to eat where I had lunch with Pierre and our mutual friend Hunter Hughson, who’s a member at the WRMRC with me. The meet is held on Humber’s campus every year, so fortunately a number of people knew exactly where to go.


A few of my models on display at the RPM meet.

After lunch was the other main part of the RPM event: the model displays and the “bring and brag” portion. After everyone had a chance to have lunch, and browse the display models for a little while, the modellers were encouraged to go around the room and say a few words about the models and the techniques used to build them. These ranged from a few examples that were basically just factory models with minimal details to an exquisitely scratchbuilt CN C40-8CM locomotive, to a 4 foot long resin and styrene self-unloading lake freighter.

And can you imagine the odds that a second person there that day would also have a model of the same extended height CP Rail boxcar that I’ve been working on? There were actually *two* instances of two different people bringing models of the same rare prototype: two of us were working on models of that CP rebuilt boxcar, and two other modelers brought models of a unique “door and a half” Central of Georgia steel boxcar. Crazy coincidences.


Roger Moses’s CP extended height boxcar.


Scratchbuilt CP coil steel gondola. I’d like to do one or two of these myself.


Several detailed locomotives. The full cowl body C40-8CM is scratchbuilt.


Sean Steele’s CN cabooses. A mix of Van Hobbies, Sylvan, Athabasca and Prototype Model Industries models are represented here.


Self unloaded lake freighter, roughly based on a compressed version of the MV Stadacona. The hull is kitbashed from a Sylvan freighter kit with several extensions, and the self unloading equipment is entirely scratchbuilt.

Andrew Castle’s GBW 901 Dome Car (“Algoma Country”)

Here’s a link to a really great and well-illustrated article by Andrew Castle about how he modelled GBW 901, Wisconsin Central/Algoma Central’s dome coach “Algoma Country”.

Andrew Castle’s GBW 901 Article on WC2Scale.org

This car was transferred to the Algoma Central in 1997 (post-WC ownership) and repainted in the AC colours of the time and given the car name “Algoma Country”. At first the car was lettered with the Wisconsin Central name and logo, but in the Algoma Central bear passenger colours. Sometime after 2000, the WC name and shield were removed and the Algoma Central name applied. This dome car saw regular service on the Agawa Canyon Tour Train until the mid 2000s.

Classic Algoma Central on YouTube

One of the great things about the modern internet is the massive amount of free user-posted content, whether on personal sites or blogs like this one, various archive and gallery sites of user-submitted content like RailPictures, or the big photo and video archive sites like flickr and YouTube. Of course you sometimes have to wade through material that’s less than useful in some cases, but there’s a lot of pure gold out there to be found if you spend enough time looking.

Here’s a couple of video selections from YouTube’s archive that nicely highlight a few aspects of operations on the ACR before the WC takeover, mostly from the early 1990s.

Classic compilation 1988-1994

Nice compilation of video from several visits to the ACR in the late 1980s and early 1990s.

The first part of video features mostly shots of the passenger trains, both the Agawa Canyon Tour Train and the regular train to Hearst along the highway between Sault Ste. Marie and Searchmont. Note in particular one sequence of clips during the fall season where the regular train is expanded and equipped with coaches leased from Ontario Northland. During peak periods, the ACR’s entire coach roster would be pressed into service on the Agawa Canyon Tour Train, and extra coaches would be rented from Ontario Northland and VIA Rail to fill out the regular passenger service. At such times also, with the Tour Train running at full capacity the regular passenger train would basically be operating like a second section of the tour train – extra coaches would be dropped off at Canyon, and lifted by the southbound regular train, which would also run 30 minutes after its normal schedule to allow the overflow Canyon passengers more time in the park.

The last couple minutes of the video also feature some nice freight operation at Hawk Junction yard and Michipicoten harbour and the northbound regular passenger train with a borrowed CP track evaluation train set tacked on the end.

Southbound train no. 10 out of Hawk Junction in September 1994

A nice big southbound freight leaving Hawk Junction. Note several cars of lumber from Dubreuil Forest Products (including one of the 60′ woodchip gondolas rebuilt as a unique looking lumber hauling car), LOTS of pulpwood loads, and some assorted traffic near the rear including some other lumber loads (from CN interchange at Hearst?) and flatcars and gondolas for steel loading.

Northbound train no. 5 out of Hawk Junction in September 1994

Mostly interchange traffic in the form of empty CP boxcars in woodpulp service and steel loads are visible in this clip.

A trio of Boxcars in the Paint Shop

This evening I sat down at the spray booth and painted these three cars boxcar brown:


The three cars are the CP woodchip car from my previous post, and another pair of 40′ boxcars that will also be lettered for Canadian Pacific.

This at least moves these three cars one step closer to completion. It’ll be nice to start getting some of these projects that have been kicking around on the back burner for so long actually finished up and off the workbench when I have so many other projects either in progress or wanting to be done. 🙂