Track Plan for a Liberty Village layout – Attempt 1.0

Well, here it is, my first attempt at a track plan for a layout in our apartment.  As previously discussed here and here, I have chosen the “Liberty Village” area in the west end of downtown Toronto as my first potential (maybe only, who knows yet) option for a layout to study and assess.  I’ve been working on and off on it for the past couple of weeks since I generally identified how much space for a layout could be created in the office/spare bedroom.  As I’ve looked at track options, and learned more about the Liberty Village area, I’ve refined the conceptual design of the benchwork, and on developing a track plan.

I am trying to take inspiration from modellers like Trevor Marshall or Lance Mindheim who promote the concept of “Achievable Layouts”, i.e. setting realistic goals and expectations for what we can fit into our homes, and can reasonably hope to build.  Living in a rental apartment, we could move before I even start this project, or live there another 6 years on top of the 6 we’ve been in our current apartment and see a layout reach a point where it’s completed and the joy comes from operating rather than planning and building.  With that in mind, as I’ve written about, everything is designed to be supported by the furniture beneath, and not be anchored to the walls (because anchoring anything to the 50-year-old concrete walls in our building is a nightmare, I’ve done it enough I don’t want to do it again!).

In terms of inspiration, this is definitely a “Prototype-Inspired” layout.  Using compression and some adjustment of locations for a shelf layout, I can represent a reasonable cross-section of Liberty Village along Liberty Street.  In terms of era, I will be setting the layout in the late 1950’s.  Exact date still to be determined, I’m leaning towards somewhere between 1955-57.  In this era, Toronto would mostly have been diesel switched, using S-2’s and S-3’s for CPR, and SW8/9/900 for CN, though SW-1200RS’s may have been seen in switching duty following their delivery starting in 1955.  There is also a chance that on CN at least, steam may have shown up.  In the Toronto area, everything I’ve ever seen indicates that CPR was really fast to dieselize their freight switching operations following the arrival of the First S-2 in 1944 and the end of WW2.  I’ve seen more pictures of hanger on steam on CN.  Giving some poor crew at an ops session an end of life 0-8-0 or 0-6-0 that’s a bit to big for the trackage and set to perform as if it’s on its last legs would be an interesting challenge.

But, back to the track plan.  Before I ramble any more, here is the first version I’m sharing:

Oct 31 17 - Liberty Layout Concept 1-FastTracks 3.anyTrack Plan Version 1.0 – Bigger Version in PDF File HERE

The technical details are that I designed using Fast Tracks hand-made turnouts and crossovers.  I haven’t yet fully committed to this and building my own turnouts (with micro engineering flextrack elsewhere), but, they offer some flexibility and the opportunity to learn/improve multiple skills.  Turnouts are No.4’s aside from two curved No.6 turnouts by Hanna Avenue.  I suspect, that I will use an open grid benchwork to provide room for mounting to the desks as the base, with a high-grade plywood surface.  All of the benchwork surface can be achieved from a single 4’x8′ sheet.  Given the almost complete lack of topography, I don’t need a foam layer, but it may not be a bad option for ease of inserting details like hydro poles and the like as opposed to having to drill into the ply everytime, but that’s a down the road problem when we get to construction.  My current thinking is to use cork roadbed and sheets to build up the roads and track areas. As you can see if you go there today, or from pictures, the roads and rails were generally on the same level where track wasn’t in the streets.

Liberty Village Circa 1970’s (All Images from Toronto Archives).  On the left, the corner of Liberty Street and Mowat Avenue (looking south), on the right, the intersection of Hanna Avenue and Liberty (looking east on top and west on bottom along Liberty).  These images are from the long decay period for Liberty Village, between its industrial heyday and its rebirth in the 2000’s as a residential and high-tech neighbourhood.

