I've been planning this layout for quite some time now (1997 is when the current concept came to me). In that time the plan hasn't changed too much since it was first conceived. The focal point of the layout has always been the crossing of the Peace River and the town site itself but other interesting scenes and operational considerations have made their way in to the final plan. I think I have the whole concept pretty much perfected other than the final details.
The layout will ultimately end up in its own dedicated space. I will be building a 36' x 48' garage/workshop. The second story of which will contain the layout room and my wife's art studio. The plan is to erect the building next summer.
In the mean time construction of the layout can continue due to its sectional nature.
The plan consists of 5 Phases:
Scroll down.... way down! I had to put the track plan down there so that I don't mess up the sidebar.
A little bit more....
This is the original, core concept... Judah hill, down across the Heart River, through the town site, across the Peace River and up the west bank at Duet.
|N Scale NAR, Phase 1|
|Peace River town map dated Sept. 1980 showing the railway's and highway's path|
The goal is to have phase 1 ready for display by 2016. Why 2016? Well, the Central Canada Railway (one of the "McArthur" predecessor railways of the NAR) completed laying track to the town site in 1916 and I would like to have this portion of the layout completed by the centennial. If there are any special celebrations planned for that summer I would love to be able to participate and display the layout in Peace River (Wendy at the Peace River Museum... are you listening?).
A little history:
The Canadian Northern Railway first proposed a line to "Peace River Crossing" in 1911. Not to be beaten to the prize and allow the competition into "his" territory, John Duncan McArthur (owner of the Edmonton, Dunvegan & British Columbia Railway and the Alberta & Great Waterways Railway), in 1913, sought and received a charter to build the "Central Canada Railway" from McLennan on the E.D. & B.C. to Peace River. Construction started right away but didn't proceed very quickly due to the fact that most of the energy and the few assets J.D. had were being concentrated on getting the E.D. & B.C. to British Columbia somehow (his overall plan was to connect Winnipeg to the Pacific on a northern route... a real visionary... but without enough money). The rails finally reached the Heart River Bridge in December of 1915 and, once the bridge was completed, regular service to the depot was initiated in May of 1916.
McArthur's plan to thwart his competitors worked and when the Canadian Northern saw he was serious about this endeavour they put their own plans to reach the Peace Country on the back burner. Meanwhile, financing for the Peace River Bridge was secured and initial groundwork started in January of 1917. The Canadian Bridge Company began construction of the bridge itself in May of 1918 and it was completed on November 8, 1918.
Now that he was across the river, construction could continue on the C.C.R. (the railway not the band!) with the goal of eventually reaching Fort St. John, B.C..
Lets tour the sections of Phase 1 (starting at the bottom right of the plan shown above):
Judah Hill: Here I want to show the steep decline into the Peace River valley and the troubles that the railway had with the grade. The module will consist of only the 3.5 % grade with a "Shoo fly" (a temporary track laid to get around some obstruction or problem) at a depiction of one of the many landslides that occurred along the decent to the river. The "shoo fly" will require a speed limit that will add to the operational interest. If I can, I would like to include a logging scene (gotta use those great GHQ kits somehow!) at the rear of the scene to add some interest.
East Hill/Highway #2: The highway will feature prominently on this section. Running to the right of the tracks, it will start climbing the hill from the top of the section, cross the "Twelve Foot Davis" road, a.k.a. 100th Ave.(the gravel road that takes you to the grave site at the top of the hill), on an overpass and eventually disappear behind a hump on the hill near the bottom of the section. Another "side scene" I'll be including on the section will be the little old cemetery that lies between the ball park and the roads. I was entranced by this little, out of the way place when I first visited it. Most people don't even know exists but it contains many of the first graves in town, dating back to 1913, if I remember the tombstones correctly. More ghoulish research must be done... Halloween is coming soon... isn't it!
