Thursday, May 29, 2014

Winnipeg Railway Museum featured at Doors Open Winnipeg May 31 - June 1

    Doors Open Winnipeg is an annual event presented by Heritage Winnipeg, where some of the most unique and historic buildings in Winnipeg are opened up for public viewing. This year one of the features included is the Winnipeg Railway Museum! Feel free to explore the museum from 11:00AM to 5:00PM on Saturday, May 31 and Sunday, June 1.

    One of the things you can view there is the Winnipeg Model Railroad Club's own Gateway Western Railway, which is housed in it's own structure in the museum. It's worth the trip just to see what progress has been made on what will soon be one of the province's best model railroads!

    Of course, that's just one of the many great attractions you can see at the museum. You've got six hours each day to explore its many wonders, and that still might not be enough time to see everything!

Here it is, folks! The Gateway Western in its new structure at the Winnipeg Railway Museum! Photo by WMRC member John Longhurst, from his blog, the CP Rail Manitoba and Minnesota Subdivision.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Portage La Prairie - one of North America's best rail fanning spots

   WMRC blog editor Paul Ullrich caught this rare scene of two vintage CP SD-40s being towed by an AC4400 by the level crossing by the former CP rail station in Portage La Prairie. 

    We have one of the best rail fanning spots in North America just an hour's drive from Winnipeg in Portage la Prairie. But don't take our word for it - Trains magazine said so several years back! It's one of the few places where the CP and the CN mainlines travel parallel to each other only a few yards apart.

     There are several good places to rail fan here. The obvious choice is either at the CP or the CN stations. Many prefer the CN station, as CN runs far more trains during the day than CP (which prefers to runs most of their trains at night). Another favoured spot is the foundation of the old grain elevator by the CP tracks just west of the Tupper Street overpass, which is accessible by a service road that runs in between the CP and CN rail lines. But just a few blocks further west is the diamond, where the main lines interesect. If you're looking for a a spot to view both main lines, can't get any closer than that!

    Please be advised that both CN and CP frown upon anyone crossing their tracks at any place other than at a level crossing, so for safety's sake don't test fate by doing otherwise, even if it means missing out on a good shot.

   This moody shot of a CN freight passing the station was taken on the same day as the sunny shot of the three CP diesels! We had a lot of weather that day!

    This astute observer points to the locomotive in the middle of  this mile long freight train.

The number one rule about rail fanning is that you have to be very particular about the company you keep!

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Highlights of Train Days in Portage la Prairie

   There was record breaking heat, followed by a few downpours and several thunderstorms, but everyone who attended Train Days at Portage la Prairie had a great time!

     The Portage la Prairie Model Railroad Club put on a great show, as always. They had three model railroads on display (O, HO and N gauge) at the Canadian Pacific Railway Heritage Park and Interpretive Centre. The station itself has gone through some more renovations. This year they put in two bathrooms. With the 34C heat we had, the bathrooms turned out to be the coolest places on the grounds!

     Along with the model railroad displays, they held an excellent barbecue and had a live band playing. Things were going great until 2:00 when the rains came. But that didn't deter several intrepid rail fans, who got some great shots of passing trains under the shelter of the eaves of the CP and the CN stations! The station was open until 4:00, so visitors could still stay dry and view all the exhibits.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Train Days at Portage La Prairie - Saturday, May 24

    Our good friends at the Portage la Prairie Model Railroad Club and the Canadian Pacific Railway Heritage Park and Interpretive Centre, are holding their annual Train Days Celebration this weekend. The fun begins at 10:00AM and continues until 4:00PM at the historic CP Rail Station in Portage La Prairie.

     There will be plenty of exhibits in the station, and there's always the delicious barbecue that they serve! Of course, there will be lots of trains! Portage La Prairie is one of the few places in Canada where the CP and CN mainlines run just a few yards away from each other. It's a great place for rail fanning! Combining that with Railway Days, and you've got yourself a great way to spend what promises to be a warm and sunny Saturday in Manitoba!

    It's easy enough to find. Just drive down Saskatchewan Avenue in Portage and turn south on 3rd. street NE. You can't miss it!

