Author Topic: Illinois Central/Canadian National Champaign Branch  (Read 12274 times)

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nscalemike

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Illinois Central/Canadian National Champaign Branch
« on: January 16, 2014, 11:29:03 PM »
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Over the last several months I have not posted much.  Been very busy with the new child but I try to keep up-to-date with everyone's layout engineering reports, my favorite part of the entire RailWire site.  The time has come for me to introduce my new layout, the Illinois Central/Canadian National Champaign Branch.

Many of you will probably recall this is not my first attempt, or second, or third, or . . . . but, I'm giving it another go.  The first layout was the classic 20lb railroad in a 5lb room.  The second was a 10lb railroad in a 5lb room.  The third, you get the point.  I've been cutting back with each one, giving a little up each time, and zeroing in on what I really want.  During the same time I've really taken a liking to the Lance Mindheim simple, prototypical, layout design and operation.  I have also determined that I am strictly a solo operator.  So, I have banned muliti operator, complex, unprototypical layouts!

A bit of a backstory.  I moved to Champaign in 2005.  I quickly discovered the old IC line that ran through town.  I also discovered the branch line.  This is the first real life switching operations I can recall ever seeing in person.  Maybe that is what drew my interest so much.  As time passed I have spent countless hours watching the crew switch the industries along this line.  It is 4 miles long, from the beginning in the yard west to the city limits.  The line continues several miles out of town and serves 2 grain elevators in harvest season.  This line has influenced many decisions I have made layout design wise over the last few years.  However, it was always ideas from this line taken and applied to my freelanced plans.  I had often thought about building a N scale model of this line, but all my attempts at drawing a track plan to fit my space did not work.

Fast forward to a sleepless night in late August or early September.  My new baby boy was a few weeks old and someone was up at 3 in the morning giving him a bottle.  With nothing else to think about or do at that time of day there was plenty of time to ponder trains.  Sometime on one of these nights a light bulb finally went off.  Previous plans drawn for this line included the entire 4 miles, or at least the good 3 miles or so of industry areas.  One of those industries is a large Kraft plant.  On this night it occured to me that I could skip the Kraft plant and start up my modeled line just west of there.  Thinking about the shape of the room, I could include the Plastipak spur along the near wall of my room.  It keeps the orientation correct per the prototype, and there is a natural curve to the left which matches my room area needing to curve to the left.  Finally on to something I sat down with Google Earth and Anyrail.

I found out I could fit the Plastipak spur nearly to scale on the near wall.  Then I found out I could fit the streets and track next to each other on the side wall.  By the time the tracks had to curve left, I only had to cut about 25% of the prototypical distance.  Going along the long rear wall, I could get the park, the overpass, and creek in, all scaled down just a little bit.  Here I ran into some troubles.  I had about 4-5 feet left before the room curved to the last wall.  After weeks of playing with ideas, I ultimately scaled the park area down slightly more, put the last two industries I wanted to model along the back wall, and curved the line along the short left wall.  After 3 years and countless attempts I finally did it.  I had a trackplan of my local branchline drawn for my layout space.  It was roughly 1.5 miles from Mattis Ave west to I-57.

This gave me 4 industries.  I quickly realized I could add two more from the now abandoned spur to a beer distributor and an unknown warehouse.  Based on research on Google Earth again, I realized I could put a short pennisula about 3/4 of the way down the long wall.  I was worried about a pennisula after the one I had for staging before, but felt from this angle it would not be nearly as tight.  First of all, it left the main part of the room wide open still.  Second, I had 3' of access behind the pennisula and the pinch point to get there was still over 2.5' wide, plus the pennisula itself was less than 2' wide.  I drew it in and liked what I saw.  Again, based on changing the prototype to N scale I was modeling the area nearly exact.

The new baby did not provide any time for construction, which turned into a blessing.  Over the next several weeks I continued to study the maps, walked the line several times, and drew, redrew, and redrew again all the industries and other major areas I wanted to model.  By the time it was all said and done I had a plan drawn as close as practical to real life.  This is what I came up with:




nscalemike

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Re: Illinois Central/Canadian National Champaign Branch
« Reply #1 on: January 17, 2014, 12:11:49 AM »
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Tour of the line:

We will start our tour on the far eastern end of the modeled portion.  On the plan that is located in the bottom left corner.  For those who want to follow along on the Google Map, here is the starting point: https://maps.google.com/maps?q=champaign+il&ll=40.12041,-88.281959&spn=0.007843,0.016512&hnear=Champaign,+Illinois&gl=us&t=h&z=17  The wall will be Mattis Ave.  This portion of the layout will act as staging.  A shelf will be constructed to mount under the layout for storage, and each train will be switched 0-5-0.  The first industry is an abandoned transfer warehouse.  The building won't be modeled, but the remains of the spur will be.  The line runs west crossing Country Fair Dr. and the first industry is RP Lumber, with Hundman Lumber opposite.  I'm not sure when these two quit taking rail service.  Hundman's track was still in place when I first came to Champaign, but I never recall seeing anything spotted there.  RP's was already abandoned at that time.  Hundman Lumber recently sold and the new owners moved locations.  RP is still there.  In my life, RP still gets rail service, while Hundman has turned into a recycling plant.  Boxcars, centerbeams, and flats for RP, gons for Hundman.  You'll notice Hundman is the only facing point turnout on the whole layout.  Real life line still has one facing point turnout.  The crew explained to me they take a two engine consist out with them when the serve that industry. When it is time, they split the engines, putting one on a siding and using the other one to move the car to be spoted.  Then the siding engine is now behind the car, does the switching move, and they reconsist them.  I use DCC, so I can do this type of operation as well. 

