Bob and Dennis’ utterly amazing model railroad

Grab yourself a coffee, sit down and take your time over this one.

Bob had my attention with his narrative, but then when I saw his pics… wow! Hope you enjoy it as much as I did:

AtHorboursideTower

“The genesis of this layout was the result of a joint effort by myself and one of my oldest friends and fellow model railroader, Dennis Stembridge.

We went to High School together in Brockville Ontario and decided to build a model railway that would refect the scenery of southeastern Ontario and the Thousand Islands of the St. Lawrence River where we went to school.

We decided to make it a freelance line as it gave us more latitude for creativity. Also we are both fans of the late John Allen and his Gorre & Daphetid Railroad, one of the most beautifully detailed model railroads ever. We created an imaginary story about a line that evolved as a result of the government consolidations into the Canadian National Railway.

AtTheJunction

Our imaginary line came about when we thought “what if” a bridge line came about by taking over the abandonned trackage between Toronto and Montreal. We decided to choose the Kingston Ontario area locating our ficticious Roehampton on a branch just north of that city. Harbourside Junction and West Harbour are patterned after an imaginary harbour and junction just outside Kingston on the Cataraqui river.

AtTheRoundhouse

The line was to be called the St. Lawrence, Ontario & Western Railroad (SLO&WRR – we liked humorous acronyms and names hence railroad rather than railway – the former is American practice and the latter British).

SLO&WRR owned and operated a short line and terminal switching road called the Metropolitan Belt Line (MBL). Our model railway was to represent the steam to diesel transition period of the 1950s that took place on Canadian Railways. Everything was to be finely detailed and weathered to make our models appear as realistic as possible.

Baken Forwarding Co

We developed our own logo and colours for our company and made our own decals to apply to our rolling stock. These were also used asd letterhead for switch lists and timetables. Because we were a bridge route with a major branch, it let us allow other lines operating rights on our tracks. So, it was possible to see equipment of the Toronto, Hamilton & Buffalo (TH&B), the New York Central (NYC), Canadian National Railway(CNR), and the Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR).

The scenery is hardshell plaster made from a variety of home-made and purchased latex moulds representing the geological transition from the granites of the Canadian Shield to the limestones found in the city of Kingston itself. Once the rock was in place, it was appropriately tinted with a variety of colours and then given a wash of diluted india ink to create shadow definition in the crevasses and hollows.

After that, when the rockwork was dry, we would spray it with water and, using a drinking straw, would gently ‘whiff’ the grout onto the rockwork. We used a variety of different coloured tile grouts put into a folded piece of paper to whiff it with the straw. This gave the scenery an earthen look that we couldn’t achieve any other way, and disguised the joins between the rock from the moulds. All tunnel entrances were home-made from hydrocal plaster, were painted appropriately then weathered.

We then progressed to the vegetation. Trees were hand-made mostly from lichen and the visible trunks used armatures of real twigs and some that were manufactured. Ground foams varied from coarse to fine to simulate grass and shrubs, and binder twine cut to size and the fibres were dyed to simulate grasses and weeds. All structures were either scratch-built or kit-bashed versions of what was commercially available. Attention was paid to creating a scene with appropriate figures and accessories. All vehicles were of the 1950s vintage.

CoalingAtRoehampton

The gauge used was HO (1:87), big enough to be easy to work with, but small enough to put together a layout large enough for our purposes. Block control was put into place as when the layout was first being built over 15 years ago. DCC was far too expensive then. There were a total of eight throttles, with some restricted to specific areas for switching etc. and others used on the main line. Track was all code 100 nickel-silver, painted and weathered with a rusty clolour to look well used.

Ties were given oil and coal spills and some had ‘weeds’ growing in them to similate poorly maintained industrial trackage. Some track was hand-laid (in visible areas) and factory-made in hidden areas. We had a double tracked main line of 130 actual feet (260 feet of track), a branch to Roehampton of about 70 feet single tracked, and a branch to west Harbour of about 35 feet. All bridge work on the line was scratch-built or kit-bashed based upon researched bridge-building principles. The Stemmer Trestle was 8 1/2 actual feet in length! Another very large through truss bridge was scratch-built using strip wood, cardstock and drapery track to make girders, gussets and bracing and spanned nearly 800 scale feet in HO.

ElevatorSpur

Our lighting was a mixture of flourescent and incandescent. The ceiling was black to minimize refection and distraction of the lighting when viewing the scenery. We had over 50 locomotive and 400 pieces of rolling stock, all of which had to be heavily weathered and modified to get the ‘look’ we wanted for our railway. All wheel sets and couplers were given a brown rusty look, and dirt grim and rust streaks hand-painted to simulate weather, dust, and grim that would come from regular operation. We used a lot of oil pastel scraped by Xacto kives into piles of various colours that were then either applied by a fluffy artist’s brush or fine wetted brushes. Afterwards, a fixative was applied to keep it all in place. Even our builtings and structures were given the same treatment.

For operation, we used switch lists and timetables. There were two large staging area, one hidden beneath Roehampton that could stage up to 6 trains in each direction on the main line, and a second one that was a hidden stub yard of 4 tracks leading into Harbourside Junction. Lots of industries plus the main line and two banches gave us lots of operational possibilities. Every Wednesday a crew of anywhere from 3 to 8 people came to help us operate and maintain the layout. Al told, there was over 1000′ of track and 85 turnouts which included about 6 double slip switches in areas of tight trackage.

Regards,

Bob”

LookingTowardStemmer

NYC@Roehampton

PhartzGas&Oil

RoehamptonTurntable

StockPens&IndustrialArea

Trestle to Stemmer

TrestleToRoehampton

WVHbridge&StemmerTrestle

An absolutely stunning layout. A huge thank you to Bob for sharing. I loved his narrative of the planning and how the layout took shape.

I have no idea why, but when someone like Bob takes the time to explain the layout in the detail he has, it makes the pics so much more interesting. I can’t stop looking at them.

And don’t forget, there’s only way to see ALL the post, and that’s to jump on the newsletter (and you’ll get an excellent tunnel making step-by-step too!)

That’s all this time folks, until tomorrow’s mailing.

Best

Al

tunnel_ppush








93 responses to “Bob and Dennis’ utterly amazing model railroad”

  1. Ol' Puffer says:

    Wow,
    absolutely fantastic and inspiring.
    I can’t get over the detail you have got.
    Any chance of a video guys?

  2. Eric says:

    Great layout and the rock work is superb, a video would be good.
    Eric

  3. Douglas Humphrey says:

    Brilliant layout! Could you supply details of overall size and maybe a track plan? This is a layout that I wouldn’t mind traveling to see in person. Pity I can’t afford to though. Thanks a lot for sharing. Douglas

  4. Peter Sirrah says:

    Superb is the only way to describe. Am I jealous.

  5. Mark Jarvis says:

    Fabulouse sceanery, where is the layout based and what are the dimentions. You run some long trains so it must be big!!!

    Mark

  6. Nick says:

    I can say no more than ‘stunning’….!

  7. BernardS says:

    Dear Bob and Dennis, such a wonderful layout ,it must have taken you many hours of back=breaking effort the idea of having a history of your railway excellent and to be commended to anyone just either starting or thinking of creating their own railroad .
    all the very best from the Midlands of England
    Bernard

  8. Dave says:

    Just a fabulous layout. The addition of the narrative on the thought process and construction helps to give us a prospective not usually included. I would love to see the rolling stock with your company logo applied.

    I am sure the two of you enjoyed countless hours of companionship working on the railway together. This was such an added benefit. I retired from teaching school and decided that I had the time to build my pike the Eagle Pass and Moose Lake. I am still working on it ten years later. It is daunting at times when you realize that you have to do it all……wish I had a good friend to work and share with.

    Again, just beautiful!

  9. florin says:

    WOW !

  10. John says:

    Bob and Dennis a video PLEASE!!!! Fantastic layout guys!

  11. Steve Roberts says:

    Great work you two – excellent scenery and lots of interest. River would have been better green or muddy brown, but no other critisism. One to aim for SteveR UK

  12. James says:

    Congratulations. An inspiration to us all what a little thought will do. I must admit this is an example of which you should be proud of all the labour you have put into this work of art.

    The say beauty is in the eye of the beholder well if that is true then you should be the Goya and Renoir of the 21st century.

    Well done and thank you for the few minutes of allowing us to view a master piece

  13. Bob Cassidy says:

    Outstanding! Great Job!

