(Blog Note: This is from the series of columns I'm writing for the Shortline Modelers On-line Magazine.)
- My On30 Blackwater Southern & Gulf/Mosquito Creek Lumber Co layout track plan -
“Did you ever have to makeup your mind? Say yes to one and leave the other behind...” So goes the vintage John Sebastian and the Lovin' Spoonful rock n' roll song. And it seemed like the theme music to my modeling decisions after the recent move from a rental house into our new 1920s vintage home we purchased.
With the relocation, my model railroad had to be dismantled for the move. Because I've done this way too many times over the tenure of my model railroading hobby, this layout like the others i
n the past was
built in “manageable” sections for future relocation.
Problem: How to fit my rather sprawling large basement-size HO scale Hawaiian-theme railroad into a drastically reduced 12x11-foot basement of the new house? It seemed the more I tried to "save" the various sections of layout and fit them into a cohesive, yet smaller new layout design, the more I was drawing a blank. No matter how hard I worked the puzzle, an 20-foot-long yard section won't fit in 12-feet of basement, no matter how much pencil pushing I did, and the large Hilo Harbor pier complex (a "Y" shaped peninsula saved from my old layout) would end up consuming most of the open floor space in the new basement layout room.
What do I do? Thankfully a decision was a ways off. There was lots of home improvement projects on the “To Do List” before I could get in the basement to up-grade that space into a comfortable, dry, well-lit hobby zone. My thoughts were definitely "Narrow-Minded" during those past months, sitting down often with a note pad and mug of coffee, writing and sketching possible sugar plantation or logging layout track plans. I put my thoughts and goals to paper in attempt to make sense of an earlier idea of scraping my well known Big Island Rail HO-scale Hawaiian-themed layout and making the switch to On30 scale narrow gauge model railroading. As house projects were slowly completed, I was finally faced with making that big modeling decision. Here's what I came up with: Shelf the HO-scale Big Island Railroad!
By shelving the HO layout, I don't mean getting rid of it completely. I mean put it on eye-level shelves around the layout room walls, preserving several key layout sections, and rebuilding it into an "around-the-room" concept, stacked above my new On30 Blackwater & Mosquito Creek swamp logger layout. It would be a double deck affair with two different scales and two unique layout concepts all in the same basement space. And why not have two layouts? It's the best of both worlds!
So, with that said, my monthly column will examine all the planning, all the logistics, all the problems and the solutions I encounter while building this double deck, double scale, double concept layout. My hope is that by passing on my experiences you might consider combining layouts into the same space to get double the pleasure and double the fun from your model trains.
Coming to the decision to build two unique layouts in the same 11-foot-by-18-foot basement layout space did not arrive easily. I went back and forth for weeks on whether to just rebuild my “next” version of the Big Island Rail, or solely move on to a totally new modeling venture with On30 scale. I drew track plans for the HO scale Hawaiian-theme layout, but they just didn't seem to have all the elements for operating a modern-era regional shortline railroad that I wanted. Plus, to be honest, my enthusiasm was starting to fade for the Big Island Rail concept. I had become frustrated in proto-freelancing a modern version of a real railroad that had existed on the Big Island of Hawaiian up until 1946 when a tsunami destroyed much of the railroad in the Hilo region, forcing it out of business in the Post World War II period. My goal had been to try and create a very plausible representation of “what could have been” had the railroad survived into the 1970s or even to today. I was on the way to build a large layout that represented the Hilo waterfront and surrounding areas on that side of the Big Island of Hawaii, but with little to go on but conjecture, the layout seemed to lack that certain “something” that made it feel “real” and hold my interest.
I have file folders filled to overflowing with tons of history, area right-of-way maps and vintage photos of the Hawaiian Consolidated Railroad as it was back in the early1940s. I also contemplated back-dating the Big Island Rail to represent the last years of the HCR's life before the big wave. But this plan would have forced me to sideline all of my “modern” freight cars and locomotives and purchase all new 1940's-era rolling stock, and likely scratch build steam locomotives, other equipment used by the railroad and structures. Although tempting, it wasn't something I was ready to do.
At the same time I rediscovered my love for 1/4-inch scale modeling. I was getting pumped about all the new On30 equipment coming on the market. Plus, I was starting to take some of my unused HO-scale freight cars and scratch build new On30 equipment from them just for fun. Many years ago I had temporarily put HO-scale aside to build an On3 logging layout and I still had a few pieces from that layout stored away in boxes. Unpacking them rekindled my desire to give modeling in 1/4-inch scale another shot, but this time in On30.
It might have been all the paint fumes from the house remodeling projects during that time, or a double shot of “adult beverage” with a cigar on the porch that germinated the concept of not just having one layout, but building two layouts in two different scales with two different themes in the same basement space!
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. I was going to have to rebuild my Big Island Rail layout again anyway to fit the confines of the new layout space, so why not release myself of the former concept bondage and just do a fun layout built for running trains with a couple industries for switching and leave it at that? I want to run trains while I'm working on other projects and not have to always be "working" the railroad as was the case with the point-to-point operations of the former HO-scale pike. An upper-level, around the room shelf layout concept seemed like just the ticket! Below the HO layout would live the new On30 Blackwater & Mosquito Creek Lumber swamp logger pike. This will be the larger of the two layouts and, because I'm pretty much on my feet for my jobs all day, the bench work for the On30 layout will be built at “sit-down” height for working on and operating.
In the next installment, I'll explain how I decided on layout heights and how much paper and how many pencils and erasers I went through in developing the new double deck track plans. If you would like, please check out my Big Island Rail website for a look at the older versions of the HO-scale railroad:www.bigislandrail.zoomshare.com.
Until next time, keep swatting them 'skeeters!