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Modeling by the Prototype, or How Fate Progressed a Layout.

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Greetings fellow Train Buffs, Railroad Lovers and Foamers! Well it sure has been a while since your author has sat down and committed himself to the keyboard and keep my loyal followers (all two of you) as to the goings on in my world. It goes without saying, it has been busy since my last update. Since Galesburg, I have visited home once again, had Angela, Shelby and Jared spend their vacation with me in Jersey as well as my home state of New Hampshire, been to a North East Prototype Meet, worked on some N scale locomotives and freight cars for customers, worked on something that hopefully you will see soon, working on Jess the Railfan Jeep, Holidays and yes my layout.

Yes stuck in the middle of those months of activity, I have been hard at work getting research done on my N scale layout. As many of the fine readers out there remember, (again, both of you.), the 6X3 foot layout has been languishing on for many years. Originally constructed in 1998, then getting better bench work in 2005, code 55 track and a new track plan in 2006 and sitting in a state of no where since 2007. The layout did participate in last years Layout Party, however the track I did is not up to standards, but I'm getting ahead of myself.

How many times have you looked at something and thought, "Boy that looks familiar." Such is the case for today's entry. Back in August while waiting for the arrival of Angela and the kids, I was busy getting the rails cleaned and was running trains. This was the first time trains had run on the layout since I lived in Winnebago IL back in 2006. As a Burlington Northern GP38 speed past with its train of midwestern covered hoppers, I realized two things. 1. The original plan to use a Concrete plant on the far end of the layout was far too big to model in this space and 2. If I took out the two track spur, the track layout looked strangely familiar. But from where? A quick answer came in the form of my trusty Mac iBook G4, and sorting through pictures I had taken and displayed here, realized that this side of my layout (albeit with some changes) looked a lot like Potter Place NH. Obviously I did not set out to work on the layout at this point, Angela and the kids were mere hours away. The seed however was planted.

If I were to be asked why I have allowed a layout to look like a barren pink wasteland for so long, the answer might surprise you. For me, it is much easier to model from the prototype rather than modeling on pure fiction. Oh don't get me wrong, I have had at least two layouts I built, one of the hollow core door and one of a ceiling tile type that both featured landscape, buildings and yes, even ballast! The hollow core door layout was based on an Atlas track plan and used code 80 snap track. I built it in college and looked good until rain from a bad storm cause the roof to leak on said layout. The 2X4 layout I built was a mix of code 80 flex and snap track. It had all the scenery and buildings and was loosely modeled after a town in south eastern NH and had Maine Central locomotives switching about the two industries. That layout was built in NH and never survived my move to Champaign IL in 1998. From then on, I knew I wanted a B&M layout since I had grown up beside the Northern line of the B&M. And while the B&M purist will glare at me for my era, I really enjoyed seeing the B&M rise out of bankruptcy in the 1970's. There was no lack of color schemes either. Original GP9 bluebirds, blue dip F7's and "new" GP38-2's all ran by my house. The arrival of modern power and a newer fresh color scheme came by the way of GP40-2's and eventually rebuilt GP7, 9 and 18's. Modeling 1975 - 1984 will never be boring for me. So what does all of this have to do with my layout? As they said in the Matrix lets go down that rabbit hole.

The town of Potter Place is small, read postage stamp small. In fact, I have since learned I can successfully model the center point of town easily without any selective compression. All roads, buildings and track can be modeled without making anything smaller than scale. Something we model railroaders are not use to. I won't get into the history of the town yet, but trust me, it is a story that involves a highly successful African American Entertainer during the early 1800's. The name of the town is named after this very man.

Here we are, standing on what is and will be the center of a 6 foot by 3 foot N scale layout. We are standing in the middle of Cilleyville Road. Yes, that is the name and no, we are safe from cars, trucks and Jeeps. Looking ahead about 30 feet is the grade to the B&M Northern line. Looks rather simple huh? A but the devil is in the details. We have an intersection, the old route 4A now called surprisingly enough, Depot street and a view block provided by the Master Modeler Himself. A small hill, about 4 inches in N scale, hides the new Route 4A that by passes our little town as well as parts of the next town, Andover. Mixed in we see a stop sign, utility pole, a dirt road and many, many, many trees. This is New Hampshire after all. One could stay busy modeling this simple picture for weeks. Now lets look both ways of the focus of today's journey, the main line.

