Bachmann’s New American

Guess I missed this news too. Recently, it appears, Bachmann have completely retooled their 4-4-0. They’ve had their Jupiter and #119 versions of the model in their catalogue seemingly since time began. I don’t believe I’ve ever owned the HO scale one but I’ve had several iterations of the N scale and I still have a few here.

Looking at the Bachmann website this evening, the model just looks sharper then heck. I’m a sucker for early 4-4-0’s and it doesn’t take much to get my heart racing when it comes to these engines. I’ve yet to see one up close but the photos sure make them look appealing and it’s obvious Bachmann have done some superb work in refining the model. It looks quite sharp and I want one.

Not content to update the model’s design, they’re also offering a version in their Sound Value range. It’s fun watching some Youtube clips such as this one on Bachmann’s channel. I mean, sure, the sound isn’t the same as being trackside but the difference in price seems worth it for the decoder alone.

I’ve owned my fair share of engines crippled by crappy cracked white plastic gears made by someone who should know better and instead decided to do something stupid Bachmann engines to feel just a bit apprehensive about buying one. I’ve seen a lot of models lately that I liked but it’s still been quite a while since I’ve felt this tempted.

This is certainly not a thinly-veiled allusion to a layout just trying to burn off some desire.

The future is here…

Spread across the computers of my life are a variety of links to websites that focus on 19th century-era railroading and how to model it. This evening, I wanted to take just a few minutes and try and start gathering them together in one place.

As I sorted through them all, I started noting just how many of them were examples of very modern thinking and applying that approach to building models of trains and railroads of the 19th century. With the memory of our conversation last week, I wanted to express this thought. For example, and this is just two:

John Ott’s Miskatonic Railroad

Where do I begin?

The website is a beautiful study of a nicely-designed, well, website. It’s not only nice to look at but it feels as if it shares many of the same aesthetic qualities found in the stories that inspired this model railroad. Beyond just a catalogue of pragmatic how-to articles but each one embroidered with enthusiasm and passion. It’s clear he’s having fun and that’s infectious. He’s having fun and inviting you to try what he’s doing. Well done.

Equal in number to the more traditionally-style techniques are articles on how to use modern desktop publishing software to create and print appropriate rolling stock (on paper). Rather than print the decals, he’s just printing the whole car side. The sides he’s producing are simply beautiful and would just as at home in a picture frame showcasing the detail invested in decorating rolling stock of the era as they do on the layout. There’s notes on how-to try this at home too!

Examples showcasing the work of the modern model railroader’s approach are easy to find here. This isn’t just model railroading it’s craft in its truest form I believe.

Håkan Nilsson’s Eight Wheeler Models

Of the many things our conversation touched on, René, Marshall, and I talked about the future for model railroad manufacturing and how the modern manufacturer could marry a multimedia approach to creating models for sale. That some of these techniques benefited from a certain economy of scale that might favour the production of shorter product runs – but just because there weren’t as many in the run the quality could be as good as any mass-produced model.

In Håkan Nilsson’s Eight Wheeler Models I see a superb example of this modern approach to manufacturing: his Pullman sleeping car “Dayton” kit. The prototype is so detailed, you really need to just visit the website to check out the work. The model features etched metal sides wrapped around a 3D printed core. Parts of this model, such as that crazy roof, would be difficult to produce by any other means but for the 3D printer. Where 3D printing shines on the roof, the detail of the car sides just seems to work so much better in etched metal.

It’s a craftsman’s approach to kit design. It feels really sharp and engaged. I know he’s not alone but what he’s doing really showcases just how good he is at it. These days we live in a world brimming with some of the finest models ever manufactured and it impresses me to no end that there is still room for someone to do something even more amazing.

Debugging #10

Rather than discard the work when it becomes old, René’s tinkering with it – poking and prodding to see what can be fixed and to learn from the model. Not only does it feel like following the work of the craftsman as he analyses his work but it even feels a bit like modelling the relationship a real railroad mechanic would face his fleet: repair what’s broken instead of discard.

