East lead of Durham Street yard, Lindsay during construction.  Turnouts shown are Code 55 NMRA no. 6, but let me explain…

“So what?  I’ve seen a yard lead before.”

I wound up using two different rail sizes for this yard.  Code 70 rail models 100-pound rail in HO scale, and Code 55 represents 80-pound rail.  A little research revealed that the southernmost five tracks of Durham Street yard were laid using 80-pound rail. With a yard track eliminated for layout purposes, this left me with the four southernmost tracks using Code 55, and three tracks which use Code 70.

For simplicity’s sake and ease of tracklaying, I laid those four southernmost tracks in Code 55 rail first, which is what you see going on here. I detected an interesting feature over years of working in CN yards, which I also found in Lindsay’s.  As most of Lindsay’s Durham Street yard was torn up in 1964, and about twenty houses were erected where the station and yard were in 2003/2004, I could not go back to Lindsay and verify my hunch.  But the late Al Paterson did help me out with this photo.

Lindsay yard track detail

Notice how the yard tracks have a slight curve in them between the frog and tangent track.  Why is this?

The Grand Trunk Railway and CN used a clever device to allow long turnouts on a yard lead and yet minimise the space needed for the lead.  I have modelled this on my layout.


Looking east along the lead at Durham St. yard, 1954.  Image from ebay. Note the curve along the yard lead towards the photographer.  This was the transition from the turnout on No. 1 Siding to the tangent track on the yard lead. No. 2 track’s turnout would have been curved;  I bet that the GTR and/or CN had a standard turnout that did this, but absent any railway standard drawings,  I would up designing my own. 

Lindsay trackplanning0002

My rough track plan for Durham Street yard. Using # 6 turnouts on a #5 frog angle allowed the yard tracks to be at least one more carlength longer each. From the top, the tracks are the Campbellford/Midland Sub. main track, No. 1 Siding, and yard tracks 2 to 6.

Lindsay trackplanning0003

There is no “free lunch”. The turnout to no. 2 track is a non-standard wye designed and built to fit between the no. 6 turnout off No. 1 Siding, and the yard lead laid out on a number 5 angle.  Two parabolic curves calculated as 126″ and 180″ minimum radii form the track centrelines.  The location where the two centrelines diverge by the track gauge must be the point of the frog.  As it’s a wye, this turnout is not much longer than a number 6 turnout.

 I use Campbellford Sub. mileage references (such as mile 86.33 for this turnout) as an identifier for each turnout to make troubleshooting easier when multiple turnouts are close to one another.  All wire feeds are tagged with mileage references and rail (north/south/frog) designation.

Lindsay trackplanning0001 

Making the transition from a number 6 frog angle to a yard body track laid out on a number 5 angle.  This method was used for the #6 turnouts from the lead to No. 3/4/5 tracks.   Another use of parabolic curves to make a transition between the two angles. Notice that the intersection of centre lines on the turnout is about an inch closer to the switch points than the ICL on the #5 angle.  If I were to lay this yard again, I’d go with a shorter transition to make the curve into the body track from the frog more obvious.

The yard lead is laid out as if no. 5 turnouts were to be used, yet all but one turnout on the lead are NMRA no. 6.  First I drew in the yard’s body tracks.  I then laid out a lead intersecting these tracks at a no. 5 angle.    The first turnout on the lead is an NMRA no. 6 on a no. 6 angle.  The turnout to number 2 yard track is the non-standard wye described above, and the remaining turnouts on the lead are number 6’s laid on a number 5 angle.

NMRA Data Sheet D3b.3 describes the spiral easement method that I use for the transition between the two tangents, at page 4—http://www.nmra.org/sites/default/files/d3b3.pdf

Minimum radii on transitions are calculated using this formula–

A == length of transition from start to finish

b == maximum deflection of the transition

A squared ÷ by 4b == minimum radius.

So THAT’s why I repeated Grade Ten algebra!  I knew that it had to have a use…sometime.

Thus endeth the math lesson…

But here’s the result of some intense planning at the start–


Number 2 track’s turnout in the course of laying.  Note the slight curve in the track.  

Building Lindsay Yard


This is my third try at modelling Lindsay’s Durham Street yard.  The first version was based on the GTR/CN Southampton yard, which I built in the late 1970’s.  The second was built in the early 1980’s, based on a John Armstrong track plan which used no. 4 turnouts.

