1. Let's Try This Again

Before I continue... I've condensed the original website substantially, which comprised nearly 300 pages and over 2,500 images. Every aspect of the layout was dissected, examined and analyzed in excruciating detail, as though it was some long-lost reincarnation of John Allen's Gorre and Daphetid, right down to all of the circuit diagrams and the origins of every structure, even including the camera and settings used to capture each image! The intervening years have allowed me to take a more objective look at what was perhaps a decent layout, but not a "great" one, and certainly not one deserved of so much bandwidth. And now, on with the story...

After my previous defeat, I retreated to something more conventional: a simple L-shaped shelf layout. I secured several heavy-duty shelf brackets to the walls, and placed two layers of two-inch-thick foam insulation board onto the brackets. I sliced up more foam insulation to create the subroadbed and, using a homemade hot wire carving tool, roughed-in basic scenery shapes. After just a couple of weekends, I was ready to lay track. With the introduction of Micro Engineering's Code 55 turnouts around that time, I dropped my plans for handlaid track.

The track plan (click to enlarge) was conceptually the same as the previous version: a couple of simple loops embellished with a small yard and some industrial sidings. For this layout's theme, I drew inspiration from some real-life settings, in particular the area around Three Bridges, New Jersey. There, two lines—Lehigh Valley and the Jersey Central—traced parallel routes across the middle of the state. One line was abandoned, and the other was, at the time, Conrail. The Black River and Western, a nearby tourist line/freight carrier (and the first railroad I'd ridden), interchanged with Conrail at Three Bridges.

In my alternate reality, the WR&N headquarters were in the fictional industrial town of Pennwell, visually derived from Trenton, my old stomping grounds. The WR&N route comprised a former Lehigh industrial spur, a Lehigh/CNJ interchange, and a stretch of abandoned CNJ mainline. Much like its real-life counterpart in Ringoes, New Jersey, the WR&N terminus featured an engine facility, a small passenger station, and an assortment of junk in various stages of restoration or deterioration.

Incidentally, this plan appears in Kalmbach's 102 Realistic Track Plans. I'm flattered, to be sure, but also perplexed, because it's hardly a realistic plan!

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