Author Topic: The Southern Railway Memphis division circa 1975  (Read 4889 times)

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Specter3

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The Southern Railway Memphis division circa 1975
« on: June 13, 2020, 06:23:02 PM »
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So here goes with some serious layout planning for my soon to be complete layout room. Walls are in process and the drop ceiling will be put in not to far down the road. Room lighting is provided by the cheap 2200 lumen 4ft tubes off Amazon. Layout lighting will be LED, but strips or tubes is TBD at the moment. But before the room lighting can be truly finished up the general benchwork needs to be nailed down. I would like the room lights to be over the aisles. But you have to know where the aisles are to put them up.

Room is 19’6” by 15’. On pic below there are two openings and one window. The door opens out, away from the layout. The layout will be hinged to swing at the door and the 4ft opening on the 19’ wall opposite the window like Mark Dance’s. The opening on the long wall  leads to the workbench and storage area. The window will have a backdrop in front of it. As this is not a bedroom I am currently not worried about egress as there is a window and sliding door immediately outside the room door.

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I am modeling the Southern Railway Memphis division circa 1976. I am not being 100% accurate as I will have some passenger ops that in reality were discontinued in 1969. But they will soldier on here as its my railroad. My railroad centers around the Tuscumbia, Sheffield, and Muscle Shoals area of north Alabama. Why here? This is where my dad’s parents lived and where I had two semi-retired adults wanting to make me happy for a week every summer and other visits. Their house was within horn range of crossings in Tuscumbia and we would hear a train, pause to figure out where and which way and then tear out of the drive to chase. My grandfather truly loved me as I have visited in my later years and found the roads we sprinted down are pretty speed limited by signs that are older than I am. But it is where I got my love for trains and those big black tuxedoed beasts. So I will model the area. There will be a couple signature scenes that will replicate the places I remember from childhood sitting with my grandfather watching the trains go by when we finally caught them. The crossing, railroad west of Tuscumbia at Old Memphis Hwy. Sheffield station, defunct in my time but will have service because it’s my railroad, The double crossings at the edge of downtown Sheffield, and the crossing at 6th street on the east side of town where I first reacted positively to a train as a toddler, thereby giving my grandparents something they knew they could do with me as it was a busy main line that they could hear from the house. I would say “I hear it” and get all excited and they would bundle me into the car and we would all go chase.

Railroad history in the area runs deep. Tuscumbia had the first railroad west of the Appalacians in 1830 to run cotton up from the river for over the road transportation around the shoals in the Tennessee river. Railroad quickly extended to Decatur where cotton was loaded back on river boats. Eventually became the Memphis and Charleston RR, a predecessor to the Southern. Shops and yard were initially in Tuscumbia, were moved to SHeffield, were expanded in SHeffield, and then finally moved to the brand new(in 1975 era) Sheffield yard which continues in operation today. In my era there are still some residuals of these old facilities that will be eventually be modeled in the form of track being torn up and buildings being torn down. I will not be modeling the new Sheffield yard. Yard ops just don’t float my boat. My grandfather got me a visit to Sheffield with a neighbor/good friend who worked there once. Got to watch them hump some cars from the tower. It was an awesome experience but not enough that I feel the need to model it and you really can’t do a hump yard justice and have space for much else unless you have an entire large basement to play with. I don’t, so I am ok with having the yard off layout. NorAla junction is where Eastbound trains can either go to Sheffield yard or continue on to Birmingham. From what I can tell more went to Sheffield yard, probably 60-65%. But then there were Sheffield to Birmingham trains and vise versa. This will be the top deck of the railroad. In both plans the lower deck is the run south from NorAla junction to Hayleville, AL where the Illinois Central had an interchange and trackage rights south to Birmingham. THis deck is aimed primarily at just adding some run time to the line. A couple simple trackside industries that are far enough from each other to give the sense of going somewhere. And when the inclination hits or a couple of friends come over there is enough to do to have everybody well and engaged. I never railfaned these places as a kid and have only driven it once as an adult. So fidelity will be less important, just some operational interest. SOme will ask “Then why do you need it?”or say “Stick to the simpler single deck” and I have contemplated that exact set of questions for a few years now. And my answer is I like to run trains. The upper deck covers a smaller geographic area that is mostly suburbanish area(remember it is Alabama). The lower deck will be way more rural and give a better idea of going somewhere. Plus the interchange with the IC is a really neat feature. The map below gives an idea of the setup of the railroad. Memphis was the western terminus of the middle section of the Southern with New Orleans to the south and St. Louis to the north. There was interchange in Memphis with Missouri Pacific, Illinois Central, The Rock, Cotton Belt, and the Frisco. MP ran a train to Sheffield yard regularly, so full consists of MP locos were frequent visitors. I remember seeing Cotton Belt, Rio Grande tunnel motors, and the occasional UP or SP unit.

