Recommendations - era, location, engines, cars, basic layout ?

Hi --
I am converting from Marklin three-rail to DCC two-rail model railroading - mainly because I want to change over to model
American railroads, but also partly for reasons of cost - Marklin is fairly expensive stuff.
For the Marklin I have I have just run a pretty basic double track main line shelf layout around the room, with a liftout section in fron of the door. No operations stuff - just running two rains around the room side by side - but it has been good enough to keep my two boys (age 7 and 4) happy.
I have been reading some inspiring stuff, like John Armstrong's "Track planning for Realistic Operations", Ian Rice's "Small, Smart and Practical Track Plans", and a bunch of other stuff from Kalmbach - Model Railroader Magazine, Great Model Railroads 2004, 2005 and 2006, Trains Magazine, John Pryke's "Building City Scenery", Mike Danneman's "Scenery for your railroad", the "Guide to Industries Along the Tracks" and a bunch of other books and web sites.
I have also on impulse bought *some* stuff for my new DCC two-rail layout, but I am still stymied about the most impor- tant question: *what* am I going to model on my new layout ?
This is what I know (or *think* I know - I am open to argu- ments which may cause me to change my mind :-) :
1) I like H0 as a scale - I want to stay there. I know I could fit in more track and more train with N scale, but for some reason N scale just seems too small for me.
2) My available space for the layout is not huge - I have a storage/workshop basement room 8 feet by 11 feet, with a 2 1/2 foot wide door (opening out of the room) about 2 feet from the end of one of my long walls.
3) I am thinking a walk-in layout. No duckunders, no liftouts in front of the door. I will need to be able to get into the room to get tools on a fairly frequent basis,
4) I am thinking diesel engines and local freigh handling - setouts/pickups or interchange on a regional, shortline or branch line, running a max of 2-5 locos at a time, train lengths not to exceed 10 cars, max two operators at a time, but possible to operate with just one operator.
5) I am thinking maybe locating the setting in the American East or Mid-West in the early 1970s (for the option of adding a pre- Amtrak passenger service at some later stage), but concentrating on local freight handling in an industrial/port/city type of setting. Perhaps a small branch line of a class 1 ?
Or perhaps setting the scene to a 1990s era regional or shortline operation in the Midwest ?
6) In addition to freight handling/switching, I am going to need to have a continuous loop for the kids to run a train (where they just adjust speed/start/stop).
7) I *admire* the look e.g Malcolm Furlow's "Carbondale Central" or John Fultz's "Central City adn River Route RR", but I have no illusions about being able to superdetail city scenery to such amazing results myself.
8) Also, since I really would prefer to not tempt my dear wife into smothering me with a pillow in my sleep, I do need to keep the cost of this hobby down - I need to look for engines and cars that are "reasonably" priced for someone who is *not* a train affectionado :-)
Now, I do already have *some* stuff that can be used or re- used in a DCC setup;
a) I've got about 15 yards of Peco Code 75 flextrack and four turnouts plus motors for the turnouts. Should be used if at all possible.
b) I got a MRC Prodigy DCC Command station with a tethered control and a Viessman power supply/transformer that can deliver 16 V AC, 3.25 Amps
c) I got a couple of Marklin transformers that can power lights and motors for turnouts. Or for that matter run a Marklin train on Marklin track alongside the tworail track.
d) I got a German engine with a DCC decoder installed and a couple of cars with insulated wheel sets (the cars for the Marklin track have metal axels) for testing track and command control.
e) I got an Marklin third-rail F7A-B and plenty of Marklin track plus trafos for Marklins. Mmm - maybe I could reuse some of the Marklin track and trains - running a separate passenger line on Marklin track/trains/trafos. I could probably pick up some prototypical passenger cars somewhere. Mmmm - would anyone in the East or Mid-west still run F7s on passenger trains by the early 1970s ?
and f) I got quite a bit a bit of scenery materials and lumber/ building supplies, but not much in the way of model RR struc- tures/buildings.
Now, *finally* to my questions:
1) Would you recommend setting the era to early 1970s or mid- 1990s ? Or something else altogether ? Why ?
2) Anyone able to recommend a prototype railroad given the parameters I have listed ? Say Midwestern early 1970s or mid 1990s - branchline/regional/shortline mainly local switching industrial/port/city ?
3) What kind of industries/layout design elements should such a railroad have to be reasonably realistic and still provide a lot of switching work ?
4) What kinds of freight locos and cars would such a railroad typically have in the early 1970 and in the mid-1990s ? Any engines and carriages that you would recommend in particular for being both time typical and inexpensive ?
5) What kind of passenger engines and cars would such a railroad have in the early 1970s.
Smile, Stein R, Sorumsand, Norway steinjr <at> online.no
Add pictures here
✖
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload

I like yourself Stein live in Europe, and therefore chose 50's to begin 60's as an era, mainly because there's so much more available in Kits, Rolling Stock etc. from that era. But i guess the era from 90's till now will have enough as well. Another reason is that i wanted a Sanat Fe chief on my RR.

Now this took a couple of weeks for me to google enough information togeteher, seeing i wanted the Santa Fe Mainline and a subline for freight and local industries. I am now to the point where i have narrowed it down to a piece of the mainline near Kansas or Chicago, so i have an abundancy of smaller railroads to choose from, Wabash, Reading, Lehigh Valley and many others.

I am going for the method of choosing the local RR first and then find out what they transported and then building that industry. I think that almost any industry needs switching etc.
Grtz Jan
Add pictures here
✖
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload

I can understand that. My youngest son (4 years old) *loves* the Santa Fe Warbonnet scheme - and he has started recognizing the name "Santa Fe" in print. Maybe there is a hint for me there :-)
What kind of engines do you run for the late 50s/early 60s era ?

Mmmm - that makes sense.

I suppose. I would like to have prototypical engines and rolling stock, but I don't know if I would like to model a *specific* real- world location.
I am thinking     - interchange tracks or a port (basically a source of any type of freight)     - but what else ?
Thanks for the advice - availability of fairly inexpensive engines, rolling stock and buildings/structures is an important factor in deciding what period and what RR(s) to model.
Grüss to you too. And Happy New Year !
Smile, Stein in Norway
Add pictures here
✖
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
Keep in mind that with a smaller layout, 40', 50's & early 60's cars usually look better because for the most part they are shorter. 40 foor ice bunker cars are so much nicer looking than 57 foot mechanical reefers. Besides, with the 57 footers, you have to build the little sound modules to get the compressor sounds.
Usually the most common road names have the most producers of models. The more comapnies produce a road name, the easier to get and "sometimes" the cheaper ( esp. on Ebay)
Hee's an example.
Our club layout is 128' x 24 ' walkthrough. ( you stay with your train for the 400+ foot run.) I LOVE 40' ice bunker cars and had collected many over the years, both upgrading the couplers and weathering them all. Since we seldom run transition era any longer and run modern most of the year. I'm trying to convience myself to put them on ebay. Now that I have close to 60 57' mechanical reefers, why keep both ? On the club layout I must keep modern produce trains to 26 cars in length. When I run the older cars I can usually fit 36 to 38 cars in the same sidings depending on how many clerk cars I have on the train.
When I was still doing home layouts I collected the ice reefers and modeled produce sheds and icing platforms. In a small area it gave my layout a main purpose, but I could also have a few other industries for a local to switch out as well as a branchline local passenger train.
Don;t try to do "everything."
Pick the scenery you would like to model, then look at what road names operate there. Then look at what they do. ( seldom will you see great icing platforms in the mountains )
Pick what "excites" you. The more intregued you are with a certain type of operating, the more obsesed you will become
With a small branchline passenger train you can just have 6 or 8 cars WELL DONE. 20 or 30 mixed freight that are detailed and weathered. 6 or 8 locomitives deatailed out is so much nicer than 30 or 40 that look like crap.
Pick a well known route from the early diesel era so you can do the shorter cars, then pick one "major" type of industry to model. Doesn't matter if it's produce shippers, coal, oil, cattle etc. Pick one to focus your operations on.
Thanks a lot, now I have to go to the club and get all the ice bunker reefers out and haul them around the railroad with a set of F units and make sure they are all "iced" properly before sending them to KC to meet the salad bowl (putting back in the box)
My God, how much fun it would be to now have the computer indicate which cars get block ice, which get crushed and which get flake ice. Ok, so now I have to run the salt hoppers to the icing platforms before I can run the produce train. And I guess I'll have to run some 40 tanks to the service facility so I can pull the F units in for servicing before heading out on the run.
Now where did I put the messenger cabeese................................
*&$ $#*& it, now look what you've started..................
Add pictures here
✖
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload

Well, depends a bit on your ambition level - I am not quite ready to go for stuff like compressor sounds on refrigerated cars yet :-)
But I see your point. Shorter cars will allow sharper curves and take less place on sidings etc. And transition era rolling stock (at least well known road names) probably will be available from more sources, since it is a popular era to model.
Not sure if the rolling stock will be so much shorter that it would make much of a difference for capacity on a layout of the size I can build in a 8 x 11 foot room.
I kind of like fairly modern stuff better than transition era, but I am realistic enough to realize that with the room I have available for a layout is not huge, so double stack container express runs or coal unit trains for power generating stations are probably out.
What kind of engines and freight cars of various kinds (reefers, boxcars, tank cars, hoppers, auto transport, TOFL/Container cars) would I looking for for local freight type work in respectively:
1) Early 1960s / end of transition era 2) Early 1970s / pre-Amtrack & pre-implosion in the East or 3) Mid 1990s until present day
Any idea about realistic price levels for RTR rolling stock from these three periods ?

Good point. It certainly would add interest to operations to have to reice cars on the way.

Understood. I have fairly limited ambitions for now. It is more important to me to get a reasonable layout working than to create the perfect layout.

I like the American midwest, and have family ties to the Twin Cities and to Chicago - like a lot of other Norwegians.
I definitely would like to do local freight / industrial switching in an urban environment (or maybe in out in the countryside indu- strial area/trackside industries).

That sounds like about the level of engines and other rolling stock I was shooting for. There is no way in the world I will end up with 30+ engines or hundreds of cars anytime soon - that would take moving to a new house.

Mmmm - any suggestions for a well know route which is easily available in RTR and a suitable type of industry for the area I am starting to think about - Chicago, Wisconsin, Minnesota or Twin Cities, early 60s, early 70s or mid-90s ?
Anyways - thank you for your comments. All comments help - I am trying to get a better picture in my head of what I would like to have (and what I feel I must have).
Happy New Year !
Smile, Stein
Add pictures here
✖
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
On Sat, 31 Dec 2005 21:12:13 -0600, Stein R wrote:

The early '60s _were_ pretty much the end of the transition era - "Early 1950s / end of transition era" would make more sense.
--
Steve

Add pictures here
✖
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload

Okay, let me rephase my question:
Based on availability of fairly inexpensive RTR engines and other rolling stock, what midwestern railroads would you recommend model- ling in either of the three following eras:
1) Early 1950s
2) Early 1970s
3) Mid-1990s
Smile, Stein
Add pictures here
✖
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
On Sun, 01 Jan 2006 13:41:26 -0600, Stein R wrote:

Not a lot of Wabash steam available RTR, so I'd recommend Nickel Plate instead - at least there are 2-8-4s and 2-6-6-2s available marked that way from Proto 2000 and Bachmann Spectrum. Of course you could make reasonable approximations of a Wabash Mogul 2-6-0, some of which ran into the early '50s, and that would be nice and small, but I don't think you'll find them RTR. Then again, you could do a small bridge line offering trackage rights on its strategically located line to the Wabash or NKP or IC or CRI&P or C&O or a couple of those.
--
Steve

Add pictures here
✖
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload

I've made a note of that tip. Thank you.
How about diesels ? I am kind of partial to diesel hood units & various kinds of road switchers.
What railroads say in the rough triangle bounded by Chicago, Kansas City and Minneapolis would you recommend for easy availability of in- exensive diesels and rolling stock from the early 50s, early 70s or mid-90s ?
Smile, Stein
Add pictures here
✖
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
On Sun, 01 Jan 2006 15:39:12 -0600, Stein R wrote:

I find them boring and thus am not the guy to ask.
--
Steve

Add pictures here
✖
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
Steve Caple spake thus:

