Timothy J. Horton



My layout was designed to fit into an apartment bedroom measuring 13'-0" x 11'-4" overall. Within this space, my goal was to model a portion of the British Columbia Railway as accurately as possible, and to be able to operate it as prototypically as possible.


The 61 mile Dawson Creek Subdivision was a perfect fit. In 1977 trains were anywhere from 5-25 cars in length and required 1-3 locomotives. The typical consist was a microcosm of the mainline trains: trailers, lumber, wood chips, and grain. The yards at Chetwynd and Dawson Creek were reasonably compact and could be modelled with limited compression, and there was significant scenic interest along the line.


A narrow shelf type layout was required so that the room could continue to function as a bedroom. From the start, a double deck arrangement with helix was considered as it would yield sufficient length for two yards and a respectable mainline run.

The track plan was conceived as a series of vignettes along the Dawson Creek Subdivision, with subtle transitions from one to the next. The inclusion of the yards at Chetwynd and Dawson Creek were essential for prototypical operation of the Dawson Creek Switcher. The sidings at Sundance and Tremblay would provide operational interest, and the bridges spanning the East Pine River and Kiskatinaw River would be scenic highlights along the mainline.

LOWER DECK [click to enlarge]

UPPER DECK [click to enlarge]

DOUBLE DECK ARRANGEMENT [click to enlarge]

The lower deck includes the Chetwynd Yard which is located along an unfettered 13 foot wall. The model will duplicate the track arrangement of the prototype with the necessary linear compression as well as a few minor modifications. All of the relevant industries in 1977 are included in the plan.

From Chetwynd the mainline to the north curves out of sight and into a hidden three track staging yard which represents Septimus. This is where northbound trains from Chewtynd and southbound trains from Fort St. John exchange tonnage. South of Chetwynd the mainline goes through the wall to a staging yard in the next room. This is where the northbound V-P freight will be staged and where the southbound P-V freight will terminate.

The Dawson Creek Subdivision branches off and extends to Sundance, where a short passing siding offers a place for meets between trains, or a temporary base for work trains. The tracks cross over Highway 97 on a concrete bridge and then across the East Pine River on a full scale replica of the prototype. From here the line ducks into the trees and climbs a six and a half turn 2.5% helix to reach the upper deck, mimicking the prototype's 2.2% climb from the bridge up to the South Peace plateau.

After climbing the helix from the lower deck, the trains emerge behind a farm scene typical of the region near Groundbirch. There is a passing siding and online grain elevator at Tremblay. After crossing Sunset Prairie Road, the tracks pass through a short cutting and cross the Kiskatinaw River on a full scale wood replica of the prototype bridge. After winding through more farm country, the line curves into the yard at Dawson Creek.

The Dawson Creek Yard is located above the Chetwynd Yard, offering 13 linear feet in which to model it faithfully. The design recreates the prototype's track arrangement exactly with some linear compression. Most of the industries including the grain elevators and the lumber mill will be modelled as they appeared in 1977. The branch ends at the Dawson Creek station. Due to space constraints, the interchange with Northern Alberta Railways will not be modelled.

A double deck arrangement requires one to determine what the optimum heights for the lower and upper levels will be. I selected heights of 42 inches and 57 inches respectively. The lower deck is a comfortable height for switching and uncoupling in Chetwynd Yard. The upper deck is not too high as to make switching and uncoupling awkward, and offers an excellent viewing aspect. The benchwork was designed to be built in sections for ease of transport and installation, and is supported using shelving brackets. A third level serves as the lighting canopy for the upper deck. Both decks are illuminated with LED light bars.