Wright’s Cove (N)

Back in January I wrote a post on the National Gypsum operations, here in Dartmouth, at Wright’s Cove where they transload gypsum from rail to ships.

I can’t get this out of my head. Plus, I needed to do something creative during a period of well you know. The above sketch is something I created by importing a screenshot from Google Earth into Templot and then drawing an N scale version of the tracks at Wright’s Cove in N scale without compression.

Just as I proposed, back in January, I’d connect the inbound and outbound tracks by a sector plate and feed hoppers through this scene in a variation of “loads in-empties out” where I take four to six loaded hopper cars from B and C then feed them into the unloader at A. As they shove back through the unloader they land on the sector plate where they repeat the same process steps again.

The real cars can be unloaded remotely and they dump down into a hopper from where a conveyor moves the gypsum to stock piles or to an awaiting ship. That intermediary hopper, under the tracks, can only hold about four cars worth of rock so, every four cars, they have to pause the unloading process to wait for the conveyor to catch up and clear enough rock. Yup, that’s where I slide out the four cars from unloader to inbound loads – crafty eh?

What’s neat? In real life National Gypsum’s engine is remote control operated from the ground – just like on a train set.

While National Gypsum own the train cars and trackage within their mine (at Milford) and at the transload operation at Wright’s Cove the bit in the middle is CN’s domain. CN provides the engines and crew to move hoppers from Milford to Wright’s Cove and back again using their train 511. The whole operation runs, at least, daily and five days a week, twelve months a year. That 2100 was a leader on 511 a couple years ago, in the snow. It might be fun to set the model in winter too. Big, six-axle power like this used to completely irrelevant to my interests but I have learned to discover how much I rather like them now. If this layout blossomed into something more or even as cameos I could see buying models like these – what a mature-feeling change to observe in myself. I’m glad current Chris is the way he is now.

This layout fits in my space and is something I can readily research. I like the story too and it satisfies my sense of operations by the measures of satisfaction and contentment.

I can be unhealthily myopic in my ability to see potential in model railway design. My interest in British industrial railroading in the 1970’s is never lessened but in Wright’s Cove there’s a chance to adopt in some of that aesthetic. Directly because they actually used to use a British-built Hunslet diesel-hydraulic to shunt cars through the unloader and figuratively too because I could wander carefully from the engines are cars used here to model other engines or cars from other similar operations to change the identity of the the layout to enjoy the variety of a remote-controlled GP9 in place of the SW8 we usually use.

It’s been a while since I’ve been this close to a plan that seems to work so well. Am I finally at the “let’s go buy some pink foam” stage? I hope so.

Categories: model railway design, national gypsum

Tags: , , ,

15 replies

  1. I’m sure Michael Edge might offer to run you a H0 version of the kit off, otherwise I’m sure you could knock something up to represent the Hunslet…

    I think the operational aspect is very well conceived.
    I wonder if you’d get bored with the stock though? On Pont-y-dulais I can ring the changes with types of coal wagon, is this possible on this scheme or have the same cars been used for years?

    • Great reminder about that kit. Since this layout was sketched with N scale in mind I thought the new N Gauge Society Hunslet – even though it’s a slightly different scale – could be used since I could order one of the British Steel yellow ones.

      I didn’t mention it in the post but we’re considering the same question about rolling stock. The Johnstown America hoppers used today replace a series of CN owned gondolas. Neither is commercially available but both could be made up. I’m contemplating reopening the Prince Street store with these models in mind. While this layout is intended to showcase my interest in the operation as it is Nova Scotia has other gypsum operations whose equipment could appear here too. David Othen’s web page on Nova Scotia industrial railways is a superb review introducing these options: https://www.traingeek.ca/wp/david-othen/shortline-and-industrial-operations-ns-david-othen/

      I “need” about a dozen hopper cars to operate this layout. I figure I could borrow from how the DAR loaded gypsum into CN quad hoppers and just do the same – those CN cars are readily available in N and this overcomes a hurdle in developing this plan. As time moves I can build up a “correct” fleet of cars too.

  2. Is this the gypsum that is unloaded at the wallboard factory in Portsmouth, NH?

  3. When I first wrote about this operation I had been sketching a layout for it. That layout is really the first large (basement or at least room sized) plan I’ve ever done that I really liked. My practice has been on designing for smaller spaces like this on (less than 10’ long and less than two feet deep) and I find I feel lost trying to design layouts for the popular American style so it’s special to me that for this, I have a viable plan for when that time comes.

    This Wright’s Cove layout is strong enough on its own and is not made better by making it bigger but I like that a later iteration could be a larger project and draw from the experience gained here.

    As I mentioned in my reply to James’ comment this layout could also be home to models of other Nova Scotia gypsum operations’ equipment which, itself, is a fascinating investment in iterative design thinking. Even with other equipment this would always be operating as National Gypsum operates Wright’s Cove but what if a collectio of DAR hoppers invites a new layout based more on Mantua? That’s neat too.


  4. As always Eric Gagnon’s blog is the go to place for Canadian railroading; CN hoppers for Nova Scotia gypsum service appearing in:

    CN Nova Scotia Gypsum Shipments to Ontario

    And Steve Boyko’s excellent blog post shows the predecessor CN hoppers in use at Wright’s Cove:

    • I probably have more photos of those predecessor hoppers. They kept coming to McAdam to the gypsum facility there.

      Great research! I think this facility would make a great small layout. The only drawback I see is that there is no variety whatsoever in the rolling stock…

      • I agree regarding rolling stock variety. Plus, it’s not only a hundred of the same car it’s a hundred of a car I can’t easily get.

        What I thought I could do to serve both the interests of variety and achievability was to look at rolling stock also used, elsewhere, to move gypsum. I could easily start with a set of CN hoppers like were moved through Dimocks or Point Tupper, then as time moved, other fleets could be built up based on the DAR’s cars, and so on. Always the layout would be operated the same way but swapping out the hopper types would provide some variety in the appearance of things, the models to build, and represent the different gypsum hauling operations in our province.

  5. Not that we need to reach further afield but this lovely photo of a National Gypsum 44 tonner in Michigan:

  6. And CN’s images of Canada includes this photo of the then new gondolas for National Gypsum sitting in the Moncton yard:

  7. Sounds like the gypsum operations are really inspiring you, Chris!

    Thanks for the tip of the hat!

    • They are. To reference your brilliant advocacy toward modelling local this is a prototype that’s very local and is something that uses models that my local hobby shop can provide which is two important connection points.

  8. I don’t believe the Johnstown America cars aren’t available as models and I know the predecessor CN gondolas are not (when I go back into producing models those gondolas were always a priority) so I thought some compromise could be reached. I remember the BRMNA book on the Dominion Atlantic showed a photo of CN hoppers being loaded at Dimocks. I like the look of those cars and they’re models I could do in the interim. I was searching online and see that Matthieu has already built some terrific models of these cars, in HO: http://hedley-junction.blogspot.com/2014/11/gypsum-hopper-fleet.html


  1. Coy Paper 2 (HO) – Prince Street

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