A New HO Layout is being planned - Inspired by Twin Cities & Western

mtaylor Jan 13, 2021

  1. mtaylor

    mtaylor Staff Member TrainBoard Supporter

    After a 8 year hiatus from the hobby which entailed dismantling the old layout that was started and due to life circumstances the selling off of 98% of my collection (I restarted collecting in 2020 with only 4 locos from my former fleet of +300 and 2 railcars from several hundred....oh well, starting fresh is nice too).

    I started piecing an idea together in May 2020 and started purchasing some locos & rolling stock as my wife and I began the house hunt process for our new home in Georgia and before the cross country move from San Diego. I decided that I would split my approach on the hobby starting with a smaller HO switching layout above my desks in a spare bedroom / office. Then, a few years down the road (at least 10 years) would tackle a larger layout in the basement while still keeping the office layout.

    When I was living in Minnesota (where I am from) I wanted to model or incorporate the Twin Cities & Western Class III short line. It is a fascinating little railroad that operates on what was the former mainline of the Pacific expansion of the Milwaukee Road and later the Soo Line until the Soo Line sold the line and the TCW started in 1991.

    I have always modeled either the BN or BNSF Class 1 railroads inspired by the Twin Cities Area. Now that I am a homeowner and rooted in Georgia (about 30 miles west of Atlanta) another railroad that has always caught my eye calls this area home and is moving it's headquarters here in Atlanta, the Norfolk Southern. I decided I wanted the future basement larger layout to be prototypical freelanced on the Norfolk Southern with run throughs of Union Pacific, BNSF, KCS, and of course local traffic as well from CSX. The basement Norfolk Southern Layout as stated is at least 10 years out and will probably be "THE" layout into retirement (still over 20 years away). In the meantime, I have deeded the basement to my son who is now 3 and also has an interest in well whatever dad is interested and is also addicted to trains, cars, motorcycles, and anything that moves, fly's, or roars lol. I am setting a simple layout setup for HO (DC analog with DCC option) 2 track loop setup with room for his slot cars and large scale battery operated train and future redevelopment. I figure in about 12 years I will either revoke the deed or we can work on a layout together.....I am working on brain washing .....um, encouraging him in the hobby lol.

    So, in the meantime, I am focusing on the thousands of other things that comes with purchasing a home and 2 months post cross country move and of course competition with my other hobby of motorcycle camping trips (postponed until at least 2022 right now) and planning out the office layout.

    The office layout plan is freelanced by inspired by the Twin Cities & Western and will include loose representations of Glencoe, Buffalo Lake, Hector, Ruebel and Granite Falls areas of Southern Minnesota.

    Layout is set in 1993 with some modeling license applied for some rolling stock, locos, and automobiles but for the most part will focus on 1993.

    Railroads operating on the layout include:
    1. Twin Cities & Western
    2. Soo Line
    3. Burlington Northern
    4. Chicago Northwestern

    The modeling license applies with operations stolen from 2007 to present where BNSF runs coal trains, Union Pacific runs DDG & grain extras, CP runs ethanol trains. In my version of 1993, BN is running a coal train to Ruebel, Soo Line runs ethanol and grain extras, and CNW runs DDG trains and Grain Extras. BN and SOO also run transfer jobs to Glencoe as demand warrants due to TCW power shortages (which is somewhat real history but interchanges were limited to Hopkins, MN in the Metro area).

    rough plan of operations:

    Twin Cities & Western
    1. Glencoe Turn - Runs from Glencoe to Ruebel working Buffalo Lake & sets out / picks up at Ruebel. Hector is worked on the return trip as a trailing point move.
    2. Ruebel Turn - Runs from Montevideo (Staging) to Ruebel working Granite Falls & Ruebel and returns to Montevideo (Staging)
    3. Hopkins Turn (Twin Cities Staging) - Runs from Glencoe to Twin Cities to interchange with Soo Line, UP in Saint Paul.
    4. Aggregate train from Montevideo to Twin Cities (Run Through From staging back to staging)
    5. North Star Intermodal Train from Montevideo to Twin Cities (Run Through From staging back to staging)

    Burlington Northern
    1. Coal Unit Train Extra from Twin Cities (Staging) to Ruebel to set out loaded train. Power will return to Twin Cities light or with available empties and transfers for BN in Twin Cities.
    2. BN Transfers as needed from Twin Cities to Glencoe and back to Twin Cities.
    3. BN Grain Extras as needed from Twin Cities to Glencoe and / or Granite Falls

    Soo Line
    1. Ethanol Unit Train Extra from Saint Paul (Staging) setting empties in Glencoe & Granite Falls. Power returns to Saint Paul light. TCW assembles loaded ethanol cars and soo line will send light power when ready to finish assembling the train towards Saint Paul (and eventually interchange with CSX in Chicago for Rhode Island).
    2. SOO Grain / DDG Extras as needed from Twin Cities to Glencoe and / or Granite Falls
    2. SOO Transfers as needed from Twin Cities to Glencoe and back to Twin Cities.

    Chicago North Western
    1. DDG Extra from Twin Cities as needed. Power returns light. Loaded cars are hauled by TCW to Twin Cities.
    2. Grain Extra from Twin Cities as needed. Power returns light. Loaded cars are hauled by TCW to Twin Cities.
    3. CNW powered eastbound trains are possible if no TCW locos are available. Though these would most likely be hauled by BN or Soo Line in such cases.

