My Eagle Lake & Northern Model Railway in N Scale


 

This is a freelance N scale layout that follows North American prototype, inspired in part by scenes from the International of Maine CPR shortline and embodying an international flavour with my love of the Yorkshire moors. Overall, the aim is to give it a North American prototypical appearance, while allowing me my subliminal memories of other times and other places. (For some observations on our wonderful hobby, go to Basic Model Railway Insights, and for some additional commentary by a confirmed N scale modeller, More About N Scale.)

For some years at the outset I tried to make modelling in 2-rail British-prototype 00 scale work, but just could not quite get to be at home with it. My hobby watershed came with the appearance of N scale - and I knew I was hooked. With an eye to going to shows, in 1975 I built a double figure-eight "mountain module" on a 30" by 94" frame that I still have, somewhat altered and expanded, to this day. 

For a number of years that module appeared at Toronto-area exhibitions, and because it had to be transported on top of the car with a huge lid, it was very soon nicknamed "the coffin". With my fascination for N and a discovered acceptance of the North American prototype, I happily sold off my extensive British 00 scale. With career and family pressures, for 15 years "the coffin" languished in the garage, until it finally found a new home in half of a spare condo bedroom. Surprisingly, after a good cleaning and the replacement of some nibbled wiring, the layout came back to life: the Hammant & Morgan powered switches resumed operation and the motive power started to move as if the whole thing had only just been packed away. I am very glad that I hung onto that layout and all the kits, tools, and bits and bobs that one acquires over the years. 

My Eagle Lake & Northern has now expanded from its previous spare condo bedroom dimensions to a respectable (for N scale that is), basement space, using much of what I have kept over the years, incorporating the "mountain module", the marshalling yards, and various trestles, including two built many years ago by my friend Peter Dobell before he became addicted to EM Gauge.

Still very much under construction, the overall layout shape is now essentially that of an elongated inverted letter G. Control is by conventional DC (mostly MRC and Hammant & Morgan). There are three main circuits, the layout main line the "mountain module" double figure-eight, and its lower circuit. The main line has six long passing sidings to permit opposing passenger and freight train movements, and there are two roundhouse areas with turntables and a total capacity of 55 locomotives, as well as two major and two minor marshalling areas with a combined working capacity of  around 150 cars.

There are 15 bridges and trestles of various types, of which 8 are scratch-built. Of the 129 turnouts and 5 slips, 108 turnouts and all the slips are remotely controlled. There are 22 blocks, and the mainline run is approximately 99 ft, or at the N Scale ratio of 1:160, just about exactly 3 real miles, and it takes a freight train almost 5 minutes ( a scale speed of around 36 mph) to cover the distance. The track is Code 80, mostly by Peco™. The layout is wired to allow up to four guest operators to be switched in. With tracklaying and wiring just about complete on the new section, the ongoing priorities are maintaining the system and then detailing  the scenery and a very serious structure building program that is long overdue - my original scratchbuilt buildings (some still in need of further detailing) date from 40 years ago! In fact, upon reflection, this railway, given the hobby's digital state of the art today, is rapidly becoming a museum piece in its own right, with what might be considered the obsolete block and cab systems of DC control. Not to mention some of the vintage equipment and rolling stock. 

Finally, where did Eagle Lake & Northern come from? All the place names, stations and features are named after favourite spots, family and friends, some coincidentally legitimately with names such as "Norwood", "Spencer"  and "Dagmar", and the MacMillan Yards have been fudged into the McMillan Yards. You can change trains at Percy Junction, or dally at Cooper's Creek or Dobell's Gulch, take an excursion from the Adamerica Mine, take a side trip to Erin's Springs, yodel across the valley at Murphy's Folly, contemplate the hills at Moore Falls, look around town at Lillianstown or Normanton or Bunt Meadows, or trundle over the trestle to view the spectacular Emily's Falls. They all know who they are, except for my good friend David Norwood who has, alas, passed on.

This "mountain module" view dates from its exhibition days 40 years ago. Somewhat altered, it has now been incorporated into my permanent layout.

This "mountain module" view dates from its exhibition days 40 years ago. Somewhat altered, it has now been incorporated into my permanent layout.

The "Mountain Module" as part of the layout today.  The original control panel (now removed) and the three exchange tracks have been covered over by a (removable tunnel) that sports a scenic backdrop to the station on the upper level.

The "Mountain Module" as part of the layout today. The original control panel (now removed) and the three exchange tracks have been covered over by a (removable tunnel) that sports a scenic backdrop to the station on the upper level.


At busy Lillianstown on the latter-day "Mountain Module", the daily passenger train has just arrived from Lavernia, while a way freight is waiting to depart for Normanton.

At busy Lillianstown on the latter-day "Mountain Module", the daily passenger train has just arrived from Lavernia, while a way freight is waiting to depart for Normanton.

