Thursday, March 20, 2014

Thinking Inside The Box

We often hear "think outside the box". But when I think about layout design, it's always what you can do inside the box, or to be precise, the layout footprint. Space is at premium and we all dream of replicating something bigger than us, which we will never achieve in this lifetime.

The recent work on Dominion Textile plant really renewed my interest in this part of the layout. It has been almost 2 decades since I'm thinking about replicating Murray Bay Sub, particularly the Dominion Textile, St. Lawrence Cement and Beaupré's railway bridge.

Until today, all my efforts were fruitless, I can't even count how many times I tried and failed miserably. Honestly, designing stuff from afar is easier than trying to do something in your own backyard. Why? Too much near the goal, you lose focus and you waste your time on tiny insignificant details, thinking they really matter... which they don't matter that much in the end.

Recreating the Dominion really convinced me I could capture the feeling of our good old Côte-de-Beaupré area without having to reproduce any tiny bits. No need for the breathtaking Montmorency Falls nor the impressive Sainte-Anne-de-Beaupré Basilica.

What happened after this experiment last week? I decided to see if I could convert the entire layout into Murray Bay Sub. It would be great to have a real point-to-point layout with a real switcher job assignment. Also, the returning loops could be kept for continuous running.

First of all, I tried to figure out which industries were the most iconic. Quickly, I set up my mind on 5 industries... which at some point I tried to model:

1) Abattoir Legrade (meat packing): in business and rail-served until the early 80s. Think about grease tank cars, stock cars and reefers. I already built a mockup and tried twice to build a layout around this industry. I know Louis-Marie is a fan of this particular plant.

2) St. Lawrence Cement: in business until 1997, one of the largest customer. The building is impressive, large and immediately recongnizable. They had their own switcher, a GE 44-Ton, which we have a model of. Think about gypsum hopper, cement hopper (including slabside and Procor) plus CN and Pennsylvania coal hopper. We already started to build this large plant for the layout... Would be a waste to not complete it.

3) Domion Textile: in business until 1987-89, among the largest cotton mill in Canada until the business collapsed. The Montmorency plant is so iconic it was feature in a short movie! They received cotton from Southern United States, chemicals in tank cars and shipped their goods in boxcars.

4) Seagram Distillery: a large distillery in business until the late 80s and located in Beaupré. Little is known about rail traffic, but it was rail-served and they probably received grain and sugar for their whiskey. Occassional boxcars and reefers could also bring glass bottles and ship the goods all over the country. It was a larger customer and they had iconic buildings too...

5) Abitibi-Price Paper Mill: recently closed and torn down, it was one of the last and largest rail customer. They had their own switcher and a small yard with lots of tracks serving different part of the mill. The yard with the sidings and gates is a classic panorama from the area... I mean for people liking the subtle beauty of industrial wasteland! For the traffic, think about woodchip cars, newsprint boxcars, kaolin slur tank cars, chemical tanks and others.

Funny, no industries remain in my area. They have all close their doors between the mid-80s and the 2000s. The line is dead too, the Massif de Charlevoix train being a bad joke told by a clown (Cirque du Soleil). And all that was predictable for anybody looking at the cold hard fact. Three touristic trains later and they still didn't learn their lesson! Sometimes, I wish Horace Beemer was still alive to make fun of those wannabe rail barons. Enough said.

It's only an idea, but I think Murray Bay Sub has some foundation to get the best out of our layout footprint. All club members are aware something is wrong with Bassin Louise scene, maybe that could be an idea to get out of this particular issue. We will see. In the worst case scenario, it will have been a nice layout design practice. Remember, KEEP IT SIMPLE ST****!

And here's the conversion of Hedley-Junction to host St. Lawrence Cement plant and Legrade... but that's another story! And we will cover it another time. At least, I feel like things are balanced and take naturally their own space. Once again, I went with a scenic approach, trying to get every little bit of pure scenery I could to get the feeling a trains really running through some landscape.

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