Saturday, February 27, 2016

Thinking About An N Scale Display Layout: The Idea

The Dunes Junction is an HO interpretation of beloved childhood railroading memories, but for as long as I have been involved in model railroading I've had an eye on N scale.
Couple of reasons for this: the first model railroads of which I have any memory are N scale--I think an uncle or older cousin had N scale trains back in the late 60s or early 70s. Among my earliest memories of reading about model railroading are the Clinchfield project railroad articles that ran in Model Railroader magazine in the late 70s. (Here's MR old hand Jim Hediger telling funny stories about the Clinchfield layout.)
I've even owned N scale trains over the years. I started a very tiny, very lightweight N layout while I was stationed in Germany with the US Army. The end of that story is worthy of an episode of the A Modelers Life podcast: I think I ended up trading all that N stuff away for four bald tires or a water pump or some such that I needed for my ancient Mercedes 230.4. Twenty or so years ago I started building another modest N roster, which I subsequently parlayed into a spray booth and airbrush accoutrements for robot and military model building.
This YouTube Thompson River Canyon video catalyzed my latest infatuation with N scale:
I think it came to my attention via the CP Rail Manitoba & Minnesota subdivision blog, but it kept surfacing in my other online model railroading haunts as well. The video shows a nice time-lapse of the construction, and the story behind it is interesting and affecting as well.
The concept is what really got my attention--a manageably-sized, light weight, and visually appealing N scale scenic vignette--scenery in the front, staging/fiddling in the back, simple trackwork. The magazines have shown track plans and concepts like this in the past, but precious few actually built examples.
Seeing this smallish and achievable N scale display layout prompted me to revisit some other smallish N scale layouts of note. I went back and studied namely the Red Oak, Salt Lake Route, and Carolina Central project railroads that ran over the past few years in Model Railroader, Dave Vollmer's Juniata/Pennsy layout, and its inspiration, Lou Sassi's Mohawk Division, also an MR project layout that later appeared in a Kalmbach book on small layouts.  The Red Oak, Carolina Central, Juniata, and Mohawk layouts, like the Thompson River Canyon, were all built on a hollow-core doors.
The Juniata and Mohawk layouts showed that a simple double track loop could actually host longish locos and passenger cars against believable scenery, and the internet video of most of these layouts show trains running. With my interest focused lately on the Northeast corridor (see thisthis, and this), I immediately made the connection that such a display layout might scratch an itch I've had for a while to somehow 'casually' model Pennsy and post-Pennsy electrics.
Where is this all going? The hollow core door and other benchwork accoutrements have been acquired, as well as a supply of Peco track. I'm thinking this new thing will be called 'The Old Line Corridor' (a Maryland riff on Pennsylvania's Keystone Corridor) and if I do it right, it'll look something like a Mohawk or Juniata Division with catenary.