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

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 . . .

Watching ballast dry


Tonight I put a filler layer of half-tie height Scenic Express ballast down along 2/3 of the first three modules. I used this otherwise expensive material as filler  because it turned out to be the wrong colour for me and I couldn’t return it to the store.  As they say, waste not want not, so it turned out to be useful in reducing the amount of Arizona Rock &Mineral product I will need.

Because I’m impatient I also put down a layer of the final ballast along approx. 8” of track.  This is what is shown in the picture, while the glue is freshly wet.  A mixture of 2 parts CSX/SP/Wabash ballast (a coarser mix) and 1 part NS/Wabash mix (supposedly also O scale, but decidedly finer, closer to HO size).

Interested to see what will happen to the ballast colour.  My first test section seemed too dark after 24 hours drying , but several weeks later it does appear to have lightened back to the original colour (yay!).

Rail Centering Jig

My hand laying efforts on a short, 24” test section showed that I had difficulty keeping the rails centred on the ties.  As I was painting rail yesterday an idea popped into my head and I put together the jig shown in the photo.


The white channels essentially centre the black platform over the average tie width.  There’s some wiggle room involved as the tie ends are not perfectly aligned anywhere so the average width will be slightly greater than the 8’6” tie length.  So far I’ve tried it on several straight sections as well as curves and it fits nice and snug.

A notch matching the width of the track gauge is cut into one end allowing for placement of the gauge in the right position to centre the rails.  It is not permanently mounted.

We’ll see how it works once we get some ballast down and start to lay rail.

Edit:  I realized as I first read the published blog posting that ballasting the track will not allow the white channels to sit over the tie ends  and be centred.  I think I can overcome this by using the jig pre-ballasting to glue down strategically spaced tie plates, ie every 20-30 scale feet, that will guarantees the rails are centred after the ballast is glued in place.  Or I could just spike the rails in place and ballast later, as is usual practice.

Pan Pastels on ties

The difference between purely stained ties vs. ties that have had an application of Pan Pastels is evident. The stains are a great base coat, but the pastels give the dusty brown look I’m going for.

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