A few months back Jim Amato asked me for ideas in designing a HOn30 track plan for his space. I’ve know Jim for some years as he is a fellow Maine Two-Foot enthusiast and he used to live here in Cincinnati, so I took him on as a client. To begin with, we exchanged a few emails to refine his Givens and Druthers (requirements):
- Scale/Gauge: HOn30
- Prototype: Not specific, just capture the feel of Maine 2-Footers
- Locations: Include towns inspired by Wiscasset on WW&F, Strong, & Kingfield both on SR&RL
- Loop of track is nice to have, but point to point is acceptable
- Staging is not required
Jim now lives in Arizona and blessed to have 16×18′ sunken family room (or great room) to build his layout. The room is of good size, but has a set of windows that could not be blocked. In fact Jim wanted direct access to the windows from the entrance steps. and a fire-place that had to be worked around.
To start with, I sketched several “layouts” to fit the space. These layouts were nothing more than the mainline track. The “layouts” enabled Jim and I to evaluate room usage, people flow and train flow. In the end, most of those were just too aggressive and Jim settled on 2-3 that seemed reasonable.
All of the reasonable plans had a simple terminus on the fireplace wall. So I sketched two options for that wall then moved forward with the rest of the track plan. In the end, the “layouts” enabled us to be confident we had a good plan for the space.
The final plan is not exacting to prototype track layouts, instead the plan captures the elements of the prototype locations. Anyone familiar to with the prototypes.
The following is a review of the locations around the layout.
Wiscasset was the major terminus and had several spots captivating to modelers. The plan captures the feel of most of these spots but they are reordered.
- The Wharf: The trackplan captures the essence of the wharf, where coal schooners brought coal to the railroad.
- MEC Interchange: Behind the wharf the WW&F and MEC had a parallel track and the MEC mainline ran. In the trackplan I’ve formalized the interchange a bit more and included what appears to be the MEC passing siding and space for the town on the hill behind the MEC. Hiding the MEC tracks and WW&F interchange as they terminate into the backdrop could be challenging. The front HOn30 track could be stopped short of the backdrop for trees or a structure. This track mostly exists to aid in switching the wharf and interchange. I did not want the switcher to be required to return to the yard with every cut of cars. I think boxcars on the WW&F and MEC could blend the transfer tracks into the backdrop. At 55″ or so high, the MEC mainline should not be overly visible behind boxcars on the transfer tracks. Lastly, I’d avoid interesting scenery elements near the tracks and backdrop…This will keep the viewers eyes from drifting toward the tracks at the backdrop.
- The Creamery on the trestle is “Halmark” scene of the WW&F, but was omitted.
- The upper yard containing the engine house and car shop has been included in the plan. It will serve as the main yard for the model railroad. The engine house is properly located, been reversed to avoid isle space issues. The coal shed has not been included in the plan. The shed could be included but there is not enough room for the upper track.
- The long trestle, MEC station, WW&F station and crossing have been relocated North of the upper yard. The upper yard and trestle were swapped relative to the prototype, because the trestles were easier to locate on the curve than the yard.
All in all the Wiscasset scenes capture the essence of the prototype WW&F enabling the builder the enjoyment of a romantic rail/water location.
The next location around the railroad is Strong. The layout is not exactly the same as the prototype, but again it captures the feel. In general, the model version is flipped north/south of the prototype.
- The prototype junction did not have a “Wye” nor does the model. On the model the through path is to Kingfield and the terminating trans are from Phillips. This may be opposite the prototype, but enables the model Strong to emulate operations similar to that of the prototype. On the prototype trains from Kingfield had to back into the Station area, a unique operation aspect of Strong. However the trackplan does not call for these backing moves. The loss of this unique feature is was acceptable to allow a continuous run on the layout.
- The prototype Strong station on the curve with engine house and turntable across the main tracks is captured on the trackplan. The water plug between the tracks can be included too. I planned the engine house as a single stall, rather than a two stall for several reasons: 1) The prototype enginehouse was not used much, 2) The WW&F had a single stall enginehouse at Winslow (I think that’s the right location) and 3) to preserve isle space.
- Segments of prototype railroad are often know for the industries along the right of way. The WW&F was know for farm related industries (canning and potatos), while the SR&RL was number for timber related industries (sawmills and turning mills). So on a model railroad I feel it is important to do similar, to give the railroad an industrial feel. In this case the WW&F did have some sawmills and the SRR&L did have some canneries and both had some Creameries.
