Model hobbyist Allan Hornsby stands with the 3-D Sooke watershed relief map he built in his garage.

3-D relief shows watershed

Huge contour map made by volunteer

The clock is ticking on the completion of the Charters River Salmon Interpretive Centre in a few weeks, and there is going to a tiny new attraction during the grand opening.

A true-to-scale four-foot 3-D relief map of the Sooke watershed was built for the centre by longtime Sooke model hobbyist Allan Hornsby.

“Elida (Peers) wanted it as an exhibition for the opening day of the restoration society,” he said. “She knew I did scenic model railways so she asked me if I’d like to do this.”

Hornsby—a retired Xerox technician—accepted, despite never having built a relief map before, let alone a three-dimensional one displaying mountain ranges, roadways and salmon-bearing creeks in the region.

After acquiring a map of the area from the CRD, he then set out to do some research on how to get the ball rolling.

“I went on the Internet and found some basic details, but they were mostly small school projects that had been posted. I couldn’t find any details from professional map makers, I guess they keep the information to themselves,” he said, laughing. Instead, he just started at sea level and worked his way up.

Constructed in his garage out of styrofoam, modelling paste and paint, the first thing he had to do was build a custom hot wire cutter that would allow precise incisions in the styrofoam without excessive melting. He actually built two cutters, one for the contouring, and one to make the delicate medium more manageable.

“We had needed quarter-inch styrofoam and we couldn’t find any,” said Hornsby, who had a friend locate some half-inch which needed to be sliced down in size.

That, and cutting out the hills and ridges, took up the majority of the 180 volunteer hours he put into the project.

Quite detailed, the relief shows water sources, Sooke Road and even the Galloping Goose Trail. It starts at the Sooke Basin and ends with the Sooke Hills—for now.

“There’s another four feet to go on, but it won’t be ready until next year.”

The extension will go all the way to Shawnigan Lake, said Hornsby.

The project was originally designed to be a diorama, but wouldn’t have included enough of the watershed to be demonstrative of what they were doing, he added.