In September, I hopped a train to Ottawa with some friends to explore the Andrew Merrilees Collection at Library and Archives Canada and came back with a number of photographs that could inspire models – or, even, achievable layouts. There were many oddities to be found in the collection, including the one shown in these two photos:
As the name on the front implies, this is Saint-Raphael – a tram engine that operated on the Hôpital St. Jean de Dieu Railway – a hospital and asylum in the Montréal area. The hospital also had a standard gauge electric railway that connected the facility to the outside world.
Some searching online turned up a brief article about the railway on the Old Time Trains website. It includes a couple more photos of the tramway and is worth a look. Googling the hospital will also turn up some other sources.
(Postcard of the tramway: “Having a great time – wish you were here” doesn’t seem appropriate somehow…)
(A drawing of the hospital, showing the electric railway that connected it to the rest of the world. The sprawling nature of the complex makes apparent the need for the narrow gauge tramway, which would’ve run up the corridors of the two wings of wards along the top of the map. I suspect it also ran down the middle row of buildings to connect with at least one of the standard gauge electric lines: it would make sense that it would service as much of the hospital as possible…)
It would be an interesting challenge to model such a line – given that it operated inside the buildings. From my days as a co-host on The Model Railway Show, I know of at least one person who has done something similar: John Landis built a 7/8″ scale layout based on the Illinois Tunnel Company Railway that ran under the streets of Chicago at one time. (You can still listen to our interview with John: check out the guide to Episode 42 for more.)
Whether you want to model a hospital/asylum railway is entirely up to you…