Saturday, September 23, 2006

New Season of Train Operations

Hello all. As always, our Friday Night Group commences its new season of train operations with a visit to my Boston and Maine Railroad. It's always good to get back and see all the "boys" and share our summer stories and modelling projects.

Here I am in the red T-shirt I am wearing to support our Canadian troops overseas. That's my friend, Don, beside me and we're standing at the duckunder entrance to the train room.

Initially the staging tracks at the duckunder were just that...staging. Then a lightbulb came on in my head...why not make them an active yard where one more crew can make up trains?

And, that's what I did. So, Don's task was to make up the consist for train MP3 in the yard located at the main entrance to the train room.

For the job, he used a local B&M switcher assigned to this area known as Lowell Jct. Once the train was assembled, as hostler, he set out the mainline power for the train, an AB pairing of FT's.

While Don was busy at Lowell Jct. two other crews were occupied in the train room, one crew assigned to the North Dover switcher and another assigned to the "Mill Run" from Conley Lumber & Coal into North Dover.

Yes, I can easily keep three train crews occupied simultaneously on my 11x13 layout! Typically two crews of two are busy at any given time though.

That's Stan (supporting the troops as well) and Jim. They are on their way from Conley with an empty hopper car to be exchanged in North Dover for one fully loaded.

I see that they have returned to Conley with a new and loaded hopper car. An idler car is required to work Conley Lumber & Coal as sparks from the diesel locomotive could easily set the wooden industry ablaze in no time at all.

The Conley crew must seek clearance from the dispatcher before they head out onto the mainline in order to conduct their switcher here at the mill.

It's later in the evening and I see that Don has taken another job this time as one of the crewmen aboard S2 #1170 which works the town of North Dover.

With him is regular operator John Mitchell and judging by the smiles on their faces, they are having a fabulous time. Who wouldn't when you're running trains!

Before they spot any traffic to North Dover's industries, their first order of instructions is to lift a milk car from Marshall Creamery. The milk track is an extension of the team track and we spot the crew crossing Station Road.

The North Dover crew is always vigilant when heading down the team and milk track as the rails traverse the paved station parking lot before they enter the road crossing.

We spot the corner of an 18-wheeler in the photograph as it turns into the station lot.

Don and John flow forward at a snail's pace to make the coupling at Marshall Creamery. There is a slow order restriction on the trestle which bridges the loading area of the creamery to the team track.

That's a Hoods car with an interesting picture of a cow on the side. Milk cars had to get to market quickly and many of the milk producers took pride in the appearance of their rolling stock.

For those interested in milk cars, Intermountain, Walthers and Roundhouse have come out with wonderful offerings for the modeller. The car in this picture is a Roundhouse product.

While Don and John are in the process of setting out the milk car, Chris is at Lowell Jct. where he is making up the consist for train #11 "The East Wind" which will have some milk traffic on the headend this day.

Again, this photograph is taken at the duckunder entrance to the layout room. If you look carefully, you will see the valence that protects the viewer from the lighting when they are standing inside the room. I utilize a combination of flourescent and incandescent lighting to get optimum results in the train room.

Chris's smile tells me that his train is made up and ready to go. He'll come into North Dover and the the boys in town aboard the 1170 will give him an assist with the milk traffic. Chris, of course, will conduct a station stop for the passengers before the milk cars are handled.

Here we see "The East Wind" slowing down as it makes its station stop. The buildings of North Dover loom in the background and the reflection off the Salmon River add a touch of interest to the scene. I wonder how the fishing is this day as all I see are a few seagulls at the water's edge!

I could show many more images from our first train operating session, but I would be here all night. Instead, I'll leave you with a photograph of my summer modelling project...the Alder Model station kit made out of resin. Chris had asked me to build and paint it for him, and it was a pleasure to do so for a dear friend. The station will reside on his model railroad, but I couldn't resist creating a diorama for it first. I didn't have to worry about the track because the diorama will settle just as it is on his layout in front of his existing track.

I hope you enjoyed these pictures and stories from my first operating session of the new season in the Friday Night Group!

