Friday, August 25, 2023

CP's Tyvan Subdivision, 1985


During my grain elevator expedition of four nearly-parallel CN and CP subdivisions that began in Regina on Saturday, September 28, 1985 and extended east along CN's Glenavon Sub, my next stops were to the west along CP's Tyvan Subdivision before heading to CN's Lewvan Subdivision. Running between Regina and Stoughton, SK the 88-mile CP Tyvan Subdivision was still in operation during my visit, though zero cars were spotted at any of the elevators at Francis, Tyvan, Osage or Fillmore. The weather was cold, leaden overcast with light snow in the morning then drizzly.
Here's a map showing my two day expedition, as I planned it, in red arrows. Beginning at Regina, I overnighted in Weyburn and returnied to Regina on Sunday (below). All towns on the Tyvan Sub were sited 7-8 miles apart. I just accelerated my posh Fifth Avenue rental car for a few miles, then slid into the next town, found their elevator row and snapped photos of the track-side and road-side. Sometimes out through the power window rather than getting gummed up in the muddy dirt roads.
Francis was located at Mi 47.4 Tyvan Sub (below and top photo):

Tyvan, SK at Mi 39.8.

Osage at Mi 31.3 - today, only the Sask Pool elevator still stands.

Osage's tiny commercial district included wooden structures like this aged hardware store and current Canada Post outlet. Note the gravity-fed gas pump and the telephone booth:
Thirty-eight years later, the Canada Post building still stands, but don't try to mail anything there! Population listed as 20 (Google maps image - above).
Fillmore at Mi 22.9 had an colourful collection of tin signs on the rear of the Sask Pool elevator's fertilizer shed (above).

Fillmore was also the subject of a Tripix postcard by Henry Kalen Ltd. of Winnipeg featuring an R. Taylor photograph of an earlier 1970's Sask Pool wooden elevator brown scheme and one additional Federal elevator, both taken from almost identical vantage points. Today, only the foreground elevator is still standing.
I can look back quite fondly at these greasy grain elevator images. They bring with them memories of being much younger and independent - just getting my first job out of community college with money in my pocket. Exploring a part of Canada that I would not see again for well over 30 years. And even then, with many, many fewer elevators still standing.

Running extra...

CN Executive Train Lite - CN 3309-Fraser Spirit-American Spirit-Sandford Fleming deadheaded on the tail-end of CN No 148 from Chicago to Toronto on August 19. After being briefly set out in the Brampton Intermodal Terminal, they were attached to another tail-end, that of CN No 120 OS Kingston 0500 August 20. The short train will be running from Moncton to Halifax in the coming days. Thanks to Jesse McLaughlin for sharing his photo of the 148 movement (above). The June 'Zero is Possible' train was fancier. On August 23, the three-car train led by CN 3309 was eastbound for Halifax through Drummondville, QC then Joffre on August 24.

Heritage Minutes - on August 23, GTW Heritage unit 8952 was behind CN 8954  on CN No 372. While visiting my mother-in-law, the bright-blue throwback hove into view from five storeys up (below). On August 21, WC Heritage unit 3069 led potash unit train CN No 730 with tail-end DPU Military tribute unit CN 3015. Somewhere, a hostler is reading this and smiling.
I'm not even going to talk about the mug-shot seen around the world, first released last night. I'll just call it a...thug-shot...and leave it at that. History will decide.

Friday, August 18, 2023

VIA RDC and LRC Hospital Trains

Industrial Rail Services Inc. (IRSI) operated from CN's former locomotive shop in Gordon Yard in Moncton. Established in 1999, IRSI publicized its operation as a full-service locomotive and passenger rail car facility specializing in equipment repairs, remanufacturing, modifications and refurbishment.

