The Chicago, Indianapolis, Nashville & Southern (The Nashville Road) - HO - Andrew Keeney

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The following article was written in advance of the 2004 North Central Regional Convention to be held in Lansing, MI. It will give you an idea of my goals for the Nashville Road. I plan on creating a website for this layout but at this time, I only have photos in an album at Railimages.

I have created a Nashville Road Yahoo Group as a clearinghouse for information, documentation and discussion for crewmembers and others that are interested in The Nashville Road.

I did have a major portion of the main level of the layout entered into 3rd Planit. It was lost when the computer harddrive crashed and had to be replaced. The latest 3rd Planit version has just been loaded onto the new harddrive and the layout is to be reentered. I will add it to this page when completed.

                                          Fulfilling a lifelong dream 
                                          Andy Keeney’s Nashville Road

                (An article published in the NMRA, North Central Region’s HotBox, Sept 2004)
                                              By John Thompson

Picture this: You’re 51 years old and have had a lifelong interest in both prototype and model railroads. In a few moments, a house fire destroys virtually all of your worldly possessions. Amongst the ashes lies the beginnings of your dream layout and a life time collection of HO model railroad equipment. If you’re an “average Joe”, you would probably decide to either get out of the hobby or, at best, to start again with smaller aspirations. However, if you’re Andy Keeney, you see this as the opportunity to finally build the model railroad empire that you have always wanted - and this is exactly what Andy is doing. Within seven months after the smoke cleared from his previous house, Andy and his family had constructed a new residence. Of major importance to Andy, the home contained a 36 by 48 foot “J” shaped area in the basement that would become the location of Andy’s dream layout. Blessed with such generous space, Andy began to ponder how he could best fill it with the layout he had dreamed of building since childhood.

Andy has always had an interest in big-time railroading. Prior to the fire, his thought had been to model a free-lanced coal hauling railroad (the “Michigan & Ohio”) and a portion of the B&O situated in West Virginia. However, just as he began to plan his new empire, through pure happenstance (fate?), Andy took possession of a pair of Atlas RS-3 locomotives decorated in his all-time favorite paint scheme of Rock Island black, red and white. This got him thinking about how he could develop a track plan that included both the Baltimore & Ohio and the Rock Island, his two favorite railroads. But this concept presented Andy with a dilemma. In the real world, the B&O and Rock connected at only two major points, Chicago and St. Louis, and he didn’t have any interest in modeling either of these locations. His solution was both ingenious and believable, but involved utilizing some modeler’s license.

Nashville, TN was chosen as a city that “might” have been a location that the B&O and Rock Island “could” have interchanged traffic. But how could this have happened? In the real world, the B&O went as far as Louisville, just up the road from Nashville. Likewise, the Rock Island went as far east as Memphis, not too far to the south west. Andy decided that he could extend both railroads into Nashville. This would then create an east-west route that realistically, could have been.

Andy decided that he should change the name of his longtime free-lanced railroad, the Michigan & Ohio to something more appropriate for its new location. Enter the Chicago, Indianapolis, Nashville and Southern Railway (aka, the Nashville Road). Since the layout would be a fairly narrow shelf style multi-deck design, Andy did not want to have two separate mainlines running throughout and using up valuable space that could be better put to use with towns and industries. Since the total mainline run is about 15 scale miles, several miles in each direction from the downtown area, a decision was made to have both the B&O and Rock Island enter Nashville via trackage rights over the Nashville Road.

This is a good place to interject that Andy’s goal is to make his layout both plausible and believable. He is not trying to exactly emulate the prototype roads or location being modeled. Someone from Nashville would not recognize the layout as such, which is not important to Andy. He only wants his operators and visitors to have the feeling that they are in central Tennessee working on what appears to be a real railroad in a realistic manner.