- The prototype strong had a toothpick mill in the fork of the Junction. This too has been captured on the model. With the mill is space for a creamery or it could be a potato warehouse.
- A corn cannery existed in south of the SR&RL engine house in Strong. Space has been given for a representative industry North of the enginehouse on the model. If more of an WW&F feel is wanted, make it a potato cannery or warehouse. Another option is to leave off this industry to increase aisle width.
- The WW&F served the American Woolen Co. A great big set of brick buildings. To me, that building set is just begging to be modeled, it is a wonderful contrast to the wood buildings present throughout the SR&RL and WW&F. Considering the size of the buildings the end of a peninsula seem like a great place for it. So rather than have the apple barrel rollover, present on the prototype Strong, I relocated the on a long spur from Strong proper. As the main line goes around the woolen mill, I added a flag station for passenger.
Proceeding past the woolen mill trains would cross a metal through truss bridge. Both the WW&F and SR&RL had through bridges.
Once across the bridge, trains enter Palmero of the WW&F. Of the towns on the plan, this one is most accurate in track layout. It has the potato warehouses, station and some of the town buildings.
Jim did not want internal backdrops on the railroad, So creative scenery will have to be used to divide Strong and Palmero. I do not think this should be too hard considering the layout will be 55″ or higher. Trees and structures on a small ridge (2-6″ high) will be sufficient view block to keep one from seeing the small trains on the other side of the peninsula. If a backdrop were added, it would divide up the wonderful space and could take away from the scenery. Such backdrops are great for big time operations where “distance between towns” is highly desired, but this layout is more casual and will likely only be operated by 2-4 operators without fancy communications. More often it will be run by one, so seeing trains and operators around the layout will be beneficial as will preserving the open feel of the room that has high ceilings…
Kingfield on the SR&RL had an interesting layout. Northbound trains approaching Kingfield first encountered the Kingfield Switch. Trains going to the station went straight and trains going to Carrabasset diverged to the left. This occurred because Kingfield was once the terminous of the F&M railroad a predecessor to the SR&RL. Later the K&D (another predecessor) was built from the switch on to Carrabasset and Bigelow. As a result, the station was 1/4 mile from the mainline. So passenger trains coming north from Strong left the main at Kingfiled switch and headed into the the station (a covered station for most of it’s years). Once finished unloading and loading passenger the train would back down clear of the switch and head forward again through the outer yard and on to Carrabasset. The plan captures the unique feature of the switch and stub terminal as well as the essence of Kingfield as a manufacturing center.
- As a consequence of space limitations, the design locates the mainline yard as the first northbound location, not the Kingfield switch. The mainline yard is 3 tracks, includes a sawmill and has a turning mill all common to the prototype. I envision turning mill is the “???? mill”, as that mill is tall, making a good view block for the staging area. The sawmill is a small mill, feed by logs brought in by farmer’s wagons and lumber hauled out by rail.
- Like the prototype, the design for the Kingfield switch has mainline trains taking the diverging route to the left and station bound trains going straight. A water plug would sit right at the switch. Also in proximity of the switch is the car shed. This shed held two passenger cars.
- Prototype type trains going to the station first had to pass through a small 3 track yard with a coal shed on one track and a turning mill on another. On the design compression and mirroring were used. The coal shed was put on the main (eliminating the siding) and flipped to the East side of the tracks. The spur to the turning mill remains, but the mill was flipped to the west side of the tracks.
- The Kingfield depot area of the plan is a mirror image to the prototype. Like the prototype, the covered depot, engine house, paint shop, and general store are included. The paint shop has been shifted to conserve isle space. Supposedly tracks went into the store to deliver grain. The plan allows the modeler to model the front of the store, a nice sight at the end of the peninsula.
Around Kingfield’s turning mills should be large stacks of cord wood. Some would be in sheds and other stacks would be out in the open while still more might be in huge piles. The mills should be multi-building a fairs.
From Kingfield the trains curve around and cross two bridges before entering staging. The first bridge is a 3 span deck girder bridge with a road passing underneath. Inspired by the a prototype scene south of Kingfield on the “Kingfield Flat”. Under this bridge is the duck-under to access staging. The second bridge can be made to represent one of the prototype Carrabasset river bridges on the SR&RL.
I see the tracks to be visible to the operator, for this reason I have designed scenery in the staging on the approaches. If one is looking at Kingfield from eye-level then the staging should not be seen or should blend in. The scenery in staging should represent the distant mountains in the distance when viewing from Kingfield aisle. Sam Swanson has a great technique for making compressed mountains.
If one is operating, it should be possible to see the trains moving in staging. I have included access to staging, but that is probably not used during operation, more for construction. The turnouts in staging should be able to be controlled from outside of the staging pit. Possibly in multiple locations and/or by DCC throttles.
The staging yard has 3 tracks, and is the heart of the layouts operations. It is possible to stage trains in both directions there is staging. Passenger, mixed, and freight trains from Phillips and Kingfield would stage there as well as logging trains or cord wood trains for the mills. Since the tracks are through it would be possible to reuse the consists. For the hard core operators 3 tracks might not be enough, rather than add more tracks, it might make more sense to have a mole operator use the 0-5-0 to break down, turn, and assembly fresh trains, another advantage to having the access. Before you tie me to the rails for making a 2-footer a mainline railroad, note that the prototype SR&RL of 1913 had 13 passenger or mixed trains pass through, terminate or originate in Strong.
I do not know if Jim will go DCC, but it would greatly ease the operation of the layout when 3 or more operators are involved.
The layout can be operated by 1-5 people. If operating solo, I’d start a passenger train running on the loop, while switching a freight at Wiscasset, Strong, or Kingfield. Each time I finished switching a town I’d put the freight on the loop and then turn the passenger train at either Wiscasset, Strong, or Kingfield. This type of operation could continue for hours. Similar operations be done with one more operator.
With 3-4 operators a sequence of trains could be run. No train need to circle the loop. Scheduled meets for passenger trains at strong and 3-4 freights a day. Dedicated through freights could come down from Kingfield, Carrabasset, and/or Phillips and proceed to Wiscasset. The interchange and wharf could be switched twice a day.
With 5-7 operators it would be possible to run TT&TO operations on the layout. A dedicated Wiscasset yard master, dispatcher, station operator and possibly a staging mole. The mole could add logging trains and swap out loaded pulp racks for empties. The mole could double as the dispatcher writing orders.
Needless to say, I think this layout could offer plenty of hours of operating fun.
My greatest concern with the design is the tight aisle between Wiscasset and Strong. It pinches down to 24-26″ for much of it’s length. An operator at Strong and Wiscasset are slightly off-set, so an operator at each location might be acceptable. However for a busy operating session where trains are meeting at Strong the aisle is just too narrow.
I think another 6″ can be added to the aisle by curving Strong yard a bit more (basically pushing in at the location of the turntable), removing the industry north of the Strong engine house, and pinching in on the fascia along Wiscasset yard. One could remove a track from the Wiscasset car shed/shop. After I drafted the plan, Jim indicated that there was more space around the fire place, so he thinks everything is doable. I’ll modify the plan if he can provides the inputs.
Another option is to shift the peninsula 3-6″ too. This would require narrowing the Kingfield peninsula, but that too can be done and may be desirable with the current plan.
Building in Phases
- If I were building this layout, I’d put up the backdrop around the layout (or just paint finished walls blue).
- Then I’d build the benchwork and track for the main loop. I’d put this into operation, making sure I got everything right and that HOn30 worked for me. I’d even consider doing some of the track with N-scale and replace it later. Then I’d rough in some of the scenery just to hide the benchwork. After all, the layout room is off the main house, so good looks are important.
- Then I’d build the Wiscasset shelf and get that running. At this point scenery could start…Good operating session could be started.
- Finally, I’d add the Kingfield peninsula. This is last because is the least required and because it is going to get in the way of working on the rest of the layout. The large open space available for initial construction will be beneficial.
An Sn2 version of the layout with 32″ radius curves would approach 23×26′. It might be possible to compress it to 20×23′. An On30 version of this layout would nicely fit in the same space as an Sn2 version or even in a more compressed version. Supposedly the Bachmann forney’s run just fine on 24″ radius curves. An On2 version would be huge (say 30×33′). Most On2 modelers recommend a 42″ radius or larger. A space that could handle a 42″ radius version of this layout would probably be better served by a site specific plan.
- There are many books about the SR&RL and WW&F. Most of them would be adequate to learn about these locations.
- Plans for the WW&F can be found in the “Narrow Gauge in the Sheepscot Valley” series of books by M2FQ. Currently these books are out of print.
- Kingfield is well published and the best reference is the Two-Foot Cyclopedia vol 1 by Jensen and republished by M2FQ