Friday, November 13, 2009

Getting closer to a final plan

I feel I am much closer to a final plan now, at least for the first level. I've been studying, viewing, and learning from Mark Lestico's UP/SP Cascade Subdivision layout as he described in the LDSIG Journal, Volume 39 (Fall 2008). If you go to the page I linked to for Mark, he's got more pages to pictures of his progress, but if you really want to see great N-scale action, make sure to check out his videos. Anyways, what I really liked about his design in particular was the simplicity of for 175' of mainline. Mark did a great job of locating his LDEs on tangents, something I had been struggling with. He also used a simple yard configuration. I feel part of the problem I've been having in my design is the monstrosity that Harrisburg is on the prototype, so much so, that I was really thinking of ending the layout before getting to Harrisburg just so I could save some real estate on the layout. In fact, I had come up with a plan of pretty much Rutherford through Harrisburg for a first level design. Here it is:
From Conrail Harrisburg Line - N Scale
This exercise really made me adjust and rethink Harrisburg. Just look at it, with the two classification yards, the relay/receiving, locomotive terminal, TV terminal, and the station, it took up almost 2/3 of the real estate for one level. So I went back to looking at how others have tackled their chosen prototype, and I kept coming back to Mark's design as well as another design he helped influence, Austin White's Cajon Subdivision. A first glance, they look very similar in style, the yards are almost identical, the visible staging and classification yard next to each other to limit how crowded that aisle gets (only the staging and yard masters are allowed down it), and the use of an enclosed "E" shape. Each plan/layout really takes a busy, somewhat complex piece of prototype main line and turns it into a simple plan that appears to be easy to construct and maintain.

I took the concepts I gleamed from these plans, Craig Bisgeier's Ten Commandments of Yard Design, needling from Ed, the inspiration of Ken McCorry's Buffalo Line, and have come up with a plan for the 1st level as follows:
From Conrail Harrisburg Line - N Scale
As you can see, I've really simplified things. The yard is no longer monstrous, it contains:
  • 2 dedicated Arrival/Departure tracks
  • 1 A/D or runaround track
  • 3 through and 2 stub ended classification tracks
  • 3 96" long TV terminal tracks
  • A separate yard lead for both the classification and TV yards
  • 4 fueling pads and 1 locomotive storage track (2 are on the main)
Amtrak's Harrisburg station has also been drastically reduced. Instead of the 5 or 6 tracks it has, I've reduced it to 3 thru tracks. Since most of the Amtrak ops is going to be on/off, this will work out fine. Again, I went for representation instead of strict prototype guidance. It's also angled such that there aren't hard curves into it and the switches are not crossing my "dividing" lines. These "dividing" lines are where I plan to have removable pieces of track so the layout itself can be removed in case of maintenance to the gas meter (the shutoff is outside).

CP Capital is also downgraded, only having a connection between the Lurgan Branch and the Harrisburg Line in the eastbound direction. Try to get a westbound leg of this wye was proving too costly from a space perspective. That doesn't mean once I've built it, there won't be one, but for right now, I've left it off. Only 1, maybe 2 trains out of the 60+ that traversed the Harrisburg Line actually used it (a few locals from Enola may also have, but I'm not modeling them).

The rest of the tangent going into CP Capitol only has one industry spur, which is representing the Hill Industrial track and will most likely only have one industry, a food distribution center. I had though of adding another set of industries towards the blob end, but I think that might be a little much, instead this part of the layout will set up the urban to suburban to spacious transition, taking care of the first leg. Also, if you look at the plan, that's I-83 paralleling the tracks down this tangent.

Within the first blob, slightly, is my RoadRailer terminal. On the prototype, this was located on a small portion of the former Rutherford yard, sandwiched between the main lines. While I tried to get that same feel in other plans, I deemed the expanding and rejoining of the main lines to cause way too much wasted space. Instead, a single siding with two loading spurs into the blob will suffice as only 6/8 RoadRailers served this terminal. I'll be lucky if I have more than 2, 1 each way, maybe 4 as one pair went onto/came from the Lurgan branch. Since these are mostly sold in 10-unit sets, that'll probably be a train length so I can't imagine too many being spotted here.

At the end of what I'll call tangent 3 is Hummlestown and the interchange with the Middlestown and Hummlestown railroad. In between the two is CP Tara which will be located over the Swatara Creek. Hummlestown will be more of a scenic LDE as there was no real industrial base. That was left to ...

Swatara, Brownstone and Hershey. On my plan, I have two of the 3 Hershey plants represented, the Reese's Plant and Main plant with its Silos. The Reese's plant is switched in a switchback, something Conrail seemed to enjoy doing on this line. It is served by the Hershey local, which orginates in the yard at the end of tangent 4, just before the main line enters the Helix. Believe it or not, one train in Conrail's operations served this industry in 1996, ALHB, so essentially, this manifest will drop-off and pickup a block of cars and the local will switch them to respective spots between the various plants. The one plant not done is the Hershey West plant, which is located very nearly across the tracks from the Reese's plant, if not a little bit towards the west. This would have put it in the center of the turnback and close to Hummlestown, which is not something I really wanted. Finally, there was a warehouse at the end of the siding that served the Main Plant, again, reached through a switchback, that I included because switching this complex without disrupting the main too much wasn't enough of a challenge.

I placed the helix a little back so there is another blob turnback into it, this way both the 1st and second levels are able to use as much of the tangent as possible. I'm subscribing to the upgrade on the outside theory of helix design and if I had the helix at the end, there would be less tangent railroad to work the Hershey design with.

I've said it before about other plans, but I do like this one. It's simple, very little complex trackwork, and the LDEs don't feel like they are placed on top of each other like the other plans seemed.


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