It’s been a while, and if you’ve read anything before this post, you know things change pretty quick with me. I had set out in January a set of goals, and later introduced you to the Northern California Terminal Railway as a project to switch on while working on Yosemite Valley Railroad projects. Right… about that….
Soon after all those early-year posts, ScaleTrains.com announced their SDL39 models. That engine has always been a weak spot for me, with a family history of my father and grandfather working for the Milwaukee Road, and the oddball locomotives being a draw. I once, years ago, had even uttered the thought that if I wound up with a SDL39 I would have to use that and forget everything else.
That’s not happening, but figuring out how to add a SDL39 to a switching layout based in California was something that was kind of a stretch for me. The easier solution was to abandon the first iteration of the NCTR.
At the same time, I hit a crisis of planning and building (again). I’ve been so focused on the later layout plans, for an eventual potential larger space that I have flailed at things. Jumping from idea to idea and hoping something would stick. With the NCTR looking at the end of that practice-line and goals for O scale and HO scale modeling diverging, I realized it was time for a serious rethink of how, where, when, and what I’m doing before I just gave up for lack of progress.
Step 1: Defining the Space
Solving the problems was actually relatively easy. I already know we have a closet that layout sections fit in. Sectional layouts can be moved, set up, operated, and stored. They also can be moved to new locations without worrying about tearing down and building new. One of my biggest fears is that I won’t be able to see what I’m doing to build a layout eventually, so getting the stuff that needs that kind of vision before O looks like HO or N to me is sort of high on my list. I also know that the model railroad baseboards from Europe are fantastic. I love the one the NCTR was on because of the weight and ease of construction. Knowing that sectional benchwork is the base construction solution, I simply got out a tape measure and found the longest run I could fit in the house, even if a bit of furniture needed to be moved out of the way. That length winds up being 22’. I also know that my preference is a layout depth of less than 24”. Storage wise, if I do things right, there is room for 2, maybe 3, layouts in that size range in storage, and if I set up in the garage when the weather is nice here, everything could operate at the same time. Everything, being an HO layout focused on diesels so I can have a SDL39 and some other equipment, and O/P48 so I can model the YV as I’ve been intending to do. With the space defined, here comes the “what fits” question.
Step 2: What Fits
With the space defined, I really started to feel a calm about modeling that has been missing for over a year. There was a space, a known commodity. Filling that space properly was the next task. One of the things I have enjoyed for years is looking at and collecting track plans. Digging into those, I found a plan that nearly fit the HO specs, thought the original was 4’ too long. Knowing I wanted a Wisconsin setting, and a protofreelanced town, I discussed feed mills and fertilizer plants, manufacturing shipping, and because it’s Wisconsin, pulpwood. I decided to order a ScaleTrains SDL39 in Wisconsin Central colors, and we used the plan I had found to create the town of North Cumberland, WI. The plan was then broken into 4’ sections, making sure that turnouts don’t fall right over the top of a joint, and the result is something I’m excited to build and operate.
Getting the new North Cumberland Town Railway (NCTR) sorted, did a couple of things. First, it solved me having to again restencil a locomotive that I’ve been working on. I’ll show you that project soon. It also alleviated some of the pressing “want to include it” drive for the Yosemite Valley.
One of the biggest problems with planning something to be my Yosemite Valley has been getting everything that interests me, and enough spots for operation, into a layout that I can realistically build and maintain. Defining the space, and then sorting out a layout where there will be upwards of 10 cars potentially switching at just one industry, with other spots and work to do, makes it mentally easier to plan for the YV. The space was still a challenge, but I solved that with a decision that I would model “Merced”, including an interchange with the outside world (that can be SP or ATSF) and I would include my favorite industries from the YV, and spots for my favorite kinds of cars, boxcars and reefers primarily, with some use for tanks and an extension to the rest of the YV to allow for a few other cars. It’s modeling license to model the YV industries, but when I drew up the plan, it was buildable, manageable, and now having looked at it and considered the plan for over a month, I have no desire to change it, so it must be the correct plan. That’s usually how I know something is right.
Step 3: Baseboards
To my chagrin, with the track plans ready to go, and excitement about modeling returning, I discovered that the baseboards I had imported from the UK are not currently available to bring to the US. I then set out to find something similar here in the states, and I found two suppliers, CMR Products and Masterpiece Modules both sell pre-cut layout sections sold as T-Trak modules. I ordered some samples. CMR’s product is laser cut, while Masterpiece does theirs with CNC cut. Both products are excellent quality. In short order, I decided to use the Masterpiece Modules product for the HO layout and the CMR product for the O scale. I will tell you there is little difference.
So, both layouts are on tap to have their benchwork finished by the end of April. Home Depot delivered 2” insulation foam for the tops, and I have all the track here for the YV. I’ll have to find the track for the HO layout, but my hope is that I can have both layouts operating to some extent within a couple of months.
Thus ends the saga of planning layouts for now. I’m happy with my plans, I’m building and finishing projects, and I’m looking forward to sharing those with you.