The 2017 Winnipeg Model Railroad Club Open House

Winnipeg Model Railroad Club 2017 Open House
Winnipeg Model Railroad Club 2017 Open House

The Winnipeg Model Railroad Club held its 2017 Open House this past weekend. It was held on April 1-2 at the club’s regular meeting place in the basement of the Legion on Roblin Boulevard.

The open house featured several layouts from several local modeling groups as well as some private portable layouts, in a variety of scales. I was impressed by the modeling talents of every display.

The winners of the modeling contests were displayed along one wall, with the winners of the photo contests on an adjacent wall.

Here’s some photos I took of the open house.

Winnipeg Model Railroad Club 2017 Open House
Winnipeg Model Railroad Club 2017 Open House
Rail Train!
Rail Train!
Winnipeg Model Railroad Club 2017 Open House
Winnipeg Model Railroad Club 2017 Open House
Bents Grain Elevator
Bents Grain Elevator
The Assiniboine Valley Railroad was there!
The Assiniboine Valley Railroad was there!
I really liked the detail on the locomotive and the pump jack.
I really liked the detail on the locomotive and the pump jack.
Ian Plett at work!
Ian Plett at work!
Trains and Grain Elevators... mmm.
Trains and Grain Elevators… mmm.
Paul Ullrich's layout is always popular with the kids.
Paul Ullrich’s layout is always popular with the kids.
I liked this N scale layout.
I liked this N scale layout.
A nice compact layout!
A nice compact layout!
An overview of the room
An overview of the room
Photo contest winners!
Photo contest winners!
Last but certainly not least, the modeling contest winners.
Last but certainly not least, the modeling contest winners.

Thanks to the WMRC for putting on this open house! It was fun!

See Also

Brain Dump

I know I haven’t posted in a long time, so I’m just going to do a brain dump and list some things that I’ve been picking away at.


  1. I added fascia to the majority of my layout! I’m pretty pleased by how it looks. Photos to come soon.
  2. I bought a bunch of “inexpensive” freight cars, some of which I have refurbished for my layout, and some that I resold on the excellent CANADA HO/N Yard Sale group on Facebook.
  3. I started doing some weathering with PanPastel artists’ pastels. So far I weathered one Bachmann grain car and sealed it with Dullcote. I’m pleased.

The Fleet

These are the DCC-equipped locomotives / RDCs I have. Only CN 3665 (third from left) has sound.

Current Fleet

New Acquisition

I bought another locomotive and I hope to receive it by the end of next week.

It’s a Kato/Atlas GP38 custom painted by Scott Holmes in a fantasy CN/VIA scheme.

I’m not sure if I will repaint it… I’ll have to see it and operate with it for a while first to see how I feel about it.

I’m excited!

Time For DCC

Speaking of exciting, I bought a trio of TCS T1 decoders to go into my two VIA “blue box” locomotives and an old Bachmann “RS18”.

Ready for DCC
Ready for DCC

These VIA units have some extra detail on them – handrails, grilles, etc. – so they are definitely a step above your normal Athearn “blue box” quality. I believe Craig Takahashi did the detail work.

I’ll be following these instructions for DCC installation. It’s definitely not my first decoder installation – see my RDC installation – but I don’t do it often enough to be able to do it without glancing at instructions.


I haven’t done any formal operations sessions in a while. I have run trains a few times when my nephew came by – he does love the trains but I think he likes driving my toy trucks more.

I am getting the itch to run trains so I think I’ll be doing that soon.


Next Steps

These are the next things I plan to do on my layout / trains:

  • Install the three decoders
  • Run an operations session
  • Weather a few more cars

Operations with Nick

My oldest son Nick came to visit for Thanksgiving. He’s attending the University of Waterloo so it was nice to have him around for a few days. We did our traditional visits to the Royal Aviation Museum of Western Canada and to Marway Militaria. Nick has a fair amount of N scale equipment (some from my dad’s collection) and hopes to build a layout someday.

He expressed an interest in operating on my layout, and I jumped at the chance. I had never had anyone operate on my layout before!

