CNR – Purina mill in Woodstock

Last week I joined my friends Bob Fallowfield and Barry Silverthorn in Woodstock, Ontario. Bob is modelling Woodstock on his HO scale home layout and was our guide for the day. We saw many things, including a Canadian National Railways local crew switching the Purina feed mill. I only captured a short video of this work (see below). But it was enough to confirm that this would be an ideal subject for an achievable layout:

(You can also watch this directly on YouTube, where you may be able to enjoy it in larger formats)

The mill spans the tracks, and on a layout the overhead conveyor could act as a scene divider into staging. So too could the pedestrian overpass that I stood on to record this video. The mill itself (specifically, to the right in this video) would make an imposing backdrop, if one positioned the viewing aisle to the left of the scene. Tall trees further frame the scene, while there’s plenty of detail to model in the mill and the track.

Sound makes a big impact in my video. The throaty prime mover and the squeal of flanges bring home the mass of railroading. To that end, building this layout in a larger scale (Proto:48, anyone?) would put the viewer right in the scene. One of the O scale “Red Caboose” geeps would provide ample room for DCC, other electronics, and a big speaker – while the new “Full Throttle” decoder files from ESU Loksound would deliver the perfect atmosphere. Check out this Loksound video, shot on Bob’s HO scale layout. In particular, listen to the GP in the video and imagine what that would sound like in an O scale model with a much larger speaker:

Beyond engine sounds, I would add a flange squeal device to the curved route through the turnout. Iowa Scaled Engineering makes a great flange squeal module.

And, I would add environmental sounds – especially birdsong. I’ve done this on my own layout, using Dream Player Pro kits from Pricom Design. It’s incredibly effective.

A layout like this would be a showcase for fine model-building – including a lot of scratch-building. But the prototype shows that inspiration can come in small spaces, even if one wants to work in larger scales.

4 thoughts on “CNR – Purina mill in Woodstock

  1. I have Google Maps open right now and focused on the mill. It looks like they have two sidings: one on the mill’s side of the track and a conveyor to a loading shed on the opposite side of the mainline. It would be neat to learn more about how cars are cycled and prioritized through the mill. It feels like the mill itself would need more than just rolling up, dropping a car, and heading out.

    I apologize: I haven’t watched the video (can’t on this machine) so if the answer’s in there I’ll just feel silly with this question.

    Thanks for another neat idea, Trevor.


    • I knew you would like this one, Chris…

      Actually, the track on the left (south) side of the main is now gone, although you can still see where it used to be.

      Today, this is a very low-key operation – Bob tells me it’s switched once or twice a month. The day we watched – and we were just lucky to catch it – I believe the crew pulled one covered hopper and spotted another. (I was only there for the spotting operation.)

      Obviously on a layout, one could backdate the operation (even if one did not backdate the layout itself) to a time when the mill was busier, and even restore that south track…

  2. Also, while panning along the tracks in Woodstock, on Google Maps, I see Green Metals Inc. over on Beards Lane. Decent size metals recycling facility with two sidings. The Maps view shows their sidings full and a few cars “off-spotted” closer to the main waiting to be picked up I presume.

    Might make for another neat single-customer layout.


  3. Trevor:

    I was very impressed with the ESU sound decoder featured.

    The older sound decoders, and their speakers, installed on a few of my locomotives just pale in comparison to the rich, deep sound from these new units; something I always thought was lacking in HO sound decoders.

    Perhaps a gradual upgrading of the fleet is in order.

    Thanks for sharing.

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