Wednesday, December 09, 2020

Layouts in Ottawa Plus a Visit to An Ops Session

New Video Footage and Vintage Footage of My B&M/MEC Railroad

Layouts in the Ottawa Region and a Visit to An Ops Session

 Also, a Re-Visit With the Incredible Walter Gretzky the Father of NHL Great Wayne Gretzky

Some friends asked me to update my blog with video footage and vintage scenes from past operating sessions, so I will do so by re-igniting my previous two postings from a couple of years ago.  

Here is one of my favourite pics from my layout.  No...the starlike appearance in the headlight was not photo-shopped!  The light was so bright, it reflected this way naturally when I snapped the picture!

To view the images in larger format simply click on the picture.
To return to the default look of the page, click outside the image.

We view an area of my layout where a hidden portal brings trains from hidden (surround) staging to the visible portion of the model railroad.  Yes, my staged trains actually surround my layout!


Yes, blogger now allows "easy to upload" video format...although I have to keep the video short or they will not upload.  About 50 or so seconds seem to be the max.  Therefore, if I have a long train (like the one above) I have to keep it going in high notch so as to get the full train in the video!  Yikes!  (This video will be re-shown further down the blog posting with an explanation about the train.)
To view the video, simply click on the white arrow once, then a second time when it appears within a red circle.

This is the schematic of my layout as portrayed by Rick Johnson in Model Railroader Magazine.  Note the visible layout in the middle and the "surround staging" along the perimeter of the room.  Pop-up areas allow me to get in the corners should I need to.  I have placed the red arrow to show the location where the video was taken.

I wrote an article for Tony Koester on the concept of "Surround Staging" that appeared in Model Railroader's MRP 2001 edition.  The "Bluebirds" in the image to the right are crossnig the same bridge you have just seen in the video.

I credit my good friend, Trevor Marshall, for coming up with the idea of surrounding the layout with the staging.  At the time I was constructing my railroad in a spare basement bedroom (11'x13') my lovely wife, Lisa, was running a daycare in the basement lounge...which was effectively a kindergarten!  I didn't want little hands touching any trains that would have been staged outside the trains had to remain within the confines of the room!  Voila!  Surround Staging!  The image above shows the staging tracks to the left and the modelled portion of the layout to the right.

Some folks wanted to know a little bit more about me.  Well, that's me on the left in the light coloured shirt with my good friend, Chris Lyon.  Chris and I have made a number of videos on the joy that can be found in realistic model railroad operations.  Chris is on Youtube under the CNLVN moniker.

Chris and I had a blast creating four videos on realistic train video a day over four days.  No we are not professionals at all, but we do find joy in bringing train operations to life.

In this video you will learn the importance of "water towers" on your layout.  Just watch the introduction and you'll know what I mean!  Hehehe.  Whenever you get the time, you will find each segment will take you to the next day's session by looking at the videos in the column to the right of your screen.

Water Towers Video!
Copy and paste the address below into your browser.

Not only do we love running trains together, we also enjoy jamming with our acoustic guitars and our electric guitars as well.  The video link below takes you to the two of us playing "Knocking On Heaven's Door".

Will They Make It to the Grand Ole Oprey!
Video Link Below
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One of the joys I find in model railroading is assisting friends with their layouts.  In the scene above, I built and painted the Alder Models Canadian Northern Third Class Station out of resin for Chris.

I also helped him create a veritable forest of trees out of the spirea shrub that grows in my back yard!

The number one rule we have no matter where we operate is to have fun and smile a lot!  That's me in red with my good pal, Joel, as we operate our friend, Bill Scobie's amazing Rio Grande Southern narrow gauge railroad in S-scale.  "Sn3" in fact!

This is a large basement empire that Bill has created and you do feel as though you are in the mountains of Colorado when you visit his place!

What a thrill it is to ascend and descend the mountain grades with true helpers (operating independently) assisting on the climb up the hills.

When we operate on each other's layouts, the throttle systems may be different and the operations may vary, but every gentleman who hosts newcomers to the session always pairs them up with someone with experience on the railroad.  This creates a tremendous atmosphere of comfort for the visitor and camaraderie for all.

There's Bill "Sn3" Scobie on the right with another great friend, Jim McSherry...smiles all around...and...why not!

Up here in the Ottawa region, along with Bill "Sn3" Scobie's amazing pike, there are so many great layouts you can visit for train operating sessions and Michel Boucher's D&H realm is a true beauty.

