Operating CN’s Port Rowan Branch

I was invited to visit another spectacular prototype layout, so I’ll continue with the theme of my previous post.  This time, it was my pleasure to operate on Trevor Marshall’s steam-era Port Rowan branch, set in the 1950s.  With an experienced operator already on hand, I reached for the throttle and deferred to Mark Zagrodney who took on the job of conductor (and brakemen).  Trevor and Mark coached me on the finer points of replicating steam operations, and by the time I had the local back into its staging track, I felt like I was getting close to figuring out the rhythm of operating this layout.

Besides having some extremely well executed scenery and models, the layout has captured the vibe of the Port Rowan branch.  First, nearly all of the concrete aspects of the layout are spot-on.  I live close enough to Port Rowan to have spent time in that part of the world.  My grandmother had a cottage on Lake Erie just east of Port Rowan, so piloting a CN ten-wheeler through the tobacco fields on Trevor’s layout inspired a memory of pedalling an antiquated coaster bike along Lakeshore Road to get some sweet corn for dinner.  Of course, that was the 70s, and Trevor’s layout is set in the 50s, but I’m sure not much had changed.

Trevor’s layout is a simple and highly entertaining layout to operate.  It functions at an entirely different pace than what I’m accustomed to at the WRMRC, but I found it equally engaging to operate.  I found that I was more involved in the operation of the locomotive’s basic functions (bell, whistle, injector, brakes, pumping up the train line, etc.) than I would be on a larger layout.  Sound-equipped locomotives certainly help to signify that particular things are happening.  I found it myself more closely connected to the locomotive and the train.  I’m certainly reconsidering the prospect of having an enjoyable layout at (my new) home, but it will have to be of a scope that is achievable for me.

Thanks Trevor for opening your home and layout to me, and thanks Mark for helping me learn the ropes.

CN Ten-Wheeler 86

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