First blog post

Welcome to my blog documenting the planning & building of a P48 layout depicting the Ontario Southland and Goderich-Exeter operations on the north industrial spur in Guelph, Ontario.

Robin Talukdar

Beamsville, Ontario

Featured post

And there was light!

And plenty of it, too.

Now to get the GP9 running!

Now we’re talking II

Ever since I paused tracklaying to redo the layout support structure and place the HO Pine Street Spur underneath the Guelph Spur, I’ve had difficulty getting back into the groove of things. “Life” and all its responsibilities hasn’t helped, but I couldn’t seem to get back into my previous 15 minutes (or more) working on the railroad routine. If I got into the train room I would tend to stare at things and wonder where to start.

I realized that part of the issue was the sheer clutter in the room. The layouts were both covered with “stuff”, and it seemed that when I wanted to start something I could not find the tools or the supplies. Everything has a place, and in my basement nothing was in its! I was spending too long looking for things and quickly losing any steam. This weekend I resolved to change things, so I spent some time putting up new shelves so that the stuff on the layout now had a home. My workbench was cleaned off and rearranged so that I could find items when I need them. The only thing left to do before I can put my Red Caboose GP9 back on the workbench and complete the drive train is to add lighting over the workbench. I have the LED strips, but just need to fashion a lead long enough to reach my power supply. Up top on the railroad I’ve already made progress, with new lengths of rail fitted to the second two switches and several additional feet receiving the full complement of 2 spikes per tie plate.

Speaking of tie plates, with news of the pending shutdown, or hopefully sale, of Monster Model Works, I decided not to take any chances and placed an order for sufficient tie plates to finish off the visible portion of the railroad.

It’s amazing the difference in mood when I enter the newly organized train room. Now I don’t waste time looking for items I need, they’re all to be found exactly where I expected to lay my hands on them. Hopefully this state of affairs will last for a while!

3D Modelling

Once I put the Guelph Spur sections back in place, progress was not as quickl as I thought on completing the trackwork on the initial three sections.  I was getting hung up on the rail braces on my first switch.  I’d purchased braces from Right-O-Way products, and unfortunately it turned out they were not designed for use with Micro Engineering code 125 track.  The track base is too thick and/or the brace gap too small to work with each other.  I was getting very frustrated trying to make them fit together, cutting and filing and trying different things, but nothing worked well or looked good in the end.

All of this contemplation led me to take a closer look at the real thing, and I quickly saw that CPR’s rail braces for 100 lb rail looked quite different than the Right-O-Way product.


The obvious solution became to model them myself and have them 3D printed on Shapeways or a similar site.  I’d already tried Jim Lincoln’s adjustable rail braces purchased on Shapeways, and the resolution was quite satisfactory and I was happy with those.  I just needed the fixed braces as found on the Guelph Junction Railway.

I was a design engineer for many years prior to my current sales career, so 3D modelling was something that I could do and was looking forward to picking up again.  I tried out various programs and ended up with the student version of Fusion 360 from Autodesk.  It seems to be powerful enough, has an interface that feels comfortable and familiar to me as a Siemens NX user, and lacks the restrictions that the student NX version has.

One of the things I’ve always wondered about the parts found on Shapeways was where did the source data or measurements come from.  In other words, how could I know that a particular model is actually an accurate depiction of the prototype?  In my case I found that a combination of drawings and field measurements got me to where I wanted to be.  Drawings for the braces happen to be available on the CPR Historical Society’s website (  I used them to create my first model, but since it just did not look quite right on the screen, I took some measurements on the real thing and found some relatively subtle but noticeable differences.

My next task is to update the model with my measurements and do a test run.  Really looking forward to seeing how they come out and if they will fit out of the box!

Boundary Trail 8208

It’s what’s underneath that counts, right?   that’s the case if you’re trying to detail an O scale model of an ex-CP GP9u. So here are some shots of the belly of Boundary Trail Railway 8208 resting after work one weekday this past spring.


Now we’re talking

It took a bit longer than I expected, but the Guelph Spur sections are back up and I can get back to tracklaying.

My workbench has been moved back into its original location in the alcove and the Pine Street Spur sections are happily ensconced in their new home underneath.

I should get back to finishing off the O track, but part of me wants to install some sort of lighting over the HO layout. At a minimum something has to be put in place over the workbench so that I can see what I’m doing while I get my locomotives in shape as far as both battery power as well as kitbashing them into proper representations of the prototypes.

There’s lots more to come soon, stay tuned

Rebuilding (already)

My wife and I cleaned out the basement recently as part of having the larger living space carpeted.  I also gave up my office and suddenly found myself looking for a home for all the “stuff” I’d squirrelled away in there.

