Trevor Marshall was looking for a change. After modelling in various scales over 40 years, he was ready for a new challenge.
He found it in S scale, and the result is the Port Rowan Sub.—a Great Canadian model railroad.
“This is my first foray into S scale,” he says, adding he was inspired to choose that scale by his friends in the S Scale Workshop.
For many, the lack of variety of equipment, structures and details, compared to the more popular gauges, is a drawback to choosing S scale. But Trevor found it to be an advantage.
For one thing, “it forced me to pick a modest piece of reality to recreate in my layout room,” he says of his modest-sized layout.
For another, it pushed him to do more scratchbuilding and kitbashing.
The layout represents a lightly-trafficked Canadian National Railway's branch in Ontario’s Norfolk County in the 1950s. It is centred on two towns, St. Williams and Port Rowan, that are at the end of the branch.
He picked this line for a few reasons.
First, he had maps of the track arrangements for both towns, and they would fit into his 15 x 35 layout room without too much compression.
Second, he could acquire the key pieces of equipment needed to replicate the prototype, including locomotives, passenger cars, freight cars, and vans.
Third, he had photos of many of the key structures he would need to build, including two stations.
As well, after years of modelling U.S. railroads, he wanted to model something closer to home in Ontario.
By choosing to model such a small slice of a modest prototype—the two towns have a total of eight switches—“I knew I could invest time and resources into scratch-building everything from buildings to details,” he says.
He started planning for the move to S in early 2011; the first benchwork went up in October of that year.
There are still a few structures to build, and details to add, but he considers the layout about 75% finished now, with all track in and wired, most of the structures done, and a first pass made on the scenery.
The layout is designed to be operated by one or two people.
“It’s relaxed, but prototypical,” he says, noting that in the 1950s—the era is he modelling—the line to Port Rowan hosted just a single round-trip per day: A mixed train that started in Hamilton and worked south across the Hagersville, Cayuga and Simcoe Subdivisions to reach both Port Rowan and nearby Port Dover.
During operations, Trevor runs either a mixed or a freight extra during a session, depending on how much switching he wants to do.
“Using prototype rules and procedures, it takes 75-90 minutes to run a train from staging to Port Rowan and back, with work to do in both towns,” he says.
While S scale is not for everyone, Trevor has found it to be an ideal choice.
“My previous layouts have all been important learning experiences, but they’ve also failed me for one reason or another, often related to an overly-ambitious design,” he says.
“This time out, I’ve hit on the right balance for me. The result is a layout that I’m finding challenging to build while being easy to fit into the other demands on my time. It’s also a layout that I enjoy operating by myself or with one or two friends.”
When he switched to S scale, Trevor also started keeping an online journal, called Port Rowan in 1:64. If you visit, Trevor says the best place to start is First time here?
Through the Port Rowan Sub., Trevor has not only shown his modelling talent, and the merits and possibilities of S Scale. He has also demonstrated that you don’t need a complicated track plan to have a great model railroad experience—and a great Canadian model railroad.