CNR – Southampton Sub in S

Southampton Depot - GTR photo SouthamptonDepot-GTR_zpsfe992786.jpg

I recently offered to doodle some plans for a friend of mine who recently moved and wants to build an S scale CNR layout. He’s fairly open to ideas and I thought it would be interesting to explore the possibilities in his new layout space.

I came up with four designs – all heavily influenced by the prototype – but the one I liked the best is a layout depicting two towns on the CNR’s Southampton Sub. This subdivision was served out of Palmerston, Ontario and is written up in Steam Over Palmerston by Ian Wilson.

The branch – for branch it was – is 53.16 miles long, starting at Harriston Junction and ending at Southampton on the shores of Lake Huron. (Trains ran 6.04 miles on the Owen Sound Sub between Palmerston and Harriston Junction.) The railway served 10 communities on the Southampton Sub, including two I chose for this layout plan. And it had four scheduled trains on the line:

– Train 178 (a Second Class Passenger Train) left Southampton at 5:50 am and arrived at Palmerston 7:50 am
– The return trip – Train 179 (a First Class Passenger Train) – left Palmerston at 9:10 pm, arriving at Southampton at 11:10 pm
– Train M329 (a Third Class Mixed Train) left Palmerston at 11:30 am and arrived at Southampton at 2:20 pm
– Train M330 (also a Third Class Mixed Train) left Southampton at 12:30 pm and arrived at Palmerston at 3:45 pm
– The two Mixed Trains were scheduled to meet at Paisley (MP 36.12) at 1:30 pm

Southampton Depot - 2011 photo SouthamptonDepot-2011_zps65dcc5c2.jpg
(Southampton Station – 2011)

Southampton was an obvious choice for inclusion on the layout plan. The town featured: a handsome brick station; a freight shed; a two-track engine house; a section house with adjacent oil storage shed; a company (WH Rogers) that received lumber and other building supplies plus fuel oil and coal; and two furniture factories (Fitton Parker Furniture Ltd and Hepworth Furniture Co), each with their own spurs. These factories received lumber by rail, and shipped carloads of furniture. They also received other materials in Less-than-Car-Load (LCL) shipments via the freight shed. So, in addition to all the normal activity in a terminal, there are interesting railway customers that would generate a variety of traffic.

Notably, the Southampton terminal had no run-around track. Instead, a wye adjacent to the yard was used to turn trains and steam locomotives.

M329 would arrive in Southampton and – if it was short enough – would proceed directly to the station. After unloading passengers, the entire train would turn on the wye, then the crew would proceed to do its switching. (Longer trains negotiated the wye before making the station stop, so that the passenger cars could be spotted at the platform for unloading.) With the switching done, the passenger cars would be placed on the track next to the engine house – the lead to the two furniture factories – and the engine would tie up in the house.

Train 179 would arrive at the station, unload people and express, turn on the wye, then spot the passenger cars on the lead to the freight house before retiring to the engine house for the night.

Mildmay Depot - GTR photo mildmay_zps4e205018.jpg
(A period photo of Mildmay Depot)

While many of the online towns are worth including on a layout, I chose Mildmay (MP 15.14) for several reasons. On the prototype, Mildmay was laid out on an S curve and – as shown in several photos in Ian’s book – the terrain has a nice roll to it here. Mildmay also has a good variety of customers – and, for the most part, different than those at Southampton. There’s a combination depot, a stock pen, a coal shed, and a co-op. The Schwalm Sawmill has a spur with stacks of lumber piled high beside it. Schwalm also stacks lumber along the spur beside the stock pen, and Ian’s book suggests the company receives building supplies such as cement and wallboard as well.

Across from the stock pens, the JA Goetz turnip waxing and storage building makes for an interesting railway customer – one that’s not often modelled. Ian’s book notes that many of the turnips were exported to the United States, in American refrigerator cars (eg: PFE and FGE). Such cars would add a welcome spot of colour to a train.

(Offline but nearby, the Lobsinger Brothers factory built the Lion Threshing Machine. While it had stopped using rail by the 1950s, rail service could be reinstated on a model railway, via the team track at Mildmay.)

A bridge over the Teeswater River north of Paisley limited the branch to 4-6-0 and 2-6-0 locomotives. Until September of 1956, each train on the line ran with a baggage-mail car and a coach. The mixed might have a boxcar in express service, too – plus regular freight cars from and for online customers. After the mail contract was cancelled, the RPO was replaced with a full baggage car.

Southampton Sub Layout Plan photo SouthamptonSub_zpsc5ffc4e7.jpg
(A layout plan in S: Click for larger view)

My friend has a space approximately 13.5 feet by 20.5 feet, with a 5.5 by 7.0 foot alcove in one corner, and permission to build over the laundry area (a soft boundary) in the diagonally opposite corner. For this plan, I used 42″ minimum radius on the main, but a 36″ radius on the lead to the engine house, and the spur to Fitton Parker in Southampton. I specified #9 switches anywhere that a passenger car might travel, and #7 switches elsewhere.

