A little from a lot

In designing a micro layout I find one of the hidden challenges is determining a setting for the layout. Since square footage to develop scenic or similar features can be in short supply it can be hard to inject a signature piece that easily conveys to a viewer just what you are modelling.

I find operations on the western end of the Murray Harbour Subdivision fascinating and I enjoy dreaming up ways to replicate it here at home. Of the whole subdivision, my imagination is most captivated by the westernmost ten miles from Lake Verde Junction to Mount Herbert. Layout design is something I really enjoy and I’ve spent a lot of time daydreaming about ways to distill this ten mile length of track into the four square feet of layout I am contemplating building.

Lake Verde scenarios1

The above is based on a 1958 aerial photograph of Lake Verde Junction. I’ve traced out the track locations in red and added in some notes to help orient the photograph. West of the Junction was Mount Albion, Hazelbrook, and the end of track at Mount Herbert. Eastward to Murray Harbour. North to Maple Hill. At Maple Hill this line connection with the line to Georgetown and both continued west to Mount Stewart and ultimately the rest of Canada. South to Millview and Vernon Bridge. During the potato harvest CN could store empty cars at places like Lake Verde’s storage track for later distribution to nearby public sidings. Lake Verde also hosted a short public siding of it’s own where a local farmer could load cars. All interchange comes from Maple Hill and concentrates here at the Junction.

I’ve been toying with the idea of segmenting out pieces of the junction that will fit into the space I have. I’ve highlighted two of them in blue on the photograph. I wanted to share two ideas here and both based on the Inglenook design philosophy. Click on the link below to learn more about the Inglenook idea and it’s basic, two turnout, approach to micro layouts:

Option A
An operating session starts with a train on the line from Maple Hill to Murray Harbour. Local cars are spotted on the Public Siding. In real life the line continues down the centre line onto the wye to Vernon Bridge or Mount Albion. Since I don’t have room for the wye, let alone enough track to get the other locations into the space I figured I could spot cars “on the main” here that represent loads for these two locations. This centre track might be the most interesting. I might divide it into spots based on the order of towns to the west of the layout’s location. Where cars on the Public Siding are placed “en masse”, cars on the centre track are spotted in order.

Option B
I like the idea of segments of the junction. In this plan I’m including the Storage Track, the line to Mount Albion and a tiny piece of the wye to Vernon Bridge. I can pull cars from the Storage track to feed the other two sidings representing cars ordered for Mount Albion, Hazelbrook, Mount Stewart on the centre track or Millview and Vernon Bridge on the bottom track. As in Option A, cars on the sidings need to be spotted in “town” locations which adds a little more sorting fun. In many ways this is actually quite close to how the actual Junction operated and that feels neat. Further interest here from the road crossing and demands placed on safely occupying the crossing.

None of this makes the space bigger but it feels like a neat way to focus on how the Junction operated and bringing an piece of that into our home. It feels like replicating a prototype location and moving cars and trains prototypically. Perhaps it’s all in my head and that’s okay too.

Categories: How I think, PEIR Murray Harbour Subdivision

9 replies

  1. Having no knowledge of the operations of Canadian railroad operations I am unsure of which option would be the best, but, I like and prefer option (a) as it feels more natural to me and feels like there is more space for spotting cars. I think the complications of the crossing will add interest as you say. How are you planning the scenic breaks or are you just going for open spaces?

    • I think the incorporation of the road crossing itself provides an interesting scenic break dividing the scene and also providing some additional operating challenge as model crews negotiate space in the crossing.

      The prototype really is a junction in the middle of very quiet country. The immediate scenery is mostly gently rolling farmland. What I do like is how it naturally slopes upward (toward Maple Hill in the plan) – often we try to develop model scenes that are at their lowest elevation at the front of the scene and raise to the back.

      I have always tended to think in terms of modelling specific locations as modelling the entirety of the location and then it occurred to me that I could focus on only a segment of that location and that would be an alternative to selective compression and trying to force too much into too little space.

  2. Totally agree with last paragraph and I think the to try to model a larger scene often clouds the fact that a small vignette done really well can look as good if not better than a large packed and compressed one a-la this

    Sounds like the natural contours fit your needs :)

    • Neil Rushby’s Shell Island. What an excellent example of what I’m talking about. I love his work all the way back to Trawden.

      One particular layout that I had in mind lives in a thread on RMWeb forum titled: “Kyle in a Boxfile”:

      I feel like Kyle in a Boxfile brings together a truly favourite location (for me) and really summarizes what I’m looking for in a layout. It perfectly illustrates what I’m trying to describe in my post.

      • I think we are cut from the same cloth as Pete’s work is inspirational to me too. He has that unique mix of the engineer and artist that makes for great looking layouts. I have long admired his work(s) and look forward to being able to see them at some point. Ok, I need to engage kick up the arse mode and ‘just do it’

      • You and me both, likely on all counts.

        I could and have spent a lot of time reading and re-reading the different Kyle threads and marvelling at just how elegant a design it really is.

  3. Chris, I’m thinking of another front porch layout. Either an Inglenook or Timesaver. To that end, I’ve started warehouseing some ideas on Pinterest:

    Either scenario you’ve written on sounds like a great prototype.

    • Cool new Pinterest thread. You’ve sold me on the platform and now I’m there too, though I haven’t gotten around to posting things to my feed yet.

      I see you’ve added some stuff from Bayer’s in Halifax. I know the prototype and we’re often three. If ever you’re interested, I don’t mind snapping some extra photos on site.

      I’ve built Timesaver layouts in the past. I’m afraid based on my experience I found they were fun to play with but were often more work than I wanted to do. I think that’s what draws me to the Inglenook style plans. The efficient use of trackwork while still coming close to typical small branchline terminii just feels right.

      I’m thrilled with your interest in these smaller model railways and look forward to seeing a kin developed for last summer’s plan. Thinking in terms of the New York harbour railroads, perhaps you could develop a second one and some sort of car float to connect them so they could interchange with each other.


  1. The track plan | Prince Street Terminal

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: