The PRR Chartiers Branch - Progress Report - 2015-10 Report
10/16/2015
10/16/2015
The updates to this layout were getting fewer and farther apart. That's a sign. After 7 years, 2 months, and 3 weeks (exactly), it is time to say farewell to this layout. I have no problem with parting with a layout and starting over again. The layout was operating fine. So why the change? It is essentially still a freelance layout, and over the past 7 years I have really become much more interested in true prototype modeling. I have always wanted to make more of a museum-style layout. The problem was that I could never figure out how to do that, until earlier in 2015. I have actually been thinking about this for over a year now, so this is not a rash decision, for sure. See my next project for all the details of the new plan, but I am still going to be modeling the same area, in the same era, in the same scale, and in the same room.

Structures and trees will be removed from the layout and re-used in the next project. The electronics and the Tortoise switch machines will, of course, be re-used as well. The sheets of plywood from which the layout's bases were made will be salvaged and re-cut to become the vertical boards for the new modules' framework. The vertical backdrops will be re-cut to become the fascia panels for the new layout. Scenery shell, sub-roadbed, and rail will be trashed. So, very little of it will go to the landfill.

So, let's take one last look at the current state of the layout before it is demolished. This first photo shows about 75% of the entire layout (the room isn't big enough for me to step far enough away from it to get it all in one photo). Be sure to take a look at the Layout Overview page to see a panoramic shot of the entire layout, taken on the same day.
2015-10 Report
We will start the tour on the right-most side of the layout. The train is on a track that would have continued beyond the layout (if there had been additional space available). The foreground track is a switching lead for the industries in the town of Canonsburg, PA.
2015-10 Report
The first scenic feature is the two-lane road crossing the tracks. The two crossing gates (the other one is obscured by the box cars) were never hooked up, so they served as a scenic element only.
2015-10 Report
The structures in Canonsburg are coming into view.
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Here's a long view of the entire right-hand side of the layout.
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The barber shop was the latest addition to the layout, although it was never completed. The interior still needs to be added, and interior lighting needs to be installed. The structure will be re-used in the next layout.
2015-10 Report
To the left of the barber shop is this view. It shows the team track in the foreground where two guys are still working on moving boxes around from the recent shipment they've received. In the background, the white building is the back of the Russian Brotherhood Organization (a national fraternal organization), which I scratchbuilt from a photo. The factory in the back corner was also scratchbuilt, complete with interior lighting. All three of these structures will be preserved, because I may be able to use them in the next layout, as either a stand-in until the prototype copy has been built, or as a stand-in for an unknown building. The white building is pretty accurate to the one in Canonsburg, so I plan on using it as-is when I get around to modeling that part of Canonsburg.
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A close-up shot of the team track. I really enjoyed building and decorating this scene. I would move things around from time to time, so that the next time I took a photo that included this scene, things would look different.
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The factory has in interior light in the covered area (not visible in this photo), and a light above the two visible doors. An employee just got off of his motorbike, walked up the stairs, and is about to enter his place of employment, but he looks back and gets a glimpse of the freight train coming by.
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This was another one of my favorite scenes.
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Although everything is static in this scene, there is activity suggested by the two gentleman discussing something. It is obvious the one guy must be a customer or potential customer, as he has just stepped out of his car (door is still open). The structure is especially significant to me, because it was the first S-scale "anything" I ever made in my life. It was scratchbuilt based on the PRR section house drawings, and I built it to get a feel for just how big S-scale is compared to the N-scale world from which I hailed.
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The train then crosses over one of two bridges. The Chartiers creek is modeled here, although its position is completely wrong as to where it would have been in the real Canonsburg.
2015-10 Report
After crossing the bridge, the center section of the layout is completely "wild". I wanted to give the illusion of distance traveled in this area, and I wanted to incorporate an s-curve in the track plan, which are always photogenic.
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Traveling through the s-curve.
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Here's a higher-up, helicopter view of the area just covered.
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Turning further to the left, the engine is now moving through the other end of the s-curve.
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The creek in the foreground was a really good idea, because I have been able to get a lot of good photos from this angle over the years.
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The abandoned car body was one I found on eBay, as you see it in the photo, so I just planted it there.
2015-10 Report
There are a lot of scenic elements in this corner of this layout. The track had an insanely tight curve here, right where the engine and the first box car sit in this photo. It was so tight as a matter of fact, that my RS-1 could never pull any freight cars through it without them derailing. The NW2 did fine. One or two freight cars would bump corners with each other, so I had to always make sure that a long car was put next to shorter one. One of the club members brought his AM 4-6-2 over one day, and it derailed each time it got to this corner. Since the viewer saw this corner from the inside, it wasn't visually too offensive, but nonetheless I tried to hide it with lots of bushes and trees. The engine is about to cross the second bridge over the Chartiers creek. The switching lead in the lower center of the photo needed a 3-inch extension over the creek to have it be long enough for one engine and one car, so I scratchbuilt that small trestle bridge. It worked great.
