Author Topic: Interactive Clinic Week Eleventeen - The Roots of Your Layout  (Read 8531 times)

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Interactive Clinic Week Eleventeen - The Roots of Your Layout
« on: August 26, 2008, 07:30:07 PM »
Following up on MichaelT's request, here's your opportunity to share with the world the thinking that went into the design and operation of your layout.  This need not be limited to actual existing layouts, feel free to discuss your plans for "the big one" or your reminiscences of a layout past that you really sank your teeth into.

Points to discuss would include, but certainly not be limited to the following:
Prototype fidelity
Research Resources
Available Space
Specific Scenes
Specific Operations
Through Traffic and/or Interchanges
Scenery Preferences
Time Frame

You get the idea.  As usual, I'll with hold comment to let everyone else take a crack at this...

Okay... GO!
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Re: Interactive Clinic Week Eleventeen - The Roots of Your Layout
« Reply #1 on: August 26, 2008, 07:50:19 PM »
I just got in contact with members of a family owned business.  I was able to connect with someone who worked there during the period I'm interested in.  I was lucky that these individual are very interested in why I'm interested and it looks like I'll be able to get quite a bit of excellent information.  The hardest part is formulating the right questions so I don't come off as a raving lunatic.  The best part about taking with people is the somewhat extranious information you get about things like locomotives falling into the river or having to load ice blocks into a truck, take them to a siding and hand load them into a box car. 

This business will take up roughly two city blocks of my future plans and has at least five different sidings for two different RRs so I am very excited.

Unfortunately there are probably many things I will never be able to get info on, so it's really nice to get such a big 'win' here.



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Re: Interactive Clinic Week Eleventeen - The Roots of Your Layout
« Reply #2 on: August 26, 2008, 08:36:46 PM »
Well, I'll provide a brief synopsis of how I ended up modeling a portion of the Chesapeake & Ohio Railway in central Virginia.  Ever since I attended the University of Richmond in the late 1980s and early 1990s, I have been a fan of the Richmond, Fredericksburg & Potomac Railroad.  However, that line was mostly a double-track high-speed racetrack that, as a bridge route, did not have a ton of on-line industry and local traffic.  That makes it real tough to selectively reproduce the RF&P on a small layout and effectively model the road's operation.  For this reason, I chose to model the C&O's Piedmont Subdivision, a single-track line, which interchanges with the RF&P at Doswell, VA.  My small hollow core door layout doesn't allow me to model Doswell yet, but I can go ahead and start amassing C&O equipment without fear of having to sell it later at a loss.  That is, if I can somehow pull off modeling the RF&P one day, I'll probably still be able to include Doswell or perhaps Potomac Yard, where the C&O interchanges as well.

So, that should give you an idea of how I ended up modeling the C&O.  Well, that and I like C&O's Enchantment Blue.  By the way, I model 1970 for a few reasons: 1) I like first- and second-generation equipment, and 2) Atlas has done fantastic job of offering locomotives in C&O paint (not Chessie, Lee! ;D) that could be seen on the Piedmont Sub in 1970, e.g., U23Bs, U25Bs, GP38s, GP9s, SD35s, GP35s, and GP30s.

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Re: Interactive Clinic Week Eleventeen - The Roots of Your Layout
« Reply #3 on: August 26, 2008, 08:54:16 PM »
Following Lee's format, here we go:

Prototype fidelity - Well, I follow PRR practices, but I don't model a specific segment.  My "Juniata Division" is based on the old PRR Middle Division, except that I have only two tracks.

Research Resources - I have an entire bookshelf of train books, most of which are PRR/PC/CR along with some RGS, EBT, and D&RGW (though those last ones are not references for my current layout).  There is so much Pennsy and Conrail information online it's frightening.

Available Space - Variable.  I'm active-duty USAF, so I can never count on having a specific space.  I model on a hollow-core door just to make sure it will fit with each move.

Specific Scenes - My river crossing is based on the western end of the PRR Middle Division near Spruce Creek where the PRR built a pair of tunnels and crossed the Juniata River numerous times on stone arch bridges.

