Concept for a trackplan – Too many cakes? or not enough?

Some model railroaders have a passion for just one railroad and can just focus on it and go go go.  I on the other hand like just about all models of trains and many prototype railroads and I’m just not sure I one modeling activity will make me happy.  Actually, it would…but can’t I just have a another please?

This has plagued me for some time and causes me to ruminate through the options again and again hoping that optimal and perfect layout will be obtained.  I know perfect is just not possible but still it circles in my mind.  For those that might care, I’m currently wanting to model the following in addition to the Sn2 SR&RL:

  • S-scale Standard Gauge C&O of Indiana or B&O freelanced Steam.
  • HO PRR Eggleston Ave and north through Norwood
  • HO DT&I, the upcoming GP38-2’s are going to be nasty (As my local dealer says)
  • HO modern Free-mo

I want it all…  I know the reality.  Having more than one layout is a compromise and cost (not just financial).

Sn2 itself feeds my frenzy.  Sn2 is  not proven, I have many concerns including:

  1. Will I ever get 2-6-0’s and 2-6-2’s in Sn2?
  2. Will it operate well enough for me to host guest operations?
  3. The trains are not long enough to justify 2-man crews, something I love.
  4. Will the brass locomotives wear out?  Will I always be working hard to just keep it running?

These concerns have been making me look elsewhere, I’m afraid to put all of my eggs into one basket.  This is not the first time I’ve been stuck like this.  I had these same concerns prior to building my first Sn2 layout.  I broke through by planning the top deck as Sn2 SR&RL and the bottom deck as On30 Pennsylvania logging.  I never build the On30, but just having the option let me start on the Sn2 and build for 3-4 years.  Planning for two cakes let me make one cake.  You can read about that first layout here.

Considering my current state, I’ve been thinking a “multi-Cake” approach would get me an Sn2 layout.  The rest of this post the design of the Sn2 cake.  But before I do, I think I need to answer one question:  “Why model in Sn2 at all?”  Because I must, it’s sort of a right of passage.  It’s been in my blood for nearly 20 years (yes 20…since 1997) and I’ve studied the SR&RL and know it like the back of my hand, and I have been instrumental in the Sn2 community.  I simply cannot walk away from it today.  I feel there is incomplete business, I must try Sn2 before I move on.

Interesting quandary, I can not go forward with Sn2 alone and I cannot walk away from Sn2.  So I feel I must compromise and make it possible for multiple model railroad adventures at once.

Two or three cakes!

To have more than one cake, I must do justice to the Sn2 SR&RL and provide for other and future opportunities.  Here is what I considered:

  • Unique themes per deck – This worked for my first layout, as the 12×24′ space was too small to enable Sn2 trains move from one deck to another.  But I just could not make it work in my present space.  A single deck Sn2 SR&RL just did not meet all my desires and it would fill my room to the brim making it hard to get passage to the modeling bench.
  • Single space multiple themes on each side – This seems natural, as the entrance to my railroad room is in the middle of a long wall (15′ from one side and 12′ from the other).  But I just could not figure out how to get Sn2 into a single side.  It would result in multiple decks and a space eating helix
  • Create a wall and divide the space – This is what I’m proposing in this post.  I will use 3/4’s the room (22×24′) for Sn2 and 1/4 (8×24′) for other projects.  Mentally it works for me because it provides a separate room to play with my other interests.  A space to incubate them.  Yes, I’ll probably have 3 decks in the small space, so I can try S-scale, HO Free-mo, some thing else.  What’s even better, in 10-15 years when my son has moved out, I can blow-out the wall of the incubating room and expand some 30+ feet down one wall, giving me an effective 8×60′ space (actually it’s bigger than that but I promise my wife I’ll not take it all over)…

The Sn2 Cake – A Proposal

In these posts, I shared some of my Sn2 layout dreams.  Many of the Givens and Druthers still remain so I will not repeat them here.  Some of my be proposals were two and three decks, so this one is no different.  It’s the only way to come close to obtaining all my objectives.

General Design

The layout is a “nolix” design.  Rather than a helix to get from deck to deck, the trains go around the room to get between levels.  Essentially there are two climbing decks going around the outside of the room and three flat decks in the middle.  From no one aisle location can more than two decks be seen.  The entrances to the room and entrance to the incubation room require double deck liftouts, dropdowns or gates of some sort.  That is a concern and the incubation room doubles the challenge.

