5. Reboot of a Reboot
Revisiting the layout after a year and two months, my mind was free of the influence of the design where I left off, so when I pulled it out of storage, it was very nearly a blank slate. The only given was, of course, the track plan, which is about where I was for the first reboot in January 2017. I'd done a lot of kitbashing during the four months I worked on the layout, plus a smattering of scenery, but beyond that, there was nothing that locked me into things as I'd last left them. So I rendered a track-only plan and stared at it for the better part of a day.
During that time I also reviewed my collection of acute urban industrial decay reference images, and that's when I realized that the design of the layout had evolved from something relatively ordinary toward urban blight, but the transition wasn't complete; it was still a mash-up of two worlds. In order to realize my new vision of the layout (below), I didn't need to start over; I just needed to abandon almost everything. Oddly enough, that included all of the sidings, essentially reducing the layout to the purest form of roundy-rounder: the train would simply run laps, with seemingly no purpose. But this didn't bother me—I'm a roundy-rounder at heart anyway. The only regret was the money invested in all of those turnouts that would never be used! Then again, they're not available in manual form, so that didn't make much difference. Plus it sure simplified layout wiring...
In order to accelerate construction, I rummaged through the storage container looking for stuff to "steal" from other projects (I figured whenever I returned to work on those layouts, I'd either build them again, or design something else). And that's when I made a surprising discovery: I'd removed a big old freight station that I'd bashed for the layout back in its earliest days, and seeing it again made me realize it was a better fit than what I'd come up with in the interim. Together with the structures I'd swiped, I basically had almost everything I needed to wrap things up; I just had to rearrange the streets a little to make it all work. Which brought me to this:
1. Haber Manufacturing
*This lot has been occupied by numerous businesses since the layout's beginnings, including a used car dealership, a welding shop, a junkyard and a fuel oil distributor, among others. I've decided to leave it empty in order to avoid "overpopulating" the layout—to provide "negative space."
One thing I've found encouraging as I've been wrapping up structures: this new modeling style suits my diminished skills quite well; heavy weathering, acute decay and graffiti all hide a multitude of sins.
Time for Big Blue
Although the layout's physical setting is fictional, I prefer to avoid obvious modeling blunders such as using Penn Central in a modern temporal setting. Pulling the layout from the 1970s into the 1990s meant changing the railroad, and the most logical choice was Conrail—hence the addition to the page banner.
Incidentally, one may question calling a double-track line a "branch." Well, the Perth Amboy and Woodbridge was a short (only 6 miles) Pennsylvania Railroad-operated branchline in northeastern New Jersey, and it was double-track, so I can easily imagine this layout being an alternate-reality version of the PA&W, or something like it.
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