Specific Operations - I have a train sequence and car cards/waybills, but as a lone operator they're not used much.  I'm hoping to get more involved with the locals now that I just moved to Nebraska; maybe I can find a crew.

Through Traffic and/or Interchanges - By the 1940s, PRR interchanged with but two railroads on the Middle Division; the narrow-gauge EBT at Mt Union (out of service after 1956) and the Huntingdon & Broad Top Mountain at Huntingdon which faded away in the early 1950s.  However, several PRR branches connected with the Middle Division (S&L, H&P Secondary, Bald Eagle Branch, Milroy Secondary), so my layout has a siding representing one of these branch lines.

Scenery Preferences - Eastern ridge/valley, summer.

Time Frame - PRR July 1956, Conrail summer 1980.

As for why?  Well, I grew up on Long Island, whose LIRR was long a ward of the PRR and is now perhaps as (or more) Pennsy as the ex-PRR, ex-PC, ex-CR NS Pittsburgh Line itself.  I learned to read position light signals and found keystones and PRR pipe-railing wherever I went. 

But more profoundly, both sides of my family hail from Lancaster, PA, home of the Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania.  Every year we made the pilgrimage to Strasburg to ride the SRR and visit the muesum.  To me, real steam locos had keystones on the front and Belpaire fireboxes.  Further reinforcing the Pennsy steam experience were rides behind D16sb 4-4-0 PRR #1223 and later PRR Atlantic #7002.  I went to college at Penn State, and made the drive up 322 (paralleling the former PRR Middle Division) more tomes than I can count.  I took many trips from PSU to Horseshoe Curve and Altoona (Mecca and Medina for PRR fans - let us make the sign of the keystone, amen!) and so Pennsy and Conrail got into my blood.  I was fortunate to ride Amtrak's Broadway Limited between Lancaster and New York several times as well.  All first-class Pullmans had been replaced with Amcans, but it was still something exciting for a young railfan.

Although I dabbled in HOn3 (Rio Grande Southern) and standard gauge freelanced based on the Colorado Midland and later based on the H&BTM, I imagine it was inevitable that I would eventually turn to the trains I had seen growing up that made such an impression on me.
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Re: Interactive Clinic Week Eleventeen - The Roots of Your Layout
« Reply #4 on: August 26, 2008, 09:32:37 PM »
When I modeled in HO, I had a fictional regional railroad in the steam era, the Piedmont, Tidewater & Southern, a name specific enough to place it in the South, but anywhere in the South. For about five years after we married, I had a 40" by 60" HO layout, PT&S and Louisiana Railways (electric interurban). It wouldn't fit in my house when I moved back to New Orleans in 1967, so I built a 24" by 48" N scale layout, originally intended to be an electric interurban, RapidRail, a totally generic name.

When the Penn Central merger took place - I had worked for the PRR from 1962 on - I decided I would keep the memory of the PRR alive by modeling it. The 24" by 48" layout could be said to resemble a hilly Pennsylvania area, while the layout I am building upstairs is a generic secondary line of the PRR, like the line to Sodus Point, or to Dunkirk, or Traverse City, being level with a large bay, a port, a long yard and three towns. I have the creation of specific scenes in mind, rather than an overall geographic area. Not formally "LDE's", but that's more or less the idea.

It's my railroad and it's full of temporal anomalies. F1's and H3's were gone by the early 20's, so steel reefers didn't exist. It will be set roughly about 1938-40, or 1 to 3 years before I was born, but really will stretch from about 1920 to 1942. But, it's my railroad, and I'll do what I enjoy.

The PT&S in N does tempt me, though, and if Bachmann made in HOn30 what it makes in On30, I'd be sorely tempted to model a railroad on a tropical island! Or, an island, anyway...


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Re: Interactive Clinic Week Eleventeen - The Roots of Your Layout
« Reply #5 on: August 26, 2008, 09:43:23 PM »
With respect to the N scale White River and Northern (now gone), which is detailed here...

