It Was Time To Tackle the Wye – Part 1

In March 2017, with the framework and the Styrofoam for Park Head done but not glued down, it was now time to concentrate on getting across the door opening to the shelf along the eastern wall to proceed east to Owen Sound.  The infrastructure would have to encompass the northern and southern legs of the wye.  This meant either keeping something in place or a lift-out.  I opted to do a lift out which on the one hand, would allow for flexibility when it came to maintenance but on the other hand, create a lot of precision issues. 

The Proposed Wye Lift-out

I used combination of ½” x ½” and ¾” x ¾” aluminum ‘L’ strip to make a triangular frame that would meet up with a shelf on the adjacent wall.  I made supporting ledges on the cage and the bracket on the wall.  I also made corresponding lips on the wye frame that went over the cage ledge and the ledge on the bracket on the wall.  Holes were drilled to clear three 1” 2-56 brass screws in the ledge on the cage and one 1” x 2-56 screw in the wall bracket ledge.  Brass screws were threaded into the holes in lips on the triangular frame and were lined up with the holes in the support ledges on the cage and wall.

Here you can see the ledge on the Park Head bench that the lift-out sits on.  There are three holes drilled to clear 2-56 screws.  The centre one is easy to see here.  The lift-out has three screws permanently put in place pointing down that once inserted into the holes in the ledges are bolted in place using keys.

The Ledge for the Wye to Sit on at Park Head

The special keys are pieces of brass rod drilled and tapped on a lathe. Brass rod and brass sheet handles were soldered in place.  Again, these are used to lock the lift-out in place.  They are screwed in from underneath the ledges of the cage and wall bracket.  This provides more stability and keeps alignment steady when the lift-out is in place.  It also helps in the event someone does not duck under enough to clear the wye.

Keys that ‘Lock’ the Wye Frame in Place

If you look under the wye frame where the red lines are pointing, you can see two of the keys installed.

Red Lines Point to Two of the Keys in Place
A View From Underneath Showing the Centre Key in Place

After the outside of the frame was assembled, tested for placement and ease of removal, some thought was needed to make it more robust.  As you can see, the grandmother clock my father built is in the background and has not yet been moved up to the living room.

Initial Frame in Place

The frame developed a 1/16” recess in it as I added a bit more bracing.  I fastened the aluminum strips to the bottom of the frame on the left using ‘No More Nails’.  They have stayed in place well but more support was necessary.

More Support but More is Needed

I discovered that 0.060” sheet styrene is 1/16” thick.  Researching the Internet led me to a place locally that sells 4’ x 8’ sheets of styrene.  I cut a piece to fit in place on the frame. It was part of the solution for the need for more bracing and became a table top to place the Styrofoam on.  All was glued down using plastic friendly ‘No More Nails’.

0.060″ Styrene Sheet Provides a ‘Table Top’ for the Styrofoam

I cut some Styrofoam pieces and put them in place.  After I was happy that things were working well enough with regard to installing and removing the lift-out, the Styrofoam was glued down. The line to Wiarton will go under the window in the background. The line to the Helix to Owen Sound connects to the right leg of the wye.

Styrofoam on the Wye Frame

Next:  Time for Light Fixtures and Going down the wall toward the helix to Owen Sound.


Upper Level – Park Head

It was January 2017 when I decided to do the upper level starting with Park Head.  This meant building directly over the yard of Owen Sound.  I kept in mind that the upper level would not be easy to access in a couple of places and I knew that I would have to work hard to meet this challenge.  I wanted to use a light material and metal shelf brackets.  Also of concern was maintenance of the upper level.  I needed materials that would require little or no maintenance and would not be as affected by the weather as wood.  This meant metal and plastic.  I knew that Jim Martin, a member of the S Scale Workshop and really great modeler in his own right, had experience with steel 2 x 4’s so I decided to see what could be had to build the upper level using some type of metal that was light and easy to drill and tap.  I checked out the Internet to see what was available locally.  Aluminum structure shapes were available at the three major building supply outlets.  I decided on 1” aluminum ‘L’ trim which I will call girders that is used for doors etc.  It was not as cheap as wood but nice and thin at 1/16” thick and I could easily get 8’ lengths in 1”x 1”, perfect for the 1″ thick Styrofoam.  I did have to make certain that the girders were not distorted or bent when I selected them.  Once in a while when I found one that was bent that I actually could use, I managed to squeeze out a discount from the store.  Sweet!

