Copper Cliff Scene part 4 – Spelunking in The Ninth Circle of Hell, or, Tunnelling into Treachery

Progress on the Copper Cliff scene at the WRMRC took a few more steps forward at a recent weekend work session.  I recruited some help, and I thought it might be interesting to outline some of the dragons we’re slaying in this corner of the layout.

The track plans for our layout illustrate how three levels of the layout converge in this corner behind Copper Cliff.  We have a helix inside of another helix at this location.  The inner helix is actually two helices stacked on top of each other.  The upper half carries the Webbwood up from Copper Cliff to the Victoria Mine switch, Nairn, and points west.  The lower half of the inner helix carries the Copper Cliff spur down to the Copper Cliff industrial area.  The outer helix carries the branch line down to the Crean Hill mine from the Webbwood.   It’s complicated.  This shot clarifies things.  Or maybe not.

The work I’m doing at Copper Cliff is related to everything else in this area, so  I needed to complete a couple of long-neglected track projects before I could carry the scene too far.  First, I had to make the connection between the Webbwood and the top of the outer helix (to go down to the Crean Hill Mine).  And before I could install all of the necessary backdrops in the various scenes here, I needed to build some hidden staging that wraps around the very bottom of the double helix.  I’ve spent many work sessions contorted like Houdini in a steamer trunk while working in this confined space that I’ve named Treachery, or the Ninth Circle of Hell.  In typical railroad fashion, I’ve given the same place two different names.

The construction of these staging tracks at Treachery was somehow overlooked back when the club first started building the layout.  It was in the plans, but the construction crew just kept going right past it.  Eventually, the space for these hidden tracks was buried under a labyrinth of rails, wires, and wood.   But Treachery is the where our sulphuric acid unit trains will be staged out of view, and these trains are an essential element to our depiction of Inco operations around Sudbury.  Incidentally, the real facility that these staging tracks represent is truly a sulphurous miasmic pit, and I’m sure Dante would approve of my appropriation of the names.

To build model railroad roadbed in a place like this is no less torturous than an appointment with an iron maiden.  Being the resourceful fellow I am, endowed with both charm and cunning, I managed to recruit young Justin’s assistance, due in part to his youthful naïvety, but also owing to a furlough from his regular assignment with the mainline roadbed crew on the other side of the building.  As a result of Justin’s help, I was afforded the opportunity to take a few pictures, drink a soda, and gab with Chris.  In tribute to Justin’s enterprise and youthful exuberance, I’ll share some great shots of the Ninth Circle of Hell, featuring young Justin affecting the mannerisms of a hunch-backed culvert dweller.

Looking down from the second floor of our layout, the end of the two longest tracks in Ninth Circle of Hell are on the left, deep in the pit between the helix and a staircase.  The outer helix is next to it, and the inner helix carrying the Webbwood sub is on the right.

This view is similar, but shows the tracks of the Ninth Circle of Hell wrapping around the helices.  I had to lay the tracks and detectors onto this piece of plywood before it was put in place.

Here’s Justin, shoe-horned into the mere inches between the helices and the outer wall of the building, which curves inward behind his head (it’s a quonset hut). Only one of the staging tracks has been placed.  A second track will be beside the one in the photo.  A third track will end about where Justin has taken up his leisurely repose.

Here, Justin can be seen spelunking behind both helices.

We had to clear a path through the benchwork for the new roadbed to be installed. Incidentally, I spent some time down in this part of the Ninth Circle of Hell making cardboard templates that I later traced onto four pieces of plywood. The space is so tight between the wall and the helix that I had to cut the plywood into very short pieces just to get them in there.  When I was a kid, my dad had a friend who built a single seat airplane in his basement and had to excavate the side of the house to get it out when he was finished.  Huh.  And I thought he was nuts.

This is the view looking back into the staging from underneath the Copper Cliff scene.  The backdrop at level 0 is about a foot to the left of this shot.   Three tracks will curve onto this roadbed from the left.  Two tracks will hold the sulphuric acid unit train, and a third will store boxcars loaded with nickel anodes.

Progress in this corner happens very slowly.  In addition to this torturous job, there are backdrops, facia, and scenery to be built on all three levels.  This hidden track represents the source of traffic for the Copper Cliff spur, so while it’s not part of the scene I’m working on, it is an element of the overall project.  These staging tracks represent the most difficult and time-consuming dimension of the work in this area.  Thanks go out to Justin for his contribution.

7 thoughts on “Copper Cliff Scene part 4 – Spelunking in The Ninth Circle of Hell, or, Tunnelling into Treachery

  1. Great coverage of a tricky job!
    One minor correction, the boxcars would be loaded with _copper_ anodes, not nickel, from the INCO Copper Refinery.
    Apparently other small amounts of precious metals extracted from the copper-nickel ore would also be “smuggled” out in these boxcars as well. The strongbox of gold bars wouldn’t be on the official shipping paperwork to avoid drawing attention.

    • Thanks Chris. I had no idea it was a copper refinery. I guess that meteor brought a complex aggregation of metals with it when it created the Sudbury Basin. I’ll go back into the article and change that.

      • Chris is correct. The Copper Cliff Industrial Spur served the copper refinery and the CIL plant which recovered the sulphuric acid from the smelter processes. The iron recovery plant was also located here, which was the source of the iron pellets which were shipped in saw tooth hoppers to the docks near Little Current on the “coal train.” The product from the copper smelter was copper anodes, shipped in old boxcars not suitable for any other service.

        The nickel product was removed earlier in the process at the main smelter near the town centre of Copper Cliff and came out as nickel matt or nickel pellets. The remaining material was shipped molten to the copper refinery in torpedo cars for further processing.


      • I believe that copper was actually what started the mining industry in Sudbury (that’s why the town is called “Copper Cliff”, not “Nickel Cliff”). Copper and nickel are the main minerals produced from the ores at INCO’s Copper Cliff facility.
        In cases of metal deposits on meteor craters like this, it’s quite common for there to be trace amounts of all sorts of different metals. We’ve heard that trace amounts of precious metals like gold, silver and platinum are also extracted from the process. Sudbury slag has a fair amount of iron in it (especially since they stopped trying to recover the iron from the process) as well as other exotic heavy metals, which is where the environmental concerns about using slag as ballast come from.

  2. A minor clarification/correction from a geologist (and smelter modeler as well). There are a number of theories as to how the mineralization at Sudbury formed, but the most popular and likely theory is that a meteor impact punched a hole deep enough to get to the upper mantle, and the resulting volcanic eruptions and massive upwelling of molten rock brought nickel and copper rich material with it that was deposited around the basin. So the meteorite caused the mineralization to be there but the meteorite is not the source of the mineralization, the meteorite was probably vapourized by the impact. If anyone wants a bit of bed side material to put them to sleep a bit more quickly:
    Always enjoy the Sudbury modeling. I hope to visit the club one of these days.

    • Thanks for the clarification Marc. If the most popular theory proves to be true, I’ll be more than a little disappointed that the minerals weren’t brought here as a gift from some distant corner of the universe.

      You just missed our open house, but you can make an appointment to visit us. Get in touch with me when you have some time and I can set it up.

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