Friday, July 3, 2020

Avenue Industrielle - Richer Than Previously Thought

Recently, Jérôme sent me a scan of an old 1965 map of Limoilou Yard in high definition. First time I ever saw a good scale drawing of the area before major overhaul occurred in the 1970s. It helped to better understand how the trackage changed near Glassine Canada which, it turns out, was located on what used to be QRL&PCo Limoilou Shops wye. You learn something new everyday.

However, the biggest surprise was the industrial spur along Avenue Industrielle which I have covered on other blog posts in the past. This time, it was really an eye opener. Until now, I only knew about this interesting small industrial park through very unreliable insurance maps and grainy aerial pictures.

While I kind of guessed most elements right, it seems I my original interpretation was right: their was a team track near the roundhouse. For years, I thought it was simply my imagination, but it was indeed real and had a loading ramp.

From a layout perspective, this is quite interesting because it means a diversified traffic occurred there on a daily basis. Thus, a very simple track plan is no excuse to call it boring.

Colorized Limoilou Yard map (credit: Ville de Québec, circa 1965)

But on a surprising note, it seems a big chunk of marshes still existed west to the spur. Indeed, Limoilou yard is built on an ancient swamp called La Canardière where ducks gathered (they still do to some extent). But I wouldn't have guessed parts of that marsh was still surviving as late as the mid-1965.

This little geography fact has a tremendous impact on how I would approach building such a layout. Instead of starting with a flat plank, I'd rather build the entire trackage on an embankment then fill the areas with industrial activities and leaving the natural areas lower. The spur itself would be built upon a dirt and rock embankment full of bushes and weeds, making it clear it was built on previously natural lands.

Revised track plan

Given we always approach small industrial layout from a very dry and rugged perspective, it seems quite refreshing to see it as a small chunk of human activities slow encroaching a natural habitats. It makes for a more dramatic and contrasted visual narration while providing much more historical context and a means to tie together a very long scene (about 20 linear feet).


  1. My gosh, you don't stop with the terrific layout plans! Such a body of genuinely terrific stuff.

    As confessed earlier, I love the way the curves in this layout plan compliment each other so that the arc from the back wall of the roundhouse reverberates into the flowing lines of the main track and then further by the sidings that fan out beautifully again. It's like watching a flower unfold its petals into a bloom

    What you don't need from me is "the advice" but I did catch myself thinking that "if it was me" I would be very tempted to remove the siding to Auger & Auger Ltd and instead just place that industry on the BA siding to serve both customers. The siding into Cities Services Oil and the Produce Warehouse could then more closely follow that main track (that ultimately leads to British-American Oil.

    What sort of products would British-American receive? Or better, what car types? Would it be mostly tank cars or package products in boxcars?


    1. It seems I'm havign a serious case of designitis lately. It's interesting to see how the same exact space can tell so many different stories.

      I also feel there is too much sidings and that B/A and Auger & Auger could be merged. In fact, it would make sense in terms of track use and leave extra space to better depict the various customers.

      B/A was an interesting customer. I have very little information, but from a few photographs and insurance maps, it seems most of their traffic was packaged products in boxcars (probably oil cans & drums). However, they had a few tanks on the property, leaving me to believe some tank cars were occasional visitors. However, it wasn't a bulk facility like Cities Service and Champlain Oil Product. This small warehouse was also adjacent to their own gas station. If the layout was 2 feet longer, it could be possible to model the entire lot including Canardière Road which could have helped to create a more cohesive story about the spur.

  2. Boxcars to British-American inspired me to think this:

    The form of a layout, viewed in elevation, is a set of perpendicular lines that form the perimeter of the fascia and lighting valance. Set against a wall, the form inherits more perpendicular horizontal and vertical lines from its environment.

    Moving across this layout from right to left we start with the series of elegant flowing and complimentary curves that are based on the back wall of the roundhouse. Then as you turn the corner and move to the left the layout changes form. The track is straight and parallel to the front edge. The buildings are also square. Even the boxcars placed at B-A are also variations on square and rectangle.

    Those boxcars form a transition from the smallest component of the layout (layout as a collage). Where the roundhouse provides shapes for the right end of this plan the left's is born in those small square boxcars. Their cube shape echoing into the buildings they share the envelope with and those same lines paralleled into the fascia and valance and even the place around it.

    I'm wandering into something very abstract here and appreciate your patience if you've read this far. I thought was interesting that this layout can host these two very different structural forms as an installation.


    1. Replying to myself:

      Just as the boxcars at B-A provide a cubic form that is echoed from the boxcar outward to the room tank cars and their rounded forms carry the lines of the roundhouse's back wall and the flowing trackwork into their neighboring location.

      and now I'm done.



    2. Only you would go that far in analysis Chris, and that's what makes your thoughts on design interesting. For many people, it may sounds like gibberish at first, but in reality, what you describe would translate for most people as a strange feeling of harmony when looking at the layout. It would means that a boxcar in X place would seem to be displayed in an optimal fashion to appreciate both its inherent quality and how it relates to its surrounding. At the end of the day, this is what we deeply want. In each recent layout design I've made, I often asked myself if a passing train would look nice, would a freight car sitting there would be worth a photography, does a locomotive running over that embankment provide a satisfying framing of the subject, etc... These things do matters.

