Port Rowan is gone: What’s next?

I’ve been away from the blog for a few months now, as my wife and I packed up and sold our house in Toronto and then moved almost 3,000 kilometres west to Saskatoon. I have a new layout space – larger and much nicer than the one I left behind – and a clean slate. I’m now trying to decide what to put in it.


Something built around modelling the CNR in S scale is the natural choice – but I’ve drawn several plans and so far nothing has lit my fire. Generally, I end up with one of two possible outcomes:

  • The first is a regurgitation of the now-abandoned Port Rowan layout – not necessarily the same layout or even the same subdivision. But a “branch line terminal (BLT) to staging” design based on the CNR in the steam era in 1:64. The problem is, I’ve explored that – pretty thoroughly. I’d like to do something different.
  • “Something different” invariably ends up being more layout than I want to build and maintain. I believe in achievable layout design, and I have built enough layouts to know my limits. Everything I’ve designed for my new space that represents an attempt to take advantage of a greater variety of equipment or a more flexible operating pattern than Port Rowan offered becomes too complex for me to enjoy. This is particularly relevant right now, as society continues to grapple with the physical distancing required to deal with Covid-19. If I’m building a new layout, right now, it has to be something I can build myself.

So far, I haven’t hit the sweet spot.


I am still exploring my opportunities in 1:64 – including building something to indulge my interest in the Niagara St. Catharines & Toronto Railway, either on its own or in connection with its parent company, the CNR.

I’m also looking at the potential of other scales/gauges/prototypes/eras and themes. In addition to S scale, I’m exploring Proto:48 and British 7mm. Rather than build one large layout, I’m considering two or more smaller ones to share the space. That may happen. It may not. Everything is on the table at this point. We’ll see.

I’ll let you know as soon as I know myself.

Published by Trevor

Lifelong model railway enthusiast and retired amateur shepherd who trained a border collie to work sheep. Professional writer and editor, with some podcasting and Internet TV presenting work thrown in for good measure.

29 thoughts on “Port Rowan is gone: What’s next?

  1. Knowing from my own experience, as a single operator or maybe one guest, it needs to be fairly simple to maintain but sufficiently interesting to keep you occupied for an hour or two, over a period of time.

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  2. FWIW, I have three small layouts rising in a corner of my garage (having unresolved attractions to various modeling), each not much more than a vignette: one in HO, one in 1:48 O (both set in California in the late 60s to early 80s — hey, I’m a native!), and British OO (set in the 50s to early 60s with a GWR flavor). The latter I’m become insanely fond of — three link couplings and all!

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    1. I have some 7mm GWR equipment that I acquired/built to run on Roweham, an exhibition layout built by my friend Brian Dickey. It’s lovely stuff and I am seriously considering using it on a home layout. It would be the classic branch line terminal to staging arrangement and in that sense similar to Port Rowan. But the change in scale, prototype, and era – not to mention, country – would make it fresh.

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  3. Trevor, Saskatoon seems to have an interesting railroad history that you could explore and enhance if you wanted. I agree with your concept of building an achievable layout and wish you well. Welcome to the Central Time Zone. I hope you stop in the Twin Cities to visit some of the model railroaders her if your travels bring you this way.

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    1. It’s an interesting idea and I’m enjoying exploring the railways in this city. I expect I’ll do more exploring when the warmer weather returns. That said, I already have resources – locomotives, rolling stock, structures, details, books and other research materials – for a number of prototypes that would be worthy of modelling so I may need to introduce some locals to one of those instead.

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  4. I feel your pain! Im in a somewhat comparable situation. Getting back into the hobby now that I’m retired. Have visions of the Allegheny mountains in my head, but at 71 need more realistic plans!

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  5. Surely one consideration must be the availability of research material and documentation. I know for Port Rowan you consulted photos and visited the site.
    And I know nothing — nothing — about building model railroads but, if it was me, I would want to tackle something new. The research alone would be fun. (See sentence one.)

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    1. Hi Brian: thank you – it’s great to be here.

      And good question. Mostly, I think it’s because I have acquired a greater variety of equipment and would like to put it to use.

      Also, the sleepy branchline terminal supporting a single train at a time was a little too sleepy once it was substantially completed.

      I’ll write about this more in a new post at some point.

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  6. Decisions, decisions. I like the idea of more than one layout.Enjoy your new home, and will look forward to new posts.
    Stay safe,
    Gord

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  7. Your current post on “what’s next” got me thinking (as have many of your posts over the years), for which I thank you.

    I was reflecting on your series on the Niagara, St. Catharines & Toronto interurban (which I thoroughly enjoyed, so much that I got Mills’ book on your recommendation). And although Mills’ book may be _the reference on the NST, I found your research postings curiously more illuminating and intimate.

    The attractions of an electrified railway are many and you once suggested one as subject of an “achievable layout” (SN – California Juice Jacks). I offer another example with a different flair for those unenthused by the association of interurbans with urban environments and desire something more laid back (and perhaps more achievable): the Visalia Electric, a rural short line that served the agricultural industries and fields of California’s lower Central Valley.

    One attraction of a rural railroad like the VE is that almost everyplace is the right place, and one can be as precise or loose in modeling as desired and still capture the prototype – and all the memories, real and imagined, that entails. I can recommend Kauke’s book on the Visalia Electric from Signature Press for those interested.

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    1. Thanks for the recommendation, Bill. I have that book on the Visalia Electric and have read through it many times – including recently as I thought about modelling the Sacramento Northern in 1:48. It’s a great resource and I’ll second your recommendation.
      Many of the VE’s freight motors remind me of the equipment that the late Bob Hegge ran on his Crooked Mountain Lines.
      My only hesitation with the VE is that I already have so much great equipment for other potential layouts that I’m reluctant to add yet another prototype to my collection. That said, I’ve considered adapting some of the track diagrams from that book into an SN branch line, or even a steam-powered SP one. In particular, I like the arrangement of track and packing houses at Merryman…

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  8. If you want to pursue 7mm, in case you haven’t heard of it you may want to check out RMweb. Great forum, lots of actual UK rail people on it, lot of very knowledgeable people. Has a track planning section and a 7mm section among many other topics, and some of the manufacturers participate to greater or lesser extent.

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    1. Thanks! Yes – I’ve been a member there since I started helping Brian exhibit his Roweham layout but I only drop in occasionally. I am a fan of David Stone’s “Sheraton Abbas” and follow his blog there too…

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  9. Sad I didn’t get to come over and operate before Easter 2020 like was the plan. Looking forward to see what comes next. Aren’t you an NS&T modeler wanting to come out of the closet? The amount & regularity with which you posted on it certainly gave me that impression!

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    1. I’m sorry you didn’t get to visit, too. I was looking forward to that. Yes, as I noted in the post, the NS&T remains an option as I consider what to do with my space. Cheers!

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  10. Trevor, you seem like the kind of guy who might enjoy building multiple small layout….Have 1-2 in progress when one finishes, start another…Have your cake and eat it too….When one get’s to be too much, sell it off or put it in the dumpster….

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    1. It’s certainly an approach that has appealed to me, although I think I’d like to focus on one layout at a time. I’d also like to take advantage of the larger space by adding even more distance between the operating bits, to try to better capture the sense of distance that all real railways have and our models typically lack. Maybe once I figure out what the main layout will be, I’ll add a second layout on a small shelf above part of it.

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  11. Hi Trevor, your reply to Brian’s comment hints at what I’m hoping is forthcoming: a retrospective on Port Rowan. It would cover all the things you felt went well, and the things that didn’t, that you learned from. What will you repeat, and what would you skip in future layouts?

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