Saturday, December 19, 2009

A Tour of the CP Rail Manitoba & Minnesota Subdivision, Part 1

I enjoy taking close-up photos of the CP Rail M & M Sub. It's great to try to take pictures that approximate "real life." But sometimes its good to step back and get a larger perspective of the layout--to see how it fits into the whole layout room, how trains get from one scene or level to the other.

With this post, you can take that step back and take a tour of layout as you follow a coal train from the lower to upper staging levels. For reference, view the track plan below (or at There is also an overview video of the layout on YouTube at

But first, a note about the layout: The CP Rail M & M Sub. is a fictitious line that represents the real-life CN line from Winnipeg to Thunder Bay, Ont. and Duluth, MN, via Fort Frances, Ont. On the real line the tracks make their way south and east from Winnipeg, dipping into the U.S. at Warroad, MN, coming back to Canada at Fort Frances, Ont., and then heading south again through International Falls.

On my model version, Thunder Bay and Duluth are represented by the lower staging yard; Winnipeg is on the upper staging yard. This trip begins in the lower staging yard, below.

The train emerges into the layout room from the storage room that holds the staging yards and mainline dispatcher's panel.

It goes through a wall and crosses the entrance to the layout room on a swinging bridge. The river below represents the Rainy River that marks the dividing line between the U.S. and Canada. The upper level is a nod-under; you just have to duck your head down a bit to gain entrance to the layout room.

After crossing the river, the tracks pass the Peace River Paper mill--the largest industry on the layout with five spurs, a two-track yard, a passing track and its own switcher. The mill is scratchbuilt our of styrene. The curtains hide shelves beneath the layout. The town of Nance is on the upper level above the mill.

It then swings past the engine terminal; the half-circle in the foreground is the old now filled-in turntable pit. I use a mirror to double the length of the spur into the mill (centre of the photo).

Heading into Fort Frances, with a better view of the old turntable pit.

All trains stop in Fort Frances to change crews. Cars for various destinations, and for local industries, are taken off and added here.

Leaving Fort Frances, the train sweeps past the only unfinished part of the layout. My small work table is tucked under the benchwork. That's Turney on the upper level to the right. The dispatcher's panel for the yard is on the lower right.

Leaving Fort Frances, the tracks curve around the outer edge of the penninsula. That's the engine terminal on the right, the paper mill directly ahead.

Next: Heading up into the "helix" and on to the upper level. Click here to read and see it:


  1. I love the layout. I've enjoyed seeing your videos on utube as well. It is amazing what you've done with DC. Keep up the great work.


  2. John, great, great layout. I have watched the youtube videos and studied the pictures and information you have here and it is amazing. A fantastic model railroad with a marvelous theme, great scenery and not so overwhelming that one could not finish it in a few years. Love it and keep up the great work, I will check back here often for more!! P.S. I have some limited videos of my abuilding Erie Lackawanna Chicago Sub on youtube, search erielackawannaman to see them. Thanks..Dan

  3. This blog is really cool! I also model a "transition" era, the D&H-CP era in the 1990's.