Track Plan At A Glance
Layout Theme: New England Shortline
Layout Type: Permanent Layout
Scale: O Scale
Era: Late 1990s
Track: Code 125
Turnouts: No. 5
Min. Radius: 48"
Article by: Jim Spavins
Posted: August 30, 2016
Published: March 7, 2014
New England has a tradition of eclectic and interesting shortline railroads throughout its six states. These railroads handle a large variety of commodities from coal to limestone to lumber to salt to paper and many other materials. With hand me down equipment and some Yankee ingenuity, some railroad relics have survived well past their expiration date and continue to provide service to the many industries in New England.
In order to capture the essence of a New England shortline, the essential features of this railroad should be:
- Enginehouse/Railroad Headquarters
- Several Industries
- Interchange Railroad
- Typical New England scenery
As can be seen in the layout plan at the beginning of the article, the layout is in a loop to loop configuration which starts on the left side of the basement at an interchange, runs along the walls passing several industries, before arriving at the enginehouse. The enginehouse is theoretically located at the halfway point of the railroad so the mainline continues to a staging yard which represents the other portion of the line. This staging yard is setup using a traverser to save space and add capacity that would otherwise be taken up by a pair of turnouts to create a passing track.
Presenting the Railroad
The layout essentially runs around the walls of the room. The layout area should be finished off with a clean fascia and plenty of lighting. A portion of the basement has been closed off as a separate work/storage room. This space can be used as a work area to build and maintain the fleet as well as build the hundreds of trees which will be needed to dot the landscape. As mentioned in the start of this section, these basement empires will take years to build - even a plan as apparently simple as the one for the Wood River Railroad above. Since so many hours will be spent completing the layout, it makes sense to carve out a portion of the basement to create a nice place to work.
Operating the Railroad
This layout is meant to be operated with a single crew handling the duties for the day. The crew starts at the enginehouse and prepares for the day. They then head down the line to the interchange to pick up the cars left by the interchanging railroad. The crew then heads back up the line switching the various industries along the way. The crew then can head to the staging yard and swap cars which are at industries which aren't modeled further down the line. Once all the switching work is complete, the crew heads back to the interchange to drop off the cars which are headed to the rest of the world. The crew then heads back to the enginehouse to finish the day.
Since the layout is setup in a loop to loop configuration, a visitor mode could be created where a single train simply running in circles around the layout. With DCC auto reversers to deal with reversing the polarity on the rails and swing switches installed at the turnouts connecting the reversing loops, this continuous running feature wouldn't be too difficult to add to the railroad.
A Green Mountain Railroad freight, such as the one above, can serve as inspiration for a 1990s era New England shortline. | Photo by Jim Spavins.
Resource Use on the Railroad
This railroad would work well for the individual who enjoys building as well as switching freight cars. An O scale layout will require a bit more scratchbuilding and kitbashing as not as much is available off the shelf. Even though the railroad only needs a couple of locomotives and a couple dozen freight cars, this would be a several year project to have this type of fleet ready in O scale. In HO scale, this could be collected in a much shorter time span.
As for the rest of the resources needed to capture the essence of a New England shortline, here is how they would be used:
Time would be spent...
- Building Railroad Equipment
- Building Structures
- Building Lots and Lots of Trees
- Interchange, Industries, and Enginehouse
- Work Area
Money would be spent on...
- Locomotives and Rolling Stock
- Scenery Materials
The Skills required to build the railroad are...
- Rolling Stock and Locomotive Detailing, Painting, and Weathering
- Scenery Construction
- Structure Construction