Wednesday 29 March 2017


A beautiful brass model steam locomotive was bestowed on the KVMR by way of three estates.  It is a model of the CPR M 4 class which was treated of in a previous post on Kettle Valley Consolidations. It can be found here:

When it came to us, the model was covered in a very poor paint job which only obscured the exquisite craftsmanship of the original builder; a man by the name of Doug Murray who lived and worked in the Vancouver area.  Apparently he was a VSE stock broker and his hobby of building brass models was a therapeutic release from the pressures of his profession.  Among other things he built a detailed model in brass of a pile driver.

Major components of the 3400 were scratch-built and fitted out with several commercial castings.  The only other commercial items seem to be the under-frame, cylinders and drivers.  The rivet-work is of a very high quality, perhaps a little oversize in some cases but very clean and precise.  We will describe the craftsmanship in greater detail with pictures and the work we had to do to get the model running smoothly.

Boiler  It appears to us that the boiler was rolled by the builder.  A friend of ours disputes that but the boiler courses were at the very least modified in length and with rivets and other details added, then reassembled.  The running boards (which are often a challenge to fabricate and mount) conform closely to photographs of the prototype.  Here is the left or fireman's side of the model after sandblasting.  The cross-head guide rods were masked off from the abrasive.

It could well be that the cab was scratch-built or at least heavily modified from a commercial model.
The boiler front is perfect and had an etched number board bearing the digits 3400.  Curiously, according to photographs of the actual number 3400, she did not have the running board configuration that the model was given and differed in two other major details: 1.  Number 3400 and many of her sisters had a step in the running board on the right side under which was located a second air tank; 2.  The placement of the bell varied. It could be located as in the pictures or alternatively it could be attached to the check valve behind the smoke stack. In this case, the sand dome was moved further to the rear.  Below is the right side or engineman's side with the straight running board.  One other major detail variant in the 3400's was to re-position the headlight to the center-line of the boiler front.  This was the standard practice of the late steam era on the CPR but many older locomotives retained their high headlight to the end.

To match the model to a Kettle Valley locomotive in our late steam era (number 3448) we considered changing the right-side running board, adding the second air tank and re-positioning the bell and dome.  However, we found a photo of a prototype match to number 3455 parked beside the Penticton roundhouse in 1938 so in the end we chose not to change these three significant details on Doug Murray's beautiful model but give her the number 3455 which would not be too far from historical reality.

Chassis  The chassis received a serious modification by Doug to the driver slots to achieve the appropriate spacing for the drivers which was uneven.  The overall dimension from the first axle to the fourth was correct as supplied.  But the spacing of the middle two axles was different.  Doug filed the front faces of the middle two axle slots and added brass fillers to the rear of these two slots in order to bring the second and third axle forward and to provide a larger spacing between the third and fourth drivers.  By doing this, he achieved a closer match to the prototype as can be seen in the following CPR diagram.  It would seem that the chassis was originally designed and built for somewhat larger drivers with even spacing.

Drivers  The model ran very poorly and after considerable labour spent on the chassis and drivers, we found that one of the wheels on the gear axle was loose.  So, it would run for a few minutes but would soon develop a mild stutter and eventually a severe bind to the point it would not move.  Accordingly, all drivers were re-quartered and the loose one eventually affixed with "Thread-Locker".  In tuning the chassis and drivers, we had to shim the slots to reduce the amount of play between the slots and the axle bushings.

 Gearbox  The original drive gear was exposed on the bottom by lacking a cover plate.  This is considered a deficiency that would only invite problems as time went on by attracting foreign material into the gearbox and its lubricant.  A new NWSL gearbox was installed and the motor remounted. Model airplane fuel line was used as the universal to join the gearbox to the original Mashima motor.

Tender  Here is a photo of the locomotive with its switching tender.  These tenders had a back-up light mounted on a stand for night work and large foot-boards fitted on the rear.  The model tender is mostly scratch-built with a few commercial castings and the trucks added.  Very, very nicely done.

Unfortunately, the coal bunker extensions had to be modified for our tight model curves by cutting notches in the front corners.  Otherwise, there would be a direct short between the extension and the cab roof on any track curve sharper than 60" or so.  But the notches are hardly noticeable and seem to pass as prototypical.  It is most desirable to couple the tender as close to the cab as possible.

Decoder  A Tsunami Heavy Steam decoder was installed in the tender.  Our standard Mega Bass speaker made by Soundtraxx was fitted out with a cylindrical lead enclosure held together with Capton tape.  This was mounted right forward under the coal bunker in order to maximize the height of the speaker enclosure on the principal that the larger the speaker box the deeper the sound.  The decoder was placed behind the speaker and the wiring connected.  Two plugs were used between the tender and locomotive.  One two pin connector carried the blue and white wires for the headlight and the three pin plug carried the red wire for the loco pick-up, and the grey and orange wires for the motor leads.  It was a squeeze to get the wires routed into the cab and around the motor properly.  The lead speaker enclosure adds significant weight to the tender thus providing good electrical contact between the rail and the tender wheels.

