Saturday, January 14, 2017

Temiscouata Railway - Moving Forward

Hi folks! Many of you followed with interest last summer Thinking Out Loud series about layout design and modelling the pre-CNR era (before 1918 or even WW1). As we often do, I recently had a long chat with Jérôme about that project and the CP Rail-Quebec Central based home layout idea.

We both think the Temiscouata Railway is a tremendously fascinating prototype to model, particularly when done in it's heydays before National Transcontinental, Canadian National and Canadian Pacific threw several monkey wrenches into their plan and seized their turf.

However, there is very little reason at this point modelling a portion of Connors Branch. While visually beautiful, modelling a very long stretch of railway in the middle of fields for several feets and going to staging isn't exactly an interesting way to use space, ressources and time. We came to the conclusion this idea could only work if both end of the Connors Branch are modelled: Edmundston and Connors.

At this point, I have very little idea what was the track plan in Edmundston back then. Several pictures exist from the early 20th century and they give a good idea of how the station and freight shed were set into the landscape, however, you can't deduct any track arrangement and figure out if there was an engine house and turntable. But one thing is sure, Edmundston station can easily be modelled with success without using to much space.

I'm thus faced with some issues. I need to find a track plan of Temiscouata's Edmondston facilites. Fire insurance maps and railway archives would be great to find this out. However, my searches have been fruitless in that regard. Any information is crucial to make this possible and your help would really be appreciated.

This brings me to say I will only model Connors Station for the moment and using a modular approach so when information will be available, other modules will be added. Whatever happens, I'm pretty sure it will make an early 1910s layout very fun to operate. It would be about 13 feet long by about 18" large if I reuse module frames I've already built or 24" if I start from scratch. In a perfect world, I would probably build 3 sections of 4-5 feet and bolt them together. In that regard, I would probably follow a similar path to what the S Scale Workshop did with their modular layout I've witnessed at Exporail last summer. And then you can ask it I would dare to try this in S Scale as I hinted a few months ago? Maybe... because small steamers in HO have no presence at all on a layout and a 36ft boxcar is smaller than an HO 50ft one. Now, try to convince me!

By the way, such a layout could even be moved around to local exhibitions which would be coherent with my goal to interest Canadian modellers into their own history, particularly this very year in which we celebrate the Canadian Confederation 150th anniversary.

Now is the question to the readers. Do you prefer I make a separate blog for this project? I think it would be a good idea to manage the information. I'm not into mixing content. Hedley-Junction is about Canadian National diesel operation in Québec City and Charlevoix ares and Quebec South Shore Railway is about Canadian Pacific decaying rural branchlines. Since the Temiscouata layout would be about steam and pre-WW1 modelling, it shares nothing in common with my two other projects.

Until then, I'll try using my HO surplus material to build two mock up modules and test for real ideas about a Temiscouata railway layout.

Quebec Central Tring Subdivision

Jérôme was quite interested in that new layout project, if it ever comes to fruition. He particularly like the idea to make this layout built as a different game than Hedley-Junction which is about heavy industrial switching. Like me, he loves the current layout, but would like to have the opportunity to experiment with other types of operation. The Tring Subdivision is about running trains over a somewhat ingrate topography and planning meets. Switching isn't the main goal and will be achieved by very short local trains (3 to 6 cars maximum).

To make sure the layout is a real challenge to operate, I'm actually in the process of streamlining the track plan to reflect a decaying line, making the passing tracks longer, keeping only a handful of customers (à la Jim Mcnab's Grimes Industrial Line) and using #10 turnouts. Yes, it's not a typo: handlaid #10 Fast Track curvable turnouts. I've reach that point I'm no longer satisfied by commercial turnouts. They don't fit my needs anymore, at least for that kind of project.

I will also incorporate something I generally don't do on my "serious" layouts and add grades. With LokSound Full Throttle decoders and Scott Thornton's Proto Throttle in development, you really can simulate running a train. Tring Subdivision crossed a divide between several rivers before reaching Megantic. I did the maths and main line went down into the valley from Tring and started to climb up after St. Évariste when reaching an important mountain ridge there. In the valley, most grades were about 0.6% to 0.8% but near St. Sébastien, they reached about 1.8% in so areas.

When you think in term of simulating way freight trains, the combination of grades, curves and heavy freight cars (about 8 to 12 oz. each) can make this a very nice challenge and that's exactly what we are looking for. It certainly is not a coal hauling main line like Saluda in the USA, but it offer a decent challenge. Given your typical way freight train is about 10 cars and a caboose (about 6 lbs), it's not a walk in the park and it really makes your quality sound decoders interesting. You can even add some IR triggered train sounds under the layout in the sharp curves.

You remember I often say we can't have it all. I mean it and certainly separating clearly distinct objectives as distinct projects helps a little bit.


  1. Hi Matthieu,
    I vote to keep things under one title. I don't mind that there could be a variety of topics. As for scale, you should definitely build your Temiscouata layout in S scale, not that I'm biased. Here are some reasons. Your small steamers won't be so small that they run poorly. In a recent post by Rene Gourley hinted that he maybe should have gone to S for his Pembroke layout I thinking part for better operational qualities. If you scratch building much of your rolling stock anyway, what difference will it make. If you're after "different" S is different!
    Jamie Bothwell
    S Scale Workshop Member
    National Association of S Gaugers
    Lehigh Valley S Gaugers

    1. Jamie, René is absolutely right in his assesment. I have in front of me an HO Spectrum 4-6-0 which would have been the largest power on Temiscouata. It's absolutely minuscule. Whatever the amount of work you put on it, you can hardly see it. Putting electronics and weight for better tracking is a lost cause too. I have a bunch of old Roundhouse and Train Miniature 36 footers I wanted to redetail but at this point, building them from scratch would be faster and much rewarding. Doing it in S scale will just make the process easier. When I saw the S Scale Workshop layout at Exporail last summer, it was clear doing small steamers can only be done in larger scale. No wonder Bernard Kempisky do the Civil War in O scale. Otherwise would be a waste of time and would not serve the wonderful prototypes of the era.

  2. Matthieu,
    I probably also should have said to check out for some idea of what is available in S. NWSL offers an axel conversion kit to change the Bachmann On30 2-6-0 or 4-6-0 to standard gauge S. Of course cabs and domes could stand some reworking after that, but I'd bet you could make a fair Temiscouata loco. Contact me at home at jamie dot (.) bothwell at (@) verizon dot (.) net for some further suggestions and an S scale recruitment offer!

  3. I'll offer the divergent opinion from Jamie (Hi Jamie!) - go with a stand-alone blog for the Temiscouata Railway project. You can migrate over the posts from this blog (keeping them here as well) - and then have everything in one place. Blogs are free to create - you just need to pick a title - and your Temiscouata Railway project will be unique enough (especially if you decide to pursue it in S scale) that it deserves a stand-alone blog.
    I would suggest to you that one of the main reasons to blog such a project is to collect and organize the information. In the same way that you would not put your tax information and your hobby information in the same folder in a filing cabinet, you will be happier if you don't mix your projects in the same blog. A dedicated blog will mean all the information can be found in one place.
    And you can always cross-post to this blog whenever you do a significant updated to the Temiscouata project. "Over on my Temiscouata Railway blog (link), I've written about..." etc.
    Just be sure to share the new blog's URL here so we can add it to our newsfeed readers...
    - Trevor (Port Rowan in 1:64, Achievable Layouts, Adventures in Live Steam...)

    1. Trevor, I agree, better keep different topics separate. I'll see if I can make a sub-header in my different blogs that would make indexing and navigation between them easier.