A Visit with the Model Railroad Enabler

So, for some months now, I have been blogging about the Liberty Village Line and my plan to model Liberty Village in the spare bedroom/office/workshop room in our two bedroom apartment.  I had hoped to have started construction by now, or at least the prep work of a new workbench, but life and making sure I’d gotten to a point I am really happy with in terms of the layout design have kept preventing me from actually starting anything.  With no where to actually build the benchwork at or in my apartment, I don’t want to impose on those who have offered me their garages and assistance for a construction day until I’m really sure I’m building the right benchwork!  I really can’t get half way and make easy fixes.

One Room to bind them and do all things in…my current layout space in the apartment and the current plan for the Liberty Village Line.

My friend Trevor Marshall, of Port Rowan in S Scale fame (aka “The Model Railroad Enabler”) has been busily spending his days of late blogging about the Niagara St. Catharines & Toronto Railway and possibly switching his prototype and doing away with his current layout, to replace it with one based on the former electric railways around St Catherines (though still in S Scale).  That’s fine, he’s only making his own life maddening with that.  Then, last weekend, I got invited out with him and Pierre Oliver who was in town to talk trains, see some stuff in Trevor’s basement, and go for dinner at Harbord House, a very civilized way to spend a Sunday afternoon/evening.  That is until, the Model Railroad Enabler Struck again….

kapowThe Model Railroad Enabler Strikes (If I had any kind of free time, or graphics skills, I’d create a logo for him rather than lifting a good ole comic book kapow!)

Poor Pierre, the Enabler got him and now he’s gone to the dark side and is migrating from the Wabash Railroad in St Thomas Ontario to the Clovis Branch of the Southern Pacific in California (see Pierre’s post here).  Having just visited Pierre’s layout in progress recently, I can see the things he describes in his post as bothering him about it, and frankly, getting to that half way point and realizing you aren’t happy is probably been holding me back from even starting construction.  My track plan still has some compromises for space, which aren’t fatal to it, but they keep me coming back to look at other ways to organize the office or design the layout to tackle them.

I only brought a simple problem to Trevor’s basement on Sunday, my lack of a DCC system to test and configure my Scotrail Class 156 on (it works fine BTW, forgot to take video of Trevor playing with the toilet tank flush sound…).  Now I’m terrified the next time I see Trevor he’ll have drawn up some track plan for my apartment benchwork featuring some obscure branchline of the Great Western Railway pre-grouping of the UK’s railways in 1923!! (no seriously Trevor, no new ideas!!! I have more than enough bad ones of my own).

I’m still working on finding ways to reduce some of the compromises the current layout room poses, hopefully some thoughts on that will shake out in the near future.

9 thoughts on “A Visit with the Model Railroad Enabler

        • Plans are easy, operationally it’s got zero interest, makes a good diorama to display stock. Operations are 156 arrives, 156 leaves, Jacobite steam tour arrives, locomotive runs around coaches, leaves, class 156 arrives, etc etc. 50 years ago when fish were shipped from the port and it had a small loco depot would have been more interesting than today.


  1. With all the nice, small (and cute according to some) steam locos that have been coming out over the last several years, add in the nice and short goods wagons, and an inner city goods yard might be more accommodating to the space limitations while providing more of an opportunity to create buildings (which you seem to like).

    Or perhaps share your current design’s issues so maybe someone can help come up with a solution.

    • Hi, thanks for the comment. In brief, the issue is the “middle” of the layout if you look at the plan in my post. The industries served by the crossover should be located on the opposite side of the tracks, and with a much sharper turn off the main line along Liberty Street. Realistically, they should be on a peninsula sticking out into the walkway area, which is something completely not achievable in the current apartment space.


    • Somewhere in the last couple of months I read a comment stating that it is often very difficult to model what we are most familiar with. The reasoning was because of that familiarity (in your case seeing it almost daily) it can be difficult to accept the necessary compromises to fit the space we have. The required compression, relocation of buildings, flipping orientation, etc. all conspire to make it “look wrong” to us.

      It appears that despite multiple comments about having a proto-inspired and freelance layout when it comes down to it you are having trouble with reconciling what you see daily with what you can actually fit.

      I have the same issue when trying to come up with something to model in the future.

      As your current plan sits I don’t think there is any easy solution, you ultimately need to decide whether you can accept the compromise or not.

      However, some random thoughts to consider:

      – abandon Liberty Village and choose something you are less familiar with, whether elsewhere in Southern Ontario or even consider Montreal, Vancouver, NYC, Boston as inspiration. You state you want southern Ontario for its familiarity, but perhaps knowing less and just aiming for a “feeling” of the place would allow a better layout that meets your other goals. In other words, maybe too much research is a bad thing at times.

      – instead of doing Liberty Village accurately choose some buildings that you like (from anywhere, not just Liberty Village), that would make interesting models to you and then arrange them to fit a street oriented layout that gives you the city type feel you want.

      – if you didn’t already, consider a different arrangement of the room. By placing the bed up against the window (with spacers to keep it slightly away from the heater, and just enough clearance to allow the closet doors to open) you could give yourself a nice L-shaped space for a layout. The caveat is why it looks feasible at a glance of your room diagram it may not work in reality.

      – finally, change scale. Interestingly measuring on Google Maps shows that Liberty Street from Mowat to Hanna is 1,577′ long, and in N scale that is 10.7′ With a bit of compression and/or rearrangement you could get a decent U shaped layout, a narrow shortish peninsula should be possible giving you your “middle” of the layout, and if you are willing to allow some compromise you could even have the Mercer Reformatory occupy the space of your window allowing little to no blockage of the window (at worst it could be a removable section of background to allow for blocking the window when using the layout, but allowing light in otherwise). Yes, you presumably have the sunk cost of existing train models, but you wouldn’t necessarily need a lot of equipment to operate this layout so a move to N wouldn’t be that significant, and maybe Rapido could be encouraged to bring out an SW1200RS in N.

    • Thanks, Its a great tool they have created, but everything scanned from Toronto Archives I’ve already seen. What I need to do is make sure there aren’t more volumes that the Archives haven’t scanned and get back into the centre on Spadina to go through more volumes. Biggest problem is you can only order 5 boxes for a Saturday, and I’m never free weekdays when they can retrieve as you go.


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