Thursday, September 12, 2013

Outdoor Layout: The MMPP&BTCo

What did I do on my summer vacation? I found myself in a cornfield meet confluence of three trains of thought:
Why remain consigned to the catacombed confines of the layout room when shady afternoons and cool evenings await, on the front step? I'd long wanted to build another layout, perhaps a northeast US layout based on the Rutland RR in their namesake city.
The micro-layout blog led me to the Harlem Station layout trackplan. This car ferry-team track-freight shed design got me thinking. Picking up a piece of 1/2 plywood measuring 24 by 39 inches, I grabbed some flex-track to lay the first curve. Perhaps not surprisingly, in HO scale, on a random, smallish piece of plywood, there is no way such a curve was going to happen, though an ardent micro-layouter has condensed it to 48x30 inches albeit it with curved turnouts and Fleischmann min-radius flextrack! A radius this tight would only support a layout dominated by scale-test cars or perhaps ore jennies. With thoughts of Harlem dashed on the rocks of radial irrationality and impossibility, I continued laying track until this plan emerged:
The Harlem Station layout involves all trailing-point switches. Not this one...track-level view:
I'm not one for formal, drawn trackplans, using CAD or any type of software. I prefer to get out the track and the Robertson wood screws and get at it. The switching tracks were a series of switchbacks leading from two nominal interchange tracks at right to two industries at left. Industry 2 can receive cars if no switching moves are required into Industry 3. Otherwise, the front run-around tracks are used for switching moves; these are left open. Each non-industry tail track can handle one car and one locomotive. The nearest interchange track can only handle one locomotive. The run-around tracks can handle two cars. I have left the industries numbered; un-named to keep things flexible.
While flipping through a stack of Kalmbach's Model Railroad Planning annuals, I paused at the 2011 edition, in which renowned track planner Byron Henderson planned Westcott Terminal paid homage to late Model Railroader Linn Westcott's classic Switchman's Nightmare trackplan (below). In a generously ginormous 4x8-foot trackplan, Henderson employed interchange/industries/runaround elements - coincidentally, the same elements I had incorporated in my unplanned trackplan.
I added the non-contiguous three-track staging yard because I realized I'd created enough switchbacks already, plus there was no way to realistically get more trackage into the top-right portion of the layout. Nominally leading to yard trackage and staging for the interchange, these tracks provide a convenient holding area to display rolling stock just departed or soon to arrive on the layout, pushed by the 0-5-0 switcher onto the interchange tracks.
Before scenery or structures were in place, my impetuous nature led me to operating with a CP S-3, the shortest-wheelbase unit I had. With a vaguely northeast US prototype in mind (as opposed to my basement Canadian prototype) I limited myself to 40-foot cars. Once in a while a 50-footer makes an appearance.
As the cardinals chirped, the squirrels scampered and the sun slowly set, I installed my humble micro-layout on a small folding table on our front step. I arranged an extension cord from the garage, power pack and feed wires to the track, and the evening air soon resonated to the clickety-clack of HO-scale wheelsets over switchpoints. With little in the way of an operating plan, I was happy with the prospect of operation.
Though the S-3 has a wheelbase that works on this layout, Chris Mears of Prince Street Terminal (see Chris' blog in sidebar) kindly sent a 44-tonner. Little MEC 15, a Bachmann product, is easily able to nimbly negotiate the trackage. Chris rescued this unit from his Pigeons Inlet Pinsly-like deadline. This unit had arrived via Seth Neumann in California, so it has certainly criss-crossed North America to its current home! I prepared a sky/industrial backdrop on foam core, held in place with push pins. The staging yard is fairly full (below), there are three ice reefers spotted at Industry 3, a Mobilgas tank car at Industry 2, two covered hoppers at Industry 1 and two more reefers are in a run-around move with MEC 15.
A name emerged: The Mulligatawny, Mears Piers, Pears & Beers Terminal Co. (The MMPP&BTCo, also known as the Alphabet Soup Route or the Consonant Line). Genesis of the name:
  • Mulligatawny is a weird soup name that I'd often seen on the soup and salad bar where I work. (Italian Wedding is another one, but hard to work into a name for a believable railway). A mulligan, by definition, is golf do-over allowed to reduce frustration and increase enjoyment of the game. On my layout, if a few feet are lacking to complete a move, the 0-5-0 switcher can gently lift the car truck to move the points over, hence a mulligan!
  • Mears Piers are small, black L-shaped plates at the edge of the layout I installed to prevent Chris Mears' 44-tonner from plunging to an untimely demise from the interchange tracks to the concrete front step below! These tracks nominally lead to piers for a carferry/float service.
  • Pears & Beers? The original owners of the line served a pear-importing business and a brewery. Plus, it nearly rhymes!
  • Terminal...well, just look at the track plan. If a piece of rolling stock rolls off, it's terminal!
  •'s nice to have my wife's company, sitting with me on the front step during operation. I would have tried to come up with a layout name based on her comments, but couldn't think of a railway name from the letters WTF.
Scenery was sprayed on, products purchased at Michaels:
  • Krylon Fusion #42438 Satin Khaki, to cover plywood.
  • Plasti-Kote Fleck Stone #9465 Ancient Ruins for roadways.
  • Design Master Color Tex One-Step #868 Mossy for vegetation.
Staged photo (above) showing how full the tracks might get. MEC 15 brings PRR boxcar and Santa Fe ice reefers to the run-around. :
Now that the weather is a little cooler, the layout has made its way just inside the front door, the rolling stock packed away until a warm late-summer day or spring arrives, whichever comes first!

Running extra...

The latest issue of the Bytown Railway Society Branchline a highly readable and enjoyable article by John 'Canyon' Cowan profiling his experiences aboard Vancouver's West Coast Express. John includes many entertaining anecdotes as well as lots of operational detail about commuter operations on the left coast. They even have Capuccino cars in each consist!

Speaking of double-doubles, early reports of a second refurbished 2+1 seating VIA Business Class car in Corridor service remain to be confirmed. 

I'm looking forward to the Canadian Walk of Fame celebrations next weekend honouring Alan Thicke and the late Oscar Peterson, among others. I just wish all the Thicke-Cyrus VMA controversy would die down. What's next, the duo's version of that railway classic "I've been Twerking on the Railroad"?


Anonymous said...

Dear Eric, From Wpg... Via no 1 on Sat Sept 14- 2 units with 25 cars...Tremblant Pk. HO RR looks good, Atlas S3 in CP look good, need a RDC, have too many. Have too much stuff, not enough time, always looking for the prototype. Looking at digital cameras today, Nikon D3100 or D3200. We will see.Did you check the disk for the CRIP and Lambeau field shots? Of note, the late Oscar Peterson father was a CP Sleeping car porter and parlor car attendant in Montreal during the 30s thru 50s maybe 60s.

Eric said...

Hi Brian,
Disc is great, lots of Rosser and Diamond action. Go digital before it's too late! I have an RDC that I can operate on either layout - I used to enjoy spooling up the Athearn rubber band-drive units at high speed.

Morning Sun Books VIA in Color - The First 25 Years is out and popping!

Thanks for your update,