Prototype inspiration: Cobourg ON

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(Welcome to Cobourg – an ideal subject for an achievable layout.)

Sometimes, everything for a layout just comes together in one place. My friend Bernard Hellen reminded me of that recently when he posted on his Quebec Gatineau railway blog about a visit to Cobourg, Ontario. (My friend Chris Abbott and I visited Cobourg a decade ago, which is when I took the photos for this post.)

This small city, about an hour or so along the highway east of Toronto, sees a lot of railway action. That’s because it’s on the Toronto-Montreal corridor for both the Canadian National and Canadian Pacific – in fact, Canada’s two major carriers parallel each other through the city, just a stone’s throw apart.

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(Looking southeast from the VIA/CN station parking lot towards Division Street. That’s the CPR on the overpass.)

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(The parking lot – south – side of the VIA station. The CNR main runs along the north side of the structure. The CPR track is behind me.)

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(An eastbound CP Rail train rolls behind the VIA station…)

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(… and then across Division Street. Ahead of the train can be seen a small yard where the two railways could interchange traffic, although I don’t know how often this was done.)

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(West of the depot, a westbound VIA train accelerates away from its station stop on CNR trackage. Down the road, one can see the gates for the CPR line that parallels the CNR)

The CNR had a small yard across the tracks from the station, some of which was removed a few years ago, when VIA installed an overhead walkway and second platform on the north side of the mainline. When Chris and I visited, the yard was still there – and held a string of covered hoppers:

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(Chris inspects the scene)

These were destined for one or more customers in the adjacent industrial area. Yes, industrial area! In addition to the parallel mainlines, a layout based on Cobourg would also offer plenty of switching opportunities. Let’s get oriented with a satellite view – straight up, and labelled. Click on the images to view larger versions:

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You’ll note there are a lot of “KS##” labels on the second map. These are track assignments, from a CNR track map from 1984:

 photo CN Zone KS Cobourg 01_zpsvq2qrjah.jpeg
(Area to the west of the station. North is to the right of the image)

 photo CN Zone KS Cobourg 02_zpsbhvydnlg.jpeg
(Station area. North is to the top of the page)

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(Customer assignment list)

The “play potential” for this area should be obvious. The industrial park – in the upper right – has several customers and is quite organized, while the jumble of tracks to the left serve a large, multi-building complex that belonged to General Foods/Kraft at the time. Let’s look at some photos of the area, starting with General Foods:

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(Looking east from Ontario Street, towards the runaround at KS76. The track diverging towards us at lower right is KS79)

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(Looking west from Ontario Street, towards the General Foods plant. KS79 branches to the left, while the righthand track is the lead – KS77)

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(Another shot of the General Foods plant, looking west from Ontario Street)

Now, let’s look at the industrial park:

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(Looking north on KS32. In 2006, the switch to KS35 has been lifted but the ties remain)

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(End of track, KS35. The track is gone, but the impressive stop remains)

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(Curves at the top of the park. The closest is KS46, while the track beyond it is KS43)

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(Looking east. KS43 is at left, while to the right are KS46 and, behind it and leading into the building, KS44)

A layout based on Cobourg could be easily built in N or HO. It would fit around the walls of a rectangular room, with the station area along one long wall. Here, one would face south, looking at the station from the CNR side and with the CP Rail running along the back of the scene.

A peninsula into the centre of the room would accommodate the General Foods industrial trackage, while the industrial park in the northeast corner could wrap onto benchwork built away from the long wall opposite the station area. Behind the industrial park (preferably accessed by a separate aisle against the wall, and separated from the park by a backdrop) one would build a double-ended staging yard to feed the two mainlines – one for CNR/VIA trains, the other for CP Rail trains.

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(Literally, a back of the envelope sketch of a possible layout. Not all track shown. Click on image for larger view)

This would be a great layout for three or four people to operate. Obviously, the focus would be the local job that switches the industrial park, and this would keep a conductor/engineer team occupied for a session. A third – and possibly fourth – person could polish the rails on the CNR and CPR with manifests, locals to switch the interchange and yard… and, of course, VIA passenger trains.

Thanks, Bernard, for reminding me of this great location!

3 thoughts on “Prototype inspiration: Cobourg ON

  1. Several years ago I contemplated Cobourg as one of the options for my layout but didn’t feel comfortable proceeding with Google Maps as my only resource.
    Fast forward to today and a very lucky click to arrive at your site, I noticed a recent post on Cobourg and after reading it I knew I had sufficient information to proceed. I now have a trackplan 95% complete and I owe you a HUGE amount of thanks! Happy to share my Cobourg trackplan efforts to date with you if interested.

    Also, I wanted to ask if you had any other pictures of your site visit from 2006? I’m curious if you recall seeing any types of freighcars other than covered hoppers? And did you notice any of the names of the railserved industries in the industrial park? I’ve used Google streetview to see the listing of all the tenants as of 2014, but sadly quite a few of the buildings appear to be vacant now.

    Happy to continue the conversation over email if that’s easier.
    Thanks so much again,
    Derek

    • Hi Derek:
      Thanks for getting in touch. I’m glad the information here has helped you with your plans to model Cobourg.
      No – I have no additional photos or information about the location. I’ve already shared what I know. Sorry I can’t help further – I didn’t take notes of things like customers, etc., just snapped the photos.
      Rather than share your planning efforts just with me, why not start a blog and share them there? I like WordPress for blogging. You would be amazed at the information that will turn up if you start such a blog, and ask the questions online. For example, you will probably get information from people who are not in the hobby, but who worked at the companies served by CN in the industrial park. I could not model what I model at home without the input of the readers of my Port Rowan in 1:64 blog.
      Cheers!

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