Check out my railfan pictures at and our Friday Night Group at

Cheers, Mike

Saturday, June 10, 2006

First Video of B&M trains by Mike

Chris came over this afternoon and we had fun running trains in the layout room. He showed me how to create a video with my Canon digital camera and put it on the web. Here are the results.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Conley Lumber and Coal

In my last posting I received a message from Laurent in Switzerland offering his appreciation for my modelling work...and I would like to thank Laurent for his many comments. Laurent then asked me to post some images of the area of my layout between the Howard Street Overpass and Marshall Cut at milepost he had not seen any pictures of this area in his search through the magazine articles and on the internet.

I hadn't realized that this area had been neglected so this posting will deal with the area known as Conley Lumber & Coal named after my good friend and fellow modeller, Stan Conley.

The image above is an "overall" view of the layout as it appears in the corner of the room. Note how the valence, fascia and curtains are all black with the layout being lit from the lighting source behind the valence. I purposely utilized this method to help create that museum diorama look...where the only thing highlighted is the layout itself!

The second and third images showcase the single track entrance to Conley Lumber & Coal. The flatcar acts as an idler car or "reach" as railroad regulations forbid the switcher to travel below the wooden structure due to potential fire hazards of any sparks flying from the engine's exhaust.

That's Mitchell Creek in the background. There is a fork in the creek where a narrower section travels below Conley trackage in the foreground. Can you spot the pileated woodpecker wrestling with a tree on Conley's property?

This aerial shot shows the lumber racks to the left of the facility with the main office located in the white building to the right. I scratchbuilt the small coal bin after plans I found in Model Railroader from an issue way back in the sixties, I believe.

The portable conveyer was built and painted by Stan Conley and he surprised me by "planting it" on the Conley property without telling me during an operations evening. Boy, was I surprised to find his beautiful model on the layout! Thanks Stan!

Here is a view from a slightly different angle. Usually there is a boxcar spotted in front of the lumber storage area, but I removed one to show you the interior.

This facility was built from a John Rendall craftsman kit. It was the first craftsman kit I had attempted and the experience taught me that I could also scratchbuild structures, which I have later done and placed on the layout elsewhere. The inclusion of smaller details in and around the structure and facility help to create the sense that this industry is alive and well!

This final view is a "helicopter shot" looking down on the Boston and Maine mainline where a short local is passing by in care of S2 #1170. The diesel servicing Conley Lumber & Coal is SW9 #1231.

The mainline train will soon pass through a "viewblock" where it will enter a new scene and travel below the Howard Street Overpass and reach the interlocking with the Maine Central.

For the Conley crew, having to use the flatcar as a car reach creates operational challenges as the flatcar cannot travel on the mainline. It can only be used momentarily to spot cars there if needbe...provided dispatch has given clearance to use the main for a short time to conduct the moves at Conley Lumber & Coal.

Thank you, Laurent, for your kind words and hopefully I've answered all of your questions. The only other place you will find photos of my layout that you have not seen would be at the railroad forum I belong to at where you can look under the threads I started called "An Overall View of Your Layout Room" in the Model Railroad Forums - Model Railroad Construction section and "Diesels in Action on Your Layout" in the Shop Talk - The Diesel Shop section.

Check out to see the great group of modellers I hang out with!

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Quite the Quartet

Mainline trains on my layout are often found in care of multiple-unit assignments varying from double headers to three and four locomotive consists depending on power needs due to train length and weight. One such train is PM4, an inbound hauler from Portland, Maine to Mechanicville, New York. This train does not make it to Boston. Rather it diverts west at Lowell Junction headed westbound for New York state.

This first scene depicts the four units required to haul train PM4. The locomotive set is spotted crossing the New England River Bridge after exiting Haney Cut at milepost 42.

The four units drawing the train are GP7's #1568 & 1566, RS2 #1503 and RS3 #1519. The beautiful maroon and gold paint scheme of the Boston and Maine sure looks handsome along the flanks of all these powerful units!

The photograph above is from a vantage point operators would not normally see. The elevated landform with a stand of trees noticeable to the left of the tracks helps to create Haney Cut and effectively disguises the portal to staging.