The layout concept above has 8 rail served industries, with 13 possible locations for spotting cars at the industries.  On the plan, I’ve shown 40′ cars, but some tracks and locations could accommodate 50′ cars as well.  The layout attempts to capture the trackage at the corner of Liberty Street and Mowat Avenue faithfully at the “west” end (left), and a reduced version of Hinde & Dauch Paper at the “east” end (left).  Exiting down Mowat Ave leads to CNR Staging, representing the yard adjacent to the Canadian National Exhibition Grounds (where Exhibition GO Station is today) and the greater world.  Exiting past Hinde & Dauch takes you to the CPR Parkdale Yard and their connection to the greater world.  In the middle of the layout, between Fraser Ave and Atlantic Ave, I have flipped the industries from the south side of the street to the north side.  This lets me create a representation of the core area of Liberty Village between the two more faithful ends.  The space available to me and the limitations of models to negotiate crazy tight curves as existed in the real world force compromises here.  I think, so far I can live with them.

The greatest deviation from the real trackage is the provision of the “run around” loop in Liberty Street. This didn’t exist, despite the presence of sidings which could only be switched if you pushed a car in from some distance away at either yard.  For example.  CN would have had to push cars for Toronto Carpet or Thrane north on Mowat from the yard, similarly, CPR would have had to push cars into Hinde & Dauch or to Canadian GE.  Having shared a version of this plan while working on this post with my friend Trevor Marshall, he suggested ditching the run around and making operators have to work as they did in the real world, in this case, replicated in the staging yards by how the trains were marshalled before a session.  I’m of several minds on this.  For serious operating sessions, it definitely pose more of a challenge to not have it.  For days where I’m at home alone and messing about, having it potentially makes it more fun on “Stephen’s messing about switching cars for no good reason” sessions.  And yes, there will be days where I just shunt cars for the sake of shunting cars, there’s no point building a layout if you can’t just have some fun running equipment on it for no good reason!  That said, the run around loop is something that can either be built later if I leave it off and discover I really hate it, or lock it out of use for operating sessions to force visitors to work more prototypically.

In terms of next steps.  I’m going to keep researching the area and working on refining the track and benchwork plans from any feedback I receive on this post or directly from reaching out to friends.  The first thing to happen will be the replacement of my existing workbench and re-organizing the furniture that will support the layout.  I’ve budgeted to do that sometime late in January/early February 2018.  Once that is done, I can finalize the benchwork design and how it will be affixed to the furniture.  So this will still be a slow burn for a few months before any real layout construction starts.

12 thoughts on “Track Plan for a Liberty Village layout – Attempt 1.0

  1. Stephen,

    Due to the large number of turnouts in a small area you would be well advised to make an over lay of the turn out controllers and any structural braces for the bench work. Some good planning here can save you the “Dooh” moment of having to rip out a bench work cross brace that is in the way of mounting a turnout controller.

  2. Thanks Ryan, yeah, benchwork design and switch operation will be on the list of things to worry about once i settle on a track plan and know where switches will be set. I’m of several minds on the switch operation question. I liked the Bullfrogs you have on your layout, I’m intrigued by the new Rapido electric ones, and there is old faithful of ground throws. All have pros and cons to be worked through in this process. That’s why i’m glad i’ve got lots of time here in the “planning and design” phase to get the layout and other design/construction issues sorted before I cut the first piece of lumber.


  3. I know we’ve talked at length about the run-around.
    Ultimately, it’s your decision of course. But it occurs to me that you could lay the two turnouts and NOT connect them with the run-around initially – and try the layout that way.
    If you decide you like it, you can curve the track off each turnout towards the fascia so it appears that they are spurs serving industries in the aisle. Or you can bury the unused routes from the turnouts in the pavement, so it appears to be abandoned and paved-over trackage.
    If you decide you want the run-around after all, you can lay the track to connect the two turnouts.

