Niagara St. Catharines and Toronto Railway

I’ve spent a lot of time so far in 2021 thinking about my next layout. Back in December, I shared a plan for the CNR on Ferguson Avenue in Hamilton – and it was promising. But I really didn’t like the duck-under. So – once again – I’m exploring alternatives.

The NS&T car barns on Welland Avenue in St. Catharines. Photographer and date unknown. My collection.

One of those is the Niagara St. Catharines & Toronto Railway. I grew up in St. Catharines and while I missed the NS&T by about a quarter century I did see its remains in daily use by the Canadian National Railway. So, it’s meaningful to me.

That said, I’ve never built a layout under wire, so I haven’t committed to filling my layout space with the NS&T. But I do want to explore this idea – and I have a good place to start.

NS&T 8 – one of three homebuilt freight motors – at the Welland Avenue car barns.

The NS&T built its second Number 8 in its own shops. A book by John M. Mills on the railway lists it as a 44-ton model and while there’s no build date for it, Mills notes it probably used some gear from the first Number 8, which was scrapped in 1924. Mills also notes two almost identical freight motors – NS&T 15 and NS&T 19 – were built in 1925, but he lists them as 50-ton models. While the 15 and 19 received solid steel pilots at some point, Number 8 retained its boiler tube pilots until the end. All three were scrapped in 1960.

A few years ago, I acquired S scale kits for a half-dozen NS&T freight motors – including partially-built models of 15 and 19, and a kit for Number 8. These were designed by William Flatt and photo-etched in brass. Having taken lessons on working brass from my friend Andy Malette and needing a manageable project, I’ve decided to finish these. The logical approach is to bring Number 8 up to the same state of completion as 15 and 19, then work on all three in assembly line fashion, so that’s where I’ve started.

I have folded and soldered the frame and body for number 8. The small end hoods are next. So far, so good!

To tackle this project, I first needed to prep my new workshop. A Vertias portable work surface from Lee Valley sits nicely on the countertop in my shop, providing a solid surface for attaching a vise with a hold-down clamp so I can deploy my resistance soldering gear. A dog-hole fitting on my swing arm magnifying lamp means I can deploy it on the work surface, too. And there’s plenty of space to set up other tools, like my Brazelton precision drill press.

Preparing to drill Number 8’s frame for handrails.

Building my stash of NS&T locomotive kits is the first step towards determining whether I can build an NS&T layout.

The second step will be building some track under wire. For that, I’m looking at a scaled-down version of the Welland Avenue car barn and storage yard as a good place to start. It’s fairly straight-forward, although has enough turnouts to challenge me. If I can hang wire over that, I can hang wire over anything and can proceed on a larger layout with confidence. If I find it frustrating, or discover I do not enjoy the experience, I can plan for a different layout and use the car barn as a diorama to display my NS&T equipment. Either way, progress will have been made.

As the photos show, work is already underway on Number 8. It does feel good to be building something again!

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.

12 thoughts on “Niagara St. Catharines and Toronto Railway

  1. My favourite bit of this post is that the last photo makes it appear that you have copyrighted your swing arm.

    My second-favourite element is all the jargon and knowledge, of which I understand none. It’s always interesting to see a hobbyist display expertise.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Stephan: nothing special about it – I use the Hot Tip model sold by PBL, and have a probe/ground as well as a tweezer set up. When using the probe, I typically attach the ground to whatever vise I’m using to hold the work.
      (I realized on re-reading my post that I inadvertently suggested that my soldering rig is shown in the photo. It isn’t. That’s a precision drill press. I’ve edited the post to make that more clear.)


    2. Trevor,
      I was beginning to wonder about your progress and then bam, an email notification of an update.

      I know you’ve shared sketches in the past if ideas for this traction line, but have you drawn up a informal track plan yet?

      I think in the end you’ll be happer not having a duck under. I reluctantly had to include a couple duck/nod unders in my layout design but I quickly removed one that wasn’t necessary.


      Liked by 1 person

      1. Hi Craig:
        Nope – no plans (not even informal) at this time. I have done a really rough, back of the napkin sketch of how the main track would thread through the room. It confirms that i can do something interesting and free of duck unders if I use 36”r curves, which are fine in S scale for electric freight motors and transition-era freight cars.
        My focus right now is the equipment. That said, I’ve also determined that I can build a decent car barn scene in approximately 2×10 feet and I have a rough idea of where that would go in a layout.
        Once I have some equipment finished, it’ll need a home – and at that point I’ll draw out the car barn scene full size and start building.


      2. Trevor,
        An car barn built to nearly full scale or close to it would make an interesting operating layout if you had a plausible way to represent motors heading in/out. I would guess that it would be very similar to how a layout focused on steam engine servicing might work although I’m sure motors did t require that much servicing.

        And yes, go for the full sized buildings when/if you can.


        Liked by 1 person

  2. Great to see you modelling something you love. If you do find you are not happy about hanging wire you could always model the line after it was dieselized. The GM plant you walked by on the way to school would be a perfect candidate and it has street running!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Daniel. Great to hear from you.
      If I stick to the NS&T under wire, I will be able to reuse all my rolling stock from the Port Rowan layout as the two were contemporaries. The NS&T dieselize in 1960 and my on recollections are from the 1980s. At that point, the rolling stock has changed considerably and I’d be better off modelling that era in HO scale. I have the diesels I need for that…


  3. Trevor, it’s heartening to see you back at the bench and doing some pioneering modeling! I look forward to seeing your progress and what comes next with your foray into traction.

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: