This section of the web site has been organized in chronological order, with the most recent progress and commentary first and working backwards to when we moved into the house. More photos and other information is contained in the other sections of the web site.
- May 5 - 6, 2017 | CPR Boundary Sub
RMM 2017 Op sessions
Operations is a fundamental objective for the layout, and we are therefore, always pleased to host operating sessions for registrants of the annual 7th Division Railway Modellers Meet. The dates for this event were recently revised from November to May, and as a result, the Boundary Sub and several other local layouts hosted sessions with only 6 months between the 2016 and 2017 events.
We enjoy a challenge, and tackled several projects to enlarge the layout and improve operations over that 6 month period and were pleased with the successful implementation of those efforts. Participants from throughout the Pacific Northwest area of Canada and the USA joined us for 2 enjoyable and productive sessions.
Here are a few photos; for more refer to the Operations Photos section.
- April, 2017 | CPR Boundary Sub
Newest crew member
Wren Emilia Calvert, born in Australia on April 14, 2016 and recently moved to Canada, has joined the Boundary Sub project team as the youngest member. While she cannot reach any of the actual layout, and has only recently started to walk, she is providing valuable advice and input related to the need to increase capital investment in equipment to keep pace with the physical expansion program. We also anticipate she will be providing critical IT support services – once she learns how to talk!
- April, 2017 | CPR Boundary Sub
CPR Rossland Subdivision staging yard
Early this month, this important staging yard was placed into service on the layout. Originally conceived to be located in a storage closet in my wife’s adjacent quilt studio, and affectionately referred to as “Quilt City”, a redesign and some modifications of track alignments in a couple of places yielded a more practical location in the separate part of the layout room where the Dispatcher is located.
This yard was constructed using the typical plywood “module” approach we have used for other areas of the layout which would allow it to be slid out of its position in the future should we need to do so. In addition, all the pre-wiring of bus and feeder wires was completed while the module was on its side before it was installed.
Connected to the mainline at Castlegar, the prototype Rossland Subdivision provides service to the large Cominco plant at Trail, BC. At 6 tracks, this yard is designed to handle a representative flow of traffic to and from this customer as well as ancillary industries in the area. We are slowly increasing the freight car fleet and introducing appropriate trains into our ops scheme to reflect this addition to the layout. Ongoing research is underway in studying the types of cars and loads that are to be modelled.
Here are a few photos; for more refer to the Layout Photos section.
- Spring 2017 | CPR Boundary Sub
Turnout control installation
As part of the revision and upgrades to both Castlegar and South Slocan, it became necessary to install turnout control switch machines in numerous locations. These would be the first to be installed on this version of the Boundary Sub, but not the last by far. Tortoise slow motion machines were selected primarily because I have a large number of them in stock. We are also quite interested in the much smaller and more affordable MP1 & MP5 ones distributed by Model RailRoad Control Systems; http://www.modelrailroadcontrolsystems.com/ and recently purchased several to experiment with.
Adopting the philosophy that if things are constructed to be easily removed for maintenance, it will probably never have to be done, we set about developing a universal mounting bracket with some placement tolerance, and we also wanted a wiring connection that was also easy to disconnect.
In my opinion, the Tortoise machines provide virtually no tolerance for installation to the underside of the layout. We wanted to have tolerance in both the lateral and longitudinal directions to make the installation work easier. Also, because spline roadbed is used for a lot of the layout – which is quite narrow – we needed to develop a mounting strategy to account for the fact that the Tortoise is wider than the spine system. As always, I reached out through the net and asked folks for their thoughts and opinions, and was very pleased with the feedback I received. I have to admit that some of the installation techniques were very unique and I felt that some may be problematic over time. On a large layout like the Boundary Sub, we work hard to make things as reliable and bullet proof as possible.
I also found a really neat 3D printed mounting bracket online and ordered a couple for research purposes. Here is the link if you are interested; https://www.thingiverse.com/order:8581 While pretty slick, they only offered tolerance in one direction and are quite costly by the time the currency exchange and shipping costs are factored in. So, we proceeded to develop our own by trying out several cardboard mock ups for possible configurations. The final mounting plates are made from 3/8” cabinet grade plywood – actually scraps from the roadbed for the helix – see the February 8. 2016 entry below. See some photos below.
We also wanted a wiring harness that could be easily removed should the machines fail or in case modifications were required. So, with the help of Doug Hicks, we soldered female plug assemblies on to the machines, and a wiring whip on the male end of the plug as can be seen in the photos.
