Bonnie Dundee

Bonnie Dundee

Friday, 15 September 2017

An Unexpected Opportunity

I had almost forgotten the simple pleasure of laying some track and a few hours later, watching something run over it. I was reconnected to that experience today when I glued down some Peco Code 100 RTR track and then this afternoon ran a couple of diesels over it. For the last few years, tracklaying for me has been something of an annual event. By that, I mean that building track took me years. Now in case you are wondering how I have managed to go from one recent post where I had been handlaying Great North of Scotland interlaced sleeper pointwork in 7mm, to using Peco Code 100 track, let me explain.

I am, like many others, it would seem, caught in the great black hole that has been created by C&L Finescale's current delivery difficulties. Having perfectly aligned the planetary systems that are my Rosehearty layout (2nd phase) and a period of annual leave, I was anticipating considerable progress being made over my allocated 18 day period. However, the debacle that is currently occupying the new owner of C&L has given me nothing other than a great opportunity to correctly quote Burns, "The best-laid schemes o' mice an' men, Gang aft agley, An' lea'e us nought but grief an' pain, For promis'd joy!" I would beg of you to note that the phrase uses schemes and not the often misquoted plans. Sorry but that is a pet hate and I cannot miss the opportunity to point that out.

So given that phase 2 of Rosehearty is currently  - and for the foreseeable future - stalled awaiting nothing more complex than a box of 0 gauge flex, my attention turned to my other current project. Languishing under the full array of my scenic material and used as little more than a shelf, my equally stalled HO American outline project is finally getting its time in the limelight. 

For those who have followed this meandering tale of model railway misadventure, you may be aware that it was my decision to replace my previous layout - Balbeggie Sidings - that started my problems of not knowing what to replace it with. What you may not be aware of is that Balbeggie Sidings itself replaced a reasonably substantial US outline HO layout. This problem around what to build as a replacement has been the focus of many of my previous posts, and I suspect you may be thinking, "here he goes again!" But no, I have found the combination of working in both 0 Gauge and HO provides a nice balance and much of what I was previously searching for. One thing that does spring to mind though and created a challenge was the choice of what to model in HO. Those that know me will wonder, that if I could not decide what era, location and gauge to model in for a Scottish themed layout, how the heavens will I cope with the choices available for the US modeller.


Without scenery and with unpainted backdrop building, the operating potential of the layout starts to become apparent.


This has indeed exercised my mind, but I have pulled a trick. Rather than design a single location, where one might stand and watch trains go by (this is the trainspotter type layout much preferred in the UK), I have settled on a more operator focussed layout, much more typical of how US modellers might themselves operate. I have set the layout in a major railroad city (Kansas City, KS) and will concentrate on a business district with passing traffic, mostly consisting of cuts of cars being moved between the various railroads operating in and out of the city. This gives me an excuse to operate power from a number of railroads and not require the massive length trains that an open-country layout would demand. I am also quite determined that this new layout will not have that all too typical look, that of a UK layout but with Walthers buildings and US stock. That's another pet hate of mine, (the second in one blog post!) and something that is seen at most model railway exhibitions in the UK. I have been looking for ways to get the signature look of US sidings sitting at 90 degrees to the running lines, into the project, whilst working around attic trusses and an upper deck layout. I think I have found a way and I may report on this - if it is successful - in a future post.


As well as establishing place and time, I have also determined that whilst there will be scenery, I will not be seeking the kind of fidelity to detail that I want to achieve in 7mm. I am aiming more at the operational capability of the layout, rather than making it a realistic scene. Buildings will not be detailed to any great extent beyond the basics and will instead just provide sufficient clues to its use. Where my 0 Gauge layout is effectively a film set for my models, the HO layout will be a theatre set, providing a stage for my actors to go about their work.

The desire for realism is a driving factor on my 7mm Rosehearty layout
but the need for operation interest takes precedence for HO work.
The as yet unpainted building and the unballasted track
still gives an idea of how the layout will work.

When we go to the cinema we are transported to another place or to another time. We may even end up in a galaxy far, far away. However, a trip to the theatre requires a little more effort on our part to suspend disbelief and not see the plywood scenery for what it really is. This is what I hope to achieve with my two projects. A real sense of time and place with my 7mm work and a sufficient suspension of reality in HO to allow reasonable operational enjoyment. I get the feeling, from my achievements today and the enjoyment of watching trains rolling down un-ballasted, newly laid track, past mock-up buildings, is that I am on the right course. 

What's the betting the courier arrives with a box of track the day I go back to work?

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