  14. Paul B. says:

    Beautiful work. The railroad really looks like it belongs. A video would be neat.

  15. John R says:

    Excellent layout. The scenery is.fabulous.

  16. Tom Feeney says:

    Absolutely incredible !!! Everything looks so real and down to complete detail. I
    love this layout and the thought behind every seen. It should be shown on
    Model Railroading !!!

    Wish I had time to do something like this. Unfortunately the years catch up to you
    and I’m short on time. Simply wonderful !!

    Thank you guys. Regards Tom

  17. Cameron says:

    What a fantastic layout. The attention to detail is incredible. If you have the time to post more photos I am sure everyone would be very grateful. Cheers. Cameron

  18. Jay Piper says:

    What a great layout! It would be nice to see a video of trains running.

  19. Chuck Bartunek says:

    Absolutely one of the best I’ve seen, excellent attention to detail.
    Regards Chuck

  20. Jim says:

    Now THIS IS an outstanding layout. The attention to detail in the buildings and rolling stock and the weathering on ALL pieces is just terrific. The photos were taken with a very artistic eye. Would love to see more of this work. Very interested in knowing the actual dimensions and shape of the layout. With the length of track, the complete model might be quite large. I hardly ever comment on all the great model railroads you share with us Al, however, as one who grew up during the change over from steam to diesel, I relate well to this railroad. So very nice. Thanks!

  21. Hugo Budzen says:

    John Allen would have approved wholeheartedly

  22. Bob Tucker says:

    Wow…Just WOW!!!

  23. Jerry Suits says:

    Excellent work of art!!! Having spent a year working on my layout–I can apprreciate your detailed and artistic work even more!

  24. sundaram says:

    Mind Boggling and a fantastic layout. Truly amazing handiwork

  25. Martin V. Knife Chief says:

    A great layout!! Love the transitional period. Scenery is fantastic! need more pictures. A great job weathering the trains…they look so realistic! Thanks for sharing!

  26. Rob McCrain says:

    Excellent work with the details Love the bridges and elevated sections, the trestles. Very nice work.

  27. Brent 'Hooligan' Polson says:

    Great detail! Go Canada!!

    Just hope you spend the time to create realistic bodies of water. That bright blue is tarnishing the entire layout and sticks out like a sore thumb.

    I’m sure after another 15 years of tweaking you’ll have it PERFECT!

    All the best on a job well done.

    Brent Polson
    Lockport, Manitoba, Canada eh!

  28. christine says:

    Very nice layout.

  29. KR says:

    Terrific layout! It would be great to see some “long shot” pictures to put it all into perspective.

  30. Bullfrogeh says:

    This is certainly one of the best layouts I’ve ever seen. Perhaps I’m biased, as it beautifully depicts the actual historical railroad activity along the limestone interface with the Canadian Shield, as it occurs along OUR own Southern Ontario, Great Lakes shoreline, (where waterways are still ‘blue’) – – Congratulations !, and thanks for the further inspiration. – Dave, on the Shield.

  31. Paul Simpson says:

    “Phartz Gas”, love it, hahahaha!

  32. Pawpaws rickety railroad says:

    Very nice. Best to future build and keep it up

  33. Mark J says:

    Erm….speechless. It just “looks right” if you know what I mean. That layout is something to be proud of.

  34. Craig Folkes says:

    Beautiful layout! Any chance of a panoramic photo of the entire set up?

  35. WOW and holy antique locomotives batman
    wotttta layout….
    jeeeez you guys have a lotta TIME to work on this…
    and what a fabulous job
    the detail is incredible and the big bridge is genius…!!!
    keep it runnin fellas!!

  36. Wayne says:

    Stunning. Those rock formations are an absolute work of art. Well done guys. Waiting with baited breath for pictures of the whole layout and a video!

  37. Dave Watson says:

    Beautiful work. Brought back memories of the T H & B in the Hamilton area of my youth. What is the scale you use?

  38. Ernie Stammers says:

    I just love the creativity that I have seen over the past year or so, I guess every one of your modellers must have been inspired by Blue Peter and tony hart (these are references to English Television programs) and of late by Mr. Maker.
    (You will have to Google them) but each and everyone deserves a BLUE PETER BADGE
    Brilliant work from all of your contributors, Keep it up and thanks for sharing

  39. ron simunic says:

    Wow, really nice. How were the close ups at track level made? Thanks for this website.