Prototype Fidelity: The WR&N represented a freelanced tourist line based very loosely on the Black River and Western, which runs excursions and also hauls freight. The WR&N interchanged with Conrail (ex-Lehigh Valley), which was more accurately represented.

Research Resources: Made many field trips to north-central New Jersey to study an area where the Lehigh and Central RR of NJ ran side-by-side, to capture the flavor of the scenery and towns.

Available Space: 7 x 10 feet

Specific Scenes: Bits and pieces of many north-central NJ and eastern PA towns; the most recognizable scene was based on an area just west of Easton, PA.

Specific Operations: None (roundy-roundy).

Scenery Preferences: North-central NJ and eastern PA.

Time Frame: 80s-ish, late spring.


With respect to the Z scale James River Branch (now under construction), which is detailed here...

Prototype Fidelity: The JRB represents part of a freelanced branchline of the Reading RR.

Research Resources: Lived a couple of blocks from the Reading RR for 30 years. Field trips tracing nearly all of the Reading in New Jersey and much of eastern PA.

Available Space: 1 x 3 feet

Specific Scenes: Composite typical northeastern town, and northwestern NJ/northeastern PA scenery.

Specific Operations: None (roundy-roundy).

Scenery Preferences: Northwestern NJ/northeastern PA.

Time Frame: 70s-ish, early summer.
« Last Edit: August 26, 2008, 09:45:48 PM by David K. Smith »
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Re: Interactive Clinic Week Eleventeen - The Roots of Your Layout
« Reply #6 on: August 27, 2008, 09:24:32 AM »
Okay, my turn...
My first "serious" layout was my 1980's vintage (at the time contemporary) Laurel Valley Railway, a fictional shortline that resulted from the downsizing of Conrail's excess capacity.  Geographically, it utilized a couple of actual rights of way, including the Ligonier Valley, which ran south from the PRR at Latrobe to Ligonier, and the B&O Johnstown Branch from Rockwood to Somerset.  I linked the two by obtaining the old South Penn right of way through Laurel Hill tunnel, which was bypassed by the Pa Turnpike in 1964, and so was available to be reopened to rail traffic.

Prototype fidelity - The concept was plausible, but on the initial design, I used generic town names.  Latrobe became "Elizabeth", which was the urban area and location of the yard and engine terminal.  It wasn't until after I tore that layout down that I learned that there was a prototypical route that I could embellish.  Since I had a through route between the Conrail main and CSX, I included some through traffic from one to the other, the LRV providing local service and originating coal and stone trains.

Research Resources - I started researching this concept back in the early 80's, so the internet was still limited to a few scientists and Al Gore, so I relied on old maps, and several field trips to the region, although I never got as far west as Latrobe until a few years ago.
Available Space - The layout was built along a partition wall that divided our family room basement from the laundry room.  My wife was doing daycare at the time, so I built the urban scene and the yards etc. in the laundry room, and the main line poked through the wall to run through some mountain scenery on the family room side..

Specific Scenes - I was working in downtown Baltimore at the time, so I wanted to do some Urban scenery.  Oriole Park was still a few years away, so I spent a lot of time lingering around the old industrial streets that existed at that location.  The B&O Warehouse was a great building, and inspired this scene.

I also had a pretty nicely detailed cityscape, which I have some video tape of, but no photos unfortunately.

Specific Operations - I wanted to have a decent amount of switching, so my cityscape included an industrial area.  I also had a long double siding that served as a piggyback terminal/Flexi Flo terminal.  On the family room side I had a branch line that served a small cement plant, a sawmill and a coal mine.  That was my favorite.

