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Boston and Albany Track Plan

Minimalist Model Railroading Case Study #7

Boston and Albany Railroad

Capturing the Essence of Mountain Mainline Railroading

Track Plan At A Glance

Layout Theme: Mainline Railroading
Layout Type: Permanent Layout
Size: 29'x44'
Scale: N Scale
Era: 1980s-1990s
Track: Code 55
Turnouts: No. 6
Min. Radius: 24"

Article by: Jim Spavins
Posted: May 3, 2016
Published: December 31, 2012

Railroading over the mountains is a sight to behold. Locomotives pulling thousands of tons of freight over these mountain ranges is one of the great achievements of the railroads but one not pulled off without a great bit of effort. Mainline railroading through the mountains requires attention to details and a few helpers to keep traffic rolling. For this layout design, we will look at the idea of capturing the essence of mountain railroading on the CSX Berkshire Sub (ex-Boston and Albany) line between Springfield, MA, and Selkirk, NY, through the Berkshire Mountains.

In order to capture the essence of this type of railroading, the essential features of this railroad should be:

To capture the long trains and vast distances covered with mainline railroading, the layout designed here takes advantage of N scale. The length of the mainline is just under 240 feet or 7.25 scale miles and will allow 40-50 car trains to be run over the railroad. All of this mainline trackage is tucked onto very narrow shelves ranging in width from 8" to 18". This allows several laps to be made back and forth along the length of the basement which helps increase the run distance.

The portion of the B&A represented on the layout is the area between Westfield, MA, and the State Line Tunnels at the New York border. This is the heart of the run up and over the Berkshires and is mostly mainline with only a handful of industries and interchanges. Since the idea is to model the operations of the mainline and not just the scenery, using narrow shelves will save a lot of time from having to build thousands of additional trees. Many of the signature features, like the Keystone Arches and Washington Cut are fairly narrow scenes along the mainline right of way so these could still be represented fairly convincingly without using up large amounts of space. Along the same lines, some of the bigger towns on the layout, like Westfield and Pittsfield, are kept fairly shallow and the industries in these areas can simply be modeled as flats along the wall.

CSX Train passes Washington Cut

A CSX freight climbs upgrade through Washington Cut. | Photo by Jim Spavins.


Operating the Railroad

This railroad could easily follow the prototype operations of the line with numerous through freights thundering up and down the mountain during the operating session with a sprinkling of passenger trains and an occasional local out switching the industries and interchanges along the line. The actual timetable could easily be pulled from historical prototype data and developed to fit the layout based on the era which is desired. The crew lounge in the basement offers a convenient space for everyone to gather to wait for their next assignment and not clog up the aisles for crews out on the line. In addition, the dispatcher center is also located here. Since the design only has four real passing sidings, a working signal system is a feasible component to add to the layout which would enhance operations.

Resource Use on the Railroad

Since the design of the layout is meant to focus on the mainline operations through the heart of the Berkshires, here is how resources would be used to accomplish this goal for this design:

Time would be spent...

The Space would be used for...

Money would be spent on...

The Skills required to build the railroad are...

Prototype Information

Minimalist Model Railroading Case Studies

Capturing the Essence of Railroading

Introduction - Minimalist Model Railroading

Case Study #1 - Claremont Concord Railroad
Scale: O Scale        Size: 12'x18'

Case Study #2 - CP Rail's Kicking Horse Pass
Scale: HO Scale        Size: 12'x18'

Case Study #3 - Trolley Museum
Scale: O Scale        Size: 2'x6'

Case Study #4 - N&W 611 Excursion
Scale: HO Scale        Size: 29'x44'

Case Study #5 - CS Industries
Scale: O Scale        Size: 10'x11'

Case Study #6 - Sono Tower
Scale: HO Scale        Size: 12'x18'

Case Study #7 - Boston and Albany Railroad
Scale: N Scale        Size: 29'x44'

Case Study #8 - Central Yard Engine Terminal
Scale: HO Scale        Size: 12'x18'

Case Study #9 - Iron Horse Railroad Museum
Scale: HO Scale        Size: 10'x11'

Case Study #10 - MM&R Timber Co.
Scale: HO Scale        Size: 10'x11'

Case Study #11 - Springfield Metro
Scale: HO Scale        Size: 10'x11'

Case Study #12 - South Station, Boston, MA
Scale: HO Scale        Size: 12'x18'

Case Study #13 - Canaan, CT
Scale: N Scale        Size: 10'x11'

Case Study #14 - Chas Chemicals
Scale: HO Scale        Size: 12'x18'

Case Study #15 - Westerly, RI
Scale: HO Scale        Size: 12'x18'

Case Study #16 - Connecticut River Drawbridge
Scale: HO Scale        Size: 29'x44'

Case Study #17 - Valley City Viaduct
Scale: HO Scale        Size: 12'x18'

Case Study #18 - Wood River Railroad
Scale: O Scale        Size: 29'x44'

Case Study #19 - Portable Shortline
Scale: HO Scale        Size: 29'x44'

Case Study #20 - Charter St. Steam Plant
Scale: HO Scale        Size: 8"x15'

Case Study #21 - Eastern Scenic Railroad
Scale: HO Scale        Size: 29'x44'

Case Study #22 - West Springfield Yard
Scale: HO Scale        Size: 29'x44'

Case Study #23 - Good Ol' 4x6
Scale: HO Scale        Size: 4'x6'