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In 1975 a group of N-scale enthusiasts came together and formed the Cantrak club with a goal of constructing a display layout inspired by the famous CP Spiral Tunnels at Field, B.C.
The layout was designed by John Hoggard, and consisted of two modules each seven and a half feet long by three feet wide. All track and switches on the layout were hand laid (!!!!) using "code 55" rail. The mountain scenery was made out of plaster using different rock moulds to create the many rock faces on the layout. Hundreds of hand-made trees completed the award-winning landscape.
The layout was first displayed, although not yet completely finished, at the Calgary Area model train show in 1977. During the next ten years Cantrak displayed the Spiral Tunnels at the annual Calgary area model train show and also during the 1979 NMRA Convention in Calgary (Rail-Rodeo), and in 1983 at the NMRA Convention in Winnipeg, Manitoba. It was at the Winnipeg Convention that the club won the NMRA's “Best in show Module display” award.
The club had grown from a small group in the mid 1970s to a large club by the mid 1980s. In 1983 the club decided to start building transportable modules which interfaced with the Spiral Tunnels to grow the club's layout.
After the club lost its semi-permanent home under the Husky Tower in the late 1980s, the modules were stored at members' homes. The Spiral Tunnels layout was abandoned in the early 1990s, since it was suffering continual damage to its delicate plaster terrain features and was heavy, awkward, and difficult to move and store. The club then started building smaller two foot by four foot individual member modules, loosely based on the NTRAK standard. These new modules could be put together during shows to form a large layout.
In 2006 the club made the decision to adopt DCC, and intially started to operate the inner mainline on DCC, while leaving the outer mainline analog. The first DCC trains, using the MRC Prodigy Advanced DCC controller system, operated on the layout during the 2008 Calgary SuperTrain. We had some issues with DCC, but managed to get a stable wired controller operation going by Railway Days 2011.
At the 2012 SuperTrain we attempted to employ wireless controllers which would allow the train operator to more easily follow their train around the layout, but ran into mysterious issues that were not cleared up until we sent our MRC master controller back to MRC for a brain transplant. We did manage to operate with the wired controllers, though with fewer trains at any one time than we had hoped to have.
Railway Days 2012 was a much more successful wireless foray, with the revivified controller working flawlessly.
We acquired two dogbone or turnaround modules, and from the 2012 Railway Days have begun to use them to avoid needing a duckunder to enter the inside of the layout. This means running both main lines DCC, since they are not then electrically separate. However it saves our aching backs and knees not to have to crawl on the floor.
At the 2013 SuperTrain the wireless system worked flawlessly, and we inaugurated a new train scheduling board designed by Roland Alho.
In 2014 we had our largest SuperTrain layout yet, 34' x 34', and yet managed to get the first test engine running on the layout only 3.5 hours from the beginning of set up. Nearly all of the modules had new metal strips on them to speed magnetic attachment of the bunting both inside and out, and nearly all the modules were nicely painted blue on the outside and black on the inside. We also managed to keep the infield tidier than in the past.
The 2015 effort at SuperTrain set a new record for the Club, both in the number of modules set up and the quality of our presentation. The "tidiness nazi" managed to keep the infield clear and with complete black bunting on the interior, and nearly all of the skyboards painted black on the inside, we won "Second Runner Up" in the scale competition, the best ranking we've ever achieved.