Starting Over

Once again, I’ve gone far too long between blog updates, but this time I’ve been busier then usual. Five years ago we moved into our current home and I started preparing the basement for my layout. A few short years later the layout was built and operational, and I was looking forward to starting scenery.

As time wore on, several issues in the layout design begun to wear on me, and there were certain elements that I just wasn’t happy with. The design issues caused a drift from my goal of prototypical modelling, and to me the layout had started to become more proto freelanced then I had wanted. Some of the issues I had with the layout were:

Chetwynd Yard: The model ended up looking nothing like the prototype, and was located in a less then ideal area of the basement. Trains running north to Septimus/Fort St. John had to back down a yard track to clear the crossover with the main line, which is something I did not like!

The Helix: I’ve learned over the past few years that a helix is very boring. My design had trains spending far too long inside the helix, which extended the mainline run but was not operationally appealing.

Staging yard: The upper staging yard (Prince George) was built oversized, which ended up reducing the mainline run

Dawson Creek: Although I enjoyed switching Dawson Creek, I soon found the area to be too compressed when I started to plan on building structures.


As you can probably guess, I have decided to rebuild the layout, and have a new, but rough plan drawn out. I estimate at least 90% of the old layout will be demolished, but version 2.0 should be a better design!

I’ve currently removed most of the upper level and the Dawson Creek Sub, and have started to built the “new” Chetwynd yard along one long wall of the basement. The new yard will be almost 100% prototypical when it comes to the trackwork, the only major difference being the absence of the wye.

The helix has been relocated, and will consist of a series of independent loops stacked on top of each other. I’m adding multiple decks to the layout (5 in total including the lower deck) and adding the Mackenzie branch, which includes the mills and pulp mill at Mackenzie.

The Dawson Creek sub will be a little shorter then the first design, with the town of Dawson Creek being relocated to the opposite corner of the basement. I’ll post a rough sketch of the new plan in the future, as well as some construction photos.


Just like the Death Star, the Layout’s Fully Operational

Allow me to dust this blog off for a moment! Sorry for not updating this site, I’ve been a little busy with life and layout. After many months of hard work, the layout is now fully operational. Trackwork is complete, the electrical is almost done save for some switch machines to be installed in staging. I’ve got a new Digitrax Chief command station coming since the Empire Builder I am currently using does not have enough locomotive slots for the needs of the layout.

I’m currently installing fascia on the upper and lower levels and will paint it green soon to hide a good portion of the benchwork. I’m not sure where I’ll start with scenery, perhaps the upper deck at Hulcross of Kennedy. I do plan to work on one scene at a time (maybe a 4 foot area) rather than the “shotgun method” of rough sceniking the entire layout, then going back to add more.

I’ve also completed the first and (hopefully) only siding extention on the railroad, the passing track at Kennedy was lengthened to allow a full size train to fit. I realized before the first op session that having only one passing siding on the upper deck was not going to work that well, so Kennedy got lengthened,

So, here’s some updated shots:

Kennedy dead ahead, with the siding of Groundbirch on the lower level right hand side of the image



Dawson Creek, with a freight ready to leave town for Chetwynd


The north end of Dawson Creek, with the station from the old layout set in place


And the staging yard at Prince George, with a few freights ready to head north.


Another Milestone: Upper Level Benchwork Completed!

I reached another milestone in construction this morning, all of the bench work for the upper deck is complete! I’ve started to lay the cork roadbed for Tacheeda, which on the prototype was a small yard where coal trains off of the Tumbler Sub swapped power. On my layout Tacheeda will be the start of the staging tracks, but will also have a section of catenary for the electric GF6 locos that ran on the Tumbler Sub.  I was planning on having a back track at Tacheeda for power to lay over, however room is tighter than expected and with a reverse loop in the picture I’m not sure if I can work these tracks into the plan.

Here’s the North end of Tacheeda yard, which will consist of 8 tracks.


And a veiw of the yard from the other direction. Notice the grade coming into the yard. This is due to the height of the upper deck increasing to around 62 inches off of the floor. I had to raise both upper and lower decks slightly to allow for my work table to fit under the layout. The extra height at Tacheeda shouldn’t be a problem for operations, since the yard is basically staging for trains.


And around the corner we have the reverse loop that will represent Prince George staging. The loop goes into the furnace room to save me some space in the layout room (priorities people!) Loop is 4 tracks


And, over (ok actually below) on the Dawson Creek Sub, I’ve built a passing siding (Groundbirch) and roughed in the location of the Howe truss bridge at Kiskatinaw. The bridge is from Hunterline, and will likely take me about 20 years to build!



I’m going to run to the hobby shop this week for some more cork, and plan on doing some steady track work to get the upper deck functional, since its a lot easier to finish the track on the upper level before the last of the bench work for the lower is built.