While I was bumping cars on the branch, or switching in the yard, I would run the Conrail and B&O through trains, or a short Amtrak run.  I was starting to accumulate some LRV commuter equipment when I had to pull the plug on the layout due to a move.
Through Traffic and/or Interchanges - I think I covered that...
Scenery Preferences - Mid-Atlantic Appalachians have always appealed to me for their rugged splendor, and the gritty industry that seems to dot every valley in central Pennsylvania.  Very cool.
Time Frame - Early to mid 1980's.  This was still very much the Dark Ages of N scale, so my most reliable equipment was a brace of Life Like GP-38-2 that I custom painted for Conrail, including a PC paint-out, and a couple more that I did up for the Laurel Valley.  The scheme was a direct rip-off of the CSX "Bright Future" if you substitute the blue with a Reading green, and the gray with silver.  The lettering was black on the silver panel in a WM-esque speedlettering.  I also had a couple of old Atlas/Roco GP-30's that I did up in B&O to hold down the interchange for the south end.

Here's the overall track plan as I remember it.

It was a good layout, my first real attempt at building something beyond a table top loopty loop.  It was fun to operate, and had all the basic elements of modest staging, a fiddle yard, a branch line and some industrial switching, as well as a continuous running main.  The freelance LRV provided the opportunity to loosen up the possibilities, while the B&O and Conrail connections let me scratch the prototype itch.  Having half of the layout out of view at all times also gave me a powerful lesson in taking your time to lay track carefully!

The Laurel Valley was backdated to the 1960's for my current layout, the Western Maryland Western Lines...  I've kept the same route, which is unmodeled in the 5th dimension, but it gives me an excuse to run the old equipment and use engines that the WM didn't have.

I kept the color scheme, sans silver, and followed the lead of the Southern Railway for the color separation.

There's more about the current WM layout at

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Re: Interactive Clinic Week Eleventeen - The Roots of Your Layout
« Reply #7 on: August 29, 2008, 08:28:55 AM »
My layout was originally based on a branchline that runs from my German hometown to Frankfurt through some very idyllic landscape. I was fascinated by the Himbächel Viaduct which I recreated to scale. For research I used pictures I had available and the web.

The era was to be around 1968 when there was still a lot of branchline traffic, mainly gravel, wood, the odd box and tank car, as well as slow commuter trains to the villages in the woods. Although the line never received catenaries, there was still a fast train going from Frankfurt to Stuttgart and return on a daily base.
As European material sells to a solid price in the US, I switched to the Himbachel Valley RR. This shortline is situated north of Pittsburgh (I've never been to Pennsylvania, but a co-worker of mine told me once our area looked something like north of the Ohio ... well, there we go). The HVRR went down in 1967 and was taken over by the PC ... so rolling stock will be a mixture of PRR and PC.
The main traffic is supply to the Pittsburgh Glassworks with hoppers, tank cars and boxcars, as well as a small grain elevator/farmer's supply (I get my paycheck from the USDA, so this is a must  ;) )
I try to get at least the landscape right (somewhat) from pictures I find on the net ot from resources this noble forum have to offer.
Space: The viaduct is about 6x1.5 ft and will connect to a second segment of about 8x2 with the glassworks and a small yard on one side and a helix on the other.

My trains will run with Track Warrant Control.


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Re: Interactive Clinic Week Eleventeen - The Roots of Your Layout
« Reply #8 on: August 29, 2008, 02:34:44 PM »
Maybe its not a surprise, but my background is somewhat similar to Dave V's.  I also grew up on Long Island and as a kid would see Sunnyside Yard on trips into Manhattan on the LIRR.  My wife is from Johnstown so I have spent a lot of time on the former PRR west slope between Johnstown and Altoona.  I joined the PRRT&HS and have attended the last 15 annual meetings.  I have traced most of the PRR Middle Division and particularly liked the Spruce Creek area Dave mentioned with its numerous stone arch bridges along the Juniata.

When I moved to a new house, the opportunity was there for a layout and I had already been modeling rolling stock and locomotives from the PRR.  I did want to include a significant town on the layout and it was loosely based on Huntingdon, PA.  A point of interested is that Huntingdon has perhaps the only urban grade crossing on the entire PRR's Middle Division.

In recent years I have focused on prototype modeling and have been improving the accuracy of all the equipment used on the layout.  I have gotten rid of a lot of inaccurate equipment such as the Concor smoothside passenger cars.  Just because its painted tuscan red doesn't make it Pennsy.

