One Year Anniversary

Today marks the anniversary of the first introductory post to this blog.

I’ve been enjoying posting about various rolling stock projects and prototype subjects (and some day when I am actually building an ACR layout I will post a lot on the construction and progress of the layout, and likely more on structures and operations of the railway as well), and I hope that that some of you reading this have found at least some of this interesting and enjoyable as well.

Over the last year I’ve been able to make slow but steady progress on a few different projects, although sometimes projects have been picked up and set aside for other projects, and my one particular project to re-detail a fleet of hopper cars is a big one, currently involving two dozen cars, but a few dozen more are waiting for the same treatment. I continually pick away at these in between other projects. And of course, like I think many other model railroaders I know, I’m never in want of new projects to pick up. Even though I may have a dozen or more different projects currently in various stages of progress – including some that I’ve previously blogged about, and many more that have not been featured here, although some of those may eventually when I pick them up again – I could easily list off another dozen things that I’m planning to do, some big, some small.

I’m getting closer to finishing a few different projects, and I’ve made some big strides on a couple of bridge and building projects for my model railroad club, so hopefully I can knuckle down and actually focus on checking a number of things off the list as “completed” this year. We’ll see how quickly those get replaced by new projects!

Here’s a few blog statistics from the first year of being active:

Over the last year, there have been 70 published posts (not including this one) covering:

  • 37 categories
  • 118 tags
  • and representing no less than a dozen separate model projects and several prototype subjects

There are also 11 static pages of information, mostly accessed via the menu links below the banner image at the top of the page, including pages of roster information, web links, and some overview pages to give general information on major topics.

The WordPress media gallery for this blog site currently contains 382 images, 101 of which are header images in random rotation at the top banner of this site.

According to the WordPress tracking statistics plugin, the site receives an average of 44 page views per day (a “typical” day appears to be about 20-25 views, but occasional spikes make the statistical average about 40-50 views per day). The record highest day was just earlier this week with 253 views on July 24, 2014, thanks to a link to my Fast Tracks Freight Crates review being shared on facebook by Fast Tracks and subsequently re-shared by RMC magazine, resulting in a significant spike in traffic this week. The overall number of page views has just crept over 11,000 – this number is a little imprecise though since I changed tracking plugins at one point when a software update to the old tracking plugin I was using decided to kind of wreck the formatting of the site. There had been at least 1000 views at that point that aren’t included in the current 11,000 total. Note that these figures are for total page views on the blog site; not unique visitors, which the tracking statistics don’t provide but would have been an interesting measure.

And at the point of posting this year in review, there are currently 55 comments attached to the various posts and pages on this blog. And that’s one of the neat things about sharing my projects in this format, to be able to receive questions and feedback from other modelers and engage in discussion on various topics.

So that’s one year marked for this blog; hopefully over the next year I’ll be able to make more progress on my existing projects, probably have a few more new projects, and hopefully people will find the types of projects I’m working one interesting!

Here’s to looking back two years next July.


This afternoon I’m also driving up to Sault Ste. Marie for another northern Ontario railfanning vacation. Part of the trip will involve riding the Agawa Canyon Tour Train on Monday, and spending a couple of days at the Sault Ste. Marie Public Library checking out some of the Algoma Central Railway material in their archives. This material is quite extensive and some of the maps and surveys in the collection even date back to the construction days of the early 20th century. I don’t know that I’ll be able to directly share any images or reproductions of any of this material, but I found a lot of things in the collection index that should be of considerable interest to my modelling goals, and many more from older periods that would likely be absolutely fascinating to look at, but sadly there just won’t be enough time to go through it all!

Atlas 2014 Catalog and Announcements – HO AC GP38-2

Earlier this week, Atlas Model Railroad Co. posted their 2014 All-Scales Catalog. Inside the HO Scale Announcements section is an interesting item for Algoma Central fans: Algoma Central is one of the roadnames in the next upcoming release of their TrainMan series GP38-2.


