Monday, August 4, 2014

Maine Two-Foot Adventure

A few years ago I shared a track plan for the narrow gauge layout Bernie had designed for my current layout room. Although I decided to stick with the standard gauge CV in HO for this layout, I placed the design on the blog as a way of showing what "might have been." That post is one of the most popular on this blog - you can find it here
In it I mentioned one of the first plans Iain Rice and I collaborated on was for an On2 theme layout. These collaborations were pre email and were done with fax machines, hand-written notes and sketches. He would have an idea for a layout theme - usually something pretty esoteric, and I'd dig up whatever photos, maps, and the like I could find. This On2 plan was one of the more unusual, at least it seemed so at the time. 
Since I worked down the hall from HOn30" pioneer and Maine Two-Footer expert Bob Hayden there was no lack of prototype information and inspiration. I even owned a couple of brass On2 engines at the time, and was contemplating buying the then-new Car Shop SR 2-6-2.  Those models are referenced by Iain in his note below. 
I was actually thinking of building this plan as an MR project layout. (The reason for the "no wider than 16 foot limit" I put on Iain's plan). 
As it turned out, the plan was never published and I obviously never built the layout.  Although a neat plan that would make an interesting layout On2 was just a bit too esoteric for an MR project layout. Today, of course, On30 offers a viable alternative with the obvious compromise in track gauge. But at the time On30, at least the Bachmann commercial models didn't exist. In fact, the idea that a major manufacturer would introduce a line of O scale RTR narrow gauge equipment was the furthest thing from anyone's mind!
Besides, Iain had a lot of other plans with far more wide-ranging appeal - some of which are hinted at in the following portions of this note. 
Here's Iain's note. I've included it word-for-word, complete with all the asides and inside jokes:

To Marty McGuirk, Supreme Associate Editor, etc… etc… Model Railroader Magazine, Kalmbach Publishing World HQ 
From: Iain Rice, UK.

Marty -
Here are a few sketches and ideas, as promised a while back. The main drawing is the 1/4" scale Sandy River layout, which is actually, strictly speaking, based on the Franklin & Megantic. You may be aware of the projected Franklin and Somerset extension of this, which was going to run from East Strong to New Portland, Me. They never built it (more's the pity), but I don't see why it shouldn't come to life in model form. This scheme is for Franklin Junction which, in my version of things, is where a kick-back branch cut off north up the Carrabasset and Gilman Rivers towards Lexington, where there was (of course) a huge lumber mill. 
In this proposal, the main line from Strong comes in over the covered bridge (a model of the one at Phillps, Me, on the Phillips & Rangeley section), while the branch from Lexington also comes over the river slightly downstream on a sheathed trestle (a must have, ala Frary and Hayden!) The main line would carry on to New Portland behind the roundhouse, but if there's no room for any staging at this end (you said max length of 16 feet) then the story goes that the traffic to Lexington grew and grew but that from New Portland never came up to scratch. So now the section from Franklin Junction to New Portland is laid up, and trains on the busy line from East Strong to Lexington have to reverse or connect at Franklin. 
As elsewhere on the SR&RL, the junction station (as at Strong, Phillips) has become the centre of operations, with the roundhouse, shops, and so forth. Excuses, excuses! I note that you have SR No.10, an outside-frame Baldwin 2-4-4 Forney, and B&SR No. 8, ditto. Well, the Franklin & Somerset would need power, so they looked about and lo! a big modern engine like No. 8 would be just the ticket. So Baldwin got the order for an identical 38-tonner. Didn't they? 
Of course, the engine you really need for this layout is SR No. 16, the 2-6-0. That spent most of its time on (or, almost as much, off) the F&M section. But the 2-6-2 would be nice, so long as you don't go around curves too quick - she's awfu' wide! A pukka F&M 0-4-4T Forney would be nice, but the line seemed to rely on Sandy River power most of the time. So does the F&S, needless to say. 
The control location and access to the fiddle yards is a tad unusual, although I've used the scheme successfully a time or two before. It's good for exhibitions, where you can keep on eye on the trains and the prying fingers at the same time. Hope it's of some use. 

Right. The other two scribbles. The first of these is for an idea for a small try-out layout for P87 fine scale standards with a Maine coast setting…..

[Note: In this same note Iain went on to describe what became his multi-part P:87 MEC project layout, and also sent along sketches for several 4 x 8s that we ended up publishing. One of them, the Lilliput Logger, has proven to be a real favorite. ]

Best Regards, 

If I was going to build this layout today I'd opt to go with On30 for the reliability/availability of the equipment and ignore the error in the track gauge. I'd also use an approach similar to the one my friend Bernie Kempinski took with his McCook's landing project - a stand alone portable layout with an integrated lighting/backdrop arrangement. 


Colin 't Hart said...

"Looks like an Iain Rice plan" is what I thought when this first popped up in my RSS-feed reader. :-) Thanks for sharing!

Bernie said...

Interesting plan. The combination of On30's lower cost motive power and better running is hard to pass up.

Based on my experience with McCooks, I would make the layout in 5 or 6 ft segments so that folding legs can be 55 or so inches tall.

McCooks' integral valence- skyboard made the layout very bulky and hard to move around stairwells with landings. I am not sure I would go that route again. I think an integral skyboard with a removable lighting valance is a better solution. That way the layout segments would nest together in a "coffin" as we used to call in in NTRAK circles.

In this plan, the mill looks very small. I would consder making the mill on the left much bigger and use it to hide the fiddle tracks. I like the right hand side of the layout.

A waterfront extension would be fun to add.

Anonymous said...

Thank you, thank you, thank you!

Great idea generator which feeds in to Iain's later U shaped On30 layout that MR did publish.

Bill Uffelman

Anonymous said...

Marty took the liberty of posting a short description of this post and a link to a couple of the On30 lists. Tried to cc you but address I had for you failed.

Bill Uffelman

CVSNE said...

You're welcome!
And my personal email is a comcast one, we haven't had Cox for a few years now.
mjmcguirk AT comcast DOT net

Anonymous said...

I have to agree that an On2 layout may have been a bit too exotic for an MR “You can build it layout” – it would have created havoc with the suppliers and the second hand brass loco market might have got over heated!

Should anyone want to “research” modeling the Maine Two Footers in On2, then the MaineOn2 FAQ’s, which is really a collection the knowledge and wisdom of a number of past and current practioners is available online at

A good place to start is the topic showing a side by side comparison of a scale model On2 boxcar compared to a standard ready to run On30 boxcar, and another showing the same model kit built up as an On2 model on On2 flex track and as an On30 model on British OO gauge set track at

The latter comparison will show if you can see the difference between the true 24” gauge track and the almost 32” gauge of On30 in US quarter inch scale.

Enjoy if you visit,