Layout Rebirth

Remember the 5’x6 1/2′ layout that I’ve been working on since Olin’s train fever began? (This one. You can follow the whole saga under the ‘model railroading‘ tag.) After we acquired the TTFH, our original attempt’s pretty serious liabilities were highlighted to the point that I thought it would be ludicrous to continue. Not only because the foam was a huge mess, the layout was a disaster and I was completely fed up with the lighting in the room, but because the slope of the floor and the less-than-ideal table-under-a-table support was starting to lean precariously in a way that was warping the plywood and consequently the layout, and making me imagine the whole thing some day just giving up and sliding off on to the floor.

So, I re-imagined the whole thing. I’ve read lots of opinions and ideal layout ideas, perused layout plans and message boards galore and enjoy the ‘art’ of the great realistic layout, and even considered switching to N scale to make what I imagined fit better in the space I had. (I laid that last idea aside for now, because we have entirely too much money invested in track, engines, rolling stock and models to completely abandon that scale.) The best way I found to put what Olin wanted, what I had, and what I loved to do, together in to a nice-looking layout was to make this compromise.

I took the two pieces of my 5’x61/2′ table apart, spent $16.50 on having some 2x4s cut for table legs for each, and then another 7:50 on an L-shaped angle piece for the inside of the L and a handful for drywall screws. (Wood needs wood screws, but I know I have a Phillips head for the drill. I don’t know about the weird-shaped head the wood screws had. Also, even the shortest wood screws were way too long.) I re-used one of my flat connector pieces from the previous design, and cut a couple of crosspieces to bolster the legs because the 2x4s proved to be pretty flimsy. I moved the entire business in to the ‘main room’ of the basement where the light and general health of environs was better, and did my construction there.

IMG_1642Before I did any of this, I made sure that a full 180 degree half-loop of EZ-Track (our track system by a certain level of default) would fit on the 3’3″ long edge. Figuring out degrees of curve and such is beyond me. Seeing it actually squeeze in is proof positive. It just exactly does.

So, I started working on what sort of track we had and what was possible with that size and layout. Track seems to have a certain amount of flexibility in it that isn’t accounted for in specific measurements or track-building software, so I built that in to the ‘layout’ that I came up with for this new configuration.


Caption: This ‘modern era’ layout is sort of an End Game plan. There are a whole lot of models to build and turnouts to buy before this is completed…

The Walther’s Grain Elevator in the top left, I have actually built and is sort of sitting around, waiting for a company name, a dullcoat of acrylic, and a layout home. I actually got it “for Olin” a year and a half ago when we first got in to this, but was completely daunted by trying to accomplish all the steps of model building and protect them from kids while they cured. The saga is here.

The royal blue rectangle is going to be a passenger/freight station that my mom got for Olin for Christmas. I have it in my basement, waiting to be assembled. It was modeled in red and green, but I intend to paint and weather it in blue (Olin’s favorite color) and white, and make scale signage for it saying “Olin Station”. The light blue next door is a graveyard/display for the dead steam locomotive that was his first introduction to model trains. It’s beautiful, but useless. (I took it to the hobby shop for diagnosis and they said it was completely dead. But it still looks cool…) So, maybe the local historical society put an antique steam engine in the yard and a short tourist trip on the line behind the normal train. It could happen.

Brown is for farmland. I’m either going to paint that brown and cover it in 1:87 ‘rows’ of spring green ‘crop’, or in ‘corn’, depending on how well I can reproduce corn at a recognizable height. The medium green in the top mid right is going to be a farmyard with a barn and/or farmhouse. Dark green are wooded areas (to sort of mask the back track without denying access).

Gravel and cement colors are self-explanatory as gravel and cement roads respectively. The light green is to represent uncultivated land: grass, light brush with occasional trees, or in the case of the big light green area bisected by a road: a town. I don’t have any models yet, just a general idea of a small town in that area.

The green rectangle is a feed & seed dealer. I have the model for that and am in process of assembling it.

The white industry in the far corner is completely imaginary. I just discovered that it would fit nicely, provided the model would fit, and it was room for expansion. If it turns out to be nothing, it’s nothing. If I find something that fits the theme, I’ll put in an appropriate road.

The turntable and everything in red is imaginary. I used a Walthers 3041 Cornerstone Roundhouse as the base to assess space usage, but I have neither an EZ-Track turntable nor that model to actually fill in those spaces. That is future planning! The bright red angled house at the bottom is meant to be a car-cleaning shed to justify any given car on the layout, and the slightly darker red building in the middle is imagined as a branch office. I don’t have a model in mind for that one, just imagining for the future.

If you look at the photo, you’ll notice that I’ve got my foam base on the layout already. Through some judicious recycling of base layers and careful use of spare bits, I was able to recreate a relatively good 1 1/2″ base for the layout. I’d like to incorporate a pond-stream-river bit somewhere towards the front of the plan so that I can put a bridge in on the front edge, but I would like to get the tracks laid out and working before I get that involved.

One of the major ideas of model building that I’ve come across is that an uninterrupted line of track at eye level at the front of the model destroys the illusion of ‘realism’. I am building towards the tastes of a child/children who love to watch the wheels go on the track. Specifically for that reason, I’ve positioned the front track at the very edge of the layout. (The fact that it barely fits is, you know, just convenient…)

When I have this assembled enough to be operational, I intend to put clear plastic ‘walls’ up at least a few inches to discourage meddling. My theory is that if a child is big enough to reach over the walls and meddle, they’re big enough to understand to be careful. We shall see: a)how much plexiglass costs, b) how long this remains a ‘thing’, and c) whether or not discipline and respect mean anything at all.

Lots of plans. For the immediate future, I have ideas and a place to put my beautiful ‘rural’ models while Olin can play with the TTFH. Also, must consult with handyman f-i-l because the amazing table I built is actually pretty flimsy and pathetic. I’m proud that I made it, but it needs some serious help.

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