Lighting  We favour the LED lamps made by Evan Designs:  They are very tiny and have a built in bridge rectifier and appropriate resistor.  They can be connected directly to the lighting outputs of the decoder and are not polarity sensitive.  Here are the front and back of the package together with one of the LED's and the wires.  The actual lamp is indicated by the red arrow.  Very small indeed and a very bright light is produced.  Care must be taken to mount these so that the wires do not scrape the metal of the boiler to short out.  They are fixed in place with white glue which helps to insulate them from the bare metal.  Some heat shrink and a two pin plug can help too.  For more info on working with these amazing lamps see the October issue of Model Railroad Hobbyist:

Painting and Lettering  The model was blasted with 220 grit Aluminum Oxide Abrasive.
Painted with Scalecoat I Paint:  CN Sig warm black is our preferred colour of which we have a dwindling supply.  Scalecoat I - Graphite And Oil was applied to the smokebox.
The decals are by Black Cat:  Black Cat provides the warning placards on the footboards both front and rear that are added according to photos of CPR switchers as well as the fire hose decal for the box under the tender.  One day we will weather the model but for now we like her in her pristine outfit.

A final note on her use on the layout.  The prototype Brookmere did not have an assigned switcher as far as we know.  Only Penticton had one.  However, No. 3455 fits in well with our operating scheme and works the east end of Brookmere during our operating sessions.  This has worked out well as a good yard crew can efficiently manage the east yard.  In reality, road crews would do their own terminal switching but in practice on our layout, an assigned yard switcher has been found to expedite things better in our compressed operations format.  Glad to have this exquisite model grace our layout.

Coquihalla Man

Sunday 19 March 2017


Four miles to the west and downgrade from Brookmere is the "station" of BRODIE where the Merritt Subdivision used to connect with the Coquihalla Subdivision.  This point marked the end of the Merritt Sub at Mileage 65.16.  Much farther to the west, mile "0" for the Merritt sub was the place where the track diverged from the CPR mainline at Spences Bridge.  Later on, at the time of the abandonment of the Coquihalla Sub in 1961, this Brodie junction became mileage 112.7 of the Princeton Sub. 

Brodie is not much recognized as a geographical name but it can be located on Google Maps by keying in Brookmere and then moving due west towards the highway.  The loop and Girder Bridge are clearly seen in the earth view.  From Highway 5 it is readily accessed by taking exit 250 at Larson Hill.  A short winding road will take you to the Brodie loop.

The house in the photo is the Section House along with the tool shed and wood shed.  The windows of the section house have been removed.  Out-of-sight and possibly also removed is the other building identified on the drawing that follows as "house" but of this we have no other information.  We present here a few drawings, details and photos to aid the modeler in reproducing this interesting junction in the "middle of nowhere".  The photo above was taken by our late, good friend Glenn Lawrence sometime after abandonment of the Coquihalla sub.  It appears that the points and frog of the switch in the foreground have been removed which may have happened in the late 1960's or early 70's.  It is possible that Glenn took the photo on his 1968 trip to Brookmere, Merritt and the Otter Creek Valley.

Here is the title block for the "Station Ground Plan" of Brodie.  As is evident, it was originally drawn in 1934 with an update rendered in 1940.

Another detail crop from the same drawing follows showing the junction switch with the Merritt Sub already referred to. You can click on the image to enlarge it. This detail also shows the pole line with the actual placement of poles indicated.  The poles carried 17 wires according to the notation.  Note the "drop" (telephone cable) to the register booth (aka phone shack) which is close by the junction switch.  This was not really a shelter for passengers but a building for train crews to record the passage of their trains in a special book called a Train Register.  They could also contact the dispatcher if needed using the telephone located inside.  Curiously the plan denotes the building as a "station" and timetables do show that Brodie was a "flag-stop" but the question is who would have boarded or detrained here since no one except the local section gang lived in the area.

According to the drawing, the phone shack has a footprint of 10 feet by 22 feet and is set back 18 feet from the track centreline.  It does not appear in the photo above, being just out of sight to the left of the picture.  Good photos of the shack are to be seen in the collection of Lorne Bond at Hank's Trucks:  There are also other fine shots of KV steam trains and scenery.  A tiny side view of this shack is shown in Smuin's book, Mileboards on page 3-11.

