Tuesday, May 05, 2015

10 Questions for John Longhurst

Railroad magazine used to have a regular feature highlighting an "Interesting Railfan". I thought I would run a similar series with some railfans who have agreed to participate. I'm asking each railfan 10 questions, some standard and some customized for the particular person. I hope you enjoy it. (See all in the series)

John Longhurst writes the very popular CP Rail Manitoba and Minnesota Subdivision blog, a blog I highly recommend. Unlike many of the others in this series, I have actually had the pleasure of meeting John.

1. Tell us a little bit about yourself.

John (R) with brother-in-law Ken Epp
I'm in my late 50s. I've spent my career in communications, mostly in the non-profit sector, and much of the time with international relief and development agencies. I currently direct communications and marketing for Canadian Foodgrains Bank, which provides humanitarian food relief and agricultural assistance to poor farmers in the developing world.

2. Why do you like trains?

I don’t know. I always just have. I have a photo from when I was two years old playing with a push-train on the floor of my house. It’s always been in my blood.

3. Where’s your favourite place to railfan?

I like hanging out at Portage la Prairie—both major Canadian railways, CN and CP, cross at grade. I also like any place there are tracks in the mountains. A few years ago, when business took me to Elkhart, Indiana on a regular basis, I enjoyed railfanning the NS along the old New York Central mainline--lots of great locations to watch trains, and a good parade of visiting power including from the CPR.

4. Who in the railway/railfan/modeller world do you really want to meet?

John Allen, creator of the famed Gorre & Daphetid. If I he could be brought back to life, or if could go back in time and meet him, I'd thank him for inspiring me in the hobby when I was a kid. Allen McLelland of Virginia & Ohio fame is another person I'd like to thank. And Jim Heidger's Ohio Southern layout helped me realize that I, too, could build a double-deck layout. I'd like to meet him, too.
A scene on John's layout

5. What’s your favourite railway?

Since I model CP Rail, I should say that. But I grew up beside a CN spur in a CN town. When I got back into model railroading in the mid-80s, there was more stuff available in Action Red than in CN colours, so I went with that. I'm not sorry; it's been fun modelling CP Rail.

6. Would you say you're a lone wolf modeller? Why or why not?

When it comes to building and operating my layout, I'm a lone wolf. Except for a bit of help from my brother-in-law, Ken Epp, during benchwork phase, everything on the layout was done by myself. But I'm not a lone wolf when it comes to sharing the layout with others; I enjoy having people over to watch and run trains and socialize. I also enjoy being a part of the Winnipeg Model Railroad Club.

7. The model railroad scene has changed dramatically in the past couple of decades. Where do you see it going from here?

That’s a good question! It has already changed so much. When I started back in the hobby in 1987, there wasn’t very much in the way of Canadian railway models. Now we have so many great things being offered by companies like Rapido, Bowser, InterMountain, Atlas, TLT and Athearn, among others. So that's a change those of us in Canada have benefited from.

As for where it goes from here, my sense is that the hobby will decline in popularity. Not enough younger people are getting involved, and it isn't likely they will suddenly develop an interest in trains when they reach their 40s and 50s. Plus, there's the cost; when I started, $55-$75 was considered a normal price for a locomotive; those days are long gone.

Personally, I am hoping for the day when batteries become so powerful that they can be used to run HO scale trains using radio control—no more putting electricity through the track.
Another scene from John's layout

8. Do you think the Manitoba & Minnesota Subdivision is your last layout, or is there a chance you'll tear it down and start again?

I have built two layouts in my lifetime (not including a 4 x 8 oval when I was a teenager). The first was in a room 12 by 18 feet; this one is a double deck in a room 17 by 21 feet. The first lasted six years; the present layout took me 20 years to complete. It will be my last big layout; I can’t imagine having the time or energy to ever build one this size again. If I do build another layout, it will likely be a simple branchline or urban switching layout.

9. I know you've written a book, write for the Winnipeg Free Press and of course write on your blog. Have you ever thought of writing a railway-related book, or are you writing enough?

My blog is my book—the book of my layout and other train-related interests. It’s my fun writing; no deadlines, no pressure, just whatever I want to write.

10. What locomotive are you dying to see modeled?

When I started thinking about your questions before the Calgary Supertrain Show in late April, I was going to say a plastic CP Rail Red Barn. But Bowser announced it will bring one out at the Show, so that's off the list. Now I'd have to say a chop-nose GP9 is top of the list--that would be great to finally have in plastic RTR.

To see more of John, please visit:
Thanks, John!

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