A quick tour of the layout – one year later

As I go back through my blog to update it with inline images, I came across a post I wrote about a year ago to welcome readers who discovered my layout in the pages of the Layout Design Journal – the quarterly publication from the Layout Design Special Interest Group. I thought it would be interesting to update that post with more current photos of the layout and some notes on progress over the past year…

A quick tour of the layout

Here’s a layout plan:
Port Rowan layout photo PortRowan.jpg

Let’s follow that with some photos of the layout.

Port Rowan

Here’s an overview of Port Rowan, looking from the end of the peninsula. A year ago, the track was in place but I had no scenery beyond a bit of ballast and grass on the track. In fact, there was no terrain beyond the edge of the sub-roadbed. There were also no structure mock-ups:
A return to normalcy photo PtR-EOT-Green-04_zps9fadf3b6.jpg

Here’s a photo I could not have taken a year ago – because I didn’t have a turntable or its approach track:
CNR 86 on the Port Rowan Turntable photo CNR86-TT_zps01eb4c0d.jpg

Here’s another view of Port Rowan, looking towards end of track. That’s a typical consist for the mixed train, which some locals called The Daily Effort. A year ago, the orchard did not exist – nor did the meadow:
M233 at Port Rowan orchards photo M233-PtR-Orchard_zpsfcea1df1.jpg

Here’s a closer look at the elevated coal track. A year ago, the track was in place and I had started to build up the scenery with foam board, but it was still in the blue terra foama state:
Narrower path up embankment photo CoalTrack-Weeds-09_zps8db04ad5.jpg

Lynn Valley

Leaving Port Rowan, we enter the Lynn Valley. This was actually on the Port Dover branch but I moved it here because it helps justify the serpentine route the mainline takes in my train room. There’s also a neat water tank in the valley, which I have modelled.

This area was still very much under construction a year ago. Roadbed was in and rails were spiked just past the water tank itself, but that was end of track if I recall. Scenery was in the blue terra foama state. I had yet to put Gordon Gravett‘s tree books to good use. This area has really come along in the past year, although I still have a lot of tree-building and other scenery work to do:
 photo Tour-2013-01-070_zps1f44a376.jpg

I have two bridges in this area. The first up the line from Port Rowan is a twin-span steel deck girder bridge. Further up-line there’s a trestle:
 photo Tour-2013-01-020_zps0104e3fe.jpg

Trestle abutments photo Trestle-Abutments.jpg

The big thing on the to-do list in the Lyn Valley is build and plant more trees, bushes and other greenery. And, of course, pour the Lyn River…

St. Williams

Leaving the Lynn Valley, the line crosses a short deck girder bridge over a road. A year ago, the bridge was in place but the road and railway fill to either side were roughed in with blue foam board:
Blue Truck, Blue Flowers photo BlueTruckBlueFlowers.jpg

The line then enters St. Williams. A year ago, I had the ties glued down but not yet stained. There was no rail, and no terrain. Certainly, no cornfield:
M233 at St. Williams west photo M233-StW-West_zps28961473.jpg

Still looking east, here’s the area around the St. Williams depot. Again, ties were in place a year ago, but no rail and no terrain. Today, I’ve added basic scenery including another farm field to the west of the road crossing and a tobacco field to the east:
M233 at St. Williams depot photo M233-StW-Depot_zps73d83bf1.jpg

Between the Kilns photo Tobacco-BackField-01_zps2e5562e0.jpg

The big project in St. Williams is structures, plus fences for the crops. But I also need some shrubs along the back edge of the layout to soften the point where it meets the backdrop.


East of St. Williams, the trains enter a staging area which represents the rest of the North American rail system. A year ago, I had the moving deck in place but no ties or rail. This area is now fully operational:
Full Staging photo FullStaging-02_zps2fd626b3.jpg

I could call the sector plate “finished” but must decide whether to add a mechanism to shift the deck (versus sliding it manually, which is what I do now). I must also decide whether to bother with engine-turning cassettes. Right now, I turn things by hand which does require handling the locomotives – but only by me, and not that often. And finally, I must find or build a suitable set of equipment storage drawers for underneath the sector plate. As the photo shows, it’s already pretty full – and once I put a dozen more CNR cars into service it will be overwhelmed.

Great progress in a year, I’d say!

Tripod Trouble

I haven’t added many photos to the blog lately, and now it’ll be a bit longer. I tried to take some shots yesterday on the layout and just after I started, a key adjustment on my tripod broke, meaning I could not tighten the tripod to stop it wobbling.