Here is the detail crop from the plan showing the Bridge, the junction switch and the phone shack which is described as a "station".  Other things to note are the 4.0 milepost at the bottom of the plan and the right-of-way owned by the railway; this latter is marked out by the dashed and dotted lines.  The right-of-way is usually 50 feet from the centreline of track but in some places it is 100 feet from centreline.  An interesting detail is the switch which seems to be a curved switch with the "normal" route easing into a tangent for the Coquihalla line.  Trying to interpret the figures adjacent to the switch, it would seem that the diverging route of the switch flattens from the loop curve of 12 degrees to 4 degrees 30 minutes through an arc of 4 degrees 30 minutes then reverts to 12 degrees.  The other wye switch near the phone shack has identical figures.  See below.  For modelers, we tend to build our curved switches with full loop radius rather than flattening them through the frog as the prototype did.

Both of the original two bridges located at Brodie were 100 foot long wooden Howe truss spans replaced with steel versions about 1932. In the drawing above, the bridge for the Coldwater River crossing at Mileage 4.1 of the Coquihalla Sub is denoted as a 100 foot long Deck Lattice Truss.  It can be seen in the background of the opening photograph.  A line drawing appears below.  This CPR line drawing is heavily edited from the original to render the image legible for modelers.  This steel truss bridge was removed some years ago presumably for environmental concerns.  The abutments are still in place although somewhat undermined by the action of the Coldwater River.  An identical truss type was used on the famous Falls Creek/Bridal Veil Falls trestle in the canyon downstream at mile 21.2.  It is still accessible to courageous hikers for measurements and photographs.  The Coldwater version employed only two trusses whereas the Bridal Veil Falls trusses were four in number for the one span.  The Tie Bill of Materials was: 108 ties @ 8" x 14" x 14'-0".

And now, a plan detail of the track, the girder bridge and the structures that show in the opening photo.  These latter are located close by the 12 degree curve of the loop from Merritt.  They were: a No. 2 standard tool house, a section (foreman's) house, a (wood)shed, two privys and the aforementioned house set back from the loop.  According to Smuin, there was a bunkhouse here in early years but no sign of it on the plan or in the photo.  Perhaps section men were given a better dwelling at some point and this is the mystery house. Dimensions of the Section House were 21.5' x 28'.  It appears to be the standard CPR/KVR No. 3 section house with the common addition of a room to the rear which usually housed the kitchen.  Again note the curved switch to the west leg of the wye junction and the back track.  And the loop curvature is described in this part of the drawing as 12 degrees which is considered a "sharp" curve in real railroading.  It turns an arc of 191 degrees 30 minutes between the spirals at each end.

The bridge is still in place as part of the Trans Canada Trail.  It is denoted as a 100 foot long Through Plate Girder. Here is the CPR line drawing of it.  While it is denoted as Bridge 112.9 of the Princeton sub, before 1961 it was Bridge 65.0 on the Merritt sub.  A good reproduction of a drawing of a bridge similar to this one was rendered by Patrick Lawson in the October 2003 edition of Mainline Modeler.  His drawing is for a bridge on a tangent so the substructure differs a little from this one which is located on a 12 degree curve.  Comparison of the plan views will reveal the different substructure arrangements.  The bridges' widths are the same at 18 feet centre to centre for the main girders. 

Here is the Tie Bill.  Not sure where and how the 4 odd ties were placed.
This fine photo was taken by Dave Love in the 1980's shows some detail. 

There is an excellent early photo of the Brodie Loop and junction showing the original Howe truss bridges and the section house in the background.  It is dated as 1927 and shows a passenger train crossing the mainline bridge and a work train in the foreground.  It gives a very good overview of the whole track arrangement and of the scene with the high fills.  This photo is from the wonderful collection of vintage photos preserved by the Okanagan Archive Trust Society.  Here is the link to the Brodie photograph:

For completeness, we present the entire plan of Brodie station.  The Rule at the bottom is scaled to the plan where one unit equals 100 feet.  The original plans were drawn in a scale of 1 inch equals 100 feet and the scale at the bottom was produced when the CPR Engineering Department put their historic plans on Microfiche slides. 

We hope that this subject is helpful to modelers and railfans.  We could treat in detail some other stations on the Coquihalla Subdivision if there is interest.   We part here with a shot of conductor Hicks returning to his caboose after registering his Westbound Extra at the Brodie phone shack on the Kettle Valley Model Railway.

Hopefully the next post will not take us a year to publish but a little feedback would help in that regard.

Coquihalla Man

Update:  June 2023: A reader has sent us a photo of his work on his KV layout which is very much worth sharing with readers and modelers.  Here is a recent shot of his very impressive O-scale version of Brodie.  The scene is very recognizable and reflects well the view seen at the top of the page.  The section house is superb with its "insulbrick" siding. 


Addendum Nov. 2021: Here is an aerial photo of Brodie, cropped from the original which was taken in the 1940's.

June 2023 Update:  The bridge has been removed. Presumably by the Ministry of Transportation after the disastrous floods of November 2021 which wreaked havoc in many places in the Coquihalla and throughout southern B C.  Google Maps shows it so; these are the coordinates: 49.814865 - 120.942561

Copy and paste them into the search box at Google Maps.