N Gauge - California-ish Railroad Layout

Hi All,
I had not realised it was nearly 3.5 years since I updated this thread! The previous layout described above ended up being scrapped. While the baseboards were built solidly, one day I lifted them off the trestles, sat in a chair for moment, went to get up and ended up in an emergency call to Paramedics on the premise I couldn't breath! After a run into hospital, I was diagnosed with a pulled muscle in the top of my back. Conclusion was id lifted something heavy, and that could only have been the layout boards! Having concluded that a repeat was not advisable, some serious thought went into things.

As a result, the portable layout was scrapped, and thoughts turned to alternatives. Unfortunately, the past couple of years have seen a lot of work related issues taking precedence along with some family health issues, so the model railroad took a back seat. However, things are moving forward with plans for a much bigger and involved layout in the new railway room, which is some 20ft x 11ft in size. The aim is to combine the best parts of what I see from some of the Virtual Railfan and LiveTrains webcams, with plenty of operational activity and scenic options. I'll update once things are really moving forward, but I am continuing to collect the various locomotives and freight cars for it!

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Morning all,
So I sat down last night and put a few words together as to what the new layout is based on, as a few friends had been asking me, so it seemed logical to post it on here too. While there is no actual imagery, the track design is underway. I have historically used Peco track work but have decided to hand built it all for this, to get a more realistic and common look to things. Plus with this layout, being home based and having a dedicated space, there is no rush.

The concept is that it will be twin level, the bottom level will all be storage (with accessibility to get in to retail anything that may come off) and the main layout on top. I have about 22ft x 11ft of space, which will be split into three sections, length ways. This will allow wide curves and long trains (hopefully!) The idea is that trains will emerge on the back long side, having climbed from the hidden sidings on very gentle grade over a length of about 60ft, and pass through a short (8-10ft) canyon scene (which keeps the concept of the original plan) it will then emerge from a tunnel onto the middle long length, crossing the river. The idea is that the scene here will be similar to the scene from the Blue Island (link) webcam, with two pairs of lines approaching in a 'Y' style. Two will form the main around the rest of the layout, the other two will give access into the yard and intermodal 'through' roads at the back of the yard. This section will be join UP/BNSF operation, with trackage rights covering NS, CPKC, CN. Two of the lines will deviate at this stage to join CSX metals, which will cross the four UP/BNSF lines on the level through diamonds.

Continuing down the main, the yard will start with the four intermodal 'through' roads at the back, then seven arrival/departure roads for the yard, the main, access to the 'coal' sidings and the Amtrak platform. The coal siding will be four or six through roads allowing the stabling of loaded and empty coal sets out of the way, in an area known as 'the coal hole'. All will form a gentle 180 degree curve over an eight foot diameter. The arrival/departure roads will then come back to a double track point leading into the sorting sidings. The yard will be flat shunted, and adjacent to this 'pinch-point' for the yard will be the locomotive facility for stabling and servicing. A lot of this area will be based on Barstow in California, with input from the CSX loco depot at Cumberland, the NS yard at Conway in Pennsylvania and a tiny input from UPs Bailey Yard. I dont have the width to go as large as I would like, but hopefully it should represent a busy yard.

Further along the classification sidings will come back to a point giving departures an easy route out from this end, joining with the intermodal through roads, the main and the 'coal hole' access, before curving round in a city surrounding to disappear between buildings and return back down to the hidden sidings. The CSX route will emerge from the hidden sidings and pass a small intermodal facility, before curving 45 degrees to cross the UP/BNSF lines. There will be access in both directions between the UP/BNSF and CSX routes. Once over the diamonds, this line will complete the last bit of a 'S' bend to descend back to the hidden sidings, under the main yard and 'coal hole'.

That is the grand plan. It will not be an overnight build, far from it! The hidden sidings will be three groups of three roads, each around 16-18ft in length, with perhaps a couple of longer ones for things like the BNSF grain train and automotive trips, working that might have mid and rear train helpers. There will also be two short locomotive stabling areas, with each road able to accommodate probably nine locos (three pairs of three) and five to six roads in each area, giving plenty of expansion for the loco fleet in the future.

All of this will be DCC controlled, I have a Digitrax system, with some aspects (such as the hidden sidings) automatically controlled using TrainController, iTrain or some home spun IT creation. That adds to the complexity a bit as lots of DCC detection sections will be needed, but as they say, I have a plan! The primary work will be on laying the hidden sidings, which I have learnt from others need to be able to accommodate a larger number of trains that you think you need!! But hopefully once operational, it should be fun to operate and be achievable to create a busy main line railroad with a single operator.

Well having done some further planning and worked out where the five 'entrance/exits' to/from the layout will come to the sub-level hidden sidings, I am now on with designing the hidden sidings track work. For speed, I am probably going to use Peco Code 55 rail for the majority, but for cost I'll likely go for handbuilt points on this level too as it gives more flexibility and smoother running.

In other news, I appear to have gained four locomotives! A local model shop that specialises in Kato, had a 'spur of the moment' flash early summer sale, at which point I managed to pick up the C&NW liveried UP SD70ACe No. 1995 model at almost 40% off, and a similar saving was had on my first Amtrak loco - P42 #100 in the 50th Anniversary livery. Subsequent to that, I have also acquired two ScaleTrains second-hand UP locos, although it will be several weeks before they migrate to this side of the Atlantic!



Both are DC only models, which I prefer as I get to standardise on my own choice of decoder that way, usually a Digitrax for the Kato models. I have a spare for the SD70ACe, but will need to acquire a suitable option for the P42.

The ScaleTrains UP GEVOs both have a Next18 socket according to the ST website, so as these are the first ScaleTrains locos I have acquired (although I have three on pre-order for later in the year) I need to look up the decoder options - unless anyone can offer any advice? I dont do DCC sound, as its to expensive with the fleet I have/will have!