Annacis Island Rail Barge/Car Float Slip

It’s been much too long since I last wrote about Annacis Island.

So in this post I’ll be taking a look at the Annacis Island barge slip and the car float service that operates between Annacis Island and Nanamio on Vancouver Island.

Annacis Marine Terminal (AMT) ~ Delta by Chris City – All rights reserved
Used with permission, View Image

The barge slip is a fairly simple facility but it has the potential to add some interesting operations to a model of the Annacis Island railroad…

The rail barge slip on the southern shore of Annacis Island is operated by the Southern Railway of British Columbia (SRY). Completed in 2010, it provides a way for the SRY to transport rail cars between it’s network on the Canadian mainland and its subsidiary (The Southern Railway of Vancouver Island) based on Vancouver Island.

Most maps don’t show the barge slip so here’s a satellite image instead:

A model of this facility could be broken into three parts:

  • The car floats
  • The barge slip
  • The staging area and tracks on the shore

The Car Floats

A company called Seaspan owns and operates a fleet of tugs and the three car floats that are used to move railcars between Annacis Island and Vancouver Island:

  • Car float 940 is 400ft long x 76ft wide (122m x 23m).
  • Car floats 930 and 931 are 339ft long x 64ft wide (103m x 19.5m).

Converting these figures to N scale makes car float 940 about 76cm long x 14.5cm wide and car floats 930 and 931 are about 64cm long x 12.2cm wide.

If you zoom in the satellite view above, a car float magically appears in the picture as Google switches from satellite view to 3D view. This is actually very useful imagery because it’s usually not normally possible to see the layout of the tracks on the deck of the car floats in pictures.

The car floats themselves look like they would be fairly simple to scratch build as they are largely flat sided (see here, here, here and here) except for the bow of 940 (here). The only tricky bit might be building the tracks and switches that sit directly on the decks of the car floats. Replicating those will probably require hand-built track and switches, particularly as there doesn’t appear to be any ‘off-the-shelf’ symmetric three-way switches produced in N scale.

Update: I’ve found two clear photos of the decks of the car floats on This picture shows a car float with tracks embedded in what appears to be a tarmac deck, this picture shows a car float with tracks mounted directly on a steel deck. Both photos also give a good view of the track on the slip.

The Barge Slip

Here’s another great shot by Chris Medland (aka Chris City) showing the barge slip and associated facilities looking towards a fully loaded car float.

Barge Slip – AMT, Annacis Island – SRY by Chris City – All rights reserved
Used with permission, View Image

The slip should be quite an interesting scratch building project; sonsisting of a fixed section nearer the shore and a floating section that the barges connect to. It’s interesting to compare how the slope of the floating section of the barge slip changes with the tide.

You can get really familiar with all the little details by taking a look through the photographs in this gallery of Annacis Marine Terminal pictures. However, if you don’t like scratch building track then brace yourself because there is another symmetrical three-way switch set into the deck of the slip; presumably this was put here so the slip can load a range of vessels, even those without on-deck switches.

The barge slip is a ‘natural’ inglenook but car are usually loaded/unloaded in long cuts as symmetrically as possible to prevent listing that could damage the floating section of the barge slip. You can read more about car float loading/unloading procedures here on the Freight Railroad Of NYC website.

When car floats are loaded the switching locomotives do not cross onto the car float or floating sections of the slip instead the locomotives are lashed to a string of idler cars long enough to allow the locomotive to push/pull cars on and off without travelling onto the car float/floating slip. You can see a string of idler cars in the photograph at the top of this post. I’ve seen two reasons given for this, the first is to keep the weight of the locomotive off the car float/floating slip, the second is to keep the tractive force of the locomotive off the car float/floating slip. It could well be both.

The Onshore Staging Area

The onshore staging area is where cars are held before and after loading/unloading. There is a two-track staging area alongside the mainline to the east of the barge slip.

Here is a photograph of the main staging area looking towards the bridge. If you look closely you can see a string of idler cars ready for the next duty in both the picture and in the satellite image above.

I’ve also highlighted the single track to the west of the slip as this appears to have been used as temporary staging in some of the photographs I’ve seen.

Turning It Into Modules

Here’s how a car float and the slip fit onto the 105cm x 40cm modules I’ve designed:

I’ve omitted the main staging area as it doesn’t necessarily have to be on a visible module. You could make a visible staging area as big or as small as you have space for but equally you could have quite a bit of fun just loading/unloading car floats and taking the cars ‘off-scene’ to a hidden staging area.

If you’re wondering where the cars go, then take a look at this gallery.

That’s about it for this post but stay tuned for more Annacis Island posts in the future.

Finally, thanks to Chris Medland (aka Chris City) for giving me permission to use his photographs on my blog.

2 Replies to “Annacis Island Rail Barge/Car Float Slip”

  1. I’ve just discovered your blog while looking for some information about Annacis Rail Marine Terminal. You guessed why? Yes, I’m modelling it too. 🙂

    My initial plan was to work on Wellcox Yard in Nanaimo, but this place was too large for my hobby room. Following Master Carl Arendt’s precepts for something smaller but with a lot of possibilities, I was looking for something else and discovered the ARMT.

    I’m working on three modules for now, that display my version of the ARMT (a bit compressed). As I write, I’m building the barge slip. The final layout should be a representation of the southern shoreline of the island.

    I’m based in France, and I try to post updates about my project on a French forum dedicated to US trains:

    1. Hi Benoît

      Thanks for taking the time to post a message.

      Your module looks great so far and I really like the fact you’ve made it out of cardboard; I might just have to try that myself.
      I can’t wait to see it develop further. Keep up the good work 🙂


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