Last night, with my daughter as engineer and myself as brakeman, we logged the first two operating sessions on Prince Street and I thought I’d write down some observations from these first two tries.
We ran Prince Street as if it were the terminus on a small branchline and our focus was on mixed train operation. The arriving train was powered with a 70 tonner and the Prince Street engine was my 44 tonner. The inbound train consisted of a single boxcar and a coach. Waiting in the station on the centre track was a pair of boxcars. Here’s the sequence we were working toward:
- Train arrives at Prince Street and pulls into station siding
- Local crew, using the 44 tonner, will swap out one boxcar for the inbound boxcar
- The remaining boxcar with the new one, from the inbound train, will be moved to the third siding
- The outbound train is assembled and the local engine will be the new road engine
- The inbound engine becomes the local engine
The session starts with the inbound train and ends when the inbound engine is parked on the station pilot’s siding.
Prince Street is essentially a basic Inglenook design and each of the sidings has a calculated length. I’ve always like the Inglenook plan as it balances a prototypical appearance and operating sequence with a plan that really encourages one to think about their actions before they begin.
Operating as part of a two person team was fun. My daughter really enjoys running the trains. She’s not as familiar with how to align switches and plan train lengths so cars don’t fowl frogs so we were well placed in our respective roles. However as an engineer she’s perfect. Her operating style is slow and it was really enjoyable to watch those little GE’s creep around the layout. I thought I’d be doing a lot of “helping” but I wound up doing a pretty great amount of model railfanning and I enjoyed that. The little Bachmann 44 and 70 tonners are superb models. They are wonderful performing engines and the detailing is very sharp. With no modification they both creep around the layout perfectly and are as smooth running as they are silent. My faith in Bachmann is slowly being restored. Slowly.
Okay, about the fiddle yard. Earlier this week I uploaded a photograph of the full layout including the fiddle yard. As designed the fiddle yard detaches from the main layout essentially making Prince Street into a pair of modules. I’ve played around with a couple different methods of coupling the modules together. I’ve also experimented with probably an equal number of ways to get power to the fiddle yard rails. Since I elected to use some old Atlas code 83 flex track on the fiddle yard it’s been tricky to align it vertically with the code 40 rails on the main layout. I should have just laid the fiddle yard with code 40 too. Also, I brought the rails to the edge of both modules but managing even the minor gap that exists is tricky and N scale wheels are unforgiving. We didn’t have many derailments at all but enough to make me wonder if it there might be a better way. I think the best solution will be to simply scrap the idea of two seperate modules and simply extend the main scene about eighteen inches and have a permanently attached staging track. I think I’ll start working on that today.
The trackwork still looks fantastic to me and I’m proud of how smoothly everything works. Every rail is live and this investment in time paid off as I watched those tiny wheelbase diesels creeping around without hesitation through switch frogs and a typical collection of dead zones. I’m looking forward to painting some track and ballastng a bit to see how it will look finished.
N scale rolling stock is small and I was surprised to find that it was my hands that were struggling with uncoupling cars. This challenge wouldn’t have been avoided with TTn3.5, HOn30 or OO9 variations on this layout theme but it’s something to ponder a workaround for. I like manually uncoupling cars and perhaps just need to do this more often to get back into the fluidity I remembered from operating layouts before.
Operating this layout as a branchline terminal was fun. I still like the visual appearance of the original Victoria Park layout and still want to finish this model as a proper station with platforms and similar detailing. I’d like to start some work on scenery so I’ll need to settle on “where”, “when” and “what” soon so I can start making the appropriate decisions for the few architectural elements for the layout. I’m still toying with British Rail in the 70’s. Platform heights are the big decision here. I like the vertical elements found in the original Victoria Park concept and the way they guided one’s eyes around the scene. Other great and closer to home scenarios that could be hacked to work on Prince Street include Montreal’s Windsor Station, Ottawa’s Union Station or really even Charlottetown’s (and I do already have a lot of CN on PEI friendly rollings stock). I don’t like not being able to settle on a theme and I’m eager to put this element to rest.