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My Thoughts On Designing A Model Railroad Layout

I was a big time double mainline with a lot of trains thinker as I grew up at the junction of 3 railroads. The Boston & Albany Main (Leased to the New York Central Railroad {New York Centrals Mountain Railroad} ) line running East and West on the the Southern end of the Rutland Railroad (Corkscrew Division) and the Northern end of the New York Central Railroad (Harlem Division) at Chatham, NY.
In Chatham, NY there were 3 yards, 2 full time switchers, 2 operating stations (the Chatham Union Station on the B&A and the Rutland Station on Park Row), one water tower and 2 stand pipes, 2 signal towers, car weight Scale, the roundhouse and turntable plus a wye and 2 freight houses. The old Harlem Station is no longer used as a station but used as a section house. There were 4 main tracks in the yard on the B&A. I miss the sound of the track torpedos used back in the steam days, usually 3 to protect a standing train!
My early layouts were dissapointing to me because I couldn't get done what I wanted to, as I didn't have the necessary room. I tried cramming too much in the area that I had. Cramming is definately not the way to go! When I was 13 years old, a model railroad friend and a fireman on the B&A, Bill Calkins, saw my problem and tried for many years to show me that I need to model small railroads to fit and work in the small area that I had to model in. He suggested a small industrial area, seaport switching , branch line and all sorts of that "non exciting high speed operation that I wanted". Talk about small spaces, his HO Scale layout was on top of the fireplace mantel using an 0-6-0 and an 0-4-0 tank switcher on each end as there wasn't even a runaround, just switchbacks.

So now the first thing that I do is to figure the area that I have to model in. Next, I figure what part of the modeling that I want to do in that area. In my case, I decided to model the end of a small branch line with switching in mind.

This is the method that I used to design my railroad but each modeler has his or her own special preferences so you need to make your own plan that you can enjoy. I am just explaining how I cured my personal situation so as to give you clues to what you might do with your own layout.

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My Layout Basics

My layout is divided into 2 parts, the Visable part and the Hidden Part. Because of the limited room available, a larger type of operation is out of the question. The Visable part is the village of Shady Valley, the end of the Pennsylvania Railroad branch line. The Hidden part is a 2- track staging yard at Riverside, where the branch joins the main line, beyond the Strawberry Hills tunnel and represents Everyplace Else as well.

Although there are 7 villages on the line, I only operate 2 villages because what is beyond the Strawberry hills is not modeled other than the Riverside Staging Yard.

LIST OF ALL VILLAGES on the Shady Valley Branch


Greenville - NOT operational

Glenview- NOT operational

Tie Siding- NOT operational

Brookside- NOT operational

Buckaroo - NOT operational

Shady Valley - OPERATIONAL

The Shady Valley branch runs 2 daily trains. The local freight is stored on Riverside track #1 because it is a longer track and the local passenger is stored on Riverside track #2.

One thing you will notice, on my layout, is that it is NOT crammed. I just have what is needed to make a small working railroad yard that has realistic room to look right and function.

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NOTE: The older pictures will dissapear, as the layout is updated.

NOTE: Click on the any of the pictures to enlarge them.

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New Layout Diagram


Overall Layout

Strawberry Hills

Strawberry Hills is the dividing point between Shady Valley and the rest of the world. It has a fixed part and a removable part. The removable part allows easy access for maintanence of the Riverside Staging Yard.

 This is the overall view of the Strawberry Hills.

Strawbarry Hills Overall View

This is the Fixed portion of the hills. The Strawberry Hills Tunnel is at the right.

Strawberry Hills removable portion

This is the Removable portion of the hills.

Strawberry Hills Removable

This is the Junction area of the fixed and removable portions of Strawberry Hills.

Strawberry Hills junction

Hard Hat Area - men at work!

Working on junction.

This is the removed portion of the hills.

Strawberry Hills removed section.

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This is the view of the Riverside Hidden Staging Yard with the hills removed.

Riverside Yard

Track #1 (far track), Local Freight No. 11 is Northbound and No. 12 is Southbound and has a capacity of 5-40ft. cars plus engine and caboose (remember the caboose?). {In the old days, the friendly B&A Conductor used to wave and occasionally throw candy bars to us kids. I can't say FRED [Flashing Rear End Device] has ever even smiled as the end of the train pased by.}

Track #2 (near track), local Passenger Train No. 1 is Northbound and No. 2 is Southbound and has a capacity of 3each 85ft. Heavyweight Passenger cars plus engine.

The curve track in the Staging Area is 11" curve necessary to make the yard tracks as long as possible. The rest of the layout is 18" curve.

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Brass Hat... B.J.W.

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