The upstate New York landscape comes alive in Michel's basement empire.  Love those sharks!

Michel used to model Canadian roads but eventually switched over to the gorgeous paint scheme of the lightning striped D&H.

That's Michel smiling in red as Marty Phillips and Trevor Marshall check in on the moving train (out of our view).

Tom Hood's massive Canadian Northern RR with breath-taking vistas brings some twenty operators together to run the system each session.

At Tommy's you spend a full evening moving your train across the line!  Chris Lyon painted the backdrops for Tommy.

An earlier time with an earlier backdrop.  This demonstrates the sharing of skills among railroaders that makes this hobby the great one that it is!

Tommy's curved trestle is the first view you take in when you descend the basement stairs...and what a view it is!

I enjoy visiting Bill Meek's layout depicting the scenery about a 45 minute drive from his home here in Ottawa.  His is a smaller layout that operates in a big way!

I love visiting this layout to operate as it follows the pattern of the train operations Bill and I have witnessed in person on drives we have taken to the east of Ottawa.

Another great aspect of this layout is that Bill lives only three streets away from me!  (Big grin!)

That's little old me on the right with two dear friends, Howard Scodras and Don Leger.  Both are no longer with us but the memories I have of operating with these two fine gentlemen will stay with me for the rest of my life!

Howard's layout was situated in a small apartment bedroom.  It was so well planned that Model Railroader Magazine included it in some of their special book and on-line issues.

Even though the layout was small, oftentimes a dozen of us would descend on his apartment and wait our turn to run his trains in the crew lounge out in his living room.

Now that you have seen a few of the many amazing layouts close to my home. I would like to share a couple more images of why I feel model railroading is such a great hobby!  (I'm sure that if you are reading think the same!)  

This scout troop spent an entire evening in the railroad room.  The young lads were able to run a few trains and switch out a few industries and they never lost interest at all.  They asked excellent quality questions regarding how trains operate, about the history of trains and how the tracks overcome the obstacles presented by undulating territory.  I was most impressed!

Being a school teacher for 40 years, I always invite my students and their families into my home in late June before the school year lets out.  

The parents, siblings and grandparents get just as big a thrill at watching the trains move through the urban and rural areas as my students do.  I typically offer an evening slot and a weekend slot to accommodate all of the families!

Ah...but what brings me great joy is seeing the smiles on the faces...

...of the lads...

...and the lasses...who come to operate the trains on my Boston and Maine/Maine Central model railroad!

Yup, you've gotta have fun!

Before we get back to the layout, I want to share with you the latest project I am working on.  I have completed many of the machines for a machine shop for my friend, Doug Matheson

With the machines now complete, it is time to build from scratch the actual shop.  This is O-scale and I want to let you know that it is a complete joy to work in a scale outside of the one in which you typically model.  (I have also helped to build an N-scale empire inside a glass-topped coffee table with a group of friends that was raffled off for our local children's hospital.  That was a challenge!)

These are additional Sierra West parts.

Here is my finished work with them.

Same picture in different lighting.  I used a variety of materials to get the look I wanted from washes of paints, alcohol washes with Pan Pastels and other powders and chalks as well.

Before I started the actual shop building, I placed the machines on a small board for display purposes.

Then I added a concrete floor and finished the detailing on the boiler and the shop engine.

It took two full days of modelling simply to connect the engine to the boiler with all metal parts that had to be carefully measured, determined and cut!

I'll share more pics as this build progresses!

Here are the two most handsome lads in Ottawa on this day...Walter Gretzky and...well...Walter...not too sure about me!  (Big grin!)  I believe he is more famous than his son...#99 The Great One...Wayne Gretzky!

Along with Walter came, from left to right, Jacques (former NHL trainer), Walter, me and Charlie Henry, former NHL scout and chief executive.  To view the images in larger format simply click on the picture.  To return to the default setting, click outside the image.

We're in the train room.  How did this visit come about, you may be wondering?  Well, over fifteen years ago, Charlie's grandson was in my class as a grade 4 student.  He visited my model railroad when the class came by on a Saturday morning in June.  The young boy showed some pictures of the layout to his grandpa (Charlie) and Charlie simply had to visit the next time he would be in town.  Well the next time came about ten years ago, but on that Saturday I was out of town giving a clinic at an SLD/NMRA meet down in Smith's Falls.  Walter would have accompanied Charlie at that time.

