The prototype Key Valley Railway was a simple railway, and the model PM&TCo. is as well. I am a fan of David Barrow’s linear design philosophy for model railroads (Model Railroader June 1995), and feel that it is entirely appropriate for the PM&TCo. design. Why? I believe it produces a ‘sincere’ type of layout where the model trains pass through each scene just once the way trains do in real life. There were two main issues that needed to worked into the PM&TCo design:
- How to handle open-top loads, here, logs and lumber.
- How to handle small equipment rosters.
Handling Open-Top Loads
The biggest challenge of the PMT&Co. layout design was the fact that the vast majority of the traffic will be open-top lumber and log loads.
There are four main approaches to ensure that, during operating sessions, that the logs move east and the lumber moves west at all times:
- Use removable loads on the equipment that can be fiddled on and off at the appropriate places. I do not think that this is a viable option, since the wear and tear on all my detailed and scratch-built rolling stock would be rather high.
- A second approach would be to fiddle loaded and empty cars on and off the layout during breaks in the operation.
- A third approach would be use John Armstrong’s loads-in-empties-out track layout, but these are difficult to include on a linear layout design without a lot of hidden track, which poses its own problems.
- Finally, you could run all the cars back to their required starting positions in between operating sessions. Many people do this with coal loads; Tony Koester’s Allegheny Midland being a typical example. This method works well if the load/empty is only moved once per session.
I’m leaning towards the second option for my final design, although I haven’t worked out the details yet.
Handling Small Rosters
Another important issue is the fact that the prototype Key Valley Railway only had a small number of locomotives. Therefore, anyone standing trackside for a full day would see the same engines traveling back and forth between Pakesley and Lost Channel.
Given that multiple copies of the same engine is not a viable option, the layout design will have to have a way of quickly turning locomotives in staging, so that they can reappear quickly. Bill and Mary Miller’s staging yards (Model Railroad Planning 1995 and Model Railroad Planning 1999) present one workable design: a turntable is placed at the far end of the staging yard.
Another approach is the trackless staging cassettes approach described by Paul Dolkos in Model Railroad Planning 1996. The trackless staging design has the advantage of not requiring lengthy yard ladders or space-consuming turntables and has almost an unlimited capacity for storage.
A third approach uses a full train turntable, also described by Paul Dolkos in Model Railroad Planning 1996. In this approach, the entire staging yard is on a pivot so it can be swung around 180 degrees. The advantage here is that none of the equipment needs to be handled while restaging.
I was originally leaning towards using trackless staging cassettes but have heard of a few problems with their use. So I’m planning on using either the full train turntable or the turntable in staging approaches now.
A Linked Up Lost Channel
As I was preparing the layout room, I came across the bane of the all layout builders: a potential change in jobs and cities. In the end, nothing came of it, but it was a harsh reminder that I’m still in that time in my career where a job change and a move are distinct possibilities.
This made me look at my previous designs for movability. I really didn’t like what I saw: any layout built on my previous three designs would have to be completely scrapped if I moved.
Iain Rice in his book ‘Small, Smart and Practical Track Plans’ discusses the movability issue in quite a lot of detail and suggests building small portable modules that can be linked together to form a full layout. The ultimate extension of this approach is Iain’s “Linked Up Logger” design which consists of three small modules linked together with short, almost disposable, trackage. The modules are designed so that they are completely self-contained and can moved by one or two people. Each module is designed so that it is a vignette with a fully wrapped backdrop and lighting.
From reviewing the aerial photos of Lost Channel (see below), there were three obvious vignette scenes within Lost Channel:
- The sawmill and log dump area.
- The dock siding.
- The yard area.
Note that each of the real areas of interest are separated by lengths of rather uninteresting main line trackage. These can easily be replaced by the simple linking trackage with no real loss of interest.
Rice recommends building modules no larger than about 2′ by 4′ for ease of car transportation. I relaxed this restriction a little to minimize the number of joints within the modules. In fact, all three modules have been designed to be one-piece modules with a surface area of about 10-15 square feet. The sawmill module is approximately 3′ by 6′; the dock siding 4′ by 5′ and the yard 2′ by 7′. I’ll use a movable train table with turntable staging at the end of the yard module to move cars on and off the layout and to turn engines. Rice describes this type of staging in the February 2001 Model Railroader.
I also spent some more time examining the aerial photographs in detail and discovered that I probably over estimated the amount of trackage in Lost Channel. For example, I no longer think that there was a separate log dump track; I believe that the mainline was used. The following diagram shows the actual versus modeled trackage:
I’ve also flipped the orientation of the plan when compared the previous designs: the operator is now always on the north side of track looking south. This allowed me to fit the sawmill module onto the short wall. The following track plan highlights the position of each of the modules. The designs of the dock and the sawmill modules are pretty well set:
I used Rice’s lightweight plywood and foam roadbed design. The modules are supported on the walls using a conventional track shelving system (double-slotted for strength). This will allow me to use the area below the layout for shelves, etc. I started with the Dock Siding module since it is the easiest to build from a track point of view (I need practice in handlaying switches!).