Moving Port Rowan’s online home

I’ve been having a lot of technical issues lately with my blogs. The biggest offender is my most popular one – Port Rowan in 1:64, on which I have written extensively (perhaps, too extensively) about my model railway.

The short answer is, I’m trying something new and that involves a new blog called “The Model Railway Show”. You can find it by following this link… (Yep: that’s correct)

If you like what you see, you’ll find several options for subscribing. Also, feel free to share the URL with others: The more the merrier!

If the new site works and the old site continues to cause me grief, I’ll retire the old site. I hope I’ll see you down the line.

If you’re technical and curious, here’s the deal…

Since I started blogging back in 2011, I have used a WordPress blog engine that resides on the server space I lease from my ISP. My ISP is great, but they’re not blog experts. And various technical issues have knocked one or more of my blogs offline or otherwise messed up my blogging life several times so far this year.

The latest issue is, I can’t get get into my Port Rowan in 1:64 blog to do anything administrative. I can’t make new posts, I can’t sign into the admin page, etc. Nothing.

Since this has been repeating issue, I decided I would try building a WordPress blog on the WordPress servers themselves. So far, so good. I’m busy importing and updating select posts from the old Port Rowan in 1:64 blog onto the new site, but also adding new content. I will not be adding any new content to the old site – obviously, since I can’t get into it.

A most handsome train…

GWR Passenger Train 1

This week, I finished a little side project I’ve been enjoying: A rake of three Victorian-era Great Western Railway carriages in 7mm (British O scale). I built these cars – two brake-3rd composites (diagram T34) bracketing an all-3rd coach (diagram S9) – from kits offered by Slater’s Plastikard in the UK. I also have a 1st/2nd composite (diagram U4) to build, which would be more correct than the all-third for a typical GWR branchline train.

These are delightful kits – full of nicely formed plastic parts, a big fret of photo-etched brass, many brass castings, and good instructions (not great – but good enough that one can finish the cars, aided by a bit of searching for info on the internet). I was most surprised to see the copyright on the photo-etch frets reads “©1988”: the kits have been in production for more than 30 years, yet stand up to anything offered today.

The kits are offered with pre-painted sides (or you can save some money and paint your own – although with four or five colours on the sides, I decided I could spend that little bit extra). I added several Andrew Stadden white metal passengers to the compartments, which also add some weight to the cars. The guards are 3D Printed figures from Modelu. My main deviation from the kits was to toss the clear plastic window glazing in favour of panes cut from microscope slide covers: They achieve that “hard reflection” that only glass provides. I also substituted phosphor bronze wire for many of the brass wires in the kit, because it’s less likely to bend with handling.

The kits are posed here behind my Lee Marsh GWR “517 Class” 0-4-2T – a lovely model that deserved a suitable train. (I took some quick pictures with my phone, which do not do these models justice.) Unfortunately, I don’t yet have a proper display for this train so for the time being, it’s sitting next to the sector plate on my S scale Port Rowan layout. At some point, I will have to create a home for this branchline special.

I’ll have these cars on display at The 2020 Great British Train Show, where I’ll be helping my friend Brian Dickey exhibit “Roweham“, his 7mm GWR layout.

GWR Passenger Train 2

Port Rowan in 1:64 – technical difficulties (again)

Please stand by…

Bars and Tone

… because I’m once again having technical difficulties with my main website, Port Rowan in 1:64. I can’t sign into the blog to manage it – which means I can’t update it, or add new posts, or approve moderated comments, or…

I’ve tried all the usual things such as resetting the password, but nothing has worked.

I’m discussing the issue with WordPress so I’m not looking for suggestions at this time: Just letting you know.

No experience wasted

My friend Chris Mears is building turnouts for one of his friends, and he just posted a wonderful observation about the process on his website. Click on the image of his frog to read more:


I’m reminded of my all-time favourite ad for model railway products. Well done, Chris!

(I’ve disabled comments on this post. Why not join the conversation on Chris’ site?)

Model Local in 2020

Model Local

When thinking of what makes an achievable layout, we typically consider things like size, complexity, budget, available models, and so on. But access to information is also an important criteria – and there’s nothing more achievable than walking to your nearest railway line and having a look (from public property, of course).

Even if the line is no longer in existence, exploring the area where the trains used to run can reveal much – and information about local lines can also be found in local libraries, archives and historical societies. All of this is easier if you don’t have to drive across country (or fly across an ocean).

I mention this because my friend Bernard Hellen has written an amazing, inspirational piece about a potential prototype in his neighbourhood. To read more, click on the image at the top of this post – and enjoy if you visit.

While you’re there, have a look around Bernard’s blog, which is about modelling the Quebec Gatineau Railway – a modern short line running between Montreal and Quebec City. It’s worth the time.

(I’m turning off comments on this post: I encourage you to join the conversation about modelling local on Bernard’s blog.)

Pardee Peninsula Pizza Party

Yesterday, my friend Stephen Gardiner organized a work session for Liberty Village – his HO scale shelf layout that models a section of a one-time industrial neighbourhood in downtown Toronto.

The Gang's All Here
Clockwise from left: Mark, Dan, James and Stephen are Getting Things Done

A capacity crowd – Dan Garcia, James Rasor and Mark Zagrodney were also on hand – tackled wiring and track-laying projects, with most of the work focussed on the Pardee Avenue peninsula.