A panoramic view of the layout, with Charnock Moor in the foreground, the "Mountain Module" in behind, and in the distance Alnwick Yard, Murphy's Folly and Bunt Meadows.

A panoramic view of the layout, with Charnock Moor in the foreground, the "Mountain Module" in behind, and in the distance Alnwick Yard, Murphy's Folly and Bunt Meadows.

A long triple-header Maine Central freight, assisted in the middle by a beaten-up leased Northern Pacific U28, rumbles across the long Emily River trestle

A long triple-header Maine Central freight, assisted in the middle by a beaten-up leased Northern Pacific U28, rumbles across the long Emily River trestle

A pastoral scene at the quiet branchline terminus of Dobell's Gulch.

A pastoral scene at the quiet branchline terminus of Dobell's Gulch.

At the Adamerica Mine, an ore train is being  loaded as the mine switcher brings out a another filled ore car.

At the Adamerica Mine, an ore train is being loaded as the mine switcher brings out a another filled ore car.

The (prototypical) Diablo Canyon cantilever bridge  (built by Peter Dobell in the 1970s). In behind above the water fall are two (Kato) truss bridges that carry traffic in the other direction.

The (prototypical) Diablo Canyon cantilever bridge (built by Peter Dobell in the 1970s). In behind above the water fall are two (Kato) truss bridges that carry traffic in the other direction.

The waterfall at Diablo Gulch.

The waterfall at Diablo Gulch.

At Normanton station, the engine house is at capacity, and the platform tracks are crowded with a miscellany of equipment, including a tourist train. The station is a scratch-built replica of the Berea, Ohio station. The engine shed is four kit-bashed Superquick 00 section houses.

At Normanton station, the engine house is at capacity, and the platform tracks are crowded with a miscellany of equipment, including a tourist train. The station is a scratch-built replica of the Berea, Ohio station. The engine shed is four kit-bashed Superquick 00 section houses.

A view across the "mountain module" from Gully Jct. on the second level to the busy station  yard at Lillianstown on the third level.

A view across the "mountain module" from Gully Jct. on the second level to the busy station yard at Lillianstown on the third level.

Eagle Lake terminus. There never was a railway at our Eagle Lake, but there is a teddy bears' picnic in progress, the deer roam and the eagle has landed. Hey, it's "up north", don't quibble. The fantasy of a freelance layout ...

Eagle Lake terminus. There never was a railway at our Eagle Lake, but there is a teddy bears' picnic in progress, the deer roam and the eagle has landed. Hey, it's "up north", don't quibble. The fantasy of a freelance layout ...

At the Pottawatami country junction some waiting passengers look at the display of an old mining locomotive on a plinth, a woman in an antique car waits patiently while her boyfriend has gone inside the station to make an enquiry, a leisurely crew unload some aggregate for some repairs, while two city dudes lean against the platform railing waiting for a train to town.

At the Pottawatami country junction some waiting passengers look at the display of an old mining locomotive on a plinth, a woman in an antique car waits patiently while her boyfriend has gone inside the station to make an enquiry, a leisurely crew unload some aggregate for some repairs, while two city dudes lean against the platform railing waiting for a train to town.

The beach resort at St. Hilda's. The Bailey's (see below) pub and guest house is in the background.

The beach resort at St. Hilda's. The Bailey's (see below) pub and guest house is in the background.

Looking towards Moore Falls. In the foreground are the three bridges that carry the tracks across Emily Creek. The main line is in the middle with the high truss, as the Maine Central track rises to conquer the steep grade in the distance. Also in the distance is the Nont Sarah's tour railway terminus from where one can hike to the stately Moore Château.

Looking towards Moore Falls. In the foreground are the three bridges that carry the tracks across Emily Creek. The main line is in the middle with the high truss, as the Maine Central track rises to conquer the steep grade in the distance. Also in the distance is the Nont Sarah's tour railway terminus from where one can hike to the stately Moore Château.

The extensive yards in what used to be the lush meadows at Bunt Meadows. A long tanker train is about to depart

The extensive yards in what used to be the lush meadows at Bunt Meadows. A long tanker train is about to depart

Little Quincy station, with its quaint witch's hat, no longer has the importance that it used to have at this divergence on the main line, but a long military train from "down south" has just gone rumbling through.

Little Quincy station, with its quaint witch's hat, no longer has the importance that it used to have at this divergence on the main line, but a long military train from "down south" has just gone rumbling through.

The Adamerica Mine complex, from loading tower, to mine shaft cage tower, the office building, and the boss's mansion up the hill on the right.

The Adamerica Mine complex, from loading tower, to mine shaft cage tower, the office building, and the boss's mansion up the hill on the right.

Way up on the hillside - Castle Hill tower, as the sheep graze below. Hmmm, those two figures look a little-oversized - I'll have so see if I can substitute some children-size ones - perspectives and scale are somewhat flexible, but take a liberty too far and it will jump out at you!