Hmm: not even oddballs, like the BL-2, Krauss-Maffei (anyone make models of those?), the Yurpeen ones like the push-pull locos I saw in Hungary?
But basically, I agree: it's beyond me how people fall all over themselves orgasmically over those big metal boxes that are 'Merkin diesels. At least the F- and E-units had some poisonality, some pizazz, some *curved lines* (what a concept!). GPs? SDs? Yawn. But hey, that's just me.
Actually, the better ones were all the oddball *electrics*: the CMStP bi-polars, the Little Joes, W-1s, and of course that obscure little one over in Pennsylvania.
--
The only reason corrupt Republicans rule the roost in Washington
is because the corrupt Democrats can't muster any viable opposition.
  Click to see the full signature.
Add pictures here
✖
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
David Nebenzahl wrote:

The only use I have for BL2's is that I go to an arts and crafts store and mind those minature dolls eyes and glue them to the front of BL2's . I run them at the Christmas show telling little kids it's Thomas's brother from the Isle of Misfit trains..........................
Add pictures here
✖
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
Stein R wrote:
> How about diesels ? I am kind of partial to diesel hood units & > various kinds of road switchers. > > What railroads say in the rough triangle bounded by Chicago, Kansas > City and Minneapolis would you recommend for easy availability of in- > exensive diesels and rolling stock from the early 50s...
How about the Minneapolis and St. Louis? In the early 50s they had colourful fleet of RS-1s and FTs/F3s. Later in that decade they took delivery of their GP-7s in red, as well as PS-1 boxcars and PS-2 hoppers in the modern freight livery.
http://www.cnwhs.org/ch_mstl.htm
Add pictures here
✖
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload

That is a *great* proposal. Having something that ran in the Twin Cities would be good - I visit the cities for a month every summer.
For later periods the Minneapolis and St. Louis would be Chicago and Northwestern.
Mmmm - I *like* this idea. Could be combined with all kinds of snazzy stuff with interchange in the twin cities.
Thank you !
Smile, Stein
Add pictures here
✖
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
Stein R wrote:
>>> How about diesels ? I am kind of partial to diesel hood units & >>> various kinds of road switchers. >>> >>> What railroads say in the rough triangle bounded by Chicago, >>> Kansas City and Minneapolis would you recommend for easy >>> availability of inexensive diesels and rolling stock from the >>> early 50s... >> >> How about the Minneapolis and St. Louis? In the early 50s they had >> colourful fleet of RS-1s and FTs/F3s. Later in that decade they >> took delivery of their GP-7s in red, as well as PS-1 boxcars and >> PS-2 hoppers in the modern freight livery. >> >> http://www.cnwhs.org/ch_mstl.htm > > That is a *great* proposal. Having something that ran in the Twin > Cities would be good - I visit the cities for a month every summer. > > For later periods the Minneapolis and St. Louis would be Chicago and > Northwestern. > > Mmmm - I *like* this idea. Could be combined with all kinds of snazzy > stuff with interchange in the twin cities. > > Thank you ! > > Smile, Stein
My pleasure! Let us know what you decide on, and how it works out.
All the best,
Mark.
Add pictures here
✖
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload

I've been digging around on the net, and have decided to go for modelling part of the Minnesota Transfer Railroad in the Twin Cities in june 1963.
The Minnesota Transfer RR (now dead, but succeeded by Minnesota Commercial Railroad using much of the same tracks) did local switching in the Saint Paul/Minneapolis area, and did transfers between the great railroads that went through the Twin Cities.
In 1963, the MTRR would run Alco's: No 60, Alco S1 http://donsdepot.donrossgroup.net/dr880.htm No 104: Alco S-4
http://www.northeast.railfan.net/images/tr_mt104.jpg
No 200: ALco RS-3
http://www.devanno.net/mt200rs3.jpg
Some of the roads they would do interchange with:
1) Northern Pacific http://pw2.netcom.com/~whstlpnk/np.html http://pw2.netcom.com/~whstlpnk/npsemds.html http://pw2.netcom.com/~whstlpnk/npsalcos.html http://pw2.netcom.com/~whstlpnk/diesels.html
Engines in 1963:     EMD GP7, GP9, GP18, F9A,     Alco RS1, RS3, RS11
2) Great Northern http://www.greatnorthernempire.net/index2.htm?GNEGNDieselRosters.htm Engines in 1963:     EMD GP30s(brand new), GP20, GP9, GP7, F7A/B     Alco FA1, RS2, RS3
3) Soo line (Minneapolis, St. Paul and Sault Ste. Marie) http://www.kohlin.com/soo/soo-hist.htm 1955 - Complete dieselized 1961 - Wisconsin Central merged into Soo line 1962 - New color scheme (Red, white and black)
http://www.kohlin.com/soo/july1958roster.htm Engines in 1963:     FM H12-44     Alco RS1     EMD GP7, GP9
4) CNW CNW had merged the Omaha road (The Chicago, St Paul, Minneapolis and Omaha) out of existence on Jan 1st 1957: http://www.marketmaker.net/cnw/roster_cnw1.phtml Engines in 1963:          EMD GP7, F7, SD7, GP9, GP18, SD18, SW1         Alco S2, FA2         Baldwin VO-660
Here is a virtual tour of the whole of the current Minnesota Commercial RR: http://www.mnnr.org/prototype/tour /
Looks promising. Will have to do quite a bit of planning to see what I can fit into my layout room without hopelessly over- crowding things.
Thanks for all the help so far.
Grin, Stein in Norway
Add pictures here
✖
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
Stein R wrote:

<snipped a quite detailed summary with links>

Now this guy I like! He posts an obviously well-thought question with reasonable givens and druthers, considers the responses, does his research, and makes what seems to me to be a very rational choice.
Stein, I wish you all the luck and good fortune on your layout. Please post updates as it moves along.
Stevert
Add pictures here
✖
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload

Thank you for that kind comment.

Will try to do that. But it will take quite a while to get to the point where there is much to update yet, I am afraid.
As a symbolic start on the project I've ordered a Bachmann GP30 engine in GN livery - found one with a DCC decoder for $36 at walthers.com.
But the most important one is how lay things out. Basically, the layout should be something like:
South to North: Interchange with CNW MT main yard (scaled down) Side line to GN small yard, main line north Grade crossing, interchange with NP Local industries Interchange with Soo line
For the kids to be able to do continuous running, I need to be able to create a (non-historical) loop.
Will have to see what I can fit in and how. Back to Armstrong's book.
Grin, Stein
Add pictures here
✖
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload

<snip>
<snip>
<snip>
<snip>
<snip>
Just thought I would post an update. Won't be spamming the group with these - just this one update with a link to a web page showing what is going on with this layout.
I have asked advice from people on the NMRA LDSIG (Layout Design Special Interest Group) about how to compress the prototype yards to a modellable size, and have worked a bit with some ideas I have gotten from various people.
Seems like I will have to plan to layouts in the same room.
Layout 1 (MT main exchange yards) ==================================The main level layout will be a representation of the Minnesota Transfer RR main yards, but scaled down a lot:
A round the wall shelf layout with a liftout/folding section in front of the door. 2 mainlines (GN on the north side of the yard - closest to the walls, Milwaukee road on the south side of the yard, closest to the center of the room), each mainline having one arrival/ departure track long enough to hold a train of one engine, eight 40 foot cars and a caboose.
The yard will be flat switching, long enough yard drill track, 8 170cm/66" classfication tracks in a single ended ladder,
Visual separation between Milwaukee road main track/AD track and classification yard will be a retaining wall - 2-3" high, with the classification yard a little higher than Milwaukee road and GN (in the background) highter than the classification yard, Layout 2 (MT local industrial swiching) ======================================= Same era, same locale, same engines and cars - but not connected to the yards layout above - any movement of engines and cars between them will have to be BHITS (Big Hand In The Sky) :-)
A fairly narrow (12-18" deep) shelf layout around three walls located maybe 12-15 inches above the main layout. Can be built (or not) indepen- dently of the yard layout. Haven't done any planning on this part yet.
Here is a first rough sketch of a possible track layout for the MT yards:
http://home.online.no/~steinjr/trains/modelling/mtrr/index.html
I'll welcome any comments on whether this looks like it could be operated in a sensible way or if there are things that could be improved here.
Smile, Stein
Add pictures here
✖
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
Stein R wrote:

If you visit Minneapolis-StPaul, doing a Twin Cities based railroad will give you endless rail fanning activites when you visit. Aa fun part of modeling is too model something from real photos you took your self.
David Starr
Add pictures here
✖
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload

Polytechforum.com is a website by engineers for engineers. It is not affiliated with any of manufacturers or vendors discussed here. All logos and trade names are the property of their respective owners.