    1. TCW Yard and HQ (much larger than in real life but oh well)
    2. Seneca Foods (Provider of canned vegetables for refer boxcars)

    Buffalo Lake
    1. Large Grain Elevator (ADM on layout) - Covered Hoppers
    2. LPG Gas Dealer - LPG Tank Car
    3. Feed & Mill retailer - Misc. products - Boxcar & Flats

    1. Small Grain Elevator - Covered Hoppers
    2. Farm Supply Dealer - Misc. Machinery via flat cars & boxcars

    1. Southern Minnesota Sugar Beet Plant (Coal, Sugar, Limestone) Boxcars, Covered Hoppers, aggerate and slurry cars, Syrup Cars.

    Granite Falls
    1. Granite Falls Energy (Ethanol Plant) - Covered Hoppers (Grain & DDG), Ethanol Tank Cars.

    Montevideo (Staging) (Trains essentially are run through on layout from staging back to staging)
    1, Aggregate train originates in Montevideo delivers rock from L.G. Everest Inc Quarry in Ortonville, MN to Twin Cities Staging.
    2. North Star Intermodal in Montevideo (Staging) hauls cattle feed, grain, and DDG in containers on flatcars to Twin Cities staging.
    3. The grain shuttle originates in Twin Cities staging and also uses containers on flatcars to Montevideo and west.

    Operations Note: Not all trains will operate on every op session, the layout is not big enough for all of that. The TCW turns are the only pretty consistent scheduled runs. Everything else from the Class One's are extras as needed (will work that out later maybe with ShipIt).

    So, that is a whole lot of reading.....I apologize. I go quiet for years and it just flows out lol.

    There are still many competing priorities between our home, our son, and our other hobbies and interests not to mention required minor remolding of the office and figuring out the desk / benchwork solution. I am hoping to have trains rolling in 2023 at the latest, sooner would be better but competing time and $$ may prohibit that lol.

    Staging will be under the layout on a shelf planning on 8" beneath the actual layout and mostly only about 10" wide. For my planned operations, this is enough. The slightly less than 4% grade ramp to staging needs to be tested in a mock up though.

    Here is the LAYOUT!

    Primary Level, Staging Level, and desk area beneath layout.
    Office - TCW Layout - Main Level.jpg

    Office - TCW Layout - Staging.jpg

    Office - TCW Layout - Desk Layer beneath layout.jpg
    Last edited: Jan 13, 2021
    okane and gmorider like this.
  2. mtaylor

    mtaylor Staff Member TrainBoard Supporter

    Office - TCW Layout - Main Level.jpg Office - TCW Layout - Staging.jpg Office - TCW Layout - Desk Layer beneath layout.jpg Will try uploading thumbnails too so can be expanded (I think)
  3. BigJake

    BigJake TrainBoard Member

    Good looking plan.

    However, you need to check with local code enforcement and/or your insurance provider, regarding emergency egress via the window, and maintaining adequate access to it.
  4. mtaylor

    mtaylor Staff Member TrainBoard Supporter

    Good Point, It is on the second story of the house where the back yard drops away from the house....it is at least 20 feet down. If I need to bail out through the window, there would be serious problems anyways lol. Also, I will still be able to open the window and crawl through it as the height of the layout will be about 63" from the floor with staging at about 55". However, I am still fiddling with the planned height of the layout. I have to make sure that I provide enough space under the layout for my desk & computer systems (I am an IT nerd and work allot from home).
  5. RailMix

    RailMix TrainBoard Member

    Only thing I can see is that the liftout might be somewhat of a pain when operating between Clencoe and Granite Falls. Otherwise looks good
    mtaylor likes this.
  6. BigJake

    BigJake TrainBoard Member


    I apologize; I mistakenly thought this layout was going to be in a basement.

    If your main level is at 5'3", the reach, especially into the back of Granite Falls, but also into Seneca, will be very difficult with any dexterity. I would try to keep maximum reach to 24" if possible. I would trim the front edge of the layout at Glencoe. In fact, that could give you more room for a wider (longer) duck-under, and widen that long, narrow aisle in front of Glencoe.

    I am also a little concerned about reaching and seeing the staging, back that far, and just underneath Granite Falls. I would bring it out from the wall, so it falls just under the leading edge of the Granite Falls area, or lower it some, or both. Consider picking up a loco or rail car on a rear track, (or putting it on the rear track,) over a train on the near track, with only 8" of headroom

    I would mock up some boards at the front edge of the main level, at the desired height, and try reaching over them to where the rearmost track would be (and beyond: funny how the trains seem to derail away from you at the back of the layout.) And don't forget about building the scenery, and periodic cleaning and maintenance on the layout when considering reachability.
    mtaylor likes this.
  7. BigJake

    BigJake TrainBoard Member

    One other thing: If you will ever be operating this layout with others, passing each other in the right hand aisle will be difficult. Consider two grown men trying to pass each other in a 30" doorway... I would trim the fronts of the main level in front of Buffalo Lake, and on either side of Hector.

    Reducing the depth of the desk under Ruebel by 6" or so would help too.
  8. ecmdrw5

    ecmdrw5 New Member

    Something to think about. There is no way to reverse from going counterclockwise to clockwise besides uncoupling.

    Also put some crossovers on the upper level so when the train goes up it doesn’t have to reverse down.

    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk

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