Monday, October 21, 2019

"Jewel" Layouts - Kip Grant's D&H Sonnyvale Branch

I suppose this post could have been titled "OP"toberfest Day 3 since we were able to visit one last layout on the Sunday before heading back home - Kip Grant's D&H Sonnyvale Branch.

The Sonnyvale Branch is based on the real Lake George Branch of the D&H, with just enough variation and variety to provide a bit more operation than the prototype. It wends its way from the D&H mainline at "Junction" and works its way through bucolic farmland at Sheldon's Curve and the town of Jasperdale before terminating at Sonnyvale. Just outside of Sonnyvale, a short branch takes off from Fenimore Jct. to serve the industrial area of Fenimore.

More esoterically, Kip's layout is part of a small group of layouts in my mind that I'm beginning to call "Jewel" layouts - small to medium sized layouts that do one thing very well and are, for the most part, finished. Not overwhelming at all in scope, they convey the essence of local, retail railroading through small-to-medium sized towns and typically include - or are themselves - a branch line of a larger railroad. Other than Kip's D&H Sonnyvale Branch, I'd include in this esteemed group (in reverse chronological order of when I visited them), Ken Karlewicz's Cherry Valley Branch, and Jim Dufour's Cheshire Branch of the B&M.

Sound familiar? Yeah, a "jewel layout" is kinda what I hope my Valley Line will be someday.

I first saw Kip's layout in person during last year's "OP"toberfest, and made plans even then to visit again as soon as possible. Alas, my next visit didn't come until a year later, but - as I expected - even though I don't think he's changed or added much since last time, I saw a lot I didn't remember seeing before. It's so full of "modelable" details and interesting scenes, that you can't possibly take it all in during one visit. As testament to this fact, I probably took 3 times as many photos this time as last time!

But enough of me trying to describe it - I'll let the pictures do the talking, 1000 words at a time...

How many folks have you heard of that model discarded switchlists?

Little details like this abandoned car in the woods really provide a lot of flavor and texture of the time and place.

Kip has a number of unique vehicles on his layout, but this one impressed me most with its detail and, um, weathering.

I purposely avoided saying too much about any of the photos since I think they really do speak for themselves. If you want to see more of an overview of the layout - with "overview type" (rather than closeup) photos of Kip's layout - including descriptions - be sure to click here and scroll down towards the bottom.

Hopefully, these photos give you at least a little taste of what I mean by a "jewel" layout and - even more - that they inspire and motivate you to work on your own efforts. That's certainly what *I* plan to do!


  1. Discarded Switch Lists! - I know JUST the place for this detail on my railroad. Awesome idea. This is truly a jewel of a layout. Thanks for sharing it!

    1. Glad you liked it - always nice having you stop by. Be sure to click on the links for more photos of Kip's layout.