Wednesday, January 1, 2020

Introducing the Gateway Spur

The new layout has a name: The Gateway Spur.

I took it from the name of the main road that runs near my home. It follows the original line of the CPR when it first came to Winnipeg in the late 1800s.

As I wrote earlier on this blog about how the CPR came to Winnipeg, until 1881 the CPR planned to cross the Red River at Selkirk, north of the city of Winnipeg.

But the Winnipeg business community, realizing that being bypassed by the railway would turn their city into a backwater, made the CPR an offer it couldn’t refuse—tax free land.

The CPR obliged, and turned south away from Selkirk. Today it is a small town, and Winnipeg became known as the “Gateway of the West.”

So, Gateway Spur it is. (Even if, in real life, the line became the Marconi Spur before the rails were lifted and the right-of-way turned into a walking and cycling path.)

Fed by three staging tracks, the Spur is a simple line, serving seven industries and a team track.

It runs along three walls: 10 feet by 21 feet by 17 feet. (Excuse the simple track plan.)

I haven’t yet decided what the industries will be, but there will be a brewery (a large complex with three tracks), a mill, a plastics manufacturer and a furniture company.

I’m working on a simple operating scheme that will indicate which cars need to be picked up and which ones dropped off.

The most recent version finds me assembling a train from the two-track yard (based on what the operating scheme says I need for that day’s turn).

Then it’s out along the line to do the work. A session today took about 25 minutes to drop off and pick up seven cars.

Since this is pre-1989, that means trains all have a van (caboose). This adds a few moves to the run, increasing the time needed to complete a session.

Train length will be 5-6 cars, maximum.

Before ballasting, I want to run trains to see if the track arrangement really works. So far, so good.

All-in-all, it’s a good start to 2020, and for the Gateway Spur.

Saturday, December 14, 2019

New Layout Update: Good to be Back in the Basement Again

In August, I closed the chapter on the M & M Sub.

After 25 years, the large double-deck layout was no more, save for an L-shaped portion of the old upper deck that I planned to use for a switching layout.

Nothing happened until November, when I started working on the new layout.

Since the “benchwork” (two-inch Styrofoam) was already up, things went quite quickly.

By December 4, the first train was running.

Today, I think the basic track plan is set (although never say never).

The new layout models an industrial spur on the outskirts of a fictitious major Canadian city.

The idea is that trains leave the city (staging) and go through a more rural area to reach a small town some distance away.

The time is pre-1989, so I finally have a prototypical reason to use by two Rapido vans.

It also gives me a reason to use more boxcars serving industries, since that was more common 30 years ago.

The layout serves seven industries, including a transloading facility (team-type track).

Maximum train length is five or six cars, which is perfect for switching that many industries.

The layout is supported by a three-track staging or fiddle yard at one end.

Trains enter from staging (the city), and can switch two trailing point sidings before entering a larger industrial area in the nearby town.

After switching in that area, trains head back and can switch two more trailing point sidingss on their way back to staging.

The layout is centred on a large industry (a mill) in the corner, built by my friend Rick Ritchie.

It’s quite a change from the large double-deck M & M Sub., with its 230-foot mainline, two levels, large yard, controls for four operators, and trains of 18-20 cars plus two or three locomotives.

But I am enjoying it, especially the building part.

There’s still lots to do; the layout looks a mess right now without any ground cover. And there’s lots of tweaking and fine-tuning to do, plus adding scenery and backdrops and fixing the structures.

But so far, the little layout is doing exactly what I hoped: Rekindling my enthusiasm and interest in the hobby—which had waned over the past few years when I finished my previous layout.

In other words, there’s a reason to go back into the basement again . . . .

Sunday, November 10, 2019

Goodbye to Stoney Hill Yard

Stoney Hill Yard on display.

This summer I took down the M & M Sub. It prompted interesting conversations with other modellers who have either taken down their own layouts, or know they need to some day soon. Like this update from Chris Round in Great Britain, who shared about taking apart his first foray into Canadian modelling.

After visiting southern Ontario in 1994, I became hooked on Canadian railways.

Living in the United Kingdom, we do not have the space for large basement railways. As a result, I had become a dedicated N gauge modeller and had produced several successful layouts of the British scene.

But Canada in HO scale quickly had me hooked, both for more interesting operation and for much smoother running of the actual models.

By 1996 I had completed Stoney Hill Yard, a portable exhibition layout 16-feet long with a fiddle yard at the rear. It was very successful and had many invitations to exhibitions.

As built, it was a stub end yard, but I had allowed for expansion. By 2000 Stoney Hill West had been produced as the other end of the yard with an extended staging yard to make a complete oval. 

The combined layout was 29 feet long.

I took it to several shows, but both transport and size limited the number of exhibitions it could attend.

Subsequently, Stoney Hill West was made into a stand-alone layout, and gradually became the main layout I exhibited.

In 2017 Stoney Hill Yard was exhibited for the last time. After that, it gathered dust in my father-in-law’s garage since space in my workshop was taken up by my new layout, Atherley Narrows.

I have a lot of affection for Stoney Hill Yard. It took a lot of effort to build and attracted a lot of favourable comments at exhibitions. 

It was difficult to think about letting it go. But a number of factors came together which made me finally decide to dismantle the layout.

First, a couple of fellow members at our model railway club recently died. I helped their wives dismantle their layouts and sort through a lifetime of collected models, books and other railway paraphernalia.

The sheer amount of stuff made it difficult for the wives and I thought that I would not want my family to have to sort through all of my possessions in similar circumstances.

I was also struck by the large number of uncompleted or even unopened boxes of model railway bits and pieces we all keep. 

It caused me to start getting rid off anything which used to fall under the category of “I’ll keep it, it might well be useful sometime.”

Second, my father-in-law is now 90 years-old and mobility is an issue for him. The layout in his garage was an additional obstacle to manoeuvre round.

I won’t pretend making the first move to demolish the layout was not difficult. But now that it’s gone, I do feel like a bit of the burden has been lifted.

In the end, it’s better not to hold onto everything. We need to let go and move on.

Plus, I still have two exhibition layouts and a workshop full of stuff, and hopefully at least 20 years ahead of me to slim it all down—so my family is not faced with sorting out a complete mess when I go.

Chris watching a train on Stoney Hill Yard,
which is still going strong.

Friday, November 8, 2019

Week of Remembrance: Callum Wilcox's Amiens Tracks & Trenches 1918

In this week of remembrance, here’s a unique layout by British modeller Callum Willcox that recalls  the contribution made by railway troops during that conflict.

Willcox, 24, created the 009-scale military trench railway layout in 2018 to mark the centennial of the ending of World War One.

Called Amiens 1918—Tracks & Trenches, it remembers the battle of Amiens, one of the last major battles of the war.

Willcox’s layout is set during the battle. It depicts a recaptured artillery battery that has become an Allied field headquarters and supply depot.

A narrow-gauge field railway serves the troops, using a mixture of British, U.S. and French locomotives and captured German rolling stock.

The layout is the result of his interest in railways and military history. Through it, he wanted to combine both interests.

He started construction of the 2 by 4-foot layout in the spring of 2017, with the aim of getting the layout finished for the start of 2018, ready for the commemorations.


Watch a video of this amazing layout here. 

See more photos on Willcox’s Facebook page. (Scroll down a ways.)

Willcox isn’t the only modeller making war-themed layouts. Find more here.

For other posts on this blog about railways and war, click here.

Information and some photos from Model Rail magazine. 

Callum with his layout.