Friday, January 1, 2021

Layout Tour: Looking Back - Looking Forward


I'd planned a bunch of posts for you the past bunch of days, but the day job had other plans. I even missed this week's Wordless Wednesday. Ugh!

But I couldn't let the first day of 2021 (doesn't that sound SO much better than 2020?!) go by without doing a little looking back over the last year layout-wise (because you're probably not here to look back over 2020 for much else...). 

One huge "COVID-consolation" (as rare as they were) was being forced/able to spend a bit more time at home and, for us hobbyists, that tended to translate to more time at the layout and at the workbench. We'll take the layout first - checking out where I was at the end of 2019 and comparing it to where I am a year later. So here's a little tour starting from East Berlin, heading south on the Valley Line to Old Saybrook, over to "New London" and even up through "Somerset" & "Mill Hollow" on the Airline. . .

After loads of progress during 2019, the only difference in East Berlin in 2020 was the addition of a few details, including period-appropriate crossbucks (you can always click on the image for a larger view).

The most significant changes this year happened in Wethersfield. I'd done the "Hartford" skyline behind the Rt. 15 overpass during 2019, but I finally started filling in some scenery here at the north (right) end of the scene. . .

Here's how the same area looks as of today - all grassed in (static grass really does wonders!), and Jordan Lane is all improved with some resurfacing and a grade crossing. There's even a Ballantine's sign over there on the left/south end of the warehouse. 

Moving south in Wethersfield... I'd really obsessed WAY too long about how to do the Fernwood Street scene with John Wallace's house, as well as the area down toward the station. . .

But after a LOT of trial-and-error (and a number of different shades & lengths of static grass and dirt on the lumber yard lot), here's how it looks as of today.

Another view, just cuz I like how this came out. Although it looks a little, um, too "perfect," it should improve even more with some additional details and some more scenic textures.

Another end-of-2019 view, looking southwest.

. . . and looking northeast - you can see Gra-Rock in the distance, with Valley Coal in the left foreground.

As you can see, I kept the static grass applicator very busy this year - even adding some grass between the rails on the ROW.

And here's Valley Coal as it is today, complete with still-mocked-up backdrop photos. The Wethersfield backdrop continues to elude me - and has for years now, literally. :^(

View looking northwest. . . Compare this to the same view last year and you'll see the improvement.

The Goff Brook area - one of the earlier areas to be done - hasn't changed much over the past year. But it's still a great place to pause & take in the scene.

One improvement though has been the completion of my first craftsman structure kit back in April - used here as a barn behind the house at Goff Brook.

Rocky Hill hasn't really changed at all. I think this was the actual first "completed" scene on the layout (thanks to BillS) . . .

. . . and with it looking so great, why change it?

Just south of Rocky Hill, is the Dividend section of town, which hosts the largest industry on the line - Hartford Rayon. Here's how the scene looked at the end of 2019. I'd flattened the area under the big structures, but the hillside was still in place on the other side of the tracks.

Oft-times in layout building, you have to take two steps back to make three steps of progress. Here's how Dividend looks today, since it's the area I'm working on at the moment. I've removed most of the hillside on the far side of the tracks - to flatten it for a house scene - and am starting to rebuild the hill as a scenic divide between Dividend and Cromwell (complete with rock-lined cut, eventually...). I also did a major rework of the track arrangement here back this past summer.

Speaking of Cromwell, here's how it looked at the end of 2019 . . .

. . . And here it is as of today. I've angled the town & buildings a bit more for some additional "distance" from Dividend - and I'm working on the hill & cut.

From here on south, things are pretty much the same as they were this time last year, unfortunately. Here are the marshlands south of Cromwell and north of Middletown.

Panning left, you see the north end of Middletown proper, with the Dividend structures placed here temporarily to keep them out of harms' way.

Continuing to pan left/south, we see the throat of Middletown yard.

And here's a nice overview of Middletown, looking south past the diamond towards the meat packing plant.

Speaking of which, here it is. - one of MANY structures built and donated by Bill Maguire.

Continuing south from Middletown, we enter the scenic high bridge at Shailerville - another scene courtesy BillS (I'm SO going to miss his help now that he has his own layout to build!)

Looking south from there, you can see East Haddam on the left and Deep River on the right.

The East Haddam scene has improved a bit since this time last year, with the addition of some prototype structures built by Dave Messer.

Anybody familiar with the area will recognize these buildings. Sadly, Dave passed earlier this year before he could complete them.

Turning to the right, we see Deep River as it was last year.

Not much difference this year, although the fascia around the lace factory in the distance has been tied back in. And more of Bill Maguire's structures - previously at East Haddam - have moved over here.

Continuing south from Deep River towards Essex, this will be the area around Old Deep River Road in the Centerbrook section of Essex.

Essex proper, looking southwest.

Northeast view.

Finally all the way down the Valley Branch to Old Saybrook, looking south. The orientation here is that East is to the left - and that's where we're going next to see one of the biggest improvements to the layout this past year . . .

Namely, the "boxing in" of the New London/East End staging yard.

Came out pretty nice, wasn't TOO much work, and really improved things by cutting way down on dust.

Moving over to the Airline, nothing's changed in the last year. As a matter of fact, I have the same reference photos here now as I did then...

The town of "Somerset" - with west end staging in the "staging box" hanging off the front of the module.

Somerset, looking southwest.

Continuing "north" from Cedar Hill Yard in New Haven to Middletown, we see the town of "Mill Hollow"

And here's an overall view. If you're interested in operating the Airline local through these towns, be sure to click here.

I've mentioned before how I sometimes think New Years' "resolutions" can be counter-productive, so I won't be making any here. However, to the extent that listing the past year's accomplishments can provide some much-needed motivation to spur on further progress, I may go back over 2020 and see what all I can jot down.

But I'm frankly in no great hurry to revisit 2020 - at least not quite yet. In the meantime, I'm happy to just revel in what I'm blessed enough to have today - and hope you've also enjoyed this little walk around the basement.

Here's also hoping you and yours have a wonderful, safe, happy and healthy New Year!


  1. Very nice! Excellent progress on a number of fronts across the board!

  2. Great update. I enjoy building prototype structures and understand Bill’s passion. Lmk if you have a specific building in mind. I’d be honored to help.

    1. Thanks Neil! Beware - I may just take you up on your offer... :^)

  3. Happy new year, Chris. You made some lemonade out of 2020's lemons!

    1. Thanks Steve! Hope you were able as well - and hope you continue to enjoy the blog into 2021!