It was a terrific day, despite a rare mid-winter thaw and heavy rain warning, and we made excellent progress. Click on any of the photos in this post to read Stephen’s full report on his website.

Pardee Ave Peninsula
An overview of the peninsula, after an afternoon’s work and a good clean-up by Stephen. Weights and pins keep glued-down track in position while the caulk dries…

Soldering along Liberty Street
Stephen captures a plume of rising smoke in pixels as I solder drop feeders to the main bus near the Parkdale (CPR) staging area

Thanks for a great day, Stephen – and thank Heather for the awesome cookies! I look forward to our next work session. Not too many more, and we’ll be running the first trains!


(I’ve turned off comments on this post – but you can always join the conversation on Stephen’s website!)

Around the Web: Sherton Abbas and Vernon River

I’ve been enjoying a couple of layout blogs recently, and thought I would share.

First up is Sherton Abbas. This is a 7mm (British O) layout based on the Great Western Railway and being built by David Stone in the UK. Thanks to my friend Simon Dunkley for sharing this one.

If you’ve enjoyed my occasional reports on Roweham by Brian Dickey, you’re going to love Sherton Abbas. Brew some tea, click on the photo, and settle in…

Sherton Abbas

Next up is Vernon River in 1:87 – a relatively new project by Calvin Monaghan. Thanks to my friend Chris Mears for the heads up on this one. I’ve just added Calvin’s site to my blog reader and look forward to following his progress. Again, click on the photo and enjoy if you visit…

Vernon River

These are two very different projects, in different scales. But they’re both what I like to think of as Achievable Layouts. I’m always on the lookout for ideas…

Down Another Rabbit Hole: GWR coaching stock in 7mm scale

You know, I sure do like the Great Western Railway 517 Class locomotive I bought a couple of years ago from the Lee Marsh Model Company. But while it looks fine shoving goods wagons about on Roweham – the 7mm layout being built by my friend Brian Dickey – I can’t help thinking that it would look great with a passenger train in tow.

So, I’m working on that. Click on the image below to read about my GWR passenger train project:

GWR 517 Class on Roweham

Room for context

I’m in a bit of a British railways mood these days – in large part because I’m working on some 7mm (British O scale) passenger cars*. So while poking about my library of railway books, it’s no surprise that I pulled this one off the shelf for another look:

GWR Modelling V3

In the book, author Stephen Williams describes his layout, based on a Great Western Railway branch line terminus. Because it’s designed to take to exhibitions, he made the benchwork as compact as possible so it would be easier to carry and to fit into a vehicle. Then, he makes the following observation, which really struck a chord with me:

However, now the model is complete, I realise I have made a significant error in excluding all the non-railway buildings. Because the model station is surrounded by grass, it looks for all the world like a rural outpost when in reality, it is set within a built-up area. It is probably too late to do much about this now, but more thought at the design stage might have led to the creation of a more convincing model.

What an important lesson!

The author’s layout certainly looks lovely – but it does indeed have a rural flair to it. Given that I know next to nothing about GWR branch lines in general or about the author’s specific prototype, I noticed nothing “wrong” with the layout until I read the above quoted passage. From that perspective, the layout is a success even though it presents as rural instead of urban – because I enjoyed looking at it. But others more familiar with the subject may react differently: They may feel, as the author appears to, that his prototype has been mis-represented. (Or they may fill in the missing pieces – they’re just beyond the edges of the benchwork, after all, and most of us are really good at filling in missing pieces when we know them to be there.)

I should stress that this is in no way a criticism of the author’s layout: I think it’s superb. But I’m glad that he pointed out this oversight so that I and others might learn from it.

In relating it to my own layout, I’m relieved that I included so much space around the railway – especially in the terminal at Port Rowan:

Port Rowan - overview of terminal from meadow
Click on the image to visit my Port Rowan website, where you’ll find lots of other photos of the railway in context

To be honest, I lucked out with this: the terminal includes a turntable, which is approximately 12″ in diameter, and therefore needed a foot of depth in the benchwork. But nothing else needed that space – there are no industries to model around the turnable, or other tracks.

I could have placed the turntable in a blob off the front of the layout and saved myself some space. Instead, I simply kept the front edge of the layout deep enough to accommodate the feature, and filled the rest of the space with meadow and orchard:

First Time Here - 20
This view from a few years ago shows the Port Rowan yard as seen by an arriving train. The second switch along leads off to the right – and you can follow that track through the meadow to the turntable in the distance…

Imagine how different the above scene would look if instead of orchards, I had built large warehouses on either side of the main track – or if I’d added multi-storey brick buildings along the backdrop and a combination of dirt and pavement between track and fascia. The same track arrangement would’ve told a completely different story while remaining functionally identical.

To be fair, I am building a home layout – not something that has to travel – so it’s perhaps easier to include space beyond the railway. Even so, I might have narrowed the benchwork through much of this yard in order to gain some space in the aisles. Having read the highlighted passage from this book, however, I’m glad that I included space for context.

If you’re in the design stages of your layout, consider adding an extra 6″ behind the scene, and 3″-6″ in front of it. Sometimes that isn’t possible – but chances are you can do it without sacrificing comfort in the room, or access to the track for operations or maintenance. This little bit extra is especially important for shelf layouts where those few inches may make a huge difference by placing the railway in the larger scene.

*If you want to know more about the 7mm Great Western Railway passenger cars, click on the book cover in this post.