The future is here and being embraced to make models of things that are now viewed as quite old yet themselves, were “the” future when they were new.

Croft Depot

Thank you Facebook. Lately I’ve been discovering the Facebook pages modellers have been creating for their model railways. What they’re doing is like a natural evolution of the blog or website platforms we’ve been using for the same ends. The funny thing is, regardless of how I feel toward Facebook, I just never thought people would use it for this. I’m surprised and that’s good. Meanwhile, I guess it was only natural for Facebook to learn my new patterns and, in doing so, to start suggesting more pages just like those that I should like too.

Today it happened and the layout Facebook introduced me to was Croft Depot. A quick search should bring you to the Facebook page I was introduced to. Rather than share a link to that, I was also pleasantly surprised to find that the excellent Scalefour Society maintain a page for the layout on their site:

In addition to that page, there’s a nice thread on showing the layout at the show:

The model railway is based on a real life location and this page on the Disused Stations website provides some nice history and a map of the actual track layout:

It’s such a beautifully executed small layout. Built to the P4 (finescale) standard it’s an excellent example of creating something to such a high standard in such a small space (about three square feet). May as well mention that it’s another Inglenook track plan too.

But, it’s more. I really like the very well thought out execution. A study in even and muted colours, all showered in a well lit and cleanly framed design. Despite its small size it still has a short staging yard for trains to come from and go. Rather than being hidden behind a panel, even this small area is framed and well lit. I’m really impressed by this exposed staging model and it’s an idea that I want to remember.

Heck, if all I did next was build an exact copy of the layout I think I’d be okay. Rather than step through a list of reasons why I’m impressed I just want to say that I am. This is one of those layouts that so completely impresses me in every way.

I hope you like it too.



“My modern-day pen pal”

When I started Prince Street, my motives were mostly centred around using the blog as a place to park ideas and to start a conversation with myself as I worked through the things I think about, with regard to model railways. Model railways are important to me. I could say “it’s just a hobby” but in truth my relationship with it runs much deeper. Sure it can still be just a hobby but it’s also a place where I’ve found respite during darker times when I needed the sanctuary, familiarity, and comfort of something more familiar and it’s where I found a medium to express myself creatively. Along the way, it’s even led me to so many amazing opportunities both personally and professionally to think of as only a hobby.

David Eaves publishes a blog under the tagline of “if writing is a muscle, this is my gym”. If this is my gym I’m proud of often I’ve visited over the years and surprised myself with how much I enjoy the workout. Pity the real gym isn’t as attractive! Along the way, I’ve met some really amazing people and made some terrific friends. I’m so grateful for this opportunity. Fast forward to about a week or so ago and in my inbox, an email from Rene Gourley. He was planning on a bit of vacation time on the Island and wondered if we could maybe get together for a drink and just to meet up. Last night, we did just that. Rene introduced me to a friend and fellow modeller of his who they were vacationing with, Marshall Ouellet. Rene introduced me to Marshall as his “modern-day pen pal” and it’s a sort of neat moniker to wear. I’ll quote him again as I reflect on the conversation: “A two-hour lubricated conversation was equal to a couple of years of blog posts.”

The conversation was both rich and dynamic. It seems we’ve each been so lucky as to have spent so much time in the hobby and exploring very different experiences of it and corners of it. It’s interesting to continue conversations that, at times, were started online, and to start new ones in new directions that I hope we’ll have a chance to revisit again somehow. Rene’s written a wonderful post already to mark the evening that includes a great group photo (I’m not a fan of the camera so treasure this one) and you can read it here:

Marshall is contemplating a layout in a more public installation, as I am committed to. It was fascinating to exchange thoughts on how this might work out for each of us and what we expect of it.We have different goals and comparing notes was very enlightening for the difference of perspectives over such a common shared space.