- January / February 2017 | CPR Boundary Sub
Castlegar Yard Improvements
In anticipation of the introduction of a staging yard which would represent the Rossland Subdivision in the near future and in recognition of the congestion and confusion that takes place in Castlegar during op sessions, we undertook numerous revisions to the yard area.
Up until now, the wye was incomplete and the yard tracks were somewhat awkward and inefficient, and these needed to change. There was also an opportunity to add more local switching locations.
So, the dead end portion of the yard tracks were removed so accommodate a reconfiguration that would allow them to become double ended. This required modifications of several Shinohara curved turnouts and the installation of a reverser circuit breaker by DCC Specialties.
The reconfigured yard tracks and newly completed wye would connect to, and feed the Rossland Subdivision staging area. The new turnouts were beyond reach and required the installation of slow motion switch machines and an associated control panel. Because of the desire to have consistent switch machine controls on the layout regardless of where they are, we chose to operate the machines by a push button and not a toggle switch. After some research, we settled upon using circuit board “drivers” manufactured by Ron Paisley; http://home.cogeco.ca/~rpaisley4/3556StallAltern.html
We will address the actual switch machine installation and operation process in the next posting.
Here are a few photos showing the revisions to the Castlegar area.
- November 3 - 4, 2016 | CPR Boundary Sub
RMMBC Op sessions
One of the highlights of the annual modellers meet here in Vancouver, is the operating sessions which I have coordinated for many years. The Boundary Sub (both current and previous versions) has been one of the layouts included in the offering and we really enjoy hosting guest sessions. As most operating layout owners know, a great deal can be learned from guests that are new to your layout and operations scheme. Their perspective can be quite illuminating.
This was the first opportunity for new folks to operate the layout with the 130 foot mainline expansion that was completed earlier this summer. In fact, we only hosted three home crew sessions on the expanded layout before welcoming the RMMBC guests. A little blind faith never hurts in these circumstances!
Each session had 8 guests participate and their Ops skills ranged from “newbie” to “experienced”. Regular crew member; Rene Gourley kindly dispatched both sessions with his usual skill, and Ken Catlin provided veteran home crew support for the visitors, and as a result things went very well under their guidance.
Here are a few photos of the session.
- October 12, 2016 | CPR Boundary Sub
nelson Superintendents house
In 1911 the CPR constructed a beautiful residence for the Superintendent of the Kootenay Division on an embankment just above and to the immediate east of the Nelson station building. The residence has had several occupants – railroad and otherwise, over its lifetime and is considered a heritage structure and has been preserved with few revisions. This house typifies many of the premier homes that were constructed for railroad executives all across Canada. A recent photo is included here.
The initial plan for the layout contemplated a location for this building which is relatively geographically accurate. The Cottonwood Creek passes through a small green space between the station and superintendents house. Planning for the area in and around the station proceeded and needed to include the superintendents house and various other elements as well.
Patrick Lawson MMR prepared and published some excellent plans for this wonderful building as part of an article in the April 1998 issue of Mainline Modeller, and to my delight, Patrick graciously offered to construct this building for the Boundary Sub. It makes a great companion to the station building he also built for the layout. (refer to the NELSON STATION MODEL entry below).
By building a cardboard mock up using the plans I determined that there was not quite enough space to accommodate the full depth of the building. A little experimentation which considered the overall topography and configuration of this area allowed the appropriate depth to be finalized and the mock up was modified for confirmation. (see photo).
A copy of the plans were then marked up and supplied to Patrick who then embarked on building a beautiful model of this locally recognizable residence. As a MMR, Patrick employed several techniques, including 3D printing several components, to complete the model. It was painted in colors that are appropriate for the 1960 era. A photo of the house temporarily positioned is included here. Much scenery and other work needs to be completed before the structure can be permanently located.
- October 4 - 7, 2016 | CPR Boundary Sub
Research Road Trip
In July 2015 I had a very successful trip exploring portions of the railroad that I am modelling. At the time, a further trip was determined to be necessary, so off I went again in October of this year. My travels took me to Nelson, Salmo, South Slocan, Castlegar, Paulson pass and Grand Forks – a lot of territory to cover in 4 days.
Well, 2000 kilometers and many photos later, I had a lot more information to assist in advancing the layout along. Since I hope to model the fall, one of the objectives was to visually capture the fall colors that prevail in the Kootenay areas. A few photos are included in this entry.
