Tuesday, April 28, 2015

"Finally!... The final track plan."

As a first-time layout builder I may have been a bit naïve in my expectations for the extent of the Old Main Line that I could model. After substantial research, I originally anticipated depicting the 90 miles between Baltimore, MD and Harper's Ferry, WV until an experienced modeler confided that I may want to consider Z scale, or else move my family to a warehouse. Several iterations later, I had reluctantly reduced my vision down to an 18 mile stretch between Ilchester and Sykesville, or for non-math majors, just 20% of my original intent.

My hand-drafted track plan is drawn @ 1"=1' and is pictured below. Minimum radius is 30". I plan to use Micro Engineering code 83 flex track and #6 turnouts with Midwest Products cork roadbed. Apologies for the difficulty some may have reading the full plan due to a lack of contrast. But the additional close ups of the key Layout Design Elements are more easily understood.

The track plan adheres to the 1959 valuation map exactly and includes all iconic scenes and key operational aspects for the chosen Layout Design Elements within this stretch of the Old Main Line. Room size is 15' x 21'.

The iconic tunnel/bridge/depot scene is replicated at Ilchester as trains enter the layout from staging. The two spurs are a team track and coal trestle for the Bartgis Bros. paper mill on the other side of the river depicted just west of here. The deck depth here is 20".

The eastern end of Ellicott City includes the set-out yard  and spur over the trestle to the flour mill. A team track for downtown businesses is next to the freight house. The iconic depot is next to the much-photographed overpass. Deck depth here is 28".

The west end of Ellicott City includes the Talbott Coal & Lumber dealer across from the famous hotel. Oella's LDEs are compressed into Ellicott City to create critical mass here and to gain separation elsewhere. In actuality, Oella is less than a mile up the river.

Oella's company houses and textile mill are prototypically depicted on the wrong side of the river with access via a pitched girder bridge. Included is a trailing turnout whose historical existence has been hotly debated.

The textile mill complex at Daniels gains separation from the Dickey mill via a long approach spur hugging the side of the river and past company houses before reaching the river again which surrounds the complex.

The farm community of Sykesville is reached from Daniels after the Davis siding at the end of the peninsula and serves such industries as the Maryland Milling Supply, Farm & Home Supply and Standard Oil before exiting the layout into staging via the Sykesville tunnel. Depth is 20".

While the layout's track configuration is spot-on and the iconic LDEs are pretty accurately depicted, the separation has left me dissatisfied and pretty bummed. Still too much prototype? C'mon!
The goal is to have a mix of switching activities, plus some lazy enjoyment watching through-trains traverse the scenes, while also complicating the switching chores. Local freights would be between 6-12 cars, while through trains would be 16-18 cars.
What to do? I'll follow up with some considered changes and some actual ones in the coming weeks ahead. But I'm also open to some dialog, so don't be shy in the comments section. See you next with a bit of a Public Service Announcement.  

A little help! If the proposed final track plan does not provide adequate separation between LDE's, the best possible solution is:
A) Eliminate one or two researched, studied and beloved LDE's.
B) Expand the single deck layout into adjacent  living spaces.
C) Convert the single deck layout into a multi-deck layout.
D) You're screwed my friend. Change to N scale.


  1. Two questions - what will be the typical train length, and how much do you want to see trains running the main vs. switching the towns? I think how honestly you can answer those questions will determine if you have too many towns/LDEs. If trains are so long that they 'overhang' the town by a significant enough margin to be in the neighboring LDE, then maybe there are too many towns unless you can truly focus on that town and mentally exclude the overlap. That leads to the second question - if the focus is more on servicing the towns then the distance between matters less. If you just want to watch 'em roll or enjoy purely scenic elements more than switching, (or need to include a signature scenic feature) then you may have too many towns. My 3 cents.

  2. Thanks Galen... excellent reminders that I omitted some key points which I have now added to the body of the post... I'd like a mix of switching locals and watching long coal trains run through... locals could be a handful of cars up to about 10-12... the coal drags should probably be about 16-18 cars... would be happy with ops sessions of 3-5 guys for a couple of hours... no endurance events for the masses are necessary here... but the biggest issue for me is that it is very hard to know exactly what you want, and what the ramifications are, when you're a first time layout builder.