Guess that’s really not much of a blog post title and I don’t think I’m about to come up with a better one so let’s just get on with this post. Having spent a few moments over the past couple of days tracing copies of Ian Futers’ track plans and comparing them to some of my own favourites I started to notice some common themes in the plans I really liked the most. A primary attraction to one plan or layout over another is borne of elegance: “Just how simple is the plan?” Close behind is the marriage of purpose to design. Perhaps these are my Bauhaus sensibilities emerging in model railways? Anyway I tend to think much better on paper than any other way so I grabbed some scrap paper and a pencil and started to work through some of these plans.
I started with Ian Futers’ plans for Victoria Park and Newcastle Haymarket and worked through to the simple tuning fork-style of plan these are both essentially presenting. This single-point drawing is centred on the above page. In the drawing trains enter and exit the station (stage) on track “C”. Most trains will arrive on track “A”. Once unloaded they could be shunted to track “B” to load and then will depart, as they arrived, on track “C”. This simple process repeats itself through the entire day’s services.
The first step of evolution away from the C>A>B>C arrangement above is to perform those tasks with sets of multiple unit railcars. A train could arrive from “C” and unload on “A”. While still unloading a second train can arrive from “C” and occupy a spot on “A” behind the first train. Alternately this second train could be shunted onto “B” to unload there while we’re still waiting on “A” to unload. A third and fourth train can be added and so on until both platforms are full. In the simplest of ways trains can leave in the reverse order to their arrival. More interestingly, to me at least, would be to run this as a commuter train station where trains really do operate in a largely unidirectional path. Individual trains still arrive in the intervals described above but then join to be deadheaded back to their storage yard. I think this would be my preference for operation. I remember following a blog on the rmweb.co.uk forums where a modeller was following just such a sequence for their home layout – a layout itself based on another favourite plan of mine: Carl Arendt’s Amalgamated Terminal
So far I’ve been considering British layouts for inspiration here and it’s hard to conceal my interest in British Rail during the 1970’s. Bringing this concept back home is really simple and a prototype that sprang to mind was Gladstone, New Jersey. Gladstone today is a terminal station on the NJ Transit network. It is fully electrified but features a very similar track plan and operational sequence to the ones described above. I’ve included a sketch of the actual Gladstone on the sheet above and then, based on that plan, I re-arranged the layout to work on a narrow shelf. Here’s an aerial view of Gladstone’s station from Googlemaps:
Try a Google search for NJ Transit and Gladstone and you’ll find a ton of pictures, etc. showing the station in it’s current form and reaching back into it’s Lackawanna days.
In all the plans above I was planning around a basic train length “unit”. This unit was a combination of three coaches coupled. To help guesstimate what that train length will look like I worked up a quick table estimating that train length in 1/87, 1/160 and 1/220 scales respectively.