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For example, listing all one’s significant features prior to de- signing a track plan will ensure they are incorporated into it. It may very well happen that some desired features may not fit. Hav- ing a prioritized list and planning will help include the most im- portant features. If you just start building away, you may find that once you get to the end of the line, a complete State Line interlocking and all 29 diamonds just might not fit in the remaining 3x4-foot area. Planning avoids the pitfalls of not having enough room put in the ladders for that 15-track dou- ble-ended yard in an area that is only 12 feet long.

If the goal is to have a single- track Class I railroad operating with timetable and train orders, thinking about the operation and planning ahead can avoid a lot of disappointment later. Not having a reasonable distance between train-order stations may produce less-than-desired results. Not planning passing sidings to han- dle the reasonable train lengths you want can be frustrating for operators and dispatchers. Most operators want to incor- porate a fair amount of lineside switching. Just laying track from town to town without prior regard to what and how many industries should be included can create disarray and frustration. When those locals and city jobs arrive at their terminating yard, will the yard have sufficient tracks to rea- sonably handle all the traffic it re- ceives? Planning ahead can allevi- ate many of those issues. Planning ahead doesn’t just relate to the track plan either. Getting a good idea of where the benchwork will be can make it a lot more comfortable if you intend to have more than just a few op- erators. Can all the switches be reached? Are aisles wide enough so train crews navigate comfort- ably around the layout? Are there wider aisles around yards to ac- commodate train crews and the local yard switchers? Is the main

line linear, so a crew can easily follow their train? Plan- ning for operators can be just as im- portant as planning the tracks.

Another aspect of benchwork planning that should be ad- dressed (that comes back to haunt just about every mod- eler at some point) is leg and joist loca- tion. All too often, turnouts, signals, or other items are

located just above a joist, making it extremely difficult to attach un- der-benchwork switch machines. Planning ahead would avoid that, especially with working train-or- der semaphores which require two machines — doubling the un- der-benchwork fun! Planning doesn’t necessarily mean the benchwork and tracks need to be planned on a sheet of paper or computer screen, al- though that is usually a good start. Once the overall benchwork is started, using actual track and turnouts to plan out each town and yard along the route can be quite helpful in seeing how every- thing will look. As proposed in previous “Look Both Ways” col- umns, building some of the struc- tures will result in a more accu- rate placement of the tracks and a better idea of how the finished areas will look. Deciding what in- dustries will go where at the be- ginning will give you a better sense of what the finished project will be. Once several towns have been planned out this way, a much bet- ter feel for your goal will be real- ized. Just plowing ahead with the main line can result in a lack of space for what you hoped to do. This is especially important for those wishing to duplicate actual locations of real railroads. There are other factors to consider as well. Will you have enough tracks for staging? Will

they be long enough to handle the trains you want to operate? Is the main line long enough for the op- eration you desire? “Assuming” the length between two points is long enough can result in having a 3 percent mountain grade where a 1 percent rolling prairie grade was intended. Planning doesn’t only relate to the track and benchwork. What locomotives and rolling stock are you going to be using on your rail- road? Are you modeling a specif- ic era and/or prototype? Careful planning of what you really need should be a high priority. It is eas- ier than ever before to acquire a good representation of locomo- tives and rolling stock to have a very realistic model railroad. Do a little research to determine what locomotives and rolling stock fit your goal. Check out the many sources of available rolling stock before making mass purchases. It will save you time and money in the long run not having equip- ment that may not fit in the over- all scheme of things.

So, Mike, I think you would agree that building the I&StL is a major undertaking. I believe it should be planned well to get the ultimate results you seek, just as you did with building your house. I doubt that you will agree or ad- mit it if you do. I am curious how you think “just freaking do it” can make a layout any better.

Mike’s world Working at the future Joliet Yard on the I&StL, Santa Fe, and Gulf, Mobile & Ohio is one of Schafer’s cousins, David Magnuson. With the aisleways mapped out by masking tape or chalk lines on the floor, it was easy to jump in and start benchwork, which on the I&StL is a combination of L-girder and traditional box- girder construction. For spline sub-roadbed, Mike first ripped 1 x 8 clear pine on his table saw without taking any of his fingers with it. Then he laid the center spline on risers to determine rights-of-way routings — a method Mike feels is more accurate than trying to draw detailed track location on a plan. Three-quarter- inch plywood cut to shape and covered with Homasote was used for yard areas. — Mike Schafer photo


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