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The room immediately outside the train room is our basement entertainment area. Projector, theater stacked couches, ping pong, and darts. Full bath. Makes for a good operator lounge.

For both options traffic flows to and from three points. Staging represents Birmingham, Memphis and Sheffield Yard. Through trains run to and from all three points. Train length will be about 7-8 ft. 3 locos, 17-22 cars, caboose. Locals originate from Sheffield yard and work west to Tuscumbia or south to Bear Creek. Hayleyville will have an IC switcher that will set out cuts to be picked up by northbound peddler. Southbound cars stay with their own trains. The mine at Spruce Pine will be worked by the peddler. Passing sidings are in Russelville, and Phil Campbell. There is double track through the middle Sheffield yard that sometimes westbound trains would clear the departure yard for space and would hold in Sheffield waiting on late Eastbound trains. Plenty of opportunity for meet ups.


Here are the two plans I have sketched up for the area. The double blob has been the longest in development. I like the modeling space it gives for many of my focus scenes. I drew half of  it on the floor the other day and it lays out pretty well. It is a helix for the Sheffield Yard and east points and a nolix for the south and west ends. The top deck becomes the bottom deck in the corner near the door where the clearance is about 10 inches total. 1.8% calculated grade gets everything where it needs to be with decent clearance. Staging on the blob with the helix in balloon loops. Potential for single ended staging expansion to the right of the helix on lower deck currently not drawn. On this plan everything is on the correct side of the railroad. Lots of large scenic areas for modeling. Trackwork over the swing sections is minimal on the top deck and moderate on the bottom. Complexity is pretty high with the helix penetrating the wall(dead space on other side), grades, narrow aisles, and large areas to be completely sceniced.

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 Coming into the time where construction start is actually in the foreseeable future I have been doing a lot of reading on construction and specs on other double deck layouts. There is always the chorus of reach and aisle width. Don’t bite off more than you can chew. Is it too model railroady. Well lots of this kind of came home to roost and I stayed up until 2 the other night to complete this G shaped plan. Nearly all scenes are less than 18 inches deep. Lots are only 12 inches deep. The helix is freestanding and accessible on 3 sides. The Helix sits in a 4x4 blob so 22-23 inch radius curves for the outer track make the grade less of an issue. In a couple places on this plan things are on the “wrong” side of the tracks but only in the area where fidelity to me is not as important. Cons here are some scenes are only 12 inches deep. The crossing site railroad west of Tuscumbia is compressed and curves the wrong way west of the crossing. But it does get the Little Bear creek trestle in which I would like to be able to model. This iteration puts the Station and Sheffield on one long wall which is nice because the real thing is long and straight as well. Aisles are wider everywhere on this plan. There is a straight shot from the door to the work bench nearly. A con is that staging now moves to a lower third deck so benchwork is more and slightly more complicated.Staging will have to be stub ended unless I am willing to make the swing outs three levels.

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So have a look and let me know what you think.

MDW

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Re: The Southern Railway Memphis division circa 1975
« Reply #1 on: June 13, 2020, 08:01:24 PM »
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Love seeing hand drawn sketches.   I know lots of folks get into designing layouts on their computers - I’m more of a sketch it out/mock it up in the basement guy. 

Even when drawing by hand, you can be more accurate with curve radius & turnout length.   I like the 2nd set of plans but take another look at the tracks coming in and out of the helix - I don’t think there is enough space to accomplish what you are sketching.  Also you may loose a few sidings & spurs along the way due to lack of space, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing.   

Looking forward to seeing how your plans & layout develop!

