Monday, December 28, 2009

Full Basement Plan

So in my last post, about 3 weeks ago and before the holiday blitz, I had posted I had been looking at full basement layout options and struggled with a benchwork flow until I came up with a zen moment that gave me a flow that looked doable. Since then, I've gone back and forth on various design aspects of that flow and have come up with the following plan:
From Conrail Harrisburg Line - N Scale
Edit: Uploaded new picture after some modifications

So, let's walk around starting at the water heater and moving counter-clockwise-ish around the layout. First, when you are in an aisle, you'll be looking either west or south and almost all industries are placed in their proper positions. On our journey, the first stop is Harrisburg yard.

Harrisburg yard has 2 main-line tracks, 2 Arrival/Departure, 2 locomotive fuel pad tracks and one ready track, 3 double-ended classification tracks (can also be used for A/D in a pinch), 3 stub-ended classification tracks, and 2 intermodal yard tracks. The locomotive track area has some semblance to the prototype, however, the rest of the yard is purely what would fit and what others have done. Next, is the Harrisburg Amtrak Station area.

The Amtrak Station has only 3 tracks and will probably only have one built train-shed. Again, it's representative, not an exact model of the prototype. Also, it's right in front of the crawl space entrance so some sort of movable benchwork will have to be built. The Royalton branch along with Amtrak go off into a helix that will be located under the stairs, along with the Lurgan branch. This helix will go down about 8" to staging yards. I haven't finalized the staging yard design yet, but it will either go back into the old bilco door area at the bottom left of the plan or circle around under Harrisburg yard. I removed the Y-connection for a westbound connection between Harrisburg yard and Lurgan. On the prototype, this has had some derailments over the years as it's a tight curve on a grade. Also, only 1 named train (that I could find) did any sort of movement over this piece of track so I decided to not include it in the plan as it will not add operational value equal to the headaches of trying to get switches and curves with easements adequate in the space provided to model it.

After the Amtrak Station and the condensed CP Capitol, we enter an industrial area. This area is purely modeler license as it is supposed to represent the Hill Industrial Track, the Oberlin Industrial Track and the warehouses along Rutherford Yard. The latter two items were pretty much gone or greatly diminished by 1996/1997 and the Hill I.T. technically would go into the aisle but I felt that a small local out of Harrisburg would add a nice element to an operational scheme for both a local job and switching in Harrisburg itself.

Up and around the first blob we go and as the line comes out of it, it enters CP Tara. After the double crossovers, the line will enter Hummlestown with the M&H interchange going off towards the backdrop. The line then curves at the bottom and enters Brownstowne/Swatara. At this location will be the Hershey West and Reese's plants. In between Hummlestown and the plants will be either a duck under to enter the layout or some kind of removable area. Conrail switched the Reese's plant during this time using a switchback. Norfolk Southern has since put a leading switch into the plant and removed the switch back. The Hershey West plant has 5 tracks in the prototype, and on the modeled portion will have 4 tracks. The two closest to the main line will act as inbound/outbound tracks and the other two will serve the plant itself.

As we continue along the right-side wall, the line enters Hershey and "Derry". The main plant is to the right of the main line with the silos on the aisle side. The North yard and the runaround tracks take the line to the end of the right-side wall, just prior to the gas meter. Again, this area will have to be built in a somewhat modular manner so that if access to the meter is needed, it can be gained without destroying the area. All of the Hershey plants are switched with one job but this job has to get clearance from both the dispatcher and Hershey foreman at various times during its work so it won't be a quick switching job.

As we enter the second peninsula, the line passes Palmyra, which has the Pacma elevator represented and will be pretty much modeled around the curve and the small straight at the end of the aisle. Down the rest of the peninsula is the Wimpey Minerals quarry. There is one interchange track and 3 yard tracks. The yard tracks lead into a line-side loader. This facility was built sometime after 1993 but before 1996, so it will be modeled. The modeled version will be different than the current one as it is definitely different based on the videos I've seen and pictures of the current loader. Another small line goes off towards the aisle and this was the entrance back to the main part of the quarry. I think I will use this for coal hopper loading/unloading as can be seen on the video"A Farewll to Conrail's Harrisburg Division".

Once around the second blob, the line enters Lebanon. The first item is the small yard located here. There is a siding, one through track, 2 stub-ended tracks, and a small engine facility on the other side of the road (16th St.), and CP Wall after the yard. On the left side of CP Wall is the Cargill elevator used for animal feed, I believe. Documentation lists this facility as being present in 1995 and 1996, however, other documentation states that it was built in 1997. Regardless, it's a decent sized industry so I have decided to represent it. There's also a scrap/recycler on the same siding. Around the curve is where the former Reading Lebanon Station will be placed so it will be focal point as one looks down this aisle. Coming around and heading down the center of the basement, is CP Avon and the industry spurs to Lebanon Chemical. After going through the S-curves to get to the other peninsula, the line enters Myerstown with its siding to Bayer and a lumber company/team track are represented. Finally, around the 3rd blob, the line enters a 13-track visible staging yard. The tracks range from 118" to 140", which should give pretty good sized trains for the line. The use of visible staging will also enhance reusing runthrough or even TV/coal trains for an operating session.

As for operations, the yard in Lebanon is where YPLE13, WPLE32 and WPLE33 originated from, depending on the schedule one finds. For my purposes, I will probably designate YPLE13 to work the interchange cards and WPLE33 as the primary local job. This job will serve industries from Palmyra through Myerstown. Wimpey Minerals leased 2 U23B's from Conrail during this time frame so that will be it's own job. A number of trains dropped cars here and in Lebanon, so those may be more active than the other two switching jobs. Overall, there are 4 switching jobs to take place on the layout not to mention the number of manifests that drop blocks in Lebanon and at Wimpey Minerals. Also, Harrisburg is an intermediate TV yard and will be used to not only deliver/pick-up trailers from it's intermodal facility, but also switch out blocks of cars from one TV train to another based on destinations.

Again, comments and feedback are always welcome. Happy Holidays and Happy New Year!

Sunday, December 6, 2009

The Ahah Moment

Not too long after I published the last post, I had a "thinking moment" in my typical place of study. To verify, I went downstairs and looked at two thins. First, home much room did I really have around the water heater and two, where were the posts that held up the stairs located. The answer to the first was I had as much room as I'd need to run one or two tracks around the water heater. with it's radius at 20", I knew I'd be ok building benchwork around it as if we need to replace it, we could also get a short one, whose height is 48-52". The second find was that there are two posts that hold up the stairs, one at the end of the box, the other right next to the support post that is next to the stairs. With this information, I could run the line between these two posts and not worry about pinching a blob too much or altering the benchwork run as well.

The real ahah moment came while I was reading the LDJ I received when I first joined the Layout Design Sig (don't think there's been one since). I had mentioned before, but I really liked Mark Lestico's plan, which was detailed in this LDJ. In it, Mark has a dispatchers office with a window in it that allows the dispatcher to view trains entering and leaving the two yards. The other item, which is where the moment in question came from, was the entrance to the layout came from this dispatchers area. I had been trying to get the entrance of the layout into the end or side of a peninsula as opposed to opposite a blob area. Realizing I couldn't take the benchwork much past the the little alcove on the right of my basement, that this would be a perfect place for a small dispatchers area and it would allow a larger, i.e., 36" entrance to the layout room. I could also have drawers, desk, other storage in this small area. The refrigerator wouldn't be blocked as it would just sit closer to the water meter. By looping the connection between the visible staging yard and the main yard area around the water heater, I'd gain the lenght of run I want plus the length of train, or closer to it. All of this resulted in a base plan that looks like:
From Conrail Harrisburg Line - N Scale

In this plan, I'd put the yard on the left wall and select small industrial areas to model. I'm also leaning towards doing more of a freelance road now, but if I can create named places along the Harrisburg line that gets me some industries, then I will do that. Right now, I can only see 3 really good switching areas on the plan, maybe a fourth if I can squeeze it in, but there's going to be some nice running through scenery as well.

The benchwork layout is 15" shelf, 30-34" aisle, 15" shelf. I haven't decided how the outside, agains tthe wall shelfs will be constructed. I'm tempted not to frame out the basement walls due to the fact we also have a french drain around the perimeter which would make any framing not be snug against the block wall. I've also though of 2x2s directly into the block wall, but we'll see. So I'm going to work with this base from here on out and see what I can do from a track flow, town locatio perspective.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Reaching Frustration

So I've finally reached a frustration level with my planning. I've been concentrating on a multi-level design so I could use the other half of the basement for storage and the like. I realized a few weeks ago that if my benchwork was 48" high, then I would have plenty of storage under the layout, particularly with 30/32" wide peninsulas and 15" wide wall shelfs. As a result, I started working on a single-level design for the entire basement. One thing I needed to keep in mind was that we have a refrigerator in our basement so I would need unfettered access to it. In other words, it couldn't be located somewhere where one needed to go under the layout and the idea of two removable/swing gates was not something i was looking forward to. Here is a pic of the basement itself:
From Conrail Harrisburg Line - N Scale

So the stairs come down to the bottom right. Located in this corner is my water meter. I've placed the refrigerator there for the time being, although it can be moved around. Over on the bottom left, the long blue box is a secondary water meter for my outside line. This is located here because it feeds the outside faucet we use to fill our pool so we get a rebate/refund from our sewage company for any water usage that comes out of it. To the right of this meter is the entrance to the crawlspace It can be blocked with a removable backdrop and I'd get one of those folding ladders if access is needed. In the top right is a gas meter. Its shutoff is outside and the only other gas shutoff I can find is next to the furnace and water heater. Any benchwork or shelf built in front of this would be need to be removable for whenever the gas company comes out to replace the meter. The upper left is obviously where all utilities are. There's about 8 inches of space between the water heater and wall at the top and over a foot to the wall on the left. The furnace is really on the top part of the furnace block, the block just represents the concrete foundation it sits on and where the duct work comes in.

On to my level of frustration. I think some of it is the result of looking at various plans and wanting to come up with a walkaround design and trying to find good fits for things like a yard and staging. Some of it comes from trying to model the Harrisburg line itself with the 90 degree swing it makes in Harrisburg and the live interchange you really need with the Lurgan Subdivision and Amtrak as well as the flow. I've been looking at two plans in similar square footage as me, Mark Lestico's Cascade Subdivision and Austin White's Cajon Subdivision as well as two from Model Railroader. I'm really 22' x 27' minus the area for the utilities (6x11) and the steps (9x3.5) to give just under 500 square feet. That's a lot of room for a layout, one many people would love to have. Mark's at 29x17, just under 500 square feet as well, and Austin's is at 14x24 with a storage section. If I slimmed my available space down, I'd be closer to his measurements. One reason I really like these plans are the fact they take complex, main-line prototypes and have pretty simple, flowing plans. As a result, one plan I had come up with is based on these is shown below.
From Conrail Harrisburg Line - N Scale
The problem with this plan was access to the crawl space would be directly in the middle of the backdrop. I'm thinking of adjust this plan slightly by decreasing the size of the yard and staging as well so the backdrop would enter the wall right at the edge of the crawl space entrance. No other portion of the layout would be here (I could see this being where the dispatcher is located) so I could guarantee decent access into the scrawlspace. The main entrance to the layout would be a removable piece or swing gate at the bottom right. Some other thoughts I had on various formations were:
From Conrail Harrisburg Line - N Scale

From Conrail Harrisburg Line - N Scale

From Conrail Harrisburg Line - N Scale

The middle one is out because, well, that has no decent access to the crawlspace. The bottom one is what I had based the plan at the top on. The majority of these track arrangements leaves about a 170' to 185' mainline run, plenty for operational purposes. I have been using 12' trains as my desired train length, but I'd be willing to go all the way down to 10' because a set of 5 articulated 48' (53' didn't come out until after my time period) is about 22". Putting together four or five of these plus another 3/4 engines would give 10' to 11' trains. The 12' trains came from 4 engines plus 20 single 53' well cars which was approximately 141" so I used 12' for close enough measurements. The conclusion I've come to is that staging is really going to dictate the flow and layout of any plan I can come up with. The more I've read about visible staging the more I have come to like it including use of double ended visible staging. It makes running trains easier as well as setup for any kind of operation session.

I think at this point I need to redefine my givens/druthers to see if I really want to stick with modeling the Harrisburg line or go to a proto-freelance based on Conrail's many eastern lines. I have quite a bit of Amtrak rolling stock so that was what had made the Harrisburg Line interesting to me in addition to the main centers of industry. I'm not sure other lines have as much with the main-line action as well. So I guess it's back to the drawing board again and see what else I can come up with.

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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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