Next the line passes underneath the westbound lanes of I-72.  There is also a creek here and the tracks cross the creek on a wood bridge:


I will model this bridge to scale, with the creek and walking path.  Next up, as you can see in the background is eastbound I-72 into town.  The line crosses under that, and continues along the west edge of a city park.  About halfway through the park is the turnout to the next spur, serving Orange and Blue Distributors and another warehouse.  This is also now abandoned, but in my life fully active.  O&B will get boxcars, and the warehouse is likely going to turn into something taking tank cars,  either veggie oil or corn syrup or similar.  This spur passes some self serve storage buildings:


Next, the line curves back west, crosses Springfield Ave then immediately crosses Duncan Rd.  This is always a fun place to watch trains if you are not driving, because the whole intersection gets stopped and people have no where to go, which makes them mad.  A couple hundred yards down, then the line reaches the switch for the Plastipak spur.  This is still served today and modeled accordingly.  The first industry is Illinois Brick.  They get hoppers of rock once or twice a week.  The factory gets plastic pellet hoppers.  In true Lance Mindheim fashion, there are 5 grades of plastic pellets they take in, and the hoppers must be spotted correctly.  This industry is modeled exactly to scale so it will take several hoppers and should be a fun place to work.  The warehouse in the front is now a shipping building but used to be a window company.  They have a loading door, and I intend to spot a boxcar there occasionally.  I also intend to spot the occasional boxcar at the loading dock for Illinois Brick, although they no longer get any I believe.

The line goes west out of town past Plastipak.  The layout line ends at the wall. 

I have learned Plastipak gets switched at least 3 days a week currently, more when needed.  Obviously, with the other industries being closed there is not a current practice to be followed, but they are all smaller industries so I'm thinking RP and Hundman once or twice a week, O&B and the tank building will be 2 or 3 times, IB will be once or so, then Plastipak on nearly every opperating session.  The loco is always staged on the east end, caboose still in use on the west end.  No run around track on the line anywhere, including the unmodeled areas, so I didn't include one either.  No storage track is present on this section, although there is one just east outside of the Kraft plant.  If I find I need extra storage I may add one in near the staging area but we will see how ops go initially.  There is room for storage within the Plastipak area, and typically the crew leaves all their extra cars on the right track. 

It is nothing complicated, but should provide plenty of switching work.  There is no roundy-round, but I rarely made use of that when I had it.  Switching is what I've taken a strong interest in, and if I have 30 minutes I can serve one industry, if I have 2 hours I can do several.  Should be a lot of flexabilty.  The other advantage is since it is all based off the prototype I know exactly what I am modeling where.  This should prove to be very beneficial to me in the coming months.  I am very excited about this plan and looking forward to how it progresses. 

More to come soon.  Currently, benchwork, valance, and lighting is done.  Trackwork begins soon.  Stay tuned!

Bendtracker1

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Re: Illinois Central/Canadian National Champaign Branch
« Reply #2 on: January 17, 2014, 02:18:34 AM »
0
Mike I think you're on to something that will stick this time. ;)

From some of the conversations we've had about how the crews have to split the locos up to service the industries with points facing both ways and no run around, it kind of brings me back to your original layout where you had your local backing on the branch to do the work.
I think in a way you've come full circle on your plan, but this time the clouds have parted and you've zeroed in on the one thing that has bekoned you in to model it.
I think this is going to be a fine layout and one that will keep your interest peeked.

Good job, can't wait to see the progress.


DKS

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Re: Illinois Central/Canadian National Champaign Branch
« Reply #3 on: January 17, 2014, 05:04:12 AM »
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This certainly bears a strong Lance Mindheim feel, and I like it quite a lot. I might make one suggestion: give yourself some staging, as you sort of hinted you might do. Perhaps add just one or two tracks on the left leg, behind the safe. You don't even need to use it, but at some point, you may like the option of having it, and it'll be there for you. Other than that, all I have to say is go for it.
« Last Edit: January 17, 2014, 05:10:43 AM by David K. Smith »
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GaryHinshaw

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Re: Illinois Central/Canadian National Champaign Branch
« Reply #4 on: January 17, 2014, 05:50:43 AM »
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Completely agree with DKS here.  I like this plan a lot and it seems to fit your space and time requirements quite nicely.  But 0-5-0 staging is a real drag, and you do have the room for some online staging.

nscalemike

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Re: Illinois Central/Canadian National Champaign Branch
« Reply #5 on: January 17, 2014, 09:03:33 AM »
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Thanks guys for the support!  This probably isn't the answer for everyone, but much thought has been put into my goals over the last few years and after some trial and error I think this will work for me.  Certainly a bit of a unique approach. 