Well it took a number of years, but the rain date materialized this afternoon.  My wife, Lisa didn't really want to get into a picture, but Walter insisted!

Walter turned 78 the day after his visit to my place.  He suffered a stroke a while back, but, boy oh boy, is he still "sharp as a tack" keeping Lisa and me in stitches all afternoon long with stories from way back.  He told us how his family came to Canada.  He mentioned how proud he is of his five children, 14 grandchildren and one great grand-child.  He certainly kept me on my toes asking a series of historical and geographical questions.  Lots of fun!

Joanne Henry, Charlie's daughter and the mom of that young lad who visited my trains when he was in my class was thrilled to make it over.  A great thrill for me was having Michael Allan Henry (that young grade 4 student of mine who is now 25 years old) telephone from his home in British Columbia during the visit.  Joanne still insisted on calling me "Mr. Hamer" and not Mike.

The gang got to see the Maine Central ply B&M this image already showcased at the top of this posting.

They railfanned a 40-car outbound B&M manifest train.

They were keenly interested in the scenery making.  It was Walter's birthday the following day.  I explained to him that when you step into my model railroad room you go back in time to the day I was born, May 27, 1958.  Yessirree, I model New England as it would have appeared on that day in history.  I tell the school kids who visit my model railroad that I'm always happy to enter the room as it's always my birthday!

Before I got to say to Walter and Charlie what an honour it was to meet them, they beat me to the punch, both saying, "Mike, what a thrill and an honour for us both to have finally enjoyed the opportunity of meeting you and seeing this marvel of a railroad you have."  Indeed...salt of the earth people!  Thank you for allowing me to digress away from the garden aspect of things...well, not entirely...for you see, almost all of the trees on my HO scale railroad were made from the flowers of shrubs in my garden...spirea, hydrangea and sedum!  

With the colder temperatures, we Canadians are known to embrace all elements of winter...although many of us do like to seek refuge in the subterranean areas of our homes.

This is where I find sanctuary from the cold and dark of winter... well as sanctuary from...

...that creatively designed...

...honey-do list!

So, how about following one of the trains on my HO scale layout... it rides high over the New England River...

...on the New England River Bridge!

Let's watch that fun video one more time!
Remember to click on the arrow twice to watch the video of this B&M inbound train PM2 (Portland, Me to Mechanicville, NY) cross the New England River Bridge.

The state of Maine is on the left bank of the river...

...with New Hampshire to the right.

A lone canoeist is visible off in the distance below the stone arch to the right.  Beyond the canoeist is where the river winds to the left and disappears into the mist!

The train horn is blowing as the lead engine reaches the crossing at Boundary Road.  The crossing guard has left his shanty and is hidden behind the locomotive.

While the structure may be made out of a cereal box and construction is one of the first models I ever made.  It is a direct replica of the two-room schoolhouse in which I taught in a small remote fishing village up near the Labrador.  It is dear to my heart and thus remains on the layout!

The train arrives the yard in North Dover as the Holy Spirits Distilleries towers in the distance.

The sign atop the Phillips Furniture Factory implores you to drink Moxie...a favourite beverage of many New Englanders...but I would implore you to not!  It tastes like (and has the similar texture to) cough syrup!

The large furniture factory requires two siding spurs and numerous loading/unloading doors.

Another canoe is in evidence although this fisherman pays no heed to the passing train.

Approaching the station at North Dover, we take notice of the tall buildings which climb the ridge out of the natural valley.

Indeed, there is plenty to take in even on an HO scale-sized model railroad in a spare bedroom the size of 11'x13'.

Let's follow the progress of the train in video as it clears the border, crosses Boundary Road  and finds its way into North Dover.  Simply click on the video's arrow two times to watch the action.

Actual Operation of Specific Trains

Here I will take you on the trip around the layout following one or my trains, "The Newsboy."

To view an account of this train as it descends from Maine into New Hampshire with a stop in my town of North Dover, simple copy and paste the Youtube link below into your computer's browser where you will find Chris Lyon's video footage from a visit to my layout.

Thanks for coming along with me on my journey in model railroading.  To learn more about the actual operations of some specific trains, check the posting immediately below this one and also visit the blog archive to the right at the top of the page for the year 2015 to learn about other trains operating on the layout.  

But,...before you do either of these...let's head into Mr. Peabody's "Wayback Machine" with Mr. Peabody and Sherman to revisit an operating session from the year 2006.