A total of 27 ex-VIA and ex-BC Rail RDC's found their way there. IRSI's owner, Richard Carpenter, planned to rebuild them and sell them to North American passenger rail systems. Blog partner Steve Boyko visited and photographed the IRSI operation in 2009. But the domestic market for rebuilt RDC's was soft, and foreign interests in Argentina and elsewhere apparently weren't interested either. IRSI had contracts to rebuild the entire LRC fleet with the first cars completed in 2001, 21 Renaissance cars and six RDC's for VIA. IRSI entered receivership in 2012. Famously, VIA 6133 was saved from the scrapper's jaws in 2016 and repatriated to VIA's Toronto Maintenance Centre (TMC) by Rapido Trains Inc. The rest of the ex-VIA RDC's not being worked on were scrapped.

As VIA equipment moved to IRSI, I was aware of two such movements. I was unable to photograph either one, but thanks to the co-operation of my Dad to photograph the one below in 2000, and the kind sharing by Tim Dryden of his photographs showing the second in 2004, I'm able to document them both in this post.

On September 27, 2000 I was stuck at work but I asked my Dad to head up to the tracks at Mi 182 CN Kingston Sub to photograph the RDC's wherever they might be on CN train No 306. Well it turns out that was three cars from the tail-end! (Three L.C. Gagnon photos - below):
The head-end approaches (above) and the RDC's finally appear (below):
VIA RDC-1 6122 leads RDC-2 6219, the latter rebuilt for VIA and re-entering service in October, 2013.
  • RDC's sold to IRSI in 2000: VIA 6105*, 6107, 6114, 6119, 6122, 6136, 6137, 6143, 6200, 6202, 6204, 6206, 6207, 6208*, 6212, 6213, 6216, 6217*, 6219*, 6220, 6221, 6222, 6223, 6224.
  • RDC's sold to IRSI in 2002: BC-12, "BC-16" actually VIA 6128.
  • VIA 6133 was still in service when sent to IRSI in 2010.
*rebuilt for VIA Rail in 2013 at IRSI and not scrapped

Unfortunately, I'd have to check all through my observations to see if I caught any of these other RDC movements!

On April 27, 2004 seventeen LRC locomotives were sitting at VIA's Montreal Maintenance Centre (MMC), marshalled between two VIA locomotives with head-end VIA cars and IRSI and VIA tail-end idler cars, to operate as VIA train No 614. The train was 1,540 feet long and weighed 2,480 tons. Operating at a maximum of 20 mph for the first 40 miles, following an inspection to check bearings, the train could increase its speed in 10 mph increments up to a maximum of 50 mph. VIA crews operated the train, with refuelling scheduled at Riviere du Loup, QC. 

Some of these locomotives like 6927, 6928 and 6930, first bumped by VIA's new 6400's, had been stored as early as 1990 despite being the last to enter service only six years earlier. At VIA's Ville St Pierre facility as early as 1990, 6908, 6910 and 6911 and 6913 had their windows covered by plywood and exhausts wrapped in plastic. After 1991, only 8 to 12 LRC locomotives were in service at any given time. VIA 6917 and 6921, among the last seven to be operated from 1997 to 2001 (and the only two preserved, in Toronto and St-Constant respectively) were returned to service in 1992, and others were stored or re-entered service. The last seven LRC locomotives in service in late 2001: 6903, 6905, 6907, 6914, 6917, 6919, 6921. My last LRC sighting was on August 30, 2001 as VIA No 67’s four cars were powered into the setting sun by 6921.

The last seven units were moved from Montreal to Toronto on CN freight train No 309, arriving at the TMC for storage in January, 2002. Then in August, 2003 there were 24 LRC locomotives visible at the MMC. By September, 2003 the last seven were being offered for sale, as is, and therefore not on this hospital train. The consist: 

Proposed schedule for VIA No 614: Montreal dep 1810 April 27; Joffre, QC 2300; Riviere du Loup, QC 0200 April 28; Moncton 1130. It seems the train ran late, with at least one stop to check hot wheels, reaching Miramichi, NB at 1600. The departure from Montreal reportedly took place on the one day of the week (Tuesday) that the Ocean didn't regularly operate!
Tim Dryden chased VIA No 614 from Bathurst, NB to Moncton and his photos of the hospital train's trip are a great addition to this post! 
VIA took care to paint out their yellow logo on the flanks of the LRC locomotives, sometimes with various shades of paint! IRSI lettering had been added.

