New Track Plan, Now With Turntable

I spent a major chunk of today revising the track plan for my branch line terminus. I was having a tough time justifying the lack of a turntable in my initial plan based on Hemyock. Don’t get me wrong; I realize that the real Hemyock didn’t have a turntable, either. The steamers just dealt with the inability to turn about. Likely this didn’t pose much of a problem because the steamers working Hemyock had panniers instead of tenders. I, on the other hand, prefer the look of tenders, but tenders were not great to run in reverse.

I don’t care that much about realism, though. Really, I want a turntable because I want to watch my trains spin around. I want a roundhouse. 

And–gasp! The Elkton Creek Smelter is going to be a smelter again. I’m too exhausted with researching breweries, and I’m ready to get building. If I decide that the smelter will be retrofitted as a brewery, then so be it. I just have to built the smelter first.

Anyway, here’s the plan:

Little Snoring

It is a bit more complicated than the original Hemyock, but as far as I’m concerned it hits all the switches: a large industry, passenger service, a turntable, a roundhouse, and plenty of sidings for storing and switching freight. I will end up placing a water tank just before the turntable, and a coaling and sanding station too, I think.

I will sit with this for a while to see if I can live without the brewery. Strangely, I’m not at all saddened right now, despite the amount of time I put into research. Even if I do nothing with it, I still learned a lot about a subject of personal and practical interest.

Bookcase Benchwork Begins

Without much ado, as I’m heading out to work:

I started building a poplar bookcase this past week, which will eventually harbor a branch line terminus layout. The design is a bit simpler than my original drawings, which afforded me nicer wood than pine. I worked in short shifts, as a few friends were visiting the area, but I got quite a bit done. The case is roughly 5′ wide and 4.5′ tall, and the shelves are 11.25″ deep, while the top has a depth of 14″.

Day at the Office (Sort Of…)

Readers will know that a colleague and I have been planning to build a model railroad in a mostly-unused back room at the office. We have been extremely busy lately, so haven’t had time. We’ve collected some materials, though: some 1x4s, a hollow-core door, and some assorted Kato packs.

Over the weekend, one of our employee’s told us that her 15-year-old daughter tried to OD on pills, so will be on suicide watch for a while, as they wait for an opening at a facility for troubled teens. I was asked if she could come into the office today, but given the high-paced work of clinical staff, I was the only one who could keep an eye on her. 

I asked my colleague what we should do. He said, “Why not ask her to help you build that benchwork?” (The alternative would have been to sit in my office bored, or do some menial, fairly pointless tasks with me.) I suggested that idea to our employee, with the promise of running trains when it was completed. She said her daughter thought it sounded alright, and agreed to come.

I plowed through some paperwork over the weekend which freed me up to take an “employee wellness day” today, and we spent the day (six or seven hours) designing and building benchwork, then set up some track. She did most of the benchwork design and most of the construction as well. If you can’t tell, the whole thing folds up against the wall on hinges. 

We had a really good time, and I hope she feels as accomplished as I do. She came in this morning embarrassed and withdrawn, but she opened up over the course of the day. We took a trip to the hardware store, had lunch, listened to some tunes, and talked and joked while building. She left in the evening full of smiles–all because of model trains.

Track Plan and Brewery Update

As promised, here’s the track plan that I have devised for my larger home layout.

Little Snoring

The plan is loosely based on the Culm Valley Light Railway’s Hemyock terminus. I did some flipping and length adjusting to provide some balance between aesthetics and pseudo-functionality. The headshunt just beyond the engine house will be a removable cassette, as I don’t want to permanently block access to a window. In addition, if the headshunt cassette is replaced with a lift-out 45-degree curve, it could theoretically connect to another module.

Here’s a repost of the terminus it is based on, for reference:

Culm Valley

Hemyock terminus as ‘advertised’ in Model Rail magazine.

The private sidings in this diagram (top and bottom left) eventually served two ends of a single creamery. Such a configuration has me thinking again about modelling a malt house and oast house in addition to the brewery proper. The malt house could be served by the bottom left rail, and would be connected to the grain store by way of a kiln or two.

One adjustment that will need to be made: there is no room to the left of the brewery for the ice house that I’ve built. That is just as well, I suppose, as the ice house may be better located where it isn’t so “boxed in.”


Bigger and Better (Well… Bigger, Anyway)

I’ve been thinking about the hobby as a whole, and what my long-term aspirations are. The inglenook that I’ve built will be loads of fun, but at some point I know I will outgrow it (operationally and spatially). The intent of the inglenook–to build something portable and bulletproof, came about because I knew it will have to be moved around a lot. It’s been housed in a corner, but to really use it–to admire it–I have to pull it out from the corner and put it back when I’m done. With the bookshelves, desk, chairs, and other items in the room, there is simply no space for it.

Here I am, building fairly intricate models–which means the inglenook is intended for display as well as operation–only to slide the whole thing into an awkward corner when I’m done, where it is partially concealed by a bookcase. I expressed this concern to my wife recently. Well, I didn’t say anything about it, but she knows. She has caught me gazing wistfully at the latest Model Rail magazine, opened to a two-page spread of some massive layout. Last weekend, while I was out playing Magic: The Gathering with a couple of friends, she and my son spent a couple of hours rearranging the room in such a way that the inglenook was no longer in the… well… in the nook. It was a meaningful gesture. However, the rest of the room is rather crowded now, and now my desk is shoved into an awkward corner.

A few days later, I was contemplating this problem while leafing through issue 232 of Model Rail magazine. I found myself staring at a diagram of the Hemyock terminus of the Culm Valley Light Railway, admiring it, and–in the back of my mind–wondering how much space it would take up in N scale.

Culm Valley

Hemyock terminus as ‘advertised’ in Model Rail magazine.

Suddenly, I had a rare moment of self-awareness. I could spend my whole life waiting to build that ‘dream layout.’ Or I could stop dreaming and find a way to make more room and build it soon.

Making more room is not easy when you’re renting. I would love a shed in the backyard where I can run trains all day, but my backyard is shared, and the shed is leaky, filled with rock salt and rakes (and my old, rotten layout). All our closets are utilized, all our space is being used for this or that. It isn’t cluttered, per se, but I’d like to keep it that way. So, I will have to get rid of something big. Something that takes up about 5′ x 1.33′ (yes, that’s the space I anticipate I could squeeze Hemyock into, if the headshunt could be removed). Or, I could start thinking in terms of urban planning, and build up.

A couple of years ago, my wife was lamenting how much she hated my ponderous bookcases. Not the books (we both love our books) but the cases themselves. They are dark, cherry-laminated, particle-board monsters. I purchased them seven or eight years ago from an office-supply retailer, and paid more for them than they are worth. The shelves are bowing, the laminate is chipping, and they weigh a ton (even without the books). One is 7′ tall and 3.5′ wide, the other is 3′ tall, same width. In order to build a larger layout, these bookcases would need to go.

Q. But what would I do with all those books?
A. Easy: build a new bookcase.

Q. But how will that make more room for a model train layout?
A. Easy: build it on top of the bookcase.

I proposed this idea to my wife, and she seemed skeptical at first. After all, I haven’t finished the inglenook I’ve already started, and I didn’t finish the larger layout I started years ago (and which I literally left to rot). She’s right, and I was already wrestling with those thoughts. However, I’m not planning to discard my inglenook–I can tuck it away easily enough, and can use it to practice modeling techniques, etc. I may even bring it to the office as the good Lord intended, and attach it like a module to the layout we are building there. As for my old, discarded layout… well, that still haunts me, but I don’t think I would have thrown it in the shed if it didn’t seem so out of place–so in the way–once we started accumulating other furnishings (we had recently moved, and didn’t even have a sofa when I built it).

I spent the past 24 hours planning and estimating the costs of building a bookcase with a 5′ x 1.33′ removable top, and came up with the following plan (sorry for the poor lighting):

$134.00 for the whole shebang (minus track, structures, and scenery)? Not bad. It won’t be built with premium lumber, but who will notice after some filler and a nice coat of paint?

When my wife saw how much care I was taking to draft a plan, she gave her full consent. I don’t have the ability to run out and purchase everything right away, but I have plenty to do in the meantime (continuing work on the brewery, in particular).

I have also been working out a track plan based on Hemyock, with plenty of liberties taken. I will post that shortly.

Brewery Pt. 1

I’ve been picking out bits from the big ol’ N Scale Architect Smelter box, turning them in my hands, fitting them together, trimming sprues, and cutting balsa for floors and walls.

This is all in preparation for construction of the main brewery building, which I’m simultaneously excited for and terrified of. Before I get into that, here are the buildings I’ve (mostly) completed. Roofs are on, docks are built:

I plan on adding a scratch-built boiler-shed on the left-hand side of the hoist house. This means I will be removing the ground-level loading door that I installed (and which doesn’t make sense, as I realized later, because the actual ground floor should be dock-height). Once that project is complete, and after I’ve built the ‘ore house’ and attached it, I will be extending the stone foundation around the perimeter of the hoist house with more strips of Plastruct.

Otherwise, what’s done is done, and I am pretty happy with these models. Now, on the the daunting stuff.