  40. James D. (Dave) Mason says:

    ABSOLUTELY GREAT ! I would love to see this some time. I live in Bowling Green, Ohio, but I havve a lot of relatives in Canada and I spend a lot of tiime in Kingsville, Ontario, so it would be easy for me to visit IF you would let me.

  41. Wayne says:

    Beautiful! In a couple of those pictures, I’d swear I was looking at the real thing and not a model.

  42. Pete Evangel says:

    I just love the idea of “freelance” design. To me it shows more of your brain and ideas than just doing a copy of something already existing. Love the weathering of the bridges and detail of grounds. Out standing job.

    Pete, Calif USA

  43. Tom says:

    ten being excellent one being not so good
    you both get a twelve!!
    best,
    Tom

  44. Ron Travis says:

    Fantastic modeling – great layouts – enjoyed them all!

  45. paul Otway says:

    wonderful layout

  46. Bob says:

    That’s one nice setup! And so realistic looking!

  47. WOW WOW what a out standing lay out. Love to see a video. Best to you guys.

  48. Dave says:

    All the close up photos are great but I would enjoy seeing some over the top shots to see what their layout plans look like. I am redoing my track plan now and could use some good ideas.

  49. Ross Johnstron says:

    What great pictures of a fantastic railway. If possible could we see the actual track plan and dimensions of your railway. GREAT JOB!!! Cheers Rossco Adelaide, Australia

  50. John Ketcham says:

    Impressive!

  51. Rod Mackay says:

    Wonderful job, a thing of beauty indeed. I see you say “was” a lot, is the SLO&W no longer with us?
    Rod

  52. Carl Kinzinger says:

    Congratulations on a great layout. I can only repeat the superlatives from the other fellows. Happy railroading!
    Carl, Port Hope

  53. Charles says:

    Way cool, great detailing 🙂

  54. Kenton says:

    Absolutely Amazing!!!!

  55. Bob Holden says:

    Thanks folks, we appreciate the comments. Alas the SLO&W is no longer with us. It was dismantled as my wife and I moved, but it will come back again once I get my new basement in order. It will be a little smaller as I won’t have as much room to play with. The layout above occupied two rooms in the basement of our previous home; one room was about 12 feet by 18 feet, the other 12 by 20 feet which included a work area and rolling stock storage. The areas with water were one of the few parts of the layout that was unfinished.
    Bob

  56. Patrick Boyll says:

    The Quality of this layout is superb and I am sure it matches the size.The only issue I can see is it is a Dream layout.I live in a manufacturer home with no available space for a layout of any proportion.I am considering a N scale 4×8 layout but will have have it out in my carport and store the cars and locomotives inside for security.You have given me a starting point and a couple of ideas I could implement.Thank You for taking the time to share your layout photos with us.

  57. Bill Fitzpatrick says:

    Gentlemen , a triumph!!!!!! It must have been extremely difficult to tear it out.
    We’ll look forward to the new version.
    ……………………………………………Fitz

  58. Roly says:

    An excellent layout. The care and attention to detail you have taken to build the layout shines through. You have well earned the time to have many enjoyable sessions of operating ahead.

    Roly

  59. Mark Jarvis says:

    This is superb, the narative brilliant, the pics only tell part of the story, PLEASE shoot a vidio of the layout opperating

    Regards

    Mark

  60. Ian Schoeman says:

    Without doubt, and by far, the best layout I have seen in many many years. Magnificent to say the least. Thanks for sharing.

    Regards

    Ian

  61. Chris says:

    Amazing, fantastic layout, thanks for sharing

  62. Kevin says:

    I’ll be honest – that trestle with the single engine and single car looks eerily similar to the Lost River Trestle of the Monon Railroad in Paoli, IN. That trestle no longer exists, but you can see the abutments from SR 37 across from Walmart and behind Wendy’s.

    Ok, now on to the “real” stuff: GREAT detail work, If I didn’t know this was a model, I’d be asking where I could take these pictures. It’s that life like.

    I’ve seen calls for a video. I echo those calls.

