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.
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July 21, 2016

Model Railroad Layout Deathmatch


After Ramon's visit last weekend, I decided to do a better job of sketching out what a full expansion of the PoLA layout into the rest of my basement would look like. I took Trevor's advice and laid off the coffee too. That drawing is on the right. On the left is the plan for the final version of the Aquia Line. Once this next book is done I will take a breather and decide what I want to work on next. Time for a model railroad deathmatch!

In the left corner is the USMRR Aquia Line. Weighing in after 7 and a half years of on and off work, the layout  is essentially finished from Brooke to Falmouth. It is fully functional. With just a few more freight cars it could do some simple op sessions. It has been featured in Model Railroad Planning and Model Railroad Video Plus. Hundreds of people have visited it and many have taken a train over it. 

In the right corner is the upstart challenger, PoLA. I completed the Mormon Island portion in less than one years time. It is fully operational and showcases some of the magnificent RTR cars and engines produced by today's model manufacturers. It is an excellent test bed for new Alkems Scale Model products for HO modern era modelers. In it current form, it offers plenty of industrial switching. It has already hosted several op sessions despite its young age. I plan to operate it in ProRail 2018. So it needs to survive at least that long.

What to do next? If I proceed on the Aquia Line, then the next step is to start laying the track at Aquia Landing and building some freight cars. I have been looking forward to building the Landing for a long time. I saved it for last, as I knew it would keep me motivated to finish the layout.

If I want to take PoLA further, I would build Phase II as shown the diagram. That essentially occupies the area where Aquia Landing would be. Given that the benchwork is already done, and it is a very simple track plan, using flex track and ready-to-run turnouts,  building Phase II would not take that long. The ship and cranes would be the most difficult part of the job. I have been wanting to build a really big ship model and the container ship on PoLA Phase II would scratch that itch.

Perhaps a hybrid approach is the answer. That would entail building PoLA phase II next, operate it for a few years until I retire. Then salvage it and finish Aquia Landing as my retirement project. Or, if I find I like the PoLA more, then scrap the Aquia Line and build PoLA Phase III.  Either way it will be a lot of fun.

Before you comment, think about what Marcello Mastroianni once told Sophia Loren,  "never cry for something that cannot cry for you." 


  1. Oh, please finish your 0 scale layout so that I can visit it in 2 or 3 years..... :)

    Grtz, Ronald.

  2. Are the two layouts at the same height - could you have your cake and eat it so to speak?

  3. I'm sure you'll have lots of opinions, one way or the other. But don't listen to them - we're just going to project OUR preferences onto YOUR hobby.
    That said, I would approach the decision by making a nice pot of coffee (okay if you're not drawing layout plans) and then I'd ponder the two options.
    First, I'd step back from the layouts themselves and try to codify why I'm a railway modeling enthusiast.
    - I'd make a list what I like best about the hobby - both as it relates directly to the trains and in terms of things like the social aspect.
    - I'd list the things I enjoy doing, and the things I'd rather avoid.
    - I'd list things I want to learn to do, or still want to accomplish.
    - I'd consider the time and resources I have to commit to the hobby.
    - And so on.
    I'd then make up a chart of each layout's advantages and drawbacks - and also compare how each design relates to how I engage with the hobby (that big list). One or the other of these layout choices might be the clear winner. Or who knows? They might lose out to a third option...
    Happy pondering!
    - Trevor (who never expected to end up modeling Port Rowan in 1:64, but is really glad he did)

  4. I thought the POLA was shorter so why not both?

  5. A Civil War era layout is a rarity, modern image not so much.

  6. This is a really interesting post, I have watched the PoLA layout, get closer and closer to completion.
    Like anything, if you are building something, you get invested in the way it looks and the way you feel about the project, it gives you pleasure watching it come to life, this includes everything from developing new construction techniques, to accomplishing research about something you might not have even imagined as a suitable prototype before, it’s a great voyage of discovery, and this is always a shot in the arm of the “hobby”. Its also natural to want to see something you have created to continue, and to be the best it can be. The USMR AL and PoLA are both fantastic layouts and no doubt it was your inspiration that got both layouts to the point of construction they are right now.
    Your dilemma is not a new one, I too have pained over what to do with more than one prototype. My layout area is 26ft by 14ft. I currently have built two layouts for the location, Barcoola (based on outback South Australia) and A Town Like Alice, based on Alice Springs Northern Territory’s “red Centre”. Both of these layouts don’t fit in the room at the same time, however they are portable, this means that I can have one is packed up in the shed, while the other is set up. They use the same legs, power supply etc. Swapping out layouts takes about a day. My inspiration is such that I have three other layouts in the planning for the location, a layout based on the Pilbara Western Australia, a BNSF layout based on northern Washington state, and another “Australian National” themed layout.
    Its true, only you know your true passion, and what inspires you. If there is more than one passion, more than one source of inspiration (by the look of things, I reckon you have an affinity for water transport as well), then maybe consider a sectional approach. It works for me, however I would agree there is a lot more pre planning required to make it work, however you have a set foot print which is great, a lot of sizes would remain the same, so the sky is virtually the limit (or your capacity to store additional layouts).

  7. Perhaps you should make another one of those spreadsheets like you did for Model Railroad Planning several years ago?