The layout is small - 30" x 10', but it was published in the January 2001 MR.  I previously had focussed on passenger cars and with Claus Schlund, founded Hell Gate Models to produce a resin kit for the PRR B60b baggage car.  If you model PRR passenger, this is an essential car that you cannot be without.  No one else was doing it in N scale, so we did it.  We have since also produced a BM70k RPO.  More recently I have been focusing on freight cars, in part through the incredible resource of the Keystone Modeler, a free monthly on-line PRR modeling magazine put out by the PRRT&HS. See:

I did a series of gons and steel loads and have more recently added a coal train of PRR and Berwind GLa and H21 hoppers by Bowser.  This train is currently at 27 cars with all being weathered, couplers body-mounted, and coal loads improved with Fine N and Hay Bros. loads.

As always, my layout has a few drawbacks.  My trains are limited, at any one time, to the number and lenght of the six hidden staging tracks at the rear of the layout.  Actually though, for the size of the layout, the trains are a good size.  The one drawback that cannot be corrected without rebuilding is that I would like the railroad to more closely represent Huntingdon.  I have scratch-built HUNT Tower, but I could better represent Huntingdon with the 4th street grade crossing, the passenger station, and the JC Blair Company factory.

For photos and a plan of the layout, see:


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Re: Interactive Clinic Week Eleventeen - The Roots of Your Layout
« Reply #9 on: August 30, 2008, 02:11:02 PM »
In the early days (beyond the 4x8 stage), I built copies of famous model RRs. Alleghany Midland, Cumberland Valley, even the NYSME club layout  :o There was also a Conrail east slope layout (early 80s era, but at the time completely modern). These usually made it to the early scenery stages before being replaced, but I learned a lot about what I like.

Prototype fidelity: YES. I don't understand freelancing. This is not meant to knock anyone! I accept that others like it, even some very exceptional modelers. The limited selection of decent models in the old days made it somewhat necessary. To me, the challenge of prototype fidelity is what it's all about. Not just individual models, but overall scenes and design.

Research Resources: Historic Aerials, Sanborn maps, topographical maps, 100+ Morning Sun books, Google, memories.

Available Space: Varies year to year but usually about garage size.

Specific Scenes: I could end up doing anything from NJ or PA on the CNJ,PRR,RDG or LV. In the past, I've modeled mostly CNJ, RDG and LV in eastern PA or CNJ in the suburbs of NJ but the upcoming Kato GG1 is about to change all that, and let me go after some uncharted territory and model the NEC. My current plan is to model Linden to Waverly, with the yards at each location also representing freight staging plus turning loops for commuter trains.

Specific Operations: Should have the appearance of prototype, in a theatrical kind of way. I don't care so much about boxcar XYZ getting set out on siding A. That's too much like work. But the trains need to run on a schedule - making appropriate stops, setouts, or pickups. For the NEC I'll make no attempt at simulating 24 hours of operation on a fast clock! That would be 200 or so trains... Instead, I'll pick maybe a 2-hour time period and run real-time.
Through Traffic and/or Interchanges: Whenever it applies to proto location. Interchanges are the best "industry" to model, in terms of operations.

Scenery Preferences: East-coast semi-urban industrial wasteland.

Time Frame: 50s to 70s. I pick a specific era for each layout. For the current NEC layout the era will be 67-68, that way I can run post-Aldene Plan CNJ commuter trains over the PRR when the Trainmasters were still being used, some early PC stuff, and horribly unmaintained PRR. I have enough 50's era PRR for an occasional mini-op session. Prior to the burning and rebuilding of Elizabeth station in 1971 very little changed in this area over that time span, would mostly just need to swap out vehicles.

Even though I now live on the West coast (and as "cute" as the Western RRs are) I spent most of my life in NJ, so that forms a lot of my ideas. Would never want to live there again though!

