Christmas Wonderland!

December 10th, 2012

It’s been more than a year since I’ve posted here and all I am doing is making a marketing pitch to have a many people as possible come to O’leary this Saturday, Dec. 15th, for their Christmas Wonderland fundraiser.  The UMG will be there with their layout spreading the word of Model Railroading, celebrating the season, and helping out a fellow member, the Reverend Ewen Moase.  Click the image to the right for more information.

Hope to see you there!

The Van Horne Experience

October 31st, 2011

Well, as we are heading past Moncton we have only a few more hours until we are home and our weekend trek is officially over. It’s a fitting time to make my last entry of our adventures.

We struck out for Laval to find Van Horne Hobbies. Derwin had been there once before so we knew it was difficult to find. If it wasn’t for the GPS we would have missed it. The building is not what you would expect to house a model train store (see photo below). The sign is also not what most would consider “eye catching” either. I really had no idea what to expect inside such a place.

Let me tell you, I was not even remotely prepared for what greeted us inside the door. The place was wall to wall and floor to ceiling display cases and boxes full of train stuff! Chris related it to something you would see on the TV show “Hoarders”. You could hardly move for all the stuff!

I spent a long time looking through boxes of old Athearn and Roundhouse kits and hadn’t seen them all when Chris said “you have to see this”. So I went to the back of the store and saw several very large display cases FULL of locomotives! Everywhere you turned were cases with what I would guess were hundreds of HO scale locos! Unfortunately there were some completely obscured by the boxes piled around them.

The place is definitely worth a stop. But I have a couple of suggestions if you do go… 1. Don’t bring your family and 2. Plan on a couple hours to browse through the boxes.

I wasn’t planning to buy anything more after our visit to Hobby Junction but I just had to drop a little more cash at Van Horne!

So now we are almost home and I am officially broke after paying for gas in Salisbury. I don’t mind though because our weekend adventure in Montreal was definitely worth it!

ps – the photos of the display cases below were taken as I was standing in pretty much one spot. I don’t think any of them are of the same case.










West Island & Montreal Railway Co.

October 30th, 2011

After visiting Canada Central we headed over to Hobby Junction. I thought I had pictures from Hobby Junction but I can’t find them now.

After a lot of browsing, free coffee and donuts, and dispersal of funds the guys at HJ suggested we visit a club only 5 minutes away – they were having an operating session.

So after a quick lunch at a nearby deli we headed over to the club. We were told to ring the doorbell and “tell em Dave sent ya”.

We received a very warm welcome and were invited upstairs. Unfortunately, they had already finished operating and were packing up.

We talked about their layout, their modules and plans for the future. Derwin was star struck when he realized the guys he had been talking to were Ken Goslett and Stan Smaill. He actually felt a little faint as we left the building.

It was a great layout that looked like it would be a lot of fun to operate. It would be nice to organize a trip to operate there some day.

Anyway, they said we really had to go to Van Horne Hobbies. So, with Only a little time to get there before they closed we decided to get on the road quick.

Next post, The Van Horne experience!




A day late.

October 30th, 2011

We had a very busy day yesterday. We arrived at the Canada Central very close to opening time and the place was already packed with people. What a layout (but I’ll get to that later).

Just inside the entrance were a bunch of sales tables with a lot of ‘stuff’. We wandered around for a bit to see what was available and get an idea of prices. Some thing were a little more expensive then we are used to but a lot of stuff was pretty reasonably priced. Canadian Express Lines was there so I picked up a sound decoder for my US Interchange locos and also a couple automobiles.

Then we headed into the layout room. All I can say is ” “. That’s right, I was speechless. “WOW!” does not even come close to describing my initial reaction.

The place is huge and it was made for operations. The three of us could have gone there for an operating session and not seen one another the whole time we were there!

The crowd made it very difficult to get around to see it all, and to enjoy the experience, but we managed.

Here are some photos that I managed to grab with my phone. I have others I took with my SLR that I’ll upload later, hopefully, when I am at a real computer. I’m typing this on my iPhone as we ate speeding along Rte 20 heading home.







Next Stop, Montreal!

October 28th, 2011

I seem to start out posts lately (I use the term “lately” very loosely since I can’t remember when my last post was) with “I know it’s been a while…”.

Anyway, since I have some spare time on our drive to the last open house of the Canada Central in Montreal, I thought I’d share a few of our “adventures”.

We stopped in Edmunston to load up on (and get rid of) coffee. Lo and behold we found a train for Chris to operate with his WiThrottle (iPod)!


JMRI Clinic for MFMR Convention 2011

May 14th, 2011

Here are some links for more information in followup to the clinic I gave at the MFMR Convention on May 14, 2011.