Michel

Specter3

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Re: The Southern Railway Memphis division circa 1975
« Reply #2 on: June 14, 2020, 08:12:04 PM »
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As Michael pointed out on the lower level of the G design I have the entry and exit of the helix on the wrong side. I could flip the plan but I love having Haleyville in it's correct orientation. On the other side of the peninsula the interchange would be on the aisle side and the IC immediately starts climbing so the SOU line would be lower than the IC which you would have to reach over. Before any wood is cut I will draw it out full scale on a roll of large format paper I have. Lay down actual switches(turnouts, throws, route changing thingamajigs) and make sure some sort of orientation works before cutting wood.

Layout will be DCC powered by the digitrax unit I own with a booster when it becomes necessary. I drool over @GaryHinshaw wiring and signaling systems. The signals typically used on this section were single head 3 color. I dont know what type of system the SOU had in place but I plan on having a simplified signal system in place. On the upper deck there were signals just west of the Old Memphis hwy crossing, immediately railroad west of the double crossing in downtown Sheffield, and at the end of the double track out at the 6th street crossing. There was another set at the old wye where the L&N used to cross heading to it's original Tuscumbia station. The lower deck I will probably signal the ends of the passing sidings and perhaps one in between. There will need to be something at Hayleville where the junction is. Logic in my mind currently is simple block detection with immediate block occupied red, next block occupied, yellow and green other times with double track ends set up to read switch position. Definitely more research is needed.

Staging will be code 80 with Peco switches. Layout will be 55 and hand laid 40 for sidings. Turnouts on layout will be Atlas with wish to learn to hand lay. Turnout actuation is up in the air. Manual control via side mounted electrical slide switches is in the lead.

The more I think about it the more I am leaning toward the G layout. It has more space and I am sure I will eventually qet to running some ops. I don't have real close operating groups but if I build it there are plenty of guys that would come. My N scale club is active and by the time I am up and running I am sure more than a few will come by and run it. And many of those guys are closer to your typical model railroader in belly profile.

Thanks for looking!

LIRR

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Re: The Southern Railway Memphis division circa 1975
« Reply #3 on: June 15, 2020, 09:48:33 PM »
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What’ll the power be?

legostudios34

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Re: The Southern Railway Memphis division circa 1975
« Reply #4 on: June 15, 2020, 10:15:50 PM »
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Looking forward to seeing this progress! I live in Huntsville so this is pretty close to my area. As far as signaling, I believe the NA West End got CTC in the 70s, and there is some CTC around Sheffield now, although I'm not sure how long it's been in place. If I may make a couple minor corrections, the IC north of Haleyville went to Corinth and north, not Memphis; and there's a passing siding at Littleville, not Russellville. There's also quite a bit of industry along this line so with some historical maps you could likely find out what was actually there instead of making the industries up.

The NA West End is one of my favorite pieces of railroad in the state, and I look forward to seeing more! I've actually drawn up an HO scale plan based on this line for consideration for the future when I get more space for a layout.

Baxter Barnes

Blazeman

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Re: The Southern Railway Memphis division circa 1975
« Reply #5 on: June 15, 2020, 10:31:11 PM »
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Names of all those North Alabama towns bring back memories of listening to HS football scores on Friday nights during my time in T-town at Bama.

Specter3

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Re: The Southern Railway Memphis division circa 1975
« Reply #6 on: June 16, 2020, 02:42:34 PM »
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Power will be lots of 2nd gen. There will be one cranky F7A and B running their last few miles, a couple of RS3s wheezing their last little bit, and the odd U boat as I get some converted. GP7-9 were still common though based on pictures. I have two GP30 high hood conversions waiting on paint. I would like about 6 more but I am hoping Atlas will redo theirs by the time I am ready for them. SD28 SD35 SD40 and SD40-2 will be the mainline motive power. I have a couple of GP35s that I have to put high hoods on. Somewhere down the line I will pick up some SD45s for the same treatment. There will be a couple of run through units representing UP, Rio Grande, Cotton Belt, and Southern Pacific. Missouri Pacific will have a full consist as they ran a train to Sheffield on a regular basis.

