The Fleet Is In

By   November 16, 2013

November 2013

The Fleet Is In

Repowering the Winter Valley

Over the years that I’ve been a part of the Winter Valley family there have been projects that have taken a great deal of time and money to get right. Rebuilding the station at Pearson was one such project. Being classified as a heritage building was the overriding issue there. Reinforcing of the bridge over the Smokey River was another. Not that our staff was always hands-on during that one but we all had to tip our lives on end in order to run every train between midnight and six AM. All that said and done though, dropping the new engines, generators and electronics into our 1st generation power turned into the biggest, most costly and most time consuming job of them all. Seeing them back idling, new and shinny at the station, gives me a great feeling of relief.

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As most of the people who have followed along here know I have invested in the CVP/AirWire Drop-In receiver decoders for all my engines.  The system is designed specifically for USAT products in that all the boards are designed to use the same mounting screws and connectors that are already there.  Course you need a new throttle.  I bought two T5000s and I’m real happy with them.  It’s a common DCC format but the Digitrax types will argue that only their product is DCC.  Crazy!

On this day I wasn’t the only one running around the station looking for the best camera angle. It was Saturday, the sun was out and five WV engines were lined up to make a morning appearance in Winter Valley. All were newly repowered and clean. It was quite a local economic story really. Even the Pearson Press, such as it was, had someone on hand to cover the show. Someone who knew a great deal more about last week’s quilting festival than railroading but never the less she was there crunching through the ballast spiked heels and all.

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How often have I heard that?  “You need to put another building over there and if you have a road down this way you can put in a coaling tower and maybe a gas station.  I have a logging truck for you too.”

But I say, “I don’t have room for all that.” And they ask me about the park next to the old water tank and I tell them “It’s full.  There are is a set of old swings there already.”  They just don’t understand.  Empty space is the most vital component of any small prairie town.  My pictures at Proto-file say it all….

The concept of scale ‘space’ is lost on most modellers.  This is particularly true in HO scale where there is just so much nice ‘stuff’ on the market.  In my scale it’s important because the model railroad mustn’t look like a tightly packed storage bin.  The layout has to breath.

The small public broadcasting station in Pearson covers stories and personalities in the Winter Valley region. Trade shows, auctions, school awards, the farmers market, council meetings and other events that would never earn time on the city channels. The station in Edmonton covers wars in the Middle East. CKPR covers Mrs. Crosby’s twins.

So our big SD40-2 was left sitting at the station through the noon hour and a crew was taken aboard and shown around ‘the command center’. Our intrepid reported sat in the big chair and asked questions about fuel spills, noise abatement and how it stayed on the track. No questions from her about the prosperity that even one 3000 horsepower unit brings to the region; the jobs it creates and the emissions it reduces.

Still the publicity is good. Paul and Wayne were in charge of the 5006 today and so they got their faces on TV. Families and friends all loved it and for them that’s what it was all about anyway.

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This photo demonstrates what I believe is the correct balance of clutter and open space.  The clutter, people and things, is concentrated on the station platform.  Commuters, milk cans, Coke machine, scale, a portion of a fence and the semaphore project a warm, busy little area next to the tracks.  Beyond the tracks are gravel, weeds and more tracks extending off into an empty horizon.  That single 45 gal drum and the switch stand don’t add to the clutter but rather highlight the emptiness that lives beyond the platform.

Regardless of all the fuss about our new horsepower there is still a railroad to run and that means there is freight to load and unload in Winter Valley. Crates of machine parts have arrived from Edmonton and they’ll be delivered to the oil industry on time and in good order. That’s becoming a booming business for us now as the highways around here are still in pretty poor condition apart from the late summer months. The weather has been mild this September so rail shipments are down except for the heaviest loads.

There are still people who climb aboard 7210 and read their paper or snooze while making their way into the city. I expect this too will come to an end when the new highway is finished but for now we can still save a few passengers some time and some money. Plus of course they all very much enjoy the companionship of others they know.

Today I caught Pamela playing with her new toy. She drove a Corvette for a long time and made herself and the car famous around town. Noisy, fast, and top down – hers as well as the cars. She has a new ride now but it’s always busted. Mercedes are built to look ‘European” at a flower show. Not for Canadian driving. It’ll be on the market again soon if your interested.

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I may have mentioned it before but that neat little luggage cart is scratch built in Winter Valley.  I couldn’t find plans but I had a selection of photos taken at various railway museums I visited around the prairies.  None of them were that great in detail but as a group they gave me all I really needed.  The stagecoach wheels are ordered on line someplace.  I have no idea where the crates came from but they’ve would be easy to make if you wanted to.

Well, not everything is new around here. During the project we had to borrow some power from Canadian National and because the heaviest machines we can use over Smokey Creek are our own lightweight SD40-2’s we worked with their F7’s. They have a little more power than the geeps and they ride real well so the crews like them. True, switching was a chore, but it’s pretty straight forward out on the main line so no big deal.

9034 and 9047 are now old friends. They usually worked out of Edmonton and are relegated to augmenting power down there. Newer, heavier GP’s and SD’s are pushing the old girls aside so I expect this might be their last trip north. They came up kind’a light this morning in charge of only 4 PGE/BCRail boxcars and so I took this picture while they moved them into a siding at the warehouse. Once done, they will take charge of a string of hoppers expected at Hudson Terminals before three PM. And then home.

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My F7’s, formerly USA Trains F3’s, are weird favourites of mine.  They were painted and scratch detailed to match CN practices.  Just about nothing in the way of off-the-shelf details was on the market because MbyE hadn’t used his 1/29th scale molds for some time.  Probably won’t.

Worst sin?  I wanted an authentic Canadian horn for these engines.  I had a wonderful SoundTraxx card that I used for track power operation but I had to switch to Phoenix when I invested in CVP and AirWire.  Result?  No Canadian horns except for their SD45.  SD45?  How many of them were in Canada?  Good lord!  So I bought the SD45 card, adjusted the sound as best I could using their download, and I live with a kind’a strange sounding engine with a great horn.

We took the pictures, talked to the press, ate the donuts and put the rebuilt engines out on the road to earn their keep – and ours – then we gathered at the ballpark for some celebratory beer-ball. Four balls, four strikes, seven innings and the 1st team with 10 runs buys the pizza. It’s a local tradition.

The younger adults, those under 40, teamed up with the kids under 10 to help them get on base. After that they were on their own. Odd how so many of the ladies were ‘under 40’ and how darn few were in their 50’s. Lots in their 60’s though. A quirk of nature I expect.

Centennial Park has been a blessing for Winter Valley. This community could never have raised the funds or taxed its too few payers enough to do the job but nearly 10 years ago now a chunk of government money came our way in support of Canada’s 100th birthday. Since then, with just small injections of cash, we have added a tennis court and built and maintained a fine settler museum in the old water tank.

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The ‘park’ isn’t much to model really and it shouldn’t be. I cast the stone columns with plaster and river pebbles then cleared away some of the dried plaster with a wire brush to expose the colour and texture of the rocks. I planted them at an appropriate spot and when they were firmly in place I added the arch.

The arch is made of those ‘stick on’ letters you can buy in the school supply or scrapbook area at your local novelty store. Form the arch with heavy paper, stick on the lettering and spray it the colour of your choice. In this case it’s relatively new so little weathering is needed. Oh yes, and spell it correctly.

See you all at