I also drove over the old railroad grade – now part of the Trans Canada all-use trail – from the summit at Farron to Grand Forks and recorded the trip with lots of photos. This section of the Boundary Sub represents that next phase of the layout to be constructed.
I also had the pleasure of spending some time in the Grand Forks city archives and acquired some data and photos to assist further. The archivist there was very helpful and told me they will be scanning a lot of photos over the winter to add to their collection.
While in Nelson, I had the opportunity to stop by the newly restored Nelson C&W (CPR) station. Kudos to the community there, all their volunteers and corporate sponsors for doing a great job on preserving the building. A photo of the restored building included here.
- August 18, 2016 | CPR Boundary Sub
Phase II expansion implementation
In April this year we ceased operation on the layout so the main centre peninsula could be constructed. See the PENINSULA CONSTRUCTION UPDATE entry below.
This expansion also triggered numerous revisions and updates to collateral items including; the Timetable, the Dispatchers Train Sheet, various train instructions, many waybills, layout schematics, and other misc items.
A significant part of the work was to also dismantle, move and reassemble the temporary west staging yard. In the process, it had to be cut apart and modified to fit along a wall that had a 15 degree bend in it. And, because one can never have enough staging, we added a fifth track to it as well. This yard will be moved at least once, possibly twice more before the mainline is completed.
The 130 foot mainline extension was designed to capture the isolated section of the prototype line westward from Castlegar towards the summit at Farron. This section was a grueling 2+% ascending grade with numerous curves, tunnels and bridges. We only included 2 long sidings and a short section of a decommissioned siding that is now used as a OCS/MOW set out track. There are also no operator stations along this line, so trains are really on their own.
After several months of hard work and testing by a dedicated group of the host team, the project was completed sufficiently to permit resumption of operations. Consequently, we called for a session on August 18th to test this new section and garner constructive feedback from the regular crew that participated. Generally, the layout and equipment ran well technically, however, the first thing we learned was that we needed to increase the size of the road crew pool – kind of obvious in hindsight! Other suggestions related to several procedural items and support graphics. Another outcome was that it was now time to expand and improve the layout electronics by adding a booster and more breakers and a few other items. (yuck – electronic stuff – my least favorite part of the hobby!)
All in all we are pleased with the success of this phase of the layout. A few photos are included here – for more – refer to the Layout section under the Photos tab.
- April 27, 2016 | CPR Boundary Sub
The nelson station model
The Nelson station was built in the late 1800’s by the Columbia & Western Railway and subsequently served as CPR’s Boundary Subdivision offices until a few years ago. It has recently been repurposed into the Nelson chamber of commerce office and other related uses.
This structure is quite unique and is one of the iconic buildings on the Boundary Sub. For many years on boththe previous, and the present layout a “temporary” foamcore model served as modest placeholder, until fellow modeller & friend; Patrick Lawson MMR, graciously offered to scratch build the building. His plans for the original C&W building were published in Mainline Modeller many years ago and provided a starting point for the project.
After several months researching what the c/a 1960 building would look like, Patrick produced plans relevant for that era and constructed the model from styrene. He used some interesting and creative techniques and jigs to build the custom windows and roof eave brackets – see photos. The building was custom painted based on colors appropriate for 1960.
We are VERY pleased and honoured to have this handsome and completely prototypical CPR building on the layout. This will truly be the centrepiece of the yard area.
Compare the model to the photos of the actual station in the Prototype Photos section.
- April 19, 2016 | CPR Boundary Sub
GN Nelson Line progress
The layout is designed for several interchanges, including the GN line from Washington state that ran north from the border through Salmo, BC and connected with the CPR mainline 5 miles east of Nelson at Troup Junction (formally known as Five Mile Point). This line was originally Daniel Corbin’s Nelson & Fort Sheppard Railway (N&FS).
Today, track reached the northern end of the Salmo site, and several tracks were partially installed to permit limited operations from Nelson, through the unique Troup Junction and terminating at Salmo.
The configuration for the Salmo area on the layout very closely matches the prototype GN plan (see plan), although we are still researching some of the buildings that were located there. The line will pass through Salmo and terminate in a 3 track staging yard representing points south across the USA border.
The Feb 12, 2016 posting featured the timber trestle that will be installed on this branchline.
- April 9, 2016 | CPR Boundary Sub
first train through the helix
We concluded our work session this day by running a short freight train led by CP GP 9 #8523 from Coykendahl siding to Tunnel siding. This section of the mainline represents 80% of the 2900 foot long Bulldog tunnel. Construction of this area was originally reported on in the Feb 8th posting.
