Part 2 – Prototype Study: http://www.trainsanddioramas.com/understanding-a-model-railroad-prototype
Part 3 – Designing Layout: http://www.trainsanddioramas.com/layout-design-sacramento-southern
My choice of track for this layout is going to be Code 55. My preference is Atlas Code 55 (C55) track in most part. Next step for me is to pull the Atlas C55 library in AnyRail, along with the Walthers N Scale structure and the Peco C55 libraries, as shown in Figure 25.
Now, when it comes to off-the-shelf track components, despite our best intentions to follow a particular prototype, we often find ourselves in a situation where there is no off-the-shelf product that fits the bill exactly. Now, if you are a fine scale modeler where authenticity is everything, then in most such cases the only option for you is to scratch built track components and hand lay tracks. However, I am an advocate of balancing the two where you follow a prototype to best of your abilities but also leave some time in your hand to play with your trains! That’s why I chose off-the-shelf tracks even for a model that is intended to be fine scale one, simply because the time advantage outweighs the degree of improvement in authenticity, especially for a scale as small as 1:160. This does enforce a few modifications in the design as mentioned below:
In Figure 26 of the prototype, the diameter of the turntable is 1128 inches which translates to 7 inches in N scale. Now, there is no off-the-shelf well type turntable that is exactly 7 inches in diameter with C55 track. As Figure 27 shows, the closest one is Atlas C80 turntable with part number 2790 at 7.5 inches in diameter, however, not only it is C80, it has its turntable rotating mechanism in one side making it unsuitable for this layout. That leaves us with two of my other choices – Peco C55 turntable with part number NB-55 which is 6 inches in diameter and then Walthers Cornerstone 120 ft. turntable with part number 3203 which is 9 inches in diameter. My vote goes to the Walthers Cornerstone one despite being oversized, mainly because a 6-inch turntable like Peco’s won’t be able to hold most steam engines, and if you intend to use the turntable to turn your steam engine collection (and for this layout there should be quite a few), a bigger turntable is desirable.
The second compromise is the 3-way turnout – circled in Figure 26 and shown in Picture 1. This is a classic and unique 3-way stub switch with a twin switch stand – a true piece of railroading history. However, since there is no off the shelf product to use for this prototype (naturally!), my decision is to use Peco SL-E399F, the C55 3-way turnout that meets the dimensions pretty closely.
There is another big decision on compromise that I have to take before proceeding with the track plan. Figure 26 shows two blue lines of same dimensions – 3835 inches which translates to 24 inches in N Scale. The one on the right shows the central part of our layout – from Delta King Hotel to the Depot, whereas the one on the left shows the same length that covers the area over the turntable, the round house, and the small double gauge track behind the passenger station. Clearly, I cannot fit both the scenes in the same depth of 24 inches while keeping the track orientation parallel to the benchwork, as the yellow line clearly shows I can barely fit the turntable and the passenger station. So, I have two choices – keep the track orientation same and keep it parallel to the edge of the layout and omit the details behind the turntable, or bend the track, along with the scenery towards front edge of the layout so that more details can be incorporated. I am choosing the latter because in my mind that is a small compromise which will enable inclusion of more details, however, one can stick to the actual track orientation and pay more attention to the river front details.
Figure 28 shows the complete track plan with the major structures and landmarks. Comparing to Figure 26, notice the significant change in track orientation from Depot towards the turntable. This also required using opposite turnouts than the prototype – where left-hand turnouts are used in prototype, I had to use the right-hand ones and vice-versa. But this slight sacrifice in authenticity allowed me to include more scenery and features that wouldn’t have been possible if I had followed the prototype’s track orientation. As mentioned before, I have used only Atlas switches except for the Peco 3-way switch and the Peco 10-degree wye. The numbers beside the switches denote the frog sizes that are used, and the 2 Peco products are called out specifically. The light grey track in the image is remnant of the dual gauge track in the museum- I am not expecting this to be functional, just like the real thing today, so was not hesitant to push this towards the edge of the layout. If someone wishes to make that functional, it should be an easy fix with a slight compromise in the track arrangement and may be sacrificing a little bit of depth in the Central Pacific Passenger Station building. Notice the 1-inch grid size – yes it looks busy but while doing minute design work small grid size really helps. Now the next step is to complete the rest of the details on the plan.
Figure 29 shows the complete layout with all its major components and provides dimensions for them – including that of buildings, roads, docks and clearance between buildings and other structural elements. Those dimensions along with the 1-inch minor grid should provide a very clear idea of the footprint of each of the elements. Also notice the two dotted red lines – these lines denote the section joints. The joints are placed strategically so that the sections are of manageable size (largest one being a little shy of 6 feet in length), but also cuts through the least complicated areas. This will ensure that if the builder of this layout wants to fix the buildings and other features permanently/semi-permanently to the baseboard, then the sections will not create much of a problem. Also, the planks in the dock area will help disguising the sections joints if done right.
The design is now complete; however, I will present the final plan in Figure 30 with the prototype and the N scale plan side by side with major landmarks and features being annotated. From Tower Bridge to Depot the plan is identical to the prototype, whereas from Depot to the I St. Bridge the deviation is evident, however, this does allow more important and exciting details to be incorporated. Notice that the trees in the layout plan are also identical to their respective positions in the prototype, and that does make a difference.
Though the track and layout plan is now done, we still need to continue surveying the area and create a plan to build the individual elements. In the next post I will continue to explain how to use Google Earth to survey your prototype in minute detail.