The Houcksville & Fowblesburg Electric Railway

Built by Martin K. Van Horn

Part Two

Hereís some things I should have taken care of up front in Part 1. Where does the name Houcksville & Fowblesburg come from? Believe it of not they were real place names from Carroll County, Maryland.

Back in the 1950's, I was an invited guest at a miniature railroad (9" gauge, 3" = 1' scale) built in real western narrow gauge style as a switchback up the side of a high, steep hill. It was named the Carroll County Narrow Gauge R.R., a name I use for a switchback branch on my own On30 steam/diesel railroad. Up Weaver Lane, an unpaved road adjacent to the C.C.N.G. was Houcksville, a typical old-time General Store with a gravity-fed gas pump outside. Fowblesburg was more of a bustling Ďmetropolisí, a brick restaurant at a crossroads on the Hanover Pike where we had the best homemade bean soup after a day working on the little railroad in colder weather. I wanted to use the initials of the Hagerstown & Frederick Ry., Marylandís country trolley, for my On30 empire, so Houcksville & Fowblesburg was a natural.

This photo should have been in Part 1 where I describe the use of extra sharp curves on my layout. Here is the prototype loop 100 years ago on Market St. In Philadelphia at the intersection of Delaware Avenue. Philadelphia Rapid Transit Co., as with most traction companies of the era, operated on the premise of A car always in sight! Those are big double-truck cars whipping around that tiny loop, too!

Turnout building slowed the layout construction greatly. Here is the switch that starts the Carbarn Loop. Because of the sharp radius (6.75"), the turnouts are all Tongue-&-Mate (single-point), typical of a traction line. This turnout will be both motorized and sprung: normally sprung to the curved side to enter the loop, but thrown by machine to go straight and enter the future interurban line.

The next turnout is a 3-way, dictated by following Carl Arendtís Micro Layout plan. It branches right into the freight depot spur, and left into Track 1of the carbarn. The loop track continues straight, through the center of the 3-way.

The final turnout in the ladder is a single left- hand into Track 2 of the carbarn. Note the "gauge bars" soldered between the guard rails at the frog and the tongue-&-mate which make these pre-fab switches, that can be re-laid if so desired.

And hereís how they are prefabbed. On a full-size paper template on a scrap of Homasote at the work bench. This is the junction switch off of the back of the Carbarn Loop leading to the future interurban line. Itís all assembled and tested, and will now be soldered together and the "gauge bars" added. This is the "lost paper" method as the template will be scorched and destroyed by soldering.

Hereís the completed Interurban Jct. Switch laid on ties on the layout. Th "L"-shaped object at right is the tongue (point) soldered to a 3/64" brass pivot rod that goes into a hole at the end of the closure rail. Switch linkage and machine (if powered) are attached and installed under the layout.

Here is the completed loop. At this point, all mainline track is complete, and I couldnít resist a test run. All rails are grounded, as are all wheels on my cars. So the Bachmann power pack was wired on one side to the rails, and then the white wire in the photo was inserted into the trolley pole bushing on the roof. With one hand controlling speed and the other guiding the white wire, the car was run under power over all of the track. The two switches on the far end were surplus from HO layouts of 30 years ago, and were thus "run in" and smooth. The new switches had rough spots that an HO freight truck on the workbench was not going to show, so several days of grinding with the good olí Dremel Moto-Tool were in order.

Finally all trackwork is complete. The P.C.C. is the "clearance test car". Note the black line on the base board inside of the quadrant of the loop at lower right. This was marked off from the overhang of the center of the P.C.C. car going around the loop.

The time has come to start scenery. The first step will be to cover all of the bare plywood with Ĺ" blue Styrofoam. Then building "footprints" will be established and wherever buildings arenít, more layers of Styrofoam will be added to create small hills and hummocks to relieve the flat tabletop. Then comes painting and covering with Woodland Scenics ground covers. The rails and ties will be painted and the track ballasted. Then at long last we will be ready for overhead wire construction.

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COMING SOON: Part Three of our Layout Tour

Return to Part One of our Layout Tour


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This page updated Sep 19, 2006
Webpage © Lawrence Rickert
Title and contents © Martin K. Van Horn