Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Q.R.L.& P.Co. - What can be done?

Since my early high school days, I've been wondering what could be done with Q.R.L. & P.Co. as a model train layout. This idea haunted my model railroading dreams for years and is still lingering in the back of my mind. Unfortunately, I came preposterously to the conclusion - after many failed efforts - it couldn't be done. Given I've been sporadically visiting this concept over almost 25 years now, one could expect I've ran out of idea. However, it seems there is some hope.

As you know, I'm a freight train guy. I don't care about passenger operations (if not mixed) because they offer very little opportunities if not done properly and with serious efforts at scheduling. Thus, modelling a mainly interurban road like QRL&PCo wasn't an easy task.

However, a recent discussion with Jérôme prompted this "new" idea. He suggested a small layout depicting QRL&PCo iconic traction motors pulling freight consists would be neat. I totally agreed with him! Honestly, it a shame this beloved prototype never got any love from modellers, except for Simon Parent.

Why I've always had a hard time figuring out what should be modelled if the entire line can't be done, I simply don't know why! I suspect I know the prototype too much and can't bring myself to edit out some scenes I find required. Some readers will remember I once proposed, a few years ago, an S scale version of Beaupré including the large bridge and a continuous run. It wasn't a bad idea and I thought it would be worth exploring what could be done in HO scale. I also proposed several time a small switching layout based on Dominion Textile or even a long and narrow shelf layout depicting Sainte-Anne-de-Beaupré sprawling yard and shops. One of my first concept back in high school was simply to build a diorama of Limoilou Shops, which I partially built. Last fall I restored my DPM kitbash and hope to turn it into a blog article when the time will be right.

Anyway, many probably recall when I ran a What If article about turning Villeneuve in Beaupré. It wasn't a great idea for our club layout, but many ideas were sound. Consider this new track plan to be somewhat a continuity of this train of thoughts.

I set to myself a few constraints, shelves should not be more than 16 inches wide and if possible, only 12 inches and layout must use as much as possible structures and rolling stock I built over the year. Given I already have Beaupré station as it looked in the 1950s and Beaupré bridge, it was a good start.

I also thought it would be a good idea to have a continuous run. While I like to operate, it is still fun to watch trains going around and simply railfan them. I think some layouts benefit from this compromise.

After taking into account several scenes, it was clear my best bet was to use only stations that were relatively close from one another. Also, I wanted operations to replicate what really happened with freight movement on the line. It was clear Beaupré's industrial district and St. Joachim interchange with CNR would provide a good backbone for actions. Interestingly enough, St. Joachim had a small wye to turn steamers and traction motors. QRL&PCo didn't run double-end motors and had to turn most of their equipment on turntables or wyes.

With that in mind, I tried to see if I could fit Beaupré and St. Joachim in my hobby room... Interestingly enough it did fit! Taking into account freight trains on QRL&PCo were relatively short and stations were quite close, it should work. Also, bear in mind I'm replicating all the trackage from Beaupré and St. Joachim as it was. Only a large expanse of fields between both towns was compressed for obvious reasons. All grade crossings and turnouts are accounted for.

A typical consist would be staged left to the distillery. A traction motor or a small steamer would be used. QRL&PCo #22 2-6-0 steam locomotive was a common sight in interchange work until the early 1950s. From that point on, demoted old CNR power was used, mainly 4-6-0 but notoriously light pacific in freight service! Locomotives such as 5079 were a common sight!

A CNR 4-6-2 pulling an interchange freight train (credit: CABIC)

The train would then switch Seagram Distillery, which received a lot of raw materials and shipped a famous whiskey all over Canada. At Beaupré station, the crew woould work the team track with the locomotive move up and down the bridge in the process.

A train arriving in Beaupré, the bridge is in the background (credit: unknown)

Then, after crossing the river, a string of cars for Price Brothers Paper would be left on the siding waiting to be sorted out on the return trip. Meanwhile, we would have a glimpse of the small 0-4-0 switcher sitting idle on the plant industrial trackage. Finally, our train woul reach St. Joachim. The team track would be worked while cars for Clermont would be swapped with incoming cars in the interchange.

The locomotive would then turn the locomotive at the wye before picking up its consist and waiting their order before proceeding. It should be noted an interurban car could be met there, making things more complicated. On the return trip, Price Brothers would be switched, exchanging cars, then our train would complete its travel back to Quebec City.

Freights meet in Ste.Anne, 1958 (credit: Clark Frazier)

Am I completely satisfied with this layout plan? Well, not completely. The way St. Joachim yard overlap over the room entrance is far to be a great idea. In the best world, the layout should be fully functional even when the continuous run isn't possible. In fact, had the door been located where the door is standing, the layout would have been almost perfect!

However, on a positive note, I feel I've finally caught QRL&PCo soul. A neat mix of rural "Normandy-like" countryside, cute and colorful 19th century stations, powerful rivers and large industrial plants.

St. Joachim station seen from the wye... (credit: unknown)

The fact very little structures are required creates enough empty space to fight against the inevitable compression required between Beaupré and St-Joachim. On a positive note, it is interesting to note distances between in Beaupré and Price Brothers are almost reproduced in scale, meaning I didn't simply smash together stuff I liked. To be honest, I removed a lot of stuff to get this right! Every scene on QRL&PCo is memorable and getting rid of stuff is heartbreaking. I'm glad I succeed in my quest.

EDIT: Interestingly enough, with PECO soon releasing its new code 70 turnout lineup, this project could be doable in a not so far future. Q.R.L.& P.Co. was famous for its lightweight trackage that forced CN to create a specific type of locomotive known as RSC-24. They later had to use 6-axle GMD-1 to perform their duty. I feel using code 83 wouldn't work well with this prototype.

EDIT 2: Very little thing changed in Beaupré and St. Joachim for decades. Same customers, same track arrangement. This layout could be used to stage operation from the late 1920s until the late 1960s. To model the 60s, station buildings could be replaced with versions clad in asbestos shingles and some electric poles could be removed. Definitely, this layout concept has a lot of potential.

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