I included Tim's bridge photo at this point in the post because it clearly shows the 'blue LRC' and its one-sided nature (above) and its very large yellow VIA logo painted out. VIA 6922 had an experimental blue scheme on the engineer's side, applied after its road service. Some accounts say the one-side-blue scheme was applied to gauge employee reaction. The view below shows the other side:
IRSI coach 132 (above - trailing 6902) was built in 1949 for the International Great Northern, operating on the Missouri Pacific until it was sold to New Jersey Transit in 1968. VIA purchased the car in 1989 for possible HEP conversion. Several of the purchased cars were not converted, with this one being sold to IRSI.
Arrival at Gort - entrance to CN's Gordon Yard in Moncton (above and below), their last stop on the road to oblivion.

The VIA idler cars and locomotives from the move stayed in Moncton for a layover of 24 hours, then were to return on the next VIA No 15.

Though it's beyond the scope of this post to detail all of IRSI's financial troubles and unfulfilled plans, many pieces of ex-VIA equipment were eventually scrapped on the site and some contract work was completed elsewhere. Most of the LRC locomotives were scrapped at IRSI in 2007, with 6901, 6916 and 6925 still there in 2008.

Two stored LRC locomotives had a last high-speed ‘hurrah’ on the night of August 6, 2003.  Pulled by 6421 and trailed by baggage car 8613, the 6921 and 6907 were moved from TMC to MMC in a night-time movement.  Operating at 50 mph to Oshawa, where an inspection was made, maximum speed was increased to 75 mph.  A second stop and inspection at Port Hope, and the little train was off again, at a maximum speed of 90 mph!

Disposition of other LRC locomotives: 
  • 6903, 6905 to DESX
  • 6906, 6920 destroyed by fire while in VIA service
  • 6907, 6914, 6919 for sale in 2004, still at TMC in 2008. 6907 and 6914 scrapped at CAD in 2010 and 6919 scrapped at TMC in 2011.
  • 6908 to CAD in 1999; 6918 and 6929 to CAD in 2002
  • 6912 at MMC until at least 2004 prepared and proposed for re-engining, scrapped at IRSI in 2007
  • 6917, 6921 preserved in Toronto and St-Constant, respectively
  • 6926 to Texas in 2003
IRSI's optimistic plans for former VIA equipment ended not with a bang, but with a whimper. Unless, of course, you forget about the bang of the scrapper's metal-crushing jaws.

Photos posted by Claudette Cousineau to social media show LRC's during a tour of VIA's MMC in 2003:
'Blue LRC' 6922 with VIA logo painted out and IRSI lettering by cab door coupled to 6902 (above) and nine LRC's at the end of the line (truly at the end of their line!) of LRC's with a tarped Park car just visible at left:

Lots o' links:
  • VIA 6912 tarped at IRSI on non-standard trucks. Was it transported there by truck?
  • Jeremy McPherson visited and photographed more wonders at IRSI 
  • Winter of their discontent - snowy slumber at Montreal, January 2004.

Running extra...

All serious students of Ottawa-area classic CPR railroading will enjoy this Kitchissippi Museum Youtube video showing a Dayliner from-the-cab view of an Ottawa West-Brockville return trip in 1965. Smiths Falls appears at the 15:00 mark. The Kitchissippi Museum Youtube video page includes several other Ottawa-area vintage railway videos.

