My latest Victoria

As the Prince Edward Island Railway matured new lines were named as “branch railways”. The connection to Elmira was the Elmira Branch Railway and the proposed, but never built, line to Victoria would be promoted in the pages of The Guardian as the Victoria Branch Railway. Victoria itself is, I think, one of the Island’s most beautiful places and remains that one place where we hoped we’d raise our kids (maybe our grandchildren at this rate). In the past, friends and I have each taken enjoyable turns at mapping these proposed branchlines. I imagine the narrow gauge rails of the PEIR tracing a path through the heart of Victoria, down Main Street, across Nelson, and onto the wharf to greet a ship that’s sailed here from Shediac or Pugwash. Rails that will carry visitors and freight first through Crapaud, onward to join the Cape Traverse Branch, the rest of the Island, and then the world. Those wouldn’t just be rails. The railway was the Island’s proudest display of modern technology and that train on the wharf in Victoria an invitation to step out of a grandfathered past of wooden boats to place a confident stride, forward into a glistening, steel on steel, steam powered future of connections; rails to carry you through time and space like you had stepped into the telegraph and the carriage wasn’t some coded electrical impulses but your self. I believe we’re wrong when we accuse the PEIR’s engineers of mapping a railway to follow an irresponsible route that crossed the Island on chaotic path from promise to heartbreak pumping dry an Island building a railway and paying for it “by the mile”. The railway they built was a study in wise engineering and efficient design. A modern efficiency the polar opposite of this opening paragraph. I probably could have just as easily opened with something like: despite the legacy of my own Pigeons Inlet Railway & Navigation Company none of my narrow gauge railways, modelled in On30, ever got proper dedicated names. They all seem to congregate under the banner of the Victoria Branch Railway though none of them are and certainly none of them are based on the PEIR. Just a vague connection that exists in my head and sometimes leaks onto the page.

I have been sharing photos of the current railway project in recent posts but I haven’t really addressed it in a chronologically satisfying way. Part of that was a kind of indirect confession: I didn’t want to proclaim the launch of a new project only to watch it wither weeks later when I failed to nurture it past a certain point. After all, this is the third layout project in this space in the last year or so. Considering their scope is getting more vague well what’s the point? But then, over Christmas, my gift to myself was to face my anxiety and wire the layout for DCC properly, get that turnout finished, and generally make the layout work not just reliably but predictably so I can switch it on and run a train while enjoying tea during the day or whenever I need to retreat into this eight square foot sanctuary. So I did. So here we are.

Drawing the track plan was pretty easy and this plan couldn’t be simpler but I do keep saying how much I enjoy these one turnout, stripped down, layout plans. This project is about that statement. Let’s get the awkward details out of the way quickly here. These next few words will read like a good time to step away, refill your glass, and return in a minute.

  • Twelve inch deep, eight foot long shelf
  • Scale and gauge? On30
  • Track is set at fifty-two inches above the floor (“above finished floor” like I used to write on architectural drawings in my old life)

The plan is actually drawing heavily on things like Thakeham Tiles or Manheim. Just one turnout to work with. Here’s how it, my, works (since I’m going to refer to the plan I’ll place it again here):

The Mainline (DEF)

Trains arrive from D. Hidden staging would be nice but I haven’t done that and just feed new cars into the scene by adding or removing them at D. Just like at Manheim we work cars on the siding through the headshunt (F). In my imagination the railway continues from D to a connection with the outside world where inbound freight is loaded. While things on stage are ambiguous this is a constant that all loads are inbound, unloaded on stage, and empty cars only leave. When the railway was first built the track continued well past the headshunt (F) to other towns but now, in these final years, the truncated railway maintains just enough track to work the siding here.

The Siding (CBE)

Inbound cars are placed, to be unloaded, at B. Between the road crossing (A) and the turnout (E) there is just a little more than one car length of room to store an extra car, in or out, at B. Spilled coal on the ground suggests we’ve unloaded here too but mostly we don’t. At Manheim B would be inside the fence where Ferrellgas unload propane and E is just outside their gate.

