The South West Industrial Railroad

Author Dale Olson

Dan Ellis’s South West Industrial Railroad is set in a coastal area of Eastern Canada. It is a railway conceived to accommodate the requirements of a diverse group of agricultural, manufacturing, and resource based industries surrounding a major city. To get an idea of the operational philosophy of the railroad, think in terms of spokes radiating from the city to the outlying hinterlands. In this sense, the railroad is a bridge route between its’ customers and the national rail lines which serve the city. “Industrial” in the name refers to the client base served as well as the fact that there is no passenger service on this line. This is a commodity-based railroad. The era modeled is the 1970’s. Steam has disappeared, and second generation diesels are starting to take over from the road weary first generation geeps and F-units


As can be seen from the accompanying track plan, the layout is a fairly simple point to point arrangement with one end being the main yard in the as yet un-named city and the other end a small yard at Indian Creek, a sleepy community along the coast. Construction is 1×2 box framing covered with 2″ styrofoam, and is wall supported with steel L-brackets. Styrofoam is used as the base for all scenery. Roadbed is cork. Ties are hand cut from old cedar fence boards. Track is hand laid steel rail, code 125 on the main with code 100 in some of the yard areas. The ballast has been sifted from real ballast of the Dominion Atlantic Railway, collected near Dan’s childhood home. Dan uses Timber Creek switch stands and cast switch components and details from High Sierra Models. Basic ground cover is Woodland Scenics ground foam with Selkirk Scenery materials for all trees and shrubbery. Having never painted anything other than rolling stock, Dan decided to try his hand at backdrop painting one weekend. I think he managed to capture the feel of mist shrouded coastal forests for the backdrop at Indian Creek. Control wiring is rudimentary. Right now it is one big block with a walk around handheld throttle. Someday it will likely be converted to DCC.

Motive Power and Rolling Stock

Typical of the era being modeled, the roster currently sports a pair of Red Caboose GP-9’s, a Weaver GP38-2, and an Atlas SW-9. Dan has developed his own color scheme (Green and Grey with a white lightning strip) and decorates all motive power for the home road. Someday he may finalize the design of the corporate logo and can then finish decorating the engines. For now, they are happy to run around with only numbers under the cab windows for identification. Rolling stock is kit built from Intermountain, Red Caboose, and Weaver. San Juan couplers, with working cut levers, are applied to all cars. Trucks are as provided by the kit manufacturer. The stock plastic wheel sets have been turned down on a lathe to P:48 standards and re-gauged. All cars are lightly weathered. An interesting point to ponder – the entire roster is plastic!

A Red Caboose GP-9 roll into the station. Dan has made the maximum use of low cost plastic and metal models to create a highly detailed layout.

Dan’s layout shows what one person, with a little enthusiasm, can accomplish in a relatively short period of time. Dan first ventured into Proto:48 in the summer of 1997. At that time he was building a two rail “O” scale layout, after many years of modeling in HO. But he had this nagging feeling that something was lacking in standard “O” Scale. A local hobby shop put him in touch with several Calgary members of “The Alberta Proto:48 Sipping and Switching Society”, a loose knit coalition of local P:48 fanatics, and the rest, as they say, is history. After having spent the past three years on the Proto:48 rec room extension, the old Atlas “O” scale flex track is slowly disappearing from the original layout – being replaced with hand laid P:48 track.

A pair of GP-9 perform a setout of a hopper on this beautiful Proto48 layout

Dan’s layout follows no particular prototype. It is a compilation of what he likes to model – carefully woven into a believable railroading scene. I think you will agree that Dan has succeeded.

The foreground trees are nicely blended in with the painted backdrop to give the illusion of great depth to the scene.

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