Image of the C&O for Progress monogram Image of the C&O for Progress monogram A graphic image of the words C&O Piedmont Subdivision

Modeling the C&O

New Layout Design



When I finalized my original track plan, I was pretty happy with it. The only major change that I made (and one that I had contemplated even as I started construction) was to pierce the backdrop in Gordonsville and add staging tracks. For the most part, things worked out the way that I planned and I started adding scenery. As I was working on that, I started trying to operate the layout. That’s when I ran into issues that I just wasn’t able to resolve. Here’s a list of the major ones:

In 2011 I became the sole owner of my home. The whole basement was now mine to do with as I pleased. I almost immmediately began drawing track plans that took most (or all) of the space. They usually involved moving Louisa and Gordonsville farther apart, adding staging in a way that trains entered the layout at the appropriate points, and often involved the addition of a siding between Louisa and Melton so that I could model the lumberyard in Trevilian. None of them really caught my fancy, however, so my model railroad languished for about 5 years; I was loathe to put effort into something that I planned to tear down. The only real change made was that I removed the staging tracks in order to replace my water heater. I took the opportunity to have the heater moved to a place where it would be out of the way of a redesign.

In early 2016, though, I had a number of important insights about why I wasn’t able to make any progress on a new track plan. The first concerned my home office, which is also in the basement. Most of my plans devoted my office space to the new layout. My first important insight was that I really didn’t want to do that. It’s a nice space where I spend a lot of time. Further, a big feature of the room is a set of floor-to-ceiling bookcases (which are stuffed) that were gifts from my Dad and sized to fit where they are. There’s nowhere else in the house that they would fit.

The second insight was that most of my plans also involved a duckunder to reach my laundry facilities or they potentially blocked access to the circuit breakers for the house. At 57 I don’t want to have to duck under the layout carrying a basket full of laundry. The final insight came after reading the 2016 issue of Model Railroad Planning. I had been trying to include enough staging for all of the trains that I wanted to run in an operating session: locals each way between Richmond and Charlottesville, locals each way between Potomac Yard and Charlottesville, a manifest freight each way, and sections of the George Washington each way between Richmond and Charlottesville and between Washington and Charlottesville. To do that, I had to give up the possibility of continuous running (which I will admit that I enjoy - it’s fun to sometimes just sit back and watch the trains) and staging was taking up a huge amount of the space that I had available. The insight from MRP was that maybe I didn’t need to provide all that staging. Maybe what would work would be a fiddle yard. And, with that, I was on my way.

The New Design

As before, there were certain things that I wanted in my layout — my givens and druthers in John Armstrong’s terms. Those included:

The plan above represents what I’ve come up with so far (click the image to see a higher res version). This plan allows me to keep my office and access to the laundry facilities and electrical stuff on the left-hand wall of the basement. The fiddle yard beside the stairs allows me to stage two trains in each direction at the same time and trains enter the modeled section of the layout in the correct places. I had to give up the possibility of modeling the Pot Yard locals and the Washington sections of the George, but I think I can live with that (and I might eventually find a way to add removable staging that would allow running those trains during an operating session).

In addition, I had resources available this time that I didn’t back in 2000. One of the most important was an aerial photo of the wye in Gordonsville. It was detailed enough that I could work out the scale and the radius of the curves through the wye. In 2000 I guessed 53". Using the photo I found that I was close, but off by a bit. What I came out with this time was 56.25". I was also able to space some of the turnouts a little closer to the prototype and include both of the sidings across the mainline from the freight house, so my when I begin to add scenery everything should look right. The current plan also includes a short siding near Louisa to represent the Purcell lumberyard in Bibb. The idea was that including the lumberyard would go a little way toward making up for losing the vermiculite loader. I did, however, include the siding that eventually served the vermiculite loader. It was there in 1970 (it used to serve an auto loading ramp) and I might just decide in the future to include a small bit of 1978 on the layout.

I did receive some very thoughtful suggestions from Jerry Simonoff. One was to reorient Louisa so that it was consistent with Gordonsville and Melton. I think I’ve addressed my reasons for not doing so above. He also suggested double ending the fiddleyard tracks and using some of them to represent some of the trackage in Lindsay. I’m giving both of those serious consideration and trying to figure out how I could do that without making the benchwork at the apex of the turnback between Gordonsville and the fiddle yard too deep. There is obviously going to have to be a duckunder somewhere and that seems to be the best location. I also have to be careful of the space between the fiddle yards and the heat pump. I need sccess there to change the filters.

I’m still in the planning stages, a great idea could still be incorporated. I’d like to hear your thoughts. Feel free to email me at the address below.


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