East of the Blue Ridge

Chronicles of an On30 quarry railroad

September 2007

Planning the Layout

I used RailModeler software to create the trackplan for the P&EBR. It is designed to be operated point to point, but has continuous running cabability for open houses and whenever I just want to watch the trains go 'round and 'round.

The heavy brown lines in the plan are walls, so you can see that the layout primarily occupies one room, but extends into two adjacent rooms through holes in the walls. The room to the right in the plan is an office, and the room at the top of the plan is an unfinished shop area.

Although none of the early construction of the layout was in this area, the plan for the part of the layout extending into the unfinished shop area looked like this:

Most of the benchwork and roadbed were built using this plan, and I had begun to lay track, when a wave of home improvement projects hit. For an extended period starting Memorial Day weekend, I was not able to work on the layout.

During the long summer, I would occasionally look at the layout as it sat waiting for me to get back to construction. Over time, one particular track began to bother me. On the plan detail above, it is labelled "Apex Quarry." It bothered me that this track would be completely hidden under scenery, and had terrible access. My intention had been to use it as a staging track to represent an unmodeled quarry served by an extension of the branch off the wye. But I could see that in practice it would be very difficult to make use of the track in the regular operation of the layout. The point at which cars would have to be coupled and uncoupled was out of the reach of an operator standing at the wye, and the lefthand curve leading into the Apex Quarry track would prevent cars from coupling automatically.

Near the end of the summer, it occurred to me that the Apex Quarry track needed to be on the other side of the wall. This would solve the access problems, while still allowing the track to serve as a continuous run connection. I began to explore the possibility of moving it from the layout room over into the shop:

This detail shows the basic idea of moving the Apex Quarry track to the other side of the wall. This would require knocking another hole in the wall between the layout room and the shop. In planning the exact location for the new hole, I located a stud in the wall in a very unfortunate location, shown in red.

In fact, there were 2 studs close together in the wall at this location. I think the second stud was added for the convenience of the contractor who hung the sheet rock. These obstructions in the wall initially made it seem that cutting a hole in the wall for the Apex track would be too complicated.

I kept thinking about the new hole in the wall until the possibility of squeezing the roadbed through a small hole between the two studs finally dawned on me. It would require a quick right turn off the end of the wye, then a tight lefthand turn once through the wall. Laying out the track in RailModeler indicated it was possible:

The old Apex Quarry track would become the new mainline leading into a small Transfer Yard from the wye. The other connection between the layout and Transfer Yard would serve as a storage spur on the Transfer Yard end, and a stone loading spur on the layout end. The new quarry in the corner is named Cove Quarry, because it will mainly exist as a painting in the coved corner of the backdrop.

The shelf in the unfinished shop area is eight feet long and 16 inches deep. It was built as the staging area for my previous layout. As a staging area, it was never intended to have scenery. The shop area is chronically dusty, and does not have climate control. The tabletop benchwork of the staging yard is painted gloss black, and can easily be shop vacuumed clean. I have decided that, for the time being, the Transfer Yard for the P&EBR will not have any scenery either. All track will be HO standard gauge flex track. Turnouts will be Peco Electrofrog Medium and Long Radius HO scale turnouts left over from my previous layout.

This "temporary" trackwork with no scenery in the Transfer Yard area will allow time to try out this trackplan and see if it suits me. If all goes well, I will build a valance over the Transfer Yard that will allow installation of panels to keep the dust off the layout. Then I will go back and replace the trackwork with handlaid, and add scenery and structures to this section of the layout.