Track Plan At A Glance
Layout Theme: Scenic Railroad
Layout Type: Permanent
Scale: HO Scale
Track: Code 83
Turnouts: No. 5
Min. Radius: 24"
Article by: Jim Spavins
Published: August 2, 2016
For about the last five years, I've been contemplating building a model of a scenic railroad. This seems to align well with my interests in the hobby - heavier on the structures, scenery, and detailing - and less focused on the rolling stock and equipment. While I am fairly busy at the moment working on the Tribute to Springfield layout, I always keep one eye towards what's next as the Tribute to Springfield layout project will come to end in the next 18 months. The Caboose Park concept seems to have taken hold and is in the lead position for the next layout.
If you've been following the Tribute to Springfield layout project, you might have noticed that it is a portable layout - mostly because I don't have a permanent space for a layout at the moment. This might be a situation many of you find yourself in. In these situations, it can be useful to start working on designs for your future railroad in a variety of potential spaces. If you get a chance, measure up some rooms at friends and families houses that you could envision a layout in, and come up with a plan based on your preferred railroad theme for that space. This will help you start to think through various issues which might arise for your potential railroad depending upon what your final space might look like. It might also help to better define how much space you might need for your dream railroad. Maybe a spare bedroom would be enough or maybe you'll need to hold out for the full basement.
So with that idea in mind, over the second year of Jim's Track Plans, I'll revisit this Caboose Park theme from time to time and show how I'd try to fit this theme in various spaces and look at the positives and negatives for each space for this theme.
Essence of a Scenic Caboose Railroad
Since this is a freelanced railroad theme, let's take a look at what essential elements will need to be represented on the railroad to make it feel like a scenic railroad which operates caboose trains. Looking around at various prototype scenic railroads, the essential elements to capture the essence of a scenic railroad. I would argue there are two main items and two optional items if resources permit:
- Main station/terminal
- Scenic mainline run
- Shop/equipment repair area (optional)
- Historic equipment display area (optional)
These four items are where the design should start. While compromises need to be made on any design, these compromises shouldn't be made at the expense of the essential elements. For Caboose Park I, I was able to include three of the four (no equipment display). However, that layout was designed for O scale which takes up a lot of room. Since everything is just on paper at the moment, one of the easiest logical design iterations would be to develop a layout using a smaller scale - like HO scale in this case - for the same size space. The final plan can be found at the beginning of the article.
Tour Around the Railroad
For the HO scale version of this layout, I was able to include all four essential elements. The main station are is on the right hand side of the plan. A display track and enginehouse are also located near the station along with a run around track to be used during point to point operations. The scenic mainline run extends "south" of the main station and winds up a grade through some New England style scenery and across a major river scene. The grade reaches a summit near a road crossing and then heads back down grade to the main attraction on the other end of the line - a cider mill. A second run around track is located here - again for point to point operational needs. To have the ability to include a continuous running option, the mainline connects the two stations behind the house and gas station. This trackage is visually hidden by the higher scenery towards the aisle but is open above, allowing for easy access to clean the track or re-rail derailed equipment by using a short step stool.
Track Plan Analysis
Compared to the O scale plan, the HO scale plan above allows for a longer mainline run and is a bit more spread out. There is also a continuous run available which is nice for when visitors show up as well as just when you want to see trains run. Adding in these extra features can be both an advantage and disadvantage. For example, since HO scale is half the size of O scale, there is the potential to fit twice as much into the same space. This can mean doubling the work with more projects to complete even if the project itself is smaller in actual size. Looking back at the O scale plan, you can see there are more structures to build on the HO scale plan as well as a bit more trackwork (along with more details to add). So even though more can be fit with the HO scale plan, it might take more time and be more expensive than the O scale plan.
Given the same size "garage" space, it seems clear that both an HO or O (and probably an N or S) scale versions of the layout would most likely provide a model railroad which would capture the essence of a caboose train scenic railroad. Which layout would be preferable would be dependent on the amount of time and budget available for the railroad as well as how much scratchbuilding would be desired. The HO scale layout could be substantially completed with mostly commercially available components whereas the O (or S) scale versions of the layout would require more scratchbuilding.
For Track Plan Tuesday's, I am digitizing all of my old track planning notebooks and sharing the designs here on the website. To see all the plans, visit the track plan home page at: jimspavins.com/jimstrackplans.