Saturday, April 14, 2012

Great Canadian Model Railroad: Mark Dance's Columbia & Western

Even though my layout is done, and there’s no planning left to do, I always buy Model Railroad Planning each year. Even if I’m not thinking of starting a new layout, I always enjoy learning from what others are doing. And, who knows? Maybe one day I will start over, perhaps even in another scale, and these issues will come in handy.

Meantime, I just enjoy reading the articles—like the one about Mark Dance’s amazing N scale Columbia & Western in the most recent issue of MRP. The C & W is truly a great Canadian model railroad.

Mark’s layout represents the CPR Boundary Subdivision in southeastern British Columbia in 1970, a time when one could find the CPR’s classic maroon and grey livery along with the then-new CP Rail scheme. (Just like on the equally fantastic Waterloo Region Model Railroad Club’s HO scale CPR Sudbury Division.)

Mark started the layout in 2005. It fills a 16-6 by 19-6 garage and has a mainline run of 220 feet. Train lengths are 25 cars and the three levels are 42, 54 and 72 inches off the floor.

In addition to great scenery, the multi-deck layout features an ingenious “double mushroom” design—one section of the layout above the other—along with an equally ingenious cabinet-style pull-out staging yard, lift-up entry to the mushroom and a swinging gate.

The "double mushroom"

The inside of the “double mushroom” contains an isolated rail barge operation that is physically separated from the rest of the layout—just like on the prototype Slocan Lake branch of the CPR. Operators load the barges on the lower level, then lift them up to the upper level for unloading (and vice versa).

Check out the 2012 issue of MRP for a great overview of Mark's layout; it will also be featured in the May-June issue of N Scale Magazine, and hopefully also in an upcoming issue of Canadian Railway Modeller. More photos of his great layout are below; you can find many more photos on his Flickr page and videos of the layout on YouTube.

(Thanks to Mark for giving me permission to re-post these photos, many of which were taken by his friend Timothy Horton.)



  1. He has a trememdous layout. It took me 6 or 7 of his videos to realize this was in fact N scale.

  2. Mark's stuff is top shelf; check out the latest edition of N Scale magazine for an "all Canadian" article featuring Mark's work and five others (might even see soem of my stuff there too)

  3. Amazing work , congratulations , i made a post on my blog to show your work .