“Final Answer”: Layout Plans That Fit

As I look at the turmoil of this past year, I find myself wanting to look ahead, to unlock some energy that may be held back by painting for decisions to be made and plans to at least be laid out so there are some goals, attainable goals, ahead.

My initial intent was to finish 12 freight cars this year.  That obviously is not going to happen.  I will finish 1/4 of those cars this year.  That is still progress.

Some of what I know has held me back is not knowing or having a plan for a layout, and what I need to build.  From plans for El Portal to a switching layout based on a fictional extension and everywhere in between, I’ve plugged away at layout plans this year, trying to determine the layout that I want to build, and that I can build, and that fits in space and time for me.

The two things, I believe, go hand in hand.  Determining the path forward for freight cars is tied to the path forward for a layout and what needs to be handled, freight wise, on that layout.  If I choose to model El Portal, it’s highly important that I include the passenger operations there, and so I therefore need to find and build enough Pullman cars and other passenger equipment to make the yard operate.  If, however, I choose to model a fictional extension of the YV with fruit and nut packing houses, I then need to build lots of period appropriate refrigerator cars and stock cars to handle that traffic along with anything else that  needs to be on the layout.

There is also the matter of captive service to consider.  The YV had logging and limestone as essentially captive freight, and the rock cars and bulkhead flat cars are almost signature cars, and while they need to be scratch built, they are important to the identity of the railroad, and thus are important to the setting on a layout.  As I’ve said before, I’m really here for the logging, but I can also be here for the mineral shipments too.

The options for HO scale modeling are, in a word, vast.  It’s the most popular scale in the US, and it makes sense that gondolas, flat cars, tank cars, hoppers, boxcars, and everything else is in ready supply.  It’s more difficult in my pre-1930 era, but still possible to build a representative freight car fleet more easily than it is in other scales.  

What’s available then, in O, that is applicable to the YV?  The easy answer is:  lots of boxcars.  I have quite a few boxcars appropriate to the later 1920’s, and building house cars from scratch is something I could also do.  With lots of boxcars, rock cars, and log cars, as the guiding available fleet, two locations on the YV jump out at me as highly appropriate modeling locations.

Just to the East of Merced, the Yosemite Portland cement Company plant opened in INSERT DATE.  This plant is the end destination for loading the limestone carried in the YV rock cars from Emory.  The same location had a bagging plant for the finished cement product that the YV served as a destination for some of the boxcars I have and want to build.

The other logical location to model is Merced Falls.  With the lumber mill located there to bring log cars to, the box factory and dry loading shed, and a sizable station for LCL deliveries, as well as a location for the YV to bring bunker C oil in for loading into the locomotive assigned to the log trains, Merced Falls punches the bill for the log cars an for more of the boxcars as lumber was loaded that way for shipping.  There was also a small ice house at Merced Falls that a reefer can occasionally visit to bring ice for the community, but I don’t need 30 reefers, I need 1, maybe 2, total.

What do those spots look like in a manageable and buildable O scale layout?

Yosemite Portland Cement Company, Merced, Ca

With 18’ x 2’ the space to model the Yosemite Portland cement Co plant doesn’t include room to model the plant itself.  The track arrangement has to be adjusted a little to build things on a layout in a set space instead of in the real world.  That said, I have room in the space for the limestone unloading pit, and the bagging plant, both areas of the industry that were accessed by the YV.  I envision a train coming from the West (left) and bringing empty boxcars or boxcars with bags for the bagging plant.  That train would need to switch the bagging plant, and likely pick up loaded rock cars from the passing track that I’ve included on the mainline to switch the limestone dump as well, returning empty cars to that passing track for the Merced Local to pick up before returning with the loads from the bagging plant to the West and Merced.

Merced Falls, Ca

At Merced Falls, the local would arrive from the West (left) with boxcars, maybe a reefer, maybe a tank car.  That train would need to work at the box factory, dry shed, and station, to deliver empty or loaded cars to appropriate locations.  A second train would come from the East (right) with loaded log cars for spotting on the log unloading track, while picking up and taking empty cars back to the East.

I envision these as being build as a stacked, multi-deck layout setup.  Both decks could be operated separately.  Notably, the Merced Falls deck would employ a transfer table hidden by a sawdust flume to move a locomotive and likely one car from the house track to the mainline to the rear track at the box box factory and dry shed off the right hand (Eastern) side.  That kind of British and Continental railway modeling trick works well here, allowing space for more track where cars can be spotted and eliminating some of the need for additional turnouts.  

There it is, my “goal” layout.  With that, I’m quite happy with my track planning.  I’ve included everything to make the scenes interesting to operate and realistic to view.  They’re prototype based, with some compression, but at 18’ long, they will be impressive to stand or sit at.  Now, too, I have my goals.  Boxcars, log cars, rock cars, and a handful of other equipment along with two YV cabooses and likely two YV locomotives.

Forward into 2021 with plans to make and things to build!

-Jeremy

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