1. The Very Last White River & Northern
Faced with a
terminal disease and not enough time to even get a good start on the long-planned Black
River & Western, I flailed about looking for some modeling to do, and considered one of the many unfinished micro-layouts
I had sitting around. But as I dragged each one out and fiddled with them, I found that they just weren't doing it for me. Then I came across the
nearly-finished station I'd built for the Greystone & Rock Bottom (right), and it hit me: this was what I wanted to
work on. I'd come full-circle back to my first "real" layout, the White River & Northern I.
But I wasn't coming "full-circle" back to yet another circular layout, as I had with the Greystone; it would be more along the lines of the aborted White
River & Northern VII. The difference this time would be that I knew what I was getting into, and had options should I hit any
dead-ends (other than my own, that is).
Planning started with a quick pencil sketch (above), which was then transcribed into AnyRail
for proper track geometry rendering (below). It's a simple point-to-point for the most visual drama with the least crowding. I tried to provide continuous running, but it
just created too many visual compromises. Note, too that the final rendering is flipped from the original sketch because of the way the Shay faces.
Subsequent to the above "final" plan, I decided to expand the layout a bit so I could reduce the clutter and model just a token bit of New
Hampshire downtown. I added four inches along the front edge.
“There is time. There are returns. To go is to return.”
—Ursula K. Le Guin, The Lathe of Heaven
This layout is returning me to a very early place—much earlier in fact than the Black
River & Western. Since the age of four, I'd spent nearly twenty summers (and loads of other vacations) in New Hampshire, and setting
the layout squarely in that locale has removed me from classic Northeastern urban industrial—my modeling "home" for many decades—and taken me
back to my childhood. While I've remained intimate with the locale, I still had to research the visual language of New
England railroads in the 1940s/1950s. Consequently there have been many
changes to the layout since its inception around 11 March 2020: it's now rooted a little more in reality, rather than just a fantasy
fling as I'd originally planned, which may make it more satisfying to build.
Slides I took of our summer home, circa 1975. Above is the cabin; it sits on the shore of
Bearcamp Pond, near the headwaters
of the Bearcamp River. Below is the view from the
porch; the peak in the distance is Mount Chocorua.
Had I not been totally screwed over by my father, I'd be living here right now, having rebuilt the cabin for year-round use.
But this will also be my final layout, adding a whole host of layers to its raison d'ętre. Will it be my "best," or some kind of
"masterwork?" No, far from it, nor do I plan it to be; it's simply my last artistic expression in a hobby I've enjoyed almost as long as I've
been breathing. As such, my goal is to enjoy myself as much as possible given nine square feet of layout space, and based on past experience,
it would be enough for me, for now, under the circumstances. If I live long enough to "finish" it, I'm sure I'll find ways to "tinker" with it
for however long I have left on Planet Earth.
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