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Dan Mitchell's Great Northern Railway
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Daniel Mitchell’s Model Railroad:

While real G.N. place names are used for “flavor”, the layout is totally freelanced. No attempt has been made to accurately model any real location.

The structures on the railroad are a mixture of mostly commercial offerings from Fine Scale, Campbell, Magnusson, C.C. Crow, and several others. The enginehouse is made from two Revell structures joined together. Scratchbuilt structures include the turntable, two snowsheds, and the rock bunker at the mine.

Backdrops are a mixture of self-painted, and commercial items from Walthers. Often the commercial scenes are modified by painting over them to change their appearance.

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My HO model railroad layout was built for two basic purposes. To showcase a variety of modeling efforts, and to get a maximum of switching activity into a relatively small space. It is designed to keep three crews, each of one or two persons, busy, and this it does well.

The theme is of a fictitious Great Northern Ry, branchline operation somewhere in the western mountains circa 1940-50. Motive power is mostly steam, with a few early Diesels. There is a logging subsidiary with geared steam locomotives. All are standard gauge.

The layout is roughly “U” shaped, around three walls of an upstairs room, being 11’ wide across the base, 11’ along one side, and 16’ along the other side. The upstairs location, with sloping ceilings, limits layout height. Track is mostly about 32” from the floor. It’s a ‘sit-down’ layout, and all crews get roll-about office chairs. The layout is sectional, but not modular, and consists of seven parts. There are a few smaller single-track extensions, lengthening certain sidings, and providing more switching capacity. Scenery covers perhaps 90% of the layout. Track is mostly sectional code-70, with some code-100 and some code-55.

The first of the above goals is accomplished by almost totally enclosing the layout in a long cabinet. The effect is that of a long enclosed diorama. This provides controlled lighting, and protects the layout from most dust and damage. The protection allows a high degree of layout detail to be maintained. The cabinet, like the layout itself, is sectional, and has sliding plastic doors to allow viewing and access for operation. Yes, the enclosure does restrict access to some degree, but this has NOT proven a big problem. I have monthly operating sessions, and have no shortage of crews. The cabinets are a trade-off, but have worked very well for me.

The second goal is met by careful track design, providing a lot of switching in a compact area. Movements are challenging, but not overly difficult. The layout operates as a three-leg point to point system. There is no continual running option. Two of the terminals define the main line, and the third is a logging subsidiary, that interchanges at one terminal.
To achieve this in the given space results in a high track density that somewhat restricts the volume of 3D scenery, and this is compensated for with continuous backdrops.

Photos taken on this layout have won prizes at NMRA National and Regional competition. 

~ Daniel Mitchell  ~

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