This scene clearly depicts the verdant landscape so prevalent in New England. At this point the train is still in the state of Maine. In a few miles, it will cross the Salmon River where it will then enter New Hampshire on my version of the B&M.

Little did I know that while I was snapping these views of train PM4, my good railfan buddy, Marty Phillips, had travelled to North Dover from his home on Vancouver Island to railfan New England on the very same weekend! What were the odds of that?!

While I was on the high ridge above track level, Marty apparently had decided to tackle the same shot from water level below the New England River Bridge.

Later on, it was fun to compare shots of the same train from different angles! Marty sure has captured that artistic 45 degree shot looking up from below!

Meanwhile, I managed to head over to the Salmon River where I captured this image of the lead unit above the beautiful stone arches of Stanley Bridge. Picnickers near the gazebo must have had their afternoon peace and quiet momentarily disturbed when this quartet arrives on the scene! Some of the best salmon fishing in the northeast is found right here at, you guessed it, the Salmon River!

I met Marty later on at a restaurant along Boundary Road and he showed me this ground level image he just managed to grab way back at milepost 39...the inbound approach to Marshall Cut.

Mitchell Creek sure looks murky with all that spring runoff. We both couldn't recall the creek level being that high near the culvert entrance from past railfan trips. New England must've seen a lot of rain recently! While we enjoyed a lunch of smoked meat sandwiches Marty asked me about our American buddy, Mike Sherpak. I knew that he was back in Iraq...and that he was thinking about coming up to Canada in the fall. Marty wondered if he would make it all the way out to the west coast. "Hey, why don't you come back to Ottawa during his visit?" I asked the Marty Man.

Marty also shared another shot he managed to snap out by the interlocking tower where the diamond with the Maine Central is located. There seemed to be a work gang doing some track repair along the MEC right of way so the B&M had the highball through the interchange.

"Boy, there sure is a lot of traffic along the Howard Street overpass," mentioned Marty.

I showed Marty the remainder of the shots I managed to get as the train entered yard limits and prepared to stop in North Dover to exchange a cut of cars.

This image of the lead unit entering yard limits as it passes Haney Fuels was taken from the steps of another industry in town. What I particularly enjoy about this photograph is the B&M's creative use of an old boxcar as a storage shed for heavy equipment. This is but another example of the Boston andMaine Railroad trying to be cost effective during a downturn in the economy!

I managed to snap this last image from my railfan trip looking back down on the station platform from above the ridge in town. Then it was back in the car to head north to Canada.

While Canada may be my home, North Dover is a close second!

Everytime I railfan here, I meet warm and caring people...many of whom are train nuts themselves. One thing's for sure...that quartet of diesels sure made for a great day of railfanning for both Marty and I!

Saturday, May 06, 2006

The Little Red Engine That Could

I run a shortline branch out of North Dover on my Boston and Maine Railroad. The St. Clare and Northern RR is a Pinsly inspired line with its 44-tonners and 70-tonners adorned in the vibrant red Pinsly colors with black stripes and yellow lettering.

In the first image we spot a St. Clare & Northern light move crossing the Salmon River on the outskirts of North Dover.

Currently, 44-tonner #14 is the only lettered unit in the stable at this point. We spot the shortline crew traversing the New England River Bridge with a Nickel Plate covered hopper in tow...a typical small train for this shortline railroad.

That's St. Clare and Northern buggy #1 on the rear. This train will head across the New England River where it will diverge from the mainline and head onto St. Clare and Northern trackage.

Note the verdant landscape so common to New England in the late spring and early summer. It's a rare New England photograph that does not contain a green background and the image taken on this day is no exception!

This close-up view clearly shows the silver trucks which adorn this proud little unit. My good friend, Mike Mueller painted and lettered this locomotive for me.

44-tonners are a common sight throughout New England and they are spotted in a variety of brightly decorated paint schemes.

This train is outbound from North Dover where it will shortly meet the junction with its own line to head inland.

Our St. Clare and Northern train has just crossed the Salmon River outside North Dover and is now in the state of Maine.

It is spotted passing the Boston and Maine junction with the Maine Central this afternoon.

