1. First Generation Obsession

Maybe it's some kind of second-childhood thing that happens at a certain age, like a form of late-onset midlife crisis. In my case, it's a sudden obsession with first-generation N Scale model trains. Of course, this would only happen to someone born early enough to have enjoyed that era of modeling in their youth. But at least I know I'm not alone, and seeing other modelers going through it on the Railwire got me all torqued to do the same.

"Wait, another mini-layout?!?" This is what can I hear a number of people exclaim. And it's understandable: I have a pretty dismal track record when it comes to portable mini-layouts. With five unfinished projects (down from eight after destroying one and giving two away), one may question my sanity for starting yet another one. So, allow me to 'splain. One, I need something to do while I await the chance to start my Black River & Western, which will be at least several months away, if not a year. Two, I've also been badly bitten by the whole "retro" layout thing, thanks in large part to a certain member of the Railwire. And finally, I felt it might be an effective way to combat a spate of deep depression (although I fear this may be a losing battle).

But what about the Postage Stamp Central? That's a "retro" layout too, right? Well, being totally faithful to the Postage Stamp brand, it just wasn't scratching my itch, especially considering Aurora never released any industrial or train facility kits (in fact, I was tempted to tear the PS layout apart and repurpose the base for this one, but there's a remote chance I might be able to sell it). In particular, I wanted to find a way to include a collection of select structures—my favorites from the good old days. Plus, a folded dogbone is a classic plan that's way more interesting than a flat oval. And since the layout has its roots my very first permanent N Scale layout, the Newport & Rock Falls (or, as I referred to it, the "Nerf"), it naturally became the Newport & Rock Falls II. Drafted on 26 March 2019, the preliminary track plan looked like this:

Dissatisfied with certain aspects of the plan, I drafted an all-freight version, below. I regretted losing a favorite passenger station—the same one that appeared on the original Nerf—but the new plan had the advantages of a second industry and, most especially, a rolling lift bridge, a longstanding wish list item that made up for losing the passenger station. Anyway, this wasn't intended to be a remake of the original Nerf.

Subsequently, I made one last change: I flipped the whole thing end for end (below), which improved the arrangement of the loco yard structures, particularly the engine house, which originally had the most interesting part of the building facing the back of the layout. Consequently, the New Nerf wound up bearing a strong resemblance to the Penn Central Stockton Branch—which isn't a bad thing by any means.

Yes, yes, there are countless illogical aspects to the plan—I won't even get into them all. But it's amazing how none of that matters when you're looking at things fondly recalled from your childhood brought back to life. Besides, part of this exercise is to not over-think things. Indeed, following the sequence of plans from some of my first mini-layouts to the latest, one can see a progression—actually, regression—from realistic to simplistic. The greatest joys tend to tap one's earliest memories, after all, especially when a layout is tactfully enhanced by the lessons learned from a lifetime of modeling. With a large box of retro Atlas Snap Track headed my way (as part of a trade for first-gen loco parts), it was time to get real.

Hold On Just a Sec...

Modelers who know me are well aware of my penchant for changing stuff. And if anyone was placing bets I'd revise the plan, you'd win. I was looking at how the layout could be run, and I thought, hold on just a sec, if I were to actually operate it (wait, I said that?), I'd need a runaround, because there are both leading and trailing sidings. I'd also need Rapido-style uncouplers—a whole bunch of 'em—and it so happened I already had just enough Postage Stamp ones.

Squeezing in a passing siding without completely reworking the plan and/or enlarging the layout (the latter being totally out of the question for obvious reasons) proved to be quite the challenge, but persistence paid off. I shoehorned one in behind the engine terminal that's just long enough to run around four cars at most, which is all you really need for a layout this size. Below, green rectangles are freight cars, showing the capacity of each siding; black rectangles beside the track are uncouplers.

Completed on 3 April, the revision only required rearranging a couple of the engine facility structures; everything else remained the same.

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