Baxter: all of the industries on the lower deck except the pulpwood loading and all but a couple on the upper deck are actual line served industries. The quarry just west of Tuscumbia never was rail served while I was seeing it as a kid but my grandfather said it got strings of hoppers regularly until they built the bypass. Rails were still there but trucking became easier since the road moved much closer. But in my world it is still active for a couple of cars a session. The cotton warehouses in Tuscumbia never had a car at them when I could remember but they were such a quintessential part of railroading in that town that they will still get some traffic on my pike. Same goes to passenger traffic. Not in reality, but I want to model some so I will. The aerial photos that are on the UA website are helpful but the resolution on the uploaded pics is kind of low. The double track in Russelville exists for those double spurs off to the east. It is a stub end siding but compression and all leads me to use it for a passing siding. Those tracks led off to a very significant mining operation way back in the past that is not active in my time frame. Same with the spur at Isbel. There was a significant mining operation there as well. I would love to see your plans for the area just to see them.

Thanks for looking!

GaryHinshaw

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Re: The Southern Railway Memphis division circa 1975
« Reply #7 on: June 16, 2020, 06:54:14 PM »
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Nice to see a new layout emerging!  I admit that I'm not at all familiar with the prototype, so I'm having trouble following how all these pieces are supposed to fit together.  It would be great to see a schematic of the two plans you have sketched and how each relates to the prototype schematic.  A key question is how the helix fits into each schematic.  If I understand you correctly, in one case it forms a yard and in the other, part of the mainline run?

In any case, my advice is that less is more.  A 2-deck N scale layout in a room this size is actually quite a lot of railroad and it will keep you busy for a long time.   Also, make the deck separation as large as possible.  You mentioned a 10" clearance at one point, but by the time you account for benchwork, etc. you'll be down to 6-7" of free clearance which will be much too cramped.

legostudios34

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Re: The Southern Railway Memphis division circa 1975
« Reply #8 on: June 16, 2020, 07:00:45 PM »
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Here's the plan I drew up, covering from just south of Sheffield to Haleyville. HO scale, set about 2012, before the construction of the new feed mill at Spruce Pine, and when there were still 5 daily trains and a local. I didn't actually model the town at Russellville, I like the view from US 43 north of town and wanted to include the two industries south of town (at least in the modern era).





I'm not sure how familiar you are with the area now, but there's a major quarry west of Tuscumbia now. I believe this is where they used to transload coal onto the trains that made up the bulk of the traffic on the NA West End for years.

https://www.google.com/maps/@34.7264885,-87.8091791,1190m/data=!3m1!1e3

Baxter Barnes


Specter3

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Re: The Southern Railway Memphis division circa 1975
« Reply #9 on: June 16, 2020, 09:01:06 PM »
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Gary, thanks for checking in. Yes the Southern is a less modeled class 1, especially when you consider UP, SF, BN, and other less important contemporaries(SPF heads exploding in 3,2,1)... Anyway it is what I grew up on and baring Baxter chiming in I had no idea anyone else had ever heard of the places I am talking about. I am about 90% sold on the G shaped plan with more aisle and less helix complexity. The helix in that plan represents a short piece of railroad and takes the place of NorAla junction. All trains enter the helix. Trains bound for Sheffield yard and points east go down all the way to staging. Trains South to Bham exit on the lower deck, trains west to Memphis exit on upper deck. The upper deck is way less compressed than the lower deck.


The 10in deck clearance is on the less probable plan and that was in a section that was where the top level went under to become the lower level in a nolix type situation. It would continue to drop to get to a 16in deck to deck clearance. 16 inches is what I am leaning toward as far as separation. But actual heights are still in flux. I am 6.2 in shoes so I would naturally tend toward a top deck at 60inches or so. As far as being large, it is, but the scenes are narrow, the trackwork is for the most part uncomplicated and I think the hardest part will be creating the backdrops that are actual places. I will have to take a trip up there at some point to photograph a lot of things to possibly create some photo backdrops. I have access to a wide format color printer so I just need photos to stich together.

Baxter- oh yes I am very familiar with that site. The transload was going to be one of my key scenes with an actual loop of track and daily coal train runs. I even mocked it up 1-1.

