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Adventures in Layout planning

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Stimulation to write this entry came from a post from Pilot on 
I returned to model railroading after a 30 year Hiatus about 15 months ago (Nov 2005). Your desires sound alot like my original wish list. I'd always been impressed with the Atlas plan books and thought the Midland Central was the neatest layout ever. I decided to build it exactly like the plan except with 24" curves to accomodate some cars I had already purchased that did not like the 22" of the original design. Now the Midland Central was an original John Armstrong plan so it is a sound layout and Atlas did a good job providing the how too. I started Nov 15, 2005 and was running a train by Christmas. I learned a ton of good stuff during that intense time, invaluable lessons learned if you will. 

By March I had all the track down and the Midland Central was moving close to scenery time. My Lenz DCC system worked perfectly, and I even had working block detection. FULL computer control was my ultimate goal. As I learned, I learned. And am still learning. By May, 2006, the Midland Central was quickly bugging the crap out of me. It just wasn't right. A bowl of spagetti comes to mind. Everywhere I looked, I could see the wall and the house as well as my railroad. It is kind of hard to explain, but all of a sudden my neat railroad became too toy like for me. The original plan called for a couple of backdrops along the edges which in effect made the railroad seem like an around the room affair. But it wasn't. Never did I get the backdrops up before I decided to move the thing into a different room. Monstrosity comes to mind. The move was uneventful but having the layout apart was a good opportunity me to fix a couple of things. 

This meant I was taking the time to think about what I really want in my railroad. As a Colorado resident, many trips to the Caboose and Mizells were made. I had read everything Atlas ever wrote, reviewed all of my Wescott and Armstrong materials and came to the startling conclusion that around the walls is the best and most optimum way to build a permanent home layout.

The Midland Central was a pile of lumber and a huge pile of salvaged track and turnouts in only 2 days. Mainly because I had nailed the track down instead of gluing it, and I had not ballasted any of it so the track came up nice and easy. 

My new list of givens looked something like this: 

* Double mainline 
* No spagetti 
* Not flat anywhere but the yard 
* Two levels 
* No helix 
* 30" curves on the mainline, minimum 
* Number 6 turnouts, PECO/Peco solenoid please (that later changed back to Atlas/Tortoise) 
* Double ended staging yard 
* Constant running and movement are the theme 

By the way, this is the first time I ever wrote them down, but they are vivid in my mind! 

Version 2 

By Labor Day, (2006) trains were running again on two levels. Version 2 is around the room, what I call a cockpit railroad. My biggest consession was to have a narrow isle in favor of keeping the 30" rule. What I did not figure is that a double mainline with a 30" inside is not 30" on the outter mainline. The isle choke is tolerable at about 20" but I so wish it was 36". 
Within weeks of getting the trains moving, my good friends Dan and Jeff told me how I could expand my 12 X 16 into the next room and double it's size. By the time we stopped talking and laid down the white board markers, I'd firm plans for something like a 35 x 16. Wow, now that is a railroad. My wife had some serious frown as I assured her that the holes I was going to cut in the walls were easily patched. As the gentile and sweet person she is, I knew that she would ultimately yeild to what ever I wanted and the additional real estate is my own work shop. But her hesitancy caused me to think. She said you should finish what you have started so far, Joe then you can talk about expansion. Yes, but I want to get all the construction behind me. That makes sense she said. 

Stone cold, I stopped. For about a day I just thought, then I drew a new track plan, yes, the expansion would be perfect. It is the right thing to do. Yes, after a year, I still love model railroading. Yes it is growing on me, yes I really do like it. The track plan is on the wall in the shop, blue masking tape went down on the carpet to declare the space where the new layout would go, and I even stacked tools, tables and stuff where the new layout will go, a live mock up if you will. This was all before Thanksgiving. Over Christmas, I'll blow the benchwork into the next room. Over Christmas, I finally peeled the tape off the floor and put the room back into some sort of peace. By now, I was building a mountain and starting to make my plywood jungle look like Colorado. 

Then I discovered CTI and ramped up the automation work. I have a couple of little areas on the layout that are starting to look semi-realistic. My standards are more demanding these days, mistakes means rework, rework means do it again Joe, get it right. Don't settle, don't compromise. By now I had decided I was really tired of building benchwork. After a year of it, running the trains in a more realistic setting became more important. 

I have pretty much decided it is important to refine some of what I have done. There is so much to learn, so much to do. And I am amazed at how many of our friends, especially my Wife's friends love to see my trains and the progress. I have a two year old grandson who's absolutely nuts about the railroad too. He is completely intent to stare holes in the trains! Granpa Train, he says. 

Build that 4X8. Just start! And follow your dream. I like what one of the fellows on has on his signature, "It is never too late to have a happy childhood!" 

About two months after I wrote this, I again changed my mind and version 2 is gone! It has been replaced by the 40 X 15 Colorado and Santa Fe, a single level, sectional/modular design that could be moved without loosing all of the hard work. See A POX on hidden staging for more details. Click here to see pictures of the C&SF. 

Joe Daddy 



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