Will I build an NS&T layout?

That’s a really good question – and I just realized that while I have addressed this on my Port Rowan blog, I haven’t written about it here. It’s time to fix that.

The short answer is, I don’t know – yet. The longer answer is, I won’t make the decision until several milestones are achieved.

First – I intend to finish my Port Rowan layout.

I’m so close, it would be unfortunate to not do so. I enjoy my Port Rowan layout but I have no personal connection to the prototype: I chose to model this line for the very practical reason that it fit my layout space. But I think it would be novel to finish a layout in my lifetime.

Second – I need to design a layout that I would actually want to build.

I’m picky about layout designs and compromises.

On the plus side, as my Achievable Layouts blog should make clear I’d rather build a simple layout with a few scenes done well, than a lot of scenes overcrowded. My Achievable Layouts philosophy will guide my designs, and I will only undertake an NS&T layout that can be built without becoming an albatross.

On the minus side, when it comes to the NS&T I know the subject matter really, really well.

With previous layouts – including Port Rowan – I was working largely from photographs and maps, and I was able to introduce compromises without them bothering me too much. Over the years, I’ve built many layouts and each has become simpler than the one before it, as I reduce the compromises by picking smaller subjects to model. But even on Port Rowan – which has just eight turnouts in total, and a single train per operating session – compromises were required. Again, they were easy to make because I don’t have a history with the prototype. But the NS&T? Well, I grew up around it.

To provide an example of the challenge, I walked the line along Louisa Street every day to attend high school. The prototype ran for several blocks and crossed one major street (Lake Street) about halfway along. If I decide to model Louisa Street, how long should the street be? How many blocks should I represent? How much can I compress those blocks? At what point does it lose the feel of running along a street?

Here’s another example: I regularly watched CNR crews switch the General Motors plant on Ontario Street. Again, the track went up the middle of the street past the plant to get to the far side. On the prototype, the track runs in Ontario Street for approximately 2,300 feet. Obviously that’s too long to model uncompressed: In S scale, that’s almost 36 actual feet. But how much can I compress that by? I think 15 feet of street running would be fine. But how about 10? At what point would this huge General Motors plant no longer feel like the major industry that it is?

I feel that compressing scenes will be harder in the case of the NS&T than it was for any previous layout I’ve built, because of my familiarity with the prototype. Can I apply enough compression to actually make something fit in my space that will be satisfying to build, fun to operate – and remind me of the real thing? Those are questions I need to answer.

Third – I would have to actually build all of of the kits I’ve acquired for NS&T freight motors – and get them running to my satisfaction.

I can do this – I’m pretty sure I have the skills – but one doesn’t know for sure until they’re built. Until I have these freight motors ready to run there’s no point in considering a new layout. Get the equipment finished first, then address the layout. It worked for Port Rowan, after all.

Fourth – I would have to build some trolley wire and get it working to my satisfaction.

Despite being a traction guy at heart, I’ve never done this. Can I do it? I’d better figure that out before I commit to a layout.

If I can satisfy these four criteria, then I’ll retire Port Rowan and embark on this new adventure. Until then, Port Rowan is safe. If I cannot satisfy these four criteria, then I see a terrific NS&T diorama in my future…

5 thoughts on “Will I build an NS&T layout?”

  1. If-when you do change, please don’t lose Port Rowan. It is artwork in motion. Sell it, donate it to the NMRA, just don’t scrap.

  2. Deciding on a new layout, let alone a prototype change, is a difficult leap to make. Having spent 10 years working toward one goal, and then changing prototype recently myself, I know how that goes. One piece of advice I got all over the place, from many people, was to “model what fits in your space, but make sure it will make you happy and achieve your goals”. I think that’s good advice. With Port Rowan or NS&T, make sure it will make you happy.

  3. I love that your first goal is almost the opposite of mine (mine is to stop designing and contemplating and start to build a layout!). But in seriousness, having had the opportunity to visit Port Rowan and operate it (badly) a couple of times, I definitely do want to see it finished, as the structures you have left to build will be impressive and given the quality of the ones you have done, more than a bit impressive.

    As we’ve discussed with my layout plan, finding where you can compromise and be happy is an interesting challenge. I certainly see the downsides of modelling somewhere you have close affiliation with. I don’t have that with anywhere from my youth, or with the track plan for my prototype at least, though I have the issue with my chosen prototype of even though the tracks are all long gone, the buildings I will be modelling are all still there, and comparing what I build to the real ones will drive me nuts in the years to come.

    As someone whose built a number of of dioramas to make limited space work, I fully support the “Build a Diorama” plan, even if a change to NST does come, doing so will let you scratch that itch a little and give you somewhere to display the NST models when you get them built!


    1. Hi Blane:
      Sure – for Roger. But I’ve never built working overhead, so I have to prove to myself that I can do it.

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