And etudiants serieux of Montreal-area modern-day VIA and commuter railroading will enjoy this Youtube video by Marc Dufour from Canada's latest and greatest elevated railfanning platform - the new REM commuter line from Brossard to Central Station. It skirts the commuter yards, VIA Montreal Maintenance Centre and CN's former Pointe St Charles shops. See! the VIA deadline. Feel! the Panorama cars awaiting their transformation. Hear! the impatience of the Siemens sets to be finally put in service! One of Marc's still shots showing VIA 204, 6251 and 6425 in the deadline:

Wednesday, August 16, 2023

Postscript: Fifteenth Anniversary Contest

This has been a great week in Trackside Treasure history! Having emblazoned this blog with a disco-style header (below) commemorating and celebrating this blog's crystal anniversary, I was pleased and honoured to receive multiple congratulatory emails, messages and good wishes as Trackside Treasure historically (and hysterically?) highballs onward into the cyberfuture metaverse. I stand before you as a humble blogger, just as I did as a humble teenage railfan apparently ready to cassette-record the sounds of a Santa Fe 40-foot boxcar at the Cataraqui Spur team track, extremely early in my emerging railfan career (top photo).
Annibursary honoree Michael Hammond responded in part, "I’ll always be fascinated by railways. It’s honestly something I find very calming. [The Beachburg Sub] blog has carried me through some tough times." Michael also published this amazing post on his own blog The Beachburg Sub, as the inaugural Trackside Treasure Annibursary honoree! Fellow blogger Steve Boyko posted this awesome post to help me celebrate. Stephen Gardiner chronicled the chronicler in his post. Chris Mears took a trip back in time. It's great to have blog partners like these!


Entries began appearing in the first hour after the crystal anniversary post was published. The final entry received was a mere hour before the contest deadline of noon today! It was fun to read through the entries and to appreciate their variety! I've included a variety of entries for each of the one, two and/or three ways the contest could be entered. Entertaining and eclectic, and no two types of pie duplicated!


  • VIA F-unit to bring back memories of seeing VIA trains in my childhood.
  • Skyview sleeper-lounge.
  • Maroon CPR heavyweight passenger car with three-axle bogies, turned into a living/entertainment space while retaining the original elements.
  • A Louisville & Nashville Railroad (L&N) "Big Woodie) caboose. 
  • A 5700 series CP Rail SD-40-2 in action red with the multi mark and 5" stripes.
  • A Park car.
  • If I couldn't get CN 6060 as an option I would go for either an FP9Au or something with a number that related to a band or pop culture in some way. 
  • A New York Central bay window caboose, painted Century Green, with cigar band logo and the  'Road to the Future' slogan proudly displayed. 
  • Ontario Southland Railway MLW RS18u 183.
  • 'Dominion of Canada' ex-LNER A4 Pacific.
  • CN's Royalty Junction, PEI station.


  • Blueberry
  • Chocolate cream pie 
  • Apple pie heavy on the cinnamon 
  • Blueberry 
  • Raspberry
  • Elderberry
  • Apple 
  • Pecan, straight up no ice cream 
  • Pumpkin 
  • Lemon meringue


  • Grain elevator posts and older grain-carrying rolling stock posts.
  • Interesting and relaxing reading, especially archive photos and descriptions of the past in the Kingston area and generally topics detached from anything I need to worry about. Way better than other social media.
  • I keep coming back to Trackside Treasure due to the excellent, variety of content that appears each week. Viewing included pictures is enjoyable as they reinforce the written content - and vice versa. The humour mixed in puts a smile on my face if not producing a solid laugh each week. TT is one of the most professionally produced, accurate, and entertaining blogs in the railfan universe. 
  • The interesting mix of topics and history with a good dose of humour. I'm still laughing at your Bombardier HR616 joke. The links to your blog partners are also appreciated.
  • Trackside Treasure combines really interesting Canada-centric train info,  compiled and provided by someone who seems deeply committed to telling the story.  There is also a strong sense of fun and bemusement.  And I like the fact that these traits carry over onto the model train side too.  There are people out there who are a lot more serious, but seem to have less fun.   I am deeply impressed by your archive of 110 snapshots .  About the time you were taking yours, I was taking mine a couple of hundred miles west (London), but I don’t have nearly as many. 
  • The variety of topics covered - as a farmer I enjoy the information on elevators and grain rail cars. 
  • Information. I have found so many answers to questions on Eric’s blog when I go searching things. 
If I was legally allowed to enter, my choices would have been: a CN Pointe St Charles caboose, cherry, and "Hey, it's what I do!" It was great to hear American railroads represented, as it's easy to think this blog is by, for and about Canadians. But no, model railroading and even railfanning know no boundaries, don't you know. I equally appreciated these other thoughtful, crystal-clear comments received:

A great milestone Eric! Its nice that you don't subscribe to the rumour mill but you meticulously post accurate information instead. Congratulations! - Pierre Ozorak

I can't believe it's been nine years I've been reading your blog when I came across it somehow - Mike Kulesza.

