Thursday, January 22, 2015

Rethinking a few things

Some things work, others don't about the White River Junction yard. It remains the only layout section that hasn't been rebuilt…yet. (White ruler is for size reference!)
Some days I really wish I was one of those modelers who could design something I'd be happy with for 40 years….like Jack Burgess. 
But I'm not. 
I could never actually "over plan" anything - we've all known modelers who are trapped in "analysis paralysis." My approach is a little more "Ready…Fire….Aim!" but hey, it works for me. 
After spending several years and lots of hours building, rebuilding, and rebuilding again I'm finally happy with the "middle" of the railroad - basically the long peninsula down the center of the room. 
They say the sure-fire way to tell if something isn't satisfying shows in a distinct lack of progress. And any visitor to the basement can immediately identify where that area is on my layout - the main yard area. 

Here's a run down of the issues:
1. The White River Junction station is tucked into a reverse corner - and a portion of the platform is actually poking into the south end staging yard in the utility room. 
Issue #1 and #2: The position of the WRJ station. Note how the platform canopy actually ends up under the "hole."

2. The south end staging yard itself  - a stub ended yard that juts into the middle of the utility room. It's always in the way. Since it's an unfinished part of the basement where I do a lot of sawing and sanding and the ceiling is unfinished dust and dirt rain down on the track and the equipment in the yard. It drives me nuts. Enough said. 
Issue #3 and #4: Center of turntable is beyond arm's length in the corner. So operators don't use it since it's hard to see. Also, no room for even a "bas relief" roundhouse. 
3.  To get the position of the turntable and engine servicing tracks in the correct orientation to the WRJ station the turntable ended up in the corner of the room - behind six or seven tracks and more than three feet from the edge of the layout. Guess I should have heeded the advice in the Kalmbach Locomotive Servicing Terminals book to keep the turntable within arm's reach! Whomever wrote that book was brilliant….<g>
4. Because the turntable is shoved in the corner there's little room for a roundhouse or any kind - let alone a decent scale model of one. 
Issue #5: A little hard to tell here but the north yard throat is confusing to visiting operators - and the guy who built it!
5. To get the WRJ station trackage arranged in some semblance of the prototype required the station tracks to start about halfway down the long wall of the yard. In order to get the yard classification tracks to be close to train length meant the yard ladder starts on the next wall and each track curves 90 degrees with a compound yard ladder. Plus not all the yard tracks can be directly accessed from the main or A/D tracks. This overly complicated yard ladder confuses some pretty experienced operators. 

The next two issues are much more aesthetic/design related than the previous two: 

6. To access that staging yard I ended up with a huge slot in the wall - effectively masking and screening it is proving elusive - there's no easy way to hide something so wide. Adding a highway overpass would destroy the composition of the prototype scene. I've tried various ways to "soften" the transition - they work in photos but in person, well, it's tracks going through a hole in the wall. 
7. And this is much more aesthetic - there's lots of "countryside" and "small towns" on the layout - what's missing is a city-like element. Something that contrasts with the pastoral nature of much of the rest of the layout. 

Not sure I have the solutions to these items worked out in my head quite yet, but I've hired a consultant to provide some professional solutions to these problems. Luckily, as the treasury is plenty bare he works cheap!

Stay tuned. 


  1. I really like your blog! Looking forward to future updates!

  2. Interesting dilema, Marty. Thanks for sharing it here.
    Would it help to present some non-negotiable, must-have features? For example, I'm assuming you must have the WRJ station?
    If not, then the answer could be to not model WRJ at all, but add another of the smaller places. I recognize that, with point #7, you're looking for a contrast. But having visited Jim DuFour's excellent B&M Cheshire Branch layout, there's a lot to be said for modeling the small towns and leaving the big places off the layout - using staging to represent the terminals. I assume you've visited his layout...

  3. We can tell you have been working for DOD too long- hiring consultants to find the answer you already know. Next will be a Blue Ribbon Panel to look at how high technology could solve this problem.

    WRJ is a tough nut. Everything about it is hard to manage in a layout design. The most difficult aspects are the 4-way nearly 90 degree crossing, the engine terminal at the widest point of the yard (similar to Hinton, WV another tough nut to crack), and the station on a broad sweeping curve. In my forthcoming book I include a WRJ layout design that has all four routes live. It was the most difficult plan to draw and it required a very large footprint.

    Only you can decide what is right. I like what you have now, but it's not my layout.