I was very fortunate to receive a copy of a 1″=100′ 1948 CN property plan of Lindsay in the late 1980’s.  This 3 foot wide by about 30 foot long document details property owned by CN in Lindsay at the time, excluding a small eastern portion of Santiago Yard east of the Scugog River.

So much for my second version of Lindsay yard.  In 1990, I trashed it and prepared to build Lindsay yard right.  I set out to build Durham St. yard as closely as I could to the prototype.  Maybe I’d be third time lucky?  Twins, a lack of funds or a suitable place for the layout that I envisioned, and a job often having me work more than forty hours a week and at unusual hours intervened for two decades. Some twenty or so years later I started building Version Three of Durham Street yard.

Looking at the prototype, in front of the station were eight tracks-the main track, No. 1 Siding paralleling the main track (referenced in the employee operating timetable of September 1956) and No. 2 through No. 7 yard tracks running off No. 1 Siding.  No. 7 track had a track scale.

CN Lindsay yard durham st.

In this 1948 CN property plan, the track nearest the station is the main track of the Campbellford Sub., which becomes the Midland Sub. as it passes the front door of the station headed west. Below (south) of it is No. 1 siding, followed by yard tracks 2 through 7. 

I drew the yard full-size for HO scale on wrapping paper, using NMRA no. 6 turnouts on most of the lead, CN standard no. 7 turnouts for the west crossover and turnout to the Haliburton Sub./east leg of the wye.  But the lead is on a number 5 angle.  This is a device used by the GTR and CN to allow the yard tracks to be longer yet use turnouts with a longer lead between frog and switch points on the yard lead.  More on this in another post.  I left out one of the yard tracks, making no. 6 the scale track.

Track centres were established using CN standards from the 1939 CN Maintenance-of-Way Rule Book.  The main track and No. 1 Siding are on scale 14′ centres per specification for main and passing tracks.  Track centres between No. 1 Siding and all tracks south of it in the yard are 13′-6″, per CN specification for yard tracks.

The baseboard is made of a sandwich of 3/4″ thick rough fir plywood for sub-roadbed and 1/4″ poplar floor underlay for roadbed.  The fir plywood is both strong and inexpensive, and the poplar roadbed I’ve found soft enough to take spikes while still being able to resist warpage and movement of spikes over time, driving track out of gauge.

The track plan was transferred from the full-size plan to the poplar roadbed before cutting the plywood.  A little cautious work with a circular saw through a 4′ x 8′ sheet of plywood gave me my 3/4″ sub-roadbed.

The two sheets of plywood were laminated together using LOTS of carpenter’s glue and Robertson #8 roundhead screws driven through washers and the poplar into the fir plywood on about 3″ or 4″ centres, using a screwdriver bit in my drill.  My feeling is that if glue oozes out everywhere, it’s likely a sufficient amount of glue that I’m using.  This was allowed to set for a day or so, after which the screws were withdrawn and the screw holes filled.019

Durham Street yard tracks 3 to 6 are ballasted, waiting for Code 55 rail to be laid.  Beyond the ties and ballast, you can see centre and tie-end lines for the remaining tracks still to be laid.

With the glue dry on the roadbed/sub-roadbed assembly, tie-end lines were drawn on the poplar surface for tie placement.  These are four scale feet south of the centre line, as I am using scale 8′ long ties.

I used various “profile” ties (old Campbell stock and Mount Albert scale lumber) scaling 8′ long x 8″ wide by 4″ thick, again following CN practice.  CN used 6″ x 8″ wide ties in plain track.  Ties were batch-stained before laying, soaking the ties in a mix of about thirty parts alcohol to one part black or brown Fiebing’s leather dye.  The stained ties were then spread out on newspaper to dry before laying.  This is the “Jack Work method” that has stood the test of time over sixty years or so.  As ties are stained, the ratio of dye to alcohol changes, causing each succeeding batch to be lighter than the previous one.  Or darker if you add dye to the mix between batches.

The ties were mixed together in a container to obtain tonal variety and laid out on a “piano-key” tie spacing jig that I made.  It is a piece of 1″ x 2″ lumber with wood bits glued to it to correspond to a specific tie spacing.  I made three jigs, one for each tie spacing depending on the service that the particular track I am laying ties out for will see.  CN specifications for the line that I am modelling call for 18 ties per 33 foot rail for main track on the Campbellford and Midland Subdvisions, and 16 ties per 33′ rail length for passing tracks–in this case No. 1 Siding.  Yard tracks use 14 ties per 33 foot rail length.


