Thursday, 2 June 2016

The Fine Scale Model Railroader Layout Tour - Jason Fontaine's Southern New England Railway.

 The first scene you encounter as you enter Jason's layout room is this engine servicing area.

Commentary by Peter Mumby.........Photos by George Dutka and Peter Mumby.

Aspects of our attendance at the Fine Scale Model Railroader Expo in Danvers Massachusetts have been documented in a variety of posts over the last month and a half.  Sunday, April 03 was the day designated for the layout tour associated with the convention.  As was our habit, George and I were up, checked out of the hotel, and on the road by 07:30.  We had selected seven or eight layouts to visit, most of which were to the north and east of our hotel location.  We cautiously headed to a Friendly's Restaurant in that general direction, our progress impeded by a late winter storm which had blown into southern New England over night.  By the time breakfast was over and we were back in the parking lot, our layout list had been reduced from eight to two.  Worsening road conditions made us realize that our best bet would be to head for the two layouts in the general direction of home.

Our first stop was in the Charlton, Mass. area, at the home of Jason Fontaine.  We arrived a bit before the actual opening time - tens minutes earlier and we could have helped Jason shovel off his driveway!  The prototype for his railroad is a line that was started in the early years of the twentieth century, but never brought to completion.  The Southern New England Railway was conceived under the leadership of Charles Melville Hays, president of the Grand Trunk Railway of Canada and its subsidiaries, including Central Vermont and Grand Trunk New England.  This railway was designed to connect the Central Vermont at Palmer, Mass., to the ice-free port of Providence, Rhode Island.  The plan was to create an alternative to the freight monopoly held by the New Haven in the region.  Hays was an effective leader, but his overly-aggressive policies with regard to the construction of the Grand Trunk Pacific eventually led to insolvency for the Grand Trunk Railway and its ultimate inclusion in the Canadian National Railways.  The death of Hays in the Titanic disaster of April 15, 1912, along with tightening English money markets in the run-up to World War I, led to the scaling back of many Grand Trunk plans.  One of the casualties of this change in policy was the Southern New England  Railway.  It's a long way from Melville, Saskatchewan (named in honour of Charles Melville Hays) to Palmer, Massachusetts, but both locations were affected by that tragedy in the North Atlantic.

The concept of Jason's layout is that the SNE was actually completed and was still doing a good business in the 1950s and 1960s.  The layout we visited is a considerably-expanded version of the one featured in the July 2010 issue of Model Railroader magazine.  Check out the attached photos, then see if you have a copy of that issue in your archives.  Jason's layout is definitely worth a protracted visit, either in person or in print.

 A wide variety of structure kits based on New England factories and mills have been produced by model manufacturers, and Jason has expertly integrated many of these into his layout.

This shot of a pair of SNE RS-11s crossing the Quaboag River valley is reminiscent of the photo gracing the cover of the July 2010 issue of Model Railroader.

Harley-Davidson motorcycles are prominent both in Jason's garage and on his layout.  Check out the fully-detailed lines and transformers on those service poles!

Motor sports - another of Jason's passions.  How many layouts have you seen with this type of feature?

The rolling hills of Southern New England form a striking backdrop to Jason's layout. The background details and structures included in this scene are exclusively N scale. The boats on the lake are HO scale.

 THB meets SNE!  Proof that we really did visit Jason's excellent layout!  Left to right: George, Kip Grant, Peter, and Jason.

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