Tasha Oates updated September 10, 2015


Tasha Oates's Tags


Browse Articles » Layout Tours

  • Gary Courtemanche’s HO Scale: Blood, Sweat & Tears

    By Pete Moffett, MMR
    Photos by the author

    Gary Courtemanche of Hamilton, Ontario, Canada, has spent many hours creating his HO scale Blood, Sweat & Tears Railroad. His creation is a freelanced branchline set in a Northeast locale sometime between 1938 and 1952. Gary has been inspired by two of the hobby’s greatest modelers, George Sellios and John Allen. You can see this influence particularly at Solo Valley, which is reminiscent of John Allen’s Gorre & Daphetid line over Ryan Gulch and in the urban areas which were influenced by the urban sprawl depicted in George Sellios’s Franklin & South Manchester.

    In Gary’s own words, “I wanted to keep the trackplan simple and spend time building scenery. There are about 6,000 hours of work in the scenery alone. I think this is about one hour per square inch. I have tried to look at each scene as a photographer would taking a picture. If you have to look at the pictures a second time to decide if it is real or a model, then I have achieved my goal.”

    Gary wanted to depict several key areas on his layout: a New England style waterfront area (Bar Harbour), a Northeastern urban city (Dissonance), an Appalachian mountain mining area (Fine) and an Ontario industrial area (Harmony). These areas are modeled on the layout with mountainous areas between them that act as scene breaks. When you look at the layout it is hard to realize that there are no grades at all; everything was built on a flat subroadbed. The clever use of scenery from below the track level to the ceiling disguises the fact the track does not rise or fall.

    The layout room measures 12' x 16'. Layout lighting is fluorescent. The backdrop is linoleum turned inside out and curved in the corners. Benchwork is typical L-girder construction. There are five tables in all, supported by 2" x 2" legs with a 1/8" Masonite fascia. The subroadbed is 5/8" plywood with Homasote on top that is covered with cork roadbed. The track height is 54" above the floor. Track is code 83 flextrack with Shinohara turnouts from #3 to #6. Switchmaster motors power the turnouts. Ballast is from Woodland Scenics and is held in place with dilute white glue.

    The mountainous areas were created by placing hardshell over rolled-up newspapers, then adding rock castings made in rubber molds. Gary used a lot of natural materials for the ground cover. Materials such as natural vegetation, street sand (sand is spread on the streets in the winter to improve traction after a snowfall) and sandbox sand. Clever use of these naturally occurring materials saves money and creates a very realistic scenic backdrop to the models.

    Gary opted for commercial kits for the majority of his structures, but he modified them extensively to disguise their origin. A few scratchbuilt structures can be found on the layout; these were built when Gary found that there were no commercially available kits that fit his requirements. The Co-op Feed Mill is one example.

    Motive power on the layout consists mainly of Proto 2000 diesels. Gary has two S3s, two S8s and an S9. Amongst the diesel roster there is also one Kato NW2 and an Atlas RS3. There are several steam engines on the layout — a Bachmann 3-truck Shay; a Proto 2000 0-6-0 switcher; plus a Vulcan and a Climax, both by United.

    Of the rolling stock on the layout about a third are brass, a third craftsman kits and the final third consists of Kadee® and Proto 2000 kits.

    Gary made good use of commercially printed backdrops and cut these out and applied them to the linoleum sky. Building flats were placed in front of the printed buildings to further enhance the feeling of distance. Full buildings were then placed in front of the flats to finish the busy city feeling. The result is a very effective sense of depth in spite of the fact that there are only a few inches from the track to the backdrop.

    Gary added animation around the layout to enhance the feeling of realism. The lighthouse at Bar Harbour operates. Some additional animation features that Gary added are a welding torch, campfire and a boiler. Included in the animation are three tape decks and six speakers that produce sounds of a thunderstorm, seagulls and city noises.

    The layout is not only realistic to look at, it is also fun to operate. Gary has regular operating sessions that use switchlists and car cards to move cars around the layout. Power on the layout is conventional DC with blocks.

    You may have noticed that all of the names of the places on the railroad have a musical theme. This is because Gary has taught music for 30 years but is looking forward to retirement this year. The high school students that Gary has taught have performed for the Disney Corporation 12 times. They have also played for Prime Ministers, Governor General of Canada, and the Lieutenant Governor of Ontario. Gary’s wife Janice is also a music teacher. Gary and Janice have two sons, David who just graduated from film & TV and Michael who wants to follow his parents’ footsteps as a music teacher.

    The Blood, Sweat & Tears layout will be available for viewing on Tour #LT18 at the National Model Railroad Association National Convention, the Maple Leaf 2003, in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, July 13-20, 2003. For information on the convention go to their web site www.ml2003.com. You can also send an email request for information to info@ml2003.com. You can reach the Registrar by email at registrar@ml2003.com or phone 905-560-6414. Or you can use regular mail: Maple Leaf 2003, Box 56006, Hwy #8, Fiesta Postal Outlet, Stoney Creek, Ontario, Canada, L8G 5C9. 

    Bar Harbour is a busy New England style waterfront. Jan’s SeaFood is a highly detailed kit in the foreground, while printed commercial backdrops and building fronts add to the feeling of depth. The end of the layout on the left includes a mirror that helps to give the illusion that the layout extends beyond the room.

    The Appalachian mountain mining area on the layout features lots of steep hills and old buildings. The front of the layout features the only Shay on the roster; it is kept busy hauling logs. Lots of people add a feeling that the railroad is a busy place.

    It’s the extra details that make a layout interesting. In this scene Gary has added a stake truck, a man pushing a wheelbarrow, another man lifting a timber, crossbucks and a fence. In the background you can see a survey team and up on the hill a store with lots of merchandise displayed.

    The city of Dissonance is in the background with the river of Troubled Water in the foreground. This, of course, is the bridge over Troubled Water made famous in song.

    Ellis Auto Body is a busy place this day. The shop is a commercial kit that has been detailed with lots of barrels, a gas pump and vehicles. In the background is the station and Rolling Stone Mining Company. Gary used natural materials like street and sandbox sand for the roads.

    Dissonance adequately describes the sounds of a big city. The track runs close to the front of the layout and big buildings dwarf the train. The creation of this part of the layout was influenced by George Sellios’s Franklin & South Manchester Railroad.

    Attention to detail is a recurrent theme on this layout. With only a couple of inches between the track and the edge of the layout, Gary has added lots of interesting detail like these old guys passing the time of day oblivious to the train approaching the crossing. Highly detailed scenes are a hallmark of Gary’s modeling.

    Da Capo (a musical term meaning “from the beginning”) is the start of one of the two return loops at each end of the layout. This area of the layout includes lots of detail in the front where it can be appreciated, and building flats in the back. All contribute to the feeling of distance and clutter.

    McGall Pipe is the industrial area of the layout and provides lots of opportunity for switching during operating sessions.

    Article Details

    • Original Author Pete Moffett
    • Source Model Railroading
    • Publication Date March 2003

    Article Album (11 photos)

    Share - Report