Judging by the bright blue sky, it is a beautiful spring afternoon in New England and that black covered hopper looks like the proverbial "thorn" between "two roses"!

And...what is this we see? Two 44-tonners in the same picture! Why, of course...this is New England is it not? This scene is just outside North Dover. The St. Clare and Northern train has just left New Hampshire as it crossed the Salmon River and it is approaching the interchange with the Maine Central.

No, that's not a black Maine Central's a B&M unit on loan to the MEC where it is performing spot duty with some track removal.

One thing is for certain in New England. You never know what you'll find when you head out for a day of railfanning...but don't discount a 44-tonner or two!

Cheers, Mike

To see other model railroads in my round robin train operating group, feel free to visit where other surprises await you!

Saturday, April 22, 2006

B&M Road Switchers in Canada

B&M road switchers have been spotted in Canada over the years by resilient railfans who know a good thing when they see it and we congratulate Ed Warren for the following three images!

This shot of a pair of RS3's, numbers 1515 and 1519 with a CP diesel demonstrates the two paint schemes that adorned these workhorses. The middle unit is painted in the scheme known to railfans as the "blue dip" while the leading unit remains untouched (thank heavens) in the original Minute Man scheme of maroon and gold pinstriping, a beloved classic colour match held dear to rail enthusiasts. While the Canadian location is unknown, what we do know is that the shot is a good one!

The 1519 you see to the right sandwiched between another B&M brother #1515 and a CP diesel is in full "blue dip" colouring.

This is the RS3 switcher I have on my B&M layout, only in the maroon and gold paint scheme.
My version of the 1519 adorned the cover of Model Railroader's "Great Model Railroads 2004" edition. While the location remains unknown, the train certainly provides a colourful surprise for railfans like Ed Warren who snapped this shot!

This interesting view clearly demonstrates the later blue paint wearing thin to reveal the lovely B&M maroon with gold striping livery hidden beneath the 1512's blue skin.

These RS3's arrived on B&M property sometime between 1952-55 in an order of numbers 1505-1519 and 1535-45. Seeing it years later in Canada as lens by Ed Warren is a real treat!

Thanks to Ed Warren for sharing his pictures with the fellows of the Friday Night Group. They are a joy to view!

To see how we have a bunch of fun in our round robin train operating group, feel free to visit any time!

Cheers, Mike

Sunday, April 16, 2006

The 1170 - That Busy Black Diesel

While I designed my small railroad empire to support a wide variety of trains, perhaps the busiest of all locomotives on my roster is the 1170, an Alco S1 switcher.

The Boston and Maine purchased ten such locomotives between the years 1944-49. The 1170 performs switching duties in and around my town of North Dover, the centerpiece of my layout.

Here we spot our targeted diesel pulling a CP boxcar into town. The train has just passed the interchange with the Maine Central and will shortly cross Stanley Bridge.

In 1944, the B&M received its first S1's and S2's from Alco since SW1's and NW2's were not available. Being a terminal railroad, the B&M employed a rather large number of small switch engines and a visit trackside frequently resulted in a visit with these "little brutes" in action!

Our train has reached Stanley Bridge spanning the Salmon River just outside North Dover. The short consist is leaving the state of Maine and entering New Hampshire.

It seems our canoeist couple is enjoying the sun for awhile before they head back out onto the waters of this "border" river. Such bucolic scenes are typical in New England.

We spot our train in the vicinity of Boundary Road. It seems the family with the camper trailer made it by the crossing before the train arrived.

The 1170 is approaching yard limits where it will take the siding on the inbound end of town to clear the main for an outbound hotshot freight.

Boundary Road is a favourite railfanning hotspot in these parts. You're close enough to town to get the "heads up" from the station master as to which trains will be approaching and departing you sufficient time to head out to the crossing for a good shot!

Our crew is now passing Haney Fuels. Once past the station, the train will back the boxcar into the south siding to await a passing train before it begins its chores in town.

The black colours applied to these switchers remain a heated topic of discussion. While some agree the colours are true railroad tones, others would have preferred the application of maroon and gold as seen on some of the SW series of switchers.

One thing is for sure...the silver trucks certainly look classy on this engine!