  • 36″ radius in most locations
  • 33-34″ radius on some of the reversing loop areas
  • #8 turnouts throughout (no curved or sharper)
  • Multiple reversing loops for continuous running and staging

Lower Level – The F&M

The F&M went from Bigelow south to Strong.  This is the lower deck of this design.  It includes Bigelow (my Sn2 Free-mo module), Carrabasett, Kingfield (with it’s junction) and has space for other location along the way.



Bottom Deck – The F&M from Bigelow to Strong

One of my concerns with multi-deck layouts his how to establish a continues run for display or just running on my own.  To aid in continuous running I have designed in reversing loops on all three decks.  The one at Bigelow connects the Sawmill back to a logging branch that connects at Carrabassett.  This might enable loads in/loads out operation.

Evaluation of Lower Deck

  • CON – The Bigelow Sawmill is on a curve.  It might make it hard to build as a free-mo module.
  • CON – Kingfield stub will be short.  I’ll have to work the sidings in on the old K&DR like to Bigelow.  Still not much different than some of my best proposals.  The stub branches the right way.
  • PRO – Long run of 100 feet from Strong to Bigelow.
  • CON – Bigelow will be just 32″ off the ground, so rolling stools will have to be used.
  • PRO – Reused Free-mo modules of Bigelow and Carrabasett River.

Middle Deck – The SRRR

The SRRR ran from Farmington to Phillips.  The railroad followed the Sandy River and mostly kept moderate grades.  As such, was mostly level.  On this deck, I’ve also included some of the P&R north of Phillips towards Rangeley.  Those portions are on significant grade.  It’s likely that Madrid and possibly one other location will be added to the line.


Middle Deck – The SRRR from Farmtington to Strong to Phillips and beyond

Farmington, Strong, and Phillips are not detailed yet.

Evaluation of Middle Deck

  • CON – Farmington is on two curves and there is not quite enough room for the upper yard.  The prototype Farmington had three distinct locations elements, I call them 1) The depot, 2) middle yard, 3) upper yard.  The upper yard was three double ended tracks.  In the plan they wrap around the end of the peninsula, so cannot be double ended without curved turnouts.  Operationally the turnouts can be omitted, so I think I’ll leave them out.  The capacity of the tracks is required.  I’ve not yet completed the design of the middle yard and station area, but I think an acceptable representation is possible.
  • PRO – Probably sufficient space to represent Russel box factory if desired.  That is the spur just outside of Farmington
  • PRO – Probably room for Baker Steam covered deck bridge, a signature structure.
  • PRO – Optional reversing loop is not too distracting from prototype track arrangements.
  • PRO – Strong can be complete and operable from both sides (SRRR and F&M).  I’ll have to do more to finalize the plan.
  • PRO – Sufficient distance between Strong and Phillips to have Dicky Road over pass (model built, existed on last layout) and Salmon Hole bridge.  The Free-mo module of Salmon Hole bridge will not fit.
  • PRO – Space for International Mill in Phillips as a flat on the wall.
  • CON – Phillips and it’s engine facility will have to be compressed an squished and more.  It needs to fit without conflicting with Kingfield.  Additionally,  it must fit under the stairs.
  • CON – Access to the “incubation space” will be between Kingfield and Philips.  This would be the prime location for the Covered Bridge over the Sandy River at the north end of Phillips.
  • PRO – There is significant length between Phillips and Redigton (on the upper deck) to have 1-2 other locations.  Probably Madrid and a generic passing siding.

Upper Deck – The P&R

The prototype Phillips and Rangeley ran from Phillips north to Rangeley as it’s name suggest.  There were several branch lines into the woods for logging and many sawmills along the line.  It ended in Rangeley the resort town on the lake.  To me, it is more important to capture the logging operations and branches than the resort operations of Rangeley.  The long run should give that feel, and the space over Kingfield and the Rangeley loop can both be used to represent logging branches.  For me, the loop is better than ending at Rangeley as the loop can server multiple purposes.  The town of Reeds and Redington are just lables.  I’m picturing Reeds as 1-3 stub ended tracks for loading pulpwood and Redington as a sawmill location with passing siding.  These are more freelance than prototype.


Upper Deck – The P&R from Redington to Rangeley

Evaluation of upper deck

  • PRO – The upper deck is mostly a reversing loop, so that trains north out of Phillips have a place to go.  By that measure it achieves the objective very well.
  • PRO – Include more representation of logging
  • CON – Marbles does not get modeled, but possibly I could hae a representation if I sceniced the loop.
  • PRO – Rangeley is not actually modeled.  But should the desire arrive, a representation could be put inside the loop, similar to Bigelow.  My first thought is to model the whole area more like Eustis Junction with a few tracks to hold 3-4 trains.