The Road Crossing (A)

Roads are my nemesis. Once, maybe thirty years ago, I made roads on a model railroad I was pleased with. Since then, it’s just be fail after fail. It’s frustrating because I think a railroad crossing offers more potential to the modeller, as a “operations” feature than a dozen turnouts. We’re always going to pause a moment before entering this crossing to make sure it’s safe. We can leave part of our train in the crossing while we’re at work but we really can’t ever park railway cars on it. That is bisects both the mainline and siding creates that off-spot location (E) and defines the edge of the customer “spot” at B.

That red line in the drawing

Most of the time when I operate the layout I stand around or near the place, in the sketch, shaded in that red line. To my left is the road crossing (A) and an easy reach is the ground throw on the turnout.


So far I have just grabbed at the first few railway cars I could easily get in the loft. In O scale this narrow shelf is mostly track and I don’t have much of a plan to actually build a structure of this “industry”. Random railway cars are good enough for now and superb fun when playing trains. Despite this railway being in On30 I actually have in mind that it is based on what happens at Manheim: unloading tank cars at a fuel dealer. Since I don’t have an immediate plan to model the dealer in detail this could just as easily be unloading coal.

I’m really proud of the work I’ve completed to date. The ties are all in and I’m starting to build up the colour, texture, and form of the ballast. The turnout is built and wired; it has a ground throw attached and it works beautifully. I will spike the rail to every tie but currently spiking is only about half done. “Half done” means all the rail is, at least, tacked down and proceeding this way allows me to tune things like gauge incrementally. Plus, I love spiking down rail and I want to slow this as much as possible to continue this indulgence and make it feel like it will never end.

I’ve never wired a layout for DCC completely and to hear me talk about this you’d think I wired a telephone exchange. But I did this. I have feeders from each piece of rail dropped down and connected to a bus. I’ve never used nor installed a Tam Valley Frog Juicer before and did here. That took about ten seconds to do and it works brilliantly.

My rails meander through the scene dodging between blades of grass as if allergic to spikes or even each other. My path to get to here hasn’t been linear but, in my own way, I can connect it through the work to date. Thank you for your support and interest. I’m looking forward to watching this project unfold and to see how its blossoms open to reveal blooms. For now though, there’s a beautiful snow falling outside, the cat is asleep beside me here on the couch and I should draw this to a close. Take care friend.


Categories: Victoria On30

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7 replies

  1. A wonderful Christmas present to yourself. Thanks for sharing with us.

  2. It’s so wonderful to hear the energy in your writing today. I look forward to seeing stock and locomotives on the layout as scenic work progresses. What has been achieved so far is superbly artistic and full of character, thank you for sharing it all with us!

    • Thank you James. I’m really proud of the work I’ve produced so far and even more proud of really making myself take some time, over Christmas, to work through completing the electrical connections. The value of that really proves itself now as the layout is truly something I can just walk over to and switch on and run while tea is brewing or between meetings during the day; facilitating a kind of productive feeling escapism that I know I benefit from. Not only does this place the layout at a point where I can run trains it also establishes a benchmark in its development where I’m more comfortable investing into next phases like widening the modelled scene to reveal the story beyond the right of way.


  3. Chris, just getting started reviewing your blog…..posts……interests…..etc.! Like your writing style too..

    I’m modeling the SR&RL’s in On30 (as I think you know)…..and my interests are varied as well……Lately I’ve been buying up all the Irish narrow gauge books I can find!…..I’ll do it in the garden using 45mm track as the Irish lines were 3′. (Even converted a Bachmann Big Hauler 4-6-0 to an Irish 0-6-0 tank engine.)
    Looking forward to learning and sharing…….tom

    • So wonderful to see you here. I’ve been reading back through your blog too and really enjoying getting to know more about your On30 Maine project. That’s some fantastic modelling going on there and I’m looking forward to your updates.

      Irish narrow gauge on 45mm sounds like a lot of fun. Somewhere over in my stack of magazines I recall a beautiful large scale, indoor, Irish layout built to finescale standards–I’ll have to go dig that magazine article out. I was just reading about your Bachmann 4-6-0 kitbash and was really impressed with how well it worked out. Some Tralee and Dignel 2-6-0 tanks would be a lot of fun too.

      Thanks again



  1. six by eight – Prince Street

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