Peace River Depot: Lots of stuff happening on this one... The depot scene, the team track that received... well... just about anything and the helper pocket where a couple GP-9 locomotives faithfully stood on standby to assist any southbound traffic that needed it to climb the hill. At the bottom of the section will be Pat's Creek Trestle and the highway's entrance to town. I hope to have enough room to model at least one of the gas stations at the 5 way intersection just south of the trestle but I will definitely have room to model the KFC that is up by the team track. At the rear of the scene will be the steep down grade the rails took to the switchback to reach the industrial area. Peace River High School will be watching over the town from the side of the hill. Little "signatures" on this one will include the "Welcome" on the hill and the "coolest" walkways ever that cross under the highway and over the off ramp to bring the kids home from school.
Peace River Industrial: The east bank of the river will have many of its industries modelled. This will be a "high detail" section and will probably keep me busy for many years to come. The track will emerge from the switchback, at the top of the module (not shown in the plan) and pop out from under the east sections of the two river bridges to reach the industries. The bridges will mask the hole in the backdrop for the hidden trackage.
Peace River Bridge: That should be "Bridges" due to having two bridges on it... The rail bridge upfront and the auto bridge for Highway #2 up against the backdrop. I'm undecided as to how to hide the fact that the auto bridge will be right against or very close to the backdrop. I've considered putting it right up against the backdrop to avoid shadows but that may be unnecessary with the proper lighting. I will have a mirror from the auto bridge down to the water... this will give depth to the scene and will be easy to mask by hiding the top of the mirror behind the actual bridge deck. Faithful reproduction of the river and bridges will be key on this one!
Duet: The west bank of the river will see the track enter from the bridge onto the wye... the north leg of which will disappear under the highway construction and go through the backdrop to some hidden trackage (not shown on the plan) that will represent the industries that were located north of the bridges. If I ever decide to change the time setting of the layout to 1991 or newer the "north leg" could lead to the Daishowa extension... a 10 mile line built along the river to reach the Daishowa pulp mill which was built in the "post NAR" era and could be modelled on the bottom level of a future section.
This section will include a gravel pit and I hope to find room somewhere to model a pipeline stockpile with all its activity. The Bluebird Motel will sit just off the south curve and I will be unfaithfully transplanting the Motel's campground from beside the motel into the centre of the turnback curve of the railway where the present day Lion's Campground now resides (not a big stretch from reality).
West Hill: This element of the layout may not seem very interesting but I really want to include the prototype sight of seeing three levels of track, one above the other, climbing out of the valley. This is a rarity in the real world and deserves to be modelled. The plan is to have the tracks travel up a 2% grade from Duet all the way to the top. Midway in the route the tracks will disappear under the highway construction and through the backdrop to enter a one and a half turn helix (corkscrew arrangement). This will raise the right of way enough to emerge from some trees high against the backdrop and over a newly built concrete bridge that flies over the construction scene to continue its climb to the top of the hill... 2% all the way only gives me a rise of 7" so I may decide to increase the grade to 3% or add another lap of the helix to give me the vertical separation I need to "pull off" the scene.
That's Phase 1... Less than 4 years before I want it ready... so I'd better pick up the pace!!!
Below is the track plans for the other phases... which I will detail in future posts.
A fully operational layout... McLennan to Roma Jct. and both ends connected to a "traverse" staging yard as well as a connection for "roundy round" running. At first the plan was to configure the layout to have an operator's aisle in the centre but with the advent of wireless throttles and using manual turnout control there is no need for the operator to be there... even when displaying the layout. The "traverse" consists of many tracks mounted on a movable plane. The plane moves back and forth to align the different tracks to the adjoining section's track. Target for completion is 2029... the 100th anniversary of the N.A.R.... I'll be 60 by then... middle aged!!!
|Phases 1 and 2|
Phase 3, The Smoky subdivision:
A "duck under" or swing bridge connects the Kimiwan Wye, just west of McLennan to this phase. It will depict the Smoky subdivision through Donnelly, Falher, Girouxville and Culp, across the Smoky River and into the valley village of Watino where it also will connect to the "traverse" so that traffic from Rycroft and points beyond (Grande Prairie and Dawson Creek) can be simulated.
