Our Friends at the Shows - a Photo Gallery
When I came to Toronto, Canada in 1957, there was no such thing as a model railway show. There was the long-established Gauge 0 Model Railroad Club of Toronto, and they had an annual open house. (See the write-up on its history in the February 2013 Issue of the Railroad Model Craftsman.) There was also the Delaware & Rutland Model Railway Club (H0), but in the days when Eglinton Ave was perceived as the northern boundary of Toronto, that was a very long way out of town.
The first major model railway show in the Toronto area (preceded by shows at the Scarborough Public Library) open to the public was sponsored by the Toronto & York Division of the Canadian Railroad Historical Association. It was first held in 1976 at the Harbour Front's former "Ice House". It then moved over to 235, then to 222, Queen's Quay West, then to the Queen Elizabeth Exhibition Hall at the CNE, then to the International Centre, and then in 1997 to the Toronto Congress Centre.
With that impetus, the model railway scene 'took off', with the construction of the Aberfoyle Jct. Railway in Aberfoyle, Ontario, with the Platelayers' Society (formed in 1976) beginning with displays at the Toronto Delta Hotel (in those days the Delta Chelsea Inn), and then in 1992 establishing its signature biennial "Great British Train Show" in Brampton, Ontario; and with the Barrie-Allandale (formerly the South Simcoe) Model Railroaders and the Lindsay & District Model Railroaders (formerly Engineers) now each with forty-plus consecutive annual shows under their belts.
By 1976, I was experimenting with N Scale, and my friend Peter Dobell and I were privileged to exhibit at the "T&Y" shows from their first at the Ice House in 1976 through to the fourth in 1979. (Admission 25 and then 50 cents.) Before that, he and I were doing slide-show and 'how-to' "soft-shoe-shuffle" demos at the Scarborough Public Library exhibits (free admission).
In those days, the focus was on exhibiting and watching other layouts, and any photography reflected those priorities. With a life-time of reflection, the memory goes back to the comradeship, and the recollection of, and affection for, those we knew so long ago. The realization dawns that what stays in the memory is not so much the layouts, as all those we have had the privilege of sharing this great hobby with - OK - with whom we have had the privilege of sharing this great hobby. I just wish that I had pointed my camera at some more faces ...
So I would like to say here that if you are in this gallery, it is by total happenstance, and if you are not, it's only because I didn't happen to take your picture. With very few exceptions, the photos are all mine - some scanned from fading slides (taken not only at shows but also at some home layouts). Some of you may be there twice or more, perhaps with the passage of time, or in a group, or in conversation with a fellow friend. The shots are for the most part "candid camera", so if I have embarrassed you, let me know. Likewise, if I have you as "unknown", and you are happy to own up, also please let me know. Occasionally, a picture may appear not to have loaded - click on the space anyway, or "refresh".
1970s - the pioneering years
There were a number of modellers and their layouts from that era I remember most vividly. (There were others too, and there must have been many others beavering away in their basements.)
Pat was a remarkable modeller in that he supported both British and North American prototype, and following North American prototype, had an 0 Gauge diorama in his living room, an S fine scale layout, featuring a fictitious Coboconk, in one room, and a respectable freelance H0 layout in another.
Hubert was an artist as well as a modeller, and the backdrop of his H0 Lake Placid layout was absolutely spectacular.
Hugh had an ambitious British-prototype 00 layout, before he was transferred to somewhere out west.
Harold had an 0n3 Scale layout, meticulously modelled after the Colorado narrow gauge lines. It was well in advance of local modelling concepts and standards of that time. I don't know whether it was written up in one of the modelling magazines, but if it wasn't, it should have been.
(Note: His son Art continued to work on his late father's second D&RGW layout until his own recent passing - click here for a short video.) Their vision is being carried by the "Maple Leaf Mafia". (See "Dolores 6957" under Prototype Modelling Ontario "Hall of Fame".)
A travelling "suitcase" with a nifty 00e (009) narrow-gauge "Hunslet Valley Railway" layout. George also modelled in fine 0 scale.
The Toronto N Gaugers' layout in the large basement of Bruno's hobby store on Eglinton Avenue East just east of Markham Road on the north side - ambitious, and breathtaking in its dimensions, and its scenic backdrop effects.
The Taylors of Willowdale
As I recall, this was a father-and-son project (North American prototype), and it filled a whole basement with several levels winding their way right to the ceiling and back down again. Very demonstrative of the space potential of this smaller scale, but a huge scenery challenge - bales of chickencoop wire! It was also the first use I remember of fibre-optics for the colour-light signalling, and featured prototypical dispatching.
In contrast, a delightful compact British-prototype portable model of a busy mainline station.
These three N Gauge layouts are iconic because they demonstrated the vast potential of N Scale for both very large and very small spaces.
There were many other layouts in all scales that were leading the way in transforming the hobby into a serious medium in the 1970s, but those recited here are to the forefront of my memory, along with that of the modellers and the shows that were part of that transition.