Hinder, or help?

 photo CNR80-CNR1532-StW-Dark_zpsljohca1c.jpg
(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:

 photo StW-HammondMill_zpsaeaf4229.jpeg
(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:

 photo StWilliams-LayoutPlan_zpsd05c9c7a.jpg
(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:

 photo StWilliams-TestFIt_zps67ac8f17.jpg
(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…

 photo Ops-20150420-02_zpsvjflnuac.jpg

13 thoughts on “Hinder, or help?

  1. Trevor,
    Glad to see the pondering is still a pondering. Limitations of time and space are always hard choices to make. I keep pondering if I want to move from 1:29 to P:48 outdoors because it would allow more space. Since I have no knowledge of the prototype the track arrangement for me seems to work.

    • Another possibility for replicating St.Williams more to the prototype could be to make a module of St. Williams much like your other modules you’ve built. This way you could have the prototype arrangement and space for buildings, but it would be separated from the main layout. However with a module it doesn’t really help operations at all with the main layout. As you’ve said, plenty of other projects to finish first.

    • First, Trevor, I think that compromise is as big a part of the craft as is any other activity, without it we would get very little done. Having suffered from so many unfinished layouts I think the drive to reach an endpoint is critical. Now, if I may use this space to interject some thoughts about O scale outdoors, been there done that, although it was Ow5 using Atlas track which is rated as UV tolerant, one of my failed layouts and the reasons are many. I would be glad to chat at length with Craig about my experiences if he is interested.

  2. Looks like you’re going through a “could vs. should” analysis yourself! I really like how you evaluate & balance your givens & druthers – keeping your priorities in mind, and making sure you account for the cost of making any changes (and in this case, cost has everything to do with time & effort and not money).

  3. Hi Craig, Chris:
    I expect that at some point, I’ll build the Hammond Mill and then decide how / whether to incorporate it into the layout. But as you’ve noted, Chris – the priority is to finish the current layout, as it is. Or, at least, “mostly” finish. Once I’m down to doing details and off-layout projects like rolling stock, I can give more serious thought to the rework of St. Williams. Until then, I’m not going to let it paralyze my progress.

  4. I like the way it is now, but the new plan is interesting too. What would go into the now empty coner on the new plan?


  5. Interesting analysis of the pros and cons. I like the fact that you are not letting this pondering interfere with your progress and the fact that you aren’t letting your progress interfere with your pondering!

    That’s one (of many) thing I admire about one of the layouts I op on here in Salt Lake, he’s not afraid to rip things out and redo them if he thinks it will make things better.

    Actually, that’s true of both the railroads I op on, but the one I’m referring to has been around for 35 odd years, and it keeps getting better!

  6. Trevor, have you thought about making a small mockup of the proposed layout to see how it would work with the new geometry. I used this method once and it really helped me to see potentiel and shortcomings from a proposition.

    I perfectly understand your position, wanting the most prototypical scene possible without losing the balance and operability. Really not something easy to achieve.

    Good luck!

  7. I think finishing other scenes first is an excellent plan. That said, something as minor as changing the turnout leading to the mill to facing point would capture the operational issues of the real branch better. You could keep the station orientation, slide it a bit further down the line and swap the team track to further “get there”. The result will not be perfect, but captures more of the effect without costing you your stone church road crossing.

  8. Hi Trevor,
    A few more details about Hammonds Mill. the picture shows the mill as black…it was originally black tarpaper. What you don’t see to your right is an 80′ block building which was built over the remains of the original St. Williams Preserves jam factory which never had a rail siding .
    This block building contained a basement all used for storage…As a child accompanying my dad to buy concentrate for our small chopper mill I remember it as a cool place on a hot summer day. The main mill consisted of grain storage upstairs and a basement below where there was an engine to power the milling operations connected by belts and drive shafts.
    It was the first place that I remember to have a Coke pop machine on the outdoor walkway…and yes Coke was 5 cents then.
    Outside In front of the Office was a commercial weigh scale built flush with the ground. It was always a friendly place to go and local farmers would gather there and visit.
    It was open 6 days a week…closed on Sundays.

  9. Is there a way that the siding could be combined with the sector plate? That way you might be able to preserve the Stone Church Road overpass where it is by “rotating” the plan counterclockwise past the station.

    • Interesting suggestion, Andrew. Thanks.

      I must admit I’m not really thinking about this issue. The layout runs fine and I’m pleased with how my scenery is progressing, so the fact that St. Williams isn’t as correct as it could be doesn’t bother me. As well, I have many things to keep me busy on the layout – including several major structures. So there are bigger priorities.

      It is entertaining to doodle ideas on occasion, though…


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