After cleaning the track and a few locomotive wheels, we were ready for action.

Nick decided to take CP and I took CN.

First up for him was the VIA RDC off the Minnedosa subdivision into Brandon, followed by CP 976, also off the Minnedosa to Brandon.

As he ran his trains, I ran mine. CN 404 was first, working the Manitoba Pool Elevator and Irving Oil.

Working the Manitoba Pool elevator
Working the Manitoba Pool elevator

CN 404 was pulling some cars out of the Pool track before putting the grain cars in.

In the following clip you can see it rolling into Winnipeg (staging) after doing its work. It was pretty long for my layout!

Nick was working Georgetown with demonstrator 769. Unfortunately it derailed due to a misaligned switch. The crew easily rerailed it and carried on.

The roadmaster had a little chat with the engineer afterward about speeds in the yard!

Later, CN 403 was working in Georgetown while a CP freight was also working in Georgetown. This has never happened before, since I can’t run two trains at once by myself!

CN and CP working Georgetown
CN and CP working Georgetown

Note the single grain car spotted at the elevator by CN 404 earlier.

After working in Georgetown, CN 403 proceeded to Helene to work the Cargill elevator. One more clip, showing the train backing into track HI01 with the full train.

Nick shows the finer points of using a tool to uncouple cars…

Uncoupling pick
Uncoupling pick

We operated for about an hour and a half and finished everything up. It was great to have a guest operator and the fact that it was my son made it extra special. Thanks, Nick!

See also:

Analysis Paralysis

Analysis paralysis. This is me right now.

I have a number of model train projects on the go, and I’m not executing on any of them.

Lance Mindheim just wrote a post “Fear of the Inconsequential” where he wrote about the “fear of getting it wrong”. That’s me, all right.

What do I have going on?

  1. Neglected fascia
    Neglected fascia

    Fascia – I started installing fascia on the layout, but I quickly realized I don’t know how to get around the corners. I’ve reached out for help, got some, but I lack confidence. Some of it is too long and needs to be trimmed, and I don’t have a table saw. I feel like it’s not going to look very professional, so right now the majority of the fascia sits in my garage, painted and slowly getting dirty and unusable.

  2. Ballast – I’ve ballasted all of the visible CN track that I am going to do. I’ve done patches of the CP track but I haven’t finished it. Why not? I really don’t know.
  3. Scenery – I’ve done some bits of scenery here and there, but the main part of the layout – Georgetown – is undecorated. I have an idea in my head of what it should look like, but I don’t know where to start so I don’t.
  4. Kits – I have several model kits that I haven’t started. Some are Intermountain grain hoppers and for those I am just intimidated by the number of parts. I have a couple of Athearn “blue box” kits that I know I can do, but I haven’t done them. Also I have a grain elevator mostly complete, but I can’t move from 85% complete to 100% complete because.. I don’t know why not. I have some great decals from Precision Design on it but I need a few more.

I know I should “just do it” as Nike said. Something is better than nothing. I can always go back and make it better if I don’t like the result.

I know this.

But I have to get over this internal fear of screwing up before I can move forward.

Here’s hoping that happens soon.

What do you do to push past these internal roadblocks?

The Manitoba Mega Train Show 2016

Pano view of Manitoba Mega Train
Pano view of Manitoba Mega Train 2016

I went to the Manitoba Mega Train show yesterday (September 24). The show is being held at the Red River Exhibition Park. The venue is spacious, allowing lots of room for train layouts, vendors and for other activites like model ship builders, Lego, face painters and more!

Some of the non-train exhibits

I was in line for the 9 AM opening. I’m normally not quite this keen but I had someplace to be in the afternoon, so I wanted to maximize my time there.

This was the view right at 9 AM.

Opening Minutes

You can see John Longhurst in the foreground starting up his portable Thompson River Canyon layout. I interviewed John over at Confessions of a Train Geek.

I spent the first few minutes walking around and looking at the various layouts, in all sizes from Z to HO to O.. maybe even G?

