Tuesday, April 3, 2007 at 9:14 am

Kemptville Toy and Train Show

Lionel Acela I’m always surprised at just how many train shows take place within a few hours’ drive. This past weekend we stopped by the Kemptville Toy and Train Show, which takes place in Kemptville, Ontario, a bedroom community south of Ottawa. I took a lot of pictures and have put together a collection of them. Probably the smallest show I’ve yet seen, but it was typical of the form: some Lionel and G scale displays, a modular layout (just one this time, in HO scale, from the Morrisburg Model Railroad Club), and a whole bunch of booths selling everything from videos to model railroad equipment to railroad fetish objects (what else would you call obsolete timetables and other company castoffs?) to just plain junk. The highlight, though, was the amazing, award-winning Limpley Wharf layout, which packs a lot of animated whimsy into a tiny, 5×3-foot N-scale layout.

Thursday, March 29, 2007 at 8:37 am

SNCF Hypes Imminent TGV Record Attempt

SNCF’s “official” TGV speed record attempt — as opposed to its “unofficial” speed record — is apparently taking place on April 3, weather permitting, but you wouldn’t believe the hype in the meantime. The special trainset, in special livery, is the focus of attention (video), and there’s even a contest to win a seat on it.

SNCF knows its PR, for sure. Via TrainBlog and Zug & Eisenbahn Blog.

Previously: Another TGV Speed Record.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007 at 10:40 am

European Train Ticket Discounts

Budget Travel Online has an article on how to save on rail travel in Europe by taking advantage of last-minute discounts. Some of the discounts are quite profound; some of them I already knew about, like the German “Schönes-Wochenende” ticket that allows up to five people on a single pass good for non-express trains, which I used in 1997. (You can go a long way on such a ticket, if you’re willing to do it on local trains.) Via Gadling.

Previously: How to Get Cheaper UK Rail Fares.

Friday, March 23, 2007 at 11:16 am

VIA Rail Loses Disabled-Access Case, Must Fix Renaissance Cars

VIA Rail logo VIA Rail lost its case at the Supreme Court today, and as a result must spend as much as $48 million to make its Renaissance coaches more wheelchair-accessible — the cars only cost VIA $139 million to buy in 2000.

VIA appealed a 2003 ruling by the Canadian Transportation Agency that the cars presented undue obstacles for disabled passengers; it won before the Federal Court of Appeal, but that ruling was appealed to the Supreme Court, where VIA has now lost. (It’s worth noting that VIA’s track record on disability issues has been poor in the past.)

Renaissance cars are used in the Windsor-Quebec corridor on some routes and on VIA’s Gaspé and Ocean services.

Friday, March 23, 2007 at 9:28 am

CN’s St. Patrick’s Day Float

Saint-Patrick -  Petit train ira loin

CN’s float in Montreal’s St. Patrick’s Day parade. A short while later it hit a pothole and crashed, spilling 15 cars of boric acid into Montreal’s water supply. Photo by Humanoide.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007 at 9:32 am

When Scale Isn’t in Gauge

In his “Trains of Thought” column for the April 2007 issue of Model Railroader, Tony Koester muses on the different scales used on No. 1 track. You may be aware that “G scale” encompasses, in fact, many scales.

If the flanges of locomotives and rolling stock fit between the rails of No. 1 gauge track, [garden railroaders] cheerfully run it. It doesn’t matter to them that some of the equipment is scaled to 1:22.5 proportion, which assumes the 45 mm No. 1 gauge equals one meter, as in European narrow gauge; 1:20.3 proportion, correct for 45 mm equaling 3 feet; 1:32 proportion (No. 1 scale) for the standard gauge version; or the popular 1:29 proportion, which is oversize for No. 1 gauge track but looks okay. They’ll run it all.

If you’re a regular MR reader, you’ll recall that Tony built an indoor large scale project in 2005, and, otherwise fastidious about accuracy, he ended up settling on 1:29 scale rather than the prototypically accurate 1:32, because more of the equipment he needed — especially freight cars — was available in 1:29 than in 1:32.

Because two major manufacturers were interested in offering North American standard gauge trains for No. 1 gauge track, but trains and models made to the smaller, but correct, 1:32 size looked too small next to LGB’s 1:22.5 and Bachmann’s 1:20.3 narrow gauge trains. So they bulked up the models until the size was roughly equivalent to the narrow gauge offerings, but the gauge remained 45 mm to ensure operational compatibility.