Getting from Deck to Deck – The grades!

With a layout like this, grades are a concern.  This is compounded by the limited pulling power of the Sn2 brass Forney’s.  The forney’s do best on the flat.


The grades from Bigelow to Strong to Rangeley

The maximum grades are close to 2%, I think that should be OK.  Testing may be required.  To keep these grades some intermediate locations will have to be on the grade and require “working brakes” to prevent cars from rolling.  While not perfect, they could be manageable for limited operations.  Certainly the prototype had to apply brakes from time to time.

The lowest points are 32″ and will require roll around stools.  The action is contained to a single aisle so should be OK.  The highest point is 64-65″ which is OK for me (I’m 6’4″ tall) and probably not bad for others.  I could put small steps at Redington and Reeds.  With only a reversing/staging loop at Rangeley, it’s OK to be high.

Parting Comments

This plan is more “model railroady” than some of my other concepts.  The aisles are tighter, but mostly kept to 36″ and above.  The smaller foot print seems less daunting than the designs that fill the whole room.  Should I decide that I want more Sn2 and I’m dedicated to it; I can get rid of the incubation room and move Kingfield and Phillips 8 feet over, then extend Farmington and main peninsula.  Bigelow, Strong and other locations would not be impacted much.

I think I can continue to explore this design and I should test out my locos on grades!

Sorry about the rambling and fact that I’m not proofing this entry at all….I just want to get it “out there” so others can see what I’m thinking and provide negative or positive feedback!

This entry was posted in Layout Design, Trackplanning. Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Concept for a trackplan – Too many cakes? or not enough?

  1. renegourley says:

    Wow, that’s a lot of railroad(s)!
    May I suggest that you think now about the operating scenario for these three connected decks? What traffic goes where and why? How do you see a P&R locomotive arriving at Strong?

    • narrowtracks says:

      Rene, nice of you to write. I thought about you when I attended the Sn3 Symposium in Seattle…Should I arrange a connection? But alas, did not happen, was happy enough to just make it out there.

      Your correct, it is a lot of railroads. My eyes are probably bigger than my basement. As after writing the entry, I felt guilty for “lusting” for so much. I do have to wonder if my modeling desires are healthy. That said, the reality is that my family does come first. I’m currently dedicating time to coach my son’s basketball team.. My point being that I may be dreaming big, but I’m following through with what’s actually important.

      The operating scenario will be much like the prototype (or what we know about it). Passenger trains (3 each way) will run back and forth between Farmington and Rangeley with meets at Strong with trains (2 each way) run between Strong and Bigelow (Strong had a turntable). Additionally three mixed consists will run back and forth between Phillips and Farmington, Phillips and Rangeley, and Strong and Bigelow (yes, Strong saw something like 12 scheduled trains a day in 1912). Extra freight trains will bring additional freight down the P&R to Phillips and down the F&M to Strong. Big Freight trains (8-12 cars) will pull the freight cars from Phillips and Strong to the MEC Interchange at Farmington. Finally, a few extra logging trains will run on the line (supposedly they ran at night as some of the extras might have).

      To more directly answer your question I see the following:
      o Log cars going from various spurs and staging to the mills at Bigelow, Redington and possibly Madrid and Kingfield
      o Loaded Pulp Racks from spurs in Reeds, Rangeley staging, Spurs on F&M, Spurs in Kingfield to International Mill in Phillips, Toothpick mill in Strong, Russel Box factory in Farmington, and MEC interchange in Farmington
      o Cut lumber could go to local novelty mills but will more likely all go to MEC interchange
      o Outbound clothespins, toothpicks and other novelties will go to the MEC interchange
      o Inbound from MEC is very little. Coal for the railroad, maybe some grain, but after that few other products of significance. The people of Franklin County were hearty, self-sufficient.

      The SR&RL was a busy railroad. It may have hauled some 30 cars a day to Farmington, but that only resulted in 10-15 cars on the MEC. For layout operations I have been hoping to have an AM and a PM session, thus every session is not the same. Each session would probably be 90-120 minutes long. In compressing the layout and some of the major towns, I may have to reduce the number of trains. That’s OK.

      Good questions, easier to think now than after constructing the railroad….At this time, I’m still focused on logistics such as grades and deck clearance…..I should post on those soon. If I get past those, I’ll detail out the plan.

      Dave K.

  2. Pingback: Setting the grade | Sn2 Modeler

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