The photo is of the author, and crew members; Ken Catlin & John Martin with the train shown emerging out of the upper (west) portal of the tunnel (yellow arrow).
The helix is 30” radius, about 1 2/3 turns and a 4” lift per level. The actual hidden section representing the tunnel will be 26 ft long.
- April 2016 | CPR Boundary Sub
troup junction planning
The Troup Junction area (formally known as Five Mile Point), on the prototype has a total of six modest wood frame trestles in close proximity; 4 GNR ones and 2 CPR ones. We have been experimenting with the layout and configuration of these trestles for many months and here is a photo showing the final planned configuration of the bridges.
Based on prototype plans, very helpful info on the KVR Blog by the Coquihalla Man; (.blogspot.ca/), and photos & field measurements taken by myself and fellow modeller; Brian Stokes, the CPR trestle at Mi 132.5 is completed as seen in the photo.
I got a little carried away, and included NBW’s, and other fine details that will probably not be visible once the scene is completed, however, it was good practice to refresh my modelling skills since I have not built many models in the last few years!
- March & April 2016 | CPR Boundary Sub
peninsula construction update
During January & February, most of the framing was constructed for the large peninsula that would carry the 130 foot long phase II mainline extension from Castlegar to a location just east of the summit at Farron. This is the first of the major grades into the mountains and varies between 1.5 & 2.2%.
Laying the flex track & shinohara turnouts, and the installation of the bus wiring and feeders for this section progressed through March & April. Although this phase adds a significant distance to the mainline, it will only include the sidings at Coykendahl & Tunnel, and a former siding – now MOW spur track at Porcupine.
All track is code 70 by Micro Engineering, and is glued down with white glue. We had great success with this approach on the previous layout. There are several areas where the curvature is extremely broad and we used a length of spline as a guide to draw the centre lines which were used to lay the track as shown in the photo. We also used metal track guides for the 36” R curves.
- February 12. 2016 | CPR Boundary Sub
PLANNING THE VARNEY TRESTLE INSTALLATION
In mid-2007 the late Gordon Varney, MMR scratch built a substantial wood frame trestle based on plans prepared by myself utilizing prototype CPR drawings. (see photo) This spectacular trestle & surrounding scenery was a signature scene on the previous layout, and was featured in the RMC article on the layout in June 2013.
Since there were no remaining wooden trestles on any of the CPR subdivisions we model in 1960, it was a challenge to find an appropriate location to showcase this wonderful model as a memorial to a very good friend and outstanding modeller.
During the redesign of the GN Third Subdivision, we realized that the longer branch line would now have sufficient length to accommodate one or perhaps two of the wooden trestles that still exist on this now abandoned line.
The next challenge was determining how to fit the curved structure into this narrow section of the layout considering the bench work is only 10 to 12” wide in this area. There was actually only one location on this shelf where the line curves, although not as much as the bridge did.
In order to ensure a smooth track flow over the bridge and through the adjacent topography on both ends, a cardboard bridge template was fabricated for initial planning purposes (see photo). Once we were satisfied that the bridge would fit, a spline section was built over the cardboard template (see photo), and it was then used as part of the actual GN branch line spline construction. This strategy proved very workable and created a smooth alignment of several curves in the track.
- February 8. 2016 | CPR Boundary Sub
HELIX & Road bed construction
The final design for the mainline over the Monashee Mountains includes a modest 1 2/3 turn helix between Coykendahl and Tunnel sidings. This helix was also positioned at the point where the prototype 2900+ ft Bulldog Tunnel is located in the plan.
Because the helix will be hidden, we chose a 30” radius, even though the design mainline minimum is 36” for the layout. We felt that preserving aisle space was more important than maintaining the minimum 36” radius which was not visible or critical. The line gains over 6” in elevation, and is approximately 27 ft long through the helix. We were very pleased with this outcome since this tunnel is the longest one on the southern mainline, and ours is 80% full length. In addition, the alignment of the track and tunnel portals on both ends reflects the prototype very accurately as well.
Having never constructed a helix, I reached out to the local modelling community as well as the Layout Construction Yahoo group for feedback and ideas. This is an wonderful hobby for the sharing attitude so many of modellers possess, and I gained a great deal of knowledge from these exchanges. It was actually surprising that there was very little published on how to design and construct a helix.