Market compromises, in other words, resulted in standard-gauge stuff being modelled out of gauge, which you can tell disappoints Tony a little bit. But G scale isn’t the only place where this has occurred.

Drop down to O scale and you’ll see what I mean. O scale track is 1¼ inches (31.8 mm) wide, but American O scale is 1:48. In 1:48, 1¼ inches is a scale five feet, making every “standard” gauge O scale layout unprototypically broad gauge, since standard gauge is 1735 mm, or four feet, 8½ inches. But British O scale is 1:43, which makes 1¼-inch track correct and in scale.

A lot of U.S. O-scale modelling is in narrow gauge, but compromises exist there too. Most American narrow-gauge railroads were three-foot gauge, but most commercially available American models are 30-inch-gauge: On30 instead of On3. Every On30 model of a western U.S. narrow-gauge prototype is out of gauge. Why? Because On30 is exactly as wide as HO scale track, and that’s useful.

But it doesn’t stop there. HO scale and OO scale use exactly the same, 16.5-mm-wide track, even though HO is 1:87 and OO is 1:76. The reason OO is out of gauge is because British prototype locomotives were smaller than their U.S. counterparts, and at the time the standard was set, an HO British locomotive was too small to house a motor.

Look hard enough and you’ll see other examples: Nn3 uses Z-scale standard-gauge track not because it’s in scale, but because it’s there. At the other end, look at live steam: 1:8-scale trains — these are trains large enough to sit on — use either 7¼-inch (184-mm) or 7½-inch (190-mm) track, depending, it seems, on where you live. Neither, it turns out, is exactly in scale for 1:8 scale, but both are probably close enough — and easier to measure than a track gauge of 179.375 mm, or a scale other than 1:8.

Compromises exist, and exist for a reason. In practice, fidelity to scale is only one consideration of many; compromises may well allow something to exist that might not otherwise be feasible — technically or economically — if it had to be in perfect scale.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007 at 11:18 am

The Last Romanian Logging Railroad

(thumbnail) Even in Romania, logging railroads are a dying institution. Twenty years ago, when Bob Turner first toured Romania’s logging lines, “the country still had 21 forestry lines, all 760 mm, all steam operated. My last visit was in 1999. Three systems survived at that time. I closed a chapter of my steam photography, and thought it won’t be rewarding to visit Romania anymore, just for steam operated forestry lines.” But he ended up leading one more tour in October 2006 to the last of the breed, a tour which produced some fantastic photography and an account of some rather haphazard operating procedures. Via El Dorado Western.

Saturday, March 17, 2007 at 8:30 am

Daryl Dankwardt’s Model Railroad

Daryl Dankwardt Another find by Coxy, and another model railroader who both hand-lays his track and has started a blog to chart the progress of his layout, is Daryl Dankwardt, who models Canadian railroads during the steam transition era. He’s been at work on his layout for four years, but started blogging last month. (Don’t miss the photos of his grandfather’s layout, too.)

Friday, March 16, 2007 at 10:21 pm

Sacramento Trestle Destroyed by Fire

Photo by Laura Martin A major fire that has destroyed a 400-metre wooden trestle in Sacramento is being deemed suspicious by authorities. The fire, which began last night, has disrupted freight and Amtrak traffic and could be seen for miles; the burning creosote timbers also triggered some health and air quality advisories (News10, Sacramento Bee). The trestle was still smouldering even as crews began demolishing what was left of it this morning. It will be replaced by a $25–30 million concrete bridge, and quickly — Union Pacific says one track will be open by April 1, with a second track following a month later. Photo by Krap Artist. Via El Dorado Western: 1, 2, 3.

Friday, March 16, 2007 at 4:55 pm

Central New Jersey Bronx Terminal

CNJ Bronx Terminal trackwork The Central New Jersey’s Bronx Terminal apparently had some insane trackwork; what’s crazier is that Tim Warris has taken it upon himself to create a model of that terminal, hand-laying all that complicated track. He’s just started a blog to take us step by step through the design and construction process. Excuse me while I pick up my jaw; I seem to have left it on the floor somewhere. Via Coxy.