Owen Sound, Park Head and Wiarton in S Scale. What possibly could go wrong?


Thanks for joining me!

This is a trip that I have wanted to take for over two decades and it is finally under way.  Wye not come along? Cheers!

An Update for Fall 2019

I am sorry about not posting for a while.  I have been busy with other projects like building a stairway at our up-north cabin from the lower deck to the lake. Our cabin is on top of a high ridge of rock.  At one time, I could manage the effort easily but now that I have aged and slowed down, it took most of the summer; however, I can still mix cement with a shovel.  Next year, we finally get a dock again after having been ruined by ice a few years back.

In my earlier installment, I spoke of having all the track work in the upper level installed.  This a miss-guided tour of where the layout is today. 

Looking from the South End of Park Head

The 5 foot train turntable that you see was built for me by Jim Martin in exchange for me building and painting a brass tender for him. I think I won out on that one. I did modify it a bit and it works well. It will not handle the length of the trains I need for more prototypical operation and once all the track for the layout is finished will be modified and or extended in some way.

Park Head from the North End

This is a shot of the north end of the wye. The station has been removed and is having the correct number of windows applied. Yes, it matters to me. The fairly cool looking Plasticville water tower was built and hand painted by my father when I was 5 years old. I patiently watched him do it and have been inspired ever since. It was for my American Flyer set up. It does not really have a purpose on this layout because neither Owen Sound or Wiarton had one. It is nice to have though and may end up somewhere in the background as an industrial tank.

Down the Wall to Owen Sound

This is showing the east leg of the Park Head wye proceeding to Owen Sound. As you can see, the turnouts are in as are the controls. The montage on the wall was done by my artist friend Sean McClare when we were on a drama department road trip to investigate Hanover, Ontario. It was an information gathering and verification trip for the last musical I wrote, called ‘Small Town Summer’. The montage will have to be moved to make way for the back drop. The clock was built by my father from a black walnut tree which he grew and processed himself. He was quite a guy.

Park Head North

Here is a shot of the north part of the wye and yard at Park Head. Starting from the left, this track is the west siding. The track to the right of the west siding is the Wiarton Sub Mainline that serves Park Head station. The track to the right of the Wiarton Sub Mainline is the East Siding and the farthest right track is the end of the north leg of the wye. The stock car indicates where the stock pen will be. The hardboard for the backdrop is propped in place to get an idea of where it should go.

The Hydro-Electric Sub Station at Circuit Breaker Panel

All around the corner past the circuit breaker panel cabinet and on to Wiarton. I hope to conceal that panel with a removable backdrop. Removable is good because of various reasons, none the least is Murphy’s Law which can come into effect at any time. I have a great respect for that Law which seems to encompass most everything I do.

On to Wiarton 1

My old piggy bank from when I was a youngster is where the Highway 6 will cross over the track. Didn’t my parents throw anything out?

On to Wiarton 2

More trackage as the Wiarton Sub proceeds into town. Those two pictures will have to be moved into the front area where the Train Turntable is. You may notice the Star Trek ships around the layout. They will be hung from the ceiling to portray the episodes where the crews went back in time to either save the world or by mistake. Remember, Star Wars is fake but Star Trek is real! Just ask my flip phone which I still proudly use. One to beam up please.

The Great Stand In

Finally we are in Wiarton. Here is where the future station will be with the siding for the freight shed which was pulled there from where the turntable is/was. It will be a bit of a challenge to build this thing since I can’t seem to find complete plans. I do have a floor plan and some simple side elevations. Murphy’s Law dictates that, “When you slave over a model that you really want and have no plans from which to draw, someone will step up with the plans upon completion and you will find that said model needs important things redone!” I always keep that in mind so I get started on things.

Around the Corner Again

Now we are getting into the yard at Wiarton. Those trees were made by Chris Creighton formerly Schomberg Scale Models. They weren’t up to his standards and he gave them to me. I think I have high standards but then again, free is always better than not having trees. I think they are great!

Wiarton Yard 1

The siding will service the coal shed and a cattle pen. It should make for a bit of interesting operation if one has to move stock cars out of the way to get to the coal hoppers. The hoppers that CNR used were not CNR company cars but US imports like Louisville & Nashville, Reading, Pennsy and Illinois Central. For some reason still beyond my comprehension, coal was imported from the US because it was cheaper to send it across Lake Ontario by barge and pick it up by rail than get it from the collieries in Nova Scotia and Alberta. The US coal may have been better suited to the demands of the steam locos.