At times when the community spanning railfanning to model railroading might not feel as accessible or familiar, the way you write and the comfort you have with expressing your interest in your voice remains an inspiration. It remains among those few [blogs] I’ve dedicated time to reading back to the start like we’d read a book. I can’t imagine being able to describe the ways Eric has influenced our hobby and I know it’s a better place because of his passion. - Chris Mears


A rolodex of past Trackside Treasure anniversary contest winners includes cards labelled Boyko, Coe, Fulsom, Hall, Hammond, Hayman, Lisakowski, Martyniuk, May, Moore, Mueller and Staiger. This year's crystal-anniversary contest winner of the Trackside Treasure publication of their choice is....

Brian Palmer of Ontario's beautiful Bruce Peninsula

Congratulations! Along with his entry, Brian said, "What an amazing 15 years.  I’ve so enjoyed your humour, knowledge and desire to share in all things Canadian Rail.  I feel like we as a railfan community are better for it, but also the Canadian public thanks to your getting information from VIA Rail on the actual status of their Heritage (Stainless Steel Fleet). What a great house [a Park car] would be with a solarium, lounges, kitchen (small) and bedrooms.  Alas, not for a little while longer. Keep it up! Even if I don’t win, take all these compliments with my best wishes", and upon being notified of his winning entry, "In an era where tweets and tik Tok lasts just a few minutes, I’m glad that we have the history that you’ve collected and shared." Brian's complimentary copy of Trackside with VIA: Cross-Canada Compendium (the second last copy I have) will be on its way today.

THANK YOU ... all the ladies and gentlemen, boys and grills, Kens and Barbies who revelled in and relished this special summertime event. Holy smokes, I'm glad you mustered the energy and are as fired up as I am. To be frank, whether you were the wiener or not (bun intended), I've enjoyed being able to meat and catchup with so many of you as we furter marinade in the special sauce of railway immortalization grilliantly. Weather it be the wurst chili day of winter or the hot, dog days of summer. I will continue being on the cookout for posts that are well-done, minimizing any flare-ups or Traegering topics, and keeping the half-baked bad puns, at least in this social medium, rare. All smoking aside, even though I've got a big steak in this, I can still take some ribbing! As we enter Trackside Treasure's sixteenth year together, I'm looking forward to the future and I wouldn't brisk-et for the world!


Thursday, August 10, 2023

Trackside Treasure's Fifteenth Anniversary


To christen this crystal 15th anniversary of my little corner of cyberspace, I need to first turn to my blog partners Steve Boyko, George Dutka/Don James/Peter Mumby, David Gagnon, Stephen Gardiner, Michael Hammond, Bernard Kempinski, Matthieu Lachance, Chris Mears, Derek Pittman and Marc Simpson. I will put those ten blogs, and those 12 bloggers up against any rail blogroll in cyberspace. I don't think you'll find a more dedicated yet eclectic, entertaining yet professional, high-quality but humorous bunch o' bloggers anywhere this side of the Pecos! I thank them especially on this day for making my blog interesting not only for me to read, but also for providing Trackside Treasure's readership with enjoyment and education! Crystal is the traditional moniker for 15th anniversaries, and it's crystal-clear to me how much I value their cyber-contributions to train-watching, railway modelling and history alike!

Trackside Treasure is my online home, and it's really many types of houses all in one: 

  • a clearing-house where information is moved in and out
  • a warehouse where research is carefully stored
  • a treehouse providing escape from the real world for awhile
  • a clubhouse where all are welcome without fees or dues
  • a greenhouse where posts are cultivated over time, and...
  • my wheelhouse.

