Have you ever had the feeling that you’re close to the right idea, the right ‘thing’ but you’re just missing something intangible until you realize in an ‘Ah-Ha!’ moment, what was missing or off? We have a sort of philosophy in our house that when something is “right” and you know it’s “right”, it clicks, it energizes, it removes any kind of turmoil.
To go along with that, at several points I’ve said out loud to multiple friends that if I “ever change scale, I’d go model logging in New Hampshire in a heartbeat” or some similar version of that statement. The thought always was that the research I did several years ago for an article that was published in the Layout Design Journal on early 1900’s railroad logging in New Hampshire would come back to the surface in On30 or On3.
Fast forward to 2019 and the decision to shrink the layout footprint, and then go give in and add narrow gauge to the equation. I had focused in on the Mann’s Creek in West Virginia for that project, but as I started making decisions and looking at model choices, it wasn’t ‘right’. I was close, the narrow gauge was right, just like modeling the N&W in Cincinnati, OH was ‘right’ and progress has continued to move forward there. I found myself stalling out, again, and looking at other narrow gauge options from throwing in the towel and modeling Colorado to modeling the Nevada County Narrow Gauge, or something else.
As we set up paper the redraw a narrow gauge track plan over the weekend, my wife and I were discussing my unease with the long-term attention factor involved in this project, and her statement to me was “Well, the scale is changing… why don’t you consider modeling New Hampshire like we’ve talked about for several years now?”
Like a ton of bricks, it hit me, that was ‘right’. New Hampshire is the ‘right’ answer for me with narrow gauge. I wouldn’t have to change much, I’d loose coke ovens, but gain more logging, would also gain some interesting New England scenery and other industries, and the majority of the structures wouldn’t change, they’d just become gravel loaders instead of coal tipples or warehouses for the railroad instead of mine company warehouses.
With the resources already here, in books and magazines, as well as online at White Mountain History (http://whitemountainhistory.org/Gordon_Pond_Railroad.html), it was easy to envision how to adjust the Birch Creek for New Hampshire logging and granite hauling. As a bonus, the railroad doesn’t need to change name. The White Birch, or Paper Birch, is the state tree of New Hampshire (since 1947) but the trees are quite common in the state.
Deciding to make a change, and be inspired by New Hampshire and New England logging railroads, I first looked to see what, if any, railroads are recorded as having been narrow gauge in the area. While there were a few, the closest to a narrow gauge logging line that I’ve so far come across was the East Branch & Lincoln. The EB&L was actually a standard gauge line, but there are some indications that J.E. Henry started in 1901 to use narrow gauge to log the line that was eventually the EB&L standard gauge. Size wise, the railroad I envision is kore like the Gordon Pond Railroad, a competing line built by George Johnson, also near Lincoln, NH.
A few criteria start to become clear. The line needs to reach Town A, like Lincoln, NH, where it will have shops and a way to transfer to the outside world via either the Central Vermont or the Boston & Maine. Small locomotives, where my favorite Class A shays can roam appropriately, or small Class B’s, or even some small rod locomotives like the ones used on a number of logging lines in the region, can provide power. With other industries springing up around these logging lines, like furniture, flooring, and possibly some sap processing (both birch and maple sap processing were occurring in the area in the early 1900’s) there is opportunity for some additional industries for interest. Granite hauling is another important factor in New Hampshire railroading, and finding some resources for how that loos so I can include hauling granite blocks and hoppers of granite will be important.
One more important detail I should point out before I get to the redrawn plan. I’ve been trundling along with the narrow gauge railroad matching the same year of my standard gauge Norfolk & Western project set in Cincinnati, OH. The assumption there was that I would be able to ship in or ship out, goods that were destined for either of those railroads from the other. However, most of the great logging photos and railroads that are serving as prototype inspiration for the Birch Creek shifted to New Hampshire were earlier, operating from the late 1800’s into the early 1920’s, with the heyday’s well into the 1900’s and 1910’s. With that in mind, I’m shifting from 1927 for the Birch Creek back to 1915. The N&W will remain in 1927. That should make for some interesting modeling.
The railroad track plan as redrawn, retains multiple scenes and locations, with some slight reorganization. Along the right-hand front edge of the layout, we find the small town, the as yet unnamed “Town B” where there is locomotive service and other facilities. This is where the sawmill is located, there is an engine house here for one of the handful of locomotives owned by the railroad, a man-made log pond, a loading dock for finished lumber, and a warehouse for railroad and lumber company supplies. The sawmill will be some sort of conglomeration of details drawn from a number of sources.
In the original plan, I had intended to build a sector plate for moving trains from the front to the middle section of the layout. Now, in this redrawn version, I’ve dropped the sector plate and included a turnout on the far right hand side that will lead to a simple removable extension for a switchback that leads to staging and “Town A” with the connection to the outside world. The switchback returns on the center track on the plant that will then take trains up a grade and over to the far left-hand side of the layout to a “Town C”.
At Town C we’ll find a small New England town, with a small station, a water tank and fuel pile for locomotives, along with a handful of industries, houses, and a run around track. The industries are still to be chosen, but it would be fitting to have a furniture maker and maybe some kind of company using sap from maple or birch trees included in the town.
Headed to the right again, the layout retains the wye that leads to what was the coal mines and logging area, and now includes a granite quarry with a tipple for granite and a spot to load larger blocks of granite on flat cars, then heads into the two sports for logging. A truncated siding that can hold up to 4 log cars indicates Camp 2, and Camp 1 will be all the way on the right hand side with a loading area for logs and possibly a spot to have boxcars come and be spotted with logging supplies.
The plan, when I redrew it, included one more important feature. You’ll recall, I hope, that I’m building both of my layout projects on two pieces of benchwork, one is 6’ long and the other is 5’ long. The first thing I drew in on the new version was the dividing line at 6’ from one end. This let me make sure that the layout doesn’t have turnouts slated to be situated over the middle of that break, and that tracks are running as straight as possible in the area of the joint to make it easier to mate the sections together. Doing that drawing, and I’ll cover in a future post the redraw of Cincinnati, has brought me to another change in plans. I had intended for the layout to have the Birch Creek face one direction and the N&W face the other. In the interests of how I need to lay out electronics and access for those, storage of the layout, and the simplification of some portions for both layouts, and my desire to potentially be able to line the layout along a wall and operate both levels, I decided to return to a more ‘conventional’ layout and both levels will face one direction. It still shouldn’t bee terrible. We’re talking about maybe 4 people standing or sitting along an 11’ span. They’ll be running slowly enough in all cases that people should be able to get around without being too much in each other’s way.
So, I’m back now to making structure templates for kits, making sure that I have the right structures.
I’m excited to share in short order the adjustments to the plan for Cincinnati as well. Similar streamlining and rethinking of the plan have produced something I’m simply thrilled to be getting ready to build.