A car barn in 2×8

All of those freight motors need a place to hang out, right? This overview of my 2×8 foot design is looking southeast. The carbarn – upper left – occupies the east end of the property. Some trees at the near end will help visually balance its bulk. The two track storage yard in the foreground will be an excellent place to display maintenance equipment such as sweepers and line cars. The segment of tall building to the right (south) of the storage yard is the back of a building on Church Street.

It’s been hot here on the Canadian Prairies – unusually so. I beat the heat by hiding in the basement over the past couple of days – and designed the first section of a potential layout based on the Niagara, St. Catharines & Toronto Railway.

Elsewhere on this website, I’ve written extensively about my reasons for choosing the NS&T’s car barn and storage yard on Welland Avenue in St. Catharines as my first foray into traction modelling. (If you haven’t already read that, I encourage you to do so.)

As layout subjects go, this one is quite modest. It’s a single scene, occupying a single city block. Even so, a great deal of editing was required in order to fit this into a manageable size. Not only did I have to compress the length of the city block – I also had to cut down the width to ensure I could reach all areas for maintenance, re-railing, etc.

I may have gotten a little carried away with my mockup, which includes representations of windows, doors, and skylights. But it does give me a really good sense of what the car barn will look like. The small grey structure is a sand house, which the freight motors would have regularly stopped at for the grit needed to help them get a grip on wet rails – especially on the 300-foot climb up the Niagara Escarpment!

In the mid-to-late 1950s era that interests me, the tracks had been removed from the south half of the car barn and that area had been converted into a garage for Canadian National’s growing local and regional bus operation. So it was an easy decision to delete that whole section from my design. I also eliminated some duplicate trackage.

The biggest change was deleting one of the two tracks that enter the yard at the east from Welland Avenue. I just didn’t have the space, and I can operate the layout with a single track here.

The focus of the car barn scene is definitely the sand house. It’s such an oddly-shaped structure – a late addition to the yard, and forced to fit between existing tracks. I really wanted to capture its unorthodox roofline, plus the tight squeeze for freight motors entering the car barn.

Looking southwest off Welland Avenue, from the east end of the yard. With all those windows and skylights, the car barn will require a detailed interior.

My next task is to figure out – roughly – what line poles I’ll need to support the overhead wire in this scene. Then I can transfer the plan from kraft paper to plywood, and build the benchwork. I’m taking this approach for two reasons:

  • First, I want to make sure I don’t put a piece of framing right where I need to install a switch motor.
  • Second, I want to make sure I don’t put a piece of framing right where I need to install a pole.

I like this way this scene is shaping up.

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.

17 thoughts on “A car barn in 2×8

  1. The scene is shaping up good! I like the sandhouse; it does have character. Also can you tell us what No. the turnouts are? They look big even for S scale.
    Cheers, Gord

    Liked by 1 person

  2. WoW! I’m impressed. You’re certainly not letting the grass grow under your feet.

    This could be the start of a really fine layout or a great place to show off your electric fleet. I look forward to seeing the wire go up.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. OK, I can’t let this go. Are there actual resources for overhead wire hangers and fittings? I know there used to be several but with traction modeling such a niche hobby I was set to wondering.

    Sorry. I had to ask.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. There are a couple – nothing in S but it seems the few of us attempting Traction in 1:64 are using either HO or O fittings. I’ve ordered O scale samples from Proto 87 Stores and from a fellow in Ohio named James Rivers. Precision Scale Co lists a line of O fittings in their catalogue too.
      If I embark on building an entire layout I’ll have to look into getting my own produced.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I am thoroughly enjoying looking at your mockup! You are on to a good idea with your wire planning—not only can a bit of benchwork framing present a challenge to pole placement, so can the extranea of turnouts, like headblocks, throws, and motors. I have certainly run afoul of this problem, and learned—after costly and time-consuming trial and error—to build mockups of poles with bases in HO, or use Kato’s ‘dummy’ catenary bridges in N to game out pole placement before getting too far along with construction. I think you will find making some dummy poles with and without arms, with weighted and/or sticky bases just as much fun as your overachieveing car barn, and even more fun to pose with your new motors and rolling stock!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Trevor this is looking very exciting, not in a ground breaking new take on layout design way, but the actors and the stage itself is a fascinating period of history and I love what you’ve done so far with these characterful little freight engines. Watching with interest and a hint of the green eyed monster! Lovely stuff!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I love the look and feel and scale of this. As you know, I have a large collection on OO British steam, many of them models of preserved locos. More than once I have thought of something like this as a free lanced or reasonably protoypical model of a modern prototype of an engine shed and yard. I hope it becomes the first phase of a layout, but even if not it will be an awesome large sized diorama and running track for your excellent freight motors.



  7. Fast progress Trevor. Actually laying out the space for a layout is always an exciting process…at least for me. The building mockups really help.

    Cheers Jim


  8. Trevor,
    I am delighted with the design of your car barn. I work in the industry and am around electric rail vehicles every day.
    The yard layout seems just right to me. It is tight, with crammed in buildings and little clearance. And that is just right to my eyes from what I see at work.

    Something like this is on my list of layouts to build, so I’m watching with great interest. Love your work!

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Even if it doesn’t the scope for operations with this layout is immense and immersive. I see and participate in our in-depot operations daily and there’s always something moving to or from our maintenance bays, changing track assignment, or simply moving because it needs to be put on the ready track for a runout.

        Liked by 1 person

  9. One heat wave and you’ve progressed as far as I have in about three years on my O scale project! I have to ask though, why not go to 30″? I’m finding in 1:48 that 24″ depth really constricting and asking a lot of compromises, whereas a 30″ reach-in is very manageable for most folks given the layout is low enough. My last 4″ will all be structure depth anyway so I could use another 6″ to help make things feel less crowded.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Good question.
      I haven’t yet decided on layout height – this section is simply resting on top of low bookcases. Not have I decided where in the room this section will end up – either as a stand-alone diorama or as part of a larger layout.
      In addition, the overhead wire will complicate things like reach-in access.
      Since S scale is 3/4 the size of O, my 24” is actually equivalent to your 32”…

      Liked by 1 person

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