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. If I build it to the proper height, it could even connect to the inglenook.

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.

I have also been steadily working on templates for scratchbuilding a structure using the Elkton Creek components as a basic template. My process is as follows:

  1. Scan individual pieces from the model after removing them from the sprues.
  2. Clean the scans up in GIMP, and ovverlay them with a solid color.
  3. Adjust sizes as desired by stretching, etc.
  4. Add or remove windows and doors using those already present as templates and guides.

Here are some pics of the uncut templates:


Brewery Template 1Brewery Template 2Brewery Template 3

Next, I will use textures acquired from Clever Models to overlay the solid color. 

Bigger and Better (Well… Bigger, Anyway)

I’ve spent the past week devising ways to modify the brewery and make it more… breweryish. The layout of the Elkton Creek smelter isn’t quite there. So I thought: why not? Mostly, I wasn’t completely happy with the placement of some windows in the Branchline kit. If I replace the walls with cardstock, I can easily modify window placement. So, I’ve been photocopying the major walls from the kit at 1:1 scale to use as templates.

The further I get into this hobby, the more I realize that it may not be worth buying large kits, except to use as templates for scratch-built models. Those are expensive templates, though, so I am going to keep 1:1 scale copies of any components for future use. I’m sure I could find such templates online, too, so I may do some research for future models.

Future models? Will there be room for future models? Not yet. But all this planning got me 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 all the bookshelves, the 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, and it was not lost on me. 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 way too much. 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, the 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.

Here, you can see what made me especially nervous. Not twenty minutes into my Tinker Toy session I realized that the tab-and-slot system doesn’t line up. In this picture alone, you can see a couple of examples. In the background, near the corner of the building, you can see a door. One of the tabs juts out beneath the door, but only halfway. I hope the door covers this completely, or I may have some back-filling to do. And on the brace that I am holding (along with two other braces), the tabs are ‘female’ instead of ‘male’ (see how they line up with the slots in the floor). As it turns out, I will be cutting these down anyway, as I am adding a partition and second-story floor.

I’ve been mocking up the structures with tape to make sure everything fits. You can see the partition that I’ve cut to obscure the interior of the ground floor, and I also cut a strip of balsa to create a floor on the second level (not shown). I will likely add some dowel bits and so forth to simulate mash tuns, fermentation chambers, etc. on the second floor, but I won’t paint them or add much detail because viewers will hardly be able to see them.

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.