Monday, August 15, 2011

Looking At The "Combo Pack" Layout Scheme

I've been spending a lot of time this past week with paper and pencil in hand, doing much head-scratching, racking my brain on how to fit my rather sprawling basement-size HO scale Hawaiian-theme railroad into a drastically reduced new 12x11-foot basement of the home we are buying. (Waiting on all the paperwork to get approved by the bank now.) The more I tried to "save" the sections of layout and fit them into a cohesive, yet smaller new layout space, the more I was drawing a blank. The current 18-foot Kuhio Yard won't fit in 12-feet, no matter how much pencil pushing I do, and the large Hilo Harbor pier complex, a "Y" shaped peninsula, would consume most of the open floor space in the room. What to do?

Well, this idea might change once we get moved in to our new digs, but for this moment I'm going to "Shelf" the HO-scale Big Island Railroad and build a permanent main On30 layout instead. By "shelving" the HO layout, I don't mean getting rid of it totally, I mean put it on eye-level shelves around the layout space, preserve a pair of key layout sections, and build it into a mostly "around-the-room" operations concept with a few industries to switch. This is one of the things lacking in the existing "point-to-point" layout. I want to run a train and let 'er run while I'm working on other projects, and not have to always be "working" the railroad.

For the "main" floor standing On30 layout, I'm thinking about combining into one pike my 1940's-1950's Swamp Logger concept with a similar-era island sugar cane plantation railroad. Since the whole idea of this model railroading hobby is to have "fun," I'm tossing out MY rule book and trying hard to let the creative thinking flow. These two industries - sugar and lumber - are pretty compatible. Actually on the Big Island of Hawaii back in the day, there were several sugar railroads that co-existed with a hardwood logging operation complete with Shay locomotives...Yes, I said in Hawaii!!!

The layout would be divided in two distinct parts connected with a transition section to blend the two. I still love the 'Swamp Logger' concept and will likely continue with this idea in the new permanent layout. I like the mood and the look of the backwater railroad with home-made equipment, "Critter" Diesels and saddle tank steam locomotives winding through moss-draped trees and across low trestles. The "Sugar Plantation" side would have an ocean-island vibe to it. The railroad would use more "mainstream" equipment to bring goods and passengers to the pier over well-maintained track.

Since HO and On30 equipment use the same gauge track, I will be able to use the Pier 1 side of the large harbor complex in the new layout scheme. This will become the new sugar pier. It has three long spurs with the track embedded in the concrete of the pier, with plenty of room for a few O-scale structures. Plantation trains will arrive with boxcars and bulkhead flatcars filled with bagged sugar. The sugar gets transferred onto ocean-going freighters and inter-island ships. I should be able to use a small yard section of the HO layout that connects to this pier section with minimal reworking for On30. I plan to have an open-air passenger depot located near the pier where passengers de-train and walk to the pier to board the inter-island passenger ships. This portion of the layout will also include a molasses transfer facility that recieves the sticky stuff in tankcars,  a turntable and a small engine service facility to get those steam engines ready for the return trip (onto a 2-track stage yard "wing" above the laundry area of the basement.)

The logging side of things will feature a log dump on a slightly angled self-standing peninsula, as well as an engine house, logging camp, log landing and lots of swampy water, fireflies and moss-covered cypress trees. This side of the layout will also have staging that will wind between the HVAC equipment ductwork into another section of the basement about an existing workbench area.

I'll post a rough track plan soon!

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