1. It Is What It Is

It was a layout I'd never intended to build—at least, not like this. After madly throwing crap against the wall hoping something would stick, I was on the verge of just giving up and moving on to some other hobby. But as I was putting my four previous layouts into storage—to join four others, no less—I gave one of my earlier projects a second look.

Maybe instead of trying to find a new modeling direction, I should instead return to my original course, and treat this project like a "prequel" to my final home layout. The result almost stuck. At least it kept my mind off of my troubles for a few months...

What I'd yanked back out of storage was a two by four foot adaptation I'd begun back in 2014 of the Apalachicola Northern, a nifty little layout built by the late Gregg Mahlkov, known online as 3rdrail. It's a layout that's never been published or documented until now, which I'd started just before the bottom dropped out of my life.

Gregg Mahlkov's photogenic Apalachicola Northern; Gregg Mahlkov photo.

What captured my attention was how much Gregg packed into such a small space: the double-folded dogbone created a beefy mainline feel—unusual for such a small layout—and it kept the grades gentle. Plus, there was an industry in every nook and cranny. Well! A heavy mainline in an overstuffed urban industrial landscape perfectly defined my forever layout. Best of all, it was basically RTR; I just needed to hang some flesh on the bones.

Gregg Mahlkov's photogenic Apalachicola Northern; Gregg Mahlkov photo.

First, however, I had to fully accept the layout as it was, simply because I couldn't spend any money on it; about all I could afford was glue. This limitation did occasionally give rise to some frustration; but then, it would be unusual if it hadn't.

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