February 2011

P&EBR Operation: Plausibility

What would have to be included on my layout in order to optimize its long term potential as a recreational activity?

I already determined I wanted the layout to be small, but large enough to include a hairpin curve.



The hairpin curve requirement means the layout will not be that small after all. Accommodating reasonable aisle widths and curve radii spreads things out until this layout would be a very tight fit in a spare bedroom. I settled on 12 by 14 feet as plenty of room in which to build this basic plan.


The Mill Job begins its work at Shops Yard.

It would be possible to build this main line configuration in a smaller space than 12 by 14 feet, but I wanted enough space on the layout to include the reason for the railroad’s existence. There are thousands of miles of railroad track stretched across the country where the reason for the track being in that particular place is nowhere in sight. For example, coal mines hundreds of miles away generated many of the trains that I have watched cross central Virginia. But I wanted my layout to include the industries that were generating the work for the trains to do. The industries would have to be of a nature and size that would be conducive to rail service, and actually exist in the region I was interested in modeling.


Cars consigned to Piedmont Mill are pulled from the yard and blocked into an outbound train.

I was really painting myself into a corner with these requirements for a layout. The fact that the layout had to be somewhat small and compact eliminated a lot of operational possibilities. Add to that the requirement that the layout also had to include the industries that generate all the work for the railroad to do, and only a very few scenarios are possible. The layout could represent a branchline, short line, or industrial railroad. That was about it.


The Mill Job on the Crane Track at Piedmont Mill.

It is fun to dream up ideas for a future layout thinking that the sky is the limit. But there are in fact many limitations imposed on the project, so the goal is to optimize the situation. I could see that the long term success of a small layout would not involve watching trains run ‘round and ‘round. There would have to be situations in place that would force operation to slow down, and require some mental focus to solve problems involving picking up and setting out freight cars.