This post is my introduction to the railroad line I would like to someday build a layout of. Over the years, as I’ve gotten back into the hobby following a brief interruption for University (compared to many, I’ve never fully left it), I’ve become more of a “Prototype Modeller”, looking to accurately model a line and its operations. While I have never built a prototype layout, in recent years, I’ve been focusing my attention on becoming better at obtaining information about real places or equipment, and replicating them in model form. Most of this has been focused on models of the physical buildings and equipment in the Toronto Railway Museum collection. This has been a good sideline as they are models I have space for in our apartment, and are readily accessible to me to take measurements, photographs, and compare my models to the real thing.
How people decide what they want to model in our hobby could be a whole series of blog posts, so I’ll try to keep this as short and manageable as possible!!
I grew up in Chatham Ontario. My exposure to trains as a kid was Chessie System Yellow/Orange/Blue Geeps hauling chemical cars on the other side of the field behind our house, seeing CPR freights running through downtown when we were at the mall (the tracks were right beside our church and the Miracle Mart my mom shopped at, both tolerable trips if a train came by), and going to the south end to see VIA Rail passenger and CN freight trains when visiting family friends on the other side of town. Any of these would be things you might expect to attract my modelling interest as they are things I experienced, but, for some reason, I have always had a strong attraction to steam locomotives and an era well before I came on the scene in the late 1970’s! (at least in terms of North American modelling!)
For a number of years my parents (and me for a couple after university) lived in Georgetown Ontario. Georgetown is home to a lovely stone station, built in 1856 by the Grand Trunk Railway, and heavily remodelled in 1892 and 1904. The station remains in use today for both VIA Rail intercity passenger trains, and GO Transit commuter trains. The station is historically a junction between two lines, the Milton Subdivision which ran from Burlington to Allandale (Barrie), and the Brampton Subdivision which ran from Toronto to Stratford. These lines met in Georgetown. The area around the station was home to a paper mill, freight shed, coal merchant and a station hotel. Some of these still exist today (some of the Paper Mill buildings and Station Hotel), others are long gone. Georgetown in and of itself offers an interesting place to model, but at the end of the day, most of the traffic was passing through.
Georgetown Station, still going strong in 2016!
I was introduced to my now wife in 2010. Her family is from and still lives in Barrie Ontario. Barrie was once blessed with two beautiful stations (Barrie proper and the station at Allandale, which yes, wasn’t part of Barrie back then), and a major yard & roundhouse at Allandale. Only the Allandale Station remains, which has been fully restored by the City, however it is empty, fenced off and tenants for the interior have yet to be identified. Hopefully, someday people will be able to get into the station again. Fortunately, trains again run from close to Allandale, the new Barrie-Allandale Waterfront GO Station has opened on the alignment of the line to Meaford and serves commuters heading into Toronto again. Bill Bradford, an exert on CN Steam and modeller in the Barrie area has built a fantastic model of the Allandale Roundhouse that makes appearances at shows. It’s incredible to see how big it is just on its own without any of the yard of station facilities.
Bill Bradford’s model of Allandale Roundhouse at the Barrie-Allandale Train Show
This combination of family factors drew my interest to the line which connected Georgetown and Barrie. In the 1950’s, it was an active branch line, not overly busy, but serving several large industries; with a daily passenger service; interchanging with bigger lines on either end; flat crossing and interchange with the Canadian Pacific; an elevated crossing by the CPR; a stretch of parallel running with the CPR; a level crossing with a 4 lane provincial highway (for a few years at least!); and, interesting oddball equipment running on the line. The line is approximately 60 miles (100km) in length, which is obviously too big to model completely (if my math is right, 60 miles in HO scale is about a 3,600 ft long mainline!!), but the rural nature offers the opportunity to select interesting vignettes or portions of the line to model while bringing it down to a manageable size and something reasonable to operate given the small volume of traffic on the line.
Map of the Milton Subdivision in the 1950’s era. Produced using Google Maps
On top of all there, there is not one, not two, but three books which spend a great deal of time discussing the history, structures, and operations of this railway. Two by Ian Wilson, “Steam at Allandale” and “Steam Scenes of Allandale”, and one by Charles Cooper called “Hamilton’s Other Railway“. These are invaluable sources to start the learning and researching process. Ian Wilson’s books in particular are invaluable as they focus on the era of the 1950’s which I want to model when big changes were happening on the railway with the oncoming dieselization and increased competition from private cars.
I’d hoped to take some weekends this year and drive/walk the line (large parts of it are now bike/hiking trails) and take pictures, but the rest of life’s demands on my time have scuppered that so far. I am going to be in Barrie in the coming weeks, so I should finally be able to take some time and detail photograph the restored Allandale Station, having good photographs really helps with the modelling process.
Obviously, living in an apartment, a grand layout that even captures any of this line is just a concept (dream?) at the moment, but it’s good to have goals, I find having something like this keeps me motivated to research and work on projects. If it never happens, I will build other layouts/modules in the interim as I’ve mulled previously that do fit into my space, but the concept keeps me busy and engaged in research and learning. After all, I’ve already fully measured and 3D modelled the Georgetown Station and it’s long gone baggage extension, and have the architectural plans in hand to let me start on a model of the Allandale Station, just building these will keep me going for years!