At 823 published posts and counting, you can expect to continue finding a mix of prototype and model, CN, CP and VIA, freight and passenger, east and west, retro and current posts. If it's on rails in Canada, you'll be sure to read about it here, sooner and more often than not, later! You can dial up some earlier anniversary posts to find out why I blog and what has kept Trackside Treasure surviving and thriving since that August day in 2008. But if you're reading this, I think you already know. Alrighty then, now, it's...


What's a Trackside Treasure anniversary without a contest? It's nothing, I tell you, nothing!  To avoid having to obtain a government lottery licence and pay a phalanx of philandering and pedantic lawyers, this contest needs to be semi-skilled. Of course this contest always needs to be somehow railway-related, but with a fun option. The Trackside Treasure legal team tells me that my asking your mother's maiden name, first pet's name or oldest sibling's middle name would show questionable judgement on my part and might be considered scammy. So instead, this year I invite you to enter the contest in one, two or even three OTHER ways:

  • Tell me what specific piece of railway equipment you'd choose IF you had a large-enough property and IF you could have that piece of railway equipment fully restored and magically placed in your yard tomorrow morning AND/OR
  • Tell me your favourite kind of pie AND/OR
  • Tell me what it is about Trackside Treasure keeps you coming back for more!
It's just that easy! Entries have closed as of Wednesday, August 16, 2023 at noon Eastern Time. A winner will be randomly selected from any and all entries, and memorable entries will be published in a postscript! Now, rush to your device to enter! 

Instead of the customary prize for those OTHER Trackside Treasure anniversaries, the lucky winner from this SPECIAL Trackside Treasure anniversary can instead choose any one of my seven books (only Trackside with VIA - Research & Recollections is out of print) and it will be delivered directly to your mailbox, Supermailbox or front step as applicable, like your morning newspaper, not like the Amazon package for the guy three doors down!

Rules. Inevitably there are contest rules, written in legalese: Late entries will be considered late. Early entries prior to publication of this post will be considered amazingly prescient on your part. Contest not valid in Kenora, Rat Portage, Norway, Norway House, Northern South Dakota or Southern North Dakota, Samoa, Western Samoa or CanIPleaseHave Samoa. Not to be combined with any other offer. Like, have we ever had another offer? Don't think so. Does not come with an accompanying gym membership nor a monthly cellphone plan. Professional driver on closed course - do not attempt. No phone entries. No riders. Just no. Discretion assured and legal representation provided pro bono by Sonny LaMatina.


I believe in giving back. Oddly enough, one reason I started blogging was because at the time, it was pitched as a money-maker. Turns out that it's only lucrative with a huge fan base, tons of posts daily and hosting advertisements. Um, no thanks. So I started blogging my own way, pleased to have no editor or rules. If it weren't for Trackside Treasure, there would be no loyal Trackside Treasure readers. There would be none of the amazing connections I've made with like-minded readers, and the amazing opportunities and interactions with you, that I continue to enjoy. There would be none of the eight books I've created that enabled me to share information with other enthusiasts offline. There would have been no way to pay for my chihuahua's expensive surgery nor my all-consuming Royal Doulton figurine wing recently added to our already palatial home, nor my incredibly risky virtual-currency and NFT side-hustles.


But seriously, if that's still possible at this point, to give back and to celebrate this Trackside Treasure Crystal Anniversary, I'm proud to announce The Trackside Treasure Annibursary. Each August anniversary forthwith, I will bestow upon a fellow blogger or reader a modest bursary to fuel their initiative, interest and ingenuity in blogging or other online activity. The bursary can perhaps be used to pay for expenses incurred in sharing information, research costs, travel for research or if the honoree so chooses, even donated in their name to a Canadian rail preservation effort. The honoree and/or Trackside Treasure will be free to publicize this award as they so choose. 

