1. Just One More Layout, Please
I've started my last layout, and this time I mean it. I'd thought that the Mountain Vista Railroad was to be my last one; I'd led everyone to believe so. But priorities have a way of shifting about when a hard deadline is nigh—a very hard deadline. Indeed, at the risk of employing some gallows humor, it's literally a drop-dead date.
As my health declined, so too did my interest in the Mountain Vista. I'd set the bar too high for the level of enjoyment I expected of it. Thus, after much flailing about, I settled on the Newport & Rock Falls II (above). But having fully finished it in an amazingly short span of time, I was left wishing to do just one more nostalgic thing, something I'd tried a few times before and failed: make a new round White River & Northern in the likeness of the original (more or less).
This is nostalgia of a different sort. The Newport & Rock Falls was nostalgia for generic retro N Scale, whereas the White River & Northern is much more specific. It was my first "serious" layout: it was creative and it was ambitious, given virtually all of the structures were scratchbuilt. As embarrassing as it may look today, back then it was the very best work I could manage that early in my modeling career (I started it when I was 16).
This version is less a recreation and more a reimaging, to use Hollywood parlance. It's the kind of layout I wished I could have built back in my teens, but didn't have the knowledge, skills or materials to do so. Yet I must work quickly: not only did I have a hard deadline, but my modeling skills were in decline along with my health, and I wanted to do things I'd been unwilling to tackle in decades.
To save time, I confess I robbed the Mountain Vista's grave—in a backwards way. Most of the structures I swiped were originally built for the Greystone & Rock Bottom, itself an ill-conceived attempt to resurrect the round White River. That project failed due to the loss of a friend on whom I was depending; since that can't happen again, I have a high degree of confidence this one has a good chance of seeing a golden spike—assuming I live long enough (hence a sense of urgency).
When I look back on the Mountain Vista, I confess I was never really in love with the layout. It was built to serve a purpose, but it was never fully thought out as to how it would fulfill that role. Thus it was in a perpetual state of change—change in theme, physical and temporal setting, modeling approach, even overall size... it was merely "something to do," a layout in search of a reason to exist beyond just killing time.
This is probably why a devout roundy-rounder such as myself was "content" (if one were to use that term quite loosely) with a point-to-point plan. I'd made a quick, offhand scribble and, with little thought as to the consequences, hung my hat on it. I even got other modelers to buy into it, and invest their time and effort in what ultimately turned out to be a dead-end project.
But now I'm out of time, as well as excuses, and I'm counting on myself to be able to deliver, because this last White River is literally and figuratively my "forever layout," something I assume will be associated with me after my death. As much as I enjoyed the Newport & Rock Falls, it's not what I'd want to be remembered for; besides, the other contenders are little-known dead-ends: the White River & Northern II was conceptually my be-all end-all layout, encapsulating everything I could possibly want in one space—ended prematurely by divorce; the White River & Northern IV still stands as my modeling highpoint, having made it to the "big time" (GMR 2000 and an NMRA tour)—ended prematurely by divorce; and then there's the Black River & Western, what was supposed to have been my "masterwork"—ended before it was even begun by terminal disease. Given the circumstances, I'd much prefer this new layout serve as my swan song.
So, it's once more unto the breach with this old horse. Let's see if I live long enough to justify the time, money and effort I'll be investing in the WR&N X.
If you feel like a deer in the headlights with respect to all of these White River & Northerns, here's a quick review:
What's with the name? White River & Northern is actually just a twisted-around version of Black River & Western, one of the great inspirations of my modeling life, and a never-to-be layout. Which is sad, considering the tremendous effort I'd invested in planning it.
The layout has already been plundered for whatever I could use on the new layout, which included several of the buildings and some of the scenic elements, as well as a bunch of the animations. Ironically, the Mountain Vista's raison d'etre was never animation—it just turned out that way by accident. But given my predilection for animation, it's no surprise, and the new layout is already embellished with much more of it than I'd planned.
When I finished hurriedly taping together the 1:1 track plan (below), in my head I said, "Hello, old friend," referring to the as-built version of the first layout.
I was hopeful I'd be able to shuffle things around enough to fit many of the structures from the Mountain Vista into the plan (below left). But after placing those structures on the plan, I quickly realized it was a bad idea. So I made a clean sweep, and thus emerged Version 9a, the first official revision (below right).
The problem I had with Version 9a was how the brewery (or whatever it'll be) dominated the middle of the layout. Version 9b (below left) felt like it was headed in the right direction, but still needed some refinement—specifically, what to do with the siding left and above center. Arriving at Version 9c (below right), I felt as though I was beginning to zero in on "it."
Eventually I arrived at the final-final version that I wound up building (below left). Except for a few minor track geometry tweaks, it's nearly identical to the original-original (below right).
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