As the discussion shifted to the advancing influence that technological change is having on the hobby in terms reaching from control to 3D printing Rene asked what it might be like if something like rail ever got hard to get. Today, it’s easy to opine about the role of 3D printing in terms of individual models but how will we mediate a larger common ground for a commodity like rail? I don’t know but I’m excited to think about it more. Hopefully we come back to that conversation.

Since we were already talking about the future I couldn’t resist the urge to ask where we’ll find our inspiration as our relationship with real trains gets further distanced. I’ve met so many new modellers who are doing really great work yet don’t have that rich history with real railroading that so many of our model railway forefathers had. Clearly, the hobby itself is strong enough to attract new talent and dynamic enough to encourage their different approaches. I believe we’re on the edge of another cultural shift in the hobby right now and I’m keen to explore the subject more.

Thank you Rene for reaching out with the invitation.

Thank you Marshall for picking up the tab – I insist the next round is mine. It’s the least I could do.

As for that Group of Seven model railway, I think it could be done if we approach it from the right direction. Time will tell.

I guess, to make things fair, I need to get myself to their coast and across the nation. It seems only fair.



The other side of the station

The former Dominion Atlantic Railway station is still present in Truro, Nova Scotia, and it’s in superb condition. On the way home from Halifax, we stopped in for a quick break and I thought I’d add a few more photos of the building to add to my collection in case that latent interest in modelling the DAR, as it was in Truro at the end of mixed train service, ever reaches critical mass, catches me off guard and I build a layout.

What surprised me was the short lengths of rail still buried in the gravel beside the station. This would be leftover from the DAR mainline itself and is a really neat marker to remind of us of the site’s past.

Yup, sure would look neat in N scale. Just a thought.

CN Brookfield

Just past Truro, Nova Scotia, on the way to Halifax, CN’s mainline connects with a spur that exists to serve Canada Cement and Marwood Industries, in a town called Brookfield. The spur itself is served by the local switcher out of Truro. The combination of local train service and the simple arrangement of the spur makes it very attractive to me and I’ve always thought it would be neat to spend some time watching a train on the spur, working these industries. On a sunny Saturday afternoon, I was given that chance.

For a short stretch after Truro the CN mainline runs somewhat parallel to the highway. The Brookfield spur itself actually crosses directly underneath – while Marwood is close to the mainline, Canada Cement’s large plant is just under three miles off the mainline and the spur crosses under the highway overpass. Like any well-seasoned railfan, I can’t seem to drive across a bridge without a quick sideways glance to check both sides of the track below for a sign of a train. It was during one of these spontaneous checks that we spotted a certain pair of headlights staring back at us. The chase, as they say, was on.

When we caught up with the train, it was just a light engine creeping carefully along the branch and making its way back toward the mainline and Truro, presumably having dropped some cars at Canada Cement. The camera was still in the back of the car but that’s okay as it provides a chance to just enjoy the sight and sound of the engine in a low idle, slowly working its way down the line. If you can imagine the arrangement of the spur, it runs perpendicular to the mainline. Canada Cement’s facility is at the extreme end. At the point where the spur rejoins the mainline, Marwood Industries operates a small facility to load finished bundles of lumber onto rail cars. Their spur is in the former station site for Brookfield and immediately at the point where the spur itself connects to the main.


We arrived at Marwood before the train. Time to enjoy the scene and grab a mouthful of tea while waiting for the train to arrive.

In the MLW days, the railfan could scan the skies for a trail of black exhaust and a certain ticking sound as the engine barked it’s way closer. I’ve discovered I quite like the more subtle whine these GM diesels exhibit. Where the MLW was so overt in its expression, the GM is the more like the sleeping giant. Regardless of the sound, it was great that today’s engine was still proudly wearing its stripes – a paint scheme I still think is my favourite of the many CN has used.