The tail track of the wye curls into the alcove and there’s about 8 feet of tail beyond the switch, so that’ll govern train length. Eight feet is pretty good for a branchline train in S, though – with 3.5 feet taken up by a locomotive and two passenger cars, the remaining 4.5 feet still allows room for a half-dozen 40-foot freight cars. I made sure that the backing move in the alcove would be through the straight side of the switch, which will reduce the likelihood of derailments.

Equipment needs are modest, which is always a good thing in S. The layout would require two small steam locomotives (a combination of 2-6-0s and 4-6-0s), two baggage-mail or full baggage cars, two coaches and an assortment of freight cars – boxcars, tank cars, stock cars, hopper cars, and so on. The locomotives have been done as brass kits (and are what I use on my own layout). My baggage-mail conversion would work well, as would the MLW Services Colonist Car. We don’t yet have a CNR full baggage car in S, unfortunately – so I guess the mail contract is still valid!

Prototype layouts are always a compromise and the big one here is that I have drawn Southampton as a mirror image. It was the only way to fit this interesting terminal into the room. The good news is, creating a mirror image of a terminal doesn’t change how it operated one bit.

I put Southampton on a peninsula so it could be viewed (and worked on) from both sides. The access aisle along the top of the diagram is narrow – just 24″ wide – but that’s plenty for an operator to step sideways along the scene. The wall here could be painted sky blue, or even given a full backdrop treatment. It would look great when photographing the town from the centre of the space.

The furniture factories will be lovely imposing brick structures – and look big enough to justify carload traffic. The engine house will be right up front, where visitors can enjoy a fully-detailed interior.

At Mildmay, the scene gets fairly deep – the road on the plan is 39″ long. For access, I would notch the benchwork under the turnip plant and build the structure on its own, removable base. Lift it out of the way, put it somewhere safe (top of the dryer in the laundry, perhaps?) and then one could step into the scene to maintain track or scenery near the backdrop. Some shrubs along the join line would conceal the lift-away nature of the plant, and trunk latches could keep it securely in place.

While not shown on the plan, I’ve indicated room for the mill pond at Mildmay (wrong side of the tracks, but that’s okay). I’ve also indicated a suitable spot for a bridge scene. While the weight-restricted bridge north of Paisley was straight, something similar could be built on the curve – and the 5 mph slow order on this bridge would help extend the run.

Operation would be relaxed, but engaging:

Train M329 would consist of a 10-wheeler or Mogul, a few freight cars for Mildmay and Southampton, a boxcar in LCL service, a head-end passenger car, and a coach. It would start in staging – a stub-end yard over the laundry – and run to Mildmay. There the crew would do their station stop, then set off freight cars. This would require run-around moves since the train overnights in Southampton (leaving the cars within sight of the co-op or sawmill would likely result in strong words from those customers).

Arriving at Southampton, the crew of M329 would wye the train, do its station stop, and leave the passenger cars at the platform while freight cars were spotted as needed – including spotting the LCL car at the freight shed. The passenger cars would be moved to the industry lead next to the engine house, and the crew would tie up.

Train 179 would consist of a 10-wheeler or Mogul, a head-end passenger car, and a coach. It would start in staging, make stop at Mildmay, then run straight to the station at Southampton. After doing its unloading, the crew would wye the train, spot the passenger cars on the freight shed track, and tie up in the engine house.

Early the next morning, a crew would board an engine at the house, collect the passenger equipment for Train 178 and back it to the station. The crew would leave for Palmerston, making a station stop en route at Mildmay.

With 178 out of the way, the crew for M330 could go on duty. The passenger cars would be spotted at the station, then the crew would collect any freight cars ready to leave town – including the LCL car, which would have to be placed next to the passenger equipment. M330 would leave town, make a station stop at Mildmay, lift any freight cars from Mildmay, then head to Palmerston.

It’s difficult to incorporate a wye into a layout in any scale – but especially in a larger scale such as S. So I’m pleased with how this plan turned out. I hope it offers some ideas to others faced with an awkward prototype like Southampton.

19 thoughts on “CNR – Southampton Sub in S

  1. Trevor,

    Fantastic drawing with write up!! If I wasn’t doing the Newfie I would ask you to do one up for me!! HAHAHA

    Lots of activity and the nice size run, it looks perfect. Like you mentioned most of the freight cars are available……bring on Andy’s reefers!

    Great job!

    • Hi Andrew:

      Thanks – glad you enjoyed the trip to Southampton via my blog. There are so many great themes for a layout in S (or O for that matter) that won’t tax one’s time or talent. I’m enjoying this occasional series of wanderings from Port Rowan.