Wiarton Yard 2 – Turntable

As we enter Wiarton yard, the turntable, run-around track and the siding are shown. The turntable is a Walthers HO 110′ modified to S Scale. It works great and I will do a segment in the future about the conversion once the sides etc are put on.

Wiarton Yard 3

Progressing through the yard, temporary cliffs are in place to give the impression of where things will have to be in the future. It is a nice duck under that kids can breeze through here. I love those annoying phone calls when they want to clean my air ducks. I always tell them that we have geese and they can clean them instead. For some reason, I don’t get those calls that much anymore.

Wiarton Yard 4

The end of the line. It is truncated but that is as far as I can go without making comfortable aisle space uncomfortable. Speaking of aisles, my granddaughter, Isla helped me to lay some of the lower level roadbed. She was enthusiastic which is nice. I believe she now knows just how long it takes to just simply get track down. At the end of the yard will be an ice house and fish house with some water’s edge to help out the illusion. Once again, the temporary Styrofoam cliffs do help with my visualization of what is to come.

For a coda, I have had a number of non-train people operate this portion of the layout, running the real trains as they did. Some have been children, others adults. In all cases, they did well even with the Sergent couplers which seem to prove to be so troublesome to regular model train people. Are non-train people more open to new things? I wonder if the quicker, easier Kadee experience has somewhat biased the model train people? Next time, turnouts and their controls.

What a Promise to a Grandchild Can Achieve

At the end of July, early August, our granddaughter from Kelowna comes to visit us, Grandpa and Grandma and our in-laws Granddad and Gran.  When she was here in the summer of 2018, the bench work for the upper level was done but no track was laid.  The modules were put away under the Kennedy and Sons section of the lower level of the layout.  Isla was disappointed when she could not run any trains and requested that when she and her brother, Everett were to visit in October that the trains would be operational.  So, with a bit of a time constraint, I set out to fulfill my granddaughter’s request. 

Late August and most of September 2018 found us in Italy attending my daughter Andrea’s wedding to Luca Lavorato.  It was magical at a vineyard and I am very glad it happened.  Otherwise, I would never have been able to experience Italy being comfortably numb in the basement.  On my return, I had a little over a week to make good on my promise to Isla that she and Everett could drive trains.

With the roadbed all in place and sanded to level it, the wiring and track needed to come next.

The turntable is a Walthers HO Cornerstone 110’ motorized one, not DCC. (There will be a future post on how it was modified to S Scale.)  The main focus was to get enough track in so that both grand children could drive trains at the same time so the turntable was not ready for them.  The track was glued in the normal fashion using watered down Carpenter’s Glue and stacks of old magazines to keep things in place.

Completed Roadbed

I decided to get the wiring in first.  I am still using DCC because all the locos I have built have decoders installed and I hate taking something apart to redo things unless it is a repair.  Even that I begrudge.  The wiring was not too difficult as I had experience with the modules I built.  I had already made the decision as to where districts were going to be but now had to decide where the circuit breakers would go.  I use NCE but I know that their circuit breakers are not too good for sound equipped locos because of current draw.  I opted for DCC Specialists instead.  I got the ones that come grouped together in four.  They have perforations and are easy to split apart.  I installed two on the side of the bench work at Owen Sound South for Owen Sound South and Park Head and one at the ‘north’ corner of the Owen Sound bench work for Wiarton.  The feed went up the wall to the upper bench work for Wiarton.

Circuit Breakers for Owen Sound South and Park Head
Wiarton Circuit Breaker

I made sure that I labelled everything so I knew what was what.

I lurk on the NCE Yahoo Group and have observed the discussions about needing snubbers at the end of the buss runs in districts.  Having been a computer site administrator for our school for some time, I had already known that terminators on a network were necessary.  So, I checked out the web and discovered that one of the local hobby shops had 3 packages of two in stock at pre-US dollar inflation prices.  I purchased them all just in case.  I have already used 3 of them up and the other 3 will be used in the lower level and the helix.

Park Head Snubber

I purchased some standoffs from an electronics supply and used them to install the circuit boards with number 4 screws. I love those tiny little Robertson screws!

Once the buss wiring was in place, I started on the trackwork at the end of Wiarton yard.