« Last Edit: August 30, 2008, 02:15:15 PM by ryourstone »


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Re: Interactive Clinic Week Eleventeen - The Roots of Your Layout
« Reply #10 on: January 20, 2009, 08:06:31 PM »
I like several different railroads in the same geographical area (eastern NC).

My first choice for modeling was the Beaufort and Morehead (pronounce Beaufort like bow in bow and arrow).
It is possible to model every locomotive the road owned in N scale.  For steam era there are Bachman 2-6-2s.  For diesels Randy's Whitcombs and a LL SW1200 are all that's needed.  For the connecting NCPRA, Trix H10-44, SW1200s, and Kato NW2s.
If I had about 130 continuous linear feet by about twenty feet wide, I could model the entire railroad to scale.  Even without the long space, the railroad would not suffer much from selective compression as long as the landmarks were left intact.

The problem lies in operational interest.  At the absolute hight in the 1960s during menhaden season, I would have a train of tank cars in each direction across the Radio Island-Morehead bridge a day and two or three trains into town a week.  One train would carry a coal hopper for Beaufort Coal and Ice (this service ending in the mid-1960s when they built the courthouse on top of the old coal storage pile), a couple of gons for Atlantic Veneer, and two or three boxcars for each of the two menhaden plants.

Of course, one plus is the wealth of research I have available.  I have talked with 75% of the employees and several members of the six families.  I have walked the entire length of the railroad on multiple occasions.  I have records of all sorts dealing with operations and maintenance of way.  Best of all, I have photos of everything from all different angles, with drawings of all railroad owned buildings.

My next thought is Norfolk Southern.  However, if I model the steam era after around 1915, I need a small fleet of ten wheelers.  If I model diesel era, I need a fleet of AS416s.  Since I don't want to scratchbuild or kitbash that many copies of the same type of locomotive, this railroad is out unless I decide to do the Electric Division.

Pre-merger Atlantic and East Carolina is feasible, but it also really doesn't have much operating potential without more space than I have.

My last choice is the Dismal Swamp RR.  It would also require a lot of scratchbuilding, but I don't mind doing cars as much as locomotives.
There is plenty of research available, I just have to travel to Virginia for access, the cars are easy to build, the locomotives can be made from modified RLW kits.  The best part, though, is that it is 42" gauge and does have some operating potential in a small space.
Thanks much,
Mairi Dulaney, RHCE
Member, Free Software Foundation and Norfolk Southern Historical Society


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Re: Interactive Clinic Week Eleventeen - The Roots of Your Layout
« Reply #11 on: January 21, 2009, 07:49:46 AM »
The Lehigh and Hudson River Railway


Prototype fidelity - attempting to capture the flavor of the prototype and will model 1 scene with fidelity, the Great Meadows station area

Research Resources - i have a good sized library which seems to grow weekly.  at the moment i have only one book on the L&HR, but several on the various connecting roads.  there is a bit of information available on line as well.

Available Space - 8x8.5 - not much at the moment.

Specific Scenes - Great Meadows station will be the only photo realistic scene

other areas will be the Sterling Hill zinc mine and the Lime Crest lime mill. 

Specific Operations - in 1967 there were 8 trains a day including locals, 4 in each direction, plus the Warwick yard job.  the 4 trains were handled by 2 crews and the Warwick switching job by 1 crew.  since my space is very limited only the locals and one through train in each direction will be modeled.  all trains will perform switching in Warwick yard.

Through Traffic and/or Interchanges - occasional PRR powered freights and Reading coal drags for New England

Scenery Preferences - late summer

Time Frame - Sept 1967

Why - i have been looking for a prototype to model that would allow for realistic operations in a small space that wasn't just an industrial switching puzzle.  i have built several switching layouts and after a few times operating the layout, the puzzle has been solved and simply ending the session when the train was made up was anti-climatic since it had nowhere to go. 

the L&HR is small enough to be easily operated by a single person in a prototypical manner but could support another operator very easily.  the eventual goal is to build a much larger layout modeling with more prototype fidelity that will support a full days run of all 8 trains plus the Reading and PRR run through freights.  the line would include Hudson yard (all 4 tracks!) and a compressed Warwick yard.  the connections west of Hudson and east to Maybrook would be shared staging allowing for a continuous run. 
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Re: Interactive Clinic Week Eleventeen - The Roots of Your Layout
« Reply #12 on: January 21, 2009, 06:39:13 PM »
The North mountain and Glorieta subdivisions.

