Temporary line poles

A quick test with some brass tube changes the look of the NS&T carbarn area.
At this point, all poles are temporary – and none are plumb.

The Niagara St. Catharines & Toronto Railway ran under trolley wire and modelling this will be essential. It’ll also have a huge impact on everything from the look of the layout, to how it operates.

Today while shuffling freight motors about the carbarn, I became curious about what the scene would look like with the overhead in place. I’m not yet ready to hang wire – far from it – but I realized I could at least mock up the poles. So I did.

This is a test, so I made it quick and easy. When I designed the layout and built the benchwork for this project, I marked out likely locations for the poles and drilled the plywood base to accommodate them. The overhead wire will put a fair bit of tension on the poles so I’m making them out of 5/32″ brass tube.

I have a bundle of 12″ brass tube set aside for use as poles. I ran a bunch of this through my lathe to quickly cut it into 6″ lengths. (When I build these for real, I will further trim them to the proper height, which – working from memory here – will be around 5″ tall.)

To mount these poles securely I’ll use small lengths of 4-40 threaded rod through the plywood base. I’ve used a 4-40 T-nut on the topside of the benchwork. Underneath, I will add standard nuts and a washer to secure the threaded rod in place and keep it from wiggling – I have not yet installed these.

Once I turn the brass tube into proper poles, I will epoxy them onto the threaded rods. Right now, they’re a loose fit so the poles are not plumb: They can wiggle on the threaded rod a bit. But some tape around the threaded rod – or a styrene insert in the tube – will tighten them up when they’re properly installed.

Even when installed temporarily, the poles add height to the scene and really change the look – for the better.

In its current state of unballasted track on unscenicked base, the car barn scene looked pretty barren. I realized it was because it felt so open and lacked vertical interest. The poles – even installed temporarily – make a huge difference to the appearance. I like it a lot!

Equally importantly, as I continue to test track and run my freight motors about the yard, I will get a better idea of what it’s like to operate with all those poles in the way. They’re already an obstacle: Are they too annoying for my taste? Better to investigate that now, before the wires are added.

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.

10 thoughts on “Temporary line poles

  1. I’d guess that if the poles are annoying, all that wire and associated hardware will be equally annoying, or more so. But I bet it’ll look amazing. The few modelers I’ve known who ran under wire were all very satisfied with their layouts. Most actually ran power through the wire.

    Looking good!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. What’s your plan for uncoupling/coupling cars under the wire? Reach in from the side?

    Might it be worth the cost of some thread or string and get some light lines in to also see how this would affect things?

    Poles definitely add something to the scene even if they are temporary. Funny how one thing can add or subtract from a scene.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Good question, Craig!
      I think VERY LONG bamboo skewers might be called for so I can reach down through the wires without getting my hands into them.
      I was thinking about running some EZ Line between the poles at some point to see how difficult it’ll be to reach in. But not until I’m done with track tuning.


      1. Trevor,
        I was thinking about this issue, and had an idea. I’m sure your familiar with right angle screw drivers, maybe something like that could be used to reach in from the layout edge as long as nothing is blocking them in front.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. I’ll have to experiment once I get the wire up.
        The poles are already making their presence felt as I run freight motors back and forth and switch one car into the car barn supply track. It will be interesting to see how I feel about adding overhead. I want whatever I build as a main layout to be designed for operations and if the wire becomes problematic, this carbarn scene could become a “diorama with movement” while I build a different layout, likely based around the CNR steam equipment I have in S scale. So, uncoupling tools will be important, but only once I advance to switching and operations. First, this project has to pass the test of plain old running under wire…


  3. Interesting ideas on mounting the poles, thank you. I have a more general question. A year ago I inquired on a couple of the FB trolley groups about the availability of S scale trolley supplies. I was told that there was essentially nothing and that I should consider a different scale. I was also directed to contact Des Plaines Hobbies. They told me there was nothing available. Since you model S scale trolley, or at least the freight traction part of a trolley railroad, what is your view on the supply side of S scale trolley and interurban? My situation is a small room and a desire to model in a larger scale than HO.
    Thank you

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Ian:
      I wish I had better news for you. There’s not much available for modelling traction in 1:64. Most of my freight motors were produced by William Flatt, and I think he basically did enough to cover his own needs plus a couple of extras. MRR Warehouse did a couple of brass kits back in the day for B-W freight motors and possibly some other equipment but those are long out of production. I have some detail parts and side frames so I can build some more NS&T equipment but I’ll have to scratch-build the bodies. My choices for overhead components are either HO or O scale offerings. I’ve repurposed other parts from HO or O scale too – for example, the headlights on all of my equipment are O scale castings for smaller headlights from Q Car Company.
      The good news is you have a small room which means you probably have modest ambitions, so you could probably scratch-build your equipment. You won’t need that many pieces and the prototypes tend to be pretty simple – especially compared to a steam locomotive! S scale power trucks are available from NWSL and Steam Era Models.
      Good luck!


    1. I have not – in part because I have no wires in place yet. Just poles.
      I generally do not have to clean my track. On my last layout (Port Rowan), I applied graphite to the rails. I rubbed the rails with a 2B stick in select spots then let the wheels spread it around. That plus all-wheel pickup and DCC with PowerPack electronic flywheels meant I never had issues.


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