AC 201 at Sault Ste. Marie in September 1982. Francis J. Wiener photo, Chris van der Heide collection.

Several years ago, Canadian Hobbycraft had sponsored a custom run of GP38-2s in various Canadian paint schemes including less common shortlines like RaiLink and Algoma Central. These were produced using the Life-Like Proto2000 GP38-2. Of course this limited run has long been out of production, and while one or two might pop up on the secondhand market occasionally, new ones just aren’t available anymore.

The new Atlas model is in the TrainMan series, which is Atlas’s more “entry level” line; the model will have the same proven drive train as Atlas’s higher end “Master Series” but the body may have less of the fine detail, and it most likely won’t have the road-specific details like snowplow, nose headlight, cab front bell, single rear headlight, Canadian-style vertical steps etc. However this will still be a good enough stand in for most, and a good starting point for detailing for many others.

They currently list road numbers 200 and 202, although this could potentially still change before production. The prototype locomotives were built in 1981 by General Motors Diesel Division in London, ON as series AC 200-205. Most or all of them are still operating today (just not in ACR colours) as WC 2001-2006.

ACR From Blair 007

WC 2001 (ex-AC 200) at Steelton Yard before repainting into WC colours. Blair Smith photo.

Part of the ad copy in the catalog indicates matching cabooses will be available, and indeed, further down is a section with new paint schemes on the TrainMan series “steel cupola caboose”, including Algoma Central. Of course this model is based on a small north-eastern US prototype that isn’t remotely similar to any ACR cabooses. The catalog outline artwork shows a caboose numbered AC 9607; this number would correspond to one of the three ex-CP vans acquired in 1992-93. Rapido Trains produced a model of this caboose several years ago. Highball Graphics also has some ACR caboose decals that can be used to custom paint something a bit better than the TrainMan caboose into ACR colours.

One other announcement in the catalog which will be of significant interest to most Canadian modelers is not too much of a surprise: a new version of their 50′ NSC boxcar matching the features of cars owned by Canadian Pacific and Ontario Northland. (Previously they have run Canadian National and British Columbia Railway versions.)


CP (ex-CPI) 85718 newsprint service boxcar. Jurgen Kleylein photo.

The first run of this version contains three paint schemes: Ontario Northland (7700-7799 series), Canadian Pacific (CPI 85635-85734 series) and Quebec Central/CP* (QC 75100-75299 series). All of the paint schemes represent original factory paint jobs, and future releases of other CP repainted cars are likely in subsequent runs.

* Note: The outline graphics in the catalog show the QC cars as an apparent ex-CP patch job; I checked with Atlas and this is not how the actual cars will be decorated. They will properly represent the as-built appearance of the QC cars, which were built new with QC reporting marks and CP colours. (Quebec Central was a CP subsidiary absorbed in the 1930s. CP re-used the marks in the late 1970s as a method to have empty paper service boxcars routed back to eastern Canada by other roads.)

Build dates for the prototype cars represented by the model are as follows:

Series Build Date Qty. Note
CPI 85635-85734 * # 9-10/77 100 re# CP /78-/83
ONT 7600-7629 11/77 30
ONT 7700-7799 * 9/80 100
QC 75000-75099 11-12/79 100
QC 75100-75299 * 7-8/80 200
QGRY 75000-75299 $ 11-12/79, 7-8/80 81 ex-QC /98

* – Series represented by Atlas
# – Previous series CPI 85500-85634 (Built 3-5/75, 135 cars) are similar but have 10′ wide doors (vs. 9′ doors on all of the other above) and non-cushioned underframes
$ – QGRY series is non-inclusive.

Some woodpulp/paper traffic from mills on the CPR line on the north shore of Lake Superior routed over the ACR from the interchange at Franz (that’s a subject I may attempt to cover in more detail sometime in a dedicated post), and there’s evidence that some paper from the Ontario Northland (from mills at Iroquois Falls, and likely from Kapuskasing and Smooth Rock Falls following the takeover of the ex-CN Kapuskasing subdivision) so any of these cars would not be out of place on a period ACR layout. I’ll be getting a couple of these cars for sure to mix into my CP woodpulp/paper fleet.

Fast Tracks Freight Crates

A couple of weeks ago I had an email in my inbox advertising the latest product available from FastTracks: a model rolling stock storage/transportation box called the “Freight Crate”. The Freight Crate is manufactured out of laser cut hardboard, and is shipped as an unassembled flat kit, to be put together by the modeller. They’re available in a few different sizes for different sized equipment (standard 40′, 65′ and 90′ lengths, and extra-deep versions of the same three sizes for taller cars) and the HO scale versions each hold 8 pieces of equipment.


A pair of assembled and stacked 40′ Freight Crates.

With a lot of modern Ready-to-Run equipment, the existing packaging really holds and protects the cars quite well, although putting cars into one of these freight cars make take up a little less space, but obviously be a little more expensive. I find keeping this equipment in their original boxes protects them quite nicely. However I have a lot of equipment that is (or will be) extensively kitbashed and modified, and lots of kit-built (like the many Intermountain 40′ boxcar kits I have for various projects) and scratchbuilt equipment as well. For these, the original box (if there even is one) is just a plain box with the kit parts and sprues inside, and when the car is built, the box doesn’t really come with its own padding to protect the car and prevent it from bouncing around.

If you’re like me, and you’re still building and collecting equipment for that “someday” layout, most of the cars I’m acquiring, building or detailing will remain in storage for some time. And since I currently live in a rented apartment with only space for a small switching layout, my rolling stock collection probably has a few more changes of address in its future before they truly find their home on a “permanent” layout.

With that in mind, I ordered a few of these new Freight Crates: two for 40′ cars (perfect for Intermountain and Accurail boxcar kits), and three for cars up to 65′ in length (as I have several 50′ boxcar kits, coil steel cars kits, some scratchbuilt/kitbashed gondola and flatcar projects, and some Walthers 65′ gondolas that may not fit exactly back into their original packaging once shortened and kitbashed with bulkhead ends, etc.).

The box assembles pretty easily in about 20 minutes with regular carpenter’s glue, and Fast Tracks has an assembly instruction video on their site/YouTube channel which illustrates the entire process quite clearly, so I won’t spend too many words talking about that, as it goes together just as shown in their video, other than to remark that the build is quite straightforward. The parts are all laser cut with alignment tabs so everything fits right together exactly and precisely.

Once assembled, the box is nice and sturdy, and the crates are designed to be easily stackable with each other, with tabs on the top of the lid locking in place into holes in the base which also serve as the access points for the sliding key locks that hold the lid securely in place on the box. This is a pretty nice feature that holds everything together nice and safely.


My finished Freight Crate, loaded up with 40′ boxcars.

The compartment slots in the box are perfectly sized to hold the model equipment. With the standard 40′ version of the box, a 40′ boxcar wrapped in the provided sheet of bubble wrap slid down snugly into the slot, with just a little bit of room on either side of the couplers on each end and an assembled 50′ boxcar fit nice and securely in the 65′ box.

The Freight Crates are not necessarily inexpensive; the basic Standard 40′ box is $25 and there are alternative products on the market of a similar purpose made of cardboard and foam which are likely much cheaper, but the hardboard construction is well engineered and pretty solid and should be quite durable and do a good job of protecting equipment over the long run. The alignment tabs on the lids for stacking also makes for a nice sturdy pile when you have multiples of these crates, as they won’t slide off of each other, and the smaller boxes can stack on top of the larger ones as these tabs are all the same size and centered on the box. It’ll definitely protect that $40 craftsman kit you spent 20 hours on building and detailing and painting better than a few layers of tissue paper in the original plain box in a stack of other such cardboard boxes on a storage shelf.

You may be finding more of my collection of kit built, scratchbuilt and kitbashed custom cars residing in boxes like these.