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2024 April 21st

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TNSF.CA > Design


The TNSF is the result of a lifetime interest in trains, and the experiences from living next to the E&N Railway on Vancouver Island in British Columbia.

This is the second layout of the TNSF.


The era for the layout is the 1970s and 1980s when locomotives were diesel-powered. Back then, a Budd car travelled on Vancouver Island from Victoria to Courtenay and back every day. Freight trains were not very long and they made the trip once or twice a week. Also, every freight train had a caboose.


This is a point-to-point layout, with a bypass track to allow continuous running.

Digital Command Control

DCC was the obvious choice for a power source as it allows for smooth operation of multiple locomotives.


The TNSF is N scale (1:160). With limited space to build, there is no room for anything larger.


Bench size


320 cm by 80 cm

Min. mainline radius


30 cm

Min. track spacing


3 cm (2.5 cm for
two run-around tracks)

Max. grade


1.5 per cent

Layout height


110.5 cm


The benchwork consists of frames made from 1x4 lumber, with 2x2 legs attached and braced with 1x2 lumber. The table top is half-inch plywood.

Benchwork for the original TNSF layout

While the benchwork is measured in imperial, everything above the sub-roadbed is in metric. The main reason for this is that the math is a lot easier.


The layout is built with portability in mind and it does not touch the wall. It is held together with bolts and wing nuts and can be disassembled into pieces less than two metres long. The railyard is a removable piece, and the table separates into two.


The track sits on N scale split cork roadbed.


The track is Atlas flextrack, code 80 nickel-silver rails with black ties. The turnouts are made by Peco; they have medium and curved radii, as well as electrofrogs for a realistic look.

Types of Trains

The TNSF is designed to accommodate operations with two freight trains and a Budd passenger dayliner, along with a yard switcher in the railyard.

Road Names

The TNSF runs mostly the Canadian Pacific Railway road name. The rolling stock is not exclusive to one company and there are some freight cars with other road names, such as Canadian National.


On this layout, engines and rolling stock are equipped with magnetic knuckle couplers.


  • Tsable Narrows has six industries: ABC Printing, Kayto Courier, My Tech Guys Manufacturing, Paul's Lumber Yard, Shell Service and Westview Ford.
  • Strathcona Flats has two industries: Delores' Desserts and Carl-son Enterprises.
  • Holden Railyard has two industries: Driscoll Industries for locomotive and freight car maintenance, and the Holt Fuel Depot.

Passenger Service

An RDC dayliner Budd car carries passengers from Tsable Narrows to Strathcona Flats, with a stop by the Holden Railyard.

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