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Bitten by the Canadian bug


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So, it looks like I'm falling for the charms of British Columbia and am toying with the thought of an N scale layout. There's something quite alluring to these trains in quite stunning scenery. 

 

I've a few questions running through my mind at present:

 

1) What are useful sources of information to better my understanding of the prototype

 

2) What options are there in terms of rolling stock (acknowledge that this is an extremely broad question) - and how can I better understand eras and geographical locations. 

 

3) What UK shops would you recommend? 

 

Thanks in advance. 

 

Branchie. 

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A lot depends on the era you are modelling but broadly speaking there are a few resources you might want to use.

For prototype pics and scenery you can’t beat http://railpictures.ca/  You can search for BC images to narrow down the field. This should also help when it comes to your second question as the pictures are dated. There are a few posters here from the west coast who will doubtless chime in once they have spotted your topic. As for your final question, I can’t help much as I’m on the west side of the big pond but a shop that stocks Rapido would be a good start. Canadian engines are not “off the shelf” as they have to face special conditions that call for specific adaptations.

 

HTH,

 

David

 

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Branchie - now that Model Junction have gone I've been using Mech Models for advance orders.

 

https://mech-models.com/

 

I think Gaugemaster are also Walther's agents so should be able to get stuff.

 

In HO I use Anoraks Anonymous and Contikits for pre-owned stock.

 

http://www.contikits.com/US N.htm

 

https://www.anoraksanonymous.net/

 

I think Rails of Sheffield are a Rapido dealer here.

 

Chris

Edited by Gilbert
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5 hours ago, branchie said:

So, it looks like I'm falling for the charms of British Columbia and am toying with the thought of an N scale layout. There's something quite alluring to these trains in quite stunning scenery. 

 

I've a few questions running through my mind at present:

 

1) What are useful sources of information to better my understanding of the prototype

 

Depends on your level of knowledge of North American stuff.

 

But in general the railways in Canada and the US operate similar equipment, the freight cars interchange all over the 2 countries, and operating rules and procedures are broadly the same as the 2 relevant government authorities (FRA in the US and Transport Canada) have rules that are equivalent.

 

So for freight cars and many of the locos any North American source will work for information.

 

As for prototypes, the 3 big operators in BC are/were CP, CN, and BC Rail (BC Rail was long term leased to CN in 2004(?) so from a modeller perspective no longer exists.

 

For passenger, VIA Rail took over CN in January 1977 and CP in October 1978.  BC Rail passenger services remained with BC Rail until they were discontinued.

 

5 hours ago, branchie said:

2) What options are there in terms of rolling stock (acknowledge that this is an extremely broad question) - and how can I better understand eras and geographical locations. 

 

Depends.  The variety of N stuff is limited compared to HO, and you will need in general to be more flexible regarding accuracy.

 

Athearn, ScaleTrains, Exactrail, Tangent, Fox Valley, Rapido, Atlas, Microtrains, Intermountain, Kato all offer various levels on N scale product.

 

Exactrail is direct sale only.

 

In some respects your best choice might be Facebook as there are likely several groups set up regarding stuff in BC.

 

Other than that, Google Maps can be your friend and just track the rail lines out from major locations.  For older stuff you can often search for and find older system maps that can help you track down lines that have long since disappeared, and the employee timetables can sometimes be found as PDF or images doing a search to give an idea of the number of trains.

 

There are also historical society's for both CN and CP that have a bunch of stuff online

 

http://www.cnrha.ca/

 

https://www.cptracks.ca/

 

You may also want to broaden things a bit to include Alberta - the eastern portion of the Rockies are in Alberta.

 

5 hours ago, branchie said:

 

 

3) What UK shops would you recommend? 

 

You should also be looking at Prairie Shadows depending on how accurate you want to be and what era, a retailer in Manitoba, who both gets exclusive paint schemes done in N and also has had exclusive models made in N by Rapido - the CN Pointe. St. Charles van/caboose and the CN/VIA FPA-4/FPB-4

 

For Rapido they set up Rails of Sheffield as an official retailer of their product but they are also currently setting up an official Rapido UK (they have hired 2 employees) and so they may also offer their North American stuff through that - best to contact them about it.

 

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14 hours ago, branchie said:

So, it looks like I'm falling for the charms of British Columbia and am toying with the thought of an N scale layout. There's something quite alluring to these trains in quite stunning scenery. 

