It is therefore too easy to put sidings too close together and switches in locations where they really won't fit, unless one is a master hand-layer of track and builder of custom switches (which I am not). Then there is the temptation to fill every available inch on the paper with track and sidings. And then there is the problem of scaling the track plan up to fit the layout... I find it simpler to do my planning full sized, with actual track, locating the yard switches first, and filling in the rest with length of flex-track.
I laid out the two yards and marked the location of the track on the joists with a pencil, and then began to cut foam core strips one inch wide, gluing the strips on edge as a "spline" road bed. It took seven strips to make up the width of the track. I like to use foam core for the roadbed as it is light and can be easily cut with hand tools. It also easily bends around curves. When the roadbed was in place, I hot-glued HO scale cork strips down on top of the foam core roadbed to even things out and give the grade the proper profile. I installed a profile board made of foam core covered with wood-grain Contact paper to finish the front edges.
I thought a small turntable at Bourne would be a good idea as well, and had the idea that all I needed to do there was build an O scale gallows turntable bridge onto the deck of an Atlas N scale turntable to make that. When I had visited Cracker Creek, I had noted that had a railroad been built up the creek, with a branch to Cable Cove, it might have been possible to put a wye at the junction, but only a deep cut or tunnel was constructed on one leg of the wye. I knew I wouldn't be able to model a wye at the junction - not enough room - but thought it would be neat to model an unfinished grade, cut and tunnel at that point as if the wye were being constructed after the rest of the railroad was complete.
With the mainline located, and these ideas in mind, I then drew up some sketches of what the finished railroad might look like. Track planning in reverse! With the roadbed in place, I began laying the track in the Sumpter yard and up Cracker Creek, ending construction when I ran out of rail joiners. Reality began to intrude almost immediately. I would not be able to fit the two corner spurs in place unless I could custom build curved switches.
I axed the Pole Creek spur entirely, cutting out the roadbed and installing it on the inside of the left hand corner for the Fool Creek Spur. I would be able to put in a spur in that corner, but only by coming off the mainline at Bourne. I also worked out that if I made the Cable Cove junction track take off at a shallower angle I would be able to get a couple more car lengths on the spur track there, though I would sacrifice some scenery to accomplish the idea. The unfinished wye grade would be at an impossibly sharp curve, but since I never intended to make it functional, I decided I could live with it.
The turntable was a problem. The Atlas turntable would not be long enough to turn the mogul, though I decided the tender and loco could be turned separately. But it just took up too much room. The turntable would have taken the full width of the benchwork, giving me little room for scenery - and I love scenery, thanks to John Allen and Irv Shultz. Reluctantly, I decided the turntable had to go.
I had envisioned several other things - a two-stall enginehouse at Sumpter, based on the Rogue River Valley Railway's little enginehouse at Jacksonville, Oregon. A row or two of town buildings, including my favorite "One Eyed Charlie's" restaurant in Sumpter, with a back row built in forced perspective between the full scale buildings and the backdrop. I planned to have the tracks in Bourne going right down the main street, with buildings on both sides of the tracks.
And bridges, lots and lots of bridges. I started construction on One-Eyed Charlie's, using the final remnants of my stripwood, and cut away the roadbed under the first three bridges. I then found a source of stripwood, and ordered enough to barely build the first two bridges and one trestle. I built mock-ups of some buildings out of strathmore board, including the S. & B depot, the Sumpter depot, the enginehouse, and a few others. I had the clever idea of putting the Sumpter & Bourne Sumpter depot on the front edge of the layout, half cut away, so the interior faced the viewer, and making it necessary to look through the waiting room windows to see the trains arriving.
Reality has a nasty habit of intruding on fantasies, and the first thing that became obvious was that the enginehouse would be so large that the mainline could barely squeak past. I cut the mock-up down to a single stall, but it was still huge and would be the largest model on the layout. With the Sumpter yard ready for wiring, and the first three bridges built, it was time to start on the scenery.
I built a grid of foam core, cut to the profile of the scenery, a nd hot glued it to the roadbed and joists. Over this, I put down a layer of paper-mache - newspaper strips dipped in diluted white glue. I didn't want to use plaster scenery because of the weight, so I tried something new. I got a cube of CelluClay - a paper-mache powder made up of pulverized recycled paper and glue. You mix it with water to make a paste, and you can spread it around even easier than plaster.
I put down about a quarter to half an inch of this stuff as my final scenery layer, over the entire Sumpter yard modules, and around the first curve. As soon as the surface was dry, I painted some earth tones on top, weathered the rock cuts, ballasted the track, and glued down Woodland Scenics flock for grass. In a single weekend, I had basic scenery down over a third of the layout, and felt pretty good about it. I didn't take the low humidity here into account, and had inadvertently sabotaged my own work... With scenery down, I could place my paper mock-ups on the layout, and to my chagrin, I discovered I would have to cut the back corner off the Sumpter depot to get it to fit, and would only have room for a row of false fronts with no sides along the backdrop. One-Eyed Charlies would not fit.
Likewise, I could only fit the front half of one row of buildings at Bourne, and would barely have room for a row of false fronts along the front edge of the layout. I hadn't realized until then how much real estate the track, trains, and buildings would take up in O Scale! I really couldn't make the layout any wider, since I needed to use the room as a bedroom as well as a train room. I was beginning to get disenchanted with my layout before it was even a third finished.
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This page updated Aug 20, 2006
Webpage © Lawrence Rickert
Photographs and Text © Scott Gavin