08 February 2010

Layout Project, version 2.1

After long time spent thinking about my project, searching on the Internet, reading a lot of material and listening to my favorite model railroad podcasts I finally put down a -hopefully- decent project draft of my first layout.

The Objective
As I wrote in an earlier post -sorry it's in Italian- I decided to build a proto-freelance industrial switching layout based on prototype railroads located in the Oakland/Alameda of the San Francisco Bay, California during late '70s early '80s.

Acknowledgments, References and Sources of Information
Before diving into the project I must thank everybody that helped me -directly or indirectly- to write down this draft. To this end, I think, listing all the references and sources of information could be a way to show my thankfulness.

First of all, I want to thank Byron Henderson for being very inspirational. This project wouldn't be at this stage without all the info and guidance he provided me through his articles, projects, interviews and blog posts. Most of my ideas come from Byron Henderson's works and website, in particular the layout he designed and published as Brooklyn Basin District of his larger Oakland Harbor Belt project. Other sources of information and inspiration were some references Byron listed for his work, for example Bart Thurber's Alice Street Layout.

Also, the following references have been very helpful in letting me understand better what I wanted to achieve:
  • Lance Minheim's projects and in particular his East Rail layout
  • Bernard Kempinski's "Norfolk Southern's Shirley Industrial Park" published in his book "Mid-Size Track Plans for Realistic Layouts"
  • various articles published on Kalmbach's Model Railroad Planning issues of 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008 and 2009
  • several photos and documents about the Brooklyn Basin area found on the Internet
  • subscribers of the Ita-Usa-MR-Group forum in particular Babbo Enzo e Leo
  • Google Maps and -obviously- Wikipedia.
Last but not least, I found both the Model Railroad Podcast Show and the Scott Mason's Show very helpful and a lot of fun to listen to. If you're not already listening to those podcast I strongly suggest you to do it.

Brief History of Railroads in that Area
The former San Francisco and Alameda Railoard Co. and slightly later the South Pacific Coast Railroad were the first railroads operating in Oakland beginning in the mid 1860s. In 1868 the Central Pacific Railroad (later become Southern Pacific) acquired the South Pacific Coast and expanded its tracks in Oakland.
On the other side of the Brooklyn Basin Western Pacific and Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe jointly acquired the existing lines in Alameda from the City Council in 1925 and founded the Alamed Belt Line. This railroad existed until 2001 when it ceased operations.
ATSF also had Alice St. Terminal in Oakland. It was connected to the rest of railroad only by car ferry since on the land it was isolated  by the surrounding SP lines.
In 1943 ATSF and Western Pacific jointly acquired the Key System's freight railroad Oakland Terminal Railroad crating the Oakland Terminal Railway (OTR). OTR is still in operation -yet very limited in size- serving the Oakland Army Base located south of the east end of the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge.
Passenger service was mainly handled by the Key System first and then by the successor company AC Transit

Prototype Location
I decided -at least for now- to focus my attention to freight service only. I imagine -not having more in-depth information- the area I want to model was owned and served by SP in competition with ATSF/WP who owned tracks nearby (?). As far as I could understand the area was very crowded of industries of many different types. For example Del Monte Cannery was present in the Brooklyn Basin of Alameda and was served by rail until recently.
In this context my project represents a small part of SP industrial lines and spurs that branch off the mainline towards Fruivale Ave. and serves a number of industries in the area surrounding Glascock St.; 29th and 23rd St. up to 9th St. docks as well as going on the famous Fuitvale Ave. Bridge.

Givens and Druthers
This is my -still to be completed- list of my givens and druthers I made to help me guide through the design process.

  • Track layout must fit the available benchwork as is designed and built
  • Minimum curve radius: 20" mainline; 17.5" sidings and spurs; 16.25" hidden track
  • Minimum turnout size; #8 mainline; #6 sidings and spurs
  • (Hidden) Staging yard
  • Operation-oriented layout design
  • NMRA DCC control system
  • Continuous running
  • Track should not pass through a scene more than once
  • Interchange with another railroad or connection to a major line
  • Average train length of 15 cars, caboose excluded

Layout Shape and Dimensions
In previous posts I've already described the basic shape of the benchwork I built for the layout. The layout is in a one-car garage about 15' 6" long and 8' 6" wide. Ceiling height is at 8' 3" only.
On one of the shorter walls there's the garage entrance for the car while on the opposing side there's a door to the condo's main staircase.
Given the tight dimensions and since I wanted to continue to use the garage to park my car I had to figure out a way to "move the benchwork away" when I want to get in with my car.
The final idea was to build a benchwork along the walls that can be "lifted" toward the ceiling so as to leave enough space for the car and to get in and out from the garage.
When in "use" the layout would be lowered from the ceiling to stand on supporting legs.

It resulted in a U-shaped double deck layout split in three sections; two on the longer walls and one on the back wall of the garage, spanning across the door. Each section can be lifted separately by the other and is guided by means of aluminum rails fixed to the walls and rolling trucks fixed to the benchwork sections.

The two decks are 9" apart, not very much indeed! The limited ceiling height and the need to lift the layout limited the total vertical available space. Also, depth of two decks has to be kept to the bare minimum, hopefully not more than 2". Width of decks range from 15" 3/4 up to 20" 1/2.

A helix is planned to connect the two decks on one end. Clearly a "blob" will be made in order to have space for the helix that's going to be much wider than the benchwork 15" 3/4.

Industries on the Upper Deck

In the modeled area I decided to put a representation of some of the industries that were really present while other are totally or partially fictional.
The flour mill close to 23th St. and the Terminal on 9th Ave. were -most likely- real industries. Other ones were either gone by the era I'm modeling or not yet present in that period but could have reasonably been there since the industrial aspect of that area.

Beginning from the right side, just out of the helix, there's going to be Fruivale Ave. As Byron described there were track on both sides of the street. So I decided to follow the prototype even if the track on the right of the street is purely for scenery purposes -at least for now. The track on the left side appears from below the Nimitz Hw. that works as a scene divider, it splits in a spur and a siding to serve a couple of industrial buildings along Glascock St.: Fairn & Swanson Transports and Joansing Iron Works.
The main track crosses Glascock St. and serves Dreisback Cold Storage through another siding. Then, it crosses 23rd St. and 29th St. and split again in a siding to serve the -supposedly- big ConAgra Flour Mill.
Shortly ahead there's another spur to serve the Cemex Aggregate building and loading spots while another siding -the longest of the layout- departs from the mainline.
Finally, a three-track spur departs from the mainline to serve Pacific Rim Transports & Storage along 9th St docks.
The line ends and disappears going through a Nimitz Hw. underpass, another scene divider.

Lower Deck

So far I haven't yet decided whether on the lower deck there's going to be the staging yard only or some scenicked tracks also. The very tight vertical space will most likely limit most if not all possibilities to have realistic scenes.
The plan is to put the staging yard on the same side of the 9th St. dock spurs forming a double ended staging. This would ease the construction of a continuous loop on the lower level.
Then, I could represent part of the big yard present on the prototype east of Oakland station that leads to the point where the track departs from the mainline to go towards Fruitvale Ave. Here the helix could represent that part of the line.
Another possibility could be to represent the Oakland station just out of the staging yard and then a part of the mainline track to the east of the station where a junction connect to a section of hidden track that leads to the helix while the mainline goes east in a loop that enters into the other end of the staging yard.
In this latter case I have to figure out how to support the track for the continuous loop between the staging yard and the bottom of the helix.

That's it for now. For sure there's going to be a lot of changes in the project both before and after starting to lay track. At least now I have some sort of a project designed.

See you soon...


Enzo said...

Ricky It's a great start! Good article with all componet well balanced:history-locale-model design. Tracks are not crowded and Operations seems flowing well at a first check. I enjoy it so much! Keep the good work on!
I've yust a remark: my name was not "Babbo" :)
Ciao... Up to infinite and UP (oops... SP?) !
Enzo Fortuna

ricky4208 said...

> I've yust a remark: my name was not "Babbo" :)

Oops, sorry.

Bug fixed...

Thanks for your kind words.