As a result, we settled on what we are calling an “inside out” helix design. One of the big drivers in the design was to eliminate the need to build the helix from inside a structure, or to have to crawl inside a structure to access the helix. So, we built a 4 ft diameter 2x4 stud frame cylinder and hung the helix off the outside of these curved walls. The helix sub roadbed is 2 layers of 3/8” finish grade plywood with offset joints and glued together, with a thin cork roadbed layer on top for sound deadening. (see photo)
In our opinion, significant lengths of hidden track create access challenges as well as psychological anxiety for operators when trains cannot be seen for any length time. To address these concerns, the exterior fascia that encloses the helix will have several viewing slots that are intended to represent cut-aways of the “tunnel”. There are several excellent versions of this idea out there, so this is not an original idea.
Because the major framing for the helix is set back from the outer face of the layout by 8 to 10”, this design also freed up space on the lowest deck (which represents the GN line), to expose a lot more of this line before it enters the staging yard than originally contemplated. The 30” radius for this line is exposed at this level; however, it satisfies the minimum branch line standard.
We have received numerous questions and inquiries about this aspect of the layout and will therefore post a more detailed commentary with supporting sketches, etc in the Techniques section of the web site at a later date, so check back if you are interested. Meanwhile, we have included a few progress photos below.
- January & February. 2016 | CPR Boundary Sub
Due to the size of the layout and the priority given to hosting op sessions, the current layout ends with a temporary west end staging yard. See previous entries for more detail on this point.
Towards the end of 2015, we decided it was time to commence the next phase of the layout which is to include the mainline climbing west from Castlegar to the summit at Farron in the Monashee Mountains. This section of the line includes a 2% ascending grade and is intended to capture the true isolated “feel” of this area of the Boundary Sub. It is also where the CPR employed pushers during the steam era.
Although a lengthy 130 feet of mainline is being added, there will only be 2 major sidings and one abandoned siding which now serves as a MOW set-out spur track. This phase will contain numerous tunnels – most close to prototype length and configuration, and the major 400+ foot long& 120 foot high steel bridge over McCormack Creek which will be modelled full size!
This section of the layout contains some of the most complicated framing, including the helix for Bulldog Tunnel. Several full size framing mock ups were completed and assessed over the last couple of years before settling on a strategy for the vertically cantilevered framing for this peninsula. This area also includes a 6” high raised floor along the internal aisle for the full length of the peninsula.
After receiving a delivery from Home Depot for the majority of the framing materials, work commenced in early December 2015 with a crew of four. There have been numerous work sessions and a couple were recorded by John G on power point presentations – click on these links below to view these.
This peninsula will include the divisional Midway yard on the upper most deck at an elevation of 60” above the raised floor. It is actually almost the west end of the layout, and after this current phase of construction, there is another 170 feet of mainline to actually reach this location.
The lowest level of the peninsula contains the GN Third Subdivision, and we have included a couple of bridges, including the one built by Gordon Varney. The town of Salmo, BC will be modelled relatively accurately (although compacted lengthwise) at the end of the peninsula before the track wraps around the end and terminates in the staging yard.
There has been great progress on this phase with work now progressing on the spline roadbed for the mainline.
The temporary west end staging yard will be removed and relocated near the summit just east of Farron once this next section of the mainline is ready to put into service.
- September 11 / 12 / 13. 2015 | CPR Boundary Sub
VANRAIL 2015 OP SESSIONS
The Boundary Sub Ver. 2 successfully hosted 3 back to back 4 hour long op sessions as part of the VanRail 2015 Operation weekend that takes place every second year in greater Vancouver. This was our 5th event, and was attended by 37 very talented guests from all over Canada and the USA. The event web site is www.vanrail.ca if you would like to see more about it. Go to the operations photo gallery under the Photos tab to view more images of the sessions.
- September 11. 2015 | CPR Boundary Sub
FAREWELL TO THE KMR
During the evening social gathering hosted at our home as part of the VanRail event, we had an opportunity to celebrate the contributions to the event and the local hobby in general by Brian and Margaret Pate. The over 60 folks that were in attendance enjoyed sharing a cake that featured a an image of #102 northbound on the Homestake Gulch trestle on the KMR narrow gauge layout. The Pates will be moving this fall and as a result both the KMR and CPR layouts are being dismantled & demolished so we took advantage of this large gathering to wish them well and thank them.