Past the switch, it’s time for the crew to get to work. Unlock and line the turnout for Marwood. Next, remove the derail protecting the siding and then counting the distance until they’re tied onto the waiting cars. There’s nothing like time trackside to really remind one of all the steps required to actually switch cars, either picking them up or dropping them off. It’s easy to just run our model engines into the siding, grab the cars, and leave. Watching the experienced crew carefully going about their work was an education in all the other steps in this movement. There’s time to connect air hoses, charge the brakes, and then inspect that everything is working. In addition, there’s time to walk the length of the train to make sure that the cars are in good order and the loads safely secured – once these massive railcars are in motion there will be no time or safe place to correct an oversight here. Finally, there’s time to manage paperwork between the shipper and the railroad.

In model railroad operating sessions there’s a certain trend toward incorporating extra time into our movements to represent the time spent, in real life, on brakes, loads, and in paperwork. Of course, this time can feel arbitrary and hard to justify since we’re really not actually doing anything practical and related to operating a model train. Sitting trackside, we found time to appreciate the crew practising the skill of their craft, at their best, and doing their work with an ease that only experience brings. If anything, when considering the idea of building time into the model railway operating sessions it’s not just so that we have time to pretend we’re busy with brakes and paper but so that we have the time to appreciate just being present and part of the moment.

With the work of railroading largely completed we move toward the final phrases of this main act. A notch on the throttle and the engine lifts its cars forward and toward Truro. Of course, not without pause to close and lock the switch once for the siding and then in a hundred feet or so as they rejoined the Bedford Subdivision and the return home.

Steve Boyko has posted a great page on the Bedford Subdivision at:


Mike McGrattan Memorial Train – Photo Thread

Over on The Railwire forums there is a thread chronicling the trip of a very special N scale model train across a series of layouts to mark the passing of one of the hobbies finest figures. On the forum, they’ve started another thread dedicating to showing the train as it visits each model railroad and I encourage you to take a moment and check in on it:

The idea for the train is touching. Already in the thread we see photos from some truly remarkable N scale layouts. Each layout showcases some outstanding modelling and each follows a Canadian prototype.

I never got a chance to meet Mike but I was a fan of his work and proud of his attitude toward everything he touched. If I can be so bold as to add one thought: as I scrolled through the photos I couldn’t help but think how even in marking his passing, his name would be attached to shining the brightest of lights on some truly superb model railroaders and their work. That folks, seems to sum up just how great a man he was.

As I typed this post I thought about a eulogy that Jason Schron gave. Jason copied it to issue number eighty of the Rapido Trains newsletter and you can read that by clicking on the link below:—Steam-and-Diesel-Updates.html?soid=1101318906379&aid=cbeeWKsIOk0#a8

Just as I was so impressed with Mike’s own uncanny ability to showcase and shine the brightest of lights on the Canadian N scaler, I am equally proud and impressed with Jason and his ability to find the words to express the way this hobby introduces us to so many truly superb people.

We have a lot to be proud of.

Some Saturday Morning

So with the test baseboard complete I thought I’d tease out one track plan idea, to full scale, and tape a paper copy over top. It looked so nice and one thing led to another and, soon enough, out came the camera and some stock. Thought I’d share a couple of photos before continuing on with this morning’s errands.



runaround complete



I’m becoming quite sold on the layout of the track within the scene but, in terms of context, I have some decisions to make. It was fun to break out one idea that was far enough along to support these kinds of shenanigans and just enjoy being on the porch on a sunny Saturday morning. Well, the tea’s done now and I should get one with a couple of errands of a rather time senstive nature.



Foam core benchwork. I like it.

On couple of previous micro layouts, such as the Bush Terminals one, I’ve used paper-backed foam core board as a media for benchwork construction. I am still a major fan of that approach and would recommend it as something to try.

I’ve read several articles describing a modification of that approach but more along the lines of foam clad in light plywood. Gordon Gravett described it in a rather nice article in Model Railway Journal and Mike Cougill has tried it for a project he’s working on. Mike wrote a great blog post describing his approach and you should check it out on his blog:

I was curious and really wanted to try it out for myself but didn’t have a layout in mind and didn’t want to waste materials on something that was only a study in benchwork construction. Last weekend I was cleaning out the shed and managed to unearth some door skin plywood and a panel of 1-1/2″ thick white (“beadboard”) styrofoam. Realising this for the opportunity that it was, I dug out some contact cement and set to work.


