Track Plan At A Glance
Layout Theme: Industry
Layout Type: Module
Size: 30"x144" (Each section 30"x48")
Scale: HO Scale
Track: Code 100/83
Turnouts: No. 6
Min. Radius: 36"
Article by: Jim Spavins
Published: January 5, 2016
One of the best blog posts I've read about the nitty gritty of how a real railroad switches a customer can be found on Jack Hill's New Castle Industrial Railroad blog (click here). The post titled "How Corn Syrup Flows" discusses how a railroad crew would switch tank cars in and out of a beverage plant.
As you can read in the post, the track arrangements serving the customer are quite simple - basically an unloading track and a storage track - but the process of where cars are spotted and in what order can create quite a bit of work for the crew. The module plan above attempts to mimic these operations but with a track plan which will fit within the typical module standards used by many HO scale clubs.
The plan is set on three 30"x48" modules with the bottling plant set on the right and middle modules and a switching lead on the left module. A small hill with a cut can be added to the front of the module which requires the mainlines to have a slight curve on the right and middle modules. This also allows the bottling plant to be set at an angle which looks more visually appealing than having parallel and perpendicular lines to the edges of the module. On the left most module, a simple scenic scene with a river, forested hill, and a country road which crosses the mainline on a truss bridge completes the module set.
Track capacity chart for the MP Bottlers Module Track Plan. Each car is approx. 50'. | Track Plan by Jim Spavins.
From an operations perspective, the bottling plant switching operations are independent of the mainlines. This will allow the module owner to switch the module during a train show while other trains circle on the mainlines for the public's viewing enjoyment. At the same time, this also means the layout could be used as a stand alone home switching layout without needing to be connected to the larger module ecosystem.
With the ever decreasing prices in electronics, this layout could be animated so that a television style display shows each cars status in the unloading process. For example, once a car is set on the unloading track, the operator could start a countdown clock which would show up as an unloading gauge on the screen. The program would show the gauge going down until the car is "empty" and ready for the rail crew to remove it and add a new car to be unloaded. In addition, a smoke system could also be connected to the unloading program which turns on when the cars are being unloaded and turn off when unloading is completed to simulate the steam which is used to get the corn syrup flowing. This would create a crowd pleasing, hyper-realistic switching scene on a modular railroad.
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.