Click on any image to see it full size.
The drawings above show the layout my father and grandfather built for
me at Christmas when I was four. It was a single loop of track mounted
to a 4'x8' sheet of plywood. A roll of green landscape paper from
Lifelike covered the board. I had few accessories. A girder bridge, a
string of street lamps, and some plastic Revell structures (HO Scale!)
were the extent of it.
The following Christmas, I received one right hand switch and a #3413
Mercury Redstone flatcar. I remember adding structures made from
American Bricks, Lincoln Logs, and Girder & Panel building sets. I can
find no pictures of the layout. It exists only in memory now.
As my sixth birthday and Christmas approached, I had ideas for expanding
my trainset. I planned to ask for a left hand switch to close the siding
loop. I was also interested in adding some lighted accessories such as a
crossing gate or maybe some passenger platforms. These drawings show how
I would have "completed" my layout. This layout was never built.
During these years Lionel was fading as a toy maker. The company cut
back on its advertising. My attention shifted to the slot cars and
futuristic SkyRail monorail sets I saw advertised on television. The
trains fell into disuse. Within a year, the train board was disassembled
and the trains disappeared.
In the autumn of 1998 I decided to build a replica of my childhood
layout. At this time I was unsure as to whether I would build an exact
replica of the layout or the "ideal" version I had planned as a child. I
even considered a convertible version that could be displayed both ways.
As I started purchasing items for my layout, I learned Lionel had new
competition such as MTH. In a 1999 catalog I saw their Premier New Haven
EP-5 and was reminded of the passenger trains I rode as a child. I
immediately ordered one EP-5 and two matching coaches.
I realized the 4x8 layout I planned would not be large enough for the
locomotives and rolling stock I now wanted. I decided I needed to
construct a larger layout of 5'x9' or 6'x9' size. A single loop with a
passing siding would allow me to alternate between my O27 steamer and
the larger EP-5 and passenger coaches. A stub siding would create
operating interest and a more interesting station area.
This plan was drawn as an alternative to the previous plan. With ever
more locomotives on order, I began to consider building a multi-track
mainline not unlike that of the Northeast Corridor that passes less than
a mile from my home. I created two independent loops. The MRC Dual Power O27 transformer would
deliver one power channel to each loop. The inner loop would have O42
curves and a stub siding. The outer loop would have O54 curves and a passing siding for lots of continuous running action.
As I sketched plans filling more and more of the spare room, I concluded
the larger layouts would prevent me from using that room as an office. I
wanted to continue using the room for my computers. There was also the
problem of accessing the rear of the layout. I abandoned the 5'x9' and
6'x9' designs and began designing an around the walls switching layout.
The layout shown here was actually built and became my first working
layout. As simple as it was, I could break up and sort freight cars on
the two parallel sidings. I also ran a short "commuter" train along the
perimeter of the layout.
The layout above shows how I expected to expand my first layout. I had
planned to add another yard track and a runaround for my engines. Later
I could insert one or two short industrial sidings. By adding small
trackside platforms and false front structures I would have places to
spot my rolling stock.
As satisfying as the switching operations were, I found myself
wanting to be able to run my trains a distance before breaking them up
and turning around. Not having much space, I tried extending the long
leg of the layout into my kitchen. Even this effort only gave me a total
run of 38', one third of a scale mile.
High-speed cable Internet access arrived in November 1999. The cable
outlets in my condo are all located in the living and sleeping areas so
I moved my PCs to a corner of my bedroom. The back room was no longer
needed as office space and so I dedicated the whole 8'x9' room to the
The open end of the U shaped layout was closed of with a 3-foot wide
section. My idea was to have two loops for continuous running, a freight
yard, and an elevated section for a trolley. I had only one turnout at
this time so I did not connect the two loops. Despite the lack of
turnouts, a few straight sections laid parallel to each other created a
convincing freight yard.
MTH makes a passenger station reminiscent of many train stations found
along the old New Haven RR. It is a rather large structure that only fit
well after I removed the freight yard. Having no room to expand the
layout further, I made the station the focal point of my layout.
About this same time I purchased a video showcasing a replica of the
1949 Lionel Showroom Layout. Soon after, I picked up a book of display
layouts from the 50s and 60s. I was reminded of the holiday displays I
saw as a child at downtown department stores such as Reads or Malleys.
These train displays were rarely larger than my 8'x9' space.
Instead of trying to design a small hi-rail layout, I was inspired to
build a large display layout. I could now easily fit three concentric
loops to create a busy triple track mainline similar to the NEC near my
home. By elevating a fourth loop for my trolley line I could utilize my
bridge accessories. The independent loops simplified the wiring of this
layout. The elimination of switches made for very reliable running. I
installed some uncoupler/controller sections and purchased some
operating cars so I could do something more than just watch the trains
go round and round.
Work began on the layout shown above during the summer of 2002. I
decided to connect my two outer loops of track in order to make
operations more interesting. The inner loop would possibly have a spur
siding for set outs and pickups. The two layout sections would remain
unconnected to each other. The MRC Dual Power O27 transformer would
deliver one power channel to each section.
It was not long before I noticed incompatibilities among some of my
rolling stock, locomotives, and turnouts. In spite of modifications to
turnouts and rolling stock, there were still too many derailments and
short circuits for comfort. I had concerns about the electronics in
some of these new engines and so decided it might be better to go back
to a switchless design.
This is the layout I am working on now. It has three independent loops.
Each loop has a controller section for all my operating rolling stock.
Click here for recent