Saturday, January 4, 2014

Proto Location - Finally

Over the holidays I cleaned up the basement. In respites of that, I continued to formulate what I wanted to do in the basement within the context of the existing benchwork. I talked a number of times with one of the members of the operating group I participate in, Chris Conaway, as I thought he has a nice setup. Chris has a double-track mainline running around his lower level with thru staging and a branch line that runs off to a second level. You can see pictures of the layout starting here. I've operated on this layout a number of times and really like the setup even with some of the tightness in the aisles. Chris has done a great job of getting an operating layout in his basement with all of the obstructions and extremely low ceiling.. I talked with him about how/why he designed it the way he did. Chris said he always had the double deck in mind and it wound up that the lower level was a good height for his kids and friends to run the trains on and the branch ended up being good for him to run on. He had built the layout more with different scenes and industries in mind then a specific area. I remember visiting it in 2008 before I knew any of the guys I currently operate with and it was a PRR "located" on the Northern Central. By the time I joined the operating group in 2010, Chris had changed the location of his layout based on the PRR Panhandle line through Newark, Oh., with the Branch running towards New Lexington. The towns actually lined up nicely and he had interchanges already setup and/or planned where they were on the actual line. The industries aren't modeled as faithfully, but where appropriate, provide accurate names of the industries for the towns they are in, consider it a proto-freelanced layout driven by operations.

What does all this have to do with me? Well, Chris suggested I sit down and just map out where I wanted towns and the like, and, if possible, find a closely-resembling area of Conrail for the layout to be set in. With that and figuring my layout was setup perfectly for the same type of setup he had (we both have/need a gate for continuous running). So with that, I drew out what I wanted or what I could think would fit and labeled it on a string-line diagram.
So what I came up with was an East-West line with a branch that headed north to a steel mill. This sent me on a search around the Conrail system. This actually led me to two areas. The first being the Chicago Line in northern Ohio with the Steel Mill being Lorain. The branch off to the NS line wasn't as long as my upper level would be so I didn't pursue it much further. The other area was looking back towards a previous area of the prototype I researched 6 months or so ago, the Ft. Wayne Line. The Lordstown Secondary comes off just east of Alliance and runs north towards the Youngstown area to serve a pair of GM assembly plants. Further north of those plants, it connects with Conrail's Niles Secondary which served over the course of its time a number of steel mills. Just west of this connection is the town of Warren, Oh. Located there, during my modeled period, was the LTV Steel Mill (then WCI, then Severstal, now closed and most likely going to be demolished) as well as a coke battery that is now owned by ArcelorMittal. Looking at this area, it is almost too perfect to model as an integrated mill. There's only 85 batteries in the Coke Oven, which through compression could be reduced in half and still be believable, one blast furnace, one Basic Oxygen Furnace, a continuous caster, 2 rolling Mills, and an interchange yard. When I saw the layout of the plant and its components, I knew I had my prototype inspiration. This mill combined with the auto plants could give the branch line the heavy industries that would make its existence through Conrail's life believable as well as provide for interesting movements. As such, I modified the above line diagram putting real places on the map based off of this information.
Now, looking at the map, I had a few dilemmas. First, 90% of the traffic coming from Pittsburgh would've taken the connection in Alliance to Cleveland and not continued on the Ft. Wayne Line. Second, some of the interesting industries in Canton don't line up 100% in the order I had planned things around the yard. After some quick doodling, placement and analysis, I figured for operational purposes, I could just model the trains that traveled the Ft. Wayne Route, about 8 manifests and 4 Mail/TVs, and not worry about any of the Cleveland traffic. COLT/LTCO was the main manifest that went up the Lordstown Secondary and actually had a number of cars on it for a refinery all the way out in Pennsylvania. To add some more interest, this could be brought over to the branch line to add some more operating instances and perhaps add another local or manifest to the mix. Another study in all of this was that Canton was a mixing point of these manifests and locals that would set out and run miles for switching the industries. For example INPI would drop auto parts box cars in canto for COLT to add for delivery and vice-versa on the way back. This would make Canton a perfect model railroad size yard as only locals originate/terminate from here, everything else block swaps. With that, I played around with the locations on my benchwork and as it relates to the overall basement to come up with the following layout/space usage:
and once liking that layout, I produced a schematic that would help in doing more detailed planning that I am about to embark on:
There are some really cool scenes along this route, including a picturesque bridge in Massillon, Oh. Other crossings/interchanges will definitely add to the ops facility. I must say, when I kept coming back to this area, I knew it was calling me and while to add operations I'm adding a few things or taking liberty with some (like assembled autos really went out on CSX not Conrail), I think this area will meet everything I'm looking for out of a layout.


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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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