 

I've a few questions running through my mind at present:

 

1) What are useful sources of information to better my understanding of the prototype


I would suggest this book as a good, very general introduction to the railways of BC (as the subtitle says):

 

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Iron-Road-West-Illustrated-Columbias/dp/1550178385

 

Apart from Amazon, there are several copies on Abebooks available from UK bookshops.

 

It should help to give you pointers to what other publications or sites you might want to look at.

 

9 hours ago, mdvle said:

As for prototypes, the 3 big operators in BC are/were CP, CN, and BC Rail (BC Rail was long term leased to CN in 2004(?) so from a modeller perspective no longer exists.

 

The (American) Great Northern Railway had a significant presence in southern BC in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Even after it closed all its lines in the Interior of BC, it kept its access to the Vancouver area into Burlington Northern and now BNSF ownership.

 

I think you may have to decide the area and time you want to model fairly quickly. The choice could overwhelm you if you don’t - narrow gauge or standard gauge, steam/diesel/electric, Shays on the mainline,  4-4-0s on transcontinentals,  2-10-4s piloted on transcontinentals, pusher sets of 4x4400hp diesels, unit trains operating with mid-train and rear-end remote controlled helpers etc. etc.

 

I’ll be interested to watch how you decide to move forward with this.

Edited by pH
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55 minutes ago, pH said:

The (American) Great Northern Railway had a significant presence in southern BC in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Even after it closed all its lines in the Interior of BC, it kept its access to the Vancouver area into Burlington Northern and now BNSF ownership.

 

Could be wrong, but poster mentioned stunning scenery which to me sounds more outside of the Vancouver area.

 

55 minutes ago, pH said:

I think you may have to decide the area and time you want to model fairly quickly. The choice could overwhelm you if you don’t - narrow gauge or standard gauge, steam/diesel/electric, Shays on the mainline,  4-4-0s on transcontinentals,  2-10-4s piloted on transcontinentals, pusher sets of 4x4400hp diesels, unit trains operating with mid-train and rear-end remote controlled helpers etc. etc.

 

Again, could be wrong as N isn't my interest, but my guess would be N eliminates a lot of those options.

 

Will also depend on how much space is available.

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To add more:

 

If you want mountain operation, then it's not Vancouver, or the Island.  If you want unique, there is all kinds of it...

The current (basically, from about the mid 80's on) scene involves LOTS of unit type trains- be them containers, or tank cars, or grain, or potash, auto racks, and coal.  (and more coal...).  You have to go back to mid 80's or earlier to find mixed trains really being a big part of the scene, along with boxcars.  If you step back to before the early 80's, then boxcar movement of grain becomes a much more important part of the scene.  Stepping back further, once you go before the mid 70's, you loose unit coal trains as well, and it becomes far more mixed for operational prospectives.

 

One thing I would highly recommend is to jump on ordering some version of Rapido's Canadian, as the deadline for ordering is tomorrow (16th Nov).  The rough dates are ^, 1955- 1978 is CP, more recent is VIA.  

I'd assume if you are thinking N gauge (note, it's 9mm gauge, 1:160 scale...not 9mm gauge/2mm scale...) that you are planning on diesel era rather than steam.  Roughly, this means 1955 out west.   There isn't a lot of steam options in comparison to the UK, because of the # of different railroads.

 

Another resource is PWRS- https://www.pwrs.ca/main.php  Similar to Prairie Shadows, they have done some of their own locos/stock.

I think you will find that you end up ordering stuff from over here.  I don't know how the whole of Brexit will work for importing stock, nor does anyone else.  However, it may be easier to get stock from Canadian dealers than US.

 

James (on the island)
 

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Hi there, I can’t add much to this, only what I’ve seen. I used to live in Fernie BC - brilliant mountainous scenery, as it’s in the Rockies, lovely looking station, and back in the day had a proper yard with coke smelting ovens and such. 