Investing a few minutes each evening and using only old material from the shed’s collection of “someday I’m gonna use this” wood pile I’m done. I’m really pleased with how well it worked out. Sounding only a bit like I’m hosting an infomercial on late-night television: I’m sold. It’s super lightweight. It’s strong. It won’t twist. Given its laminated layers it should not warp. Did I mention it’s deceptively light for it’s size?


It has a heart of foam. Not the nice extruded stuff that is so fashionable for layout construction these days but a sheet of beadboard, 1-1/2″ thick. We normally shy away from this becuase it’s real mess to work with. Clad in a protective shell of plywood that problem goes away.

The strength from this method comes from the marriage of laminating foam to plywood. I reason that you could extend this logic to apply a thicker sheet to gain a longer span. I doubt that weight will increase at the same rate as it would were one to use more traditional framing methods for a portable layout as I expect it will using this method. Not only less weight but I expect the rigidity to stay constant and it will far out-perform the equivalent in almost any other traditional framing method.


I used 1/8″ thick three-ply plywood that I’ve always heard and called “door skin”. It’s the same thing an interior slab door in your house is clad in – at least if you grew up in 1970’s Canada in a house decorated as a shrine to clear-finished faux-wood panelling as I did.

When described in the various construction articles, each author has described cladding all six sides with plywood. I didn’t have enough so used some 1×2 strapping I had. No other reason than, as James Barber would say: “You use what you got.”


I used water-based contact cement to bond the foam to the plywood. The wood at the perimeter uses just plain-old white glue from the school supply section of the grocery store.

Look Ma, no drywall screws

I’ll admit it. I’ve used my fair share of drywall screws to fix benchwork lumber together. It’s the kind of guilt secret I’ve been hiding from the public for far too long. I know better. I’ll try to do better in the future.

In this style of construction I did use some temporary staples to tie things together while the glue set but have removed them now. They wouldn’t contribute anything to any sort of strength and just looked clumsy.

Clean joinery made simpler

I reasoned that during the assembly phase I would make sure that the bond between each piece was very tight and the glue well set. Once the glue was set I’d just square everything up with a few passes through my table saw. Those lovely sharp corners and clean sides are evidence to just how efficient this actually was.

What’s next

I’ve been drawing a lot of layouts and Krista’s super engaged in getting one of these off the ground. I guess I’m on my way now.

I knew I liked it but…

It’s been a year and a half since I wrote My morning coffee, trackside. That was my last blog post about my previous layout and a little while after I wrote that post I took the layout apart. When I took it apart, I carefully prised the entire top, track, wiring, and all, and stored it in our shed. I didn’t save the layout out of some belief that one day I’d resurrect it but more as a long term test to see just how well it would hold up in a typical uninsulated garden shed. During the time in the shed the layout endured two full Island winters, one and a half really hot summers, and all the weather that comes in between.

On several occasions, Lance Mindheim has talked about using white glue to stick down flex track*. I hadn’t tried it before and this layout was my first applicaton to try his advice. I was immediately pleased at how well it worked when I first stuck down the track. That level of satisfaction doesn’t even compare to what I discovered last week: man, does the track ever come up nicely!

The track I used was Micro Engineering, N scale, with code 55 rails. It’s delicate stuff. As one last test of how well white glue works to stick down track I figured I’d try lifting it back up. I can’t begin to describe my surprise as the track started to lift up almost perfectly. I’ll admit that I worked by very carefully sliding a putty knife along the base of the ties.

I took some photos to illustrate just how well.

Sometimes we try something and find it so successful that it feels almost evolutionary. For me, using the cheap white glue I bought in the grocery store’s school supply aisle is just how I plan on sticking down track pretty much from now on.

I was so delighted, I figured I’d share my story.

*such as in this blog post: