Scrapping St. Thomas

P Oliver - Dec 15 2018

Yesterday, some friends and I made the trip to St. Thomas to visit our buddy Pierre Oliver. It was not just a social visit, mind you – he had a job for us: destroy St. Thomas.

Okay – not the real community, but his 1:87 rendition of it – the last remnant of his previous model railway, based on the Wabash operation through southern Ontario. As I’ve noted on my Achievable Layouts blog, earlier this year Pierre decided to scrap the Wabash in order to model something that better fit his interests and lifestyle: the Southern Pacific’s Clovis Branch between Fresno and Friant, California.

But back to St. Thomas…

The yard where the Wabash exchanged cabooses and crews on its trip across southern Ontario was a focal point of the old layout. It occupied a long peninsula up the middle of the main room – an area destined to become the SP line between East Fresno and Tarpey. For that to happen, Pierre needed to scrape St. Thomas off, down to the basic benchwork, and then haul the detritus out to the garage for eventual disposal. He decided that many hands would make short work – and four of us agreed. Ryan Mendell, Doug Currie and Hunter Hughson joined me for the trip.

P Oliver - Dec 15, 2018
(Pierre works near the west end of St. Thomas, while Ryan, Hunter and Doug lift roadbed east of the yard – and on the opposite side of the peninsula)

P Oliver - Dec 15, 2018
(Take that, back drop! The SP layout plan requires the backdrop to be repositioned, so Pierre and Doug take out their anger issues on the old one. It must be working…)

P Oliver - Dec 15, 2018
(Just a few hours later, the peninsula is stripped to the benchwork and ready for a new life in sunny southern California. The gap in the foreground used to hold a large viaduct at the west end of St. Thomas yard: it will need to be filled in with more benchwork for East Fresno…)

It’s never easy to scrap a model railway – although it helps when one has plans for a new one. And in this case, it’s a terrific decision. The proof of that is in the tremendous progress Pierre has made, and how happy he is with the results. Here is a quick tour…

P Oliver - Staging yard
(The end of the staging area, which represents the edge of Fresno yard. Unlike the Wabash staging, this one deserved the scenic treatment.)

SP 1802
(A “valley malley” – SP 1802 – in the staging yard)

SP 1802 and caboose
(The caboose track and engine facility leads at Fresno – actually, staging)

SP converted boxcar caboose
(The SP converted some boxcars into cabooses. I can only imagine how awful those would’ve been to ride in. Pierre built this example from a Westerfield resin kit)

SP Port Costa roundhouse
(Since the staging yard is being scenicked, it’s a good spot to have a roundhouse for the locomotives. This is an in-progress Banta laser cut kit for the SP roundhouse at Port Costa, California)

NP and DH boxcars
(A couple of Pierre’s Yarmouth Model Works kits in the Fresno staging yard)

Clovis Ice Deck
(There was no ice deck in the real Clovis, but Pierre and I decided such a signature structure would be an asset to operating sessions. This is a Walthers ice hose with Tichy deck kits. The modelled deck is a respectable 4.5 feet long)

Clovis industry
(An in-progress industry in Clovis)

Clovis industry
(An in-progress industry in Clovis)

Clovis station
(A model of an SP standard station from American Model Builders – a good stand-in for the Clovis station)

Clovis industry
(An in-progress industry in Clovis)

Start of the line
(See you next time!)

As I look through the images, I realize I didn’t take any photos of Pierre’s progress at Friant – the opposite end of the line. Oh well: that’s a good excuse to go back, right?

We ended the day with a lovely meal prepared by Pierre’s wife (thanks, Kate!) before heading home. I look forward to seeing the new layout next time I visit!

8 thoughts on “Scrapping St. Thomas

  1. There comes a time when one must play different music. Like St. Thomas and previous Wabash encounters, this will be a great tune.

  2. My San Joaquin Short Line is closely patterned after the Clovis Branch. I added plenty of packing houses and conveniently forgot the Friant Dam. So, some of my i/b loads are for the LADWP project, interchanged with the San Joaquin & Eastern RR. I also conveniently lift loads from the Sugar Pine Lumber company. My Engineer/Conductors are b-u-s-y!

    Have fun, Pierre!

  3. My wife and I are toying with the idea of selling our house and moving from Bracebridge to the Ottawa area but the thought of destroying my as yet uncompleted layout is rather disconcerting. All track is laid and all industries are set up for switching. A lot of benchwork would be going in the trash, kind of a scary thought!

  4. Nice start on the new layout. I really like the weathering on the buildings and locos. Thanks for posting.
    Cheers, Gord

  5. ‘in order to model something that better fit his interests and lifestyle’

    Choosing what to do to fit in with his lifestyle. Sensible. And radical.

  6. The more I look at this, the more I like it!

    One thing which struck me is the simplicity of the backscene. We have seen terrific advances made using photo-realistic backscenes, starting with (in my mind) Mike Confalone’s original small Woodsville Terminal in the NEK. Not everyone likes these as they prefer something less detailed, which is fair enough, but Pierre’s simple greyish outline of distant hills is very effective. In fact, with the fence in front as in the first photo, just as effective as lots of detail.

    I wonder if the key here is the blending? Trees probably do need a photo backscene. Open scrubland, prairies and even pasture a simple representation of the far distance. Other things? Well, maybe it depends. Sometimes – when showing that a spur serves a much bigger facility than the loading might suggest, the detail enhances the setting. But other times, possibly when the colour or the perspective is distracting, we need a lot more of less?
    And when painted by hand, the detail really needs to be spot on, otherwise it might be a distraction.

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