Wednesday, October 21, 2009

To Yard or Not to Yard

So after the weekend of the Conrail Historical Society's convention, I got back to looking at planning the layout. I decided it would be best to break out the LDEs and design each one on their own, sing 4', 6', and 8' increments (and possibly going up 2' at a time to fit in the trackwork). I started with Hershey and managed to get a decent 8' LDE designed. Then I thought more about the layout, it's purpose, the prototype, and reflected on what I saw at Ken McCory's Buffalo Line layout. What struck me about the Buffalo Line was that I did not see a major, visible yard and when viewing the maps of the modeled area, it was really the areas between major yards, Enola and the major yards at Buffalo. EDIT: Apparently I missed these because in looking at the plan published from the 2004 Model Railroader, Harrisburg/Enola was represented on the lower level with at least 3 other pretty good sized yards. The one I remember seeing was Williamsport, however, I didn't think it was as big as the published plan. DONE EDIT However, it got me thinking (and some others) that is a major yard a necessity on the layout?

In my case, Harrisburg wasn't a major classification yard, it shared Harrisburg classification duties with Enola, with Enola doing slightly more, however, Conrail's operations moved heavy classification to Conway ad Allentown. What Harrisburg became was primarily a small classification area for blocks to be changed between trains and an expanding TV terminal where major block swapping occurred as well as most eastbounds dropping at least one block for delivery at Harrisburg itself. The more I looked at the whole CP Capital through the terminal, I realized that it was taking up almost one-third of the first level of my layout and what was I really gaining? Operationally, the yard really isn't a final destination for trains and isn't a true final destination for motive power with only a minimal fueling pad. So, in an operating scheme, it would be switching blocks of cars, not breaking down those blocks (for the most part), delivering flats and wells to the TV terminal ramps, and ensuring every train stopped to change crews and refuel. To me, that sounds like an entire layout right there, and probably the reason I have had various designs taking up 30'-40' of layout space.

A part of me also wanted to include the Harrisburg area for its Amtrak station. One of my "druthers" was Amtrak operations and while the Harrisburg station area would really just be an off and on type of operation, it would be enough to satisfy this desire. The more I think about, the more I could also "bend" reality. Like Amtrak worked with the state of Pennsylvania and New Jersey to create two new east/west bound trains, one New York to Pittsburgh and a New York to Buffalo that utilized the Lehigh, Reading, and Harrisburg lines to Harrisburg and then the Pittsburgh and Buffalo lines, respectively, let's call them the Valley Queen and Nittany Lion. They'd probably have stops at Reading, Lebanon, and Harrisburg, with a possibility of stopping at Hershey also. Of course, this could also fall into my whole Conrail never died, they got the Cotton Belt but as a result had to shed some assets to allow competition in the NYC area, so they sold off the Southern Tier to Norfolk Southern and the Trenton Line to CSX and a shared assets organization was created in the NJ port areas to ensure equal access. Obviously, more details would have occurred, like selling off some yards, etc., but in my fantasy world, that would be up to the regulators.

The more I think about the layout, my general purpose with it, what really does the Harrisburg area add to operations, and I am starting to come to the conclusion that I don't really need this area to get what I want to get which is a cross between a railfan layout and one that the trains have to deliver goods to larger industries. In that vain, I'm going to begin to lay out LDEs in 4', 6', and 8' lengths, starting with Rutherford RoadRailer and going east, probably to include Hummelstown, Brownstone/Swatara, Hershey, Palmyra, Millard/Annville, Cleona/West Lebanon, Lebanon, Avon and see how much is left over. The "yard" on the layout would be the small one in Lebanon that acted as a base of operations for industries from Palmyra through Sinking Springs.

Centering the layout on Lebanon would allow for more switching (2-3 locals, although at this point there really was every other day service, one day east, one day west), and a higher concentration of main-line running. Hershey has its own operation that served all of its plants as did the RoadRailer terminal. That would give me 3 major bases of operations. I've had these in all plans so far but also with the Harrisburg station, yard, and TV terminal. I think, in this word vomit of a post, I've convinced myself that I do not need the "major yard" and that I can really do without Harrisburg. I know not including it will make CP Capital easier to model. I'm open to any suggestions/thoughts folks have on this line of thinking.

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Welcome to the my Conrail Model Railroad site. I will document the research, design, construction and operations of my N-scale model railroad based on Conrail's Ft. Wayne Line in Ohio.

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