Steel shelf brackets are easy to get in 10” x 12” and 12”x 14”.  They are pretty much as cheap as you can get and they come in white too which means they kind of blend in unobtrusively.  Not taking up too much space, they can be hidden behind a back drop.  My idea was to use the shelf brackets and attach the aluminum ‘L’ girders to the ends using 4-40 nuts, screws and washers.  Why 4-40?  I had a surplus supply from my early attempts to build an S Scale CNR K-3 Pacific.  I settled on the smaller 2-56 screws for that project.  All drilling and tapping were done on one of my Unimat 3’s which is set up as a drill press/milling machine. I used centering drill bits to ensure accuracy.

Initial results proved that my idea was going to work but as you can see, ‘reaching access’ over the north end of the yard would be an issue.  I almost constantly checked for level.

Shelf Brackets in Place

I discovered things which may look great in drawings and on paper don’t always work out in the real world.  This has happened time and time again.  The shelf brackets worked well up to 14” but the reach from the north end of the Owen Sound yards was way too great to be able to access the upper level.  Some adapting was necessary.  I decided a 10” inch extension would solve the problem of being able to access the motive power and rolling stock on the upper level in this area.  I then cut some of the 1”x 1” aluminum ‘L’ stock into 12” lengths, drilled and tapped them and attached them to the 14” leg of the brackets.  Tee and ‘L’ brackets were added to the ends to support the main 8 ’x 1”x 1” aluminum ‘L’ girders which provided the front shelf edge for the Styrofoam.

Here are some of the braces and splice plates and bolts I used in the construction of the upper level.  The 6 x 1/2” screws were used to fasten the steel shelf brackets to the wall.  In some cases, I needed to supplement the screws that went into the walls with ‘No More Nails’ to secure them more.

I also use just straight splice plates, sometimes known as bars, to join the underside of the aluminum lengths together.

I am not certain if it is acceptable to name stores in a blog because it might be deemed promotion, but I can tell you this, different stores have better prices and quantities for certain things.  I have to visit 3 different ones to get the best prices and quantities for the materials I was using so I found it was necessary to try to wait until I needed enough from one to eventually go there unless two were close enough together. It would be nice to be able to one-stop shop.

The extensions to the steel brackets gave me the reach but the brackets were now kind of floppy.  After Trevor Marshall and I discussed whether to add braces to the bottom or go up, I decided that adding vertical supports to the ceiling would alleviate this problem.  To make the supports as visually inoffensive as possible, I used ½”x½” aluminum ‘L’ shape.  I had to custom-make some brackets from brass rectangular tubing and extra aluminum 1″ x 1″ ‘L’ to attach these verticals to the ceiling joists.

Vertical Supports Attached to Ceiling

Building over the South end of the Owen Sound Yard required some extra support.  I built a cage-like affair using steel 90 degree corner braces to anchor ¾”x ¾”aluminum ‘L’ pieces as uprights and used 1”x 1” ‘L’ turned down to form a sort of rack on top.

The Cage-like Frame for Park Head

I threaded the aluminum ends as well so that the 4-40 nuts would snug down and become doubly tight.  Occasionally if the thread did get stripped, I used red thread lock liquid to keep things tight. Note, that lock liquid will eat into Styrofoam.  I am hoping that this approach has made the upper level somewhat easy to dismantle when the last rule of Murphy’s Law of rail modelling comes into play.

More bracing was added to the top rack to support the Styrofoam.  1/16”x2” flat pieces of aluminum were used as cleats to make the bracing flush and provide more support.  Later, when I found a commercial source of sheet styrene, I found that 0.060” is equivalent to 1/16” and would use that instead.  Cheaper by the kilo!

Styrofoam in Place but Not Glued Down
A Little Test Train

After some creative linking between the rack and the shelf along the wall, the Styrofoam was cut and added but not glued down.  I wanted to be sure that no future unaccounted for altercations and alterations would ruin the Styrofoam.

The next installment will cover doing the frame work for the lift out section of the wye and proceeding down the wall to the ‘east’ towards the helix.

A Bit More About Obstacles

I found some pictures that I took dealing with obstacles before finally putting in the last bit of bench work of the Owen Sound yard. They may prove to be of interest and help others who are planning the same. Again, this was all done in November 2016.

The basement had already been finished before my wife and I moved in and as far as I was concerned was good enough.  I am not one for undoing something that works and is already in place.  Before any construction of the upper level that would go from Park Head to Wiarton, I needed to modify the circuit breaker panel enclosure.  The bottom hung down too far to clear the upper bench work and track.  Luckily there was enough extra room below the panel to remove some of the enclosure and shorten the doors from the bottom.  We had to replace the original fuse panel with a circuit breaker panel and the electrician placed it up higher in the enclosure.  You will notice in some of the photos a Bell Internet router on a little platform.  I built that to hold the router which ordinarily was just sitting on a DVD cabinet.  According to Bell this is the only area in the house that a router can be placed without interference from wiring in the ceiling of the train room.

The Bell Internet Router and the Shortened Bottom of the Circuit Breaker Panel Cabinet

The doors to the panel enclosure were easy to take off and cut on a table saw. The enclosure frame required the careful use of the reciprocating saw. It worked out well in the end but I did have to make certain that any cables were always clear.

New Router Location and a Newly Painted Section

Luckily I was able to match the paint close enough at a local building supply. As it turned out it came in quite handy later and I should have bought a gallon.

That nice water colour of the CN Stirling station was painted by my mother-in-law, Alicia Chambers. She is a really good artist and was a professional photographer for the Belleville Intelligencer. She paints scenes from photos she took around the Bay of Quinte area. This painting will be relocated to the lobby.

The access notch in the now installed Owen Sound bench work is plain to see in this picture. It will make the radius of the curve behind the roundhouse smaller but this modification was necessary.   This was also described in the last post.

The Great Access Notch

Would more pre-planning have helped? Possibly but sometimes a person really doesn’t know what to expect until they arrive at a situation. I have found as I go along that what looks great on paper won’t always quite work out in reality unless some adaption is made. Flexibility is key.

Owen Sound – Lower Bench Work

In the fall of 2016, the bench work for the lower level started.  It was unconventionally warm for a long time so I could work outdoors up until early December.  I had pretty good success with Styrofoam as a base on my modules and I have seen it used successfully on many newer model railroads.  Also and most importantly, it is very stable when it comes to humidity and temperature change.  The Styrofoam insulation I decided on was 1” thick, 2’ wide and 8’ long available only at one of the last Canadian building supply centres.  I chose this also because I could fit these sheets inside my windowed panel van.  The 1” thickness would mean that I would need a more robust support system but it was the only sheet that came 2’ wide.  With these things in mind, I designed the lower bench work to provide an inner lip and framing to support the Styrofoam so that it would be flush with the edges.

Here are the overall dimensions of my layout space. There is a support beam in the upper area of the drawing which will come in handy to support the grain elevator extension. The main room 22′ 8″ x 18′ is where Owen Sound proper and Wiarton will be. The lower part of the drawing displays where the layout will actually go outside the main room into a kind of lobby. This will hold William Kennedy and sons and the southern part of Park Head. Unfortunately a duck under will have to be used for the wye at Park Head. The intent is to have it removable as a lift out.

I wanted to be able to store my 3 linear modules under the bench work as well so given these considerations, the build started with the end of Owen Sound yards, William Kennedy and sons.  Below is the drawing which really doesn’t give the overall dimensions.

End of Owen Sound Yard

I soon realized my drawings needed to reflect frame work dimensions.

The Frame Work for Owen Sound up to the Grain Elevator

Construction began on warm fall days and evenings, on the driveway no less because I wanted to keep my modules up as long as possible so I could run trains! The outer bench work framing is 4.5″ deep with inner 3.5″ framing that provides the 1/2″ lip for the 1″ Styrofoam. I used 1/2″ plywood which was left over from various projects including having our roof redone. I don’t like to waste anything.

The lobby held a couple of things that needed to be moved. One was a grandmother clock my father had built from wood that he hewed himself. He was that kind of guy. He didn’t live long enough to complete it so I did some remedial work on it and we had a friend, Marg Fishbein, do the finish. She did an excellent job and now it is in our living room. You can see part of it on the left side of the pic. Building layouts can lead to procrastinated projects becoming completed! In later pics, you will see the unfinished clock more clearly.

William Kennedy and Sons Bench Work
Testing the Integrity of the Styrofoam with a CNR Pacific and a 10 Wheeler

All proved to be well and so on I continued with more framing. Some things are according to plan and others are ‘seat of the pants’. As the layout proceeded, I encountered various obstacles I had forgotten to include in my initial drawings. Some like the TV, needed to be relocated and not always where I originally thought I could put them.

I really wanted to be able to store things under the layout as the main room was/is a storage area for train equipment, kit production parts and blueprints. Various cabinets had to have casters installed on reinforced bases. They roll out well.

The Owen Sound Yard Framework
A Stationary Cabinet That Needs Mobility and a TV for Watching Train Videos

I thought I could put the TV on the wall overhead Park Head but it would have not allowed for scenery so it ended up on the wall under the Ben Allen/Shallow Lake siding. As you can see in the photo, I did not compensate for the covering for the down pipe on the wall. It was not in my drawing. An oversight but not insurmountable. I used a reciprocating saw and jig saw to make a cut out and put pieces of plywood in place around the down pipe. Saved by power tools my wife had bought me for Christmas over the years.

Things really started to get exciting for me when I got the framework done for the Owen Sound roundhouse. I had a learning experience here. The framework was built on the driveway according to plan but it would not fit down the stairwell so out it went and had to be trimmed down. It also meant the front of the previous bench had to be trimmed back to match. When I tried to access the circuit breaker panel, it was a bit of a reach. I thought I could live with it but my wife Terry insisted that if access was needed by any technicians, the safety of the layout would be compromised. So I used the same saw combo as above to cut out a gap for easier access to the panel which can bee seen behind the roundhouse. It has proven to be helpful in that Internet, air conditioning and electrical technicians have managed to avoid any contact with the layout. It is good to have a smart wife give you advice!

The Owen Sound Roundhouse

I guess I should address a few things before I end this section of construction. I am a firm believer of learning from what others have done and from my own mistakes. If there is something out there that can help me expedite things without too much loss of fidelity to the prototype, I embrace it. I have seen too many rivet counters like myself get ‘prototype paralysis’ and never complete anything to their satisfaction. There will be more about ‘prototype paralysis’ in later posts. So, windows in the roundhouse though not prototypical will probably stay. BTW, the roundhouse was purchased for a ridiculously low price because it was started(nice, a time saver). It is actually about the right length though it is narrow gauge. I will put a ‘concrete’ base under it to give it more height. If my Pacifics were scale length and not lengthened for flange clearance reasons, they would fit in perfectly. I may try to lengthen the roundhouse for this reason but then again, there are always more pressing things to do on the layout. It was December and now there was snow on the ground so it was time to start the upper level! But what to do? What to do?

The Beginning

I decided on a two level track plan.  The Lower Level would be Owen Sound, the upper Park Head to Wiarton and a staging area.  If you know the line, you will note that I left out the towns of Shallow Lake and Ben Allen between Owen Sound and Park Head.  You will also notice that the towns of Hepworth and Clavering are missing between Park Head and Wiarton.  This is because of space limitations.  But it does not mean that the layout will lose out in the majority of prototype operation which occurred at the 3 key points I have chosen to model.    The two levels were to be linked together with a 42″ radius helix.  As the building of the layout has progressed, the 42″ had to be reconsidered and downsized to 38″ radius.

Owen Sound
Park Head to Wiarton and points south to Palmerston

As can be seen, it is a challenging undertaking.  I have built only a couple of layouts in the past, one Flyer and one HO.  I also have built two module sets and corners for participation in the S Scale Workshop of which I am a member.  This however is a bit daunting.