- September 6. 2015 | CPR Boundary Sub
WEST STAGING YARD RELOCATION
The temporary West staging yard was relocated today. Since it was originally installed, I was always thinking I should have moved it further down the wall. So, because I work well under pressure and often do things somewhat last minute, on September 6th with the assistance of a couple of my regular crew, we unbolted the 12 foot long yard which was cantilevered off the wall, disconnected the bus wiring, removed the fascias and literally carried it 15 feet and re-installed it at the end of the room. It was shifted down the wall of the room to separate it more from Castlegar and elongate the mainline by about another 15 feet to make it slightly more than 200 feet overall now.
New extended bus wiring and fascia was installed, and several pre-built plywood modules were screwed to the wall to infill the gap created when the yard was moved. We then temporarily installed and wired Micro Engineering flex track on plywood roadbed and powered things back up. It was all done in about 5 hours!
- August 18, 2015 | CPR Boundary Sub
SLOCAN WYE & TRACKAGE
After enduring the hassle of an incomplete wye and associated trackage for many months, the South Slocan wye was completed as well as 2 temporary tracks for the mill and car barge at Slocan City in the adjacent room. This will provide more interest to the way freight turn that switches this area on the layout.
The car barge location is currently a simple stub track for now, and the mill is a single track with a painted building mock up representing one of the major buildings in the plant. This temporary work will eventually be removed and replace with a much larger area to house the mill and the actual car barge slip in the future.
- August 2015 | CPR Boundary Sub
NELSON YARD EXPANDS
Nelson yard has been growing over the last several months as we continue to add new tracks and increase local switching opportunities. This month it was double ended by the installation of numerous turnouts in the east yard ladder. In addition, several east end switching spurs were added to make the yard more interesting and create more local work for the yard crews
The yard currently has most of the double ended yard tracks and approximately 75% of the local switching tracks. Next up will be the ancillary tracks for the scale, stockyard & clean out tracks, as well as the complicated tracks feeding the diesel shop. Once these additions are completed, the yard will be able to function as the division point as per the prototype.
- July 2015 | CPR Boundary Sub
ROAD TRIP THROUGH THE KOOTENAYS
During a trip to southern BC, we stopped in at Castlegar to visit some folks involved in the maintenance of the former railway grade which is now a mixed use trail. We learned that vehicle access was permitted to the portion of the trail between Castlegar and Fife BC. So, on the way back to Vancouver, we took a 5 hour detour and drove over this section and took hundreds of photographs. This was a great research occasion with the ability to drive through all the tunnels, and over all the steel bridge spans. We are already using the photos to help develop the scenery and “feel” of various areas on the next phase of the layout.
This was an incredible opportunity and we really need to extend a word of thanks to the many volunteers that take care of this rugged piece of railway grade tirelessly. We have included a few photos here, and will post more in the Prototype Photos section over time.
- July 2015 | CPR Boundary Sub
GN INTERCHANGE INSTALLED
The GN trackage representing the GN 5th Sub was extended beyond Troup Junction into an adjacent area of the layout room to create an actual staging track for the train and to allow crews to perform the complicated caboose drop and runaround move when entering the CPR mainline at this location.
This staging track will be realigned and extended down the yet to be built centre peninsula to create more on-line activity before the train terminates in the staging tracks.
- May 3, 2015 | CPR Boundary Sub
Inaugural op session
A mere 3 years after the construction commenced on the Boundary Sub II, we are pleased to have hosted the first formal operating session on the layout. This event represents the culmination of a lot of hard work by many people, and the realization of one of the primary objectives; start operating the layout as soon as possible.
This session places the initial 175 feet of mainline into use and relies on a temporary staging yard at the west end of the layout – which can be dismantled and relocated as the mainline advances up the 2% grade to the west.
The session was dispatched by Ken Catlin, and utilized full TT&TO and a 4:1 fast clock. 10 trains were run over a session that lasted a little less than 3 hours. The session was followed by a celebratory meal to commemorate the event.
- April 12, 2015 | CPR Boundary Sub
test op session
In order to improve the chances of successful and enjoyable formal op sessions, we elected to convene two “test” op sessions during the months of March & April. These were relatively unstructured events that were intended to give the layout and equipment a shake out. Also – the crew too!
Trains were run in a sequential manner and everyone kept notes of suggestions, issues, challenges etc – which were all aimed at creating reliable equipment and fun op sessions. This proved to be a beneficial strategy and the valuable feedback that was received went into the planning of the timetable, paperwork and structure for the upcoming formal sessions as well as flushing out equipment or infrastructure that needed maintenance.