Way up on the hillside - Castle Hill tower, as the sheep graze below. Hmmm, those two figures look a little-oversized - I'll have so see if I can substitute some children-size ones - perspectives and scale are somewhat flexible, but take a liberty too far and it will jump out at you!

The McMillan Yard.

The McMillan Yard.

This corner of the layout consists of a warren of tunnels that hide the necessary sharp curves at this right-angle juncture. All of these are accessible in an emergency, either by lift or by panel removal.

This corner of the layout consists of a warren of tunnels that hide the necessary sharp curves at this right-angle juncture. All of these are accessible in an emergency, either by lift or by panel removal.

A two-road engine shed at the end of the Bunt Meadows lead. An abandoned mine locomotive sits on a long-disused track.

A two-road engine shed at the end of the Bunt Meadows lead. An abandoned mine locomotive sits on a long-disused track.

The daily passenger service at the Lillianstown station, which happens to be a scratch-built reproduction of the Owen Sound CNR station.

The daily passenger service at the Lillianstown station, which happens to be a scratch-built reproduction of the Owen Sound CNR station.

Alnwick Yard - with Aethan's Lookout in the right distance. Several way freights in charge some antique diesel motive power are ready to leave to different destinations.

Alnwick Yard - with Aethan's Lookout in the right distance. Several way freights in charge some antique diesel motive power are ready to leave to different destinations.

The tourist train has discharged its passengers at the Nont Sarah's terminus.
A Bailey's cottage (see below) is to the right.

The tourist train has discharged its passengers at the Nont Sarah's terminus. A Bailey's cottage (see below) is to the right.

The Erin Springs Gypsum mine, with the shuttle connection at the diminutive station.

The Erin Springs Gypsum mine, with the shuttle connection at the diminutive station.

The "Dry Gulch" trestle (built by Peter Dobell in the 1970s).

The "Dry Gulch" trestle (built by Peter Dobell in the 1970s).

A fantasy vignette of a traditional English sea-side with donkey rides and a Wall's ice cream van. Have to fit the memories in somewhere ...

A fantasy vignette of a traditional English sea-side with donkey rides and a Wall's ice cream van. Have to fit the memories in somewhere ...

Norwood station.

Norwood station.

Lillianstown station (modelled after Owen Sound CNR. Matriarch Lillian made her home in Owen Sound.)

Lillianstown station (modelled after Owen Sound CNR. Matriarch Lillian made her home in Owen Sound.)

A note about buildings and structures
The vast majority of the buildings above have been built from scratch, often at a more diminutive scale than N in order to convey distance and perspective. There are some familiar N scale station kits, notably three ubiquitous "Rico" stations by Pola-N, one by Heljan and the "Malden" station by Model Power. There is a modelling rule of thumb that for a consistently eye-appealing layout one should not mix media - i.e., consistently use card, or wood or plastic. Rules, however, are meant to be broken; and with a bit of luck one can get away with it (with most viewers, anyway) by blending them well into the surrounding scape.

With all that said, as one cruises around collectible stores, vacation tourist traps and other assorted, sometimes unlikely venues, if one stays alert, one can come across intriguing opportunities to add items that intrigue and contribute to the diversity of the scene. For instance:

Some time ago I was browsing in a local collectible store to come across a whole collection of Bailey's (yes, Irish Cream) plaster-cast buildings in pretty-darn close to N scale. They must have been give-aways as a promotion to go with their bottles, and had obviously been a collection by someone who had enjoyed their Bailey's - going for a buck each.

Another find was in a book store, of all places, where there were four figurine structures to illustrate a book on famous castles in the western hemisphere. The book had parted company from the figurines, so the latter were on the remainder table free with any purchase in the store. Again, hey presto. All four are on the layout, and illustrated below is Warwick Castle - somewhat less than N scale, but up on a moor, that's just perfect!

Yes, so keep your eyes open and think model railway!
A lighthouse that overlooks a seashore that still has to be created. We will get there ...
By the way, the structure is from a popular series of copper-tone motif pencil sharpeners - no surgery needed, just a paint job ...

A lighthouse that overlooks a seashore that still has to be created. We will get there ... By the way, the structure is from a popular series of copper-tone motif pencil sharpeners - no surgery needed, just a paint job ...

Warwick Castle

Warwick Castle

The Bailey Manor - perfect for the mine boss's  mansion.

The Bailey Manor - perfect for the mine boss's mansion.

Looks familiar? You're right - it's York Minster. It was bought in the gift shop there, as one buys these things because they appeal - but once you get it home - hey, it sits on a shelf. So imagine a fancy monastic retreat up on the moors somewhere.

Looks familiar? You're right - it's York Minster. It was bought in the gift shop there, as one buys these things because they appeal - but once you get it home - hey, it sits on a shelf. So imagine a fancy monastic retreat up on the moors somewhere.

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