In mid July when the sun beats down on Railway Avenue it can even force the Agents old dog to find shelter somewhere under a tree. Seems even his bark is at rest today so that offers us a secluded few minutes to walk across the tracks, camera in hand, and over to the station without being disturbed.
I find I don’t need to have a lot going on to create an interesting scene. At least not on a prairie branch line. The less the real action – the better. A couple of cross bucks and it’s done. I didn’t try to recreate asphalt roadways either. The simple, fine gravel path serves as an unmaintained country road and a walking area for the 180-foot giants that seem to run the place.
When we get as far as the Co-op elevator we catch Mountie Bob catching farmer Harold. Harold is real pissed off. He just came from a dry and dusty appointment with some feed grain and was just getting up enough speed so as to create a bit of a cooling breeze in the Ford. Harold doesn’t have air conditioning. Mountie Bob does. It wasn’t pretty so we moved right along.
Not all of the available figures are what we need on our layout. There are plenty of articles on cutting these little folk up and creating poses to suit but I just don’t spend the time. This US highway patrolman was a tad too authoritarian for me so he was simply painted and put to work. Much friendlier now. Ask Harold.
Cutting through the bush and over to the small freight shed near the bridge we pass someone loading a few things into the back of his pick-up. It’s a Hell of a hot day to be doing manual labour but I guess farm work doesn’t stop for the weather. Just as we leave a short work train passes and I can only get my camera out and focused in time to catch the caboose.
In “year one” of I haven’t been able to get all the wiring up to a panel on the deck so I put a dozen or so switches in hidden locations around the layout. The roof comes off this shed to provide access to the block switches that control the two station tracks. It’s simple and effective.
The station comes into view through the trees just as the work train eases to a stop. As we get closer to the back door we can hear the sound children laughing as they dump their wet clothes on the kitchen floor. The garden hose as brought them a few minutes of cool fun on a very hot afternoon.
It’s not hard to get that “over grown” look in our back yard. The long, dry summer days last from May through October and the underground sprinklers provide all the water we need. I planted some fast growing annuals during the first spring to give the layout a finished look but now the slow growing varieties have taken hold. Now minor trimming is all we need to do to keep things looking great.
The pop machine in the station offers a refreshing cool down so it doesn’t seem too uncomfortable sitting on a pile of ties across the tracks from the platform. From this vantage we can watch the routine railway comings and goings. At this time of day the work extra headed south and the Pearson turn arrived back into town.
The station at Winter Valley has only two tracks. There simply isn’t room for more along the edge of the layout so all meets offer a bit of a switching challenge. Well, maybe I could have fit in a third but I didn’t. This is the Canadian prairie after all, not the Montreal – Windsor corridor, so it’s real easy to have too much track. I hated spaghetti bowl layouts when I was building in N Scale so….
By about two in the afternoon we made our way up into the hills overlooking the west side of Winter Valley and looked down on the town from above. All the familiar buildings take on a toy like appearance from up here. Even the giant grain elevator that had towered over 70 feet above our heads just a few hours before can be hidden from our view by a thumb held at arms length.
Fortunately, building a garden railway on the side of a mountain has at least one saving feature. A pathway leads from the deck, up around the west end of the layout, and over the top of the scene. This offers a spectacular birds eye view of the town site. If we sit at the top of the yard we can run the trains that look just like one of our old N Scale railways. And the sound is even better from up there because the trains sound so far, far away.
Our visit is over. It’s been a great day for renewing old friendships and watching trains. A cooling breeze comes up as the afternoon ends and there is a welcome easing of the temperature. Our car climes out of the valley and heads east and south towards Grizzly Junction. The magnificent view out the rear window is one I’ll keep with me for a long time. And I’ll be back.
The overall layout measures about 40 feet by 15 feet. There is little or no actual grade. The low section of the scenery is a dry streambed just outside of the town site and the high area is actually a collapsed section of hillside I have tunneled under using a four-foot length of galvanized culvert.