The End of the Line at Wiarton

I had to scratch build a curved turnout to fit in place to complete the run around track.  It has an outer radius of 42” and an inner radius of 39”.  I used an HO template from FastTracks which I blew up to S scale.  I had to rework it at least three times to make it work well enough but that is expected.  The last measure which actually was not too hard was to replace the frog while the turnout was still in place.  Now it is acceptable enough in that even P64 wheelsets will make it through.  Also, now that the pain of re-building it over and over has subsided, I feel much better.

Scratch-built Curved Turnout From…!#@@

Next I installed feeder wires from the Buss to the track.  I used typical off brand suitcase connectors which can be bought in bulk at a nearby electronics store.

Suitcase Connectors Used Under Park Head

Here are some pictures of a couple of happy engineers driving the trains.  Isla ran the F7A while Everett waited patiently to drive the steam passenger train in. The buildings were just set in place temporarily to add ambiance.

Engineer Isla at the Helm
Everett Waiting Patiently. His Steam Train is in the Background

I did not manage to get any of the turnouts motorized by their visit but did get them to work manually and hand switched the polarity of the frogs.

As you may have guessed, now all the upper level track is in place and operational. All the turnouts are motorized.  My next installment will detail the motorization of the turnouts and the trials and tribulations of having a lift-out wye.

Roadbed into Wiarton

It was the summer of 2018 when I finally got around to putting in the cork roadbed into Wiarton.  It was fairly typical, one strip then another. I used Tee pins to hold things in place and watered down yellow construction glue. The trees below were built by my friend Chris Creighton formerly Schomberg Scale Models. He has high standards and didn’t like the results. My standards are not as severe and luckily he gave them to me. They will eventually find spots in the foreground and my tree building efforts will copy these.

Now a Bit of History

Up until 1935, Wiarton was the home terminal in the Upper Bruce Peninsula for the CNR.  That all changed to Owen Sound because it was a better and deeper port.  Wiarton had a turntable and a 4 stall round house.  All that shifted to Owen Sound so the round house and storage tracks around the turntable were taken out.  The turntable remained.  Therefore, I needed a turntable.  I was going to scratch build one but I knew that Simon Parent had purchased a powered Walthers HO version and successfully did an S scale conversion.  He got it when it was on sale a few years back and of course I passed thinking that I would build my own.  Wiarton had a 70’ turntable and because of its position on the model railway, it would need to be bullet proof for a 180 degree turn.  The Walthers one assured this.  Unfortunately, the Walthers versions only come in three sizes, 90’, 110’ and 130’.  Still, I decided to make life easier and compromised with 110’ which actually comes out to about 79’ in S scale.  I wanted a bit of insurance for the length of the locos and if I needed to turn the combine which was always on the Wiarton mixed.  I did not immediately convert the turntable to S but did install it before I completed any road bed so I knew where I was going to have to end up.  I did have to add a bit of aluminum ‘L’ bracing after the fact to support it.

S Scale CNR K-3-a 5575 Astride HO Scale Track on the Turntable

Wiarton’s turntable could hold any of the locos sent from Owen Sound.  Typically though, Moguls and Ten Wheelers were found on the Wiarton mixed from Owen Sound.  Occasionally, a light Pacific would venture in and sometimes the Northbound Way Freight from Palmerston would go straight in if it was warranted.

The roadbed continued down to the Wiarton yard but I had to do selective compression to be able to fit in the space I have.

Turnouts and Track in Place for Testing
A Wood Express Reefer and NYC Baggage Car on Track Just to Get an Idea

Around this time, my granddaughter Isla was visiting from Kelowna, B.C.  She was only 6 at the time and was quite impressed with the work so far but she really wanted run the trains.  As mentioned before, the modules were down and stored so no train running was to be had.  Isla and my grandson Everett were coming in October so Isla asked if they could run trains the next visit.  “Of course,” I replied.  However, my daughter Andrea was getting married on September 7 and I had a lot to prepare for that wedding including making a recording of me playing selections on the piano for a 90 minute duration.  I could only manage to squeeze one more week of building in after the wedding and before the kids arrived.  Next, what a promise to a grandchild can achieve.

The Route to Wiarton

The drawing below shows the Owen Sound Lower Level with the tracks grayed out.  The Route to Wiarton Upper Level track is shown in light green.  The brackets are magenta and the aluminum outer framing is shown in blue.  There was a bit of modification as the build progressed but for the most part it all worked out according to plan.

