Ontario’s O Scale time machine is a layout you can visit
By: Jim Hediger
Visitors to the Aberfoyle Junction Ry. are in for a wonderful trip back in time to see Canadian railroading in the 1950s. As you enter the room a beautifully finished O scale model railroad lies all around you. Do your left so that Ontario rolling farmland stretches to the Horisont well Rocky outcropping of the Niagara escarpment angle north toward the Bruce peninsula. Across the parade of Canadian National in Canadian Pacific freight and passenger train travel smoothly along the main lines linking to numerous small towns to the distant large city.
The superb displays beginnings can be traced to Frank Dubery’s dream of recreating an era many modelers grew up in. It was also a time when Frank traveled extensively, riding well-maintained trains pulled by steam and early diesel locomotives. Frank and his wife, gay, begin building the first Aberfoyle Junction Ry. In 1972 and opened it to the public a year later. An article on that way it was published in the March 1979 model railroader. The second layout was introduced in February 1987 MR edition.
Word of the railroad spread quickly and a number of friends joined their project between 1972 and 1975 including Chuck & Gwen Bard, Wayne Pfieffer & Craig Webb. Most of the male members of the team have been in the Hobby since childhood but Gay and Gwen became participants in the hobby by marriage. Everyone has different strengths within the Hobby which dovetail perfectly as the railroad grew.
The original Aberfoyle Junction was in a nearby antique mall where its feature expansion possibilities were limited. Between 1980 and 1982 there was a purchased property and built the largest Quonset hut that houses the current railroad where the group continue to operate the original display until the lease ran out. The new building was designed specifically for the model railroad. Steel columns that support the control tower and electrical conduits for the layout wiring were more carefully planted and installed before the concrete floor was poured.
The other foil junction track was planned and developed mostly by Frank and Chuck with a lot of input from the others. Well it doesn’t reproduce any specific locations and include the number of typical southern Ontario scenes. The display railroad was planned so public shows could defrost some of the expenses. It runs around three walls of the room lower the front and slowly rising towards the skyboards. The control tower in the centre of the room place as the operators above the viewers operators don’t have to enter the modeled scenes except for an occasional emergency.
Before any benchwork construction began Frank and truck drew the full-size truck plan on the concrete floor with felt pens. Do you say surveyors transit to establish a baseline of a line around the room. Many friends helped out as the benchwork was built over the track plan and then tracks on track centres were plumbed up from the floor.
unlike a home layout, Chuck wired Aberfoyle junctions eight cabs into specific groups such as the CNN westbound main, CP branch and so on. The simplicity improves reliability and prevented mistakes. Alternatives are actuated with switch machines. When a mainline turnout is lined into a yard area, mainline power is automatically routed down the arrival or departure track. This allows the yard operator to continue working elsewhere while a road train arrives or departs.
six security cameras feed three television monitors in the tower so the operators can observe train movements in the hidden areas. Chuck’s electrical wizardry has produced a spectacular light seen. The city scene is set back about 20 feet from the viewing area and it’s lighting reflects the general glow typical of a distance to be. The sequence lighting occurs mostly in the town and rural areas to focus attention on the highly detailed structures.
Gwen made thousands of trees mostly from local weeds or dried materials that looked right. Some of her foreground trees have fine copper wire trunks and branches. The rest of the ground cover is ground form, sawdust and dirt. Glenn also painted all of the backdrops.
Most of the trains operating on the layout are pulled by smooth-running replicas of specific Canadian national and Canadian pacific steam locomotives. Scratch building was necessary to capture the typical Canadian details. Truck is the groups most prolific steam engine builder, although frank and Wayne have also done some. The large fleet of heavyweight passenger cars is almost entirely scratch built to match CNNCP designs. Craig built most of these cars with interior lighting, detail and suitable load of passengers. Aberfoyle junctions display operation creates a railfanning experience, where everyone is treated to a variety of trains. Hidden double-ended staging tracks make it easy to run any train desired. The yardmaster switch cars around but there’s no car forwarding system. Road engineers can choose to make setouts or pick-ups along the line or they can just keep things moving depending on the audience. When the trains are running their operators are out of sight in the shadows above the bright lights highlighting the railroad.