 

I lived there 2006, then 2009-2014, and now I’m on Vancouver Island. While at Fernie, it was mostly:

1/ coal from Sparwood to Vancouver for China etc

2/ potash

3/ grain from Saskatechewan, etc

4/ mixed freight

5/ Royal Canadian passenger train once in a blue moon

6/ track maintenance trains

7/ the holiday train around Christmas

 

The trains through Fernie were all pulled by Canadian Pacific or Union Pacific locos, but further north there was CN, and I’m sure I’ve seen BNSF in the Vancouver yards as I’ve driven past them

 

https://www.canadianrailwayobservations.com/2011/dec11/dec11 web/dec11cp.htm


I arrived on Vancouver Island ok late to see any trains, even though there is a track at the side of my garden, as the lines had alsready closed down before I’d arrived.

 

But don’t forget, you have plains, mountain ranges, lakes, the whole shebang over here.

 

Do you have a time period in mind?

Edited by JCL
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For N scale in the UK: https://www.nscaleamericantrains.co.uk/en/

As mentioned previously, Rails of Sheffield do have some Rapido https://railsofsheffield.com/manufacturer-rapido-trains-inc--JJJM144?Personalise=false&searchTerm=&Gauge=N+Gauge&SortMethod=ProductCodeAscending&PageSize=24 

 

You could always consider a "what if" based around the Kootenay Lake area. If you can get your hands on the May/June 2020 issue of the NMRA BR Roundhouse magazine, Al Dutour shows his Thunder Mountain & Northern layout. While it is HO it is a good representation of a what if. 

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Just to say that my experience of pre-ordering Rapido fro Rails of Sheffield was less that satisfactory. Pre-ordered a B36 in December 19 for delivery in early 20. Despite several several emails and being assured it was ordered and then on its way, I never got it. Not sure if it was Rails or Rapido who was at fault. I do know people who have ordered direct from Rapido and have no problems apart from the usal customs ones.

 

Lee

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33 minutes ago, z4driver said:

Just to say that my experience of pre-ordering Rapido fro Rails of Sheffield was less that satisfactory. Pre-ordered a B36 in December 19 for delivery in early 20. Despite several several emails and being assured it was ordered and then on its way, I never got it. Not sure if it was Rails or Rapido who was at fault. I do know people who have ordered direct from Rapido and have no problems apart from the usal customs ones.

 

Lee

My experience was the exact opposite. The last time I used Rapido directly, they "missed" my loco twice in shipments to the person in the UK that was handling things. Eventually it shipped direct to me by mistake meaning I paid import charges and VAT twice. I eventually got the money back but never an apology from Rapido for the screwup. Everything I've ordered from Rails arrived on time. These days I prefer to use PWRS and have it shipped to a Canadian address. 

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6 hours ago, peach james said:

Another resource is PWRS- https://www.pwrs.ca/main.php  Similar to Prairie Shadows, they have done some of their own locos/stock.

I think you will find that you end up ordering stuff from over here.  I don't know how the whole of Brexit will work for importing stock, nor does anyone else.  However, it may be easier to get stock from Canadian dealers than US.

 

James (on the island)
 

There is a thread on this in Wheeltappers but, as brexit stands at the moment:

Any business classified as an OMP (online market place, ie web shop) will be required to register with HMRC and collect the VAT/duty at point of sale. The main reason behind this is customs currently (almost) handles around 50m packages per year. After Jan 1 that will theoretically be 350m with everything from the EU having to be customs cleared. There is no chance of that working so they are pushing the customs work out to the seller. In the US places like Shopify have already stated they just wont bother shipping to the UK. I'm waiting an answer from PWRS but not likely, same will go for most model shops as the cost of the paperwork for the small portion of sales to the UK just isn't worthwhile to them. There are already quite a few European businesses that have stated they too will no longer ship to the UK after Jan 1. 

 

We now go back to our Canadian train thread. 

 

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Depending on your budget and how much you're prepared to rummage:

Canadian Pacific in the Rockies. A series of small books of photographs, mostly by Nicholas Morant, CPR's official photographer. Published by Don Bain as BRMNA in Calgary. Books originally from 1979 on. My wife used these to identify mountains and other places.

Nicholas Morant's Canadian Pacific. A big hardcover.

Van Horne's Road. Omer Lavallee, CPR's corporate archivist. A history of the building of the road.

 

The National Dream and The Last Spike. Pierre Berton. A story of the building of the CPR and the political shennanigans. When it was broadcast on TV, my boss's young son asked "Why do you call this the railway show, Daddy?"