Fortunately, it’s a professional-quality tripod and I have a good camera store in town. I phoned them and they confirmed that yes, they could fix it. That said, it’s Easter Weekend so I won’t be able to drop it off until next week at the earliest.

Time to work on my technique with the Lytro camera, I guess!

Notes from a 1900 GTR Time Table

This week, my friend John Mellow shared some information about my branch, courtesy a Grand Trunk Railway System public time table from July 26, 1900. This is well before the era I’m modelling, of course, but it’s interesting history nonetheless – so thank you, John!

The time table notes Mixed Train 61 leaves Hamilton’s Stuart Street station at 8:50 am and arrives in Port Rowan at 1:10 pm. It leaves Port Rowan as Mixed Train 64 at 1:45 pm, arriving back at Hamilton at 8:10 pm.

The time table also lists a round-trip accommodation train. This train leaves Port Rowan at 6:30 am as number 62, arriving at Hamilton at 10:05 am. The return trip, as train 63, leaves Hamilton at 5:15 pm and arrives in Port Rowan at 9:25.

At this time, there was an engine house off the turntable in Port Rowan, and the stub-end team track spur was double-ended. Someone looking for a challenge might wish to consider tackling the GTR at the dawn of the 20th Century, which would offer additional structures for modelling and two scheduled trains per day.

Adventures in Live Steam

I realized that I’ve made a number of postings to this blog about my interest in garden scale live steam – and to ensure that this interest doesn’t start to clutter up the story of my S scale Port Rowan layout, I’ve started a new blog (they’re free and easy) to document my water-boiling interests:

Adventures in Live Steam

I’ve transferred a couple of the posts from this blog to the new one, and will start to add posts there as I make progress on various live steam projects.

Enjoy if you visit!

Pan shot photo Garratt-01.jpg

Freight car mix

S Scale Freight Cars photo FreightCar-SectionHeader_zpse5a91f24.jpg

A reader wrote this week to ask a question about my freight car mix. It’s a good question, so I thought I’d share the answer here as well as responding directly.

The reader commented…

Do you plan to deploy more CNR box cars in due course? The overriding impression from the photos in Ian Wilson‘s books of Allendale and Palmerston is that the great majority of freight cars were box cars, and almost all of those were plain ol’ CNR (probably about half-and-half AAR steel (PRS) and single-sheathed (Ridgehill/scratchbuild) by the mid-fifties). Are you sure about that yellow TH&B one (there were only ever two of their USRA ones that colour) and the ATSF rebuilt car must be a bit a stretch for a southern Ontario branch line by that time…

Those are very good observations. (Thanks for taking the time to write!)

Yes, I’m planning on adding more CNR boxcars. In fact, I have five or six kits from Pacific Rail Shops, and at least one other Ridgehill kit for a Fowler car in my collection.
But, they’re kits. The Fowlers are resin, so a fair bit of work. The PRS are injection moulded, but need modification to better represent CNR prototypes. In addition, I want to model a variety of CNR cars, which will require kitbashing the PRS cars.
CN 1937 AAR boxcar (A end) photo CN-487265-02.jpg

I have started a CNR double-door boxcar, which I’ve written about on this blog. But the project is stalled until I find the time to build some new doors:
New Ends for a CN Boxcar photo CN-DD-Box-NewEnds.jpg

My goal is to have CNR represent 80 percent of the cars on the layout, at any one time. The off-road cars will make rare appearances – maybe one on the layout at any time – to add a bit of variety.

Yes, the TH&B yellow double-sheathed car and the ATSF boxcar are a bit of a stretch. But not as much as the Central of Georgia ventilated car or the B&O wagon-top covered hopper!

Having said all of that, my focus right now is on the layout – not equipment. So I have a number of ready to run cars (like the boxcars mentioned above) that give me sufficient rolling stock to run trains. At some point I’ll turn my attention to the PRS kits and get another half-dozen CNR boxcars on the layout. It’ll make a big difference!

Updating with inline images

I’ve done a lot of editing on the blog over the past week, updating postings with inline images. I’ve now done this back to early June, 2012 – and plan to eventually update the whole thing.

Is it worth going back? I think so. For starters, I like the look of the blog a lot better. But equally important for me, it’s a chance to review what I’ve done – and written about. I’m finding things I forgot about, that really pleased me at the time. And I’m finding things I said I would have to tackle, but have forgotten about. Time to make a list of those – or, at a minimum, re-read my blog periodically.