It is now March 2018.  The next step was to attach the aluminum railing to the brackets along the wall.  This would be the base the for the Wiarton mainline coming into Wiarton.  0.060” styrene cleats were attached to the top of the brackets compensate for the level difference between the shelf bracket and the railing.  At the rear I attached coved quarter round to add support for the Styrofoam against the wall.  I went back to the Park Head area and retro-fitted cove quarter round there.

Framing for the Styrofoam to Wiarton

The corner frame work needed to be supported by the lower bench work until all the bracketing was in place.  A temporary vertical support was clamped in place.  Part of the web of the ‘L’ was cut out in several places so the rail could be bent to conform to where the track would eventually go.

Temporary Vertical Support for the Corner

Aluminum ‘L’ extensions were added to the ends of the shelf brackets.  All were drilled out and tapped for 4-40 screws.  Nuts were used to tighten everything down. Because the Aluminum rail and Bracket Extensions caused layering, 0.060″ shims had to be added ensuring a level surface before the 0.060″ styrene support sheet was glued on top. This was so the styrene sheet would be level with the outside ‘L’ rail. Once everything was stable enough, the vertical support from below was removed.

Layers of Aluminum Rail and Bracket Extensions

When everything was level, the Styrofoam sheet was cut and glued in using foam friendly adhesive like ‘No More Nails’.

Along the Wall to Wiarton
First Wiarton Corner
Second Wiarton Corner I

Wooden support legs were attached to the second part of the Wiarton Corner. They really help with the leveling and keep the bench work stable.

Second Wiarton Corner II With Support Legs

The Wiarton yard extension was an aluminum frame attached to an island made of wooden uprights with shelving underneath.  This was suggested by Trevor Marshall.  Originally, my idea was to suspend the extension from the ceiling but that would not have been stable enough.   The second shelf became a great place to put tools while working.  Eventually all shelving space was used to store various containers that had retired M.L.W. Services kit projects in them.  This allowed the bar fridge to be moved to where the containers originally were.

An Island for the Yard

Those rear upper leg extensions will have a back drop attached which will block off some of the other parts of the layout. Florescent lighting was added over the Wiarton Corner and the Yard. Next…Roadbed for Wiarton

Finishing the Lower Bench Work for Owen Sound

After the removal of the bar, it was time to continue the lower bench work of Owen  Sound.  Julia put together the next two parts for me.  These are shown below.  They will become the mainline and the access points to the grain elevator and the boarding tracks which will be on narrow peninsulas.  I built a corner to attach to it and it is shown resting on the bench work that Julia built.

Corner Section Where Supertest Oil and Passing Sidings Will Be

The corner was attached to the end of Julia’s handiwork.  At the same time the upper railing has been removed for test purposes.  I test and retest everything before it is finally installed semi-permanently.  The area below the bench work is a bit more clear now.

Around the corner and down the wall over the bar fridge. More legs are leaning against the bench work where the boarding tracks peninsula will be attached.

The bar fridge will be moved to a location under the bench work just prior to the branching off to the grain elevator.  Easy access is mandatory.

That was it for the rough lower bench work framing for Owen Sound. Next Wiarton.

Razing the Bar

In October 2017, my daughter Julia and I drove across Canada from Calgary to Toronto to move her here from Revelstoke. She has begun a new direction in her life taking a course in Home Renovation and Carpentry. (So Proud!) When were arrived back home, she helped build some of the lower bench work and really took pleasure in the removal of the wet bar. In the past, the sink was rather convenient to use in the line of modelling. It was nice to be able to mix plaster and do other modelling jobs there. But In the words of Bluto from ‘Animal House’, “They took the BAR, the whole $#@#% BAR!” Unfortunately it was necessary because it was in the way. Julia is a natural at demolition. There were some smoked mirror tiles on the wall with shelving as seen in the right of the photo. Luckily the glue that held them was old and they came off easily with only two breaking. The sink is in the corner barely seen behind an ultrasonic cleaner.

Ah…The Bar
Julia’s Favourite Tools

The bar left behind a legacy of missing carpet, loose vinyl tiles and a blank wall. Sadly, there was no longer a place to hide my liquor stash.

