Hinder, or help?

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(A reader asks if progress in St. Williams makes me less likely to change the track arrangement. Click on the image to read more about this favourite train-photographing spot, and to assess the progress made here over the past two years)

Following a recent post on the above location on my layout, reader Craig Townsend asked:

You’ve mentioned in the past about possibility redoing St. Williams to better replicate the prototype, so does looking at the progress you’ve made hinder or help your decision to keep St. Williams the way it is?

It’s a great question – thanks for asking!

It’s true, I’ve pondered this a lot, including a couple of times in previous blog postings. A big driver behind this train of thought was the discovery of this photo of the Hammond Mill in St. Williams, shared by my friend Monte Reeves:

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(Click on the image to read more about this picture)

And I definitely would like to model this mill and all the adjacent structures more accurately – someday. But I’m still not sure re-building this portion of the layout would be a good idea.

To recap, here’s a drawing of the St. Williams portion of the layout, as built:

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(Click on the plan to view a larger version)

And here’s a quick drawing of St. Williams in the same space, but more accurately representing the prototype:

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(Click on the plan to view a larger version)

In pondering these two designs, I have determined that reworking St. Williams to be more faithful to the prototype would require some changes that I’m not willing to make:

– I would have to lose the Stone Church Road overpass – a scene I really enjoy – because it would interfere with the Hammond Mill, the mill spur, and the Queen Street level crossing.

– I would have to bump out the benchwork to accommodate the mill, which would affect my ability to maintain (and enjoy) the track through the east end of the Lynn Valley scene – which starts immediately to the west of Stone Church Road.

– I would have to move the station to the aisle side of the track, so that it would be viewed from the back. Since the only picture I have of this station is taken from the front and since this is the image that inspired me to model this station, I’m not prepared to lose that view on the layout.

There are several alternatives, of course. I could flip the station/team track portion 180 degrees, so that the station was to the left of the team track, and the first scene a train encounters upon leaving the sector plate. Or I could flip the entire St. Williams scene end for end – so that I’d build the “correct” track arrangement, but trains heading to Port Rowan would encounter the mill before arriving at the station.

I’m still pondering these ideas.

Meantime, I don’t have to do anything: I have a lot of projects to work on to finish the layout, including some big structure projects – specifically, the station and Leedham’s Mill in Port Rowan. I can do those, and then revisit the Hammond Mill / St. Williams question.

As for the original question – does the progress I’ve made make me more or less likely to redo this area? – the answer is that it doesn’t affect the decision either way. I will continue to ponder the prototype and my space, and if I come up with a satisfying arrangement that is closer to reality, I’ll gladly tear out the St. Williams that I’ve built (but I’ll finish those Port Rowan structures first).

Having built the St. Williams scene that I have, I know I could do it again, if desired. And of course I can save and re-use the structures, trees, fences, telegraph poles and other elements that have gone into this scene.

In fact, I’m sure I’d do an even better job on a second attempt, because I’ve learned things while building St. Williams the first time around.

But that’s in the future. In the meantime, I can enjoy the scene as-built…

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Hammond Mill – a photo I can share!

One of the greatest pleasures I get out of writing this blog is connecting with like-minded individuals, and receiving pleasant surprises in response to my musings.

Back in early May, I put out the call for information about the Hammond Mill in St. Williams. In particular, I hoped to find a photograph of it.

Well, regular reader Mike Livingston came through: I received a a photograph from him (thanks again, Mike!) and it encouraged me to doodle an alternate arrangement for St. Williams. Unfortunately, Mike was not able to obtain permission from his source for me to share it here.

However, another regular reader, Monte Reeves, also took up the quest for a photo of the Hammond Mill. And in today’s post, I received an 8×10 glossy of the mill and environs, plus a nice note from Monte:

Bill Hammond gave me a copy for you and you may publish it on the website – it is yours, courtesy Bill Hammond

And what a photo it is:

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The photo was taken from the south side of Queen Street. The mainline to Port Rowan would’ve crossed the road at an angle just to the right of this scene and running towards the photographer. (The St. Williams station is a half-mile east of this scene.)

The Hammond Mill is the barn structure at right. A one-story lean-to office is attached to west side. While the east end of the mill is cropped out of the photo, the end of the roof can clearly be seen, which suggests there’s not much of the mill out of the frame. That gives me a good idea of the overall size of the structure.

Another barn structure – possibly just a barn – is behind the mill, and the spur track that served the mill would’ve been in the space between them.

In addition to the mill, this scene also includes a service station with a lovely twin-pump island and “B/A” (British American Oil) sign, plus what appears to be an insulbrick-clad garage behind.

Finally, there’s what appears to be a stucco-clad, one-storey house at left.

Mike Livingston was able to obtain some historical information about the property, which I will paraphrase here:

Apparently the property started out as a “Jam Factory” (which is referenced in this online article). The Hammonds purchased the property and converted it to a feed mill, adding the white addition on the west side as an office. The building went up in flames in the early 1960s (a note on the photo Monte provided says “Burnt 1962”) and was replaced by a smaller, one-story building.

Apparently, the mill building was so close to the road that if you did not pull right up, your rear bumper would be over the road. The colour of the main mill building might be red, similar to the St. Williams train station.

My thanks to Bill Hammond for letting me share this image, and to Monte for obtaining the photo and permission. Thanks also to Mike for obtaining another, similar photo – and for providing the background information. The info and image have filled in a major piece of the puzzle for me and plugged a hole on this blog. As a result, I will definitely have to do more doodling to determine whether I can fit this scene into my layout.

If I can, it’ll require a fair bit of rebuilding on this side of the room but that will make for a great, major project – once I’ve finished the structures at Port Rowan.