  63. Mark Piznik says:

    Love the scenery!!! You can see the genius in every photo. I love Canada and my wife is from Montreal. My railroad is just beginning. My kids got me lots of railroading stuff (and beer) for my recent birthday. Don’t know which to enjoy first! Regards NJ Mark

  64. utterly stunning layout
    probably one of the best Ive ever seen
    built by just a couple of guys
    the detail is superbe and the trestle is a work of art
    keep em runnin fellas
    stjohn in long beach calif

  65. christine says:

    Wonderful job, a lot of work.

  66. paul Otway says:

    one of the best USA outline layouts, I ever seen.

    Paul from DOwnunder.

  67. Bob says:

    Yes, utterly amazing and just beautiful!

  68. Aidan Thomas says:

    Wow, simply stunning!

  69. Austin Wilson says:

    What a beautiful and stunning layout.. I can not ever imagine me doing a job on my layout like this one. Well done.

  70. George Hewitt says:

    You can see why this is the most popular post so far for 2015. The detail is great and the story sets the scene beautifully.

    Keep the pictures coming as they are inspirational.

  71. geoff says:

    fantastic carry on the great work

  72. geoff says:

    fantastic carry on the great work, aninspiration for all of us

  73. Jonathan says:

    Gentlemen, In all my years looking at other layouts to get a sense of thing’s I’d like to do when I build a large one of my own, I have come across many wonderful one’s, However, there are only Two that “Scream” a sense of realism and artistic detail that you have instilled and captured in these photo’s,I look forward to your next dream, Keep on Trakkin’ !!

  74. Tim says:

    FANTASTIC JOB! The lighting for the pics was superb! If it weren’t for the cars, the people and the river, I would have believed the photos were of a real location.

  75. Jim Saccento says:

    The details are fantastic! Great photography too!

  76. Horace Hammock says:

    Hey could you please tell me were you are from and what make your trainstay are. Thanks and God bless you.

  77. Carl Kinzinger says:

    A great layout, wonderful detail. I agree a video would be much appreciated and a layout plan or overview photos. Live just down the road, so to speak in Port Hope, Ontario. Any chance of seeing the layout in person? Let me know.
    Carl

  78. Bill Imperatore says:

    WOW!!! Absolutely dazzling!

  79. Carlos Carareto says:

    Fantastic scenery.
    I would like to watch videos and photo of every model, if possible, to get an idea of the layout used.

  80. David De Bondi says:

    Just fabulous fellas, thanks for sharing.

  81. Dave Hannon says:

    Excellent layout very detailed I’m lost for words would love to see video of layout are there any ? Great work

  82. Larry Johnson says:

    Looking Great from what I could see I am like most of the other who have responded, A video would be great. I am sure you have a lot of folks who give you a hand and I am sure they really deserve a round od applause and a pat on the back as well as a great big THANKS Thanks from me also . Larry aka HuggyBear

  83. Robin Hallam says:

    another WOW from me in New Zealand.

  84. Richard Sommery-Gade says:

    Speechless !

  85. ian impett says:

    Simply the BEST!!!!!!!!!!!

  86. Thomas Murphy says:

    Utterly spectacular layout! One can see the countless hours of work that went into it to achieve your goal. I admire your dedication to our hobby.

  87. Eppi Santiago says:

    Stunning and spectacular layout !!!!

  88. You guys are a master’s master when it comes to model railroading. A lot of time, patience, know how and dedication to detail applied to turning a vision into a truly amazing reality. A video wood be great.

  89. YEEEOW best layout Ive seen here yet Alistair
    the detail is uncanny
    these guys are REALLY GOOD
    everyone take note of their informational detail
    keep em runnin fellas]
    stjohn in long beach calif

  90. Dave Massimi....in New York says:

    Gentlemen…BEYOND IMPRESSIVE ! Must have broken your hearts to dismantle it.
    By far, one of the very best and most realistic layouts I have ever seen.
    At age 68, am about to start my first layout and can only hope to make it half as great as yours.
    Dave, in New York

  91. Jim Baker says:

    I agree with all that the layout is excellent. Great attention to detail, and faithful depiction of the real thing!

    I am puzzled though, by the narrative being in past tense. Is this layout now gone?

  92. Merl Fisher says:

    never seen better

  93. ben McCall says:

    What a great layout, all of the DETAIL, and the story behind it. Thanks for sharing.

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