The pipes had to be capped. It is good to know how to use a blow torch. And more importantly, I would not have known this skill if not for my building in brass purposes. If anyone wants a copy of my soldering clinic, please let me know, I can send/email it. I also have copies of the instructions for my K-3/J-3 kits. Those too are available.


The removal of the wall tiles also left a blank wall.

Bare Wood Paneling

The smoked mirror tiles stacked up nicely. Terry, my wife wisely thought we should donate them but no one would take them so they went into the garbage because recycle would not take them either. They had to be carefully boxed. I respect garbage workers and don’t want them to get injured on the job. You can see my modules still standing on end beside the tiles. As I go along more things get on the decision block and some stay and some remain.

Nice little tiles, good little tiles.

It was a good idea to get matching paint but I should have purchased a gallon instead of a pint. I am out of it now.

As you can see in the following photo, there are floor issues. There must have been a water leak in that the tiles in this area had all come off the floor. Also, who carpets directly over old, dirty, loose, curled-up tiles? I would have scraped them all off first and then done the job properly. Accordingly, I glued all the loose tiles down.

New Paint, Old Floor

Julia and I cut out parts of the plywood from the old bar to fill in the gaps left by the removed tiles. They too were glued down.

A Nice Boardwalk

The original owners of our house kindly had left a roll of surplus carpeting. It was fairly easy to cut out pieces and carpet tape them down. I am not a carpet installer and this is the best I could come up with.

Now with the bar out of the way, the process of the Owen Sound bench work could continue. October 2017, that will be the next topic.

On To Wiarton…But First

With the upper level from the intended Helix through Park Head complete, it was now time to start thinking about getting to Wiarton but before that, the bench work for Owen Sound on the lower level was supposed to be installed.  This involved a couple of major hurdles like moving a bar fridge and taking out a wet bar so I opted to do put in the Wiarton mainline along the wall instead to check for clearance over existing useful stuff/junk already stored there. 

I left the layout alone for the first part of the summer because of a custom building commitment which I wanted to be able to deliver at the Annual 2017 NASG convention in July, two of my S scale reefer kits and a Des Plaines Hobbies S scale brass RS1.  I usually don’t do custom building but I was curious about the RS1 brass kit which is no longer available.  I wanted to see if the RS1 could be adapted to become an RSC13 which was used on this subdivision when the diesels were first taking over.  It had A1A trucks and I already have the correct side frames in S.  It is a unique to CNR, an MLW model.  And yes the superstructure could be modified but as I said, the kit is no longer available so I guess I have to wait a bit until it is re-released.  3D printing would work but I am not interested in giving up the time to draw that up just yet.  The reefer kits turned out better than the ones I built for myself (Murphy’s Law) and I was pleased with the RS1 even though it was missing the leaf springs in the kit.  They were later provided by Des Plaines. The track is not glued down.  I just wanted to get a feel for what to expect.

RS1 Custom Built from Kit
Two Custom Built CNR 8 Hatch Reefers

I decided to build the along the wall toward Wiarton before building the corner to connect to Park Head.  This was done the same in the same manner as the shelf that went along the wall toward the Helix.  The 14” bracket arms were strong enough to hold up the bench work so no vertical bracing was needed.  I used a level between the end bracket of Park Head and the beginning bracket of the Wiarton main to ensure level and then built the corner section between them.  At this point, my modules are still on their ends after showing with the S Scale Workshop at ExpoRail’s Model Railroad weekend in the third week in August.  For more information on the S Scale Workshop, please see the S Scale Workshop Blog, http://sscaleworkshop.blogspot.com/ 

The legs can be seen standing beside the old stereo set which will be moved.  All the other stuff under the upper bench frame will be eventually relocated or found a new home.

The little I did do was go down the wall with the brackets and the aluminum ‘L’ towards Wiarton and halt at the bar.

Now That’s a Fine Mess Underneath!

I neglected to take photos of the building and installment of the corner underneath the circuit breaker cabinet.  What will be shown is what is now in place.  The supporting structure for the corner that went just below the Circuit Breaker Panel was made up with a combination of aluminum ‘L’ girders, metal shelf brackets, square plastic rod for cleats and sheet plastic.

Fun With Aluminum, Plastic and Steel Brackets
The Circuit Breaker Corner at Present

Any other spare time in the summer was spent up north at our cabin.  I had to replace a rotting out deck which my father had built.  It was not too difficult but it was a hot and dirty endeavour. I will spare you the photos of that! Next…the bar!