JMRI is a very useful tool for anyone using Digital Command Control.  In it’s basic use JMRI – DecoderPro is a godsend for programming DCC mobile decoders.  I really don’t know how folks not using DecoderPro get along.  I have one loco Proto RS-11 with QSI sound that “loses it’s mind” every now and then during an operating session.  Since I have the settings for all my locos stored in my DecoderPro roster file it takes only a minute or two to set the loco back to my customs settings and it’s back in operation on the layout.

Since the introduction of WiThrottle – a server and application combination – there has been a revolution in wireless throttle technology.  Now we use our iPhones, iPods, and Android phones as throttles when we operate.  The great thing about it is that our throttles are now universal – they will work on any DCC system as long as it has a computer interface, DecoderPro, and a wireless home network.

Anyway, on to the “more information” part of this post.

JMRI web site

At the moment 2.10 is the stable production version.  2.11.4 is the current test version.  In my experience it is relatively safe to install the test versions to take advantage of new features, but beware that there may be issues.  If you do have problems with a test version you can always reinstall the previous version.

DecoderPro Manual

With the rapid development of JMRI this manual is almost always out of date.  But it would certainly help for basic/older features.

JMRI Yahoo Group

A great resource when you are really stuck.  The developers of JMRI check the group daily – some several times a day.  If you ever have a problem or question this would be the first place to ask your question.

Other JMRI Clinics

A collection of other presentations on most aspects of JMRI.  If you are into automation, dispatching, or remote control this is a great resource.

JMRI on YouTube

Lots of great (and some not so great) videos about how folks are using JMRI – from the basic to advanced.

My PresentationClick here

Probably not as good as many of the other presentation you’ll find on the internet, but it does have some links to neat videos of JMRI in use.

Degraded Passenger Service on the BS&T

April 4th, 2011

Derwin’s Drop – Over the last few years passenger service on the Bayside and Tidewater Railway has slowly been degrading.  Since the regular (actually “occasional”) passenger trains were annulled in 2010 for the less expensive combination cars (passenger and caboose/conductor’s office).  At that time BS&T management said the change was due to decreasing demand for travel by train.  “Using the combination cars will reduce cost for the railroad and still provide timely service for our regular riders”, said Albert Moneygrabber (head of railroad management for the BS&T).  Since the changeover many regulars on the combination cars have reported a steady decline in service.

“The first train in the morning usually leaves on time”, says Penny Perriwinkle of Stevenville, “But I never know when I’m going to get to work, or when I’m going to get home”.  Penny works as a secretary in the office at Chappell Seafood in Chappellton.  Her boss, Mr George Pennypincher, complains, “I have lots of employees that travel from nearby towns that have no car (note – because he doesn’t pay them enough).  The way that cheap old bugger runs that railroad I can’t depend on any one of them!  I’m going to have to let them all go and only hire locals.”  (note – good luck with that Georgey!)

As bad as service has been over the past year it reached an all time low yesterday.  Rather than hold up the CN Interchange train the BS&T dispatcher ordered the Wayfreight to take the siding in Derwin’s Drop putting the lives of all the passengers on board at great risk when the combination car ended up parked at Chemical Hazards.

“The stench was horrible!”, said Penny when we caught up with her at the hospital in Chappellton where all of the passengers were taken after the incident.  “We were all feeling quite ill, and started getting a rash before we got to Kenville.  By the time we got to Chappelton my nose had fallen off.  I put it in my purse so the doctor could sew it back on.  I hope he put it on straight.”

In all, 14 passengers were taken to Chappellton Memorial Hospital and treated for exposure to several dangerous chemicals and radiation.  All are in stable condition and are expected to require several weeks of treatment before they are completely recovered.

The transportation authority is investigating the incident and say they expect to be able to wrap it up quickly.  Spokesperson Ima Fairman said, “It’s pretty obvious where the blame lies in this case.  The Engineer of the train will be dealt with swiftly.  He won’t be driving anything bigger than a motor scooter by the time we’re done with him!”

(see page 3 for “Accusations of Corruption in the Transportation Authority”)

Operating in Halifax

March 20th, 2011

It’s been a while since I’ve posted here.  I may post more frequently, but it is hard to find the time. A few of us drove to Halifax yesterday to operate on a couple layouts there.  We operated on the Fall River Eastern Railroad and the White River Southern and had a visit to Nottingham Subdivision.  All are very nice layouts and we had a great time.  Here are some photos from our day….

