Modelling Copper Cliff on the CP’s Webbwood Sub

Copper Cliff is a community surrounded by Inco’s immense mining endeavours about four miles west of CP’s Sudbury yard.  It’s a former company town, and as such, it is comprised of a small gathering of residences nearly besieged by industrial lands.  Indeed, Inco’s famous superstack looms across the road from homes on Venice Street.

CP’s Webbwood Subdivision passes just to the south of the residential area in Copper Cliff, and connects Sudbury to the international border at Sault Ste. Marie, some 200 miles west. See the key map below, which I copied from the Waterloo Region Model Railroad Club (WRMRC) website.  I added a grey oval to highlight Copper Cliff.

On the WRMRC, we are modelling the scene where the CP Webbwood Sub goes underneath Regional Road 55 [Since writing this post, I was reminded that Regional 55 was actually Highway 17 and called the Trans Canada Highway in the 1970s.  I’ll leave this note here until I get a chance to change the label on the image below.]  Click on this satellite image from Google Maps to see a larger version.

There are two places on our layout where Copper Cliff shows up.  On Level 1, the Webbwood Sub proceeds west from Sudbury, through the New Yard (behind the car shops and roundhouse), and through Copper Cliff before going into the backdrop to climb a helix up to Level 2.  Just before the Webbwood goes into the backdrop, an industrial spur track branches off to the south and goes through the backdrop into a helix that carries it down to Level 0 where the CP interchanges with the Inco railway and serves some other industries from their own trackage.  On the track plan for Level 0, the interchange with Inco on the Copper Cliff spur is the trackage farthest to the left.  [You will notice that there are no place names labelled on the track plan for Level 0.  Nearly all of Level 0 is made up of hidden staging yards and connecting tracks.  The Copper Cliff industrial spur, however, will be on a very narrow shelf with scenery].  It is the scene around the junction of that industrial spur with the Webbwood Sub in Copper Cliff that I’m modelling on the WRMRC layout.

The scene shown above is challenging to pull off in the space we have available, but when the layout was planned by Jurgen Kleylein 15 years ago, he visited the location and took stock of the dominant features to inform his track plan.  Inco’s North Mine dominates the scene as the only major structure immediately adjacent to any tracks, aside from the highway bridge that carries Regional Road 55 over the Webbwood.  That highway bridge and the loader at the North Mine would become the set pieces Jurgen would deploy to hide the places where trains would otherwise plunge into a hole in the backdrop.  These two structures become crucial scenery elements.  Their positions would be dictated by the exact locations of the holes in the backdrop, and the spectators’ viewing angles into the scene.

If you checked out the track plan for Level 1, you’ll appreciate how complex our layout is.   I’ve isolated the North Mine area of Copper Cliff in this shot.  The track plan generally shows the position of each key scenery element, and again, the intention was that their exact location would be determined during construction.

The dark blue line is the CP Webbwood Subdivision.  The light blue lines are backdrops.  The green line delineates the aisle. The area to the left of the aisle, circumscribed by the grey oval, is part of the Copper Cliff North Mine scene on Level 1.  The part of the layout to the right of the aisle (Crean Hill mine scene) is unrelated to Copper Cliff, despite the fact that it appears to be connected to it in the drawing.  The Crean Hill mine also on Level 1, but what you don’t see in the drawing is that its benchwork is slightly higher than the scene across the aisle, and it is framed in a sort of shadow box.  Just ignore that side for clarity. For the purposes of this series of posts, I’m referring to the area in the grey oval.

The Inco trackage is in the foreground of the scene, but is not operational track.   The WRMRC puts a priority on realistic operation, and the creation of scenes that resemble the real world, as much as can be accomplished within a given space.  In this case, the three tracks at the loader and the transfer track were deemed significant enough to warrant inclusion.   There’s not enough room for the mine headframe to be modelled, so that will have to be implied by the presence of the loader spanning two of the Inco tracks.  The plan also calls for the connection between Inco and the CP Webbwood to be modelled, but again, this will not be operational.  Its purpose is solely to add important scenic elements.   In reality, this connection wasn’t used often, so it doesn’t represent a significant on line traffic generator for the operation of the layout.

That’s an overview of what the real scene looks like and the plan for building a model of it in HO.  But even the best laid plans are always only plans.  It is in execution that every plan is tested.  All of the principles in this plan are solid.  You’ll read in the next instalment how difficult it can be to try to build this scene into a mushroom-style layout inside of a quonset hut.

6 thoughts on “Modelling Copper Cliff on the CP’s Webbwood Sub

  1. Good overview Hunter. For those interested in history, “Copper Cliff” predates Inco and the mining for nickle there. A railroad surveyor notices gold colored rock as he laid out the route for the CPR and staked a claim. What he initially thought was gold turned out to be copper, and a copper mining and smelting operation was established. Turned out they had the darnedest time getting rid of this hard containment in the copper (nickle). As they say, now you know……the rest of the story!

  2. It’s importatnt to note that most-all of the Inco lines in the 70’s were electrified; something you’ll want to incorporate into the design of the Inco trackage. The Inco trackage East of Copper Cliff North Mine curves South (away) from the CPR line and then curves back towards it (North) at a grade in order to cross both the CPR line and the highway and continue into the Smelter complex in Copper Cliff.

    Just to the immediate East of the Copper Cliff North Mine is where the old Copper Cliff Copper Refinery stands (now torn down).

    Also, just South of the Copper Cliff North Mine is where the old iron ore plant stands (some parts torn down, some remain). Iron ore pellets produced here would be transported to the pellet loader at the port of Little Current and loaded into freighters such as the Algoway.

    Here are some references for you: (see pages 4 & 5)

    • Thanks Ken! Great info.


      I’m just getting to the point that I can paint the backdrop at the Victoria Mine switch scene (which is two decks above this Copper Cliff scene). That whole area at the end of the aisle is pretty complicated, and I’m doing my best to work from the top down as I build the scenery. I’ll try to post some pics of the progress in this area after the weekend.

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