Over the past few years I have to count myself very lucky in our hobby. Thanks to becoming involved in the Toronto Railway Historical Association/Toronto Railway Museum and connecting with other Toronto area model railroaders on the internet, I’ve made some great friends and acquaintances. One of those is Jason Shron, the founder and President of Rapido Trains, a model train manufacturer based in Markham Ontario. He was involved with the TRHA long before I was, and through my involvement with the museum I’ve gotten to know him. He is perhaps most famous as being the guy who built a passenger car in his basement….
Recently, Jason was kind (nee brave, or possibly foolish) enough to invite me over to work on construction of his layout based on the CN/VIA Rail Kingston Subdivision from Spadina Yard to Brockville, set in the fall of 1980. While I am building a small layout, Jason is building a very large multiple deck layout, a much more daunting project! He does however have a good regular group of friends who work on the layout with him. He’s made a lot of progress in a fairly short amount of time. As you can see, there is a long way to go, but he’s laying track on the middle deck, working his way down to the lowest deck before he can start running test trains around the whole layout and starting to build the scenery.
Two views of Jason’s layout and layout room. The left shot shows future Spadina Yard on the left and Union Station on the right in the lower deck, the right shot shows the massive Helix connecting the decks.
This was my first opportunity to work on someone else’s layout, and it was daunting. Its one thing if I screw up my own layout, but I don’t want to make a major mistake on someone else’s. I was joined by another mutual friend Thomas who I know through the museum for a 3 person work day. Jason set us about with tasks that we felt comfortable doing. Thomas was soldering switches and preparing yard ladders for Oshawa Yard. Jason was achieving as much as the two of us as he knew what he wanted to do and where he could get things done quickly as he didn’t need to explain the task to himself! I started sanding the roadbed smooth for where they would go, and working on a grade transition down into the yard. Once that was done I started to prepare track for a mainline crossover at Pickering Station and soldering the track together into a single large piece for later installation. Both were tasks that I felt I could achieve, and do so without needing to rush and make a mistake. Big point in working on someone else’s layout for me, stop when you have any doubt and talk your host. It’s their layout, and they are the one who will know what they expect things to look like and the quality of work that should be done. I saw Jason present recently at the Greater Toronto Train Show on his layouts construction, and one of his lessons/takeaways from the first couple of years was just that. He’s already experienced someone whose work wasn’t quite what it needed to be, and I certainly didn’t want to create more work that he needed to redo as a guest!
Thomas on the left and Jason on the right working on the layout. The fact that Jason’s benchwork is so strong you can stand on it is helpful for building the upper levels.
Jason’s layout will be a passenger train first layout. That’s what his primary interest is. He grew up watching VIA Rail trains in the east end of Toronto, and riding them to see family in Montreal, so he is modelling the busiest part of VIA Rail’s network from Spadina Yard where the trains were serviced at the time, to Brockville, where trains to/from Montreal and Ottawa met and were split/joined coming to and from Toronto in the late 1970’s/early 1980’s. I won’t go into a total history of what Jason is modelling, he does that far better on his website. It makes perfect sense for him, and he has a space big enough to do it. In some ways, my choice to model the 1950’s makes me clearly an outlier, as most model railroaders model what they grew up with. Clearly, I wasn’t alive in the 1950’s!!
So far, he has the main benchwork all in place, and track laying has commenced working down from the top level towards the lowest level. I’d say he’s getting close to half his mainline track down in the area that will have scenery. He has a lot of track to go in the helix between levels, and then the massive trackwork of Union Station and Spadina Yard on the bottom level. I can see what he is trying to create start to appear, and I know that feeling from seeing my own layout start to actually look like a thing. Its a good feeling, and it was nice to be a part of it for a few hours in moving his layout forward.
Scenes from my day working on the layout, sanding roadbed, soldering track for a crossover, preparing the roadbed for the crossover to be installed. Thanks to Jason for taking the pictures of me actually working!
At the end of the afternoon, we retired to the coach in the other half of the basement to relax and chat about the hobby. It was a very pleasant way to end the afternoon. I can see why he wanted to build the coach, if I had the space I might want to build a part of a coach in my house too to sit back and relax in!! I don’t somehow think though that our Condo Board would be impressed at the modifications needed to make that work in our townhouse though!!
Civilized working conditions, a cuppa tea at the workbench, and a mug that I really need to find for myself at my office!!
My takeaways from the day were numerous, it was a lot of fun, I learned a few things about layout construction and design from seeing how someone else is doing their layout in progress, and got some ideas about things I can implement in the construction of my layout. Hopefully I will get more chances to help Jason build in the future, and someday sooner than later take part in an operating session on his layout. I also look forward to inviting Jason to visit my layout to reciprocate the opportunity to visit his. I’ve been needing to schedule some work sessions with my circle of friends and layout helpers. Maybe the biggest takeaway from getting away from my layout and seeing someone else so excited by working on theirs is the contagious joy of making progress. I left his place eager to get going on my layout where I’ve maybe been a bit stalled of late, and that’s no bad thing!