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Bancroft - Irondale Modules
I submit for your consideration, a track plan that I would like to incorporate into two 6-foot modules.  But before we get into the track plan, I'd like to set forth some of the philosophy and thinking about what I was looking for in a trackplan. 
The Criteria

Back in January, I set forth a challenge to the Club members to come up with a track plan that met the following criteria:
  • maximize the number of sidings on each module for good switching operations without it looking crowded. 
  • main-line run-through from one module to the other Free-Mo style but double-track "main-line" would be okay. 
  • try to get away from a straight main-line, whether Free-mo or dual track,  so as to put in extra sidings and to make it more typical of the railways in Eastern Ontario 
  • each module to be "track-plan independent" - ie sidings don't go from one module to the other so that we end up with orphans if the modules are separated.  This wouldn't prevent a "runaround" track if both modules were connected
  • the area being modeled is Bancroft, Ont, on the Central Ontario Railway. 
  • the industries would be mines (Childs Mine, Coe Hill, Bessemer Mine) and lumber mills (Harcourt Lumber, Martin Bros) and anything else that might be appropriate
  • lots of hills and trees to make it realistic, but not mountains. 
  • the modules would be used at home as well as at our HOTRAK meets. 
  • each module had to be independent of the other in case they were separated, or if I decided to reshuffle the layout - the modules would be part of a larger group to be built in the future. 

In a nutshell, I wanted a balanced amount of track and scenery and a mainline (whether single track or double-track) that did something more than go through the modules in a straight line.
Trying to Germinate an Inspiring Idea
If you read Model Railroader, nearly every trackplan article tries to model some part of reality. The articles include photos of the area and some of the philosophy.  What influenced me were a visit to the Bancroft - Irondale area last summer, some historical railway research on the Irondale, Bancroft & Ottawa Railway, the books "Desperate Venture" - the history of the Central Ontario Railway, and "The Victoria Railway and the Irondale, Bancroft & Ottawa", and some photos of the Bancroft area. 

Here is a a photo of Bancroft in the winter, circa 1910 with a CNoR locomotive and passenger train leaving Bancroft for points south.  The photographer is facing north.  The prominent features are the yard tracks converging into one main line, the piles of lumber at the lumber mill (which is out of sight), the water tower, the Bancroft station, and, on the top right side, Eagle Mountain. 

Here's another photo of Bancroft taken around the same time period, only it's a freight train.  The photo has been taken facing south.  While the station, water tower, and train are the prominent features, an even more interesting feature is the line of hills that runs all along the horizon.  What you can't see, unless you visit Bancroft, is the roadbed that curves to the left just below this line of hills and the site of the lumber mill that was just around the corner in front of the locomotive. Bancroft lies in the York River Valley and these hills are typical for the area.  I thought this would make for some interesting scenery along the back length of the modules. 
These next two photos, taken in September 1958, show how little has changed over the years.  Photos courtesy of the Canada Science & Technology Museum, Aubrey Mattingly Collection. 

In addition to being a major lumbering centre at the turn of the century, the Bancroft area was known for its many mines and minerals that were extracted from the area - the Childs Mine, Irondale, Coe Hill, Tory Hill, the Bessemer Mine, Baptiste Lake, and many other sites.  Now, these mines weren't your usual image of Michigan's Missabe range with the large ore docks of Lake Superior, Quintette Coal's unit trains hauled by electric locomotives in central British Columbia, nor the trains we see on the Quebec, North Shore & Labrador. 
At most, these mines produced about 4-5 cars of ore a week.  At first, ores were shipped out in gondolas, even in box cars.  In the late 1970's CN was shipping out ores from Coe Hill in hoppers.  In addition to the mines, sawmills were set up alongside the tracks so that logs would be shipped in and sawn lumber would be shipped out in boxcars and flatcars. 

About 10 km north of Bancroft, the Central Ontario Railway connected with the Irondale Bancroft & Ottawa.  The geography of the IB&O is even more interesting than that of the COR. 

Here's a photo of a rock cut on the Irondale, Bancroft & Ottawa Railway located just north of Bancroft circa 1895.  The IB&O connected with the COR and the last two miles into the junction had the steepest grade in Ontario.  Rock cuts are prominent features for this area - there's lots of them on the IB&O and the COR. 
Now, lest you get the impression that everything was all rock and hills, here's a photo taken about 40 km to the west of the above scene. 

This photo taken circa 1897 shows the Harcourt Lumber mill which was located on the IB&O with IB&O 4-4-0 #3 switching boxcars of lumber onto the main line.  Now we're all used to seeing photos of the big lumber yard in the Lebreton Flats area, but doesn't this photo change your idea about what a lumber mill looks like?  Combine this type of operation with that of a small mine and you have lots of potential for some local switching 

Of course, there were a couple of bigger outfits around.  Here's one of Martin Bros Lumber mill at Baptiste Lake (about 15 km northwest of Bancroft) circa 1959. 

What looks like a road in the foreground is actually the IB&O main line with a siding coming in from the right to service the mill.  There may have been more sidings in the complex but that's a mystery I have to solve in my historical railway research. 

All of this to say that these photos, my historical research, and my visit to the Bancroft - Irondale area this summer provided me with some ideas of what I would like to model.  With these ideas and criteria in mind, I presented a challenge to our members - draw me a track plan! 
I was very pleasantly surprised with the response that I got.  However, I decided to settle on a plan that Andrew sent me.  Andrew and I e-mailed back and forth for a week or so making changes here and there, until I ended up with something that I was very pleased with. 
So, I'd like you to visualize what you've seen and read so far, bring it into a more modern context - you pick the era, whether it's the 1940's, 1960's or 1980's, and let's take a trip down this short part of the Central Ontario and Irondale, Bancroft & Ottawa Railways.

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