My one headache here is still the staging issues.  It seems that the staging push really took hold about the same time I started serious layout building.  Therefore, I have always been one of the 'need lots of staging' people.  One of the early plans for this layout actually had a small yard on that left wall with three storage tracks and a runaround.  It came off what is now the abandoned transfer spur switch, which had been moved to the top wall.  I stuck around with that plan for quite a while, but then it finally did away with it for a few reasons.  1, I could spread the other industries out a bit more prototypically by using my available space to model real life, 2, It wasn't enough staging to hold what I envision I would run, so I would either skip out on changing the car fleet or I would still be moving things by hand, 3, One of the big goals is simple!  I'm not saying a yard automatically makes things complex, but there is only 6 switches on this entire layout.  The yard as I drew more than doubled that.  My thought was if I have a 2 or 4 week period that the only thing I can do is 30 minutes on the layout, I would rather grab 4 cars off the shelf, place them on the track, and be off on an opertion mission.  I won't need to try and build a train from staging tracks or address a faulty switch throw. 

Either way,  the one compromise I did make was to leave the benchwork on that left wall available for staging should I find I want it.  When I first did away with that yard I cut that benchwork back to 4" or 5" deep, but I eneded up with it being almost 9" deep.  It will be very easy to go back and my yard design in down the road.

More updates coming soon.

mcjaco

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Re: Illinois Central/Canadian National Champaign Branch
« Reply #6 on: January 17, 2014, 09:24:36 AM »
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I'll agree on the staging.  It doesn't need to be big.  Heck, even one track that multiple trains can be staged on. 

Only other concern is if there's enough there to keep you busy and entertained.  I like the plan though. 

iccn1000

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Re: Illinois Central/Canadian National Champaign Branch
« Reply #7 on: January 17, 2014, 11:59:30 AM »
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This is going to be great! I'm modeling the IC/CN from Champaign to Centralia in HO. Look forward to see this come to life.

Rob

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Re: Illinois Central/Canadian National Champaign Branch
« Reply #8 on: January 17, 2014, 12:24:08 PM »
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This is going to be great! I'm modeling the IC/CN from Champaign to Centralia in HO. Look forward to see this come to life.

What's so special about Centralia?
...mike

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packers#1

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Re: Illinois Central/Canadian National Champaign Branch
« Reply #9 on: January 17, 2014, 12:49:18 PM »
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Very very cool; I like modern industrial branches; there's just something about the minimalistic nature of these layouts that I like; looking forward to seeing your layout progress; I'm going to have to check out the Plastipak industry, as the different grades of plastic pellets sounds cool for my own short line industrial park I'm planning.
Sawyer Berry
Clemson University graduate, c/o 2018

rsn48

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Re: Illinois Central/Canadian National Champaign Branch
« Reply #10 on: January 17, 2014, 01:33:55 PM »
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I don't know if you feel okay breaking prototype reality.  First I'd have a run around track on our track in the upper right hand corner, and off of it, cuvring into the corner wall an interchange track that can hold at least 4 or 5 cars.  On your left, beside the short bit at the wall, I'd have a barge.  If it were me, I'd have minimally four identical barges (structurally at least), sitting on shelves under the layout, you can grab one and switch cars off of it and other cars onto it; then grab another barge and continue your session.  The barges provide you with ample staging.
Hind sight is always better than foresight, except for lost opportunity costs.

Ed Kapuscinski

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Re: Illinois Central/Canadian National Champaign Branch
« Reply #11 on: January 17, 2014, 04:07:08 PM »
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This reminds me of a really awesome PC (I think) era layout set also in the midwest that was a single branchline that I recently saw in a magazine. Might've been last year's GMR.

I'll have to see if I can find that.

Coxy

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Re: Illinois Central/Canadian National Champaign Branch
« Reply #12 on: January 17, 2014, 04:44:45 PM »
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Go for it Man. Looks great!

- Coxy

conrail98

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Re: Illinois Central/Canadian National Champaign Branch
« Reply #13 on: January 17, 2014, 10:36:59 PM »
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This reminds me of a really awesome PC (I think) era layout set also in the midwest that was a single branchline that I recently saw in a magazine. Might've been last year's GMR.

I'll have to see if I can find that.

It was in Model Railroad Planning 2013 and was the PC Niles Branch in South Bend and it interchanged with New Jersey, Indiana, and Illinois,

Phil
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nscalemike

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Re: Illinois Central/Canadian National Champaign Branch
« Reply #14 on: January 18, 2014, 12:27:41 AM »
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It was in Model Railroad Planning 2013 and was the PC Niles Branch in South Bend and it interchanged with New Jersey, Indiana, and Illinois,

Phil

I remember that layout and remember wondering how I could modify it for N scale and my space.  I can only hope this layout will turn out as nice as that one.