Saturday, October 25, 2014

Great Canadian Layout: A Last Look at the Cougar River Subdivision

While writing about the Oct. 14 death of my brother-in-law, Ken Epp, and his layout--the cougar River Sub.--I realized that I hadn't ever actually created a post of photos about the layout. Until now, that is; enjoy a tour of the layout, which existed from the mid-1980s until 2009.

The Cougar River Sub. (named after Ken’s cat) was one of the largest layouts in Winnipeg. Started in the mid-1980s, it grew from a single level layout in the back part of Ken’s basement to become a four-level layout that encircled his entire basement.

Ken never intended to build a huge layout. “I just started and it grew,” he told me.

Scenically, the layout featured mountain, prairie and Canadian Shield scenes, including a concrete snow shed inspired by the Skoonka Tunnels in the Thompson River Canyon. It featured trains from both CN and CP Rail, with classic CPR maroon and grey running beside CN white, orange and black.

The mainline was over 500 feet long, and train lengths were 25-30 cars. Four trains could be run at a time on the DC-controlled layout; it took about 25 minutes for a train to run unimpeded between the lower and upper staging yards. 

The lower and upper staging yards and two middle
levels are visible in this scene.

And by upper level staging, I mean upper—the staging yard was suspended about a foot below the ceiling joists in the furnace and laundry room area.

All four levels are in view here, including the
upper level staging just below the ceiling.

All train movements were controlled by a dispatcher, who was located in a small specially-built room that featured a seat from a real CN SD40-2; 40 operating signals and radios helped operators move their trains along the line.

Ken was a musician, so naturally the
layout had to have a bandstand.

The Cougar River Sub. was a great canadian model railroad. It is is gone now, and so is its maker. But both can live on on this blog. And you can find links to videos of the Cougar River Sub. here.

The layout circled the rec. room on two levels.

Another view of the rec. room scenes.

It also went through his son's bedroom.

Ken loved the Thompson River Canyon, and
modelled the Skoonka Tunnels.

Not too many layouts feature a baseball diamond.


  1. Nice tour and sorry to hear about Ken. If I recall from the Golden Rails 2005 convention, this layout had an interesting dispatcher's office. Do you have any photos of that? It might make a good follow-up posting...

  2. I don't have a photo, unfortunately. It was under the mountain scene in the sixth photo on the page (from the top). You could only sit inside it. It featured a seat from an SD40-2 for the dispatcher.