The CB&Q in Wyoming - HO - Mark Brunton

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image:wyoflag.gif The CB&Q in Wyoming is a double-deck layout based on the Chicago, Burlington & Quincy line that ran (and still runs under BNSF) through central Wyoming. The layout is set in the 1930-1945 timeframe.

Layout route map - The CB&Q in Wyoming
Layout route map - The CB&Q in Wyoming

Layout Description

The mainline essentially runs from staging to staging, with three branchlines leaving the main at different points along the route (one of which is a connection direct to a staging yard). The northern end of the line represents Frannie, WY, and the southern end represents a combination of Orin Junction and Wendover, WY, which I just call Orin Junction. The prototype line continued north from Frannie to tie into the Northern Pacific near Laurel, MT, east from Wendover towards Torrington, WY, and also south from Wendover towards Denver (on the Colorado & Southern).

Frannie and Orin Junction/Wendover are represented by the same intechange yard on the layout, with the track into Orin Junction from one end and the track into Frannie from the other. That gives (or WILL give) me a continuous run when I just want to watch trains running on the layout.

There's a connector planned from Frannie / Orin Junction (I call it the Frannie Cutoff) to a large staging area, via a junction town that, depending on which end of the line the train travels from, represents either Laurel, MT or Scottsbluff, NE. I just call it Laurel.

At Laurel the Frannie Cutoff ties into a staging loop with two long yards (in addition to the intechange yard at Laurel). This provides the the layout's connections to the world, and represents the NP's transcontinental line through Montana, the Colorado & Southern south to Cheyenne and Denver, and the CB&Q east through Scottsbluff and Omaha. The first is the northern connection to the layout; the last two are the southern connections.

Also at Orin Junction is a connection to the Chicago & North Western, which went east through Lusk, WY and into Crawford, NE (this is the C&NW's Cowboy Line). On the layout a connection from Orin Junction leads to a four-track staging yard for the C&NW east, which I call the Lusk branch.

The Cody branch leaves Frannie westbound for Powell and Cody, WY, which was the Burlington's claim to a connection with Yellowstone National Park. Powell was (and is) a very agrarian community, providing a seasonal sugar beet crop that on the layout will go mostly to the Holly sugar plant, the major industry in Worland WY. Cody was home to a small petroleum refinery (Husky Oil), producing primarily asphalt that was shipped out of Wyoming (to staging).

Frannie / Orin is a triple junction on the layout, with the Laurel connector, C&NW east staging, and the Cody branch all coming together with the mainline here. It will be a busy place at times!

The Wind River Canyon ca. 1940
The Wind River Canyon ca. 1940

The line will feature many different actual scenes in Wyoming, including a transit of the Wind River Canyon.

My goal is to capture the sense of isolation of a single-track railroad running through a very sparsely populated region of the country (Wyoming, where I grew up, has the lowest population density of any state. Ironically, where I live now - New Jersey - is the highest population density of any state).

An Overview of the Behemoth Helix. It will be hidden behind backdrop from all viewable directions, perhaps with view cuts on one side
An Overview of the Behemoth Helix. It will be hidden behind backdrop from all viewable directions, perhaps with view cuts on one side

To meet the goal while providing a decent mainline run and good operating potential I had to develop a double-deck layout design. The most prominent feature of the plan (though hopefully not on the finished layout) is the four track, six-tier helix that carries trains between the decks.

As of this writing (Jan 2007), the main staging through Laurel is operational (though the engine terminal trackage isn't finished yet - only the turntable and one lead are in place, to turn engines), and the helix is complete. The Frannie Cutoff is started, and ties in temporarily with the mainline where it exists the outermost loop of the helix at the bottom (at the mainline enters Glenrock en route to Casper and north), to provide a temporary connection so I can begin limited operations later this year. That connection will be removed as upper deck construction progresses. The mainline itself is barely under way, with the line through Glenrock under construction. The section of mainline out of Thermopolis and towards the helix is also laid, as is part of the branch between Shobon and Lander, as those stretches of track will be behind the backdrop at Glenrock, and so inaccesible for construction later.