A Short Update


Its been far too long since my last post, however once again I find myself to be too busy in the basement to write a blog post! The above image was taken in the Chetwynd yard and shows both diesel service tracks occupied. The GMD-1’s are from Rapido Trains (and are amazing models) which I plan on using from time to time on the Dawson Creek Sub, as on my layout I plan to use the CN interchange at Dawson Creek.

More progress on Chetwynd yard:


All the track work in the yard is complete except for 2 turnouts that will need to be installed. I did some “test running” (ok so I was having some fun) in the yard and found I need one more crossover for operations, so I will need to install those turnouts. The upper deck has seen the fascea installed and partially painted, as well as turnout control switches and LED indications installed.

On the Dawson Creek Sub, I’ve roughed in and laid track over the Pine River, and have laid track up to the siding location of Sundance. I’d throw a few pics up however the view is blocked by boxes right now as I work on this section of the layout:


This section of benchwork is the hidden staging yard that will represent Fort St John (located north of Chetwynd on the prototype). In the back you can see the start of the lower level bench work for the Dawson Creek Sub. The staging yard will consist of 3 tracks, the largest sized to hold 15 cars including a van and 3 units. The operational plan calls for a freight to leave staging, lift cars at Chetwynd and continue on to Prince George. The grade out of the staging is steep, so I hope a test run shortly will allow a train to actually leave this yard! Once I have all the track in and wired up, I’ll build the lower level bench work above this section.

Trackwork in Chetwynd

I’ve been going somewhat crazy not being able to remove a lot of my freight cars from their boxes, so what better time than to build a yard! 90% or so of the track in Chetwynd is now in and wired up, I still have to run tracks for the diesel service and a few industries, but now I have a place to park a train!

North End of yard:


South end:


Summer Update

Now that our yard is finished, I can head back to the basement and get back to work on the layout! Here’s a shot of the curve on the upper level. The trackage on the left side of the wall is Pinesul, and on the right will be Azouetta, the location of a short rock tunnel


I’ve continued along with the upper deck benchwork and track, and have reached the location of Kennedy. On the prototype, Kennedy was where the Mackenzie Sub (branch line ot Mackenzie BC) met the Chetwynd Sub. I’ve built a short passing siding, as well as 2 legs of a wye that will be non functional due to space limitations. The dead end legs of the wye will be hidden by scenery. I plan to have road freights set out and lift bulkhead flats of lumber at Kennedy, to represent traffic on the Mackenzie Sub



South end of Kennedy with one leg of the dummy wye in the background


And since I really want to run a few trains, I started on the benchwork and the rough layout of Chetwynd

Chetwynd benchwork

Yard lead on the south end of Chetwynd:

Yard throat rough

Next up will be to pull wire for the lower deck lighting, add backdrops to Chetwynd, and continue the benchwork for the yard.

Retreating to the basement…

Because it was nut sack sweat hot out today, I figured spending some quality time in the basement would be better than in a humid garage. Although summer in these parts is short (2 months of good weather sometimes) I just don’t like doing much outside when its 30 degrees C with no wind. A couple days ago I painted all the backdrop that I had installed on the layout with a base shade of blue. After spending lots of time masking track and working in very awkward positions, I decided there has to be a better way to do things. So, today I pre painted an 8 foot section of hardboard before installing it on the layout. Much easier! So here’s a shot of said piece after the second coat of paint, and an overview shot of the sections I painted before. The blue looks better in person than in the photos, and it made a big difference in brightening up the room!

blue backdrop flat blue backdrop overview

That’s all I’ve done in the last month or so, been too busy landscaping our yard to do much modelling!

Pinesul in Detail

So here’s Pinesul explained a little more. The prototype location featured a sulphur load out where empty gons were loaded with bulk sulphur and shipped south to other markets.

Prototype from North end:


As built on layout from North end:

Pinesul middle

The loading structure which I plan on kitbashing from some Walthers kits (the Glacier Gravel kit comes to mind)


South end of Pinesul on the layout, the hoppers are spotted where the loading complex will be

Pinesul south complete

Overview with the south switch Pinesul at the bottom of the image. The track where the hoppers are spotted will have a car puller (winch) that allowed the loading staff to pull empties through the loader.

Pinesul south switch

Next up will be building the mainline to Kennedy!

Hello Pinesul!

Finally an update! I’ve been working nights for the past month, so there has been very little time spent on the layout. At this point I’ve got the roadbed and part of the track down for the Pinesul area, which will have a short siding and 2 stub ended tracks as per prototype.

Looking at the north end of Pinesul:

Pinesul North End

And a little farther down the line, at the south end:

Pinesul South end

I have also built one of the large curves on the upper level:

Upper curve

That 2X4 in the middle is a compromise. In order to provide stability for this section of benchwork without having legs running to the floor (which would be in the way of the lower deck) I had to attach that 2X4 to the roof joist. Now if I hadn’t have built my stud wall too short, this would have been much easier! I can hide the 2X4 with scenery later on, and I can live with it sitting by the mainline. Next up is track laying in Pinesul!