Phase 4, The remainder of the Peace River subdivision:
Another "duck under" or swing bridge will connect Roma Jct. on Phase 2 to Grimshaw and the rest of the sub. all the way to the "End of Steel" at Hines Creek. Being a "dead end", it will not need to be connected to staging to be realistically operated.
|Phases 1 through 4 in the 36' x 48' "Play house"|
Phase 5. CN's Great Slave Lake Railway ?????? Maybe. If I live long enough !!!!!
It's possible... If I also make the "traverse" into a ""train elevator" I could model the GSLR by connecting above the Watino section, a-la "mushroom" design (lower level facing one way, upper level facing the other), and depict Manning, the Meikle River Bridge, Hawk Hills, Keg River, High Level and all the way to the Lead-Zinc mine at Pine Point, N.W.T.. This phase would sit above the Grimshaw to Hines Creek sections. Time will tell if I go that far!
A few more details:
The vast majority of the sections are 30" wide and 90" long. All the other oddball straight sections are either 30"x 30" or 30"x 60". The corners are diamonds that end up with a 60"x60" "footprint" with mating faces being 30" wide. All the dimensions stated are absolute maximums with all the components of the layout, including the backdrops and their frames, within those limits. This was designed to allow for the layout to fit through a 32" door... or even 30" if I hold my breath!
The sections of all the phases will be "portable"; designed to be separated and moved, but only phases 1 and 2 will actually travel on a regular basis and as such will be constructed in a manner that dedicated pairs of sections will fit together to form a box for easy transport. This is a subject that will also need its own post... if not several, so stay tuned for that.
Aisles are also in increments of 30" wide. Anywhere there will be action on both sides I try to have the aisle 60" wide. That should leave plenty of room for operators to meet and to give the room a relaxed, uncluttered feel.
The whole thing will be skirted from the section edges down to the floor with fabric... Grey on top, dark blue on the bottom and a nice yellow stripe separating the two (where have I seen that before... hmmm?). Somewhere highly visible will be a large NAR diamond and the words "Northern Alberta" along the yellow stripe... In the proper font, of course.
Lighting... well, there's a lot of research to do on that subject yet! For phases 1 and 2 I would like something that I could take with me... Lighting at some venues is pretty poor and having my own with me would help greatly.
Control: Wireless DCC (Digital Command Control). For those of you who may not have heard of it... It is a system that puts full voltage to the tracks at all times, unlike regular DC control where you control the trains by adjusting the voltage to the tracks. The concept is to transmit signals through the track to a receiver inside the locomotive and the receiver, in turn, adjusts the voltage to the motor. The control system allows for independant control of each locomotive regardless of what the others are doing as well as the ability to control other things such as lighting and animation functions.
Sound: With DCC you can have sound: All locos or permanent "lash ups" will have sound decoders and speakers. This addition really blows the doors off no sound... I was a sceptic of sound at first but after hearing my first sound equipped locomotives I was hooked.
Another layer of sound that I want to include is radio... yep... but not just any radio, though. I hope to find some archival recordings from the late 70's of Peace River's radio station, CKYL (or "Squeaky"YL as we used to not-so-affectionately call it )... 610 on your am dial! Dan Mody in the morning, "Tradio" over the noon hour and, of course, there would also be period rock and roll with vintage ads... ALL DAY LONG, BABY!! That should make some fitting background noise to set the "scene"!!!.
"Tradio" was really neat... a pre-internet version of ebay; people would call in with their stuff for sale or trade. The area had alot of French and Ukranian people so some of the accents you heard over the air were pretty strong... "Hi got some bale for sale hand a comprrressor wit a hair tank. Call hate tree seven tree hate hate tree" LOL.
By the way... To create the track plans above, I used the Atlas "Right Track 10.0" free software... It has some limitations but works fine for my purposes. You can find it at:
Thanks for listening!