“A picture is worth a thousand words.”  My “piano-key” tie jigs.

A strip of masking tape is laid along the centre of the jig sticky side up, and the ties placed in the jig on top of the tape.  When all spaces in the jig are filled with ties, the assembled strip of ties can be lifted out of the jig and laid on the roadbed.

Ties for all tracks except No. 6 were assembled into strips this way.  No. 6 track, the scale track, will be near the edge of the layout, and I know that my own clumsiness will have me rip spikes out of Code 55 rail in time.  Where there is a problem there can be a solution– I used Fast Tracks’ PC board ties interspersed every fourth or fifth tie with the wood ties.  The rail is soldered to the ties in this track, making it harder to damage accidentally.  When laying out the tie strip for this track, I left every fourth or fifth space open to insert the PC board ties when installed on the roadbed.

I pour a line of carpenter’s glue on the roadbed along the track centreline, smoothing the glue out.  A strip of ties is laid on the roadbed, the ends of the ties being laid against the tie-end line drawn on the roadbed. Quickly I press the ties into the glue with a weight, then press that weight against part of the ties not covered with tape so that I can remove the masking tape. Any ties that move while removing the tape are adjusted back in line immediately upon removing the tape.

Before the glue sets, I dump what I am using for track ballast on the ties and roadbed.  This is allowed to dry overnight.  The next day, loose ballast is brushed off and between the ties, leaving a thin layer of ballast where I want it.


Lindsay–the centre of my railway universe


Lindsay, October, 1952.  Collection of the late Al Paterson

The most important location on the Midland Railway of Canada when consolidated in 1883 became Lindsay.  With trains running between Lindsay and Midland, Belleville, Toronto, Haliburton, Peterborough, Bancroft, and Coboconk in October of 1956,  it will be the major focus on the layout.  A wye was located at the centre of the trackage in Lindsay.

Herein lies a problem.  Maybe this diagram will explain–


Trackplan of Lindsay yard by Keith Hansen from “Last Trains From Lindsay”, courtesy of and copyright 1997 by Keith Hansen.

Notice that wye dead centre of the diagram.  Lindsay did not have a turntable; engines were turned on the wye and serviced at the enginehouse off the west leg of the wye, east of Albert Street.   Wyes are a well-known model rail layout design bugbear for those planning layouts.  And there is no device that I can use to sidestep the issue.  I need a wye at Lindsay.   Full stop.

The west turnouts of the Durham Street yard fanned out off the south leg of the wye.

The Victoria Avenue yard freight shed tracks ran off the east leg of the wye.

If I am to build this per the prototype, I have a few choices in addition to the obvious selective compression to make this fit in a 19′ x 24′ layout space and maybe fit in other locations via double-decking, etc.

I’m six feet tall.  Can I build this at a height of 6’3″ allowing me to walk under Lindsay yard, employing some very thin benchwork and carefully mounted low-profile switch throws such as modified slide switches?  Could I step up on raised platforms at places where I’d be switching cars, etc.?   This would allow even 6′ high me to run trains under Lindsay.  Ceiling height that I’m working with is seven feet, so that allows nine inches for building height.  This may be a problem given the enginehouse’s 75′ tall smokestack.

I can build this part of the layout at a lower height.  Truncate the Victoria Avenue yard at the north end, say two streets north of Kent Street.  This would result in a peninsula that could have a drop-leaf connecting this with the line to Haliburton should I wish to build that later.  This would necessitate any other layout levels being built above or below Lindsay.

One can consider this for some time without adequate resolution.   It’s been eighteen years since I moved to my current residence, so I know from experience….

With the issue of how to eventually model Lindsay as I wish to unresolved, I will adjourn sine die…

We’ll touch on modelling a small part of Lindsay (really!) in the next post.

A catchy musical interlude with little relevance to Lindsay other than its title, presented here for your listening pleasure ends this missive.  —




About the Midland Railway–Grain and more grain…

Miidland Railway system map0001-2 copy

              Diagram from the Upper Canada Railway Society’s “Newsletter”, February, 1962.

