After watching European model railroad layouts on Pilentum Television’s YouTube Channel, it is time to discover model trains from North America, namely from Canada. We do not explore a small train diorama in this video, however, we discover one of the largest model railway layouts in O scale, built by the Model Railroad Club of Toronto. All aboard! Let’s discover the famous Central Ontario Railway during a cab ride video layout tour.
The Model Railroad Club of Toronto was founded 1938 by Borden Lilley and Harry Ebert, originally meeting and building a model railroad layout in Harry’s basement. Quickly outgrowing this space, they obtained a large space in 1939 on the 4th floor of Toronto Union Station. During the next six years they built a fairly decent model rail layout with the scarce materials available during the wartime years. In 1946, with railway business expanding, the Union Station needed more space and asked the Club to vacate their premises. With Harry Ebert in the real estate business, it was discovered that a local factory site was now vacant and would be an ideal space. Measuring 40’ by 120’ the Club moved in to 37 Hanna Avenue and stayed there for the next 67 years.
The O scale layout was originally built to the then standard outside third rail, however, with a rebuilding of the layout in the early 1960s, the decision was made to move to two rail. Over the next 50 years, the Club built a large layout featuring over 6000’ of hand-laid track, featuring two full yard facilities complete with passenger, freight and engine facilities. Connecting the two main towns (named “Lilleyburg” and “Ebertville” after the founders) was over 10 scale miles (1100’) of mainline running. Numerous towns and industries dotted the railroad mainline providing a vast amount of on line traffic to simulate fully a Canadian railroad albeit in miniature. The time era has been early 1960s which was the final days of mainline steam in Canada.
The Club has remained on the forefront of model railroad trends, having designed a point to point railroad featuring full operation by fast clock system for timetable passenger operation, paper waybills for freight operations and fully operational signals. With a large 5000 square feet layout, efforts were made to create walk around control systems to permit the engineer to stay with their train long before this sort of thing was commercially available. Further developments involved integrating a “Commodore 64” to run the signal system and interlocking logic, eventually paving the path to full PC based computer integration. Signalling, block and throttle assignments, entrance and exit logic was all integrated into the system.
In 2012, the Club’s 24 members received the unfortunate but inevitable news that Toronto’s relentless building boom had reached the former factory district where it was located. Notice was given to vacate the premises in early 2013. New space was secured in Toronto’s east end, and after much ceremony and national news coverage, the model railroad layout was dismantled and significant components saved and moved. Since 2013, the Club has rebuilt using those components and now again features a large O scale model railroad, now the largest model railroad in Canada!
New technology continues to be embraced, with the transition to full DCC, complete model railroad computer control using Java Model Railroad Interface (JMRI) and walk-around control using the “WiThrottle” Application for iPhone and iPad. Recently the Club has installed staging yards to provide 1100’ of storage, enough for 22 full length model trains. Total trackage is now over 5000’ with over 300 electrically controlled turnouts, and 50 manual turnouts. Over 70 on line industries provide for interesting freight operations. Passenger trains run via timetable fast clock. The train layout is fully signalled using the prototypic Canadian Railway Operating rules circa 1962. There are about 700 freight cars, 100 passenger cars, and 80 locomotives on the O scale layout. Central Ontario locomotives power most trains, however interchange traffic and traffic rights over certain sections of the mainline allows for CNR and CPR power to be seen too.
The Club’s 24 members meet regularly on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday throughout the year. Monthly operating sessions are usually scheduled for a Saturday complete with a catered lunch. Lots of fun with the layout keeping 15 or more operators busy. Also, the Club has regular Public Shows, which has been a Toronto favourite. Visitors are welcome!
Track plan drawings and 3D renderings were created using “3rd PlanIt”, the most automated, comprehensive and easy-to-use track planning tool made by El Dorado Software.
Images courtesy of David MacLean - Thanks!
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