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Sunday, 14 October 2012

A prototype to model

A prototype to model...

I live in west Toronto and during my time here I’ve spent considerable time watching and photographing trains that move through the  area. I live near the Junction, a west-end Toronto neighbourhood named after its railroading history. Here the Canadian Pacific and the Canadian National mainlines cross, giving the neighourhood its name.  Further south toward Lake Ontario  GO Trainsit (a government operated commuter line that links Toronto with its bedroom communities) and VIA trains pass on the busy mainline. As Toronto’s core has “de-industrialized” there isn’t much freight movement downtown or near the city’s lake shore, but the CP/CN mains offer plenty of action. I enjoy watching passenger trains but prefer freight, so I won’t attempt to model passenger traffic on my layout. I’ve always felt passenger model railroading works best on layouts with long stretches of mainline, so that’s out given my space constraints.

Before I decided on what to model, I researched the freight traffic in my area. Essentially, I followed the rail lines on Google maps then rode along them on my bike, armed with a notebook and camera. Three sites, all located within a few kilometres of my house, emerged as perfect sites to model. As it turns out, these sites are all part of Canadian Pacific system, which suits me fine. An aside here, internet makes it possible to do much of this research without lifting your butt out of a chair. Google street view will give you glimpses of buildings in the area you’re trying to model and Bing’s bird’s eye view lets you zoom in from above. You can even go close enough on the images to pick out road names of locomotives and rolling stock sitting in yard and spur tracks.

Here are the three sites I intend to model:

Lambton Yard . Once the main yard in West Toronto, this yard, although a shadow of its former self, is still quite busy (I’ve been watching traffic there for a while). Click here to read about the yard’s history: here . Overhead images from appear to show less than 20 tracks. I want a yard on my layout and I’ll have to do a compressed version of this one.

Area H industrial spur The CP mainline west of Lambton yard travels  in a southwest direction away from Toronto. About 6 kilometres west of the yard there’s an industrial spur that branches off to the south of the mainline (see the track map below)

As you can see this spur has a short passing siding and serves six industries, listed on the map. Now last week I rode my bike along the entire length of this spur. It winds through a light industrial area and though I didn’t see any train activity on that day, I can tell it’s in steady use. The tracks show signs of wear but more than that, there are plenty of freight cars spotted on the spurs. Look below to see my pictures.

The Korex industry (see pic below) is particularly interesting. It has four spurs to itself and covered hoppers were spotted there on the day I visited. 

There were also covered hoppers at Polytainers and tank cars at Battenfield Grease (pic below).

A YouTube user named gotransitf59ph captured this great video of a CP crew switching this spur in  June 2010. 

In his video, a pair of GP9us (one wearing remains of a Boston and Maine paint job) travel down the spur, use the passing siding to get around their cut of cars, then push them down the spur to drop them off. It’s just the kind of switching operation I’d like to run on my layout. I’m going to put this spur on my regular biking route so I can observe (and photograph) trains working it. I may not be able to include each of this spur’s industries on my layout but getting something as close to the real thing is something to strive for. This spur features beat-up tracks than run along paved rounds and down the back of light industrial buildings, just the kind of thing I’m looking for.

So a small yard and a spur. There’s a third element I want to include, but only if space permits

Obico intermodal terminal. I love intermodal terminals and this is a smallish one located less than a block over from the industrial spur. It’s called Obico and according to aerial shots via, it appears to have about 10 tracks (again I’ll have to compress). A challenge here will be getting a chance to survey and photograph this place. I rode all around it and could get close. The dead-end roads that surround the terminal end in fences. There is a few YouTube videos of crews switching trains into and out of Obico. I might just have to wing it a bit. Another problem might be running longer container cars in what is essentially a tight-space layout. Also, intermodal terminals don’t have the require the same kind of switching you’d see on an industrial spur … but they are typical of a modern working railway. So the decision is: use the entire peninsula for the industrial spur or split it in half with a backdrop, using one side for the spur tracks, the other for the intermodal terminal. I don’t think I can make the decision until I get some track on the table top and see it in 3D.

So that’s the three elements: Lambton Yard, Area H industrial spur and(possibly) Obico intermodal terminal. Three solid elements for a small urban switching layout all close to my place so I can use a “model what I see” approach.

In the next entry I'll get down to plans of ways to squeeze all this into my basement and talk about track plan ideas. Thanks for visiting....

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