My layout is made on a 36"X 80" hollow core door. A backdrop divides the layout into 2 separate scenes.

Side 1: This side is based on CSX's North Mountain Subdivision which runs from Charlottesville VA to Clifton forge VA on the old C&O. My time frame is the late 80's and early 90's. This was IMO the most interesting time to model CSX because the power can include Chessie, Seaboard System, the variety of early CSX schemes and even some old C&O and B&O equipment. If I had the space I would model the line from Charlottesville, over Afton mountain to Waynesboro but with such a small workspace I will just try to get the feel of the area down.

Side 2: This side is based on the ATSF's Glorieta subdivision which runs from Las Vegas New Mexico to Albuquerque NM. I have seen this line for most of my life since my uncle lives very near by Glorieta. My time frame is 1990. The areas I want to include are the station in the little town of Lamy NM and Apache Canyon which is a mile north of Lamy. I've been to apache canyon twice and love it there. I posted photos of the canyon here.,16738.0.html


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Re: Interactive Clinic Week Eleventeen - The Roots of Your Layout
« Reply #13 on: February 01, 2009, 12:44:39 AM »
I've only built a couple small layouts so far, my future dream layout is still years off since I'm still young single and living in a small basement apartment with no room for even my latest 2x7' HO switching layout.

For my old layouts, it would go something like this:

4x8 ph. I (first train set)
Prototype fidelity: none - the figure-8 of track that came with my first train set. I built this cool 4-way tunnel from cardboard, balled newspaper and papier-mache that covered the diamond in the middle.
Research materials: N/A

4x8 ph. II (first experiment with flextrack and cork roadbed)
Prototype fidelity: none - basically an oval with two spurs, one serving an oil dealer (using tin cans for oil tanks) and one serving a lumber mill (old life-like structure that loaded and dumped a log flatcar)
Research materials: N/A

4x8 ph III (the layout I built in high school, based on a published track plan)
Prototype fidelity: none
Research materials: track plan based on the OLD kalmbach book "HO Railroad that Grows" with some modifications. My copy of the book I got from my grandfather and it is _much_ older than I am

2x7 Switching layout.
Prototype fidelity: none/generic downtown switching layout
Research materials: using a track plan published in an old issue of model railroader. Slightly modified with an extra industrial spur and placement of structures

For the layout that I would like to build someday....

Prototype/time frame would be the Algoma Central Railway in the early 1980s. I have no idea what kind of space I'll end up having to build it in, but my plan (hope) is to one day model the northern half of the railroad from Hawk Junction to Hearst, and the branchline to Wawa. For the southern part, I'll try to fit in whatever I can to give trains south of Hawk Jct. a bit of a run and terminate into staging.

Major scenes would be (north to south):
Hearst - end of the line and junction with the CNR with a shared CN/AC yard. The CN line through Hearst was the old National Transcontinental, which never ended up becoming anything approaching a major line. The line was very light rail, motive power was nothing heavier than SW1200RS and GP9 units. (Other than Algoma Central GP38-2s arriving off the AC line). Industries include a pair of sawmills and a couple fuel dealers.
Mead - large lumber mill that received logs and pulpwood by rail and shipped lumber and woodchips. Lots of woodchips. The woodchips were pretty much exclusively exported to Wisconsin or Upper Michigan.
Oba - crossing and interchange with CN's main transcontinental line
Mosher - large logging/pulpwood loading site
Franz - crossing/interchange with CPR's transcontinental line
Dubreilville - another sawmill. Received some logs by rail but apparently mostly cut locally and delivered by truck. Shipped lumber and also woodchips, which were loaded in CP cars and interchanged at Franz for several pulp mills on the CPR.
Hawk Junction - AC yard, junction of the main AC line with the branch to Wawa
south of Hawk Jct. to Sault Ste. Marie will be mostly represented by staging.