Operating on the Island Central – Nov. 13, 2010

November 14th, 2010

Jim, from the Codiac Operators Group, contacted me several weeks ago wondering if any of the Half Nuts Model Railroaders would be interested in joining them in an operating session on Doug Devine’s Island Central Railway (ICR).  I jumped at the chance, as did Derwin, Greg, and Ken.  Unfortunately none of the other Half Nutters could make it.

We were on the road in the wee hours of the morning – well, 6:30 is the wee hours of the morning for me.  We met Jim and Mike (#1) at the Big Stop just outside Moncton about 8:30 and had time to stop for a refill of coffee before we got to Doug’s at 10:00.

If you haven’t read my reports of operating on the ICR then you may not know that this is one of the finest operating layouts in the Maritimes.  You can get more information about the layout on Doug’s web site.

Photo: Mike (#2) having fun working in McAdam.

We weren’t there long before the local reinforcements arrived.  Lawrence and Mike (#2) came to give Doug a hand, or maybe it was to keep us in line?  If it was the latter they failed miserably!

After Doug gave everyone the corporate line it was time to choose work assignments.  I had a brief stint of operating Dever Road Yard the last time we operated on the ICR and really enjoyed it.  I wanted to see what the task would be like for a full session so I grabbed it.  There wasn’t really much of a fight over it since not many people seem to want to do yard work (except Chris and Brian).

Once I got down to work I lost track of most everyone else, except when they would come around to take out a train that was ready to leave or (laugh) as they arrived with a @$#% load of cars for me to deal with.  I managed to get the work done without many stressful moments and even had some downtime to take a few (very few) photos.

Photo: Jim working (wrecking?) Mill Street.

I don’t think there were too many mishaps, other than the few that happened in Mill Street (behind me at Dever Road).  Jim worked that job for about half the session.  In that short amount of time I’m sure he racked up quite a few demerits, but since I wasn’t the layout owner I couldn’t hand them out.  Doug never seemed to be around when anything happened in Mill Street.  I heard a lot of talking and laughing in the other parts of the layout but I have no idea what was going on.  It didn’t matter, I was having fun in Dever Road.

Derwin, Greg, Ken, and Mike (#1) got a lot of road time in.  Between fast freights, wayfreights, passenger trains, and yard work on other parts of the layout they were pretty busy.  I heard that they had some sitting time but Doug and Lawrence were keeping a close eye on the crew lounge to make sure no one sat for too long.

Greg and Ken took turns working West Saint John – a small area with enough switching to keep one person busy for hours.

Photo: Ken, Derwin, and Mike (#1) running trains.  Ken’s running a freight on one of the upper levels, Derwin’s taking some video (hopefully we’ll see it later on his site), and Mike’s obviously having fun as he leaves Grand Bay heading for Dever Road.

The 45 car fast-freight was quite a sight it was as it slowly left Dever Road.  It seemed to take forever for the end of the train to go out of sight.  Jim was at the throttle and did a great job pulling it out.  It was quite a sight as it snaked it’s way down the line past Grand Bay and beyond.  We were all amazed that such a long model train could run the entire layout without something going wrong.  Somewhere between there and McAdam all that changed. The video below was taken along the main line not long after it left Dever Road.  It’s about midnight on a fairly dark night.  Double click the video to watch it in full screen.

On most model railroads there is a rule that you should keep an eye on the head end and rear end of your train.  If something changes you should stop and find out what’s wrong.  Well, apparently the fast-freight left some cars on the main line and the operator didn’t notice that the rear end had changed.  Since Jim handed over controls part way through the run there was some dispute over who was actually responsible.  Long story short – never sign anything!  Double click the video below to watch it in full screen.

The last train of the night (session) arrived about midnight (or 2:30 pm real time) as Derwin pulled the Pan Am into Dever Road.  I ended up doing more work than I had to.  There was still work happening on the layout so I figured I’d sort these cars and leave a clean yard.  Doug told me later that normally this train marks the end of the shift and is left for the morning crew to put away.  Oops!  Oh well, the regular crew will be ahead of the game at the start of another day on the ICR.

We had a great time!  Thanks for opening the ICR to a bunch of Half Nuts and Codiacs!  Thanks to Lawrence and Mike (#2) for giving Doug a hand!


The Passing of a Friend

October 9th, 2010

I was shocked when I read the email this morning announcing the passing of a very good friend – Dave Thompson of Berwick, NS.

Dave joined our UMG modular group a few years ago.  He fit into the group right from the start with his good natured sense of humour and eager willingness to lend a hand.

Dave enjoyed getting children interested in the hobby of model railroading.  It was rare when you didn’t see Dave operating as a conductor or brakeman for a young operator during a show.

I could only find a few photos of Dave in my collection, but thanks to Dave M. and Doug W. for digging some up and sending them along.

Dave will be missed by all that knew him.