Our HO scale layout is intended to be an homage to the region we live in: the Great Lakes and Ohio River Valley, with rolling hills, rivers, farms, small towns, and even a city or two.  Our inspiration was drawn from the CN Rail line from Windsor to London, the BNSF line from Detroit to Toledo, and so on.  Our era of operations is roughly 1970 (plus or minus 15 years or so) and includes freight trains, passenger trains, and even automobile traffic on the roads and in the towns.

Windsor & Midwestern Permanent Layout

2007 marked the beginning of a new chapter in the history of the Windsor Modular Railroad Club. After much discussion it was decided to move forward with a permanent layout geared toward prototype operations.

Why move from our modular roots to build a permanent layout? A desire to have more prototypical operations on the model railroad is generally held to be the main factor in our move to a permanent layout, but many other factors were involved.

When the club started our main goal was to get running trains quickly. No track plan or even theme was given to the modules, so members build what suited their tastes. This worked well to get things rolling, but later on as we tried to add prototype operations to the mix, meny shortfalls from this approach were uncovered. Some of the short falls we are addressing with the new layout include more staging tracks, larger industries, passing sidings, interchanges and overall flow to the layout.

Another issue the permanent layout addressed was the need for more space. How you might ask, well with the modular system, members were encouraged to build their own module to be added to the layout, this means the layout is continuously growing, and with some members having more than one module, space quickly became an issue. With adding operations to the layout, it becomes impossible to rotate modules out to let others in. By moving to a permanent layout, the issue of room for modules is eliminated. This elimination of modules turned some people away from the club, but attracted others.

With the permanent layout we also hope to address another issue from the modular setup, reliability and repairs. By its nature, the modular layout has a joint in the benchwork every four feet, we found that the clamp system we used to hold modules together was great for short periods of time but shifted over time. It was necessary to constantly adjust the joints to keep things running smoothly. We also ran into issues with maintanence of the modules. If there was a problem with a module, we had to wait for the owner to address that issue or give someone else permission to fix it. The permanent layout has solid benchwork with no clamped joints to worry about. We have committees in place to work on different aspects of the layout and any member of these committees can make repairs to the layout as needed. The club owns the layout so we don’t have issues with waiting for the owner to fix something, the club can designate someone to take care of it.

While the permanent layout is designed to solve issues from the modular setup, it also created many of its own. Our members have very diverse interests in railroads and eras. It was imposible to build a layout to satisfy all our interests, so many compromises were needed. We chose to go with a North – South conecting railroad rather than an East – West one. This allows us to interchange with most of the railroads our members are interested in. The buildings and scenery will be as era non-specific as possible to allow us to operate the layout in multiple eras. A nominal date of 1970 +/- 15 years was chosen. This will allow us to have operating sessions suited to most of the eras our members model.

One of the biggest benefits of the permanent layout is the forum it provides to learn new skills. Most of the modules were built at home, so other members couldn’t learn how it was done. With the permanent layout, if you want to learn how something is being done, you just find where they are working on that and offer to help out. A lot of the techniques we are using are new to most of us, so we can all learn together. Some of our firsts include L-Girder Open-Grid benchwork, Splined roadbed, Handlaying track and building switches using the Fast-Tracks templates. As we move forward with the layout, scenery, buildings and kit-bashing techniques will come into play as well. Down the road, DCC, Signalling and Prototype operations will be tackled too.

Please visit the photos section to follow progress on the construction of this massive undertaking.