Northern Central Railroad - Lebanon Valley Division - HO - Guy Wilson

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My HO scale Northern Central is planned as a 1600 sq ft layout set in the Lebanon Valley between Harrisburg and Reading Pennsylvania in summer 1953. The layout will be mostly single deck with the exception of an upper deck over about one third of the layout. The second deck will be a large integrated steel mill. The main yard at Harrisburg is 64' long and features east and west bound 5 track yards. Each yard has a dedicated A/D track. I'm also modeling a detailed engine service area for steam and diesel. I am a Baldwin locomotive fan so the bulk of my fleet is Baldwin. Steam still exists on the Northern Central but it is quickly being replaced by newer 4 and 6 axle Baldwin AS series road switchers.

My Digitrax control system will use IR and radio throttles. The area and time I'm modeling makes it almost mandatory to model a double track main line to be realistic. My plan is to eventually install a CTC system using one of the computer interface programs available. For now I plan on using car cards and waybills for controlling freight car movements.

If all goes well I hope to have an open house just before Christmas. Wiring of the east bound yard, main line and arrival/departure track should be completed by mid November. I'm using fairly large wire due to the size of the layout. The longest peninsulas are 64' and the shortest 45'. My power bus is #10 stranded and each sub bus is #12. I'm using #18 wire for track connections and 1156 bulbs for short management. I've found a store a few miles away selling the bulbs for .26 cents each. I'm still trying to decide if I want to add a shut-off switch to each sub block. As I complete additional work I'll keep you posted.

Update as of Nov 27, 2006

I'll be uploading more photos later but I have added most of the fascia with a 1x4 work shelf. I have 3 UP3s, 2 UP5s and 1 UR91 in and wired up. I've tested the radio throttles and they work fine. My acid test of the radios was a success. I took a throttle upstairs to the other end of the house and started a train and turned on the bell. I went back down to the basement and the train was moving and the bell was ringing! I'm using the power supply for the UR91 and another power supply for the other UPs. All UP3/5s are wired together for throttle power.

I've made a few changes to the track arrangement at the east end of the east bound yard. I've installed another #6 switch to extend the east ladder switch lead as far as the diesel house. There is a stretch of the lead about 14' that is also the outbound track from the A/D to the main. The only interference will be the departure of a train east bound or a diesel moving from the diesel house to the 2 track holding yard.

I will have the rest of the wiring completed by the beginning of December and I may have the west bound yard in place. I plan to have my open house on the 16th and 23rd of December.

Update as of Dec 11, 2006

I've completed the west bound yard tracks and I've designed a new switch control for the switches at the back of the benchwork. I'm using a 5/16th inch wood dowel with a wood knob. The mechanism will use a turning motion to change point position. I'll be installing stop pins to control travel distance of the knob and a nylon clamp for friction to maintain point position. The total cost of each switch is about $1.00. I haven't had to worry about powering switch frogs up to this point. My switchers are all Stewart Baldwin units and my switches are Atlas #6.

I've added some new photos showing the completed yard. The west bound yard is not yet wired. My open house is Saturday so I'm burning the candles at both ends to get ready. I've finished the walls and roof of the lubritoreum so I can finish the engine service tracks up to the turntable. I'm not sure if I'll finish the wiring for the west yard by Saturday but at least the east yard and engine service areas will be finished. I also moved the UR91 to the top of the wall at one corner of the basement. It is now out of the way and should provide the best radio reception.

Concept and Plans:

Era: I'm modeling late summer 1953.

Room Size: 25' 4" x 64' 4"

Scale: HO

Mainline Length: 610' (About 10 scale miles)

Construction Method: Mostly L girder. I'm building 2x4 false walls on the double decked portions. The sill plate is attached to the concrete floor with a nail gun.

Backdrop: I attached 2x4 studs laid flat to the outer walls and then installed R11 insulation. My backdrop is 1/8" masonite glued to the walls or studs. I used latex caulk between the seams then primed and painted a sky blue my wife and I thought looked best under my lighting.

Aisles: All aisles are nominally 4'. I say nominally as the work shelf along each fascia will reduce the aisle by about 4". I have a few choke points at the turn backs that are 30" for a few feet but they are not in high traffic areas.

Roadbed: Upson board on 1/2" plywood for yards. I'm still wrestling with the rest of the mainline. I may use some form of spline.

Control System: Digitrax with IR and radio throttles.

Minimum Radius: 39" on the turnback loops. 42" or larger on all other visible areas. 32" on helix to upper deck steel mill complex.

Average Train Length: 21' or 30-35 cars.

Staging Capacity: 24 tracks at each end of the modeled layout.

Track Height: 33" staging yards, 45" main deck, 61" steel mill upper deck.

Track System: Atlas code 83 visible. Atlas code 100 staging. Some hand laid code 70 and 83.

Turnout Minimum: Mostly #6. Main line crossovers are #8 and probably some #4 in small industrial areas.

Turnout Control: Tortoise/American Switch and Signal, Caboose Industries, Lemaco, push/pull rods.

Operational Style: Mother may I to start. Would like to move over to TT/TO with CTC at some point in the future. The project is so big it may be quite a few years if I ever get to the signalling stage.

Car Forwarding System: Car Cards/Waybills

Crew Size: 15-18 when completed.


This is a view of the east bound yard looking west with the start of the engine service throat at the right front.


View looking east at the lubritoreum. The diesel house is in the rear to the left of the round house.


View looking west. Switch at bottom is lead to engine service area coming off the east ladder of the east bound yard. The "runner" track is along the edge of the bench work on the left.


View looking east at engine service trackage. The Tichy 400 ton coal dock will be to the middle right with the tracks to the diesel house passing to its left.


View of the west ladder of the east bound yard. The lower left switch will lead to the RIP track and TOFC "Circus" Ramps.


Overhead view of the completed yard looking west.


Overhead view of the engine service and both east end yard ladders.


A shot of the overall yard again looking west.

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