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Port Credit station in HO scale

January 23, 2023

Port Credit station in HO scale

In planning a book on Port Credit (and nearby stations on the steam era Canadian National Railways’ Oakville Subdivision), I am coming full-circle on a period of creative expression that began more than 30 years ago.

Let me explain.

Back in autumn of 1991, I had recently left the engineering profession because some form of individual expression, in some medium, beckoned. I didn’t realize the medium would ultimately be writing, but I knew its niche—the late railway steam era in the province of Ontario. Although I had explored theatre arts as a passionate sideline, that field did not appear to lend itself to interpreting and expressing my fascinating with Canadian steam railway operations in the 1950s.

For a few years, off and on, I studied and practised visual artistic expression—namely watercolour painting. I entertained notions of being another Wentworth D. Folkins (whom I had met personally, and who had offered to mentor me). I note that a number of my readers have pursued visual illustration within our shared passion for the railway steam era (at least one, professionally). That medium never took sufficient hold of me, though.

Getting back to 1991, something did take hold of me as a form of expression—scale modelling. I had set my sights first on recreating the CNR’s Palmerston of the 1950s in HO scale. A modular layout was underway in my basement apartment. I made a number of field trips, obtained plans of the station from the National Archives of Canada, and set to work on my first foray into “prototype modelling”.

Although Palmerston was my first choice for modelling (more on that story later), this project did not yield finished results first. That is because, in the autumn of 1992, I drew my dad’s name for our Wilson family Christmas gift exchange. As you know by now, Dad grew up in Port Credit, near the CNR’s Oakville Subdivision mainline (see Centre Road crossing at Port Credit). He witnessed railway operations there from 1931 through the end of steam. As I also had a copy of the Port Credit station plans (which had come in the same package from the NAC), I decided to scratchbuild an HO scale model of the building for my dad.

In my journal of the time, I noted that, in recreating the Port Credit station in miniature, I wanted to recapture for Dad the memory of a CNR Northern stopped at the platform with a night passenger train (this, of course, meant lights to go with the model). This desire to create a moment-in-time (especially for those of us born too late to experience it originally) had been the same fundamental driving force for my visual arts expression and would, later, fuel my writing projects.

I’ll share with you pictures of my HO scale model of Port Credit station which I presented to my father on Christmas morning 1992 (after working overnight until 8 a.m. to finish it!).

Back then, there was no Internet (for me, at least). No 3-D printing, no etching, no film scanning, no desktop publishing—I didn’t even have a computer! No easy digital exchange of information. I pretty much used steam-era technology to build this model!

The basic structure is Northeastern Scale Models wood siding and strip stock. The windows are modified plastic castings. The removable roof and numerous small assemblies are of styrene sheet, strip and rod.

There is a fully-detailed interior, the colours and arrangement of which I devised after telephone conversations with my (soon-to-be-deceased) friend Dick George. A retired CNR dispatcher, though, observed my depiction of frantic activity by four or five different scale figures in the interior of the freight shed portion. He noted that the situation seemed a little labour-intensive (and, of course, it was and is).

For the station schedule board, would you believe I spent almost $100 (in 1992!) on Letraset characters, then applied them one-by-one to black construction paper!? This I photographed on the front porch of the North York house of which I rented the basement. I cut the image of the board from the printed photo for use on the model. Today, any of us would simply create the graphic on a computer.

My late father bequeathed his model of Port Credit station to me when he passed in June 2015. And now, even though he is gone from this life, the same motivation drives me in creating a Port Credit hardcover book—as once drove me in building that station model. I want to recreate for you and me the railway action at the Port Credit station platform, and vicinity, and other locales along the CNR’s Oakville Subdivision during the late steam era.

This is the first of many parts of a retrospective story whereby I will give you behind-the-scenes looks at the body of work I’ve presented to our community over a 30-year-plus period. This overview will frame all the constituent publications for you, and their place in the overall picture. Of course, in putting together a riveting tale, we start the action before the main story. Thus, a few forays into my creations that precede the published writing.

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