Sunday, October 21, 2012

Reworked Track Plan

During a much-needed vacation along the Minnesota North Shore last week as a get away from our on-going home improvement projects and my two jobs, I was able to sit down for a little while and develop a new track plan for my planned On30 swamp logging layout.

Putting my other On30 track plan away and beginning with a blank sheet of paper, I tried a different approach. Instead of an around-the-room plan with two stub peninsulas as before, I decided to utilize the 18-foot length of the layout room of my basement space by designing a "W" shape layout with a long, bending center peninsula to gain longer mainline runs from the town of Blackwater to the Mosquito Creek Camp. I still wanted to use the large Pier 1 section leftover from my HO scale Big Island Rail for the new On30's Navy Pier, so I positioned it into an angled 'end of track' section butting against one short wall near the doorway to the basement bathroom.

This added a larger section of open water between one side of the pier and a small stub-end yard. The section of water will serve as a lift out access section. Along with the pocket-sized yard and lead track to the Navy Pier trackage, I included a depot, freight house and team track with loading dock, small loco servicing area with turntable, water and fuel in the Blackwater town section.  The former track plan included a couple industries for the Blackwater and Southern crew to switch, but between the logging trains and the Navy dock switcher and  speeder service to and from camp to Blackwater and passenger trains and mixed freights to and from Blackwater and staging, I think there will be plenty to do!

The one stickler was trying to figure out how to get staging into the plan so that it could be used several ways to aid operations. One: As the line from Blackwater to the (off layout) lumber company saw mill,. Two: As the logging operations spur to the woods, and Three: As the 'rest of the world' connection for the narrow gauge common carrier Blackwater & Southern Railroad.
Making the town of Blackwater a stub end yard/terminal in this track plan, rather than a stopping point for through trains came a train ride on the North Shore Scenic Railroad while visiting Duluth this past week. The North Shore trains needed to back out of the Duluth station to get onto their mainline. Then at the end of the line in Two Harbors, the railroad had to get dispatcher authorization for the move onto a small section of CP/DM&I trackage. The train pulled ahead onto the yard lead of the CN just far enough to clear the switch to allow another reverse move curving around into the depot about a half mile from the jct.
The way I have designed the town of Blackwater with the staging and Junction tracks, trains don't need to back in, but locos have to make a run-around move to get to the "right" end of their trains from the trip up to Mosquito Creek Camp, for an example. I don't like switching puzzles on model railroads. The real railroads try to make track arrangements as simple as possible (for the most part) and I want to do the same on my layouts. Staging will be a four-track stub yard that will be sufficient to hold the arriving and departing trains during an operating session. I might try a sector plate or a transfer table at the end of the yard to move "trapped" locos around their trains and minimise man-handling...depending on how much actual room I end up having under the layout at that section.
The fun part is getting extra running between town and the logging camp, which makes the rail journey seem more realistic. I also love traveling along with my train around the room as we run from point A to point B. I plan on getting a wireless throttle for mainline runs and use the tethered hand held throttles at Blackwater and at Mosquito Creek Camp. The longer peninsula will also help the scenery transition more gradually from 'town' to 'swamp to 'way back woods swamp!' I gave up an around the room idea for this layout, but I think I've gained more operations potential. Besides, my upper-level HO scale Big Island Rail layout will offer continuous running joy as well as plenty of switching.
I'm always open to comments and ideas, so let me know. Drop me an email at:


  1. I like the track plan, but what's funny to me about it is that for a logging layout it doesn't seem to include many of the signature logging scenes that one typically finds (sawmill, lumber dryer, many landings/camps, etc.). I only see the one log landing above the yard marked "woodsyard interchange", but there's a lot of other stuff so I'm curious what you were thinking for operations. One of the things that always makes me wary of logging railroads is I wonder what the operation looks like beyond shuttling empties and fulls back and forth between point A and B. With your pier I'm sure there's more there so it'll be interesting to see how this plays out for your layout.

  2. Glad to see more On30 Swamp Logging! I was sad to leave my layout, but found swamp logging to be a lot of fun. My blog has tons of photos, notes and plans for swamping if you are interested! Good Luck!

    Scott Perry