The St. Boniface, Lac des Bois & Kaministiquia

July 1986 - July 2001

The SBLK was an imaginary bridge line between Winnipeg (“St. Boniface”), through Kenora (“Lac des Bois”) to just East of the Lakehead (“Kaministiquis"). Hence, the SB, LdB & K abbreviation and the reporting marks SBLK.

The focal point of this version was at Kaministiquia, with a major marshalling yard, engine facility, passenger facility and multiple big hauling industries. The SBLK had a monopoly on rail traffic in the whole region betwee Nipigon Junction and the manitoba boundary, thanks to superb political connections in both Ottawa and Queen's Park. Thus, CPR and CNR transcontinentals and freights all had to run on SBLK tracks. And the SBLK had its own varnish (the "West Wind" and "Eastern Star", as well as through and local freights.

That situation offered lots of scope for customizing locomotives and rolling stock. Which I had the best time of my life doing in my best modelling years. Some won or placed in NMRA National and Regional conventions and many more earned merit certificates in the Achievement program. Model Railroader ran a couple of photos of the railroad back in the 90’s, as well as a article I did on light poles for the freight marshalling yard.

We had regular SBLK operating sessions on Mondays, every two weeks, alternating with Michel's Ontario Central and, later, his D&H.

We had a regular dispatcher (Normand), a regular 8-9 man crew (Michel, Alan Lane, Angus, Normand, Stan Conley, Trevor Marshall, Peter Nesbitt, Neil Lowes, Tom Badenoch) with another dozen or so irregulars (Alex Binkley, Greg Stubbings, David McClelland and I have to apologize to those other valued friends for whose names my memory fails me now). We ran in the 1950-1958 time period and so had both steam and diesel.

We ran at least a dozen trains a session to published schedules, with a fast clock clock system, rolling stock and locomotive cards, waybills. A signalling system and computer control (C/MRI) was being put in place right up to tear down in the summenr of 2001. The whole nine yards. Even some reasonably scenicked parts on the layout.

And within days after each operating session an issue of The Kaministiquia Chronicle appeared at email addresses around the region, reporting on events in the imaginary sub-province and on the activities of various scoundrels on and around the layout. The exploits of Agnes Palmreader, Marshall Consulting Engineers and the whole course of "Mad Kam" disease through the operating group were reported in prose worthy of any of Canada's national newspapers.

There used to be photos available on a link from the OVAR or the NMRA’s NFR St.Lawrence Division websites. I am not sure if they are still there, so I have put the few photos I still have up here for the record.

The SBLK I was torn out with care by a great group of guys on one day in July, 2001: Michel, Neil, David, Stanley, Alex, and again I apologize to those who were there and for whom my memory fails.

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Physically, the railroad was a two level Point to Point layout with a helix raising the ground level from about 4 feet up to about 6 feet. There were hidden staging tracks both below the lower level and above the top level.

The plan was one that I developed between January and October 1981, the last part of our second posting in Africa. Not only did I plan it, I built up a scale model of it while we were still in Lusaka, from the benchwork up. That got lost somewhere over the years, but it was always under the layout in Ottawa.

Elna had bought us the property in Rockcliffe Park when she came back for her sister's wedding in January 1981. (I had made some offhand comment suggesting she buy a home for us when I saw her onto the aircraft.)

She not only bought the house, but also brought back to Lusaka for me detailed dimensions of the entire basement - to which she granted me virtually unfettered running rights.

If I ever unearth the original layout plans and construction photos, I will put them up here.

* * *

In the meantime, this is what I have:

Kam Yard from SW

This is a view of the Kaministiquia freight yards, looking South to North.

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Kam yard from West

This is another view of Kaministiquia trackage, facing Northeast, encompasing the Kam Team Track, the freight yards, the engine facility, shops and mocked up roundhouse, as well as the passenger yards and stations in the background.

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Kam Yard from Northwest

A view of the kam freight yards, from the Northwest. That's Nesbitt Farms Creamery in the foreground and the Lane Garage at the corner of the Team Track road.

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Kam Engine Facility 1

The coaling tower (FSM) and Water Tank (scratchbuilt) at the engine service facility in Kaministiquia.

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Kam engine facility 2

Another view of the coaling tower and oil tanks at Kam.

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Kam Team Track

The sound-equipped CNR O18a assigned to industrial swithching, including the Kam Team Track

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Meighen Summit

The West Wind, headed by SBLK 5046, at Meighen Summit. I gave this E8 to Michel Boucher for his D&H passenger and official use.

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Hawk Lake 1

A view of the station at Hawk Lake. Alan Lane built the station, for me. I think from a Sylvan kit.

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Hawk Lake 2

Another view of the station at Hawk Lake. I built, customized and painted all the vehicles, as well as the people.

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Michel & Trevor

Michel and Trevor at the Kam yard. One of the four linked fast clocks in the background.

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Trevor, Angus & JL

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The Great Poobah with Angus (centre) and Trevor (left).

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Michel, Angus and Trevor.

That is the Great Spiral Tunnels (helix) in the background. The vertical stick to the left of Michel is what supported trains before the great stone viaduct got put in. I built one for David Steer's Swiss layout so I decided I could also build a bigger and better one for the SBLK.

No pictures that I can find, though.

* * *

Trevor, Angus & Michel

And, finally, the three original suspects (crew).

In their usual operating mode........

* * *

This is a .pdf version of the SBLK's Standard Operating Rules. They were really good, specialized rules.

Usually, however, honoured in the breach by the oldest operators.

* * *

Michel, somewhere has a video of the Last Run on the SBLK in 2001. I don't know if I have it somewhere. If I can find it I will post it as well.

It was a terrific last operating session, with everyone there and every train run.

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