Good morning British Columbia! Here’s my life story.

Well everyone, it’s the start of a new blog. So let me tell you a bit about why it’s here…

I have an HO scale model railway. My dad built it. It’s…great. It’s not me. It’s got a 1 scale mile mainline run with a two passing sidings, a warehouse and a coal mine on it, and a yard with a small capacity, flour mill, and some oil storage tanks of a general sort. No staging. Switching isn’t great, neither is capacity. Another thing that bothers me is how scenes aren’t separated, you can see  too much at one time and though it’s hard to tell from these photos (on purpose) the realism was severely reduced. It was based off a plan from the 50s for the Virignia and Truckee, but a steam engine pulling 4 tiny cars isn’t my thing. My dad also built it with larger track centres which precluded putting more industries in many places they otherwise might have gone. He was good at scenery, though…although not my style of scenery! As these photos will show, he likes his red tones and crumbly rock.

I’ve become increasingly aware that what I want in a model railway is an accurate representation of an area that I’m passionate about, and that area is Canadian Pacific’s secondary mainline across southern BC. This includes famous areas such as the Myra Canyon (Holy trestles EVERYWHERE!) Coquihalla Pass (Abandoned in 1959 because the mountains were too hard to fight) and Kootenay Lake (Retired Calgarians ho!)

With the space I have, I chose the areas I was interested in the most. Creston, where I lived for a couple months and intend to spend more time, is in a fertile valley at the southern end of Kootenay Lake. Lots of lumber and fruit are the main commodities hauled, and the Kokanee brewery adds a lot to the mix. Kootenay Lake itself is incredible. It has more in common with a glacial fjord than a warm, inviting lake – steep slopes lead straight down into cold depths, and the CP tenuously clings to the edge of the Selkirk mountains. I was fortunate enough to get a cabride along the entire shore – and I’m modeling 14 feet worth of it.

Another shot to show the lake itself…you can barely make out the railway line if you look very hard.

I also wanted to model the Boundary district from Nelson to Midway. Many of my happy childhood vacations went along highway 3 through Midway, and today the operations end at Castlegar, 30 miles west of Nelson, the rest of the line to Midway being abandoned in 1990. This part of the line goes through the less imposing but equally beautiful Monashee mountains from Lower Arrow Lake to Christina Lake (You know, the place where the bears were guarding the marijuana grow op last year…)
I’ve attached plans for what I came up with. I wanted to stay in HO, but I found the room’s size hard to work with to get anything truly great, and N scale gives twice the mountain for the same size. It’s got 3 (too many) helixes, staging at both ends, and more switches than I’ll ever be able to build. It models Creston, 2 tunnels and 3 bridges along Kootenay Lake, Nelson, Castlegar (including the paper mill that is the current end of the line) the Labarthe tunnel, McCormack Creek, Shields siding, Farr (Fire) Creek bridge, the Bulldog tunnel, Porcupine Creek, Farron, Paulson gap/McRae Creek, Fife and the cool rockwork along Christina Lake, the bridge over the Kettle River at Cascade, Grand Forks, and Midway. The minimum radius for the mainline is 18″ and I mostly kept sidings above 14″. I kept the main grades at about 2.6%, a little bit more than the prototype to really give my engines some work.

I wish I could also have had another bridge, a couple more sidings, and Eholt summit, but alas, the room is only 14×30′.

More photos:

Rock retaining walls above Christina Lake:

Bridge over the Kettle River at Cascade: (I’ll be modeling it at 3/5 length, unfortunately)

Limestone tipple at Fife, to be modeled:


5 thoughts on “Good morning British Columbia! Here’s my life story.

  1. NevadaNorthern from 1chan here. I live about thirty minutes from the Virginia and Truckee, an interesting railroad to be sure. Your chosen location however, is absolutely gorgeous. Your bench-work looks good, and that tipple will be amazing when you make it. Though I must say, using your nice photography camera to take shots of your bench-work must be some kind of sin. I look forward to seeing your progress and learning from your mistakes.

  2. If you’d like any reference pictures of the stuff around Christina Lake I could probably accommodate. Looking forward to seeing how it looks in the end!

  3. Simply fabulous! We have wilderness property at Porcupine Creek. I was a Kootenay Division Conductor who worked all of that territory, but, of course, the Phoenix. Any chance of catching a peek of your work some day?
    Mark R.

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