At the bench, I’m currently working on Pierre Oliver’s tobacco kilns – and, since spring is around the corner, I’ve also brushed off a project related to my interest in live steam garden railways. I’ll continue to blog on these – and of course, the S scale adventure – as I make progress.

More on the mystery sign

I’ve looked through my various resources and I have found a few more photos of the mystery sign in Port Rowan that I wrote about earlier this week.

I’ve scanned the photos and cropped them (so I don’t get into too much trouble) to show just the sign at the Port Rowan station:
Port Rowan - Station Sign photo PtR-Station-Sign-101_zps83ce85e0.jpg

Port Rowan - Station Sign photo PtR-Station-Sign-100_zps48cb9960.jpg

My CNR survey of the area shows this sign, and notes it’s at “894+57” – which translates to “MP 16.94”, so it would make an unusual milepost marker. I think we can rule that out.

Curiously, there’s a similar-looking sign near – but not actually at – the entrance to the yard. It’s shown in these two photos – but is not shown on my CNR survey:
Port Rowan - Yard Throat Sign photo PtR-YardLead-Sign-101_zps8e52b6d3.jpg

Port Rowan - Yard Throat Sign photo PtR-YardLead-Sign-102_zpsb878bd91.jpg

Ideas welcome, as always. Meantime, I’ll keep looking through my resources to see if I can find a shot of one of these signs elsewhere.

The Daily Effort – String Graphed

I’m extending a special thanks to Jeff Smith from the CNR in Ontario website, who created a String Graph* of the schedule for The Daily Effort and emailed to to me to share with readers here:
Daily Effort - String Graph photo DailyEffort-StringGraph_zps7ab06dd2.jpg
(Click on the image for a larger view.)

As the graph for The Daily Effort shows, there are a few other trains it must be aware of – mostly on the leg of its journey between Jarvis and Simcoe, across the Cayuga Sub. Even though my layout models only a portion of this journey, this graph helps put the travels of the mixed train into context.

Thanks again, Jeff!

*String Graphs allow one to plot distance against time for several trains and are very useful for model railway enthusiasts who are trying to set up – or run – operating sessions, particularly when many trains are involved. They are discussed in several books on operations, including 19 East Copy 3, the recently-published book on Time Table and Train Orders from the Operations SIG. String Graphs were also explained in Bruce Chubb’s book How to Operate Your Model Railroad, published by Kalmbach in the 1970s and out of print.

A’s, 19’s and 31’s

Forms and an uncoupler photo Forms-Uncoupler_zpsfe6539a1.jpg

Today’s mail brought a package of forms from Micro-Mark – including pads of Clearance Form A, Form 19 and Form 31 orders. They’re printed on carbonless copy paper, so one can make multiple copies of an order.

I will rarely need to write Train Orders and while the Clearance forms will be more useful, they still belong to the “nice to have” category. Still, they’ll contribute to operating sessions, I’m sure.

I also grabbed a few uncoupling tools. They’ve changed the design slightly, with a flat blade like a screwdriver. I have some older versions that are a round spike – but I’ve tested the new ones and they seem to work.

Sign spotting

Have a look at to the left of the locomotive cab in this photo:
The Daily Effort arrives photo PortRowan-AP-1.jpg
(If you click on the photo, it’ll take you to the story of the picture, where you can click for a larger image.)

I see a cross-shaped sign next to the track here. I wonder if that’s the yard-limit board for Port Rowan? From the Simcoe Sub Schedules, I know that Yard Limits started in Simcoe, almost 17 miles away, and continued to Port Rowan. Would a Yard Limit board be needed here to remind crews that they were still operating within such rules?

It’s not a speed limit sign. There’s a 5mph limit sign shown on the CNR track arrangement for Port Rowan, just to the left of the end of the team track:
 photo PortRowan-Plot-Web_zpsli8hidhh.jpg

Here’s a closer look – the cross-shaped sign is clearly shown on the map:
Port Rowan signs - station area photo PortRowan-Survey-West-Signboards_zpsf4a7bb8a.jpg

Anybody have ideas?

And while we’re at it – does anybody have a period photo of a CNR speed board they can share with me (and, I hope, this blog)? I’d like to model one – but need to know what it looks like, obviously. Thanks in advance!