I liked the Pioneer grain elevator

The N scale yard below was quite impressive!

N Scale Yard at the Manitoba Mega Trains show

I saw Sterling Schabler’s impressive square layout and admired his CN slugs. I wish I had taken a better photo, but the photo below will have to do.

Sterling Schabler and his layout
Sterling Schabler’s slug

I chatted with Morgan Turney, publisher of Canadian Railway Modeler and one of the founders of the Kildonan Short Lines HO scale modular layout seen below.

Kildonan Short Lines

The Winnipeg N Trak group was out in full force. It was a very impressive layout!

Winnipeg N Trak!

So many great layouts.

N/Scale Mainliner

I loved the great mile 10.6 Manitoba Pool elevator and the Agricore concrete ‘vator!

Grain elevators FTW!

There were other displays beyond trains… like these ship / submarine models. There were a lot of ships and boats on display. Note the pool where they were running radio control boats!

Dive! Dive! Dive!

There was some face painting too…

Face painting

There was LOTS of Lego, which I love. Very impressive.

Lego displays at Manitoba Mega Train
A very impressive ore dock in Lego
Cool VIA and CN trains in Lego

I bought a few things at the vendor tables… mostly timetables and books but I did buy an Athearn CP crane. I had a lot of fun chatting with vendors and exhibitors and I think the social part of the morning was the best part.

I’ll leave you with a few videos and one more photo of yet another impressive layout. Thanks to the organizers and exhibitors for a great show!


One More Year

Motorcyclist in Morse, SK
Motorcyclist in Morse, SK

I listen to a lot of podcasts.

Most have nothing to do with model railroading, but a few do. I started out with The Model Railway Show, by Jim Martin and Trevor Marshall. It’s over now but it is well worth listening to the archives.

Then I tried The Scotty Mason Show but it’s not really to my taste.

My friend William Brillinger mentioned A Modeler’s Life, hosted by Lionel Strang and featuring several other characters including Jim Rindt, “Bruce the Mail Boy” and “Uncle Larry”. It took an episode or two to get into it, but I like the podcast very much. It’s not very serious – sometimes not at all serious – but there’s a good rapport between Lionel and the other guys, and his interviews are very good.

Early morning podcasting
Early morning podcasting
Lionel Strang
Lionel Strang

The podcast is good to listen to in the background when you’re driving or working on your model railroad layout.

Lionel was a regular Model Railroader columnist, has written a few model railway books and has hosted a number of videos over on

Today on Facebook I noticed an ad from Fast Tracks that mentioned Lionel and his cancer. His.. what?

Lionel was diagnosed with stage 4 cancer two years ago. At the time he was told he wouldn’t live another year. I had no idea. Lionel never mentions it on the podcast.

He’s been counting the days (up) since he was told he was terminally ill. He’s at around 735 now, a bit more than twice the year he was told he had. That’s the inspiration for “One More Year”.

Lionel seems to be living life to the fullest and enjoying what he has left, and I think we can all take inspiration from that. Life is too short to spend it doing stuff you hate.

Motorcycle, Canola and a Train
Motorcycle, Canola and a Train

Lionel has a GoFundMe page, not for him, but to raise funds for the Psychosocial Oncology Clinic at the Princess Margaret Hospital in Toronto (Lionel is Canadian). The clinic helps patients and family deal with cancer and improve their emotional well-being. It sure seems to be working for Lionel! It’s important to help people not only with the physical effects of cancer, but also the mental effects on the person who has cancer, and their family and friends as well.

I encourage you to visit his GoFundMe page or buy from Fast Tracks (they’ll donate 10%) to support Lionel’s cause.

Also, go check out Lionel’s podcast, A Modeler’s Life. It’s good.