GaryHinshaw

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Re: The Southern Railway Memphis division circa 1975
« Reply #10 on: June 17, 2020, 10:26:30 AM »
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Ok, I think I see where you're going with the second plan: the helix actually represents NorAla, Bham, and Memphis all together.  That is very efficient and could work well.  A few things to think about:

* For a layout of this size, you should be thinking about hosting a crew of 4-6 people for operations (maybe more).  Even if you have minimal interest in ops at the moment, it would be a shame to preclude it at the design stage.  Personally, I find it adds another dimension to the hobby, and it gives those signals a reason for being.  ;)

* That said, how many tracks do you need in the helix to keep things running smoothly?  You effectively have 3 staging yards (Sheffield, Bham, Memphis) all in one yard served by one helix.   I imagine that you'll want 1 or 2 locals running on each level in a session and they'll have to come and go through the helix, which takes time.  (Boring for the operators, BTW.)  You'll probably also want some through trains running, all of which will run through part or all of the helix.  (The only thing worse than running your train through a helix is waiting to enter the helix...)

* Are you sure you want the helix in the middle of the room like that?  It is going to be a very prominent aspect of the layout and you probably don't want it to be hidden because the only thing worse than waiting to enter a helix is wondering if you'll ever exit the helix (did my train stall? derail?...).  I don't see any real advantage to having it accessible on 3 sides if you can get inside the helix.

* How do you picture the staging yard is actually configured in the G plan?  Do you have a lot of quasi-hidden run on the staging level of the peninsula to get to staging along the walls?  Or will the yard curve around the peninsula?

* If you put the helix in the upper right corner you could have two stub-end staging yards fed by one helix: one along the top wall and one along the side wall, and you could connect them with a wye to turn trains.  Then one yard could be for arrivals and one for departures.

 * Some quick math: my 3-track helix (which serves as a staging yard at one end of a nolix plan) has a run length of ~13' per turn and a vertical separation of 3.25" per turn.  If you maintain a deck separation of 16", you'll want about 5 turns between the lower deck and upper deck and maybe 4 turns between staging and the lower deck.  4 turns is about 1.5 scale miles, 5 turns is ~2 scale miles, and 9 turns is ~3.5 scale miles.  For comparison, the perimeter of your room is about 2 scale miles.  So a train running from staging to the upper deck and back runs for 7 scale miles in the helix and 2-3 in visible running.  The helix could get quite crowded!

Please note, I'm not trying to dissuade you from this plan!  I'm just pointing out that the success of it critically relies on the helix having adequate capacity, and being well executed in construction.

Specter3

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Re: The Southern Railway Memphis division circa 1975
« Reply #11 on: June 18, 2020, 08:33:25 AM »
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Gary- lots of food for thought. I quickly sketched  up  the helix in the top right. It would work and get my required elements in. I think that running the deck down in nolix style would get a couple of turns removed from the trip down to the second deck. I think two tracks all the way up and a third track from staging to the lower deck would effectively give each “yard” its own track in the helix. Each level as it adds its track is the outside. Outside track of 3 from staging goes to first level at Haleyville. Middle track of helix then Becomes outside and goes up a turn accesses southern leg of Sheffield yard entry on lower deck. Two tracks continue up and the outside track then ends at the western access to sheffield yard exiting on the top wall. The helix would continue up a turn for west end link to Memphis. Yeah, I can build that. And it makes sense in my head.

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Specter3

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Re: The Southern Railway Memphis division circa 1975
« Reply #12 on: June 19, 2020, 12:10:45 PM »
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Oh and Gary’s corner helix allows the potential inclusion of the pride loader scene on top of the helix.

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Specter3

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Re: The Southern Railway Memphis division circa 1975
« Reply #13 on: June 23, 2020, 11:05:19 AM »
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Some more 1:1 planning as the walls dry.

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GaryHinshaw

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Re: The Southern Railway Memphis division circa 1975
« Reply #14 on: June 23, 2020, 04:50:50 PM »
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It's always exciting to be at this stage! 

One question: how are you going to manage the door that opens into the room when you have to cross it with lift gates?  At the very least that will be inconvenient, and at worst a fire trap.  Is there an alternate exit that opens out?  Can you just take the door off its hinges and store it?

-gfh