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2021 January 30th

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The TNSF is a railway line that runs between the fictitious towns of Tsable Narrows and Shawnigan Flats. It 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 Budd car passenger service, and freight trains running between an industrial area and a rail barge car float, through a railyard. Trains can also be set to run continuously on the mainline.


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


Bench size


320 cm by 80 cm

Min. mainline radius


32 cm

Min. track spacing


3 cm

Max. grade


1.5 per cent

Layout height


110.5 cm, 43.5 in


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 with 1x4 pieces attached to the bottom; these 1x4s are bolted to the frame, which keeps the table top firmly in place.

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. Once the table top is unbolted from the frame it separates into three pieces. The benchwork is held together with bolts and wing nuts and can be disassembled into pieces less than two metres long.


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 realism.


The track sits on N scale split cork roadbed, 30 millimetres wide and three millimetres thick. HO scale roadbed is the correct width and thickness for streets; its height equals that of N scale roadbed with track, and the road surface meets the top of the rails at level crossings.

Digital Command Control

Block switching limits train movements and makes track wiring more complicated. DCC was the obvious choice as it allows for smooth operation of multiple locomotives.

Types of Trains

The plan is to eventually have two freight locomotives, a yard switcher and Budd passenger dayliner running.

Road Names

The TNSF runs mostly the Canadian Pacific Railway road name. Tsable Narrows is the site of Holden Marshalling Yard (which contains a rail maintenance facility and a fueling depot) and has a passenger station located on the route to the rail barge car float. Shawnigan Flats has another passenger station, as well as a number of industries serviced by the railroad.

Freight services includes boxcars, refrigerator cars, flat cars and tank cars. 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.

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