Track profiles

The track plan of the Manheim layout is pretty simple: even at its most extravagant it’s two turnouts. Hopefully twenty or so feet of running but still just two turnouts. In Coy and Victoria I learned a lot about ballasting and tie colour—not enough—but a lot.

In all my screwing around I’ve never tried varying the height of a siding compared to a mainline track. Studying photos along the Manheim layout shows that it’s a prominent detail at Ferrellgas that really makes the layout. Not just an aesthetic value that climb up to the mainline is something we’ll hear in the sound of an engine working to overcome that little grade from its start position at its grade. Equally, it’s a challenge to overcome when we drop down into the Ferrellgas siding when placing cars. In the above aerial from Google Earth I’ve highlighted two places that I wanted to study to develop an understanding of their profile and how that looks in section.

  • Red line is a section through Ferrellgas
  • Blue line is a section through the switching lead

What’s neat about that switching lead is there’s also a culvert so planning here is accommodating that change too.

While scaled to 1/87 the above sketch is one I drew using my estimates from photos translated into what I thought would need to happen to make things look right. What I need to think about, to approach differently and grow from what I usually do, is not simply lay down two inches of rigid foam and then just cut into them and hope for the best. I need to be more deliberate in my actions. Drawing full scale profile templates like I did was a fun exercise in drafting but also creating a drawing of what the scenery should be built up to—rather than subtracting foam that didn’t need to be there in the first place is there a way I could create this using maybe thinner layers? Maybe solid construction is the wrong way to think about this?

Categories: Manheim Industrial Railroad, Manheim questions

5 replies

  1. If you build your ‘benchwork’ as an open frame, whether it’s thin edges of ply or more substantial dimensional lumber, and then almost sketch these section cuts in by adding suitable risers for a thin trackbed.

    • Wouldn’t it be really neat to have a laser to cut benchwork sections with (or really any like precise cutting tool)? I’m thinking that you could create profile boards for increments along the right of way, each precisely calibrated to that section of the railway. I’m probably overthinking this or too much daydreaming.

      What would work is, as you suggest, proper framing and not this slab style foam construction. If the subroadbed were in that spline style of construction than the risers could be raised and lowered organically to test minor increments in elevation and, in doing so, also deal in those transitions between levels of track.


  2. What is the vertical scale in your [beautiful] sketches?

    For that matter, what is the horizontal scale?

    How are you deriving this? Are you using some sort of stereo viewer?

    I am asking because I am reconsidering profiles after having to tear out much of my layout for utility relocations: a new oil tank in the basement and new wiring in the kitchen above.

    I have been looking at a great many photos on NE Rails, and many, perhaps most, seem to lack the well-defined profiles that dominate model railroading, perhaps because so many people model mainline railroads.

    My first rebuilt area will be a 10’6” x 12” industrial spur on the edge of town, and a very low profile is looking very likely now.

    Your post comes at a very good time.

    • Sorry for taking so long to reply. I apologize. I should have included notes on how I translated what I was seeing in photos to extrapolate these profiles in the original post and I will work through a post dedicated to doing just that because I think it would be interesting to do.

      For the Manheim scene I’m very fortunate because the railway itself is simple but well attended by those who share a fascination with it so there are a wealth of photos available. In addition, “street view” imagining is available from Google or Bing maps. All of which is data.

      I sorted through all the photos I’ve been saving from the railway to pick those that showed the railway in the landscape best. Luckily many of those also include rolling stock. While not a precise art–what I’ve done–things like floor heights or like elements based on a locomotive or freight car help define certain proportions that ultimately test dimensions and help things to “look right”.

      I started with the thickness of roadbed I’d like to use under my track and established that as a unit of measurement. The drawing shown here is based on multiples of this unit.

      I’ll work through this further because I enjoy the subject and follow up with a proper post on the subject.


  3. So, I’m building this section as a layout currently. I’m trying to do this in N scale. This section, at Ferrellgas is about ten feet long. It’s a fun project to be starting on. I went back to this post (I often find myself rereading the thoughts of Past Chris) and see that I estimated the greatest change in elevation, on a section through the track, was where that culvert is, and in HO that was 1-1/8″ but in N that’s just a little under 5/8″. That’s manageable.

    -Current Day Chris responding to Past Chris

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