The Trackside Treasure Annibursary comes with a curvaceous crystal trophy inscribed with the recipient's name and year as well as the fancy French motto that describes all railway bloggers and researchers and loosely translates as "To Share The Track". No-one controls cyberspace alone, we need to share: knowledge, enthusiasm and information. That is our lofty goal to which all railway bloggers and researchers ascribe. (Oh, and the trophy is only a jpeg file, so don't look for a soapstone carving, gold-plated trophy or any achingly-weighty tchotchke in your mail, nor some huge brown paper-wrapped package you have to pick up at the post office, or arriving at your door with accompanied by an armed escort.)

The inaugural 2023 recipient is...MICHAEL HAMMOND of Nepean, ON!

'The Beachburg Sub' blog has been an ongoing labour-of-love for Michael over the past ten years. Despite the challenges of living in a city with not enough trains, Michael has taken the initiative to seek out what there is to be found: Ottawa's light rail transit system, CN branchline service, the history of various locations, and railfan opportunities that present themselves elsewhere are among the plethora of posts Michael has published over the past ten years. 

Coming from a family that has worked on railways for over five decades, Michael brings his journalist nose and his family-man integrity to the blog platform each and every post. Michael has started social-media efforts and speaking on mental health topics, navigating working from home during the pandemic, keeping himself involved in family events, and his family involved in railway-related events throughout. He continues to hone The Beachburg Sub visually and photographically, with well-written posts, and has even formed community with many other rail enthusiasts, around CN's movements west to Arnprior. For all this, Michael is entirely deserving of the first Trackside Treasure Annibursary.

 Congratulations, Michael and keep up the good work!

'Now, on to the Pacific! Er, Trackside Treasure's 16th year. 

Thanks to everyone for being aboard 
and all your interest, patience, comments, suggestions, emails and assistance. --Eric

Running extra...

A nice surprise to mark Trackside Treasure's anniversary month was the arrival of VIA's seventh Siemens set this past week. Thanks to a heads-up from Malcolm Peakman, we caught the set being hauled by CN 5675-8956 at Collins Bay. The first delivery to rate two CN units!

Wednesday, August 2, 2023

Eight Tips for Layout Photography

Brooks Stover, a talented modeller of the Buffalo Creek & Gauley in S scale, authored a very useful article published in the January 2021 issue of Model Railroader magazine. Entitled 'Creating Better Layout Photos - Suggestions for improving photographs of model railroads', Brooks illustrated his points with...photographs! I selected eight of his many excellent points to evaluate my own layout photography, recently made more enjoyable with an iPhone. Following these eight points, I'll include and discuss some of my photography of my HO scale Kingston's Hanley Spur, incorporating Brooks' sound advice:

1. Good modelling. The foundation of good layout photos is, of course, good modelling. The camera will exaggerate, not hide imperfections. Structures need solid joints, and rolling stock must be well painted. Scenery must be complete.

2. Generous, uniform lighting. No matter how good the modelling, if a scene doesn't have proper lighting it will be difficult to get a good photo. It may be necessary to bounce some light into shadowed areas, or bring out some shadow detail with photo software.

3. Well-composed scene. The primary objective is to capture viewers' attention, draw them into the scene, and hold their attention.

4. What's in the picture? Avoid including elements that don't reinforce the main story. A common error is placing the main subject too far away and trying to include too much. Eliminate distracting elements in the background like walls and ceilings. Make sure the foreground is in focus and that no part of the layout fascia appears in the image.

5. Believable point of view. For obvious easons, layout photos look the most realistic when taken from near eye level.

6. Sense of life. One way to bring life to a photo is to include human figures. The viewer of the photo will look where the figures are looking, creating eye movement.

7. Lines, shapes, colour and balance. Offsetting the main subject vertically, horizontally, or both, creates more visual interest. The character of colours should be uniform throughout the image. A scene with subdued colours but with a bright-coloured element in an otherwise weathered scene will look out of place. 

8. Take photos. Taking photos of your layout can become a fascinating and stimulating hobby within a hobby. With today's digital technology, each click of the shuttter is basically free!

