Layout Construction

One Bite at a Time

Redesigning on the fly. The XtrackCAD drawing has been revised, printed and laid out to satisfaction. Now to figure out the particulars with the benchwork modifications.

I’ve been making some progress on a bunch of small construction projects. Hopefully I can keep the momentum going. Here is what I’ve been up to:


I have banged out most of the open grid work I need to do to finish things. The entire staging yard is ready for subroadbed now and I did the sections around the back door including a lift out section. I also cut a notch in a partition wall so the yard could cut the corner.

The 45 degree corner of the benchwork. Cutting the ends to 22.5 degree angles was actually a fun learning project.

I’m not happy with the lift out, though, it is too big and I am feeling less confident of all the tracks crossing gaps at skewed angles. I’m rebuilding it ASAP with a simpler design based on Lance Mindheim’s blog post (link), albeit on a curve. It will be sceniced but with next to no relief. This is going to sacrifice some realism, but will be easier to store, less likely to warp and should operate more reliably.

The rebuilt corner will feature a joint roughly where the ruler is vs. the skewed one that was built to accommodate a rectangular lift out section. A low backdrop is planned to partially conceal the spray booth vent and window.


I built Jamesville Yard on a pair of hollow core doors capped with a layer of foam and a ceiling tile. Others have had success with this, but my yard bows up like a “U” in the spring from the humidity. This is very noticeable even from the side, if I were modeling a branchline it would not be a big deal, but it doesn’t look right on a main.

I have been meaning to strengthen this when it dries out in cold, dry weather but I missed my chance last year. Not taking any chances this year I added the fascia and some extra support as soon as the bow disappeared completely this year. What a huge difference a little thing like that makes visually. I also was able to fix the lighting on my workbench which is on a desk below, and that is a huge improvement too. Let’s hope the yard stays straight when the humidity comes back.

Claflin-Sumner Coal

The photo from Jack Leonard from my last post gave me just enough of a glimpse of the coal yard that I could finally do a decent mockup of it. I used the dimensions from the 1950 Sanborn map and estimated the height above the rail from the picture. I used a 12:1 pitch on the roof, which is about as low as anyone goes in New England. With that drawn out I figured out the depth below the rail using a 10′ height on the low side. This meant I needed another half inch below grade for the building to sit properly. So I ripped out 1″ of foam and replaced it with a 5/8″ thick ceiling tile. I may steal a half an inch for the foreground by switching to prototypical 13′ track centers (1.8″) from the HO scale standard of 14.5′ (2″) when I relay this section with Micro Engineering track.

I realized I had to lower the grade when I built this mockup. Of course that was right after I cut and installed the fascia. In later years hoppers were unloaded in a pit where the D&H car sits, rather than through the doors in the back of the building. If anyone has or knows of good detail photos of the open side of this type of shed, I’d love to see them.

So lots of little projects are getting done and moving the layout forward. Those who are prolific layout builders say the best way to make progress is to do something every day, even if you only work for 15 minutes. It all adds up. How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.


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