Welcome To The Port Kelsey Railway!

Port Kelsey Railway Layout

My Port Kelsey Railway is a double deck, point-to-point operating layout, or at least it will be eventually….

Named for my late grandfather, W.C. Kelsey, and the source for its inspiration. Born in Brockville Ontario, my grandfather spent his life as an inventor, a machinist, a cheese maker, a boilermaker, and too many other talents to mention. I spent many of my formative years working with him, and attribute my work ethic and creative abilities to being his young apprentice of life.

Starting in 1992, a small module was built measuring 2? X 10? using a combination of a published track plan and a freelance design. This piece was completed about 4 years later. The “original module”, as it has become to be known, features hand laid #4 code 70 turnouts (the hard way, before I had the fixtures), a Soundtraxx DC throttle, some scratch built and kit built structures and a fully matrixed control panel driving home built slow motion switch machines.

The layout is set in depression era 1936, location is “typical” North America, no one place specific, just the flavour of my interpretation of the dirty 30’s. I have always loved the architecture of this era, and the trains were everywhere!

Living at the time in a small apartment, space was limited, so that determined the size of the layout I could build, thus the 2?X10? dimensions. This module has seen a lot of work over the years, twice being trucked to Ottawa, about a 6-hour drive, for their annual Railfair train show. This year will mark its 13Th annual Doubleheaders tour, getting about 12 hours of operating time each, so it has been very well used!

I had always intended on incorporating it into a larger layout, and after 3 or 4 false starts at a different residence, it finally has found a home as part of a fully operating layout. It is now the end of a branch line run of the new Port Kelsey Railway.

Started about 5 years ago, after purchasing a house large enough to accommodate a decent sized layout, and after a yearlong basement renovation, the new Port Kelsey is starting to take shape. Wanting to take advantage of the increased operation of a double deck design, I started by constructing a double track; 6-turn helix in the center of the layout room, the rest of the layout grew from that. Not being one for design work (Fast Tracks excluded!) I came up with the basic concept of the mainline and made up the rest as I went along. Complex trackwork has always been a fascination of mine, so I was sure to include plenty of it as I went along. My lust for lots of turnouts and intricate trackwork is where Fast Tracks was born from, about half way through construction of the trackwork I decided to make a fixture at work to help build more accurate turnouts quicker, without going into to much Fast Tracks background, the rest, as they say, is history…

The trackwork is about 75% complete and part of the layout will run, including a continuous loop on the upper deck. The original design, or more accurately, concept, called for the option to run trains continuously for demonstration, across the entire layout, covering both the upper and lower deck. I came to realize though, that when the trains disappeared for 3-5 minutes in the helix, visitors quickly lost interest if the trains were not visible. So a quick change in design (concept) and I was able to fit a continuous loop that could optionally be run on the upper deck only. This was well worth the effort!

After some advise from a friend of mine, John Cantwell, I have decided to add another branch line on the upper deck that will snake around into another roon, on a third level, offering a very interesting logging or mining operation that will link up with a planned car ferry operation on the lower deck, this will add some much needed traffic. Also on John’s advise, I will be adding a second yard in a different location then the original design called for. I was going to add the second yard (necessary for true point to point operation) on the lower level of the left hand side of the room, but it would have made for a cramped aisle and not quite enough yard space. The current idea now is to add a second yard at the end of the main yard, the two points of the layout being next to each other. A unique approach to say the least, but one that makes the entire layout work much better. Now I need to build even more complicated trackwork!

Control on the Port Kelsey is provided by a Digitrax Chief system, with some sound decoders in the steam engines, provided by a friend of mine, Dan Kirlin of Kirlin Scale models in exchange for some fixtures, the barter system is alive and well! On board sound is one of the most amazing additions to model railroading to come along, definitely worth the effort!

I have a concept for control of the layout that I believe is very unique. I would like to get away from the stationary control panels to control the turnouts on the layout. With a Digitrax system you are walking along with the trains, and I have never liked having to reach for control panels, especially on layouts with cramped aisles, like mine, and pretty much every one else’s. What I will do is have 2 or 3 panels mounted at the ceiling, along the upper valance in strategic locations. Instead of push buttons to select the route you wish to take, each operator will have a laser pointer on a chain around their neck. You will simply “point” at small sensor on the panel to activate the turnouts, when the sensor has detected the laser a LED will illuminate to indicate that the route has been selected, power will be fed to the switch machines via a diode matrix to align the proper machines to select the route. This can be done from anywhere in the room, making operating the trackwork much easier. I had originally conceived this idea about a year ago when watching operations on other layouts during the annual Doubleheaders layout tour. I kept the idea quiet as I worked on it as I was hoping to patent the concept and offer a commercial line of components to make this available to all modelers, as I believe this approach will appeal to many modelers. While I will still pursue the project, recent public discussions about the same approach has been taking place on the forums. Nothing like getting scooped on an idea! Although they still have not figured out the final piece of the puzzle that will make the entire system really attractive, until they do, my lips are sealed…

But I digress…

This blog has been set up and linked to the Fast Tracks site so I can keep fellow modelers posted on developments on the layout should they be interested, keep checking back, I will do my best to keep it interesting. Currently I am in a “working” phase of the layout, which seems to come and go every few months, so hopefully there will be some activity to keep an eye on.

Posted by: | 11-04-2004 | 01:11 PM
Posted in: Uncategorized


  1. As a big fan of the “Port” I’m always glad to see what is new and improved. The trackwork alwasy fascinates me! Good to have you on the TRAINTOOLS egroup!

    Comment by Scott Perry — 11/10/2004 @ 8:10 pm
  2. Such a phenomenal layout; the level of detail you incorporate is remarkable. I look forward to having space to have a layout so that I can use Fast Tracks! It would be terrific if your trackplan and details of your layout were available, I would love to see that. Best regards.

    Comment by keil decker — 12/30/2004 @ 11:33 am
  3. Tim ! How about up dating the Tour reference to Tour2005 April 9, 2005 ?
    It would be better as it comes up under Doubleheaders Tour search.

    Comment by Bill Ackland — 1/13/2005 @ 11:37 am
  4. Tim:
    I’m beginning an HOn3 shelf layout–just wondering if you’ve published your trackplan anywhere. Thanks.

    Comment by Art Liebno — 3/15/2006 @ 7:02 pm
  5. Hi Art,

    No, I have never prepared a track plan for the complete layout, I was hoping to finish building it first….


    Comment by Tim — 3/15/2006 @ 7:56 pm
  6. Magnificant!

    Comment by frank ashley-chase — 4/27/2006 @ 9:00 am

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