Andy wanted to capture the feel of a large city served by several railroads, with the operational features of industrial switching, interchanges via transfer runs, two large yards to handle all of this business, and a major passenger terminal. His first plan was to model Nashville on one level, with staging near each end of the town. However, this left little or no mainline operations beyond the switching limits of Nashville. As Andy gained exposure to a couple of excellent large home layouts in Michigan (John DePauw’s EJ&E and Bruce Chubb’s Sunset Valley Oregon System), he realized that multi-deck layouts were operationally feasible and would dramatically increase the length of mainline trackage for a given space. Back to the layout drawing board he went with the use of pencil, paper and tools and also the 3rd Planit design program. The end result of Andy’s track planning efforts is a multi-deck layout that has as many as four levels in some portions of his basement. There will actually be three scenicked and operational levels throughout the basement with an additional staging level on the main peninsula situated below the three operational levels. The middle scenicked level will contain the city of Nashville, including a multitude of large industries, two rail freight yards, and a big-city passenger terminal. Andy has become very proficient at kit-bashing very large structures and they help to convey a big city atmosphere on this portion of the layout. The first and third levels will contain rural scenery and many small towns. These levels will be the domain of the local freights that most of us love to operate, as well as where the several passenger trains he has plans for will strut their stuff. Andy plans to have 22 tracks in each of the upper and lower staging yards for the staging of the Nashville Road, B&O and Rock Island. There will also be 3 staging tracks each for the L&N and NC&StL railroads, both of which will have a minority presence on the layout. These two railroads will help establish the feeling that you are situated in or around the central Tennessee area. There is also a long branchline that will allow an operator to get away from the dispatcher and CTC and just enjoy the local switching in small towns and industries along the way.

Almost as soon as the new house was finished, Andy wisely followed the adage to do room preparation prior to starting construction of the layout. He installed metal studs on the perimeter walls and started to hang drywall. As the drywall installation was nearing completion, he made the decision to go to a multi-level layout. Since the upper level decks would have to be anchored to the wall in some way, Andy had to remove the upper portion of the drywall throughout the room and reinforce the wall by attaching 2”x 2” wood studs to the metal studs. Additional 2”x 2” wood studs on 16” centers were then attached to the hidden studding behind the drywall with lag bolts. This then allowed the upper levels to be hung solidly on the wall. All turned out well and Andy proceeded to build his benchwork with a combination of 2”x 4” and 1”x 4” pine framework and ¾” luaun plywood decking. Andy’s benchwork is very sturdy and well-constructed. Multi-deck layouts bring about some rather unique layout lighting issues (clearances, shadows, etc.). Initially, Andy installed strings of low-wattage Christmas tree lights. These didn’t meet with his satisfaction and he is replacing them with frosted, spiral fluorescent fixtures spaced 32 inches apart. Anyone need several hundred feet of Christmas tree lights?

Andy’s primary focus in building the Nashville Road is for operations. There will be two large classification yards, the Nashville Road’s Gresham Yard and the B&O/Rock Island jointly owner Ribo Yard. Each of these yards will have their own engine facilities, including a roundhouse and turntable. The city of Nashville and suburbs are split into several switching districts. Some of these will be serviced by the Nashville Road, while others will be handled by either the B&O or Rock Island. In addition, there are several small towns along the mainline and the long branchline that will require varying degrees of switching activity. This all adds up to one heck of a lot of switching that will be taking place across the layout. Another key feature of Andy’s trackwork is that it emulates how the prototype would do it - there are no “switching puzzles”. In some areas, however, it is complex enough to keep even experienced operators on their toes.

For switching to be prototypical (and enjoyable), trackwork and equipment must operate flawlessly. More on the equipment later on, but Andy’s trackwork is very, very well installed. It flows smoothly. Andy uses code 83 flex track, with an assortment of Atlas and Walther’s turnouts. All mainline and passenger depot turnouts are #8. Yard turnouts are #6 and industrial turnouts are a mixture of #6 and #4. Exposed trackage has 42 inch minimum radius curves and is superelevated, while hidden track has 36 inch minimums. All turnouts on the mainline will be powered by Tortoise slow motion switch machines. All will either be controlled by the dispatcher or in the case of industrial sidings, have dispatcher lockout. Additionally, all dispatcher turnout control can be thrown to local control via toggle switches located in the fascia when a dispatcher will not be used. The majority of the non-mainline turnouts are controlled by Caboose Industry’s groundthrows. Uncoupling will be done using skewer sticks, except in locations that are unreachable, where magnets will be installed. All the above features will pay huge dividends when Andy and his crew start regular operations.

Little scenery is completed thus far since other aspects of layout construction have taken precedence. Once scenery is in place, the visitor/operator will experience a stark contrast between the big city atmosphere of Nashville on the middle level, and the rural/small town feeling on the lower and upper levels. This should not be a distraction during operations, however, because as anyone who has operated on a multi-level layout knows, you generally aren’t aware of what is going on above and below you. You almost always have your hands full with the job at hand.