Rather than placing illustrative photographs among the above points, I realized that each of my photographs did, didn't, or should've followed Brooks' advice - in some cases incorporating more than one of his eight points. Below, you'll find photos I took (as always, click on photo for larger image In this case, much larger images!). These photos are randomly-taken in one evening: unposed, unedited, and accompanied by thought-provoking discussion.
My Bajus brewery doesn't have the most solid joint under it. I used some modelling clay to try to level it, but a truck hiding a gap is a photographic trick (above). This unweathered all-door boxcar might stick out like a sore thumb, but new cars usually do just that. The Robertson screw in the foreground may not be obvious to the human eye, but the photo sure reveals its presence:
Unlike the top photo in this post, this vertical version shows the virtue of rounded room corners, using styrene, metal or pliable wood products. By standing in the way of the fluorescent ceiling bulbs, uneven lighting is the result:

There's no focus in the photo of the hobo camp (above) but by shifting the iPhone slightly, we see the homeless fellows watching a CN freight arriving. That shiny track needs attention, though!

There's a lot of vehicular activity and even a corner of fascia showing (above). By dropping the height above the layout, and showing a central subject (below) viewers will instead be telling me what lettering should be on the truck door. And they did. The wares for sale can easily be lightened with photo-editing software 'shadows'.

Another airborne scene that lacks focus. By dropping down and zooming in, the figures taking a break from lawn care make a compelling vignette, but again, there's a non-solid joint under my City Steam Laundry!

Just because I have to look at boxcar roofs, even at a relatively high 48" layout height, wouldn't you rather look at car sides when it comes to the final 'fotografic' findings? I know I would, and the background blends believably. Again, there's uneven lighting, adjustable by software if desired:

Land that drone/helicopter! Uneven lighting, no central focus, no life (above).
The printed (two-dimensional) roll-up door details are better revealed at this altitude. Notice the interest level heightened by adding foreground figures and details:

The female figure going for groceries leads the eye to the store door. But her clear acetate base needs photo-editing. Regardless, it's much more believable as a scene than the rooftop-view alternative:
Another example of a brightly-coloured element among more subdued subject matter. Prototypical though, based on period freight yard photos.
Not only is this Matchbox model out-of-era, but it stands out among its scrap-hauling sisters. Just imagine how much better this photo would look without it. I bought it for its accompanying dumpster, as I'd just missed buying the Matchbox porta-potty truck release.
Entering the layout room, this is the lightswitch view. Lightswitch, benchwork, fascia, cardstock-tank joint with wall, and truck about to drive down into oblivion! Immediate action required to make this angle work!
A little better, though that distant corner looms. Foreground scenery is actual Kingston sifted gravel and dollar-store clay. The stepping-down worker and barrels inside add visual interest to this improved angle:

Millard & Lumb micro view (above) in which sitting figures are more believable than figures stopped in motion. A macro view shows my roof-modelling to advantage, but doesn't have the interest level of the above photo, and the fascia fleets with the foreground.
All of the above are of course dependent upon the photographer/modeller's personal preferences, ability and camera. Brooks' bonus ninth point is inspirational - take photos! Then refine the quality and try something new next photography session.

Running extra...

Coming soon...Trackside Treasure's annual anniversary celebration and contest. This year, it's a giveaway as this blog celebrates a memorable milestone! Stay tuned!

I originally drafted this post the day after the premiere of TRIPPING Train 185, the spectacular documentary about the Sudbury-White River Dayliners. Derek Pittman is modelling Northern Ontario and has just launched his new blog The Budd Car, also the name of his budding layout! On July 27, Derek was passing through Kingston and we had a chance to meet at the VIA station. We talked about the ins and outs of model railroading and blogging. VIA No 65 meets CN No 372 during our visit:
Also on draft day for this post, it was the first time a former or sitting U.S. president is indicted. I can't imaging the greenhouse gases generated by flying the 'perp' all the way from Florida to New York and back, with multi-car motorcades at each end. All for more methanic hot air during and after the courtroom appearance. And just before this post was finally published, about three months later, a second indictment has just dropped! How have the mighty fallen. Free summer reading from the Kingston-Frontenac Public Library Isabel Turner branch: