Model Railway Club
STONEY HILL WEST
Five years ago I knew nothing about North American railways. Then a new member joined our club. He
modelled Southern Pacific in HO scale and he brought some of his locomotives and rolling stock to
demonstrate. It was an eye opener. These locomotives were cheap and reliable and much better at slow
speed control than almost all British OO gauge. I was impressed, even more so after I visited his home
layout. He lent me some books on North American modelling and I was hooked.
In 1994 we visited some friends in Toronto, Canada and they just happened to live not far from the main
Canadian Pacific marshalling yard. It was a fascinating place and there was plenty of activity especially at
the west end where on one occasion there were four sets of locomotives, twelve in all operating
simultaneously to bring trains into the yard and push stings of wagons over the yard hump. Canadian
Pacific is still a charismatic name even when abbreviated to CP Rail and the bright red locomotives did look
impressive. This was a railroad I wanted to model.
I have been a committed British N gauge modeller for many years but since a North American HO scale
locomotive could be purchased about half the price of a British N gauge locomotive, I viewed a Canadian
layout as a cheap sideline and I have managed to purchase some of the rolling stock second hand. I
decided to build a small exhibition layout to capture some of the atmosphere of what I had seen.
When I went to Canada I couldn’t have recognised any of the locomotives I saw. My first priority was to do
some research and luckily a book by Gary Zuters, “CP Rail Review 1993” was published soon after and
this included a lot of vital information. I now have quite a library of books on North American railroads.
It took a while getting used to the new scale. I knew that I didn’t have the space or money to build a large
layout so the emphasis would be on switching (shunting). I ideally wanted a small marshalling yard
connected to a number of industrial sidings but one sufficiently large to justify locomotives coup led in
multiples of two or three. I wanted to shunt rakes of wagons rather than single boxcars and I also wanted
industries big enough to justify a reasonable amount of traffic. All of these wants pushed towards increasing
the size of the layout. The competing pressures were the desire for the layout to be transportable in my
estate car and for it to be easy for one or two people to assemble at exhibitions.
The original plan was for three section folding layout about 11 feet long and 21 inches wide. There was a
four track yard which included a run round loop and three industrial sidings. A two track staging (fiddle) yard
was sited behind scenery at the rear of the layout with access through a tunnel. The idea of a folding layout
did not survive the test of experience due to excessive weight so I went back to individual four foot long
baseboards. Once the track was laid and some test running commenced, it was clear that the headshunt
was not long enough to accommodate a reasonable length train. I decided to add another board and to
allow for further extension to a separate staging yard at the rear of the layout. In retrospect it was clear that
I was trying to get too much in the original space and operation could not have been effective without these
For transport to exhibitions the baseboards are paired together facing each other and joined by end boards
to form a box to protect the scenery. The baseboards themselves are constructed from plywood with
integral folding support legs. Despite my best intentions they are not light and are rather too heavy for one
person to carry any distance. Boards paired for transport really require two people to move them although
the addition of wheels to the end boards has helped.
I laid most of the track before I had really got used to the locomotives and National Model Railroad
Association (NMRA) standards. In retrospect I would have used finer scale track but I actually used mainly
code 100 rail. Where North American HO scale modelling has a big advantage over British OO is the
existence of the NMRA which sets track and wheel standards which are nationally accepted and adhered to
by the vast majority of manufacturers. I built the switches (pointwork) by hand from rail soldered to copper
clad sleepers, and an NMRA track gauge was an essential piece of equipment. I originally intended to use
point motors to operate the switches but I was concerned about reliability, extra wiring and the additional
cost. After all this was supposed to be a cheap project and so I decided to hand operate them by wires
running in conduits and attached to switches at the rear of the layout which changed the polarity of the
frogs. Given the leisurely pace of operations this poses no real problems and is reliable and quiet. I
ballasted the track with small scale granite chippings and applied a liberal coat of brake dust rusty brown
paint to the rails and sleepers. The overall appearance is satisfactory but I will definitely use finer scale
track in future.
The main scenic features are the industrial buildings. Stoney Hill Manufacturing was the first building I
attempted. It was constructed from card board, plastic sheet and bits of building kits. The build ing had to
be large enough to accommodate the hidden staging roads and provide access to the huma n hand to
uncouple and remove rolling stock from these. The factory is served by a siding which can accommodate
up to four boxcars or covered hoppers.
Lakeside Maple Syrup was inspired by and largely constructed from Pikestuff kits and is served by a siding
which runs through one of the main buildings. This siding can take at least six hoppers or boxcars and
others can be held in the loop siding alongside the factory. I initially left the walls in the bright blue plastic of
the pikestuff kits but I eventually painted them a pale sand which looked more realistic.
The third industry is Lakeside Paper which is constructed from DPM brick panels and represents an older
mill type building located over a stream. The range and quality of building kits available is impressive and
kit bashing can produce virtually any structure.
My first locomotive was a CP Rail SD40-2. Out of the box wi th the handrails assembled, it didn’t look too
bad but the beauty of these models is that you can add as much detail as you want and a little extra work
can produce a much more realistic model. Although the SD40-2 was virtually the standard locomotive of the
1980s and early 1990s, there was a wide range of variations between Individual railroads. The majority of
CP locomotives had the headlights sited in the nose of the short hood and a bell above the cab between
the number boards where the headlights are normally sited. These modifications together with single rear
headlight, new grab irons, MU cables, snow plough and uncoupling bar, made a much more realistic and in
I have adopted similar procedures for all subsequent locomotives and because many of the variations are
individual to a particular locomotive, I have tried to model actual locomotives I photographed in Canada.
The majority of locomotives are CP Rail but I also have an SD40-2 and GP40-2 in Canadian National livery
with wide nose safety cabs and a couple of Norfolk Southern Railroad locomotives. These are an
interesting example of the identification problems which can arise with apparently standard locomotives. I
bought a Bachman Spectrum model which was labelled as a C40-8 (or Dash 8-40C to use the General
Electric designation). Further research indicated that the locomotive number related to a C39-8 which
Norfolk Southern purchased many of. The majority of these are distinguished from the C40s by l ower
height cabs giving a slightly hump backed appearance but the last batch of C39s had a higher cab like the
C40s and this loco was numbered in that batch. Further research indicated that this is in fact a very good
model of the later C39s and indeed would have had some minor inaccuracies as a model of a C40. The
other loco was a Walthers model of a B40-8. Norfolk Southern did not purchase B40s but did buy 45 B32-
8s and indeed the numbering on this locomotive was correct for one of these. Further research indicates
that the Walthers model is slightly two long and has one extra set of engine room doors but the differences
are not really noticable and what was purchased as a B40-8 turns out to be a reasonable representation of
an actual B32-8. The moral is don’t believe all you read on the box.
Freight stock consists of a variety of hoppers and boxcars as well as some intermodal wagons although
given the nature of the layout the scope intermodal use is limited. Except for unloading facilities in factories,
there is sufficient clearance for doublestack container wagons. The largest items of rolling stock are the 89ft
Autoracks. I like the appearance of these but they do takeup a lot of siding space.
There are three magnetic uncouplers on the layout, two electromagnets and one large magnet under the
track. Siting the magnets needs some thought because they need to be on straight track of at least one
wagon length either side of the magnet to work effectively. All rolling stock is fitted with Kadee or similar
magnetic couplers which work reasonably well most of the time but can tend to stick on occasions despite
application of graphite dust. The objective is hands free operation and I am gradually sorting out all of the
The layout was first exhibited at the Kidderminster Model Railway Exhibition in March 2000 and I then
realised that the original two road staging (fiddle yard) was totally inadequate. Tony Koester who regularly
writes in Model Railroader has identified a rule that says whatever number of staging roads you think you
will need, you should double it and add one. A good rule, I now have a five road staging yard.
Overall I am pleased with Stoney Hill Yard. It has turned out to be a rather bigger and more expensive
proposition than originally intended but I think it has captured some of the atmosphere of railroading in
southern Ontario, Canada.
Interested spectators watch
as freight trains are shunted
into the various industrial
A container train departs
passing the loco servicing