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Something Old, Something New, Something Borrowed, Something Blue.

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Something Old, Something New, Something Borrowed, Something Blue.

Boston & Maine #1715, a GP9 from the 1957 order, sits on the branch while it's crew "goes to beans."

Greetings fellow rail junkies! It feels good to be active again on TrainBoard and catching up with all that I have missed out. Even though I have been unemployed since late September, I have been busy none the less! The last few weeks we have had a Layout Party going on and nothing motivates us to move forward on something like accountability. If you have seen the thread, you may have seen my posts on the Conn Valley. I have also posted updates in the B&M forum. Today I thought I would give you a run down of this small branchline operation.

Something Old:
The original layout from an Armstrong Atlas plan, was plagued with problems.

Back in 1998 while getting my start in the hobby industry, I saw that Woodland Scenics had come out with a complete N scale layout in a box. At the time, both my new wife and I were living in an apartment and the small 6' by 3' layout would be the perfect size to get the trains running. I had already painted up a few B&M locomotives in N scale and short of a few small shelf layouts and 2X4 layout, I had never really progressed past the "Arm Chair Modeler." I purchased the set in the Spring of 1999 and eagerly started construction. Within a week, the basic foam structure was built and covered with plaster. Rather than use the simple track plan that came with the layout, I set out to replicate the "Scenic and Relaxed" by John Armstong and featured in an Atlas N scale track book. The layout was simply placed on a hollow core door for benchwork and work progressed right up until track work. I then accepted a Job in Rockford and all work on the layout stopped. From 1999 until 2004, the layout sat dormant in my finished basement. On New Years Day in 2004, I started laying track again, code 80 Atlas flex and had the entire layout finished (track wise) by the end of the weekend. The first run was anything but fun. Derailments, tight turns, steep grades and more made the fun factor a -10. The layout sat unused until 2006.

Something New:
New benchwork and a new foundation were key to future success

In 2006, I learned of the Atlas code 55 line of track. I really liked the prototypical look of the track and how easy it was to purchase at most hobby shops. I experimented, first in the yard area of the unused layout, then decided to rip all the code 80 and start with a new plan. It was also around this time I received a new table saw and knew the simple box with furniture legs would not cut it. The first thing I did, was improve the benchwork by building up a box from 1X4 lumber and building up legs out of the same material. I installed fascia to follow the contours of the foam layout, then started track work. By now the foam of the original layout was in rough shape, the curves were way too tight to be realistic and the grades were too steep. After about two days of posting here on TrainBoard and getting solid advice, I took out the old Woodland Scenics foam and took it to the trash. Next I put down a 1/8" piece of ply on my benchwork and to that I added a 3" think foundation of pink foam as seen above. I think one of the most inspiring things to a true Model Railroader is a blank layout. Like an artist looks at a clean sheet of paper, so do we look at our new layout. We imagine where the bridges will be, the town, trains picking up and dropping of freight cars. Ah, Zen modeling at it's best! Now the search was on for a track plan.

Something Borrowed:
A simple track plan would allow a nice relaxed approach to branchline operations.

A quick review through my library found the above track plan, originally designed for an H.O. 4X8 layout. I used my N scale template tools and drew the plan the old fashioned way with a #2 pencil and found I could use a minimum 16" radius and maintain a scale look. I modified the plan to better fit my plans of a small New Hampshire town and included just enough switching to be interesting while staying away from an overly complicated plan. The results allowed me to draw out the plan on the layout, use a template to make a nice centerline for the main, branch, all the curves and the industrial tracks. This time I took my time and care laying down the track work. Once the centerline was down, I laid down the foam roadbed with glue, then allowed it to dry. The next day I started by soldering my flex track and started with my curves. I used the curve template tool to give the curves a nice uniform look that won't derail cars. The solder joints also allowed the curves to flow in a uniform nature without causing the rails to go out of gauge. All my solder joints have feeder wires as this layout will be DCC. With curves done, the main and branch straights and turnouts were added, then all the industry spurs. It only took me two days to get all of the track work done. I tested sections at a time with a locomotive so that any problems could be addressed now and not when everything was done. Finally at 10:00PM, Christmas Eve, 2006, the first locomotive made a complete trip around the layout. This time, everything was good, smooth and no derailments. In fact, my former brother in law brought his trains that night and we ran trains well into Christmas morning.

Something Blue:

After sitting for three years, the Conn Valley Branch is getting upgrades.

I think Jean Sheperd said it best in his movie "A Christmas Story." Sometimes, at the height of our revelries, when our joy is at it's zenith, when all is most right with the world, the most unthinkable disasters decend upon us. So true was this night. I had lost my job in Rockford and was preparing to move to central Illinois for a new job so the B&M would have to wait. Hang on for the cliff notes. I moved into a new house, new job had me busy, got a divorce, went through bankruptcy, dated a few women, moved into an apartment, and finally lost said job that I moved for. So four years later after a series of life humps and bumps, I find my way back to TrainBoard and all that is familiar to me. I saw ppuinn's layout party and figured, "Why not?" So now, work has started again with a clear list of "goals" to finish in the next few weeks. Rather than go into detail here, go to the 3rd Annual International Layout Party and read about the changes as well as some other very talented modelers layouts.

So what do I wish to show with this layout? The layout when completed will depict a small New Hampshire town set in 1977 to 1983. The main line runs through town and is part of the Northern line that goes through Concord, Boscawen, etc. Off the main is a junction with the Maine Central which has trackage rights and also the small branchline that serves a large concrete plant on the north end of town. The branch also serves a few smaller industries on the south end of town. The town itself sits on a ridge, with NH route 3 crossing over the main and branch, going through town and then going over the branch. The only grade crossing is at the south end of town where the industries are. On a typical day, a set of B&M GP38-2's or GP40-2's set out a string of cars before continuing north. The local engine is a B&M GP9 and it takes the better part of a day to not only switch the local industries but to also work at the Concrete plant. Sometimes an old B&M SW switcher does the job of switching loads and empties, sometimes the local crew does it. Once the done, the local drops the empties on the siding and the southbound picks up the empties and drops off any loads it may have before heading back to Concord. About twice a week, a Maine Central Geep picks up and drops off lumber and supplies to Steinbeck and Sons lumber. The layout is an oval but I have designed the one end of the branch to look like a spur with a section of the branch hidden with a rock cut, hill and trees. When it comes time for operations, the layout is run as a point to point.

Hopefully I will land a job here soon and work can continue without another three year hiatus. Until then, I will keep plugging along and update as I go. Follow along our thread on the layout party, better yet, why not join us? We all would love to see what you can do. There is NO excuse for not building a layout of some type. Many of us live in apartments and have had a lot of fun with shelf layouts in N and H.O. T-Trak is another way to have a lot of fun in an area just about 18"! You'll learn a lot and you will have something to show at the end of the day.

Until next time,
High Greens!

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  1. Stourbridge Lion's Avatar
    :D Look forward to reading more :D


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