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. 

Sunday, November 3, 2019

Saving and Moving a Layout: The David Lee Model Railroad Story

David Lee sees his layout for the first time in its new location.

For most model railroads, the end of the line is a dumpster. But a few are dismantled and moved into a new home. 

That’s what happened to David Lee’s HO scale layout in Hamilton.

Lee, Master Model Railroader #26, was the proud owner of a 26 by 30-foot HO scale layout in the basement of his home.

In 2015, due to health and age, it was time for Lee and his wife, Ruth, to downsize.

Before Lee moved, Hamilton Spectator columnist Paul Wilson wrote an article about how the layout was soon to become a memory.

At the same time the article appeared, Dr. John Kelton was looking for a layout to occupy a public space in the new David Braley Health Sciences Centre in that city.

Friends of Kelton, knowing he was looking for a layout, brought it to his attention.  

"I went into the basement and gasped," Kelton told the Spectator. "The amount of work that has gone into that ... I've never seen anything so joyously creative."

He immediately wanted it for the Centre. But how to move it?

That’s where the Dundas Modular Railway Club comes in. In the article below, club member Tony Czerneda describes the process.

David Lee passed away January 19, 2019 at the age of 84. Fortunately, he was able to see his layout in its new home before he died.

Here's Tony's report.

The History

In 2015, Mert Hambly, the former superintendent of the Dundas Modular Railway Club, told club members they had an opportunity to help move and put back together David Lee’s layout at the Centre.

Many members were skeptical; how do you take down a layout that had existed in a basement for 40 years and put it back together?

Despite misgivings, the club decided to get involved. In April 2015 work crews went to David’s house and started the process. 

The Layout

Before describing how the layout was dismantled, one needs to understand how it was constructed.

David with his layout in his home.

In David's case, he planned the layout as part of the new family home when it was constructed in the late 1950s.

In the basement, David had the block work of the outside walls installed with 2-inch slots at the 3-foot level.

When it came time to start the railroad, he inserted 2'' x 5’’ lumber into the slots on three walls and built the shelf layout on this base.

On the fourth wall he used an open frame/girder type benchwork and used L-girder benchwork for an island in the middle of the room.

The layout was constructed of a combination of solid plywood for the largely flat areas and risers and subbase in other areas.

Dismantling the Layout

Prior to dismantling, numerous photos and videos were taken of the layout. Then the work began.

Members of the club take the layout apart.

Anything that could be taken off the layout (rolling stock, locomotives, buildings, vehicles, people and animals) was removed and placed carefully in large plastic totes. 

Since the layout was to be stored for a period of time, it had to be put into specially-made crates small enough to get up the stairs and out of the basement.

More cutting the layout apart.

Dismantling started with the centre island. Cuts were made so as to cause a minimum of damage to scenery and track work; switch locations were avoided above all.

Lifting out the engine terminal section.

Each cut out piece was sequentially identified, with its location recorded on a copy of the track plan.

Part of the layout in a crate, ready to be moved.

The pieces were then stretch-wrapped and secured to their crate base and the crate numbered to correspond to the piece inside. A total of 27 crates were required.

Rebuilding the Layout

By mid-May of 2015 the whole layout had been cut into smaller pieces and crated. All crates were then shipped to the David Braley Health Sciences Centre and placed in storage.

The layout's new home.

In January 2016 the club started to piece together some parts of the layout based on drawings from the architects for the Centre.

The plans from the architects showed two separate sections for the layout, a west and east section. On August 1, 2017 the layout pieces were moved into the final position.

Over the next few months, the layout pieces were screwed together, wiring was connected, fascia was applied, and track and scenery work finished.

A photo from inside the new home.

On November 3, 2017, it was opened officially opened with David present. In early 2018, it was opened to the public. 

Three trains can be operated, started by push buttons. Once started, they run for four minutes each.

It has been an incredible journey.

See a video of the layout here.

Some of the dismantling crew.

For a story about another layout that was moved, click here to see photos and read about how Harry Clark’s Indian Creek Valley—located in its own building (see photo below)—was moved.