  4. Hi again Marty:

    If for no other reason, point #3 - the turntable so far away from the aisle - would be a deal-breaker for me. Turntables are the Achilles Heel of track. I hate them (as I've written about on my blog). I've been very lucky with the turntable I currently use, but it's also right at the front edge of the layout where I can align the bridge by eye and I can service the unit if necessary.

    I know you're an experienced enough designer to have played around with options for putting the turntable near the aisle - and the fact that it's in the corner means that's the only way it'll fit in your space while maintaining the prototype's appearance. That suggests that for your space, WRJ is not the best fit.

    If WRJ did not exist, what other place would you consider? Is there a location that's larger, railroad-wise and community-wise, but better suited to the space?

    Brattleboro? You could model the exchange between 2-10-4s and smaller, south-end power...

    Bellows Falls? Also a nasty location to fit into a layout room... and the CV is not as interesting as the Rutland here.

    I'm looking forward to following your thinking on this...

    - Trevor (Port Rowan in 1:64)

    1. Trevor,
      thanks for writing. I'd just finished typing a long reply to your previous comment and then realized I wasn't logged into Google so it vanished when I attempted to post it! Ugh!
      Some thoughts -
      Nothing is really a "must" for this - although moving the turntable and rearranging the south end staging are very, very high on the list!
      I'd like to use the station, but as Bernie wrote there are a lot of issues with fitting WRJ into the space - so the station may have to be relegated to "neat shelf model" status. Perhaps a five- or six sided Free-Mo module with the station as the centerpiece of a junction module is in the future?
      I do have one sketch for a modification that would replace the stub ended staging with a through staging yard "surround staging" style - that I know you're familiar with! - in the main layout room. That would be neat, but would require the most rebuilding and may be a non-starter for me.
      So if WRJ doesn't work what does?
      Possibilities other than those you mention include Palmer and Willimantic. And, as Stic pointed out the other day most of the locomotives are still lettered "Southern New England" so a freelanced effort may be the best approach - picking up elements of several favorite spots.
      I simply don't know! But I'll try to keep everyone up to date!

  5. Marty,
    WRJ as a Free-mo module? That's an excellent idea! With no room constraints, the benchwork could follow the track plan, and all four routes into the scene could be made active.
    Having looked at your photos and plans online, it seems to me that the run on your layout is long enough that the point-to-point configuration should work fine. Adding "Surround Staging" would - as you note - require a lot of rebuilding. I'd also be concerned about access to the staging area if it's behind the visible scenes.
    I know Palmer - the modern Palmer, that is - from trips to Springfield. I'm less familiar with Willimantic. I think I'm going to be hauling my CV books down from the shelves this weekend, for a refresher course.
    Given your current questions about WRJ, I'm not going to work on a P:48 plan for the Richford Branch to fit your layout space! ;-)
    BTW, I've linked to this post on my own blog. Apologies in advance...
    - Trevor (Port Rowan in 1:64)

    1. Trevor, Here's one view - not the best - of Willimantic.

  6. Well when you decide I'll put a new blade on the Festool track saw. WRJ is a cool place from a railfan point of view but hard to manage as a model. Unless you focus on WRJ as your almost entire layout you might lean toward eliminating it all together. But if you really want a challenge try jumping to S scale.

    Tom P
    Gainesville VA
    (SLSF in S)

    1. Hi Tom,

      I'll let you know. Of course it seems every time you've come over here you end up cutting into some part of the layout!

  7. I met with Kempinski Consultants at lunch and he and I talked through much of the issues. Seems the best approach, since the track is already in and wired, is to mock up a stretch of backdrop, hole size and the like and see what it looks like. It will only take a few minutes to paint up a temporary backdrop panel and get 90% of the effect.

    Bigger problem is the way the staging yard juts into the middle of what is my "messy" workshop (where the table saw, milling machine, lathe, and paint booth are). I really should completely finish the room but that's not something I want to do at the moment. And all those tools in there equal dust-covered equipment and track.

    Suggested solution is to reposition the staging yard and build a cover for it to keep dust off the equipment.

    I know some people don't believe this, but I really don't like constantly rebuilding and redoing things...I'm willing to if I send the benefit from the end game but I'd much rather be building equipment and structures than constanting sawing up benchwork and laying and re-laying track.

    Tony mentioned the height of the hole, I actually increased it from "minimum" in order to get a viewpoint from the staging yard looking out into the layout room - this was a common viewpoint of photos taken there during my era and I wanted to have a chance to duplicate that viewpoint.

    As Bernie said it lunch, the station and coaling tower are finished - would be a real shame to not use them!