Roadwolf's portal for his random thoughts and ponderings

Model Railroad update: expanded.

I want to write about my current woes regarding my model railroad.  First of all, yes, model railroads are serious business :P

Formerly I was inspired by the following video to theme my railroad surrounding the prototypical Ontario Northland. One of the few regional railroads which still deals mainly in manifest freight traffic, mining and forestry operations AND regular passenger service and whistle spot service. This is like a modern version of what old time railroading was all about.

But sadly, shortly after I had completed my design and started construction, the Harper government in Ontario decided to threaten to get rid of the Provincial owned railway.  While the employees and communities the railway servers are fighting tooth and nail for this to be repealed (and it looks like it may be), the threat was very disheartening to me.  It showed me how modeling a prototypical railroad has some disadvantages, in that you lack the freedom to really decide what happens with the railroad.  While Ontario Northland is all I expect from a railroad, it could of very easily been changed, and if I was to remain prototypical, I would of had to adapt.   Of course there is no rule saying I need to remain prototypical, and can take the layout on an alternate course through history.  But that being said, why not run my own fictional railroad in that case?

There is another issue which I needed to address as well.  I wasn't aware of it when I began constructing the original layout, but I discovered a roof vent which is no longer used, positioned over what was going to be my main yard.  The vent would leak a little bit in the spring, as the snow melted around it.  And in the Summer, bees would nest inside it, and sometimes get inside the layout room.  This is unacceptable.  Next weekend I hope to have the vent removed and patched up, but that is just one of the physical defects in the layout room which needs attention.

The layout room is 20ft by 30ft roughly, and occupies the 2nd story above a 3 car garage.  The building used to be a carriage house in the 1800's.  The room is fairly well insulated, and fairly sturdy except for some sections of the floor, which I hope to fix before I start building the next phase of the layout.

Excuse the crudely drawn track routing.  This is my current vision for the new layout (In N Scale).  This will be double decked, around the walls, point to point.  The railroad will start off at an exposed staging yard which will be a port city.  It will wind its way slowly up towards the main yard, and then enter a mountain range where it will enter the 'helix'.  The helix likely will not be a full helix, but more of a loop which will bring the track up to the 2nd level.  From there, the railway will pass a large mine complex and then continue in a virtual downgrade on the other side of the mountain range towards farmland and oil fields.  The rail will terminate at a transfer yard with a major Class 1 railroad providing the link to the national rail network.

The lower deck will have rail heights between 36" and 44", and be set up so that yard operators can sit and comfortably classify cars.  The upper deck will be 58" to 64" which will be an acceptable level for a standing operator to still switch his trains around.  Step up stools may be provided for busier yards or towns on the upper deck.

I wish to make walking space as wide as possible.  So I was hoping to use no more then 2ft wide decks in major yard and town areas, and 1ft wide decks in other areas.  I was also hoping to be able to construct the decks in such a way that they act as shelves built into the wall.  I hope to support them with no more then a few struts anchoring them to the wall at key points.  I want to avoid using legs if possible to keep the area under the layout free and open so that chairs can be used during the scenery and detailing process.  This is where I lack experience on how to properly install the woodworking to support itself properly.

There are however some other issues with the room which need to be addressed before I even think about putting up benchwork or walls.

This is the wall where the stairs come up from the Garage below.  There is a void over part of the stairs, which will likely be filled in and opened on the stair side to allow bulk storage up there.  It may be desired / possible to run a line through here into the dispatchers office to allow him to stage trains coming into the transfer yard, when he isn't busy.  The small window behind the plywood will have to be removed and patched up.  I will use the window between the Dispatchers office and the main yard, likely placed between the decks.

The furnace will be relocated downstairs, and venting will have to be routed up into floor vents.  That will likely be a big project, but needs to be done before much of the other work.  The dispatchers office will occupy the space where the furnace is, and have a doorway out into the train room at a 45 degree angle near the stair doorway.

This is another bigger project, likely to be done in the spring or summer.  This door will have to be completely removed and framed in and patched.  Not only is it not needed and will be blocked by the layout, but it is also the source of leaking water during heavy rains, which mostly drips down through the walls into the garage below.  I figure if I remove the door and flatten the roofline, there will be no where for the water to get in.

There is a roof vent here just out of the frame of the photo.  This is the vent which was leaking on what was going to be my main yard.  It will hopefully be taken care of next weekend.  Otherwise this corner is pretty solid.  The EMT conduit will all have to be removed / re routed.  I will not need as many plugs in the layout area, and will only wire a few up for tools and such.  Most of the outlets will be in the dispatchers office to power the computers and servers needed to operate the train control system.  That portion of the project will include a new circuit breaker panel.

So you see, I have a lot of work ahead of me.  I do hope to find some local help to help build this, and help operate the layout.  I also hope to eventually get the layout featured in Model Railroader.

Fictional Railroad Outline

Following the inspiration of the Ontario Northland, but mixed with a mountain railroad, I have developed a general theory behind the fictional railroad.  Basically this regional railroad will operate an important link between northern/central Alberta, and the BC coastline.  At a time when the CP is beginning to fail because of their over extending their reach, and the CN is overly focused on taking over American traffic, the industrial customers in Canada's oil producing north are looking for an alternative to provide them with solid service.

The line will begin as a rustic, out of date line with speed restrictions, and poorly maintained equipment.  Most of the locomotives and rolling stock owned by the railroad will be patched and still show its original owners paint jobs.  The fleet will be fairly rusty and problematic.  The high rate of break downs on the line has caused the new management to try to run extra units on each train to ensure that the train finishes its run.

The line will be upgraded with new signals and CTC, but will originally be considered dark territory with no signaling.  Not even block signaling - the old signals too poorly maintained to use reliably.   Time tables will keep the trains from colliding, and an extra crew members will be on each freight to provide flag (flare) protection if the train breaks down.

As service improves and the line reassures its customers that they are in better hands, new sidings will open up as new customers come on board.  Industries will pop up along the line where there was once just wilderness.  The line will evolve and bring prosperity to the region.


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