Monday, January 25, 2016

The Marion Branch

So I had indicated I was seriously looking at going into HO in my last post. While that hasn't completely subsided, I'm most likely not looking to go in that direction anymore. I actually priced out some things and with the cost of HO rolling stock, including locomotives, plus track, even the simple Lance Mindheim plan I linked to would run me about $1200 out of the gate and that wouldn't include any expansion of it or structures, etc. However, the concepts and feedback you gave me had me looking at a few other things. First, I liked the footprint of that plan. Mostly rectangular, easy to build, no turnback loop, etc. Also, a few friends on the side offered some advice on going down the road of a switching layout. While I think I would enjoy that to an extent, I'd still want that mainline action, even if it is just grabbing a cold one and relaxing watching trains role through a scene.

With that in mind, I set out to look for a more natural prototype in the Conrail system, one with some mainline action but with switching opportunities or branch lines that could be modeled off said main. This research led me to a back issue of the Conrail Historical Society's Quarterly magazine. The feature was on Conrail's Marion Branch. The Marion branch was a former NYC line that at one time went from Benton Harbor, Mi., to Lousiville, Ky. Over time, this scaled back to the Marion Branch from Goshen, In., to Carthage, In. The line connected the Chicago Line and Indianapolis Line, in Adnerson, In., and was an important route for Michigan auto traffic coming to/from the SSW to get to Elkhart for distribution.

Another interesting fact was that the main yard for distirbuting locals was actually on the former PRR Panhandle mainline from Columbus, Oh., to Chicago through Logansport, In., Goodman Yard. This yard is adjacent to a GM stamping plant in Marion. What made this even more interesting is that road freights did not typically pick-up or set-off cars in the yard, they would instead, for a lack of a better term, drop and pick up at an interchange-type yard in Marion at the former diamond. In essence, the yard could be on a peninsular with the interchange yard along the side. I started doing the move the LDEs around and came up with this concept:

The Red Key Secondary is the former PRR main that only went as far as Red Key, In., and served two container plants, two glass factories and a large elevator in Dunkirk, In., to the east, and Goodman Yard and the GM Plant to the west. Industries on these lines were light but enough that 2 or 3 locals would originate out of Goodman yard as well as 2 or 3 over the road freights bringing and picking up cars from these locals. After doing some more flushing out of the actual mechanics, here was version 1 of the plan:

As you can see, it's a basic around-the-room design with what's been called X-factor staging giving a continuous run option. Since only 3 manifests, at most, traveled this route, only 4 staging tracks would be needed on each side. Also, since this particular line goes though farmland, no more then 12" of layout width would be needed (I mean, how much cornfield does one really need to model?). I did have an 18" depth requirement for the storage around the walls so this worked out to 6" for staging and 12" for the layout. This, combined with 18" width of yard peninsula would give over  36" of aisle space. I also looked at the plan and, as Mike alluded to in his previous comments, this plan could be build in quick stages:

  • Mainline and X-factor connection loop
  • Staging areas
  • Industries off mainline
  • Red Key secondary branch
  • Marion/Goodman Yard peninsula
Overall, it's a rather simplistic plan with many operational opportunities. I am currently revising the branch and the paper mill in Wabash for better flow, but I like the overall aspect of it.


Mike McNamara said...

Interesting concept, especially how Goodman yard connects via that interchange yard only. Very different than most layouts. I always thought x-factor staging was a great concept. Your approach is even different than I have thought of it before where the staging is not centered but outside of the X. My biigest concern would be this x-section being behind some backdrop, but with the small aisle depth, perhaps it is a simple step stool reach over to fix issues (I am familiar with that!). The 2 buildings abutting each side of the backdrop is a good idea too. I wonder if the right side of Marion could be turned into a drop section or lift up/out for better access into the layout.

But interesting concept that looks do-able in sections which will get you running sooner!

Phil D said...

Mike, yes, this screenshot doesn't have the drop down section but that is precisely why everything is center-left there. I have a few thoughts on the backdrop. First, it wouldn't be more then 4 to 6 inches in height and i'm thinking 4' sections that are "peg slotted" so they can be removed if needed.

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