After more than a few evenings spent pondering what I could do, I decided on the following:

  • Redo the supports for the Guelph Spur. I wasn’t happy with the system I had cobbled together from scrap wood that I’d been saving for decades.
  • Take a look at what I could do to make room for the essential pieces of my Pine Street Spur. I was having a hard time with the idea of completely separating from HO.

The result is shown in these in-progress views:



The Guelph Spur is supported by sturdy metal shelf brackets except across the space where my hobby desk will be relocated to, where I have reused a metal piece from some Ikea furniture item to allow the layout to span 6’ without sagging.

The three Pine Street Spur sections will now sit underneath the O scale railroad, with a removable switching lead extending out the room’s doorway when in use.

Much more finishing work remains to be done, but I’m pleased with how things look so far.

The Sky is Falling!

A while ago I found myself looking at my backdrop and not being satisfied with what I saw.  In theory the integrated shadow box style backdrop and light support would make for a nice set-up at shows where I choose to exhibit the layout, but in practice it was far from ideal.

The primary issue was that the mat board I used, while perfectly flexible, was available only in sizes such that the sky became a quiltwork of seams, none of which matched up well.

The other issue was that the shadowbox sections were very unwieldy to handle, being essentially 2’ x 2’ x 6’ boxes.  I was concerned how well they would transport out of my basement.

So I thought about it, and with some encouragement from friends decided to create a fixed backdrop support.  This would allow me to dramatically reduce the number of seams while making the layout sections easier to handle. I also won 1.5” in scene depth and about the same amount in height.  Out with the old!

There were two possible ways to create the backdrop with coved or curved transition between the vertical and horizontal surfaces.

The more permanent method would be to use drywall and thin hardboard to cove both the horizontal and vertical edges as shown on Trainmasters TV and practised by Barry Silverthorn on his layout.

The other method was to bend sufficiently stiff styrene sheets into the backdrop, potentially giving up the vertical coving.

I decided to try the latter, as it appears to be less work!  And less time spent on the backdrop is more time laying track and assembling my first engine.  Styrene is also put up within minutes, with only track spikes holding my first sheet in place.

My first test section shown is shown in the pictures.  I had prepared by purchasing .030” thick 4×8 sheets, but I should have saved my money.  It was too thin to be sufficiently self-supporting. I had a sheet of .040 styrene as well, and it seems to work.  It still sags somewhat, but with some glue to the drywall base could possibly work.  Ideally I will use .060” thick material, and the additional cost may well just be something I have to swallow.


For now I like the more open look of the styrene and higher sky, and the additional depth created. In O scale every inch counts.

Prototype shots around Ontario

I’m lucky enough to be able to travel this country, and on a recent couple of trips through eastern Ontario I caught a few shots of trains that I liked enough to share.  All are courtesy of my iPhone, captured during breaks in long-distance travel or, in the case of 6200, while visiting customers.

The featured image and the following were taken in CP’s Havelock yard during a beautiful pea soup fog.


It made for dangerous driving conditions, but it was cool not only to see the cars and engines drift out of the fog, but also to hear them.  The sounds carried very clearly to my spot parked beside the former station.  Brake wheels being ratcheted tight, air escaping the brake lines, engines spooling up and down.  I wish I had continued recording a little longer as they rolled by like ghosts in the distance.

Later on this trip I also found myself pulling up to a customer who happened to be across the street from the Canadian Museum of Science & Technology.  CNR 4-8-4 #6200 was a beautiful, glossy black reminder of past state-of-the-art, but one has to wonder how long she will remain so pristine.  A canopy cover would serve well to preserve her paint job for a longer time.  I will have to get back to this museum in the future to explore.


And to close it out, a going away shot of a GO train from a family trip to Toronto.


What if?

We’re having the basement carpeted in a few days, which means we’ve cleared out everything to provide access to the installers.  That has afforded me the luxury of spending more than just a few minutes imagining how I could continue the Guelph Spur if nothing ever had to get put back into the space.

Empty Basement

In the end I think not a lot would change from my previous thoughts; maintain a narrow shelf approx. 18″-24″ wide around the perimeter, with perhaps the extension of a particularly long siding or two as a pensinsula into the open centre of the room.  In the real world sides often diverge at right angles to the primary track, which is seldom replicated in the model world.

It is however important to keep the aisle spaces very wide with accommodation for a couch or two, perhaps a TV under the layout so that the room can retain some semblance of dual functionality.

Ah, to be able to dream . . .

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