Designing My Switch...
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Designing My Switching Layout

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Joined: 6 months ago
Posts: 25
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I have been away from the hobby for 6 years and am only now re-entering.  I was building a version of John Armstrong's Pocahontas Junction track plan when work caused me to move from Canada to Arkansas.  It was tough dismantling that layout - I had the main line pretty much complete - but I boxed up my equipment and brought it with me.  The two houses I have lived in since moving south lacked the basement that is typical in Canada and I used that as an excuse for putting off building a layout.  After 6 years, I missed the challenge and fun of building so dove back in realizing that if I was to build in O Scale - which is what I wanted - that I would have to scale down my aspirations.  Fortunately, I had always been enraptured by John Armstrong's Pratt Street Manufacturer's Railway which was one of the plans in his article "Carpentry Free Pikes" in the May, 1954 Model Railroader. He introduced this plan with the sentence "An O gauge pike in a similar space (22 1/2" x 12') is obviously out of the question, so we have drawn one up anyway."

My plan was to modify John's Pratt Street design to accommodate modern equipment and not the 40 foot cars that were more typical of the period when he designed it.  I am also building a TR2 Cow & Calf unit using All Nation NW2s so felt more space was needed to occasionally run this pairing (I do realize the TR2 was for transfer runs not switching, but I want what I want whether it is prototypical or not!). This meant longer sidings and so I planned on adding 4' in length to the plan.  Having read Lance Mindheim's excellent book (one of the best model railroading books I have ever read) "How To Operate A Modern Era Switching Layout", I realized that extending the length of the plan would also help in creating more "car spots" that would enhance operations.  In modifying John's plan, I did realign some tracks to make room for some structures I plan to build (for example the Compressed Gas Factory from the March 1971 Model Railroader).  The tweaks were small, but I was amazed to find I did 30 variations to get to what I think is near to what I want.  I drew the plan out using John's 3/4" to the foot scale and will draw it out full size before beginning construction (see attachment).  That is likely to result in additional tweaks and as usual, I expect changes to occur during the physical build.  I will build it in two 8' long modules so that I can easily transport it when the day comes for me to move again,

I have dubbed my version of John's Pratt Street Manufacturer's Railway as Sledgehammer Industrial Park Railway in honor of John and as a tribute to his Canandaigua Southern layout.  My youngest daughter who is a graphic designer designed me a logo and my plan is to use SP's Kodachrome paint scheme.  My big love, however, has always been the Belt Railway of Chicago and as I recently found both Champ and Microscale decals for the Belt in O Scale, I will now finish my TR2 set in Belt colors.  I have another All Nation NW2 that I will finish in my scheme for the Sledgehammer Industrial Park Railway.  I will change the locomotive power for an operating session based on my whimsy for the day.

I have shared John's original track plan and my current modified version in this post.  I welcome your feedback be it positive or negative because any feedback can't help but help me to improve the plan!