Since Andy is modeling the mid-fifties era, he has reason (an excuse?) to have both steam and diesel locomotives present on the layout. He currently has about 300 locomotives on hand to handle his power requirements. Over 90% of these are first generation diesels –an assortment of EMD, Alco and FM passenger and freight covered wagons and road switcher style locomotives. Roughly half of these will be lettered for his own Nashville Road, with most of the rest decorated in B&O or Rock Island livery. There will also be about a dozen units displaying L&N and NCStL color schemes. Road power will generally be lash-ups of 3 units, with the first and last units being powered and the middle unit having a sound decoder installed. Andy doesn’t discriminate against any producer of quality HO locomotives. Virtually all major manufacturers are represented on the layout. If necessary, Andy modifies off-the-shelf locomotives to bring them up to his operational satisfaction. Such is the case where he is retro-fitting LifeLike P2K GP units with Stewart trucks due to the poor running qualities that these units have exhibited with DCC. He is doing his own decoder installations, although sometimes solicits the help of good friend Bob Luzenski (aka,”The Decoderizer”) if things get a bit complicated.

Andy currently has about 1200 pieces of rolling stock of which over 600 are now in operation on the layout. Plans are to increase this number to around 1,500, but the exact number will be determined once the layout becomes fully operational. All cars must meet minimum specifications to ensure operating reliability. These specs include weighing to the NMRA standard and metal wheelsets such as InterMountain and P2K. Kadee metal couplers are installed on all equipment.

The majority of the rolling stock is Athearn and Roundhouse with a good selection P2K, Accurail and Branchline rounding it out. Many pieces will be stripped and repainted for the Nashville Road. Andy will be making his own decals with an Alps MD1000 printer. All equipment will be detailed and weathered as time allows.

The passenger car fleet numbers over 100 pieces, 30 of which are the new Walther’s Budd and Pullman Standard lightweight streamline cars.

The Nashville Road utilizes the NCE DCC system to control operations on the layout. Andy has just upgraded the system to wireless operations.

Like many of us in the process of building layouts, Andy already has a pretty good idea of what an operations’ session on his layout will consist of. There will be a mix of through freights, passenger trains, local freights, interchange transfer runs and a lot of industrial switching. Andy estimates that it will take a crew of about 25 to operate the layout once it becomes fully operational. A big question that has already been answered is what type of car forwarding system he’ll utilize. Andy is not a fan of car cards. He much prefers to utilize the power of a computer to move trains and rolling stock around his railroad. After looking at the various systems available, Andy chose ProTrak, which is considered by many to be the most advanced and sophisticated car forwarding software on the market today. Andy was initially overwhelmed by the complexity of ProTrak, but after working closely with Jim Moir, ProTrak’s creator and owner, he has come to realize the multitude of benefits that this system has to offer. Almost all necessary layout data has been entered into Andy’s ProTrak database and the system will be operational during this Fall’s NCR convention being held in Lansing. ProTrak experts (including Jim Moir) will be on hand to demonstrate the various aspects of the program and answer any questions that guests may have. Andy has become such a fan of ProTrak that he organized and hosted a ProTrak Clinic Weekend for both owners and those that were interested in learning more about the program. It was held this past Spring and was attended by about 18 people from as far away as Portland Oregon, Georgia, North Carolina and Ottawa, Canada. Andy is planning the second annual ProTrak Clinic Weekend to be held in the Spring of 2005. (Update: April 26-29, 2007 will be the Forth Annual ProTrak Weekend.)

Andy has undertaken an enormous challenge in building the Nashville Road. However, he is approaching the project in the correct manner. First, he believes in getting his “ducks in a row” before embarking on any given facet of building the layout. He has made judicious use of Internet chat groups for help along the way. Yahoo Groups dealing with layout design, layout construction and operations are just a few of these. They can be a tremendous resource for anyone planning and/or building a layout. Second, Andy subscribes to the philosophy of “doing it right the first time”. The quality of his workmanship will pay huge dividends as the layout becomes fully operational. Andy also prefers to do virtually all the work on his layout. One of his greatest joys attached to model railroading is being able to work out an “issue” and put the solution in place. This could be anything from designing a freight yard to making a locomotive run more smoothly to finding the “best” type of lighting for a multi-level layout.

We encourage everyone to attend the NCR Capital Crossing 2004 regional convention in Lansing, MI on the weekend of October 22 through 24. Andy’s layout will be open for an operations session on the preceding Thursday night and for visitors at specified times during the convention weekend. Andy is well on his way to having one of the premier layouts in this part of the country and this is your opportunity to see, and maybe operate, the Nashville Road. We guarantee that you will be impressed.

Andy Keeney - email

Created: Feb 8, 2007

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