 

There are a few volumes of Canadian Rolling Stock in Colour. I don't have them.

 

If you need ISBNs or more, just ask.

 

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5 hours ago, BR60103 said:

Depending on your budget and how much you're prepared to rummage:

Canadian Pacific in the Rockies. A series of small books of photographs, mostly by Nicholas Morant, CPR's official photographer. Published by Don Bain as BRMNA in Calgary. Books originally from 1979 on. My wife used these to identify mountains and other places.

 

These are excellent books but are long out of print and getting hard to find. Don was basically a one man band and BRMNA books more or less died in 2004 when he did. Motor Books in London used to be the UK source for the range but....(long long story) Then again there may be some still hiding in the shop somewhere. 

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I think I'd echo a lot of the advice already given - my only extra 2p is it's very difficult to fathom the scale of the Rockies until you've been - having visited twice in my childhood, my Dad and I tried to incorporate a Rocky Mountains scene into our H0 layout - and it worked visually but you didn't get much feel for the scale. In N gauge you stand a better chance of modelling longer trains, but houses and garages in the UK are often not really big enough for the monster layouts that inspire us all (eg. the Southern Alberta I posted in my own thread).

 

I've also found it pretty much impossible to find any North American models for sale over here, let alone the detail parts, so I tend to shop from US or Canadian suppliers and accept the cost of the customs VAT payment. If using eBay their global shipping program can be useful, and sorts the VAT payment out so you just get a parcel delivered door to door. If it's below the VAT threshold you don't even have to pay any extra... it makes the smaller details easier to source - just got some A-line 40 link per inch chain that way and paid less than I did for a set imported by a dealer here in the UK a good few years ago through their Walthers account. 

 

Good luck - do share what your plans are - and I thoroughly recommend one book... Iain Rice's Kalmbach title 'layouts for small spaces' - which in the UK, are our typical rooms. Might give you some food for thought and his approach to creating a design brief is worth using.

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I think it depends on whether you're modelling a truely prototypical location or you're looking to model something which gives a "taste" of Canadian railways. If you think about it most of the trains that pass through the Rockies are through workings not actually serving many industries in the mountains themselves so a prototypical layout will be basically a tail chaser without much operational scope.

Most of the grain trains for example will orginate at locations hundreds of miles from the mountain zones.  If you've got room perhaps split your layout into two distinctive areas ie the mountain region and a more industrialised area where you can have a yard/industries where your trains can be formed/switch & swap power? This link is to similar mountain range layout you may be considering 

 

Edited by Andy137
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1 hour ago, Andy137 said:

I think it depends on whether you're modelling a truely prototypical location or you're looking to model something which gives a "taste" of Canadian railways. If you think about it most of the trains that pass through the Rockies are through workings not actually serving many industries in the mountains themselves so a prototypical layout will be basically a tail chaser without much operational scope.


Yes, what you’re saying applies pretty much nowadays. But I think the era and location (era especially) will have a big influence on what could be modelled - in general, the earlier the era, the more industry to be modelled. There is still lumber traffic originating from various place in the mountains of BC (and there are many more mountain ranges than the Rockies) .  And there has been, and can sometimes still be, mining of metal ores , coal mining, smelting of ores, farming (cattle, fruit and wheat in different places), even ice harvesting(!). 
 

I can’t think of any remaining rail-connected metal mining operations, but the Sullivan mine, supplying the Trail smelter, lasted into this century. Coal is still mined in a big way in the Elk Valley, and has been in various other places in the past.


The Trail smelter is still in operation - at least some of its ore supply now comes from Alaska, though not all the way to the smelter by rail. There were several other smelters in southern BC in the late 19th/early 20th. century. All are long closed, though their slag heaps are still very obvious, with that of the Grand Forks smelter being ‘mined’ and transported by rail from a transload, for the industrial production of abrasives.

 

And ice harvesting? Before the advent of mechanical refrigeration, the US Great Northern used to cut the ice for its fruit reefers in a BC lake and run trains of up to 100 cars south to Wenatchee in Washington State, for the ice to be stored underground for the coming year’s traffic.

 

I  can’t see that the OP has specified an era and area yet. I’m guessing it will be present day or close to it, probably CN or CP. All I was trying to do with this post was to show that there certainly have been other, more varied, possibilities in the past, sometimes quite recent past.

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