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

CN newspaper ad from 1954

   Here's a blast from the past! It's a CN Rail ad from the Winnipeg Free Press from way back in 1954 - 60 years ago! That was way before VIA was created, when we actually had two passenger railway systems spanning from coast to coast, serving almost every community in Canada.

    Sadly, those days are gone forever, but it's still fun to view the ad, and remember a simpler time when rail travel was more popular and accessible to all. This ad was posted earlier this year by the popular Winnipeg blog, West End Dumplings.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Kurdistani modellers contact the Winnipeg Model Railroad Club

    The WMRC Facebook page received a message from Dahsti Mostafa B, a Kudristani national. Kurdistan is a semi-autonomous region of Iraq, which has enjoyed relative peace and prosperity since the last gulf war. There are also large Kurdish populations living in Turkey and Iran. He sent us several photos of this diorama made by Kurdistani modellers.

    There aren't any trains in this diorama, but it is still a remarkable and well crafted achievement. Among the images sent was also a prototype of the actual buildings they modelled, which is included on this post.  These Kurdistani modellers are quite enthusiastic about the hobby, and several of Dahsti's friends have "liked" the WMRC's Facebook page.

     The WMRC blog has an international audience, and has had over 15,000 visits. It has followers from every continent. We welcome Dahsti's contribution, and we encourage modellers and model railroaders from all around the world to do the same.

Friday, May 16, 2014

Dave Downie wins Winnipeg Model Railroad Club's Lantern award

 Dave Downie receives the WMRC's Lantern award from editor Robert Weaver as President Larry Leavens keeps a watchful eye on the proceedings.

   WMRC Vice-President Dave Downie has won the WMRC's 2014 Lantern award for his contributions to the publication. The Lantern award is given annually by the editor to the most outstanding contributor to the publication. The Lantern, the official publication of the WMRC,  has been published by the club since the inception of the organization in 1954.

    Dave Downie has bee na member of the WMRC for most of his adult life. He has held many positions within the the club, including two separate terms as President and as the program director. He currently serves as the Vice-President of the club. 

    Dave has been a very prolific contributor to the Lantern this season. His most memorable contribution was a series of articles outlining the history behind the organization of the NMRA's 1983 national convention held in Winnipeg, Railway Jamboree '83. All four chapters of this series have been reprinted in the WMRC blog with the permission of the author. You can view these articles by clicking here, here, here and here.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Prize draws galore at the Winnipeg Model Railroad Club's annual banquet

    Ron Einarson reaches deep into the bucket held by Morgan Turney to select a winning ticket.

   What makes the WMRC banquets so much fun are the prize draws - and we have lots of them!

    We start off with the door prizes. Every guest receives a free ticket. There are several prizes available, including some "non-rail" items. Then we have the elimination draw. This draw actually works in reverse! The very last ticket drawn wins the prize! There were lots of moans and groans to be heard as Morgan read off the names of the ticket holders who weren't called last!

    Our last prize draw had lots of tickets. Guests purchased an arm's length of tickets for five bucks. Just to keep things fair (as some have arms longer than others) WMRC blog editor Paul Ullrich sold the tickets and used his own very long arms to measure the tickets!

    The "arms length" is measured as such: The person holds the end of the ticket roll by their fingertips, then turns their head away and pulls out the ticket roll until it touches the tip of their nose. Then the tickets are torn off at that point.

   It should be pointed out that Paul doesn't have the longest reach in the club. That honour belongs to Robert Weaver. But Paul does have a larger nose.

    There were tons of prizes, and most people walked away with something. There were even gift certificates from Home Depot and Canadian Tire, good places to buy all the wood, screws, nails and glue you need to build your layout!

Monday, May 12, 2014

Tommy South wins WMRC 2014 Junior Photographer award

   Tommy South receives the WMRC 2014 Junior Photographer award from President Larry Leavens.

Tommy South, sone of WMRC member Godfrey South, is the recipient of the WMRC 2014 Junior Photographer award. He won the award at the WMRC's annual open house in March, and received his certificate and the plaque at the WMRC's annual banquet, which was held on Friday, May 9, at Aalto's Garden Cafe in Canad Inns Windsor Park.

   Tommy, along with Michael Leader, is one of the club's most promising "next generation" of model railroaders. Way to go, Tommy! Keep up the good work! We're sure that you'll be winning many more awards in the future!

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Norm Leathers wins President's shield at WMRC banquet

   The prestigious President's Shield award, the highest honour that can be given to a member of the WMRC, was awarded by WMRC President Larry Leavens to Norm Leathers for his work on bringing the Gateway Western Railway to the Winnipeg Railway Museum.

   Norm, who is a member of both organizations, spearheaded the project and was able to successfully bring the two groups together to work on this project. This not only involved building the railway, but constructing a building within the museum to house it!

    The Gateway has always been the club's jewel in the crown, and it was the main reason that many members have joined the club. Unfortunately, it was dismantled in June of 2010 and was sitting in a warehouse until Norm and the dedicated crew from both the WMRC and the museum rolled up their sleeves and started working last year on giving it a new home.

    Norm's been a member of the WMRC since 1957, and had held numerous positions in the club. No one deserves this award more than him! Congratulations, Norm! You've earned it!

Thursday, May 08, 2014

Ron Einarson to sweep awards at WMRC annual banquet

   What do Meryl Streep and Ron Einarson Have in common? They're both about the same age, very  good looking, extremely talented and multiple award winners!

    At this year's open house, Ron walked away with more awards than we could count, and he deserved every one of them. If you wish to see him receive all of these honours (or just to see how he's going to carry them all away to his car), then come to the WMRC's annual banquet!

    The WMRC annual banquet will be held May 9, at 6:00 PM at the Canad Inns Windsor Park, located at 1034 Elizabeth Road in St. Boniface. Come out for the delicious buffet at Aaltos Garden Cafe and help us celebrate another rewarding year with the presentation of awards for modelling and photography (yes, there were others beside Ron who won some awards) and the always popular prize draws.

    There will be no advance tickets. All you have to do is pay for your meal before you leave. Meryl Streep will not be in attendance, but it's still going to be a fun night! Hope to see you there!

     Anybody got a wheelbarrow that Ron can borrow so he can take all of his awards to his car without making a second trip?

Tuesday, May 06, 2014

Layout in a crawl space - Part 2

  This is the second part of Dennis Rietze's article about his model railroad, the Silver Springs Railway and transportation Company, which was written for Canadian Railway Modeller magazine. Reprinted with the permission of the publisher. 

 Another aspect of DCC is the option available through a stationary decoder which will allow the remote control of turnouts. With limitations in moving around in the layout room, the remote control option is a big bonus. At present I am still in the connection and wiring stage and once they are all installed, throwing switches will be done from the throttle.

  The layout scenes are that of basic flat prairie due to the low ceiling, with yards and industries for switching. Most all of the structures are Walthers kits along with others that I have kitbashed to my liking.

As I proceeded with construction and operating trains I discovered that there needed to be more double track sections to allow for better operation and interest; I therefore added extra sidings and plan on adding more as needed. The track is code 100 Atlas with Peco switches.

  The most recent work on the layout was the completion of the backdrops. After looking at different methods and ready made products, I chose to use backdrops from SceniKing. The company produces backdrops in a variety of scenes which match up with each other and can form a continuous scene with no duplication. One can choose the scenes that suit an era, too. Each backdrop is 16 x 72 inches and they piece together nicely. It takes two
people to install the backdrops and my wife kindly helped me hang the nine sections I needed to complete the backdrop. I am extremely pleased with the effect of the product – the layout has come alive with the use of this type of backdrop product.

  As my father had worked for the CPR, it made the choice of roads to operate on the layout easy. Initially I ran with Union Pacific and CPR but have changed to CPR as my main road with some SSR&T “clones.” I began with just DCC with no sound on my locomotives but as sound has become more common and the quality of the decoders has improved, I have begun to change more of my locomotives to sound equipped. I favour new locos with Soundtraxx Tsunami Systems decoders.

  Prior to dealing with other aspects of the layout, it is my intention this year to complete the ballasting of all the track. Then I want to proceed with planning and building a staging yard and additional industries that will require sidings and switching opportunities. Future plans on the SSR&T also include the installation of the remaining stationary decoders to permit remote control of turnouts – maneuvering in a crawl space to change turnouts is not quick and easy, even on a wheeled mechanic’s stool! 
  Signalling on the layout is not really in the plans at this point but, with my somewhat fascination for the electronics end of operation, I’m sure it will happen once all other aspects of the layout are complete. Yes, the SSR&T is a fun work in progress!

    Using his laptop, Dennis programs a locomotive on his isolated program track.

Sunday, May 04, 2014

Layout in a crawl space - The Silver Springs Railway and Transportation Co.

This is the first part of an article written by WMRC member Dennis Rietze for Canadian Railway Modeller. It is reprinted with the permission of the publisher.

My HO scale Silver Springs Railway & Transportation Company has been a work in progress for the past 30 years. Like a lot of us, I’ve gone through several moves to different homes – the layout gets torn down and redone in the next “basement.” But when we moved to our current residence, I neglected to really check out the basement to ensure there was a spot for my layout. Turned out there was a spot alright – the crawl space under the living room and kitchen! The ceiling height at the highest point was 52 inches with areas where the ductwork ran across the room being more like 42 inches. I could work with that!

   My crawl space layout began as a 11 x 22 foot duck under entrance layout. The bench work height would be determined by the ceiling height. I discovered I needed a way of moving around in the crawl space and found some nifty mechanic’s stools on wheels at Canadian Tire which proved to be the solution. In addition, the tray on the bottom of the stool was a good place for tools and supplies to transport around while working. 

  Sitting on the mechanic’s stool dictated the layout height to be 24 inches as that felt like a comfortable level to work from while sitting on the stool. It also allowed my knees to fit under the bench work.

  During the early stages of construction, a problem occurred in entering the layout room. I had designed the layout to be a single track main line which would loop back onto itself forming a long oval shape with a swing bridge at the room entrance. But with the low ceiling and bench work height, I needed to come up with an easier way to enter the room. While reviewing layout plans in some of my books, I came across a track plan which I could modify slightly to give me continuous running capability and eliminate the track crossing the doorway entrance. 

  I expropriated more crawl space which allowed me to modify the existing plan, thus removing the obstruction. The expansion increased the layout size to the 22 x 22 foot size it is today. I decided on which control system I would use to operate the layout before I began construction – this would dictate the way the layout would eventually be wired. At the time, the change from the traditional DC block wiring system was being challenged by the then newer, DCC system. 

   After some consideration, I decided to go with the DCC Digitrax system as my research indicated they were one of the key players in the field of DCC technology at the time. I purchased a used Empire Builder II system as it would allow me to operate a sufficient number of locomotives, keeping me and any other operators busy during operating sessions. To minimize the problem of short circuits shutting down the whole layout, I installed a circuit board which allowed me to divide the layout into four power districts thus keeping a short circuit in one area from shutting down everything.

  To program DCC locomotives, I built a separate program track off to the side in one area of the layout. The track is covered with a piece of scenery when not in use. I use a laptop computer to run the software program, Decoder Pro. I find it a very useful program to perform some of the more difficult functions rather than doing it through a throttle.

  Part two of this article will be posted on this blog on Tuesday, May 6

    Don't stand up too quickly! Dennis' crawl space is only 42" high!

Friday, May 02, 2014

Two layout hops for WMRC members on Saturday May 3

   Back in 2011, John Longhurst was bored with his layout, so he tore down a third of it. Three years later, he has finished rebuilding that section. WMRC members are invited to come see the results at a Club members-only open house on Saturday, May 3, 1-4 PM. Address: 82 Arbor Grove. Gone is the three-level Canadian Shield section, replaced with a single level prairie town featuring the exquisite grain elevator modelling of Arnie Walker.

    Bonus layout visit: Near to where John lives is a magnificent 1950s-era CPR layout built by Walter Pankratz. Club members are also invited to come see his layout (featuring Rapido's The Canadian and a great rendition of The Dominion) on that same day. Admission to Walter's layout is available only by coming to John's layout first, and getting a map invitation to his house (located about five minutes away).

For a taste of what you can see at Walter's layout, go to John Longhurst's CP Rail Manitoba and Minnesota Subdivision blog at: