Mark IV, Part 1

Before I continue, understand that I’ve condensed the original website substantially, which
comprised nearly three hundred pages. After sifting though the archives, I concluded it was
overkill. Every aspect of the layout was dissected, examined and analyzed in excruciating
detail, as though it was some long-lost reincarnation of John Allen’s Gorre and Daphetid,
right down to all of the circuit diagrams and the origins of every structure, even including
the camera and settings used to capture each image! The intervening years have allowed
me to take a more objective look at what was perhaps a decent layout, but not a great
one, and certainly not one deserved of so much bandwidth. And now, on with the story...

After my previous defeat, I retreated to a more conventional concept, a simple L-shaped
shelf plan. I secured several heavy-duty shelf brackets to the walls, and placed two layers
of two-inch-thick foam insulation board onto the brackets. I sliced up more foam insulation
to create the subroadbed and, using a homemade hot wire carving tool, roughed-in basic
scenery shapes. The insulation sheets were laminated with Liquid Nails. After just a couple
of weekends, I was ready to lay track. With the introduction of Micro Engineering’s Code 55
turnouts around that time, I dropped my plans for handlaid track.

The track plan was conceptually the same as the previous version: a couple of simple
loops embellished with a small yard and some industrial sidings. For this layout’s theme,
I drew inspiration from some real-life settings, in particular the area around Three Bridges,
New Jersey. There, two lines—Lehigh Valley and the Jersey Central—traced parallel routes
across the middle of the state. One line was abandoned, and the other was (at the time)
Conrail. The Black River and Western, a nearby tourist line/freight carrier, interchanged
with Conrail at Three Bridges.

For my adaptation, the WR&N was headquarted in the fictional industrial town of Pennwell
(the name was a cross between Pennington and Hopewell, two New Jersey towns in which
I’d lived while growing up); Pennwell’s appearance was patterned after parts of Trenton,
where I’d attended college. The WR&N route comprised a former industrial spur of the
Lehigh, a Lehigh/CNJ interchange, and a stretch of abandoned CNJ mainline. Much like
its real-life counterpart in Ringoes, New Jersey, the WR&N terminus featured an engine
facility, a small passenger station, and some railroad artifacts—basically an assortment
of junk in various stages of restoration or deterioration.

Incidentally, this plan appears in Kalmbach’s 102 Realistic Track Plans. I'm flattered, to be
sure, but also totally perplexed, because it’s hardly a realistic plan!

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