How does it all fit?

The W&LE crossing Broadway Avenue in Newburgh.

Looking west at the W&LE crossing Broadway Avenue in Newburgh. Image from the Cleveland Memory Project of the Michael Schwartz Library at Cleveland State University.

When I talk to model railroaders about using the prototype to guide a layout design, nods of approval are typical, as is the question, “How does it all fit?” With patience and creativity, a good portion of a well-defined prototype can fit into an available space. Let’s walk through some thought processes to fit the Newburgh rails of the Wheeling and Lake Erie into my new hobby space that is 16 feet long by almost 10 feet wide.

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Beginnings

 1978 layout.

I was reorganizing boxes of hobby materials and other ephemera the other day and I came across a box of old photographs. A few loose pictures caught my eye and I thumbed through a small stack. Among those were several images of my first HO scale layout. The image above shows the overall scope of the project. Click on it to see a larger version. My father had a 4×8 table built at a local lumber yard and we built a plan from an Atlas plan book of John Armstrong designs.

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Hitting the fan

Trackside in Newburgh.

    Repost: from January 2011

Over the years I’ve assisted with several model railroad designs and worked on the construction end, too. These have been for friends, a model railroad club and for myself. In almost every instance there is one constant through the design and build steps of each project. Believe it or not, whatever is on the paper may not fit properly or look right when the track starts to be installed. Really, I’m not joking. No matter how many measurements were taken, data compiled, and fussing done over the details for the design, it all comes down to the full size build with the form and fit. It is one of the most thrilling and disappointing moments of building a model railroad. And that is where I am right now.

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