    I think that NOT having the run-around might actually reduce the operating headaches in this switching district. You won’t be tempted to pull too much from staging, and you won’t get into situations where you’re blocking cross-streets with half your train while you run around another portion of the train to get the locomotive on the right end of the cars. Two pulls of three cars each from staging is easier to manage than one pull of six, for instance.
    It would also be possible to set up two short trains in each staging area, each with its own motive power, with one CN train and one CP train blocked to switch spurs facing to the right, and the other CN and CP trains blocked for spurs facing to the left. Only one train at a time would appear in the district – but it would give you the opportunity to enjoy four locomotives during each operating session.

    – Trevor (Port Rowan in 1:64, Achievable Layouts)

  4. Hi Stephen,

    How exciting it is to see the early designs of a new layout plan!
    The prototype setting is very interesting for me, as I like to wander through there on my walks downtown.

    Not knowing what all your likes and dislikes are, or what is and is not important for you, I kindly offer the following:

    1. There seems to be an over-saturation of car spots for the space. I would delete at least four of them, up to six. Visually, it won’t look so “model-railroady” – you know, that urge to cram something into every available space. The breathing space is a subtle thing. The structures would get bigger and more realistic even though everything is highly compressed.

    2. The crossings are interesting, but I think will be troublesome – I would reduce them to maybe one. I assume you will be running DCC, having a crossing so close to a short No 4 turnout might not work if the locomotive wheelbase (especially steam with driver and tender pickups) is longer than the “zone” for switching track polarity (I’m also assuming you would use Frog Juicers). If this design is ok in that respect, there will still be a lot of effort with devices (manual switches, Frog Juicers) to manage the track polarity issue.

    3. The run-around is not needed. Pushing cars to/from staging is prototypically normal. The run-around may also look “model-railroady” when built.

    4. Only one staging is needed; perhaps replacing the other with more layout at that end.

    While this layout might not look like much to some, especially with the suggested reduced spots, there is plenty to do for the real operator: choosing a suitable switching strategy, horn/whistle/bell discipline, protecting public roadway traffic with a flagman, manual aligning of points, air tests, waybills, etc. Good old railroading.

    However, in any way you proceed I wish you much success.

  5. Trevor, your feedback is very much appreciated, especially as you have a track record of designing successful layouts that can both be built and operated (and be enjoyable to operate!). I like your suggestion regarding laying track and seeing if operations work without the loop. It definitely makes a more “intense” operating session if multiple trains need to be run. The longer i look at it the more the extra track does look out of place to me (which it is since it didn’t exist!).

    Rick, Thank you for your comments. They are quite helpful in my considerations and ongoing review and re-assessment of my first attempt. One thing I can’t do though, is extend the layout where the staging is on either end. Because of other furniture and the need to not impinge upon the rooms use as our spare bedroom, the main area is the most I can achieve. The staging at either end does at least serve a legitimate prototypical purpose of representing CNR entering the area from one end and CPR from the other. The are at least two spots for cars that I’m not happy with (Exide and Toronto Carpet). For Toronto Carpet in particular, I think I’d rather capture more of the scope of the building than forcing the track in. Making that section not a shunt would be a return to something i had originally. Similarly, the Exide siding feels forced, and eliminating it would let me make the CGE (formerly Sunbeam) light factory be more impressive and breathe. As it is, odd though it may be, the Toronto Carpet Building (D) shown on my sketch would actually be wider than the real building is, the real building is give or take 60′, or about 8″ in HO scale, the building shown is at 14″ wide!

    It’s interesting that you make a comment about the closeness of the switches and crossovers. If anything, mine are more spaced out with more gentle curves than the real intersection at Mowat and Liberty as a concession to the limits of HO scale models to negotiate curves! As it is a number of the crossovers would be scenic only. Getting rid of the Toronto Carpet spot would make 1 more a fake crossing that wouldn’t need to be electrically active both ways.

    In terms of my interests, a lot of it is structures. One of the attractive things to me are the fantastic industrial buildings in a variety of subtly different architectural styles in the area, and re-creating that. Enjoyable operations is critical, but ensuring opportunities to model honest or selectively compressed versions of the buildings that still exist in the LV area is important to me.

