Track Plan At A Glance
Layout Theme: Train Station
Layout Type: Module
Scale: HO Scale
Track: Code 83
Turnouts: No. 6
Min. Radius: 36"
Article by: Dan Delany
Published: January 26, 2016
This week's Track Plan Tuesday is a guest post from my friend Dan Delany. Dan is the former President of the Mohegan Pequot Model Railroad Club and has built a number of modules through the years. Given that this coming weekend is the Railroad Hobby Show, I thought I'd share Dan's plan for a module based on the nearby Springfield, MA, train station.-Jim Spavins
Living in southern New England, the best place to find big time mainline mountain railroading is CSX's ex-New York Central Boston and Albany (B&A) Line. I've railfanned this line from Palmer, MA, to Selkirk, NY, dozens of times over the years. Like most model railroaders, I've spent my fair share of time sketching layout designs for my future basement empire. I'm a big Conrail and Penn Central fan, and the more I thought about potential locations to model, the more I realized the Boston and Albany Line could be an interesting modeling subject. The B&A has a good amount of traffic, a number of interchanges with shortlines and regional railroads, as well as regional and long distance passenger service. The terrain ranges from the urban areas of Springfield and Pittsfield, to the smaller towns of Palmer and Westfield, to the rugged Berkshire mountains in western Massachusetts and eastern New York. The B&A was a double track line into the early Conrail era (the early 1980's) when the line was single tracked. In the early 1990's, the line went through a clearance improvement project to allow doublestacks into Boston.
As I sketched out ideas, I decided to center my version of the B&A around the Springfield, MA area - specifically the Springfield Amtrak Station in downtown Springfield and the yard across the river in West Springfield. As an avid modular railroader, I thought some of these key scenes on the layout could be constructed as a module set. This would allow me to have a jump start on the home layout and also allow for these modules to be shown off at train shows around the country instead of simply stuck in my basement.
A Guilford freight passes through the Springfield, MA, Amtrak station. | Photo by Jim Spavins.
Armed with the motivation of a new project, I started my prototype research. Like any project, first hand knowledge of the project area is the best way to recreate a prototype. I have the advantage of living less than an hour from downtown Springfield, and I've railfanned the area numerous times. I know my way around downtown pretty well, and felt comfortable enough with the area to break out my camera and notebook and head for Springfield Station. It is important to mention that the term "The wrong side of the tracks" was coined for a reason, as many railroad facilities are not in the best areas of town. Before you venture into an unknown area, make sure you do some background research on the overall safety of the area, and bring a detailed, street level map to keep yourself from getting lost.
Even if you know the area well, as is the case for me in Springfield, doing some background research can make your research trip much more productive. If you don't live close to the prototype you are planning to model, these research techniques can provide you with a wealth of information.
Living in the information age is a great thing for railfans and modelers alike. From the comfort of our living rooms, we can surf the internet and gather information on just about anything. This can be very useful when trying to accurately model a particular scene. One of the quickest and easiest ways to get a birds eye view of your project are is to use on-line aerial mapping and photos. A quick Google search of the town you're modelling will bring up Google maps.(See Springfield Station on Google Maps) Rail lines, as well as streets are depicted in the map portion. You can click on the toggle on the map itself and switch to viewing the aerial image of the area. These images are satellite photos, and in most areas of the US, the resolution is good enough to zoom in and actually be able to see enough detail to determine track layout, and the layout of surrounding buildings and streets. This can be invaluable when trying to figure out trackwork in areas that are not easily accessible. If the line you are modeling is no longer active, you will probably still be able to follow the old railroad grade.
While you're on-line, see if the town you're modeling has a municipal website. Many towns have a lot of information on their websites. At the very least, you can take down the information on how to get to Town Hall, so you can stop by while on your research trip. If you're lucky, the town will have an on-line Geographic Information System (GIS). GIS systems have really changed how municipal information is accessed. These systems include parcel information, zoning, and points of interest within the town. Depending on the size (and budget) of the municipality, they may also have detailed planimetric and topographic mapping, and high resolution aerial photos. In the case of Springfield, MA, the city has a comprehensive GIS system, with very good aerial photos. I used the GIS system to download a few photos of the Springfield Station area.
If the town you're modeling does not have any on-line resources, you can always take the old fashioned route by going to Town Hall. The town assessor will have tax maps, or assessment maps, which normally show property boundaries (including street and railroad rights-of-way, as well as structures. They don't contain much more detail than that, but they are to scale, and will allow you accurately plan the area you're modeling. Additional detailed maps can also be found in the Planning or Engineering office. Some towns have town wide mapping that includes planimetric features, as well as topography. These maps, if available, are more detailed than the assessor's maps. Lastly, you can also search the town archives for site plans, which are often filed on the town land records when projects are constructed within a municipality. This may take some time, but finding detailed site plans of the particular industry or site you want to model will make it worth the effort. Copies of all these documents can be made by town staff for a small fee, and you can take the copies with you. From there, you can always enlarge them to whatever scale you're modeling, and lay them right on your module.
As I mentioned, doing a little background research before you visit the site can be very helpful, and you can use the maps and photos you've dug up to guide you through your on-site research. Before I headed to Springfield Station, I printed copies of the street maps and aerial photos of the areas around the station. Although I was familiar with the area, I wanted to make sure I remembered to check out the areas I saw in the photos. In an urban area, the maps and photos make it a lot easier to navigate to all your points of interest.
I began my day on the platform of Springfield Station. From here, it's easy to take detailed photos and make notes of the track layout, as well as the station buildings and platforms. Make sure to take some overall, wide angle shots of the area, in addition to the detailed photos. These shots tend to capture a lot of information that is overlooked while you're walking around. They also give you a sense of how the model should feel when it's laid out.
The track schematic for Springfield Station and the surrounding area. | Map by Dan Delany.
The tracks in the area are elevated above street level. The station is parallel to Lyman Street, and access to the station is at street level, with stairs and elevators bringing you up to the station building at track level. The current station building, located on the south side of the tracks, is not the original station building. The original station building is located on the north side of the tracks. It's a large brick building, which is currently unused. Looking at the size of the original station really conveys how important rail travel was to the city of Springfield years ago.
The two CSX mainline tracks, (technically one mainline track and a passing track since the B&A was single tracked in the 1980's), are to the north, with the four Amtrak station tracks south of the mainline. The platforms are all low level platforms, with older wooden canopies. You can see the remnants of some of the older trackwork and canopies on the ends of the station, and north of the mainlines. The trackage around the station was consolidated through the 1970's to how it appears today. Since my modeling era is during the Conrail era, and possible backdating to the Penn Central era, the current trackwork is accurate for what I want to model.
Just east of the station, Chestnut Street runs underneath the tracks. The tracks are carried on a ballasted deck girder bridge. East of the bridge, the lead for the station tracks merges into the CSX passing track, and just east of that switch is a crossover between the CSX Mainline and passing track.
Just west of the station, Main Street runs underneath the tracks. Main Street is bridged by a arched stone bridge. The bridge carries the CSX mainline and passing track, as well as the west leads to the Amtrak Station platform tracks. West of the Main Street crossing, the tracks approach the Connecticut River. Prior to reaching the river, the CSX tracks cross the north/south Connecticut River line owned by Pan Am railways (Guildford) at a 90 degree diamond. A few hundred feet south of the CSX tracks, the Connecticut River line becomes the Amtrak Springfield - New Haven Line. Two tracks connect the East/West Station area to the North/South Amtrak line. One track diverges from the CSX passing siding, and a second track directly connects the southern Amtrak station tracks to the Springfield - New Haven line.
North of the CSX tracks, the Pan Am Connecticut River line continues to East Deerfield, MA. There is one track, which diverges from the CSX mainline, that connects the CSX line to the Pan Am CT River Line. This track, coupled with the tracks south of the mainline, form a wye, that is occasionally used to turn Amtrak trains and Amtrak and CSX locomotives.
The abandoned Spring Tower is located south of the CSX tracks, within the wye. This area, including the CSX/Pan Am diamond, is located underneath Interstate 91, making it impossible to see in the aerial photo. West of the diamond, the CSX tracks cross the Connecticut River on a series of parallel single track truss bridges. On the other side of the river is West Springfield, home of CSX's West Springfield Yard.
With all of this prototype research complete, it was time to recreate this scene on a series of modules. As can be seen in the plan at the beginning of this article, the station scene is spread across three 30"x72" module sections. The trackplan follows the prototype track arrangement fairly faithfully with just a few minor changes to improve the operations as a module and conform to module standards. While the scene is slightly selectively compressed, most of the main landmarks of the station are included which will help the module feel correct. This includes all of the station platforms, station building, MOW siding, and the various streets surrounding the station.
An optional 30"x72" module connects to the left side of the plan and features the truss bridge over the Connecticut River. This is a signature scene as most people driving on I-91 through the area can see the bridge. In addition, the bridge is clearly visible to people who are heading to the Railroad Hobby Show along Route 5 in West Springfield on the other side of the river.
The module set is designed to be viewed from either side. At a train show, the front of the module (public side) will be the north side of the station. When setup as part of the home layout, the module will be viewed from the south side of the station. While this makes construction a bit more difficult as all sides of the building will have to be completed, it keeps lots of options available to photograph the module.
Overall, the plan captures the signature scenes around the Springfield Station and will provide a useful connecting point to a future B&A basement empire.
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.