Penn Central Stockton Branch

Chapter 3: Evolution of a Plan

I tend to keep most of the sketches I make as I work on a plan for a couple of reasons.
First, it provides checkpoints to which I can return if I feel my editing has gone astray.
And second, it offers insight into the evolutionary stages through which a plan progresses,
although this is, to be sure, a purely academic exercise once the layout is under way.

Gregg Mahlkov's Apalachicola Northern; Gregg Mahlkov photo.

Tribute version. Click to see track parts.

Because it started out as a “tribute” layout, the initial draft was as faithful to the source
as it could possibly be using Kato Unitrack. However, it’s quite difficult for me to leave
anything alone (which should come as no surprise to some readers). The first thing I did
was address what I perceived as some awkward arrangements of buildings and scenic
features, such as the large passenger station cocked on an angle at the siding on the
lower level. This continued for a few iterations until I broke down and started messing
with the track plan itself, mostly because I felt it could use a runaround. Once that
happened, it ceased being a “tribute” layout and instead became a “DKS adaptation.”
After several more variations, I finally arrived at something I felt like building.

A DKS adaptation.

Fast-forward two and a half years, and now I am—quite unexpectedly—adapting my own
adaptation. This began with much wrist-wringing, which I alluded to earlier, over how I’d
have preferred to build the layout. I did restore the coal trestle siding that I’d removed at
the last minute before I began construction, and I realigned a couple of other sidings to
accommodate new buildings. Beyond these zero-cost tweaks, I spent my time wrestling
with the arrangement of buildings and streets.

After about a week of pushing pixels around the screen, I declared draft RC9e the “final
final,” although there were many more changes yet to come; compare the plan above with
the one below, which shows how things were actually built. (As I’ve learned first-hand,
this is not unlike building a house: there’s the architectural plan, and then there’s the
“as built” version. They’re nearly always different—sometimes radically.)

As-built. Click to see track parts.

A possibly interesting sidebar, as if anyone really cares: both plans utilize nothing but stock
Unitrack parts—no custom or modified pieces were employed (the one exception being the
coal trestle in the Penn Central version). Furthermore, there are no “cheater” (expanding)
track sections, and there’s a bare minimum of little filler pieces. I did this for two reasons:
one, since it was originally intended to be a tutorial layout, it made the plan accessible to
more modelers; and two, it was a fun challenge.

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