  2. Very nicely done. If I wasn’t so far into O scale narrow gauge and US railroading I could be convinced that Canadian modeling in S scale is the way to go.

    Returning to S would be a reversion to my routes as I chose American Flyer as a child because it didn’t have the stupid center rail!

    • Hi Bill:

      There are just so many great prototypes that can be done – in so many great scales and gauges!


  3. A very elegant plan! I particularly like how you worked in that awkward wye at Southampton. I don’t have the book at hand right now but I think I recall some further useful pictures of Southampton in John Hardy’s “Rusty Rails”.

    • Thanks Karl! Yes – the eye was a challenge…

      I think I have that book – I’ll check. Thanks for the reminder!

  4. Trevor

    You can make something look so tempting, mind you having lived in Southampton for 1 1/2 years, it draws me in. Southampton was a great tourist destination. Lovely beach, and the pre-requisite picturesque light house.


    • It sounds perfect, Bill. In fact, if one had the space, one could model the one-time line to the water, that went off the third leg of the wye. Even without this, it’s a very tempting prototype if one has the room for the wye. I don’t…

  5. I’m increasingly intrigued by layout plans for attainable layouts. Your Port Rowan layout, and the one you’ve dreamed up here, respond to my lack of space and limited time, plus they put the focus on replicating actual track arrangements and the ways in which the actual railroads operate(d) that infrastructure. Lance Mindheim has really taken track planning minimalism to the limit in this month’s MRH.

    I think about the pace of progress on the model projects I have on the go at the moment, and I wonder where I would find the time to build a layout, as they have traditionally be defined. I’m attracted to track-plan minimalism in order to facilitate more depth and detail. The professional buzzword for this approach “post-holing.” I think that description fits here: tighter focus with more depth.


    • Hi Hunter:

      Thanks for writing – very good thoughts. I’m glad my attainable layout examples are helping you define what sort of layout you could fit into your available space and time.

      I think the time issue is even more important than the space. I’ve often visited layouts – and I’m sure you have too – where I feel the owner/builder has taken on too big a project. They had a generous space and they’ve decided that they have to fill it. (They may even have bought/built the space with a layout in mind.) So, they plan a layout to fill the space – and start building without having given a moment’s thought to the amount of time it will take just to maintain the layout, much less expand it.

      I find my own Port Rowan layout is enough to keep me entertained and challenged, while still allowing me to enjoy the many other non-hobby activities that make up my life.

      From your own blog, I know you’re a member at the Waterloo Region MRC and that you’re building era-appropriate CP Rail equipment for that layout. I’m sure we could put our heads together and find a suitable, achievable prototype that would use this same equipment. (The one-time electrified lines around Cambridge/Kitchener/Waterloo come to mind. I’ll send you some thoughts via email.)


  6. This is a line I am starting to model so I found your comments useful, thank you. However, I’ve been unable to find out anything about the purpose of the spur to the lake. The only reference reference to it I’ve found is that it was 0.8 miles in length, from the station mile point I believe.
    I knew there was a similar spur in Port Elgin just five miles south and finally discovered it was to a large sawmill at the lake.
    Any light you can shed on this would be greatly appreciated.

      • I now know the purpose of the spur to the lake! Recently I struck up a conversation with an elderly man at Tim Horton’s in Southampton (I live nearby) and lo and behold he was an operator at that station in the 1960’s. As it happens he lived near and was a friend of a distant relation of mine who drove the CN parcel delivery truck. I visited there when I was about 12 and remember riding the truck with my distant cousin as his dad picked up and then delivered parcels. Anyways, the man said the spur to the lake was used to off-load lumber from ships. He recollected they came from as far as Thunder Bay and as near as Manitoulin Island. I was so enthralled I forgot to ask if it was logs or actual lumber that was taken off in Southampton. I have his address and mean to ask sometime.

  7. Very interesting design and you have solved many problems in a creative way. Its long been my dream to build this line – but I was interested in an earlier time when the trains went out to the lake on the long dock.

    My problem is that I have not been able to find any photographs of these earlier days. By the late 40s, that dock was long abandoned.

    Do you know of any sources of information I could consult?

    Thanks for this posting – I’ve already shared it!

    • Hi Chris:
      Glad you found the post useful. I think it would make a delightful focus for an achievable layout.
      Unfortunately, I don’t have any other information. Perhaps another reader might know of something.

  8. Well-known in UK modelling is the “BLT”, the “Branch Line Terminus”.

    I draw a few comparisons between Southampton and the somewhat famous UK layout “Hemyock”. Instead of the line running into a creamery at Hemyock, the railway line ran into a furniture factory at Southampton. Both are branchline terminii.

    Steve Lucas.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.