Tuesday 6 February 2024

My 'Montreal Street Subway'

Until now, I unofficially called this little bridgespace the Continuous-Run Option (CRO). Though my HO-scale layout is officially point-to-point, with CN and CP lines beginning and ending in a schematic straight line, sometimes I want the trains to just run a bit. This CRO crosses the aisle leading into the layout, and it is removable. I snapped a photo of CN crews finishing up my project tonight. Read on to find what's new and what's the same after this build is in place:
One new thing is a new name. I'm going to call it the Montreal Street Subway, the namesake underpass that carried the prototype Montreal Street under the CN mainlines just east of the Outer Station. It actually leads directly to my HO scale Outer Station which was located on...Montreal Street. So the symbolism and the siting signalled spot-on synchronicity! Another unofficial name for this CRO, in its previous form, would be the Bridge of Death due to the danger of rolling stock plunging four feet to the unforgiving hard floor below. Things that are temporary often become permanent, and this little plank was no different. Held in place with four splice plates, its position was flexible and could be lifted out after the CRO piece of flex-track was removed first. Such lift-outs usually take place in the modelling off-season, when I'm enjoying the nice weather and not operating. But now, during modelling season, I'm operating and working on the layout nightly, so it stays in.
Before (above) and after (below). Surprisingly, I had very few casualties take the plunge with this benchwork in place ever since I ceded part of the layout room to my wife's craft space and reducing the layout footprint from 23x10 feet down to 11x10 feet, four layout iterations ago. I can remember maybe two unfortunate incidents. The unwritten layout rules were never park the Rapido locomotive nor the True Line Trains cabooses on the CRO!

High-level views Before (above) and After (below). Casting about for suitable material for the new crossing, I discounted several random boards found in the garage leftover lumber lounge as either too short, too narrow or too flimsy. The Goldilocks Principle comes to the layout room! Dispirited and disappointed, I sat down and spied a previous front-porch layout, the Lyttle-Redd Caboose Co. propped up in a remote corner of the layout room! Would it fit?
As I note in the above-linked post, this layout base was also a last remaining vestige of my childhood home in Amherstview. Hence the turquoise Formica laminate that had de-laminated over the years. But this thing was SOLID and fit the space, so out came the Sharpie. I marked some cut-lines, then out came the hand-saw. I severed both ends on the angle naturally leading from the corner of the layout across the aisle. That's the horizontal. Now the vertical. I needed the track to continue straight across, and had to find the correct level and height. I added together the thicknesses of the Formica piece and a square support piece I had sawed in two, then measured down from track height to attach the support pieces to the fascia.
I had seen some other modellers' experiences building CROs (also known as duck-unders or nod-under, layout height-dependent). Everyone wants a fancy hinge, a dependable drop-down, or some other over-engineered gizmo. The design challenge here is to build something strong enough to support a train, but flexible enough to move and not stenose my spine if I 'come up to soon' while negotiating the subway. I planned supports with pins allowing the 'floating' CRO to drop into place secured by the pins. While getting to that stage, I placed the support piece underneath the middle of the Formica piece, holding it in place with Scotch tape then driving a single Robertson (is there any other kind?) temporarily in the middle.
Did I mention temporary things becoming permanent already? I think I did. Once I removed the tape, I liked the free-floating, self-levelling, somewhat-adjustable bit of engineering I had unwittingly created. The view while entering the layout:
Just a bit of track work needed doing. I trimmed the CRO piece of track a bit for a better fit, screwing it to the CRO and ensuring track joiners could slip into place once the Montreal Street Subway was put in place. The height was good, and support on both sides was good, with a bit of flex horizontally because I WILL come up too soon or otherwise klutzily collide with the new Subway at some point. The finish of the counter-top underside actually matched my 'barnboard' Dollarama fascia sticker finish. And that bit of turquoise reminds me of 'home' so I just might keep it for awhile. No Last Spike here, but the work has been done well in every way, if I do say so myself!


  1. The before version gives me the willies. You're getting good milage out of your track. I haven't seen fiber tie flex track in a long time.

  2. The old CRO looks a lot worse than it is. That track is rock solid. See that dirt pile between the splice plates on the left side of the Before photo? That's how I knew the plank was in the 'sweet spot'. I have more track than I'll ever need. And I LOVE that fibre tie flex track. It holds its shape like nobody's business, and is great for little micro-bends here and there. But just as 'late trains get later', 'fibre tie track gets shorter' every time I cut it. So I try my best to preserve the longer lengths I have for jobs just like this one! (Those ties are low-profile, too. And if I do have to cut the track, I save the ties out, snipping off the joining pieces. They're great for micro-shimming track i.e. to keep cars from rolling out of spurs.

    Thanks for your comment, Eric and good eye!


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