Outdoor Mini-Scenes

The Rocky Mountain House, Leaverite and Northern Railway was an outdoor, large scale model railroad, nominally 1:22.5 or G Scale 3 foot narrow gauge running on Gauge 1 (45 mm) track. It is a little-known Canadian subsidiary of the Denver, South Park & Pacific Railroad, serving the fictitious towns of Leaverite and Glacier in west central Alberta. The railway was abandoned in 2016 and the locomotives and rolling stock put up for sale in late 2020. Many unique itens featured in the photo gallery below are ON SALE NOW from this website.

Apart from kitbashing unique rolling stock for the RMH,L&N Ry, my favourite modeling task is building mini-scenes -- scenes with a central focus that will catch the eye, and also blend into the overall track and scenic arrangement of the layout. Stations, water tanks, junctions, small townscapes, mines, oilfields, farmsteads and similar settings are logical objectives. Details and era-specific transportation and architecture help enforce the illusion of reality.

Such scenes are easy enough on indoor railways (see my indoor railway story) but a little more difficult outdoors, due to the ravages of weather and wild critters. Each mini-scene is a separate module that can be moved indoors for winter storage, renovation, or impending hail storms. Here are some completed mini-scenes on the RMH,L&N.

Photos taken 2014 by the author and Ian Crain.


C&S 2-6-0 Mogul #5 is swinging west at Caboose Junction. The station house is an old caboose with freight and passengers waiting for the eastbound express. A horse and buggy are passing the station. Grass is outdoor turf and trees are Pinus Plastica. The grass overlaps the plywood baseboard so that it snuggles up to the ballast along the side of the track.

The Pioneer grain elevator at Leaverite is a stand-alone building, a modified birdhouse with a nice shingled roof. Some grass and a grain wagon provide the detail. Trees in the background are at Caboose Junction.

Downtown Leaverite is represented by the old country church and the Black Hills Saloon along Railway Avenue, opposite the grain elevator.

Uptown Leaverite is blessed with a substantial office building and general store.

The Crain #1 oilwell derrick is just on the edge of town, with the old church in the background. The derrick is a Lionel product, about half-size for for G Scale, but about right for a small layout.

Mogul #5 trailed by a DSP&P boxcar and a series of flatcars with open loads, the first a large steam traction engine for delivery to a "modern" farmer. Each flatcar is its own mini-scene.

Here's the Randy Andy Mine at the Pallisades. It's a Pola kit and the timber work is quite impressive.

Three views of roundhouse and freight house at Climax Hill yard. The roundhouse at left is kitbashed from several Pola stone engine house kits. Both buildings are stand-alone mini-scenes with lots of details. The yard goat is a Lionel 0-6-0T, representing a rebuilt DSP&P #1 "Fairplay".  The road foreman's jitney and the  railbus just outside the roundhouse are Delton products.

The tank at Climax Hill and the train crew bunkhouses, with a few sheep for company. DSP #1 "Fairplay" is just visible in the background.

Mogul #5 pauses for water at the tank beside Glacier Station. This is an Alpine forest area below Big Rock Mountain.

Head on view of #5 at Glacier Station. Grass and trees are as at Caboose Junction. Wood stockpile for the locomotive is a kitbash of some spare LGB parts. Platform lights are Lionel streetlights. Passengers and baggage are ready for the next westbound passenger train. This station is all wood.

Glacier  Station again with a good-sized group waiting for the next local passenger train, showing more details, trees and grass. The whole module lifts out for storage. Track is a model too. Ballast is coarse chicken grit mixed with exterior grade white glue, painted with mahogany stain to match the colour of the Big Rock, the centerpiece of the railway.

The front view of Glacier Station. So far, this scene has survived 7 years of sun and rain and a bit of hail. The green grass and green trees have not faded yet.

Closeup of the farmhouse and stable. The prize-winning Horned Hereford bull is being led from his stall in the barn for a trip to visit the cow herd.

Overview of the ranch and wind pump. A kerosene-fueled tractor and horse team with wagon place the era.

The Hereford cattle lounging beside Shadow Lake are bracketed by the Big Steel Bridge (a six inch steel channel) and the Shadow Lake Trestle in the foreground. The grass is nice and green so it must have rained recently.

The mixed train with a reefer and combination baggage passenger caboose is headed up Climax Hill, past the cowboy camp at Lone Pine. The chuckwagon and cowboys are 1:32 scale, making the canyon look deeper and farther away than they really are.

A lot of what I would like to do in a mini-scene is too fragile for outdoors, so I keep three 4-foot modules undercover to illustrate what can be done: Lost Lemon Mine (left) with Brewster, an 0-2-2-0 working  ore car, Daly Glen Tank and Station (center), Foggy Bottom Lighthouse and Poisson Ratio's Fish Plant (right).
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