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The train is now entering Washington, PA. To its right was a lumber yard/hardware store. The lumber storage shed was built and has interior lighting, but I never got around to building the main store building. This view shows almost the entire length of the left-hand side of the layout.
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To the right of the lumber storage shed was the B.T.S. kit of Greeley's that I built for the 2013 NASG Convention in Scranton. I built a road leading from the hardware store parking lot.
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The RS-1 sits in part of a run-around track, which was essential to being able to do switching work in this space. The RS-1 pretty much stayed in this area, because it was needed for some of the more complex switching work that was done here. The Canonsburg area could be handled completely by the NW2 by itself, but here it needed help.
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The only animation I had built into the layout was this track gate for O'Brien's. A Tortoise switch motor was used to open and close the gate.
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The train moves through Washington.
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About half of the O'Brien siding is shown here.
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The train moves past O'Brien and toward the end-of-the-line.
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I put this tunnel portal (absolutely no match to anything resembling the prototype here at all) in the Masonite side wall to hide the more functional part of the end of the line.
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An interesting shot back into the layout from "inside the tunnel".
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This scratchbuilt bridge was used to transfer the train to a 2'x4' module I used to have in the room's closet. When the space in the closet needed to be re-purposed for storing "stuff", the module had to go. However, this 2-foot bridge acts as the other lead for the Washington area's run-around track, so it had to stay. I used heavy-duty chain to hold the other end up. I never had a problem with it; it always worked great. But, then again, I never left any equipment sitting on it when I was done operating. This bridge will be preserved and I will use it as my charging track for the engines' internal batteries.
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We close with three overall photos of the layout. Excuse the mess in the center of the room as I was already starting to prepare for the layout's removal in these photos. This first photo shows the right-hand side, and the room's door.
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This is the center section.
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And this is the left-hand side, with the 2-foot bridge partially visible. I have really enjoyed this layout. It is sad to say goodbye to an old friend, but it is time to make a new one!
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After spending a day taking photos and videos of the layout, demolition day has arrived. Since this layout was built out of modules, I had already cut the tracks between the modules a number of years ago. Over a year ago I installed these oak strips along the bottom of the fascia. I didn't make them to fit individual modules, because I didn't want to see a gap in them. It was easy enough to cut them at the module borders.
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The scenery shell had to then be cut. It took a bit of creative use of some tools and several different saw types, but I was able to cut them where I could.
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When I attached these modules' bases to the cabinets underneath, I had documented on this web site where I had located those screws. The longer modules had three screws and the 2-foot one had two screws. All were on the front of the module only. So I used a hole saw to drill a hole in the scenery base right above the screw, which then allowed me to remove it.
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I then disconnected all the wiring above the modules (behind the top fascia panels), and started removing the modules.
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Here's the first one turned around. As you can see, layout wiring came from above to the bottom where the layout base is, and it was then routed into the layout base. The backdrop was made out of 1/8" Masonite glued to strips of plywood. These strips were screwed to the layout base. So, here I am getting ready to remove those screws.
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There was some minimal glue here and there between the backdrop and module, but the backdrop popped off easily once the screws were removed.
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I then switched to the other side and removed that module in the same manner.
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Up next was the small 2-foot module.
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The two modules in the center were the hardest. That was because they were fitted to almost the exact width of the room. First I cleared a path through the forest by removing some trees. I also cut the wires of the telephone/telegraph lines. This then allowed me to cut through the scenery base.
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It took a lot of effort, but I was eventually able to get the left one loose. With about a 1/4" of clearance to the wall, I just kept wiggling it until it broke free.
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The hardest part was the creek. Over the years I kept adding layers of EnviroTex and gloss medium to build up the creek. It was also in between blocks of wood. It took a lot of elbow grease to cut through all of that. Here's a profile shot of the creek. You can just make out the rocks at the bottom of the creek. I put a bunch of plaster down the gap between the modules to keep the EnviroTex from draining in between them.
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With all of the modules moved to the garage, I took this photo (the 2-foot module didn't fit on the workbench). Here is about 30 square feet of layout. It actually looked kind of neat in person.
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Here's a low angle of 6 feet of scenery (depth-wise).
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One by one I unbolted and moved the 10 cabinets out of the room. I left whatever was in them in there, which made some of them incredibly heavy, but it saved the time of emptying them and reloading them later on.
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With all the cabinets moved out, I was left with the toe-kick ladders.
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And then, after 7+ years, the room was empty again. It took me almost 8 hours of hard work to get to this state (including food breaks).
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