      I would add to your thoughts that having mainly smaller freights cars and roundish tank car on the curved siding also helps the scene to flow better. Bigger boxcars there would amplify the broken aspect of square shapes clumsily lined over a curve.

    3. Good morning

      Reading your thoughts and reflecting on mine I also thought that there might even be an opportunity for the shapes to imply a kind of association that could inform the operator. The layout isn't that complicated but it does sort of inform based on a kind of like association of shapes: the box-shaped cars go to square places and the rounded cars go to the curved parts.

      I agree that smaller cars do work better here. Even when you first proposed this plan I was already imagining 8-10,000 gallon tank cars like the little ones that Life-Like, Proto, or Tichy sold in HO scale.

      As composition it seems to make only sense to consider how forms within the layout will look and their arrangement be pleasing; to apply common rules for composition just like we would when framing a perfect photograph or creating a sculptural form. Model railroad design is so often just a literal interpretation of the real track locations forced into the space we have that we overlook composition guides that we could be interpreting from other art forms.

      What a great conversation this morning. Thank you!


    4. Chris, this layout was particularly designed with small 8-10,00 gallon tank cars in mind. I have many of them from Tichy and Proto in accurate Canadian schemes that never really found their place on a layout of mine.

      I was recently revisiting Chris Nevard's work. I'm always surprised how he really frame his subject like a painting, thinking about various angles under which you can appreciate the models and composition. In some way, he is quite whimsical with his work, but never servile or childish. Something in me would like to approach modelling in a more impressionistic way than a technical one, but it seems my professional biases always kick in! I've tried a few days ago to approach a north american paper mill design with a Nevard sensibility. I may post a few lines about it here soon.

    5. It's always a pleasure having these conversations with you, it always reminds me the great time we had in Toronto earlier this year!

  3. I'm a fan of Chris Nevard's work too.

    I particularly like that his personal style (signature) is present in his work constantly. Again, if we're referring to model railroading as "art" then the artist would leave his signature in his work so we can distinguish a Nevard.

    What I like most is that his compositions are always possible. I feel that in American modelling we haven't quite got to that point in our freelance work. That maybe the way to that is to study the subject enough to learn how components relate to each other either in terms of their size and shape but also in more technical terms (e.g. if people have to go into a building there needs to be a door).

    In these last few years as I refine my understanding of what attracts me to the hobby and what I'd like to be building I clearly see an interest that is perhaps more impressionistic. Krista and I often talk about human-centric design for model railways where we design the model railway to interact with the person. This is more than the way we do now by asking the modeller to follow a sequence of actions to switch cars but we wonder how can the layout talk to or likewise engage with the people in the room?

    I think those little 8-10,000 gallon tank cars are so cool. I remember the little Life Like "train set" ones that used to be so common in hobby shops and then when they were retooled as the Proto kits that superceded them. They're really neat cars and I've never really considered a layout where they'd be at home. Clearly, this design would be one where they would be at home.

    I'm so darn glad I've finally figured out how to comment on Blogger blogs. I've never had much luck and was embarrassed by that. I'd try posting comments but never see them appear and be disappointed by that. Unfortunately for the blog owners this means more Mears - for that I can only apologize.

    That Toronto conversation was wonderful. That simply must happen again.


    1. Good to hear you figured out how to handle Blogger's comment section... Is there such a thing as "too much Mears"? In my professional career, I always found it was good to be challenged by others' ideas. Not to mindlessly change my mind and opinions, but to add several levels to them, then reshape them in a more organic way.

      Interesting idea to better understand the building blocks of model railroading rather that trying to copycat everything. When you get the basics right and understand how they complement each others, you are bound to get coherent results that are plausible, which, I my mind, is what most of us try to do whatever our goals.

      When I designed the Monk layout plan, I basically made a list of elements required for a railway division point and (with Trevor's example with Pierre Oliver's layout) tried to combined them in a credible fashion. Monk was just a flavour giving a personality to the track plan. I've still have to figure out how this neat track plan could be developed in 3D so it isn't flat and soulless. It certainly doesn't have the striking appearance of Avenue Industrielle, Connors or East Angus.

      "Krista and I often talk about human-centric design for model railways where we design the model railway to interact with the person."

      That is a true thing and I'm leaning more and more toward that approach. This goes far beyond the simple artistic approach, it really relate to everybody in this hobby, whatever the kind of interactions with their layouts.

      If I could take away one idea from all our discussion, it would be that sense of "dynamic framing" of the subject. In that regard, working with a room corner isn't a bad idea. Most of us would consider the curved section to be the boring and useless part, or the "scenery only" zone, but in fact, that curve provides a dynamic spot where the layout wraps itself around us. If this is enhanced by topography, a flowing track plan and a careful understanding of 3D space, you can't get wrong...