Now that I'm back, I had a chance to review my layout design from an operation standpoint. I created a spreadsheet for the arrival and departure times for each station according to published schedules. Issues with current layout design: I thought it was really neat to have developed the design for the trains pass hidden from Chicago North to Ogilvie. However, I think I approached it as more of a "could I" challenge instead of a "should I." After being gone for over a year, I have concluded that the idea is wreckless. Here are the problems I see: - Trains arriving at CHN will only have 2 options to drop below grade and turn around or pass through. One of those options has a train arriving beneath a building, which would be difficult to see, although real-world accurate. That would leave just one option. All of the other arriving rail traffic would have to move up a 3% curved grade... backwards, since the Metra trains mostly arrive that way. I can see lots of derailing happening, no matter how perfect I make the track. - Metra trains that arrive at CHN for use at Ogilvie will actually depart Ogilvie backwards which is wrong. The only fix would be to have Metra trains arrive at CHN forwards, which is also wrong. - Due to the transition occupying a large portion of the Ogilvie Transportation Center, Metra trains that normally operate on that level will have few arrivial options at the station, or will have to be very short (5 cars). Both of these situations are unacceptable because they will limit the fun I plan on having. - Additionally, the storage at Ogilvie is a disaster, and while it all would work (no small feat in calculating all of the clearances) storage would be limited. - Actually building the transition will be very complicated, with the reward being the above mishaps. - My Empire Builder, the train that started this whole project, is the longest train in my fleet. It will be seen only twice a day which means it needs a storage place that will have minimal impact on operations at that level of the layout. I will also need to have a staging area for its departure. The Empire Builder has a specific track for its arrival and departure. - The Hiawatha will be seen 14 times a day and runs point-to-point, so it doesn't need to turn around like the Empire Builder does. Those times are pretty spread out though, and I can't have it blocking Metra operations during its downtime and storing it plus the Empire Builder is going to cause problems. The Hiawatha uses the same arrival and departure track as the Empire Builder. - Chicago Union Station North (CHN) has 157 train "actions" during a regular weekday. - Ogilvie Transportation Center (OTC) has 193. (I have a question on this below) Proposed design changes: Fortunately, I haven't built so much that I can make major design changes without throwing everything in the trash. So here's what I have in mind, and I think it's GREAT: - Remove CHN to OTC transition. (see reasons above) - Make all CHN arrival tracks drop below grade, with all but one capable of making a complete circuit. That one track will be able to store a Metra double-header with 9 cars completely out of sight. - Designate storage and staging areas for the Empire Builder. - Engineer a dedicated storage area for the Hiawatha. - Change OTC tracks to continue straight to the end, taking advantage of the removed transition zone. This will result in storage for two 8-car trains, seven 7-car, one 6-car and six 5-car trains - leaps and bounds over what it would be at the current design. - Develop ideas for add-on modules to lengthen the OTC station and the north and west departure tracks to allow storage for heavy rail traffic (See question below) - Analyze how the design changes will affect operations. This redesign could also allow for 2 railroaders to work the layout simultaneously, one handling OTC and one handling CHN which should be challenging and fun! Question: OTC has 16 tracks. At it's peak traffic time, it has received double the amount of trains it has capacity for. This includes any trains that departed during that time. Where do the trains go? By my calculations, they would have to deadhead 39 trains throughout the day (total of empty arrivals and departures)! This number can not be changed due to a 16 platform limitation. The platforms aren't long enough to hold 2 trains each as far as I can tell. Do you think they really do that? I can't figure out any other way to handle it. My solution will be to build an add-on module that has storage for 6 trains serving the UP-West route, and 10 trains serving the UP North and Northwest routes. Splitting them in that fashion increases the deadheading to 41 trains. If I go 4 and 12, it drops to 40 and I can store the 4 trains on the back of the layout as is, but it wouldn't be too attractive. If the deadhead situation is correct, then I will have to find out if there is just 1 common area they all go so maybe I only need to extend one departure area. I will need to check the arrival schedules though to make sure I can have the right trains showing up in the right places.