Sunday, April 17, 2016

Calgary Supertrain, 2016

The Independent Free-Mo Group.

Once again, a business trip fortuitously coincided with Supertrain in Calgary. Following are a few photos and observations.

Of all the layouts there, I liked the Independent Free-Mo Operating Group the best. Not only was the layout well done, with excellent trackwork, ballasting and scenery, they seemed to get it right when it came to the proper mix of sidings to mainline. Plus, I like the uncluttered look; the have the right ratio of track to landscape.

It also helped that the had a lash-up of six new Bowser SD40-2s. Too new, the owner told me, saying that he would soon be getting around to some weathering.

Speaking of Bowser, there was a generous number of the new SD40-2 units on the various HO layouts. It was good to see them in operation.

And still with Bowser, Scott Davis of Bowser told me that they should have the first samples of the new Red Barn this month. They are aiming for a release date in December.

Of course, Rapido Trains was also there, showing off their newest offerings.

As in previous years, the best modelling was by the narrow gauge modellers. They really are experts when it comes to scenery and structures! The two that captured my attention were the Big Trees Railroad by Malcolm Anderson of Regina and, once again, the Broak and Kantiffordit by Tom Beaton.

Tom Beaton with his great layout.

When Malcolm says the trees are big--they really are big!

(Look for more about these two great layouts in a future post.)

This show also featured the first large Z scale layout I have seen. One thing about Z: You sure can get a good train-to-scenery ratio! That mountain is about seven feet high.

While Z gives you a lot of railroading in a small space, it still looks toy-like to me. And watching the owner shakily try to re-rail a train told me why I don't think I will ever want to work in that scale.

The Calgary Fre-Mo also had a nice looking wharf, mill and barge-ferry scene.

My friend Jeff Arnold was selling some great-looking HO and N scale VIA FP40H units decorated in various unique schemes. Credit Jeff himself for the great modelling.

I was also impressed by the number of layouts that were at kid's-eye level. Clearly, the owners understand that a public show attracts a lot of families. It was great to see so many kids watching the trains go by at their eye-level, even if it meant the owners of the layouts had to keep their own eyes open for straying hands.

Overall, it was another great Supertain. The folks in Calgary really know how to put on a great show.

As a bonus, I took the C-train to the show. Those of us who live in places without rail transit envy people who have it, like in Calgary. It was a great way to begin and end the day.

Monday, April 11, 2016

Canadian Pacific Abandons Merger Talks With Norfolk Southern

It’s over; Canadian Pacific has pulled the plug on its attempt to merge with Norfolk Southern.
The decision may mark an end to the ambitions of CP CEO Hunter Harrison’s to create a coast-to-coast railway.
“We have long recognized that consolidation is necessary for the North American rail industry to meet the demands of a growing economy, but with no clear path to a friendly merger at this time, we will turn all of our focus and energy to serving our customers and creating long term value for CP shareholders,” he said in a statement.
One analyst was not surprised, noting that the “deck was stacked heavily against a favourable regulatory outcome.” As well, many U.S. politicians had voiced their opposition to the deal.
All told, Norfolk Southern rebuffed offers from CP three times.
Read more in the Globe and Mail. 

Sunday, April 3, 2016

Some Weathering for my Bowser SD40-2

After . . . .

I finally got around to weathering one of my new Bowser SD40-2 units. I use chalk for weathering, along with black water-based paint for the grills, fans and screens.

I use black, grey and brown chalk, with some orange for rust effects.

Now it looks like it has been working on the railroad!

Before (with grills painted).

Friday, April 1, 2016

Water By Train: The Way of the Future?

Could trains like these one day be carrying water?

A few kilometres from my house, the Red River flows slowly, steadily north to Hudson Bay and the Arctic Ocean—all of it wasted, some would say. Think of what all that water could do for places caught in drought like California and Arizona?
In fact, over the years, there have been some crazy plans to reverse the flow of Canada’s north-flowing rivers, sending the water south to the U.S.

In the 1950s the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers proposed the North American Power and Water Alliance (NAWAPA), which called for using nuclear explosions to blast canals to divert water from Canada to its southern neighbour. 

Today, such a plan would be inconceivable. But people are still talking about sending water from Canada and the northern states south—this time by train.

According to an article in Railway Age, Water By Rail (WBR) has become a topic of discussion in various railway and other circles today.

Referencing a May, 2015 story on MSNBC and NBC titled “California Drought: Can Railroads Come to the Rescue?,” the article quoted a BNSF spokesman who said “we certainly have that capability today.”
It also quoted BNSF Chairman Matt Rose from 2014 where he told the magazine: “We actually have an initiative on water by rail. We have looked at it seriously several times and haven’t quite seen the economics work but it might in the future.”

Also that year, Union Pacific Senior Vice President-Corporate Relations Robert Turner said that “there are multiple variables to be considered regarding shipping water by rail. As with any new shipment option, a thorough assessment is required prior to providing general comment on the logistical feasibility.”

At first glance, the magazine said, “WBR seems as economically feasible as crude by rail.” 
But there are questions, such as: Where will the water come from? Can enough tank cars be bought or built? How much water can each car actually carry, and how does water behave while in transit? Would sub-freezing temperatures present challenges during loading or shipment?
Using trains to carry water has been done in other countries, such as India, Australia and Israel. Water was also delivered by rail to communities such in U.S. states such as California, Arizona and Illinois.

One thing moving water by rail would do is give railways a way to deal with the 165,000 DOT-111 tank cars that no longer meet the latest AAR safety standards for carrying hazardous cargo. 

The cars, which are currently used to carry oil, may be forced out of service in the future; they could be re-purposed to carry water (after cleaning and re-lining, of course).

Of course, it’s not only Canadian water that could be moved by train; the Columbia River in the Pacific Northwest sends an enormous quantity of water to the ocean every year.
If California and the American southwest is indeed entering a long-term mega-drought, then moving water by train might get more attention, and give modelers another train option for their layouts.