Some like-to-have's for this layout: a central yard, interchange with BN/CN, low line at water level plus a high line, car ferry operation, modelling a harbour without modelling water, import/export and prototype Vancouver industries. Current structures would be re-purposed wherever possible (ever tried to re-purpose a grain elevator?). Some must-have "signature scenes" to be included in selectively-compressed form: CP's 'N' Yard on Burrard Inlet, their massive Pier B-C steamship dock building (above and below in preliminary form), and Dunsmuir Tunnel linking CP's Front Yards to Drake Street Yard.
The only benchmark changes were construction of a high line, linking visible staging/interchange (below) with 'N' Yard, and a short lift-out segment to enable continuous running (track to oblivion in top photo).
All I needed was a trackplan. Some modellers refine their trackplan to perfection over several years. My approach was a bit more, well, organic. Start laying track from one end, using only a pen sketch. Connect 'N' Yard to industries with an interesting mainline run, with enough run-around trackage to make switching easier. Most pier trackage would end, and the harbour begin, at the layout edge.
I was surprised to find I ended up with only nine industries arranged around the highline. Yards consume large amounts of benchwork, but 'N' Yard will accommodate 25 cars on five tracks, plus a run around/engine service track and switching leads. I've got two off-line destinations: car ferry and interchange. That'll keep cars moving on and off the line. Winnipeg's Ogilvie mill, shown below without a backdrop, will become United Grain Growers terminal, loading ships with grain for the Asian market:
What about era? Inspired by the Flickr photos of RRHorne, I wanted to keep Pier B-C as a background. This means confining the era to the early-mid 70's, with era-appropriate rolling stock. Waterfront operations on Burrard Inlet are largely CP, with CN operations at Port Mann and near CN's passenger station, so this will be a CP-heavy operation. The Opsig industry database provided some prototype Vancouver industry names.
For now, trackage is in place, the layout has been populated with inbound traffic, and cars are moving in and out of all industries and interchanges. There is much left to do: possible trackage revisions, some structure building and lots of detailing and trees to add. Transfer runs and switch jobs of 5 to 10 cars are running. The Vancouver Wharves are coming to life.