When I was young, my father bought me American Flyer trains because as he said, “They run on two rails, not three like Lionel.” That made them, in his eye and mine, much more accurate.  My Dad and I built an 8′ x 8′ Flyer layoutd.  The only problem with my trains was that they had American Flyer emblazoned on the sides of the tenders and not “Canadian National” like the ones I saw in the Spadina yard when we would drive by that area of Toronto.

1967 was an important year for me. Not only did our country’s Centennial provide me with a sense of nationalism, our school took a train trip to Stratford to see Twelfth Night. As we entered the yard, there was a lineup of CNR wooden vans painted in CNR Morency Orange and having the Maple leaf heralds on them. I was totally taken in by that colour scheme and planned to make my Flyer caboose fleet reflect that. I managed to get decals, HO of course, and repainted my locos and vans in CNR and CPR colours much to the eventual acceptance of my father. 1967 too was when Flyer went out of business just as I was developing an interest in making things accurate. The local hobby shops told me that S scale was dead and could not be had. Unfortunately, they neglected to tell me about the S Scale stuff a person could buy in mail order. That said, in 1969 I decided to go to HO because there were George Taylor CNR van kits there as well as single sheathed 36 and 40′ boxcars and a gondola. I built a number of these kits and when the brass HO Canadian steam models became available in the late 1970’s I finalized the change, taking down the Flyer layout and leaving the Flyer in its boxes. I did regret the change in size.

Flash forward to the early 1990’s.  I did what a lot of Canadian HOers did.  We would religiously buy just about any offering that the importers came out with that was Canadian with little regard to locale or region.  I decided that I wanted to concentrate on a single area that would reflect my interest in the CNR and design a layout that could operate a close to the prototype as possible using the locomotives and rolling stock that would have run in that region.  I used Peter Bower’s excellent book, “Two Divisions To Bluewater” as an inspiration and finally decided on Owen Sound to Park Head to Wiarton with staging as the theme for my layout.  Everything was going well.  I was culling the collection down E-10-a Moguls, H-6 ten wheelers and K-3 Pacifics which were all that ran up there during the steam era of the 1950’s.  I had a pretty good space and a trackplan.  Fortunately, before I started to build, I changed back to S scale because of 3 factors.

The first factor was my daughter Julia.  Julia liked to put the old American Flyer around the Christmas tree.  In the fall of 2000, I decided to get a ‘cheap’ Flyer boxcar, paint it green(her favourite colour) and put her name on it for the Christmas train.  When I went to George’s Trains, I discovered there were no such things as cheap Flyer boxcars.  They had now all become collector’s items!  But the staff did show me a shelf full of Kinsman and Mainline Models S scale wooden kits decorated for mostly Canadian roads that someone had brought in from an estate.  They were all reasonably priced at less than an HO resin boxcar kit!  I decided to buy one and build it with Julia instead.  But I needed some trucks.  There were no Flyer trucks to be had a George’s and they told me to look online.

The second factor involved going online and visiting Craig O’Connell’s S Scale website which promoted all the manfacturers of S Scale.  There I looked up trucks and found S Scale Loco and Supply.  They did not have Flyer trucks for sale but they were promoting a brass S scale CNR E-10-a Mogul kit designed by Simon Parent!  I was totally shocked.  I had been modifying my HO Van Hobbies E-10-a to represent 86 and here was an accurate kit in my former scale.  This was one of the Moguls that ran between Owen Sound, Park Head and Wiarton.  I did a bit more checking and found PRS 40′ boxcars with CNR lettering and the coup de grace, 8 rung ladders.  That was the third factor.  It was bye, bye HO and back to S.

In 2016, a friend and fellow S scaler, Dan Kirlin passed away.  I had settled on a track plan for my layout two years earlier.  Dan’s wife declared that Dan had just completed his ultimate track plan.  Upon hearing this, my wife Terry suggested I start instead of procrastinating so I did in the fall of 2016.  I should mention too that Trevor Marshall came up with the idea of a Wiarton curl and Jamie Bothwell figured out where the wye at Park Head would go.  Trevor also suggested the blog.  Thanks guys.