I’ve been working on Susquehannock Industrial Park for over six years now, not counting a few additional years spent sketching designs, and a few decades idly thinking about the project. Hey, you can’t rush these things.
Flashback: sometime in the 1970s
I am sitting in the basement of my parents’ home, flipping through Dad’s back issues of Model Railroader. Track-plan articles are my favorites; I love tracing those thick, black lines as they wend their way through gridded pink landscapes. The November ’72 issue has a special treat: “Five Layouts in Ten Pages.” Here are plans for a sectional club layout, a couple of home empires, an N scale starter table, and…what’s this? A “Timesaver?” I’ve never heard of a switching puzzle before. It’s a layout on a small board, with just six turnouts, and no capability for continuous running. Does that even count as a railroad? It sure looks intriguing, and it’s by John Allen, the guy with that spectacular floor-to-ceiling scenery.
I have got to build this thing someday.
Thirty years later…
I am running N scale trains on my Gopher Valley Central, and enjoying it immensely, but feeling as though I’m missing out on something. Sure, the layout includes a few spurs and a short runaround, but with hardly any level track, and sharp curves everywhere, it’s really not made for switching. A spur on the front corner of the railroad is built in such a way that it could handily serve as a main line extension, but how shall I go about extending the railroad? And what shall I extend it to…?
A Timesaver, perhaps?
Another decade (and a bunch of T-Trak modules) after that…
After much contemplation, pencil-chewing, and second-guessing, my long-anticipated Timesaver is taking physical shape as a T-Trak module called “Susquehannock Industrial Park.” Bear with me here as we run down the list of design features.
- First and foremost, it’s a Timesaver. I’ve had to make some adjustments to the original design. John Allen built his in HO, with handlaid track, to accommodate 40-foot freight cars with Baker couplers. I’m building with commercial N scale track, for my mixture of 40- and 50-foot cars with magnetic couplers. Tracks are a little longer, so that they retain the original car capacities, and spaced out a little more, to handle the next feature.
- Each spotting location has an actual industry for its type of car. The original Timesaver dispensed with such frivolities as industrial structures—boxcars were spotted on a particular siding solely because it had a label reading “boxcars.” In keeping with my modelling philosophy of “reasonable plausibility,” I wanted to include actual buildings, and I spent a considerable amount of time deciding what should go where.
- It’s also a T-Trak module. At four times the length of a normal T-Trak straight module, it’s a big one, to be sure, but it’s still quite portable by modular-railroad standards. When it’s being operated as a standalone switching layout, the main lines are capped off at the ends with Kato Unitrack bumpers. There is just enough track on the eastbound (front) main line to hold a roadswitcher and one 50-foot car, which enables both mains to be used as sidings. In order to accomplish that, I had to bend “reasonable plausibility” enough to put a double-slip switch on a rural American main line. Yeah, I know, double-slips were hardly ever seen outside big-city passenger terminals, but it was the only way I could get the job done.
- It has a working, 10-lever mechanical interlocking. A busy-looking double-track main deserves proper control and signalling, right? This seemed like a good opportunity to work such a feature into a railroad. I had originally planned to use Hump Yard Purveyance‘s beautiful levers, but an opportunity arose to salvage some handmade ones from a railroad being dismantled. That big rectangular hole up front awaits their installation. Once they’re in, they get connected to an interlocking frame built following Gordon Odegard’s article in the February ’61 Model Railroader (and revisited in Jeff Wilson’s book, The Model Railroader’s Guide to Junctions).
- It’s done in solid red oak, with a curved front fascia. Remember, it’s “furniture railroads” around here!
Progress has been hampered every step of the way. I was months sourcing all of the Peco code 55 track components I needed (this was before internet access arrived in our household). I temporarily attached track to a piece of flakeboard with double-stick tape and ran it like that for a year. I waited another year to obtain those handmade interlocking levers, as the seller meticulously dismantled a railroad he’d spent thirty years building. With all the pieces in hand, I spent months refining the design, and more months fabricating the fascias and deck (in 15-minute chunks of lunch-break time at work). I misplaced the double-slip switch (the single most critical piece of track), and didn’t find it again for half a year. Other projects intervened. Nearly seven years after I first picked up a tool to work on this project, it’s still raw wood and cork, without a trace of scenery.
So what? I can run trains on it. It’s been a most enjoyable project. Plenty more enjoyment awaits me.