The crew has passed the station and will clear Station Road for motorists. It will then back into the south siding to clear the main for an outbound hotshot freight.

Local farmers will be happy to see some of these new tractors in the showroom shortly!

Well, it's approaching lunchtime and we hope to join the crew of the 1170 at the local restaurant for some great food, drink and of course, railroad discussion!

Cheers, Mike

To see other layouts in my round robin group feel free to visit and learn of the great fun we have bringing each other's layouts to life!

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Spring is in the Air - Hear the "Bluebirds" Sing!

I dedicate this fun story to my newfound friend, Mike Sherbak, who is deployed in Baghdad, Iraq, where he is working courageously to make a difference in the lives of others in a faraway land. Keep up the great work, Mike!

I received a telephone call from my good buddy, Dave Haney.

"Hey Mike, seeing as how the temperature here in Ottawa has passed the zero degree threshold, imagine how warm it'd be south of the border in New England! How about you and me taking a railfan trip to North Dover? We'll be gone two days!"

"Sounds good to me Dave!" I responded. I knew my arm could be twisted easily! Besides, my philosophy is that you'll never know what you'll see 'till you get there!

After much railfanning en route, we arrived at the New England River and parked in a favourite railfan spot...the edge of a tall embankment which offered a wholesome view of the B&M tracks piercing Haney Cut and traversing the sturdy bridge structure.

"How about you stay here, Dave, for your shot, and I'll scamper down the embankment to get a 3/4 angle "side on shot" when a train comes," I called out.

Well, it wasn't too long before we could hear the canyon walls echo to the sound of dynamic brakes a-squealing! "Can you see it yet?" I hollered back up to Dave.

"Sure can," Dave called out, "and you'll be surprised when you see the head end!"

Sure enough, a pair of "Bluebirds" were on the point of the train. "What a pleasant surprise," I hollered as I struggled to gain solid footing for my shot of the units. I was shocked to find that the two units were pulling an extremely short train on this day...a tank car, a boxcar and a buggy in McGinnis colours. I managed to spin around quickly and snap a shot of the tail end as it entered the outbound end of Marshall Cut.

I scrambled up the ledge and reached Dave's truck. We knew that there was a short order restriction through Marshall Cut and, with recent track work underway, the train may have to wait there, so we headed to the inbound end of the cut to see if we could make in time for a decent shot.

Sure enough, we found the train stopped. This gave me time to shinny up a tree and Dave time to climb a short hillock. Check out the shots the two of us were able to attain.

Dave captured the two units just as they began moving again crossing the culvert over Mitchell Creek.

From my vantage point high up in a pine tree, I was able to frame a shot of the two Bluebirds with the switch engine for Conley Lumber and Coal, B&M 1231, resting on the Conley lead.

We quickly gathered up our equipment and headed into town where I managed to shoot the train as it crossed the border from Maine into New Hampshire. The Salmon River is a natural boundary here and that's Stanley Bridge the train is approaching. Note the old 44-tonner resting on the abandoned siding in the background.

Dave ran on ahead and crossed boundary road where he managed to snag this shot of the train approaching the road crossing. That's the F.B. Hamer building to the right in the background.

Note that the road is protected by a rail employee who spends his day in the crossing shanty. "Where is this person?" Dave is wondering. Oh well, he managed to get a great shot away, anyways!

We met up with Dave's good buddy, Wayne Hills who was in town snapping a few shots for a book he is working on. Wayne managed to capture the train as it took the south siding in town for a meet.

The two "Bluebirds" are Gp9's and we managed to lens the 1746 and 1701. This has allowed us to snap one of the latest and one of the earliest in the number scheme for these diesel locomotives. The B&M traded in their weary fleet of FT's for engine parts on the new "9"s and a total of 50 were purchased. (#1700-1749) They were the first B&M road switchers bought without steam generators with the exception of the former demonstrator RS2 #1500.

