I've recently re-entered the hobby, thanks to my wife who decided we needed a better train under the Christmas tree. After 40 years or so the hobby has moved on quite a bit. My (our, I guess...) long-term goal is to build a large layout in a couple of years once we move post-retirement. For now, along with the Christmas tree setup, I have been building an N-Scale bookshelf switching layout as a way to learn about the state of the hobby today. It is based upon the Plymouth Cordage Park, the leftovers of the incredibly-busy-until-it-went-out-of-business Plymouth Cordage Company. At one time this rope-making giant had the world's longest ropewalk - at 1200 feet it was the determining factor in the longest length of un-spliced rope it could make. My grandfather worked there from his 16th birthday until it closed in the, I think, late 60's or early 70's. The company historical society has a photo of the rails during WWII, with dual-track main plus long sidings on both sides of it serving warehouses. Every track is full of rolling stock and motive power. They had their own narrow-gauge line to deliver coal to the power house and stock from the docks to the warehouses and to the mills, using compressed-air engines. I grew up in a factory house, went to the factory library, had a paper route all around it and rode my bike through it after it closed. In the late 70's I think some buildings were re-habbed into a mall of sorts, and office space. Later life brought a Wal-Mart, then commuter rail, a marina where cargo ships used to dock. These days a lot of the old mill buildings are gone but what remains is a fairly busy place. In the mid-1980's there were a few industries there that are attractive to model. In MY version of the universe, they use rail a lot more than the real life version. Boston Insulated Wire and Cable made specialized cable assemblies, including 1000-foot plus hydrophone cables for the US Navy. There was Cantoni Coal and Oil, though by then they just delivered oil. They had one of those old coal loading buildings, though. Finally there was L. Knife and Sons, the local Budweiser distributor. The neighborhood was, at the time, heavily Italian and the company was owned by Mr. Louis Cortelli. Cortelli being Italian for knife, therefore the Anglicized name. So, enough to keep a bookshelf switching layout busy. Enough to let me experiment, learn and play. So far I have built a wooden frame and XPF base, wired it for DCC and laid my track. It's mostly Peco Code 80 #4 turnouts and flex track, with a few bits of Atlas flextrack where I ran out of Peco. about 3 feet at a time is all soldered together, and there are 8 feeders on this 12x36 inch layout. The DVM shows good continuity all over. I've begun scenicking...quite an adventure. My ballasting started off looking pretty poor, then got a bit better. Ground cover has begun, barely. I have so far managed to spill a large gob of Elmers right on top of a turnout and have spent some of my spare time digging out the dried residue from the frog and the points... I have been VERY careful on track layout - it is all smooth, and kept very clean. The top of the rails are spotless. The inside was scraped clean by toothpick after ballasting. The engine is an Atlas Gold SD-35, and I have double-checked to be sure both wheelsets are getting power - I can lift the front or rear off the rails and the other wheelset still spins. I also just ordered a used DCC Atlas U25B as well. A question for the knowledge of the group - My SD-35 stalls too much, even with what looks to me like clean rails. It will stall on a section of flex track that has power leads, though not in the same places each time. That tells me the issue is in the engine, though it is almost new. I ran it over some alcohol-soaked paper towel and no grime came off, but I am wondering about little bits of glue or whatever getting it there. How much internal cleaning is needed? These things are a LOT smaller than the old HO scale I had. Any other suggestions? That is all for now. I'll post some pictures here as things develop. Right now there are some card placeholders and cars on the layout as I decide what should go where.