Monday, July 17, 2023

A New Addition to the Layout - Part III - A New Home

 By popular demand I'll wrap up the story of moving sections of the "Northern SNE" to Virginia. 

A quick glance into the back of the truck at dusk showed nothing had broken loose, and everything seemed relatively intact. 

On the drive back I had texted Stic Harris and asked him to round up some volunteers to help offload the truck. Todd Hermann, Bill Schultheiss, Mat Thompson, and of course Stic showed up on time at 1100 on a hot, muggy, Virginia day. "Friends" show up to help unload a truck - "Real Friends" show up to help unload a truck on a hot, muggy July day!!! I didn't take note of the temperature but it was certainly in the 90s, and the humidity made it feel like it was over 100 degrees. 

We started with the mountain section. We had too since it was in the back of the truck. As I've told Jason he takes no prisoners when it comes to hardshell scenery. This thing had to weigh close to 300 pounds! In Massachusetts we had to remove the mountain (and more importantly the supports for the helix inside the mountain) from the L girder frame. We then constructed a set of braces from 2x4s - meaning the whole thing could be carried like a stretcher. 

The mountain section just before the big lift. You can see the 2x4 "stretcher" arms - as well as the helix sections and helix uprights. These would prove to be less sturdy than we'd hoped. 

We found the section was heavy but moveable as long as it stayed level. Stic had removed both the glass door panels from the basement door - meaning we had a six foot or so wide opening. The only limit was getting through the four foot wide gate into the backyard. That's where the trouble began. 

This thing was too heavy to lift over the fence, even for five strapping model railroaders! So we tilted it slightly - I'd say 20 degrees or so. Then there were several loud snap and crunching sounds as the helix roadbed (which was a fiberboard material not unlike Homasote) broke. That in turn caused the whole mountain to start tipping over. For a couple of seconds it looked like the whole thing may have ended up upside down on the ground, but we got it righted and managed to set her down right side up. 

The fact that the mountain was sitting on those 2x4s that were secured to the floor of the truck created a situation where there was enough bounce on the ride to Virginia to crack some of the helix supports and roadbed. Moving it the 100 feet or so to the backyard was just too much stress for the helix. We also lost some of the mountain, but about 2/3rds or so of the mountain, including the curved trestle and tunnel portals, remained intact. 

We picked up the chunks of helix, and the broken plaster chunks and assessed the damage. 

After putting the mountain aside, we turned our attention to the Charlton Branch section. I was more than a little relieved (and amazed!) that the buildings that were secured in place hadn't broken loose. 
We eventually moved the mountain section into the basement where it's currently sitting on sawhorses. I'm still not sure what, if anything, I can do with it. 

Halfway to the basement - time to take a break! It was HOT!
Like most model railroad sections this one was awkward and clumsy to handle, but we managed to get it off the truck around the side yard, and down the steps into the basement with no damage. 

After it was on the basement floor I checked it for damage - other than some damage to the track in front of the station - that had occurred when we took the layout apart up north, the only other issue I found was a small crack behind one of the retaining walls by Martin Machine. 

Minor track damage.
Would I ever do this again? Honestly, probably not. Don't get me wrong, I'm thrilled I was able to save a piece of Jason's version of the Southern New England, but the only reason I even attempted this was it was a cohesive piece of the layout that fit with mine thematically and scenically. This section also included beautifully built structure kits - I had several of these in kit form that I planned to get to "someday." Now I have them already completed. (If anyone is interested in the kits let me know!) 

In general I don't think it's a good idea to try and combine pieces of layouts since it's very difficult to end up with a cohesive whole. For example, my good friend Paul Dolkos is selling his wonderful Baltimore Harbor District. But as much as I admire Paul's layout, I couldn't combine parts of it with mine and have the result look cohesive. And I pretty firmly believe a cohesive theme is critical to a successful model railroad. But if you're interested in Paul's railroad contact Bernie Kempinski or Mat Thompson or see Bernie's post on his blog HERE for more details. 

Here's the branch on the floor of the basement in its approximate final location. The next step will be to raise the branch on some new legs and attach it to the junction area of the layout. 


Chris Adams said...

WOW! It's been wonderful - and a bit painful - to follow along with you on this journey. I'm glad you were able to save some of Jason's layout - especially the branch - but yeah, I agree with you that doing something like this isn't for the faint of heart. Looks like the branch will fit VERY nicely and be a cohesive addition to the layout. Here's hoping the helix and mountain end up being worth the work (and possible physical injury - glad nobody pulled any muscles muscling it off the truck and into the basement!)

Mark Olstyn said...

I've been involved in many moves like that. It usually never ends well. You're lucky. By the way, why is Paul selling off his really nice B&O layout?
Mark Olstyn

CVSNE said...


I agree with your comment. Model railroads are Delicate, usually heavy and also clumsy shapes to move - never a good combination.
Paul is selling his home and downsizing.

CVSNE said...


Although I'm completely confident that the branch will make a wonderful addition to the layout I've struggled all through this process with how and where I could use the mountain/helix combination without engaging in extensive rework to the layout. And since my watchword for this project has been from the start "No course changes - Stick to the basic plan" I suspect the mountain won't be incorporated, at least not as a single piece. But I want to get the branch installed and up and running before making any final decisions.