The Midland Railway of Canada was an amalgamation of several smaller railway lines in Eastern Ontario.  Originally chartered as the Port Hope Lindsay and Beaverton Railway,  this railway eventually picked up neighbouring railway lines to become the system shown in this diagram in 1883.  In 1884, the Grand Trunk Railway of Canada leased the Midland, which became its Midland Division.  By 1893 the Midland was fully assimilated within the Grand Trunk (GTR).

One factor driving the GTR’s acquisition of the Midland was the grain traffic developing from a Western Canada opening up to agriculture, the products of which were destined for Eastern Canada, Great Britain and Europe.  The introduction of Red Fife wheat to Western Canada increased exponentially the amount of arable land and also the quantity of wheat that could be grown on it.  With Toronto, Montreal and other Canadian cities expanding, they provided a ready market for these grains.  Britain and Europe were very willing consumers of Canada’s bounty as well.  The movement of wheat and other grains resulted in an increase in grain traffic on the railways from the West to what is known as the Lakehead (Fort William and Port Arthur, now known as Thunder Bay) on the west shore of Lake Superior.

An all-rail route for grain to Eastern ports would have resulted in a higher cost to the purchaser for Western Canadian grains.  Grain was therefore unloaded from boxcars at the Lakehead, elevated into storage silos in grain elevators, then loaded into lake boats destined to a port on Georgian Bay.  There were several Georgian Bay ports competing for this traffic–Owen Sound, Collingwood, Depot Harbour, and Midland.  Midland won out over all of these because rail haulage ex Midland offered one of the shortest rail routings to Canadian seaports.  The Midland formed a vital role in this routing, making it very attractive to the GTR.

At Midland, grain was unloaded from lake boats into elevators where it was fumigated and stored for shipment onward by rail.  The GTR originally had a wood elevator in Midland itself, which burnt in 1905.  This was replaced a mile out of town at Tiffin by a steel 900,000-bushel capacity elevator in 1906–the Aberdeen, or Tiffin no. 1.  In 1908, the GTR had Tiffin no.2 built by the John Metcalfe Company.  With reinforced concrete silos, it originally had a capacity of 2 million bushels.  As a bushel of wheat weighs 60 pounds, that’s a lot of grain.  CN took over the GTR in 1923, and expanded Tiffin no.2 in the late 1920’s to hold 4,500,000 bushels of grain.

29 August, 1983.

Tiffin no. 2 elevator, 29 August, 1983.

A typical steam-era “Fowler” or “Dominion” steel-frame wood sheathed boxcar holds 1600 bushels of grain.  Later steel-framed and steel boxcars held 2,000 bushels worth. (A covered hopper today holds about 3,000 bushels of grain.)  The result was often hundreds of carloads shipped weekly out of Tiffin.  And almost all of it went through Lindsay.

Canada Steamship Lines erected a million-bushel capacity elevator at Midland later on. Traffic from this elevator generally went via CN, which meant even more grain moving through Lindsay.

“In 1945…51,160,276 bushels of grain loaded at Midland for Montreal and the Atlantic ports of Halifax and St. John rolled through Lindsay”, wrote Charles Heels in his book Railroad Recollections.  That’s a lot of grain, a lot of boxcars, and many trains.

With train crews based out of Lindsay, much of the work in that terminal was running grain from Midland via Lindsay to Belleville, or empty cars for loading with grain at Midland from Belleville to Midland. With branchlines running north to Haliburton and southwest to Toronto as well as local traffic, Lindsay was a very busy terminal with upwards of 75 train crew members employed in this town alone.  More on Lindsay later…


About this blog

I’ve been a railway modeller for over forty years.  And more than a bit connected to the railway business for twenty-nine of those.   This blog is about my HO scale Midland Railway of Canada, operating between Lindsay and Belleville, Ontario in October of 1956.

The Midland Railway of Canada was an independent railway running in Eastern Ontario until it was taken into the Grand Trunk Railway of Canada in 1893.  I am modelling this line as if the Midland had not been taken over, and is still running in 1956.

So far, I’ve a small piece of layout modelling Lindsay’s Durham Street Yard measuring 18 inches by eight feet long.  My goal–to model in HO scale the railway line between Lindsay and Belleville to a high standard with hand-laid track, following prototype practices.

And the journey begins…

Steve Lucas