Wednesday, June 20, 2012


Full-size trackplanning, discussed in the previous blog post (, fleshed out the design rendered in ¼ inch scale drawings.  Adjustments have been made and opportunities seized as this effort progressed.  Full-size planning has been essential to development of the Eugene design.  Throughout the entire layout design effort, the design of the base yard  (Eugene) has been a challenge.  Most of my best design thoughts have come while working with the full-size space. 

The challenge of Eugene is that that the prototype facilities were massive.  From the depot downtown through city industries out to the Blair Street Yard and into the main freight yard (with hump yard added in the late 1950’s), the Eugene complex stretched for miles.  A space several times the size of my basement would be needed to completely replicate Eugene, even with shortening to the design train length (20 feet) used for the HO-scale SP Cascade Line. 

The solution to the Eugene design dilemma was to concentrate on the design priorities established for the Cascade Line Layout.  In practical terms, this meant designing facilities intended to serve the modeled railroad, not all of Western Oregon, which was served by the historic yard.  This resulted in a classification yard sized for the modeled on-line industry.  Although operation design studies conducted during the layout design process kept tugging me toward including ever more tracks, reality was firmly imposed by the full-size planning effort. 

The Eugene design that emerged features the downtown depot area (flipped relative to the actual geometry) with the seven-track (plus run-around) classification yard located across the mainline from the depot.  The picture of the Eugene depot and classification yard shows the passenger siding, mainline, and two freight sidings on the right.  The classification yard ladder is seen on the left.  Multiple runaround tracks have been provided throughout the Eugene design.  The runarounds should keep the yard functioning in spite of any activity on the mainline.

Eugene Depot and Classification Yard looking RR-East.

The RR-East end of the depot and classification yard shows the multiple tracks coming back together.  The mainline and sidings are on the right, near the wall, while the classification yard ladder is on the left.  At the throat, the left-most track is the yard lead.  The next two tracks represent the mainline.  To the right of the mainline tracks are a group of turnouts not yet connected by track line.  This will be the location of Eugene “city” industry.  The second mainline track, the one with less switches, was added over the past few months as yard operations were thought about.  This track provides a way for trains to enter or depart the reverse loop tracks without going through the main yard throat—provided the outbound (RR-westbound) trains are set up for clockwise operation out of the reverse loop.

RR-East end of Eugene depot and classification yard tracks (lower part of photo).  Main yard throat leads to reverse loop staging serving as the Arrival/Departure yard (top of photo).

The Eugene Arrival/Departure Yard is formed as a reverse loop with twelve tracks.  The A/D Yard serves as staging for the RR-East end of the layout.  Through mainline trains, notably the First Class passenger and priority freight trains, will use the outer tracks with their broad radius curves and long turnouts (#8). 

Eugene Arrival/Departure Yard throat with right hand side ladder.  Left hand ladder access tracks extend off to the lower right.  Engine facility access splits the dpace between the two sides of the reverse loop (Switches without track lines extending).

The full-size planning effort provided the opportunity to use a “pinwheel ladder” for the outer tracks.  These tracks are accessed via turnouts formed around the loop curve.  The back legs of these tracks along the walls are plenty long enough, so they could start necking down via the “pinwheel ladder” much earlier than the inner tracks.  Doing so will save track and narrows the width of the yard at its most exposed curve. 

Eugene Arrival/Departure Yard reverse loop.  Pinwheel ladder used for outer tracks seen in the foreground.

The interior of the reverse loop will house the engine facilities.  The back-left of the loop interior will have the diesel sand and fuel rack.  The roundhouse and turntable will occupy the opposite corner of the loop interior.  Outside the loop will be a pair of tracks for the Oregon Electric (SP&S and BN) interchange.  The opposite end of this track set will house the caboose track.  The gap between the outer and inner loop track ladders provides an opportunity for placing the PFE ice deck.  The prototype Eugene ice deck was located within the yard, near the roundhouse, so having to cross tracks to access the ice deck has historic precedence. 

The Eugene track plan is now “complete.”  The function pieces have all fallen into place.  It is now time to move on to designing the supporting benchwork.  

Friday, June 8, 2012


Track planning for the SP Cascade Line has alternated among sketches, scale drawings and full size planning using newsprint and photo-copies of standard turnouts.  Though the concept and schematic of a track layout feature might be outlined in the sketches and scale drawings, full-size planning often leads to the “ultimate” solution, including which direction (left or right) a turnout needs to split.  My experience with track planning has shown that a space “speaks” to the designer at full size in ways not seen in smaller scale representations.  Planning factors for the Cascade Line were kept generous to allow wiggle room for such inspiration.

With a track plan that provided for all major elements as seen in the previous post ( and with flooring installed, the time had arrived to lay out the track plan in full size on the floor.  This exercise provided adjustments to trackage that didn’t quite work out as drawn and opportunities to implement enhancements as they “presented themselves” in the actual space.

Laying out the turnback loop for the Salt Creek Trestle revealed a couple of issues.  First, the aisle space between the loop and the next lobe over, the Westfir-Oakridge track, did not lay out as wide as expected by the scale drawing.  A simple adjustment to the Westfir scene reclaimed the desired aisle width.  Second, the Railroad-East (downhill, closer to Oakridge) ends of the Wicopee and Cruzatte sidings nearly overlapped.  Moving both sidings two feet downhill (RR-East) netted four feet of separation, which should help separate crews at these two operating points. 

Revised Salt Creek  Loop

Laying out Oakridge at full size led to an adjustment to the wye.  It did not need to extend as deeply into the “nook” as originally drafted.  The location of the wye and engine facilities needed to be separated from the depot scene.  Chalk one up to post location in the room.  The Oakridge plan retains all tracks present in 1954, albeit with altered geometry.  The model still should operate much as the real railroad did in 1954.

Oakridge Wye.  Bins and boxes are located where Cascade Summit operator platform will be.

Oakridge engine facility in center foreground.  Depot located on the right, beyond the post.

Finally, laying out Springfield at full size revealed the turnback lobe needed to be moved further away from the basement back wall and outside door.  With plenty of space in the aisle (up to eight feet) between Eugene and Springfield, a shift of one foot was laid out.  Upon reflection, another foot adjustment may be implemented.  The full size layout of Springfield also revealed opportunities for additional industry tracks on the “Marcola Branch” tracks looped within the main line turnback lobe.   Other opportunities for industry tracks along the mainline were seized in the full size plan.  The resulting plan should provide lots of work for the Springfield switch crew.

Springfield lobe as seen from near the basement  doors leading outside.

Saturday, June 2, 2012


The track plan for the HO scale SP Cascade Line reflects the priorities established for it and the space available.  The highest priority for the layout was to represent the climb over the Cascades from Oakridge to Cascade Summit, supporting manned helper operations.  This immediately presented two design challenges: providing for a long (by model RR standards) mountain climb and locating the pair of locomotive turning wyes (at Oakridge and the Summit).

The years of concept definition and notional layout design efforts paid off when the final basement configuration was identified with the house plan.  The notional design efforts often featured a fold-back of the mountain grade along one wall.   The actual Cascade Line provides just such a feature as the line makes a large “S” configuration of about five miles length near the middle of the climb.  Fortunately, this track feature also has an important scenic feature—the Salt Creek Trestle, shown as the inspiration view for this blog as well as its background.  The turn-back curve with the trestle becomes a major scenic feature of the layout design.  Further, the prototype track arrangement provides ample justification of “stacked tracks”— two levels of the mainline simultaneously in view.

Locating the wyes logically fell to the top nook corner and the next one (central top) over.  Though an early layout design swapped the positions of the two wyes (Oakridge’s being more central in the plan), the final arrangement provided a longer mainline climb and a better passageway around the wye tail. 

The length of mountain climb (about 245 feet) provided 40 inches of climb at the prototype 1.8% from the base level.  The base level for Oakridge and the rest of the valley cities was established at 48 inches based on operating experience with a number of layouts, most notably the Cal Central Club layout where I was a member for over three decades.  This base height then established the summit height around  88-89 inches, providing an opportunity for easy passage underneath the summit trackage.   As seen in the image below, Cascade Summit will be built out over the track coming up out of Oakridge, forming an operator “tunnel” for the lower level.  Even my 6’ 4” frame should not be challenged by the modest height under Cascade Summit.  The Summit scene maintains adequate clearance from the room ceiling which is at 9’ 6”.

As the layout design process proceeded, it became clear that Oakridge represented a key operating and scenic feature.  The layout plan provides for all tracks present at Oakridge in 1954.  Compromises were necessary, notably in the relative positions of the depot and engine facilities, but the result should operate much as the original during the era of steam helpers.  Flanking Oakridge are the pair of large lumber mills: Pope and Talbot to the geographic east and Western Lumber at Westfir to the geographic west.  Both will be modestly represented, but they should provide lots of work for the Oakridge Turn.

Fleshing out the remainder of the railroad are Springfield and Eugene.  Springfield is contained within a large turn-back loop—a compromise made necessary by the approximately square central layout space.  The design for Springfield attempts to capture major industry located along the mainline.  Also provided is a modest set of tracks representing the Marcola Branch and interchange with the Weyerhauser operation.  The Springfield switcher should be kept very busy!

The design for the layout’s base yard at Eugene provided the greatest design challenge.  The final design represents many compromises, great simplification, and recognition of the top priorities for the rest of the layout.  Modeling Eugene at any time after the Natron Cutoff (Cascade Line) was built could consume more space than the entire basement.  The current design for Eugene features the Eugene depot, an Arrival/Departure (A/D) yard that also serves as open staging, a classification yard (7 tracks plus run-around) sized to serve the modeled railroad (rest of the layout), “City” industry, and engine facilities.  The engine facilities are located inside the reverse loop staging formed by the A/D yard.  They will be accessed via a roll-under chair—one of the toughest design compromises for the entire layout.  

Returning to the top end of the layout, reverse loop staging will be provided at Crescent Lake.  This loop will be suspended from the ceiling.  As described for Cascade Summit, the resulting layout structure should provide at least seven feet of clearance underneath.  Crescent Lake staging will have optical position detection and probably closed circuit TV to assist operators.  A stool, ladder or stand will be provided so operators can make a direct observation of their train prior to beginning a descent down the mountain toward Oakridge.

The plan for the HO scale SP Cascade Line should provide for interesting mainline operation and lots of opportunity for individual car movement serving industries both large and small.