    I’ve been using my time in the evenings puttering around with the track plan, doing things like getting rid of the curved turnouts and figuring out how to get an alignment that doesn’t require them (succeeded in that i think).

    I certainly appreciate all the feedback from everyone given this is my first shot at designing a layout really meant for operations. I look forward to sharing a next iteration with you and hopefully in the not too distant future inviting people to an operating session!



  6. Hi Stephen,

    Thanks for explaining your thinking further. I have a better understanding now…

    On a whim, I measured a Proto Heritage USRA 0-6-0. The drivers scale out to 50-1/2″ and the locomotive wheelbase is 11’0″ (evenly pitched drivers). In looking at my reference for CPR Class U-3 0-6-0 switchers, which appear to be common at John Street and I assume therefore at Liberty Village, their driver diameter is 52″ and a wheelbase of 11’6″ (slightly unevenly pitched drivers). The model has the correct valve motion as the prototype.

    The reason why I bring this up is because I happen to have a practically new Proto USRA 0-6-0 locomotive (no tender). If you can live with the minor discrepancies, and knowing your skill in 3D design/printing, I think you might be able to use the frame, can motor, running gear, valve motion/cylinders for a 3D printed CPR U-3. I would like to donate it to the cause.


  7. Hi Rick,

    That’s a very generous offer of you. I have to admit, I don’t know nearly as much about CPR Steam locomotives as I do CNR ones. I spent some time last night and this morning looking online at the U3 locomotives, and one would certainly have a potential home on a Liberty Village layout. I’d be interested, but lets talk sometime down the road to see if there is at least something from my collection in storage i can offer in trade for the locomotive. Taking on the project to 3D design a more accurate cab and boiler would certainly be a project that would interest me down the line.



  8. Hi Stephen,
    This switcher of mine is just sitting in a box and will probably sit there forever. It’s better if someone can use it. No trade necessary. It would make me happy if you could make something of it. I could not check on CNR 0-6-0 prototypes, but if one is better suited for this chassis/driver combo, why not a CNR locomotive?

  9. I see Trevor and Rick arguing for no runaround and less spots. I confess that I am firmly in the runaround and more spots camp since you just can’t have too much switching! I waffled back and forth on a runaround and finally decided to keep it for my current plan. That was iteration 12.1…

    I notice that access to many of the sidings requires the staging yards to be in place and with a track clear. If they have to be set up before running, it could make spontaneous ops limited. On the other hand, not having all the sidings pointing towards to middle reduces the model railroady-ness.

  10. Hi Mark, Thanks for your thoughts. I knew writing this post that I would get opinions both ways, as I have myself. In the end, I will do what I think is best for me, but I want to have as much consideration from different viewpoints to try and inform my decision making, and avoid mistakes that could easily be caught. I’m trying very hard to not all in love with my own work without holding it up to the fire and scrutiny from others to look for easily avoidable bad decisions!

    In terms of the staging, the CNR Staging would be marginally more permanent than the CPR. It blocks a bookcase and extends over the spare bed in our office/spare room. The CPR Staging blocks the closet doors in that room, where we are in and out of the closet regularly as its our major storage in the apartment and we needs to be able to get in and out. At the suggestion of another friend, the staging shelves were designed to be identical, so it doesn’t matter which one goes where. Perhaps a consideration would be to widening them a bit further to provide for a 3rd track to ensure that all industries can be switched even if two trains are staged.

    Rick, I will send you an email about the locomotive to figure out when we might be in the sample place for me to pick it up from you. Since I have to build a tender either way, and I have no CPR steam in my collection, i like your original thought. The CP Historic Association has the plans for the 3500 gallon tender body in their online archive, so I’m already well on the way to that, and I discovered that there is a U-3 0-6-0 in a museum in Goderich, so an opportunity for a road trip to photograph and measure!



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