Friday, 9 June 2017

A Visit to Sylvan Scale Models

Close to Parkhill, the Sylvan shop is situated just steps away from the intersection of County Rd. 7 and - you guessed it - Sylvan Road.
By Peter Mumby
Early in the afternoon of Sunday June 06, your intrepid reporter made a 40 minute trip north west out of London, Ontario, headed in the direction of the village of Parkhill.  The purpose of this outing: to visit the nearby shop of Sylvan Scale Models.  The occasion: an open house to celebrate Sylvan's 25th anniversary.  It was in 1992 that Clare Gilbert - historian, author (St. Clair Tunnel: Rails Beneath the River), Great Lakes sailor, and model maker - first started mass producing cast resin parts and accessories for model railroad hobbyists.

The products coming out of the Sylvan shop evolved over time.  For example, catalogue 3 of 1995 listed about a dozen structure kits, a CN Pte. St. Charles van, and a barge, in addition to an assortment of detail parts.  By 2004, the catalogue showcased about 20 structures, a dozen marine kits, 20 pieces of rolling stock in a variety of road names, 20 vehicles, and a growing selection of detail parts.  A separate catalogue of decal sets was offered.  Models were produced in HO and N scales.  Clare quickly learned that his vehicle kits outsold his more specialized Canadian structure and rolling stock items, so that by the time year 25 rolled around, Sylvan was basically a producer of highly detailed cars and trucks.  Special orders and projects also make up a part of Clare's business.

While I was on site, there was a good turnout of interested modellers. It sounded as if my commute was among the shortest.  I overheard one attendee say that he had driven in from Montreal specifically to attend the open house! 

When Clare was establishing his line of vehicle kits, he only had to walk to the end of his driveway to take measurements for this particular prototype.

During the festivities, Clare had two employees on hand to explain the process and answer questions.  There was a nice tutorial on the five steps to creating a vehicle kit, and display shelves held completed examples of previous structure, rolling stock, and marine products.  Outside the shop door was a large table where many of the built-up vehicles from current inventory were on view.  Very impressive!  I worried a bit about this outdoor display, since by the time I left the temperature was 27 degrees C.  I certainly hope nothing melted in the hot sun!

So, that sums up my visit to Sylvan Scale Models.  I enjoyed seeing the process, the people, and the products current and past.  Thanks, Clare, not only for a good afternoon, but for 25 years of service to the model railroad hobby.

There is a definite railway theme at work in the design of the Sylvan shop.

This is just a small portion of the display of Sylvan marine models.  The large vessel in the background looks like one of the St Lawrence Seaway "canallers."  Doubtless Clare served on similar boats during his earlier career on the Great Lakes.

This large display was split between structures and rolling stock.

Set up in the production area of the shop was this tutorial on the five steps to making a model vehicle kit.

This portion of the rolling stock display concentrated on the CNR/ONR barrel ore cars and their scale test car derivatives.
The outdoor portion of the display featured the current line of vehicles.  The Labatt's streamliner in the foreground is based on a prototype held in the historical collection at the Labatt's Brewery in London.

Clare Gilbert (wearing the blue Sylvan shirt) is always a friendly and animated conversationalist.

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