Wayne offered us some of his photos, two of which were taken in the town of North Dover. The train dropped its only boxcar and sashayed over to the north siding after another train passed through town. Over lunch we discussed our displeasure with the McGinnis regime on the railroad. We were concerned with the loss of the beautiful maroon and gold FT's and the new colours of the GP9's were hotly debated. It seemed that "billboard" schemes were now spreading from boxcars to locomotives at lightning speed. The new blue, black and white patterns appeared glaringly modern and reminiscent of McGinnis's tenure with the New Haven. Apparently he hired his wife to do the latest artwork in bold lettering.

I must admit that the interlaced B&M grows on you after a while. The "bluebird" scheme underwent later developments, and, as the railroad lost more money, a basic solid "blue dip" was applied as a cost saving measure when repaints were necessary and when new diesels arrived on the line.

As for Dave and I, our railfanning trip couldn't have turned out better. We met Dave's good buddy, Wayne, and yes, spring was in the air as those pair of "bluebirds" sang proudly as they hauled their short train into North Dover on a spectacular spring day!

Cheers, Mike

Feel free to check out my other weblog which details the activities of my round robin train operating group here in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada at

Sunday, March 19, 2006

1000th Visitor to my Model Railroad

Over the years a number of interesting people have visited my layout, many with a story to tell about their lives both inside and outside the hobby of model railroading. Guests have come alone or in small groups of three or four and I've managed to host larger crowds at times as my crew lounge is able to handle a dozen people with ease. Some folks who have come by were not necessarily involved in the hobby and it is my hope that somehow I managed to "kickstart"the model railroad gene in their DNA.

Some of my interesting visitors have included Rod Johnston, the husband of Lyne who created the well-known comic strip "For Better or Worse" where she often makes fun of his interest in trains. Walter Gretzky, the father of Wayne Gretzky of NHL fame telephoned to come over one time when he was visiting friends in the Ottawa area. Unfortunately, my wife had to give him the message that I was out of town giving a scenery clinic on model railroading! It was also a thrill hosting Tony Koester and Jim Hediger from Model Railroader Magazine in my home. The well-known modelling team of Bill and Mary Miller dropped in as did a crew of Master Model Railroaders from all over Ontario and other parts of the continent during a convention a few years back. I still get a big kick out of opening the pages of my guest book and reading all the comments people leave. I must say, every continent of the world is accounted for! This past week, in particular, was a milestone one for the layout. Read on...

Thursday evening, I was teasing my good friend, Derek Debeer, that he came up "one" short when he signed my guestbook after bringing his son and a friend over to see the trains. "What do you, short, Mike?" he queried me. "Simple,"I responded, "you are the 999th visitor who has come to see my model railroad!"

Derek didn't mind as numbers mean little to him. He is a "free spirit" who has already made a remarkable difference on the planet. You see, Derek was the drummer for the world class musical group "Johnny Clegg and Juluka" later
known as Zavuka. The music from this inter-racial band influenced those whose ambition it was to bring down the walls of Apertheid...and what an influence they were...and continue to be. In fact, Nelson Mandela asked Derek and Johnny to play at his inauguration as President of South Africa upon his release from prison. That's Derek on the left with other members of the band.

While visiting my layout, Derek mentioned that before he became heavily involved in the music industry, he worked for two years on the railroad in South Africa. He was a fireman whose primary job was to stoke the fires on the Garrats...those rather interesting locomotives prevalent in the southern parts of that continent.

Derek certainly had many a tale to tell about life as a stoker aboard these behemoth locomotives, but that's for another day.

So, who became the 1oooth visitor? Well, the following day, a little three-year old lad came over with his parents to see the trains. This was a couple Lisa had wanted to introduce me to...a wonderful family she had met through the nursery school where she volunteers. The young lad's name is Justin and he was thrilled to learn that he was a very special visitor.

I ran a lengthy freight train and he counted 38 cars being pulled by four engines. I then ran the short local you see pictured here behind B&M RS2 #1503. As a gift, I gave Justin and his parents a number of "black and whites" of the layout (I prefer them to colour images as they seem to suit the 1950's era better) and Justin was presented with a handful of Thomas the Tank colouring pages which thrilled him immensely!

Yes, model railroading is not only spans the ages and the globe!
Cheers, Mike

PS. The image of the Garrat was taken in 1964 by E. Marggraf

Check out my other weblog which details my train operating round robin group at