The Town Module

The Town module is the second layout dedicated to telling the story of this quiet little branch line. It is set halfway along the 100 mile route and is the branch line’s largest settlement.

The Setting

The town itself has a population of a few thousand and is currently in decline. It once contained a small interurban railway that connected with satellite towns north and south but this railway fell victim to the automobile nearly thirty years previous. Only a small network of industrial track remains to connect local industries with the branch.

Some typical Midwestern towns of the mid 1960s:

Two story buildings.

A few cars.

A few stores.

Some trees.

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Concept and Influences

Not a very original plan. I didn't want anything too clever or fancy. Real mid-west small stations were often just a straight track in and out, a loop, and maybe a spur or two to a local mill or factory. I didn't want to deviate too much from that basic idea. The track plan was designed mostly because I wanted to try my hand at scratch-building the crossovers.

I really like the colors in this photo. It has been a favorite of mine for some time now. Although the picture is set in winter or early spring I'll keep my own model within summer time but have rich but muted colors. I really like the idea of an unsaturated layout where all the colors are flattened but nevertheless create a scene rich in atmosphere.

The Town and The Depot are meant to composed and integrated scenes where every element is balanced to create an overall picture. This approach to planning was influenced by a UK layout called Llanastr. Iain Rice like it so much he designed a track plan based on it. I think it's a great layout, a clever design and very atmospheric. The mood of this layout was a big influence on the mood of The Depot.

I'm a big fan of electric locomotives and so I definitely wanted a 'traction' element to the Town module. I intend to scratch-build at least one of the electric locomotives.

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I have an extensive train book library covering mainly US and UK railways. As such I was able to draw information from a variety of sources for this project. Any missing gaps in information are being filled by the purchase of new books and magazines such as those from the Soo Line and CN&W historical societies.

This isn't all of it. There is actually another shelf or two of books and magazines not shown. I'm not proud of this collection - it's more of an addiction than anything else that has taken up alot of funds to purchase and alot of time to acquire and read. Nevertheless I enjoy looking up odd pieces of information and appreciate the fact that I can turn to my library at anytime. I read about 4 books a month so it's going to take several years before I get to many of the ones that you see here. I buy and sell the Morning Sun volumes on Ebay but the rest I keep.

1. Prairie Depots (Morning Sun) - this has some fine pictures of depots in both rural and town settings, mostly Great Northern. It also has some really nice shots of the right of way taken from the back of a train that show the trackwork set in the countryside of the upper Midwest.

2. Chicago and North Western (Morning Sun) - one of my favorite railroad books with plenty of pictures of cross-country branch-line steam. I've been using this book for color reference while weathering and painting the boxcars on 'The Depot'.

3. Rails to the Rosebud (South Platte Press) - this is the history of a pioneer railroad in South Dakota. It provided much of the backstory for my branchline.

4. Soo Line in Color (Morning Sun) - great color reference and general reference for the Soo Line - an essential book for Soo Line fans.

1. Illinois Terminal - (Morning Sun)- I just finished this book and it has become the main inspiration for the traction part of the layout. It gave up its passenger operations in 1956 but continued servicing its industrial customers while feeding freight back onto the surrounding railroad network. The trackwork will be based on pictures from this book.

2. Sacramento Northern - This was a local railroad and one that I can still go and photograph the remains of. I did a research trip to this railroad six months ago and came across the Western Railroad museum. The museum is built on the old right of way of the Sacramento Northern, is devoted to traction, and was a place that I spent afternoons photographing, not only the rolling stock, but also the infrastructure such as the catenary and trackwork. Some traction track can look different from regular railroad track and the photos from this railroad will be an important reference for the layout.

The story of the interurban has been large taken from these four railways: Hagerstown and Frederick Railway, the Visalia Electric Railroad, the Illinois Terminal Railroad and the Washington and Old Dominion Railroad.

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