Saturday, July 28, 2018

Great Canadian Model Railroad: Dave Gunn's CNR Transition Era Layout

“Have you seen Dave Gunn’s layout?” That’s what Jason Shron asked me earlier this month.

“His layout is really gorgeous,” he added. “I’m sure he would provide stuff for your blog.”

On Jason’s recommendation, I contacted Dave. He was right; Dave does have a gorgeous HO scale layout, as you can see in the photos below.

Enjoy the visit!

What is the era? Why did you choose that one? 

I model the 1950s, the transition period. I chose it because I like to be able to run both steam and diesel. Plus, it’s the period I grew up in.

What is the locale or region? Why did you choose that one? 

The layout is based very loosely on the 110-mile run between Nappanee and Ottawa, running through Smiths Falls. It connects Ottawa to the Montreal-Toronto Corridor. I chose it because I grew up in Ontario.

What railway (or railways) do you model? Why did you choose that one?

The CNR of course! I have always loved the green, gold and black colour scheme. 

I also model my private short line the DN&P. It stands for the Dominion, National and Pacific, or the Dave, Nick and Pam. (Pam is my wife, and Nick is our son.)

What is the size of the layout? 

The basement room is 40-feet square, which also includes the sitting area and workshop spaces. The layout covers approximately half the space. I am about halfway around the room, so far.

What is the length of the mainline? 

It’s approximately 80 feet long. There are five different places for the tracks to disappear through the walls.

What kind of track do you use?

I use code 83 Peco track, with all track glued in place—not a single track pin has been used. Main line tracks are laid on cork road bed, and the sidings directly on base boards.

How do you operate the layout?

I have full operating sessions available with wheel reports, switch lists and schedules drawn out on graph paper showing all trains in a 24 hour period of operation and detailing all passing locations and stopping times, etc. Every car has a purpose and destination.

What is your control system?  

I use Easy DCC wireless from Texas. It works very well. I have two fixed controllers and two wireless controllers, as well as mobile phone connections for extra controllers when required.

What scenery methods did you use?

I use my own mixtures of scenic materials, including real dirt and soot that came from the age of steam. For the rock faces, I used real rock from our local cliff face.

For the clouds, I used paper cut-outs, then sprayed on the clouds with aerosol paint. It was easy to do.

What kind of locomotives do you run?

I run some brass, lots of Rapido, and the usual collection of Athearn and others gathered over the years.

What kind of industries are there?

The layout is virtually all industrial complexes built from photographs or magazine articles of real industries. A wide range of industries are in use, including furniture factories, a large brewery, and other rail-served facilities.

There are approximately 30 industries and 15 railway facilities, from freight sheds to engine service facilities etc.

How did you build the structures?

The structures on the layout are 99% scratchbuilt. A good percentage of rolling stock is either scratchbuilt or from wood craftsman kits.

The station is a replica of Stratford, Ontario station, fully scratchbuilt from archival and recent photos. The platform is made from real cement mixed with white wood glue and shuttered just like in real life. It also contains wire rebar inside.

When did you start the layout? Did you build it alone? 

I started it in 2006. The bulk of it is of my work. However, I do have a young friend who helps from time to time.  The brewery is a joint effort.

Any special or unique features of the layout? 

The electronics for the layout are all installed on pullout shelving, so all maintenance work is carried out from above.  No crawling under the benchwork to do repairs!  I use a lot of relays for lighting, frog switching and signalling.

All the wiring is numbered and fully recorded and I have well over 2,000 connections so far.  The facia panels are all easily removed and are self-supporting.  

They carry the track plan replica in various colours and use small push to make buttons to operate the switch machines and reverse polarity switching where necessary. 

All the switches have bi-colour LEDs to identify route selection. A full double bus bar system is used, looping between each pullout shelf giving very small volt drop throughout.

How long have you been a model railroader?  

I had a Lionel train as a child and enjoyed building models right through my life. I started properly in 1983 when I lived in Great Britain. I joined the NMRA British region and became the first Master Model Railroader of that region in July, 1995 (#240).

What attracted you to the hobby?  

My love of trains and the pleasure of building things. I am a retired chartered marine engineer, and love all things mechanical.

Dave at his workbench.

What do you enjoy most about the hobby? 

Every aspect of the hobby is so rewarding. The variety is endless, together with the tremendous friendships built up over the years in this wonderful hobby.


  1. Beautiful layout. Very much a credit to the builder!

  2. The only thing that surpasses Dave's modelling is the hospitality shown by Dave and Pam when I visited their home. Not enough good things can be said about them.