The branch has two significant locations to model.
Wawa - iron ore mines and sintering plant. (iron ore is delivered directly to the plant by conveyer, sintered, and the sintered ore shipped to the steel mill in sault ste marie)
Michipicoten - end of the branch, small harbour on Lake Superior. In steam days this was a more significant location, but in the 1980s and 1990s coke and limestone for the sinter plant was unloaded here and hauled up the hill to Wawa.

Traffic basically consists of three categories:
- sintered iron ore from Wawa to Sault Ste Marie (and associated movements from the harbour to Wawa)
- lumber, pulpwood and woodchips
- steel and paper traffic from Sault Ste Marie to interchanges at Franz and Oba

Additionally there is some limited bridge traffic between the interchanges on line.

So far I've collected a fair bit of research materials. A photocopy of a complete system track diagram from 1952, a copy of a more recent diagram from the late 1990s (excerpt from a WC system map), a rather thorough collection of original timetables from the mid-1970s to late 1990s, some original train orders (which are neat but not super-informative about operations), lots of collected photos (slides and prints, and of course internet sources), several commercially produced videos and a few books.
I've also been running an Algoma Central list on Yahoo, and a couple of ex-AC guys are on there, and they can be quite informative when the right question is asked. One guy used to be the agent-operator at Franz and little tidbits from him have really helped to bring some detail to traffic patterns and operations. :)


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Re: Interactive Clinic Week Eleventeen - The Roots of Your Layout
« Reply #14 on: March 24, 2009, 03:58:19 PM »

Layout website:

As you can see, the purpose here was not to cram in as much track as possible into 16
square feet (layout is 4' x 4').  Rather, the idea was to put in a small layout that I could
finish within my very limited time avail and space.... while having
scenery that would dominate the trains .... implement a simple switching puzzle
... implement various scenic tricks that the
layout planning books all talk about like diagonal lines and perspectives
that distract from a 'box-like' look in the scene....,
trains appear/disappear behind buildings/tunnels, easements in the track
to avoid toy-like abrupt curves, have plausible appearance in the scene
to extent possible. Try out all that and do something that
wouldn't take a too long to get up and running and to a reasonably finished state.

Construction chronology:

The idea is to loosely model the Santa Fe's 'Peavine Line' Ash Fork - Phoenix line in Arizona,
as that is where I grew up and this is what I saw as a young boy :

The resulting layout below is meant therefore to have a 'feel' of Arizona, and the scenes are more
dictated by the practical space available, while disguising a 4' x 4' loop of track. It was
implemented with the following track plan:

The runaround is for the switching puzzle, where-in a "turn" reaches the town,
needs to switch the industries, then return from where it came from.. and
regardless of direction of approach, there is always at least one facing-point
spur.  That's compounded by fact that the passing siding is just long enough
for four 40' cars and one 50' car, introducing a small but interesting need to
figure out, while switching, where to 'store' the caboose and/or any cars that
won't fit in the run-around siding.... in order to complete the switching puzzle. 

Kato Unitrack was selected so that I would not have to worry about
track problems.   It's been a acceptable choice, after ballasting: 

While no specific Arizona scenes are modeled, the layout was inspired by specific
areas on the old Prieta Grade on the line through Prescott, Arizona, and
some specific scenes around Glendale, Arizona:

The layout has been satisfying and provides an acceptable platform for running and
tuning locomotives, playing with DCC, photography, learning and experimenting
on how to do something in model railroading better, etc.   Fits the amount of time that I have.

In the end, I guess creating stuff like this is the fun of it - Santa Fe PA1s in the desert, in early 1950s:

Good thread and topic, all.


« Last Edit: March 24, 2009, 04:16:23 PM by atsf_arizona »
John Sing
Venice, FL
Modeling the Santa Fe's Peavine Line (Ash Fork -> Phoenix, Arizona) during the 50s and 60s