Lower Level Track Plan - gray squares are one square foot
Lower Level Track Plan - gray squares are one square foot
The Upper Level Track Plan
The Upper Level Track Plan

Track Plan

Here's my most recent published (on my website) track plan. Heavy lines indicate visible trackage; light lines are hidden track (except the helix, which is hidden). Brown is NP Staging, Blue is the Wyoming Mainline, red is the Lander branch, dark green (almost black) is the Frannie Cutoff, bright green is the Cody branch, and magenta(?) is the Lusk branch. Town trackage, sidings, etc. are shown in dark gray (except for the Cody branch and Laurel). Many of these are just placeholders on the track plan - I'm still working out track arrangements in most of the towns. Laurel, Casper and Cody are exceptions - in these locations the track layout is fully defined. There have been some changes that aren't shown on the plan: Laurel now has a small engine terminal. The NP Mainline's Minneapolis Staging is shown as being under Casper on the lower level. During construction that was changed so that Minneapolis is now directly across the aisle from Laurel, under Glenrock. The NP staging loop now turns back where Lander Staging is shown, rather tan running all the way under Casper (why have that long a run for staging, where you can't see anything anyway?). Speaking of Lander Staging, it's now gone. Instead, the Lander branch of the C&NW runs under the Wind River Canyon as shown, but turns downwards (on plan orientation) to run behind and below Thermopolis, behind the backdrop past Genrock, then around the outside of the helix, and finally around to Lander, which will now be modeled where Cody is shown. Cody, meanwhile has moved to the left of the helix, and will extend upwards somewhat past the end of the helix. There are no big changes to the upper level at this time, but there will be a few tweaks here and there. For example, behind (above) and to the left of Powell, rather than run the Wyoming Mainline over the Lusk staging tracks, the mainline will simply run around the Lusk tracks on the same level.


For a layout this size, I had to plan the scenery as I went. Although the bare track plan makes the layout look like a real mish-mash of track, the scenery plan shows a general idea of the finished layout with scenery. You can see the scenery plan on my website at this link: [1] (lower level) and here: [2] (upper level). The visible track isn't overwhelming the scenery, and there are several areas of the layout where scenery dominates. Glenrock, Powder River and Shobon, and certainly the Wind River Canyon are the most prominent in this regard. The Wind River Canyon is over twenty feet long, with benchwork-to-ceiling mountains and one single track winding along the canyon just above the river.

There is a lot of hidden track on the layout, I know. The helix alone has eight scale miles of track! There are two or three scale miles of other hidden track on the layout, as well. That means trains will be out of sight for a good deal of time as they run. The longest helix track is a bit over two scale miles, so a train running at 25 smph will be out of site for a bit over five minutes. Running a train out of sight that long would drive some folks nuts, and I certainly don't consider it an optimum situation. Unfortunately it's a necessary evil in order to have my visible track density at a reasonable level, while allowing me to build the many towns I want in the space I have.

Operations Concept

This concept is the basic idea of how I think the layout will operate. It's very preliminary though, and even though I have some idea of traffic flows on the layout, it will no doubt evolve considerably over time. Any suggestions or comments are certainly invited!

Freight Trains will run on the layout in several modes: Staging-to-staging (through), Originating-to-staging (no en-route local switching), Staging-to-destination (no en-route local switching), Originating-to-junction (no en-route local switching), Junction-to-destination (again, no en-route local switching) and various sorts of locals. Forgive me if I don't know the specific terms for these.

In staging-to-staging, Trains will originate in NP Staging, traverse the Frannie cutoff, and run across the mainline to again traverse the Frannie cutoff and disappear into staging. These will pick up any cars left at the junction that travel to staging, and sometimes leave cars at the juction for delivery to specific modeled points on the layout. Cars may also be dropped / picked up at the main yard in Casper. A few trains will also run from staging to staging just through Laurel, dropping off or picking up cars in Laurel as appropriate. Lusk staging will not participate in this. In originating-to-staging, trains will originate on the layout and proceed directly to staging. For the Lander branch, trains from there will proceed directly to Lusk staging (there may be an occasional stop in Casper to pick up interchange cars with the Burlington). This represents the C&NW activities, including trackage rights over the CB&Q through Powder River and Shobon. For the mainline, trains will originate mainly in Casper and proceed south (through Glenrock and Douglas to Orin, thence over the Frannie cutoff to NP staging (in this case representing the CB&Q to Scottsbluff or the C&S to Denver). Staging-to-Destination will function in the reverse. Originating-to-junction trains will run from the originating town to a junction, where it will drop its cars and pick up any new ones that are destined for the train's origin (a "turn"). They may or may not do some local switching on the way. The basic idea can be illustrated using Cody as an example: The Husky refinery made primarily asphalt. A few cars here and there will be delivered to Greybull Roads, but the bulk of the product will be shipped out to the northwest via Frannie. A train of full tank cars bound for the northwest will be assembled in Cody, hauled to Frannie and dropped. Empties will be picked up there and hauled back to Cody. Other local traffic to Cody and Powell will usually be handled by local freights, unless a priority load is present. Kinda the 1930's version of the unit train. Locals will handle nearly all on-line deliveries and pick-ups along the line.

Passenger trains will run similarly, but in fewer numbers.


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