Input appreciated: Proto N scale switching layout

Jim Wiggin Jan 26, 2021

  1. Jim Wiggin

    Jim Wiggin Staff Member TrainBoard Supporter

    After months of research, staring at Sanborn Insurance maps for hours on end, going through my library and now pulling what strands of hair I have left, I figured someone out there may have some insight and help as to picking out a suitable prototype location for me to use as a track plan for my N scale shadowbox. I guess the Galesburg City Job spoiled me. It was a good prototype that allowed two railroads to switch out cars of different varieties in a scale modeled location. While the Galesburg City Job has certainly been shelved due to personal reasons and to some extent, COVID-19, it is certainly not dead and will be back but further down the road when I have moved back to my native home.

    Onto the design parameters:
    The overall foot print or layout table size is 6 feet, 3 inches, by 14 inches deep. It is basically two T-Trak 3 foot modules stuck together. N Scale.

    Layout Desires:
    • Location: New England area, primarily New Hampshire but will consider Vermont or Maine.
    • Era: Mid 1960's to 1970's, maybe even consider 1980's.
    • Roads: B&M is my favorite, however I also wouldn't mind Maine Central, Vermont Rail or CP, CV, NEC or my home grown favorite, New England Southern, recently acquired by VTR.

    With the layout size, coupled with the era and region, this section will likely service one medium to large industry. I envision a main line with a siding to turn the train around with one spur servicing an industry with two or more spots and one spur that will service a team track.

    I have an identical shadowbox on the other side of the room that connects to this shadow box with a bridge. The other shadowbox is a small yard that has access to the larger outside world. The line that services the other shadowbox is simply the end of a branch line, think Milford Branch of the current Pan Am in southern New Hampshire, or just an industrial lead.

    Again, the GCJ spoiled me and I rather model prototype versus freelance. Prototype is so much easier for me. Also like the GSJ, scale length of track within a foot or two is desired. Industries I've looked at are:
    • Paper mill: Too big and not enough variety of cars
    • Woodchips: Smaller but not enough variety of cars
    • Lumber Mill: Possible but a prototype location has not been found
    • Bakery: This would be ideal, but I have not found anything in New England
    • Grocery Dist: Same as above with the bakery.
    • Fuel oil or propane dealer: The Milford Branch in NH is close but I can't verify if it was in service or there during the B&M era. Was used during the Guilford era but has since receiving rail service.
    Why a shadowbox? I built this as not only a home layout, but one I can take to shows when we open up again. Lessons learned while setting up and taking down the GCJ were applied here and will allow me to set up and take down in a minimum amount of time by myself and will present well. Worst case scenario, I can easily bring the basic layout and still set it up on a table and transport it easily in my Jeep Wrangler or Ford Mustang ;-).

    So there is the challenge, lets see if anyone out there happens to have suggestions or lives by an old industry once served by the B&M years ago and I missed it. Thanks in advance guys!
    BNSF FAN likes this.
  2. Hardcoaler

    Hardcoaler TrainBoard Member

    Yes, the size of a paper mill would likely be cause for omission on the layout. Depending on what's being made, paper mills receive pulpwood, wood chips, sulfuric acid, caustic soda, coal (for steam and power) and bleaching agents like chlorine or titanium dioxide and starch. On the outbound side, you'd have loaded boxcars of course, and more tanks loaded with turpentine and black liquor (if your mill had no recovery boiler). That'd bring six distinct types of freight cars to bear - pulpwood rack, chip hopper, coal hopper, tank, boxcar and covered hopper.
    BNSF FAN likes this.
  3. Philip H

    Philip H TrainBoard Member

  4. BigJake

    BigJake TrainBoard Member

    6 feet is under 1000 scale feet... and 14" is under 200 scale feet.

    Will this layout be a T-Trak module set, or was that just for a size reference?

    A small junction with a short-line can provide a large variety of traffic types.

    A small waterfront rail terminal in that era (before containerized freight took over) would also serve a variety of railcar types. The ship/water could be a cassette that you change out, for different ship types and cargoes.
  5. Jim Wiggin

    Jim Wiggin Staff Member TrainBoard Supporter

    Most of the paper mills in NH are smaller then that, say Bennington or Lincoln but even the smallest in NH would be too large for the space allocated. I even found an HO scale published plan that was an entire switching layout just for a paper mill complex. It would have worked in my space translated to N but it looked too busy.

    Yeah I spent a lot of time there between the Sanborn Maps and Google, coupled with all my New England rail line books. Unfortunately, a lot of that was gone by the era I'm wanting to model. Thanks though!

    No T-Trak, scale code 55 track. The "Cassette" is actually a bridge that connects to the small yard. The rail terminal with ship connection would be cool and is something I have entertained. Finding a Maine Central or Canadian Pacific prototype would be perfect. As you noted, the size of this shadowbox in N really dictates a one customer with maybe a team track is the best solution. It's the end of a branch or industrial siding and the trick is being a big enough customer to justify service in the rough atmosphere on 1970's railroading but small enough to fit in the space and make operations interesting.

    I'm appreciating the input guys.
    Hardcoaler likes this.
  6. TigerDude

    TigerDude TrainBoard Member

    How about Atlantic Gelatin in Woburn, Mass, Stoneham branch of B&M? Just an idea.

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