Here, we have walked up 30 feet to stand in the now dormant main line. Turning left and facing north we see the passenger station built originally by the Northern Railroad in 1847. This station is the oldest in Merrimack county and one of the oldest in the state. The station has just received a new paint job and is in the colors of the B&M when it still had passenger service to Boston and White River Junction. Here we have a lot that needs to be modeled. The focus of coarse is the station, which is unique and on further research will be either kit bashed from a laser cut kit or more likely, scratch built from wood and styrene. Here is a plug for our Historical Societies. The B&M HS has in its library all the blue prints of most of its line side structures. This can be the basis for a build such as this. We also see a platform made of asphalt and subtle things such as the gravel parking lot. The "edge" of the layout is just to the left where the bike path is now. That family grave yard? Well the founder of the town is buried there, the remains of his barn is also there, right next to the picnic tables. Not seen is the poles that made up grade crossing signals, a B&M phone and another post I'm still researching. The Caboose on the main is for display and will not be modeled on the working layout. If we were to go back in time and ride one of those cool Budd cars, we would go up to White River Junction Vermont and see some cool Alco's from Central Vermont, CN and Rutland railroads. Again, there is enough scenic information here to keep a modeler busy for a long time.

Turning right and south we see the humble freight station, also in B&M colors. Look carefully, you'll notice a slight bend in the main line as well as the siding off to the left. The main line featured another switch and actually aligned itself with the present day bike path. The first siding goes along a ways before terminating near a bridge. We essentially have a siding within a siding. Why? Because the freight house was used like a team track is used today, except much busier. The main focus was for the nearby lumbar yard but other supplies came by rail as well such as implements, food, tools even a piano or two. Whatever one could find in the Sears and Roebuck catalog, one could order and it would eventually end up here. Consider this the first of "On Line" ordering! Mail was dropped off at the passenger station behind us and sent across the street to the general store. By 1976, this building was not used much, if at all. At that time it was owned by Johnson Lumbar. Whether or not they received items by rail at this time is subject to more research, however at the risk of "modelers license" it will receive a flat car or box car once a day. Again, we have a lot to model in this scene. We see track, the building which again will be scratch built after taking measurements, old Route 4A, a large house which was a restaurant in 1976, and more landscaping. One thing I want to point out here, My father and I spent the whole afternoon being surveyors and measured every switch stand and distance between road to every land mark for further modeling reference.

In this picture we have walked the distance to what the equivalent of an Atlas Code 55 #7 turnout in N scale would be. The freight house was painstakingly measured and is currently being plotted in N scale in Adobe Illustrator. Maybe the topic of a future article?

This is just the tip of the ice burg here, and maybe just a preview to whet the appetite of the historian, railroad modeler, or reader. My goal, is to start documenting the progression of the layout and use the pictures and measurements to further enhance said layout. I also want to use it as a statement, that layouts do not have to be complex to look interesting. We have a town with two main roads, two railroad buildings, a general store, two houses and a restaurant. Details from the new 1975 Chevy to the simple B&M line side phone will keep the viewer busy for more than a passing glance. Like the real life prototype, I hope the foot hills of New Hampshire's landscape will somewhat dwarf the structures and trains. This little slice of rural New Hampshire will be an exercise in everything from layout planning to prototype operations and everything in between. I hope you visit often.

Well thats it for now, the constant dull roar coming from my elderly deaf neighbors is making it hard for me to write as the quiet morning is turning into the busy afternoon. Updates will happen as I get the time, however with the move coming shortly, I'll have to get a lot of layout time done now as I will be without a work shop from March until July in 2012.

Until we meet again, my your Cameras have plenty of memory space, your track be clean, and most of all,

​High Greens!

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Updated January 8th, 2012 at 01:01 PM by Jim Wiggin

N Scale


  1. nscalerone's Avatar
    This looks like a GREAT place to model...........AND, a little town I wouldn't mind living in. lol
    (I grew up in a small town on the Nebraska prairie, and I miss it so.)
  2. Jim Wiggin's Avatar
    Thanks Jim, This is just down the road from where I grew up. Small towns are so much better than cities!
  3. Gats's Avatar
    But some bugger is stealing your bike!
  4. Jim Wiggin's Avatar
    Nah lol, Jess was holding it for me in that first picture. Since the Northern Line is a bike path, I got a lot of biking done. A retired gentleman has painstakingly painted all the concrete mile post markers on the former ROW.


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