- March 7, 2015 | CPR Boundary Sub
room entry swing gate
Completion of the swing gate at the main entrance to the train room was completed and officially put into use today. One of the key learnings from the previous layout was to NOT install a “temporary” duck under at the room entrance on this new layout. The duckunder on the previous layout existed for well over 8 years.
I did a lot of research into the methods for constructing various types of gates – there are so many! Because of the double deck geometry of the layout, we needed a swing gate since any vertical movement was not achievable. The gate was to swing into the room and span a double 48” wide door opening. I also wanted it to be out of the way when it was in the fully open position inside the room, so it was built to “nest” into the front of the layout next to the door opening so it would not protrude into the aisle. One other critical issue was that the track on the west end is on a 42” R curve that spans over the joint, and we wanted some ability to adjust the track alignment if things shifted at all.
A pretty tall order; however, Ken Catlin did a fabulous job of engineering the gate and associated works. He designed and built adjustable hardware for the free end based on some ideas I borrowed from David Doiron of Tempe, Arizona. He also soldered the rail continuously over sheet sections of circuit board on both ends of the gate and on the fixed parts of the railroad, and then cut the gaps in it to maintain accuracy in initial alignment.
The framing for both the gate and ends of the adjoining sections of the layout are heavily engineered and anchored to the walls – which are built of 2x6 studs with ½” plywood to provide earthquake strength for the house.
All framing on the gate was sealed with primer and then given a coat of paint to mitigate the risks of any shrinkage/expansion caused by our climate here on the west coast of Canada.
- February 25, 2015 | CPR Boundary Sub
mainline extended through nelson
The initial phases of track laying for the layout began at the east staging yard heading west, and at the temporary west staging yard heading in the opposite direction. Sounds like a lot of prototypes doesn’t it?! For some time, we effectively had 2 operational sections that weren’t connected due to the absence of the swing gate and no track through Nelson yard.
This yard is the main division point for the railroad, is over 35 feet long, contains numerous major structures, and is quite extensive, so we did not want to arbitrarily lay a track through it only to realign it later. Therefore, we did a full size mock-up of the entire yard trackage configuration on top of the plywood sub base. We then critiqued it and adjusted it several times, and once satisfied, took a series of overlapping photographs to record the “design” and noted the exact position of the mainline since most other yard tracks are parallel to it.
With that completed, we proceeded to add a few more feeders under the yard, then secured the plywood down, glued down the roadbed base layer, installed the raised cork roadbed along the mainline alignment, and painted it all a neutral beige color to blend it and seal it. Because there are several spurs coming off the main, just like the prototype, we needed to position those so turnouts could be installed as the mainline advanced through the yard. I didn’t want to cut the turnouts in later. The yard is curved in roughly the middle – again, just like the prototype.
Now that the mainline alignment is established and being laid, the next upcoming priority will be the swing gate at the entrance to the room.
- January 2015 | CPR Boundary Sub
car card pockets
With the commencement of operations in the not too distant future, I decided it was time to dig the millwork car card pockets that were used on the previous layout out of storage and repurpose them. Ken Catlin built most of them and did a beautiful job of them. I ordered new lettering graphics from my son in Australia and re-lettered most of them.
Here is a photo of the group of most of them, and of one installed on the layout.
- November 2014 | CPR Boundary Sub
installation of fascias
Nothing make a layout look neater than the installation of front fascia panels, so I decided to keep installing these as construction proceeded along the mainline. We use plywood risers to support 1/8” thick hardboard which is painted a charcoal black color.
I really like the contemporary, almost theatrical look of the darker color. We use commercial plastic molding strips to connect the sheets together and a J strip along the bottom edge to achieve a neat and crisp look. The bottom strip also provides that edge with a bit more rigidity.
Here is a series of example progress shots of the installation where the long Kootenay River Bridge will go.
- October 25, 2014 | CPR Boundary Sub
Installing cvp wireless system
We used a Lenz system on the previous layout, and after further research and reflection, we elected to keep it for the new layout, but supplement it with the Lenz compatible wireless system by CVP. We want the freedom particularly for the crews operating trains on the very long isolated mainline sections of the layout. One receiver gives us capability to run 8 wireless throttles in conjunction with the Lenz tethered throttles.
The installation was relatively easy and we are using both the new generation T5000, and a couple of older generation T9000 throttles. There is great freedom for the engineers with wireless throttles while they are operating.