(The two motorcycle photos aren’t of Lionel, but I know Lionel likes motorcycles and trains, so they seemed appropriate)

Visiting the CP Rail Manitoba & Minnesota Subdivision

A view across the central peninsula
A view across the central peninsula

This past weekend I visited the CP Rail Manitoba & Minnesota Subdivision layout, built and operated by John Longhurst. You may remember that I interviewed John as part of my 10 Questions series. I emailed him last week asking if I could take him up on an old offer to visit his layout, and he graciously agreed. He even agreed that my kids could come too. 🙂

Pioneer grain elevator
Pioneer grain elevator



John’s layout takes up much of the basement of his home in the north end of Winnipeg. The majority of the layout is in one large room with staging in a side room.

You can see his track plan here.

The layout is stacked on two levels, with a “helix” connecting the two levels in the side room. It’s not really a helix in shape – it goes around a rectangular room – but it serves the same function.

Staging and the "helix"
Staging and the “helix”

Winnipeg occupies 6 tracks on the top level and Duluth and Thunder Bay occupy the bottom level.

You can see that John has a lot of SD40 / SD40-2 locomotives. He models CP Rail from the early 1990s when the majority of their power was SD40 variants. Recently he added a pair of gorgeous Bowser SD40-2 locomotives to his fleet.

John’s layout used to have two levels in the central peninsula but he removed the upper deck a while ago. He has photos on the layout showing the “before” for reference, and a blog post too. I like the more open look that it has now.

Photos showing the "before" peninsula
Photos showing the “before” peninsula

The bottom level can be set up for continuous running. John sent several trains across the layout for our viewing pleasure and I took a little video of one of them.


John uses DC for controlling his layout and he has four cabs set up so he could run four trains at once if required. He’s resisted DCC so far as he usually operates alone, and the expense of adding decoders to his large fleet is pretty daunting!

Yard control panel with cab selector switches
Yard control panel with cab selector switches

He uses corded controllers, built years ago, to provide walkaround throttle control of his units. These are really handy and much better than being tied to a power pack.

I took a little panorama with my iPhone to try to show more of the layout in one photo. Click on the photo for a larger view.

Panoramic view of the CP Rail Manitoba & Minnesota Subdivision
Panoramic view of the CP Rail Manitoba & Minnesota Subdivision


John operates on his layout on occasion, on a formal or informal basis as the mood strikes him. His trains operate serially – first one train runs over the layout, then the next might go the other way, and so forth.

One thing I really like about his layout is the abundance of industries to switch. The large Peace River Paper mill occupies a corner of the layout, with an abundance of tracks and its own switcher. It is modeled mostly as a series of background flats, visible in the background of the photo below.

Engine house and Peace River Paper switcher
Engine house and Peace River Paper switcher

The Fort Frances engine house and maintenance area are visible here too. John doesn’t use cabooses on his trains as he models post 1990 but I imagine these are here rusting away, or for special trains.

There’s also a shortline connection to the fictional Peace River Northern, which uses an ex CP GP9 for power. This shortline connects to off-layout industries and interchanges with CP on the layout. The track basically goes off behind a ridge and disappears into staging but it provides a very realistic way for more traffic and more action.

Peace River Northern switcher
Peace River Northern switcher


View Blocks

John uses a variety of “view blocks” to break the layout into different scenes. There are several overhead road bridges that cut across tracks to break up scenes and provide more viewing interest.

Road Bridge
Road Bridge over Fort Frances yard

Notice the building flats.

In some cases the view blocks are forced by obstacles inherent to the house. Most Winnipeg houses have a few support posts in the basement that need to be accessible, but are often in the way. In my house I had them incorporated into walls with access plates to allow adjustments. John put a view block next to one post to work with the pole.

Pole and view block
Pole and view block


The Future

I asked John what his future plans are. His layout is complete, so there’s no work to be done there. He has been working on a portable N scale diorama based in the Thompson River Canyon, in honour of his late brother Ken Epp. John has shared this on his blog and I saw the work in progress in another room.

John is considering moving/downsizing in a few years, so his layout will be demolished at that time. It will be a shame for this beautiful layout to be destroyed, but all things come to an end and it may provide a great opportunity for a new start.

John Longhurst and his layout
John Longhurst and his layout

Thanks, John, for the tour of your fantastic layout!