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Planning to Death or Just Freaking Do It?


Bill sez… O


by Mike Schafer & Bill Navigato


ver the years, I’ve operat- ed on a well-known model railroad — Mike Schafer’s Illinois & St. Louis Railroad. It is one of the finest model railroads I’ve ever operated, and the premise is very well-defined. It is amazing to me that, as nice a model rail- road as it is, Mike built it pretty much without a lot of planning and forethought. I think having a more thought-out plan might have resulted in something a little less of a giant spaghetti bowl of tracks going in every direction, and per- haps yielded a little more than 35 feet between Dwight and Peoria (in real life, it’s about 60 miles). After procuring space for the railroad empire, I can appreciate the overwhelming desire to start the benchwork, lay track, build rolling stock, and so forth, as soon as possible to see how fast


Bill’s world On Bill Navigato’s Chicago, Peoria & Southern, good planning is crucial for enhanced operation. At the far end of this view looking over Peoria yard, the aisle widens to six feet, allowing crews of arriving and departing trains to maneuver easily, even if the city switcher is working in the vicinity. Planning for a busy Peoria Yard meant no switching would be done on the out-in-the- country, upper-level main line above Peoria. Long distances between towns was planned to allow for more realistic operation, especially when using timetables and train orders. In addition to planning track and benchwork, Bill chose his locomotive fleet and rolling stock to not only correctly reflect the era, but also for anticipated traffic. — Bill Navigato photo


78 RAILROAD MODEL CRAFTSMAN


the I&StL Mid-American can be rolling down the rails. But before you start purchasing all that lum- ber, perhaps it would be a good idea to plan your railroad empire a bit. Building a model railroad takes a significant amount of time and resources. Not planning at least some of what you want in ad- vance can cost you more in wast- ed time tearing down portions that didn’t work out — wasted re- sources that may not be reusable. Planning will also avoid a lot of potential frustration too. Planning probably should start with what are you trying to ac- complish. Have you thought a bit about what railroad are you mod- eling? How the operation scheme will be — prototypical running or more of just a display layout? What significant features do you want to incorporate? All these factors will play into the final lay- out, and not planning ahead may cause a letdown when it doesn’t all come together.


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