A little explanation…
I’ve always said that if I were to get involved in indoor railroading again, it would be in On30. Alas, a lack of space has heretofore prevented me from doing so, so I’ve been perfectly content to focus on my outdoor 1:20 stuff. (And goodness knows I’ve got enough projects to keep me going on that for a few lifetimes.)
However, as John Lennon famously said, “life is what happens while you’re busy making other plans.” I blame two things for this–Caboose Hobbies closing, and my mother. You see, mom has always gotten me a Caboose Hobbies gift card for Christmas. Well, she and I went up to Maine to the Narrow Gauge Convention. We were wandering around the dealer hall, and I spied an On30 mogul and some passenger cars for a price that was a pretty good deal. I pointed it out to mom, but followed with “but I need to behave.” Mom mentioned that she would not be able to get me a Caboose Hobbies gift card for Christmas this year (this was before the business had “officially” closed and was subsequently sold to a new owner) and this might look neat in the Christmas garden. In other words, “Merry Christmas.” So, I left Maine with an On30 mogul and three passenger cars.
Now, what to do with them? I’ve got an oval of Bachmann “E-Z Track,” and could very easily just set it up at Christmas. However, where’s the fun in that? Compound that by the fact that my kids were both quite excited with the trains, and I knew I’d probably have to find someplace to set up a permanent indoor railroad.
With no spare bedrooms and no room in the “finished” part of the basement, the only real available space was in my workshop. I already have a shelf railroad in there for the large scale stuff, though it’s just track on a shelf, no scenery. My intention was to use it as a winter switching railroad and for product testing, but I’ve found the tracks are usually jammed with various projects so the “switching” part of that equation has been frightfully limited. It is handy for testing. I thought about removing the large scale tracks and replacing it with the On30, but it’s built 5’ off the ground, so the kids can’t see it. Besides, I do use the track for testing. Instead, I opted to build a new shelf below it. Because of the way the workbench is built, this couldn’t be the full 15’, but I could fit 10’ of shelf. That sounded reasonable.
Here’s the shelf, underneath the large scale shelf (which is jam-packed with trains to the point where I can’t actually run anything on it at the moment. In fairness, many of these will be moved to the two shelves beneath the On30.) The shelf itself is built from hollow-core doors which I bought on Craigslist for $5 each. I split one open to create the backdrop panels, which still need to be smoothed and sanded before I can put a backdrop on it.
Then, I set about sketching a railroad to fit the space. Early iterations resembled the large scale trackplan, but I wanted to do a little bit more than just move 6 cars around a small handful of spurs. That’s when I started looking to see if there was more space I could create, which led me to the storage space under the stairs. This has largely been wasted space; storing stuff I really don’t need or don’t use. I decided I could move some stuff around and create another 6’ long shelf in that space. With two “towns” for the railroad to serve, a much more interesting track plan could be drawn up.
The railroad is designed to use 12 freight cars, serving a half dozen industries. (Lumber, quarry, mill, oil, creamery, and team tracks). There’s a storage siding for the passenger cars as well, so the daily passenger run can make its appearance. The notes in the sketch are thoughts on how to set up operating sessions and car movements. I did some “dry runs” with pieces of paper representing the cars, but once I get the track down, I’ll be able to refine things a lot more.
One advantage of moving part of the railroad under the stairs is that it opened that space up for a “Harry Potter” cupboard under the stairs room which Allison has wanted to do for the kids for some time. (It also helped to sell her on the idea of getting into another scale.)
It did not take long for my daughter to start painting her new space.
Here’s a panorama showing the two areas kinda-sorta in relation to each other. The next step was to take a good look at the space, take the track plan, and go from “theory” to “practice.” (Which isn’t exactly easy without actual track to work with, mind you.) I downloaded some Peco track templates to give me a rough idea, but then someone pointed me to “AnyRail,” which is free track planning software. (Well, the “trial version” is free, but was sufficient for my needs.) It has track libraries for many different scales and manufacturers (including large scale). I played around with some things, going back and forth between drawing it on the computer and laying out the printed Peco templates, some HO track I had, and some cars to get a sense of real-world space. After a few days of tweaking, this is what I’ve come up with:
If you compare this to the original sketch, the two biggest changes are that I’ve eliminated the small runaround on the left end of the long shelf (it was just too short to be of any use), and I moved the connecting line from the middle of the long shelf to being able to run off the end. I did this after I discovered that I could fit a 24" radius curve off the end to make the connection. This gives me a longer “mainline” which should help improve the visual sense of space.
The Path Valley Railway draws its name from the Path Valley Railroad, which was a graded-but-never-operated extension of the Newport & Sherman’s Valley Railroad. The Path Valley was two valleys east of the East Broad Top. Geographically, you had the Aughwick Valley (East Broad Top), Tuscarora Valley (Tuscarora Valley RR/Tuscarora RR) and the Path Valley (Newport & Sherman’s Valley/Path Valley RR). There was talk of all of these railroads joining together to create a regional narrow gauge network, but nothing ever happened. The Path Valley Railroad’s biggest problem was a tunnel they had to build. One side of the tunnel was rock so hard they could barely blast through it, and the other side was rock so loose it fell in on itself as soon as they tried digging. This became insurmountable, and the idea for the railroad was dropped.
Unlike my 1:20.3 Tuscarora Railroad, where I’ve put a physical railroad in the space where one was proposed, I’m making no attempt to model what “could have been” with this railroad. This is purely a generic rural narrow gauge railroad. That’s partly why I changed “railroad” to “railway” in the name. I just liked the name, and figured I’d pay homage to another narrow gauge line in my favorite narrow gauge region. The logo for the railroad draws from the fact that one end of the railroad is in our “Harry Potter” cupboard under the stairs. It is one of many subtle references to the Harry Potter series planned for this railroad.
Operation on the PVRy will be deadrail. I thought about going with traditional track-powered DCC, but let’s face it–I know battery power, and the required parts are small enough to easily fit in On30 trains. Why not? It’s not like I’m going to have a large fleet of locos. I’ve managed to acquire a 2-8-0 in addition to my 2-6-0, and unless I get a bug to turn one of my HO dismals into an On30 dismal, I don’t know that I see my fleet expanding much more beyond that. (I say that, but I also know what’s happened with my TRR loco fleet. Did I mention I just finished another diesel for that? Photos to follow once it’s lettered.)
That’s where we’re at right now. Foam next, then track, then scenery. Simple, right?