I asked a few months ago if any of you ever had the urge still to build a 4x8 layout. I got a few people that said yes and many more that talked about other alternatives, but how many of you get the urge to build a 4x6? a glorified under tree layout?
My favorite Kalmbach model train book growing up was small railroads you can build (1978 ed, not the dumb newer version). This book had 2 layouts that absolutely captured my imagination growing up. The dogbone outlined in the section "from trainset to model railroad" was the basis of my first nscale layout and I will probably use it again, modified for wider curves, but the first article in the book is one that I always loved, The Yule central. This is a drawing I found which is not quite right, but close enough.
It has an Arizona/New Mexico theme with tall rock outcroppings along the center divide and edges with really impressive painting and carving and it was the first layout I've ever heard of using extruded styrofoam insulation. For a kid sitting in a Chicago suburb, it absolutely captured my imagination.
Today, 25+ years later, I am at a crossroads. I live in an apartment and so don't have space for the layout in my head, I don't want to go back to n-scale, I am a member of a club, so I have the space to run my big power and long trains, but still, I want something at home to work on.
One reason to have something at home to work on is that I'm in the process of converting my engines to DCC and it would be nice to have something to test them on without bringing them to the club.
Originally, I had planned to just make a small 1x4 module. And I may still do that. Something with just a little switching and enough mainline to run an engine back and forth, but I have the itch to have roundy round.
And so I return to the Yule Central. It has advantages, it is light weight and using newer techniques could be more so and so could be set up and taken down with ease. The layout offers an industry, a few in town tracks and also has an interchange track designed to work with an addon module. Perhaps that addon is the 1x4 switching module I mentioned.
The downsides are:
Even a 4x6 takes up a lot of space when operating
18" radius curves throughout mean that while I could certainly test and break in my 4 axle equipment, I could not break in my 6 axle equipment and my modern rollingstock would not help
1 industry, 2 shippers and an interchange is some switching but not much. Probably enough for me though, especially if I add in the module.
Some other things I have considered.
1: The original layout recommended trains based on the old Atlas Roco GP40, the Athearn SW1500 and the Athearn F7 and an AHM 0-6-0.
Obviously, I plan to use this layout to test my existing stock, so it doesn't matter, but if I were to go with some realistic power, I have the Athearn SW1500 already (and some F7s, though I think those are only good for a tourist train which is what they're used for in the article.) but Bachmann has those wonderful GE 70tonners and 44tonners and there are good models of GP7/9s out now and CF7s which would look at home on this layout.
2: While I love the desert southwest scenery, I love Pacific coast/Sierra/Cascades mountain railroading even more. I think with some careful planning this track plan could represent a shortline supporting a small mountain town and a lumber operation. It would justify the tight radius
3: While I'm a modern modeler, I do have a bunch of old Transition era equipment that I never got rid of. This would be a good opportunity to run it.
4: By replacing the Atlas snap switches with Peco switches with their excellent locking mechanism, I could gain small amounts of realestate on the plan and have it look better too.
5: Along those lines, I pondered using curved switches to allow for perhaps a bit wider radius? I bet I could goose the average radius up to 20"-21" (obviously using flex instead of snap track.)
6: If I did this my goal would be to start off cheap, I would probably only sink money into the peco switches, I would try to buy used track where I could. Troll the scrap bin at home depot for lumber, etc.
7: I won't be in this apartment forever and someday, possibly as soon as a year from now I'll be in a place with enough space to do SOMETHING bigger. When that happens, I could donate a layout this size to a local organization, or more likely, I could have it auctioned off as a raffle for my club and have the proceeds go to an organization the club supports.
Anyway, that's what I'm currently pondering. I'm not pondering too hard, because I have a 3 month old at home so not so much time.
What brought this on you ask?
Well, I recently bought a new to me, used copy of "Small Railroads you can build (1978)" (God bless powell's books in portland and powells.com) I had lost my old copy years ago and it rekindled my love of this layout and the dogbone design (the name of that one was the Manchester and something and I can't remember the something while I'm here at work without the book). I don't have room for a dogbone, but I do have room for a 4x6. It would be big enough for the loop, but small enough to store in the garage when not in use.