Set in the Pacific Northwest; a short line service to:

  • Logging, mining, quarry, coastal settlement/islands
  • Connecting to a bridge/mainline service (WP, GN, NP, CP, CN?)
  • One small town interchange w/short line terminal, 4-6 industries
  • One logging camp, one sawmill
  • One quarry, one mine
  • One coastal settlement with freight transfer point/ferry, railway terminus, depot, offices, 2-3 small industries

LCL freight, lumber, cut stone, gravel, ore, coal, local produce, dairy, dry goods; a ferry calls for perishable, dry goods, grocery, and building supplies loads daily to the coastal islands. Limited passenger, mail, and express reefer service

Locos: Shay, Mikado, Consolidation, Mogul, Ten-Wheeler, Alco RS1, 2, 3, Alco S1, (RS-1, S-1, GE-44 Ton) F3A-B, F7A-B, EMD GP7 & GP9, NW2, My favorite Pere Marquette Berkshire #1225

Rolling Stock: short (65ft) Mail, Baggage, Coach, Combine, Business; Freight cars (40-50 ft or less) Reefer, Box, Gon, Hoppers, Covered Hoppers, Ore, Log, Caboose, most USRA freight equipment

Period: Transition era late steam and early diesel

N-scale standard gauge

Standards for N Scale: from NMRA RP11

  • Note: I’m willing to sacrifice appearance if I can still get reliable operation. That means tighter curves and turnouts that may not look great but still meet operational standards.
  • Class M but using Kato 12 3/8 inch radius (in lieu of 12.5”) for mainline
  • Class L with Kato #4 (in lieu of #6) turnouts for yard
  • Class K with Kato #4 (in lieu of #5) turnouts for industrial trackage
  • Class N for Great Northern (or Pere Marquette) Grand River Branch (subdivision) but with minimum 13.75 inch radius on mainline and passing sidings (Note: A Berkshire has an 18.2 foot driver wheelbase. Per the RP it is class N 14.5” radius, but it should run on 13.75” curves if a 17’ wheelbase will run on 12.5” (Class M) curve and a 20’ wheelbase will run on a 14.5” (Class N) curve. I could run my favorite, the new Bachmann PM 1225 Berkshire on the GN Grand River branch if built to class N standards but with 13.75” curves.)

Electrical Considerations

After considerable research and my own testing on turnouts and turnout control, track wiring, and the plug and play/ease of use factors, the following are my findings and conclusions as of February 6, 2017:

  1. I will wire exclusively for DCC, but in blocks to preserve signaling and DC options
  2. DCC will be NCE components to the extent possible
  3. Track will be exclusively Kato Unitrack
  4. Feeders will be through Kato Unijoiner 20-818 or custom made feeder drops no more than six feet apart, Kato 20-041 feeder sections (and all feeders using plug connections) will be avoided except for temporary trackwork, due to their propensity to disconnect when tugged
  5. Feeder wires will be limited to three feet in length and will be tied together through terminal strips with screw rather than solder taps
  6. Bus wires will be 14 gauge stranded for flexibility and limited voltage drop
  7. All turnouts will be Kato Unitrack #6 or #4 as configured with their factory settings.
  8. All mainline and route-controlling turnouts such as yard ladders and junctions will be DCC controlled (even when decoder-equipped, Kato turnouts can still be manually controlled with their integrated slide switch if desired). Control panels will be used only as needed to provide single-button route control from multiple locations through the DCC accessory decoders.

Notes on KATO turnouts:

  • All N Scale Kato turnouts are built with isolated frog rails, and as configured at the factory, power and power route the frog, and kill the non-selected frog rail (as of February 6, 2017). This is a standard power-routing configuration. Note that the underside of the #4 turnout incorrectly labels this setting and the associated set-screws as non-power routing.
  • As factory configured:
    1. The #6 turnouts power their points, closure rails, frog, and selected route’s frog rail from the selected route’s stock rail.
    2. The #4 turnouts completely isolate the frog and power it and the selected route’s frog rail from the selected route’s stock rail. They power their points and closure rails from the adjacent stock rail, regardless of the route selected.
  • Because of the wide separation between point and stock rails, these turnouts are DCC-safe; because of their powered and power routed frogs and isolated frog rails I consider them DCC-friendly. (Allan Gartner does not and he’s the expert, so based on my own testing I’m going to respectfully disagree with him on this point.)
  • Because the frog rails are both isolated and dead when not selected, power can be fed to the frog rails from the DCC bus without fear of creating a short circuit. WARNING: when wired this way, an operator error causing a locomotive to run into a turnout set against it WILL CAUSE A SHORT WHEN IT REACHES THE FROG regardless if you are running DCC or DC. Always confirm turnout settings before proceeding into one!
  • In general, I use insulated Unijoiners at the departure side of turnouts unless they are part of a ladder. I do so because a break in the stock rail is usually where a new detection block will begin, and the break in the frog rail will keep it dead within the turnout and potentially prevent a locomotive from entering a turnout thrown against it. For ladder tracks I use insulated Unijoiners anywhere the route departs from the ladder track and following the last turnout in the ladder but not between turnouts within the ladder.
  • Special Note for Kato #6 double crossovers: It is a good idea to gap the outer stock rails at the center of the crossover to prevent potential short circuits when the double crossover is used as a reverse loop turnout. It will also help when establishing electrical block boundaries since all but those two rails are already gapped.

Layout Concept

A peninsula style, around the walls, walk around sectional layout with T-Trak modules and sections that can be built in phases with each phase providing standalone operation. The operating scheme will be point to point with provision for at least two continuous running loops for display purposes.

The T-Trak modules should be easily transportable to event venues as a display layout.

Sections should be light weight, self-contained, and easily transportable. Maximum section size should be 32” by 48”. Maximum height from bottom of frame to top of skyboard should be 16”. Main deck track elevation should be 36-40 inches; upper deck track elevation should be 56-62 inches. Non-T-Trak sections should be built on a 2 inch foam base with sufficient wood framing to prevent breakage and severe damage from accidental contact.

Train control to be provided through DCC. Turnout and accessory control to be provided via appropriate source.

A History of Planning