My “Achievable” Layout Thoughts – More Realities, Living Inside the Reality and Being Happy With It

As we’ve worked here on two model railroaders with different railroad prototype interests trying to fit layouts into a shared space, and at the same time have started to grapple with the idea that not only may space, but time, could be limited in the years ahead with family obligations and needs, I have been thinking quite a good deal about what is “achievable’ in some plans and goals for my modeling.  Along with that, I’ve been really focusing on the “why” I have for modeling the Yosemite Valley Railroad, which, I hope, I can tie together here.

The biggest draw for me to the YV is the logging operation.  If you look back to my first plans for El Portal, I included the logging company incline.  As I revised and revamped the plan, and lost the logging operation, I struggled to maintain a way to include some of the lumber company, and later the baryte mine and considered adding the limestone operation to try and keep some of the flavor of the YV other than just the passenger station.  As I compressed El Portal and started to loose the passenger operations, even though I told myself I was modeling the freight operations at El Portal, the more I looked at it, the less of El Portal it was.  

The catalyst for arriving at the right formula for modeling came in a few parts in the last couple of weeks.  The first idea churning piece was that a model railroading friend who had spent a few years focusing on a branch of the CNW recently decided that he was modeling the wrong thing for his interests and has moved back to porto-freelancing his own line, modeling the things he enjoys about railroading and not staying focused on something that isn’t inspiring him to model.  That info began percolating through my brain about the same time as I published the most recent track plan for El Portal.  The second piece was already bubbling as I compressed my layout plans from 20×20 down to 16×16 and then 16×8 to fit space for a layout that fits my wife’s railroad interests.  Sharing space for multiple layouts is not common for most railroaders.  I consider myself fortunate to be able to share this hobby and an interest in railroads and trains with my wife. 

Why am I here, modeling the Yosemite Valley?  I said it above.  I’m here for the logging.  I’ve always been fascinated with logging operations, and the operation on the YV certainly provides lots of opportunity for modeling unique equipment that sets the railroad specifically as the YV.  Hands down, no brainer for me.  If I’m going to abandon El Portal as the location, which by this point is something that is thoroughly under consideration, the location to pick has to be related to the logging operation.  That means modeling Incline where the log cars go from the YV up to the logging camp at the top of an incredible incline, or it means modeling Merced Falls.

The idea of sharing space has been, to be honest, the roughest thing to overcome.  When I started really looking at sharing space, we actually considered building an “M” shaped layout, with my wife’s interests on one side, a fictional town in the middle, and the YV on the other side.  I drew a plan, but it wasn’t right.  It was awkward, and didn’t feel prototype.  It felt forced.  Then I realized that sharing space is about more than just sharing space with another layout, but making sure that any layout fits in the available space.  We’re at that awkward age here where we have nearly reached the end of having children at home, may need to eventually relocate to care for aging parents, and layouts don’t always fit in that equation.  We live in a townhouse in a part of the country where the car needs to use the garage, and the garage needs to be multi-function around that, allowing for storage, painting booths, wood working, and other things to be done there, beyond just having a 16×16 layout stood up there.  We tore down a layout we started in the garage because it suffered from being exposed to a polar vortex and then high humidity in the summer months.  

As a modeler in the time we live in, access to print, digital, and online video is almost immediate.  I’m sure that a good portion of all those media types influence not only my thinking when it comes to layouts, but also the thinking of others.  I have, as of late, become a fan of some of the smaller, but satisfying layouts, that one might see in Europe and the UK.  

Here are a few samples of what I’ve been watching and been influenced by:

Cottensmore – A great two-section layout depicting just a locomotive service area.

Christ Nevard’s Model Railways – Some small layouts with high detail.

For a North American inspiration, the layouts that are depicted here, with small scenes, influenced by the “One Turnout Layout” that Lance Mindheim has written about on his own blog and in Model Railroad Hobbyist Magazine are good idea starters.  These layouts are by Alex Bogaski.

Again a North American layout inspiration by John2618 on Youtube:

The focus of all of these layouts beyond size is on operation, with built0-in time for operating the trains.  Many of them include the layouts either sharing space with other hobby requirements like the Cottensmore layout where the workbench is in the same room, or where the layout actually shares some living space with a bookshelf under it like Alex Bogaski shows in the first link.

When I first started sketching out the YV in Proto48, I had planned to include a rendition of Merced Falls.  Looking again at the track maps for this location, the yard is linear, is only three tracks wide at most spots, had room for the logging operation that I’m interested in, would accommodate my compulsive interest in modeling boxcars to service the box factory and dry lumber shipping here, and has some other unique features that make it a great sport to model like the water and oil tanks, and a turntable.  

In looking at everything together, I decided that a linear, sectional, layout fits the needs of my space for storage.  A 2’ deep layout gives me enough room to build quite a lot of the prototype trackage while focusing on the right of way and not so much on the surroundings.  Keeping the plan linear avoids when possible curves that might be tight for prototype standards.  So, I started drawing.

Right away, I knew I’d found the “right” fit.  It feels right.  I can envision this in my head.  Additionally, it’s a standard that I can continue to build with.  I can use the three section, 18’s maximum length, standard to help fit a layout for my wife into our current and future spaces.  If space, time, and desire allow, a second YV location could be modeled this same way.

So, the plan at the top of this post now follows, as closely as possible, the map for Merced Falls.  I drew the West end of town, leaving off the East end where the house track and the trackage in front of the lumber company would come back to the mainline.  I may build those later.  This, however, feels right.  It’s achievable.  It’s buildable, and livable and really is the right choice.

You’ll notice that I’ve moved some of the recent posts about El Portal to the “archive” in the next few days as I direct my attention and modeling energy and time to Merced Falls.

I had started to think I was suffering from “analysis paralysis”.  Turns out I was suffering from location, space, and interest paralysis.  Similar concepts.  Now I have a vision, and an achievable vision.  It’s time to build.


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