Let's Visit the Archives

To view these pictures in larger format, you will have to click on them. return to the default page you will have to use your "back arrow" this time.

The Friday Night Crew were thirty minutes into last evening's operating session when a large boom was heard (and felt) as the entire house shook. Indeed, North Dover was struck by an earthquake. Operators Mike Mueller and Bill Meek were startled to see all buildings sway and cars pushed off the road in the brief duration the tremor was felt. In reality, the entire Ottawa region was struck by a quake of magnitude 4.5 on the Richter Scale. The eerie aspect of this story is the fact that the previous week's train operations at Tommy Hood's layout felt a "fictitious" earthquake...which was written about in the previous posting! Last night's tremor was no was the real thing! In fact, some of the operators' wives called my home to see if we heard and felt the earth move as they did from their homes! Being a school teacher in the throes of report cards, my railfanning on this day is limited and I am able to capture three trains, the North Turn, a Maine Central hotshot and a B&M passenger train hauling milk to market. I was standing precariously on a hillside outside North Dover snapping shots of train D5, "The North Turn" when I felt some movement below my feet. Little did I know that the minor rumblings would be an advanced warning of a larger magnitude tremor that would hit town in short order. From my elevated position I am able to capture the North Turn departing town. (1st image) It has finished its exchange in North Dover and is spotted departing yard limits at Boundary Road in an outbound direction. My railfan buddies, Stan and Jim, later met up with the turn as it crossed Stanley Bridge spanning the Salmon River. The train is departing New Hampshire and entering Maine with its consist seen above the curved stone arches of this magnificent bridge. (2nd image) Shortly the train reaches the interlocking with the Maine Central where Jim managed to obtain a photograph of the tail end of a lengthy MEC mainline train. The Maine Central is the inferior railroad here and typically it has to await the arrival of any B&M traffic. Why it was granted permission to cross the diamond ahead of the superior B&M local is a mystery...but nothing surprises we railfans! I understand that Rick Craig and Don Leger make up the crew on "The Turn" this day. I return to my car to chase the North Turn and I finally catch it at the northern terminus of the line. (On my layout, the staging tracks at the duckunder serve as both northern (Rigby Yard) and southern (Lowell Jct.) classification areas. Here we spot the 1223 sidling up beside a big brother, FT 4217. A passenger train is spotted in care of a large contingent of milk traffic. I am thrilled to capture this shot of a Hood milk car and two Borden's cars. Unfortunately my blasted camera ran out of film just as two rather unique rail cars passed by...yes, two red "butterdish" milk cars hidden in amidst a bevy of milk carrying cousins. Hopefully I will be able to capture these cars sometime in the near future. Sixteen visitors arrived for train ops...a larger group than the typical dozen who attend. For those who don't know my basement setup, the crew lounge is at least three times larger than the actual layout allowing my home to support a greater crowd. Typically four operators run the layout at any given time with the odd occasion of six operators when the Conley Lumber and Coal engine comes to life. The other operators await their call in the spacious and comfortable crew lounge I've created thanks to inspiration from my wife, Lisa...and the handiwork of my good buddy, Mike Mueller. VHS and DVD movies play continuously throughout the evening and the Friday Night fellas bring plenty of books and new magazines to share. Operations last for two hours from 8:00 PM to 10:00 PM followed by food and drink until near midnight. (Friday night means most fellas don't have to set alarms the next morning for work.) Following trains ops we typically watch more videos or we settle in for terrific slide presentations from members of the group. Look closely at the first image and you'll spot the layout room off in the distance and a bunch of the boys immersed in railroad conversations or checking out books and magazines.This just in! The true cause of the tremor officially has been determined. Apparently Mr. Leger (kneeling) was grumbling to Pope Howard (standing) that his own layout was not receiving the press coverage that the Pope's the Pope's anger was sparked. (Pope Howard's layout appeared in MR recently and was selected to be one of the few layouts chosen for a Kalmbach Trainplayer game.) In begging forgiveness, Mr. Leger was shaken to the soul by the Pope's tremulous response. As the Pope admonished Archbishop Leger, the ground shook...and the vibrations were felt as far away as the CN mainline to the south of the Ottawa region as evidenced in the attached photograph! Lesson here...never covet thy neighbour's layout! Indeed, model railroading is fun when you get to share your layout with a bunch of great friends.

Thanks for taking the time to check in on my blog!
All the best in model railroading!

Mike Hamer, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada