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.

December 12, 2016

Tis the season

A scene on Lance's new Los Angeles layout

Sean and William check out the Aquia Line
Yes, it's Pinewood Derby time. That usually means the kids in my neighborhood come over to use my tools to help build their cars. This evening Sean and his son, William, came by to use the drill press and look at the layout. We got the holes drilled without too much trouble. Then 8-year old William,  took a look at the layout. He had to use a step stool, but he got a good look at the layout. We ran some locos too.

Ed K trying out the loco sound equipped headsets
Oh yeah, it's also Christmas season. So earlier in the day, Lance Mindheim hosted a holiday open house. Paul Dolkos and I drove up to Maryland to partake. We got to see Lance's awesome layouts, including a massive N scale layout he is building for a client. That layout features the Cowan Subdivision on the CSX (formerly L&N and N&C before that). I did a layout design of that prototype, also in N Scale, in my latest published book, "45 Track Plans." Lance's layout and my design shared a lot of common ideas.

Option 4 layout

It's also track planning time of the year. (OK, I just made that up. It's always track planning time). This latest idea, Option 4  is a maximum scope Aquia Line. It just about doubles the Aquia Line man line run at the expense of omitting Burnside wharf, which is now just modeled as a staging track behind Aquia. Of all the plans I have been looking at, this one is appealing to me the most. The longer main line across two rooms really makes TT&TO operations more interesting.
This layout also scored the highest of any layout plan I looked at on the matrix. See below.

This matrix is a little different because Option 4 is only one layout, not a pair. So you can't compare sum of pairs scores. But Option 4  scored the highest of any single layout I looked at. However, Option 1 also scored highly.

Matrix with 4 latest options
You'll also note that this scoring systems two digit decimal and not just integer scores. This was based on a suggestion by Roger Sekera to allow more differentiation  between similar but different ratings. I tried a ranking of options system, but that did not work.  I also tweaked the score for maximum mainline as this one is the longest mainline run I have looked at.

For completeness sake, here is layout option 3. This one is an interim design that uses a shared staging concept. By doing this, Aquia's Line staging is much more user friendly, but the PoLA layout loses the yard jobs. Thus the design is  basically my current PoLA times 2. It creates two mediocre layouts.

Option 4 is one outstanding layout.  It can take 4-6 operators, plus a dispatcher.

Right now, Option 1 or 4 looks like the way I am going to go. I'll do the build in two stages. The first stage is the unfinished peninsula. That should take me up to Prorail 2018. By then I should have retried. Then, I'll disassemble PoLA and move the CW layout in its place either Aquia Landing or Burnsides's Wharf.  That's the plan for now, until I change my mind again. :)


  1. As a purely armchair enthusiast it's difficult to offer an opinion on operations, or on what you identify as the wow factors as they are a matter of personal preference.

    But I can think of a couple of criteria that could be added to your chart.

    One of these would be 'narrative' or 'what story does the layout tell'. For my money, railroad operations in the ACW are intrinsically more interesting and far less often told in model railroading than modern freight handling. A layout like Aquia stands out in a way that PoLA never could.

    The other criterion would be the nature of research required for each project.
    Here, PoLA could have an advantage because you can rail-fan it. At the same time, its very accessibility makes the research less of a challenge and perhaps less interesting compared to sifting over ancient train orders and sepia photographs and interpreting them for the model.

  2. Hey, that's me!! Lol.

  3. As I told you, I prefer the USMRR theme - if for now other reason than it's far more unique.
    I also like the idea of adding more mileage between the Aquia pier and the "main room" which this plans does nicely.
    One question - would the "ProRail 18" variant include one or two staging tracks in the swamp area, or would the layout simply end single track there?

    1. Yes, some temporary staging at the swamp area is probably in order. Probably the best bet is to lay some of the track and test out what would be required.