Sunday, May 13, 2012

A Two-Legged Wye?

Not sure if it's akin to a three-legged dog. The riddle: "When is a wye not  a wye?" The answer: "When you only model two legs of it."
Adding a wye to a model railroad is usually a source of frustration and trauma. Sure, a small wye - one that has nothing in the center, can be a fairly straightforward addition to a track plan. But what about those  times where the wye has "stuff" - buildings, sidings, and the like - inside?
The wye at Essex Junction was unusual since there was a cut off track (I’m not sure what it was called) that ran between two legs of the wye.  Along this cut off track were several industries.  Since I didn’t have the depth for the “outer legs” of the wye, I decided to focus my efforts on this cut off track.  In essence, I'm modeling two of the three legs of the wye and not connecting them together. (On the prototype, the "missing" leg formed the branch line to Burlington, about 8 miles west of Essex Junction.
Losing the wye is not a problem for me - and trying to include the complete wye was causing all types of track planning issues.
Besides, I’m more interested in the industrial switching possibilities than in modeling the several blocks of commercial and residential buildings that would be required if I wanted to model the complete wye.
In a previous post, I mentioned how I’d switched the position of the trainshed and wye.  I also found I had to flip the orientation of the wye itself – a mirror image of the wye.  Luckily these changes are almost “transparent to the user” – you have to be pretty familiar with Essex Junction to pick up on the differences between my now-developing layout scene and the actual prototype.  The main goal, in my mind, is to capture the overall look of the scene.
This old time photo of the wye area (I’m not sure when it was taken, but based on the locomotive I’d say this pre-dates 1920) shows a couple of key buildings that I wanted to include on the layout. The opening photo shows the area just to the right of the picture about. One of the neatest industries in Essex Junction was the Vermont Maple Sugar Co. (a signature industry for rural Vermont - sometimes you have to almost hit people over the head for them to get what you’re modeling – the sign is a step towards that goal) and the Baxter Brothers cannery.
I know both of those buildings were still there in the 1950s (they’re still there today), and I can get photos and enough information to model them.  The other industries that were on that connector track inside the wye are a little more problematic.  I hadn’t turned up any photos showing those buildings until I came across the UVM website that included aerial photos of Essex Junction in the 1930s. I do have footprints of the buildings from both the railroad drawings of Essex Junction and Sanborn Maps.  I also managed to locate the buildings, as they appear today, in Bing Maps overhead views of Essex Junction.
I’ve adjusted the position of some of the buildings to better fit the layout space, but I have already built mockups of the Vermont Maple building, the Baxter Brothers cannery, and several of the other industries have been mocked up by taping pieces of various kits together.

Backdrop tweaks

My first attempt at including a backdrop in what I call the "Essex Junction alcove"  (You can see the approximate position of the Essex Junction shed with the mockup on the left) utilized a curved piece of Masonite attached to the wall and forming a constant radius curve in front of the support post and joining the peninsula backdrop.
I didn’t like the way the curved section of backdrop looked – besides it would have made an awkward scene with the wye trackage.  I also (for once) wisely decided to do something about it before laying track in this area.  It would have been difficult to do this work with track in place – and virtually impossible with scenery!
So I removed the last backdrop section, cut a panel of Masonite to fit between the end of the existing backdrop and the support post, and blended the joint smooth. I’ll paint the post sky blue so it will look like part of the backdrop.
Removing the backdrop section meant the backside of another section of backdrop was visible. I framed up some supports and used some Masonite to fill the area between the support post and the wall. When this is all painted sky blue I think it will fade away from view – something that all backdrops should do!
As an aside, I'm really, really pleased with the fascia color!