- September 2014 | CPR Boundary Sub
temporary west staging yard completed
Because a primary goal was to reach an operable stage as early as possible with this large layout, we elected to moderate the efforts by building the first phase from the east staging yard to a temporary west staging yard just beyond Castlegar. This would yield a mainline length of 175 feet initially out of the eventual 500 foot mainline. Coincidently, this is almost the same length as the entire complete mainline on the previous layout.
This objective necessitated the construction of a temporary staging yard that could be relocated in the future as the mainline advanced around the room. This yard has 4 tracks (which upon hindsight should have been 5!) and is built on a 12 foot long module that is cantilevered from the walls. .
- April 2014 | CPR Boundary Sub
Completion of the kfp mill site track
Kootenay Forest Products (KFP) was owned by the Eddy Match Co. and had a sizable mill operation that operated for many decades at a location east of the Nelson divisional yard. Even though this facility occupies a large corner on the layout, we have condensed this operation substantially while attempting to capture the general unique aspects and feel of it. For example, the CPR mainline actually ran through the middle of the mill, so there are spur tracks on both sides of the main.
We are building mock up buildings from foamcore materials for now until the overall massing is determined and purposes for some of the prototype buildings.
- October 2013 | CPR Boundary Sub
first train arrives at proctor / east staging yard
The east end of the modelled layout terminates at Proctor which is 20 miles east of Nelson. Because I prefer open and accessible staging yards, I opted to model this yard after the prototype yard located at Proctor, BC with additional supplemental staging tracks to increase the capacity. This decision also created an opportunity to include the interesting 3 track rail transfer barge slip located there as another interchange location.
The yard, when completed, will include the station and several other railroad buildings as well as the actual barge slip, 3 track barge, and associated waterfront. Here is engineer Sylvan running the first train into the yard.
- September 2012 | CPR Boundary Sub
spline system begins
Everywhere on the layout where the track is not on a “table top” plywood type area, a 3 spline system with spacer blocks is utilized to support the roadbed. This work progresses around the layout with the use of numerous tools and techniques at a rapid and accurate pace. Spline systems offer naturally occurring vertical and horizontal transitions and are very easy to super-elevate without a lot of complicated calculations and shimming.
We also found they are easy to modify when things need to be changed!
- August 2012 & Ongoing | CPR Boundary Sub
wiring, wiring and more wiring
Even with DCC, a layout of this size requires a lot of wiring. Much of the layout is open module or cantilevered joist framing as noted previously, however, the large yard areas are solid plywood tops. So, who wants to crawl under the layout to install bus wires & feeders – not us! So, we guesstimated the number of feeders we would need along these major yard areas, added more as a contingency, and ran the bus wires and installed these feeders before the plywood tops were installed. That was definitely a back saver! Once the track is down, we only need to feed the wires up through the plywood at the correct locations.
- Spring/Summer 2012 | CPR Boundary Sub
let the framing begin
The layout design required a lot of complicated wall framing to support all the cantilevered benchwork for the narrower sections of the layout. I opted to build a lot of the layout at 10” to 14” widths to maximize the mainline run per square foot of scenery. As a result, significant lengths of these narrow shelves are cantilevered off the walls with no other support. This provides for a cleaner look and more generous aisles.
To achieve this design goal, construction of 2 complicated curved walls within the room was required. One is a 5ft high double curved stub wall shaped almost like an inverted question mark, and the other a full height tear drop shaped peninsula. They are made from 2x4 studs and double ¾” laminated curved top and bottom plates which are expansion bolted to the concrete floor. The plywood layout joists are screwed to the wall studs and cantilevered. The construction of this framing and the associated layout framing spanned over many months. There are no nails used in the framing – everything was screwed together with that awesome Canadian invention; the Robertson screw!!
- Spring/Summer 2012 | CPR Boundary Sub
module construction commences
A substantial length of both decks of the layout abuts the perimeter walls in the train room, therefore, again we opted to cantilever as much of the benchwork as possible off the walls. We are prefabricating modules from ¾” plywood cut into 3 ½” widths (to match dimensional 1x4 lumber). These were then predrilled for wiring and pre-assembled in the required lengths using 4 feet as a standard where possible.
Doing most of this work in the shop kept all the messy sawdust work out of the train room. These modules were then simply leveled, attached to their adjoining mates, and secured to the walls with long reach wood screws into every stud. Here are a few shots that show some of this work.
- March 2012 | CPR Boundary Sub
Into the new house.
We moved into our new home in the spring of 2012, and because the train room was the largest “empty” space in the house, it quickly became a storage and staging locker! It looked like this for quite a while.