A journal following the history, design, construction and operation of Bernard Kempinski's O Scale model railroad depicting the U. S. Military Railroad (USMRR) Aquia-Falmouth line in 1863, and other model railroad projects.
©Bernard Kempinski All text and images, except as noted, on this blog are copyrighted by the author and may not be used without permission.

May 6, 2014

Plan for a life time layout

As usual, I caught a bug on the trip to Michigan last weekend. Air line flights always get me.  So while I am home sick, I started thinking about how could I expand this layout. This speculation was based on three main factors.

First is that I plan to start laying the track at Aquia Landing soon. That is the last section of track work in the current plan - the "light at the end of the tunnel." I saved it for last as I knew if I built the harbor part of the layout first, I would probably never have finished the the rest of it.  Essentially I saved the best for last. But, I always like to have a a carrot dangling in front of me. It is too depressing to think this is the end. To me layout planning and building is the best part of the hobby, model building, scenery, and operations next. Track laying, DCC and wiring are last.  So I was thinking about expansion.

Secondly, my wife is convinced that we are not going to move when we are retired, even though I am lobbying to move to a lower cost area.  I never win these debates.  So it looks like its, "Die in place," as we used to say in the Army. That means this will be my last basement I will have to work in.

Third, several of my model railroad friends have had to abandon their railroads as age related problems set in. Sad but inevitable. Might as well plan for that too. So how would I expand this to my lifetime layout?

Earlier, I drew potential expansion plans showing Alexandria, and Burnside Wharf as possible expansions.  The newest plans look at the other end of the railroad. They address the most troublesome  aspects about the current layout, notably the tight curves at the north end of Falmouth, including the turntable lead and to a lesser extent at Stoneman's Station.

The first phase would be to build a new Falmouth on a narrow shelf where the road show layout is now.  It would reside on top of a long set of custom bookshelves with room for a TV underneath.  Once the new Falmouth was built, the current Falmouth would be removed, and the tracks reconfigured to pass through the closet. Stoneman's Station would move to the current Falmouth location. The turnouts at current Stoneman's would be removed and it becomes a nice long stretch of single track. All the new curves are 30 inch minimum radius with easements.

The track section in the closet would be removable to allow access to storage when the layout is not running. There is room for it for fit. I used that closet for staging in an earlier N Scale layout.

The next phase is a bit more drastic as it repurposes the TV room to purely layout space. Not a big loss as I rarely watch TV. In this plan I would add a central blob adding about 27 feet of mainline run between Falmouth and Stoneman's.  The aisles would be fairly generous, but not enough room for a TV watching area.

The last major change not shown on these drawings involves rebuilding the Potomac Creek bridge to its full size, about 8 feet long. Yes, once the layout is expanded there is no compelling reason not to rebuild it. This would only be possible if I move Stoneman's Station. If Stoneman's stays where it is, then a bigger bridge would not work.

The obvious advantage of these plans is that there are longer runs between stations, an important factor in TT&TO operation. I plan another post soon about TT&TO as it will apply to this RR. This is an subject that I have been examining lately as I seriously plan for operations.

The track laying and wharf building in Aquia Landing should take about a year. Throw in another 6 months for freight car construction then operations can start. The ships and other structures will take perhaps another year.  That still leaves me about 2 years until retirement.  Plenty of time to think about this. Once this layout is maximally expanded, I do not plan another basement filling layout. Instead I would continue to build smaller projects until no longer able or take up another hobby.

In answer to Marty's comment, I added am image of the interior of the closet showing the split landing steps.  I keep my shop vac, photography lights, tripods and a lot of train stuff in here.  The landing step is 52 inches off the floor, just enough room to have a track at 48 inches below. Installing it will be a pain as there is another joist that will have to be cut on a angle, but it will fit.


  1. or you could do as one of our hosts last weekend does: build, op for a few years, sell. Rinse and repeat.

    1. That is exactly what I don't want to do. It has taken me about 5 years to get to this point and I am still not operating. I want to stay focused on this, finish it and then keep improving and expanding. I also like to build to fine scale standards. I don't want this to look like a rush job.

  2. I would not build the balloon loop. That open space in the room is a really nice space to unwind after an evening, alone or with friends. Perhaps not a TV; but possibly a place for a couple club chairs a desk and a small library of your best research material.

    1. Yes, the couch and reclining chair in the open area make a nice place for crew members to relax in between runs too.
      Not shown on the plan is my home office, a 10 by 12 ft room on t he bottom left of the drawing.

  3. Bernie,

    Your situation describes mine perfectly. There's really no reason for my wife and I to move from our current house. I've spent over 20 years getting my layout to the point it is now and I have no intention of starting over, at least not on this one.

    Based upon your objectives, I think the expansion would be a great addition. More track, longer runs, more scenery, more projects- everything you need to keep enjoying the layout. And as you point out, there are always areas of the layout where new projects might develop such as the bridge at Potomac Creek.

    Stay the course, and good luck!


  4. I think I've seen this footprint before. Think it's a good plan for possible expansion without doing a great deal of demolition. In other words, this addition could be built while still allowing operation and viewing of the previously completed segments.
    I'm curious, and I don't remember the details of the inside of the closet so this may be a non-starter - but any reason not to remove the wall between the current Falmouth and the closet, and remove the closet door and wall at the foot of the stairs?

    1. I actually made this closet bigger as pat of my basement remodeling. I lost two other closets, but gained space under the layout, so making this closet bigger helped recover some storage space. Yes, I need to do a purge and free up some space. There is a lot of N Scale stuff in that closet. The split stairs with a landing make removing walls not an option. It is tight, but a 30 inch radius loop at 48 inches track height just fits in the width of the closet and under the landing. The landing subfloor is 52 inches off the floor. I added a picture tot eh post showing the interior of the closet and the proposed tracks. If you recall, the staging to east end of Tennessee Pass used to be in this closet. It was a full balloon type yard with 5 tracks at an 18 inch minimum radius. I don't think I ever got a picture of that staging yard.

  5. AnonymousMay 08, 2014

    Bernie, if it's still got your creative juices flowing, why do anything more than what you're doing. I like to make plans & goals, and your list is an excellent example of short, medium & long range goals. And, first & foremost, it's a hobby - , you stop working on it, when it isn't fun any more.

    1. Anticipation is often better than the actual event. The fun is in the planning.

  6. I'm a huge fan of your plan Bernie. Especially that you're able to model in O scale with no duck-unders. Definitely save the blob for last and enjoy the breathing room. I'm looking forward to the expansion!