Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Layout Tour WrapUp - The "AirLine"

(This is the 4th & final part of the tour - Part 1 is here, Part 2 is here, and Part 3 is here)

While the main focus of this project is the line from Hartford to Middletown (and eventually to Old Saybrook), the main "interchange" on the line was with the Air Line in Middletown.  On the prototype, the Air Line went from New Haven to Colchester, crossing the Valley Line at grade in Middletown before crossing over the Connecticut River.  Any cars destined for Valley Line towns from New Haven were dropped off by the Air Line Local and returns were picked up, so it's critical to Valley Line operations that at least part of the Air Line be included in my model.

You can see on the following map where the Air Line came in to Middletown:

Valley Line south to north (left to right), Air Line west to east (top to bottom)
The Air Line local would come into town, leave most of its train on the main, continue with its interchange cars southeast on the quad track, and then back into Middletown yard (off the map to the right).  After dropping off its cars, the locomotive would return to its train and continue east to Colchester.  On the way back, it would pick up New Haven bound cars by reversing the process and running around in the yard.

On my model, the "Air Line" is such in name only and functions only as a way to have active, prototypical interchange and to provide operators another local freight to operate.  The line itself ends at the CT river, so all Air Line locals are "turns" to Middletown & back.  But otherwise, I can replicate the prototype operations (just about) perfectly.

The railroad itself is a different matter, being totally freelanced on two seperate 2x8 modules:

Somerset module ("New Haven" staging off the left end)

Mill Hollow module - track to Middletown continues off the right & through the wall
Here's a recap of the trackplans for each of the towns/modules
The trackplan is totally freelanced and so are the towns & buildings, but the idea is to convey "generic New England" as much as possible.  The story of these modules merits its own post, but suffice it to say that all the buildings were salvaged from the 4x8 layout of an old friend who passed on.  The 4x8 was an operational nightmare (all brass snap-track, almost none of which worked) and I built the modules to have a better track plan and preserve his handiwork.  Bonus: the modules allow you to really get up close to what he built (just about all of the buildings have full interior detail).  He was definitely more of a craftsman modeler than an operator.

Somerset engine facility
Operationally, the Air Line Local starts in "New Haven" (a staging track off the left of the Somerset module).  If I want the job to extend a little longer, I stage the train itself on the staging track, but leave the engine in the engine service area.  Operators will then have to fully hostle their engine before they pick up their train and start their main work of the day.  There are a few industries to be switched, including a box factory, team track and coal company.  Interestingly, the engine service facility must also be served with company cars (coal & sand inbound; cinders & empty cars outbound).
"Portal Farm" at west end of Mill Hollow module - tunnel to the right
Once the local finishes its work in Somerset, it continues to Mill Hollow through a tunnel (and over a liftout that connects the two modules) and comes out just past a farm on the hilltop (seen/scene above).

West end of Mill Hollow - tunnel in the distance.
There's one main industrial track in Mill Hollow, but the industries have more car spotting locations than the track capacity available.  So switching in Mill Hollow sometimes requires the local to setout a car on the siding so it can be switched on the return trip.

Overview of "downtown" Mill Hollow.  Track continues off-module to the right and to Middletown.  Note Form 19 orders to be picked up by the local and track layout mounted on the fascia.
Once the local finishes in Mill Hollow, it continues to Middletown for interchange.
While it would be great to model the Air Line prototypically (and someday, I may), for now the modules are a great stand-in.  They contain the only really "completed" area of the railroad, and though all the structures are inherited, all the scenery is my doing (and my first attempt at scenery).  The modules not only provide a nice reminder of my friend's modeling legacy, but also the fact that, no matter your prototypical aspirations, model railroading is essentially a fun, creative activity - or at least it should be.  We should never get SO tied up in replicating the prototype that we forget that we are essentially creating a miniature world over which we have total control.  And that's pretty neat.
And that concludes our tour of the layout, at least as it currently exists.  As you can see in the overall trackplan, I will eventually continue my prototype modeling south from Middletown through East Haddam, Deep River, Essex and Old Saybrook.  But what I have already will keep me busy for now - and I still have to get to my punchlist of to-do items created by my sea trial ops session.
My first "official" operating session is in just a little over a week, so I need to get crackin'!

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