The N Scale Architect Smelter is not a kit for the faint of heart; the instructions are spartan, the diagrams are overwrought, and I’ve found several major mistakes in the design already. For starters, the tab-and-slot system is apparently not a system at all, but a suggestion. The tabs and slots simply don’t line up! At first, I was thinking I must have gotten things wrong, but the parts are so unique that it would be impossible to mix up one wall for another. Oh, well. I can trim tabs until the cows come home, but that will definitely add some hours to the kit, and could get messy.

Here, you can see what made me nervous. Not twenty minutes into my Tinker Toy session I realized that the tab-and-slot system doesn’t line up. The brace that I am holding (along with two other braces) have slots where there should be tabs, and vice-versa (see how the tabs line up with the slots in the floor).

EDIT: I contacted Branchline about the misaligned tabs and slots, and they acknowledged the miscut. They will be sending me a new sheet of parts with corrections.

Secondary Project

I may have mentioned in a previous post that I am the administrator for a small medical facility. Well, a couple of weeks ago one of the doctors I work with asked me if I went to the Vermont Rails Model Railway Show, and we got to talking. He expressed that he’s wanted to build a layout for years but never got around to it. I told him that I’d gladly help him build one, and he suggested that we do so in a spare room adjacent to his office.

I did a bit of research, showed him a few good starter sets, and we settled on purchasing the Kato N 1060023 GE ES44AC GEVO and Mixed Freight Union Pacific starter set, along with the Kato V3 Rail Yard Switching expansion set. I will be helping him build benchwork using a hollow-core door, and the entire layout will fold down against the wall (our employees also use the room for various activities such as yoga and meditation).

Benchwork supplies: a hollow-core door, some lengths of pine, and hinges.

While this layout won’t be part of Little Snoring Railway proper, I consider it something of a sister project, as it will allow me to experiment with ideas that I may incorporate on my own layout when I am ready to expand. Thus, I will post occasional updates on this blog. That should mix things up a bit, and will hopefully balance out the “twenty-pictures-of-printed-shingles-being-glued-to-the-roof” posts of late.


A bit on the modern side for my taste, but a fine foray into a cooperative layout with everything we need to get a train running.

New Ridge Cap and Another Roof

Seems like such a little thing: I took off the ridge cap from yesterday’s roof, which was made with cardstock, and replaced it with one made with standard copy paper. This cap is also narrower, and the shingles run vertically (as they should). In addition, I added a row of ‘vertical’ shingles on the rear loading-dock roof where it meets the wall of the main structure.


The photo may not do it justice, especially because I haven’t given it a spritz of Dullcote, but in person it makes a world of a difference.


I basically used the same process to roof the ice house, although I had to measure very carefully to account for the cupola, which is no longer removable (idiot that I am, I glued it all in place twice, and the second time around I used a lot of glue). For future structures, I will be sure to cut out the shingle-sheets before assembling each roof, so I will be able to use the roof pieces as templates. I could have saved myself a lot of time and effort if I had thought ahead about that. Anyhow, here’s the ice-house roof:

This looks much better than the tarpaper that came with the kit, in my opinion.


After much deliberation and experimentation, I finally settled on roofing that I am happy (enough) with. The main challenge? I really wanted to do something (for once) that wasn’t going to cost anything. After the surprise styrene stonework purchase I made last week, I’ve been counting back the ‘ka-chings’ and realizing how easy it is to get nickeled-and-dimed in this hobby.

Having built a couple of cardstock structures last fall, I am still enamored by how cost effective they were, and, while I wasn’t too excited about the finished cardstock models, there were aspects of paper that I really loved. So, when contemplating a roof, I finally decided to design my own using nothing but ink and paper.

Last night I Googled “shingle texture” and scrolled through various images of asphalt, slate, and shaker shingles until I found a nice dark slate with crisp lines. I really like the look of slate shingles; having lived in New Hampshire and Vermont all my life, I often visit old mills and barns with still-intact slate shingles, though the cupolas might have collapsed and the walls might be leaning this way or that. 

I brought the slate texture into Gimp (having recently decided that I no longer wanted to pay the monthly fee for Photoshop) and duplicated the image a handful of times, overlapping each layer until I had a whole page’s worth of shingles.

After sending a page to my inkjet printer, I started measuring and cutting. Once I had pieces cut that would cover the roof of the cooperage, I sprayed the back of each piece with Elmers Spray Adhesive, and stuck them on. Easy as that. Certainly not perfect, but I couldn’t have asked for better results without dropping $30 per building. And, the Elmers adhesive is hardly permanent. If I wind up wanting to spend some dollars on a fancy styrene roof, I can easily peel this one off.