PMRR Hazel Mine - Layout Design
03/10/2017
Almost all model railroaders want to have plenty of space to model a chosen area without any compromises. I am no different. Of course, we all have our restraints. These are any combination of time to devote to the hobby, space in which to set up our layout, money to spend on a pastime, and to some extent creativity to help come up with unique solutions to these constraints.
Self-examination
What is it that I really want out of this hobby? At first, I wanted to try out the hobby, to see if I liked it. I concluded that I did, very much so to the exclusion of other hobbies (woodworking, electronics, audio/video, cars; although these have their own places with the railroad modeling hobby). Next, I was convinced that I wanted to have continuous-running, so that I could run my trains for extended periods of time, as a form of relaxation after a stressful day or to entertain visitors. About 30 minutes after I got the trains running on such a layout, I got bored! Then I got into operating a few times per year at local layouts and learned about that. I really enjoyed switching duties (moving cars around onto different tracks). After several false starts in N-scale, I finally built my first true switching layout in S-scale, and I really enjoyed it for 7 years. All the while that yearning of wanting to model a scaled-down version of the real thing kept nagging in the back of my mind. I also started examining where I actually spent most of my time when I am involved in the hobby, especially during this last layout. It turned out that operations was a very small fraction of it. What I actually enjoyed doing the most was "building".
Do What You Love!
What I really enjoy doing is taking some basic raw materials and shaping and forming them into models that can be displayed, and in the case of locomotives and cars, be run and operated. I enjoy building the layout's framework out of wood, building the track out of its raw components (ties, tie plates, rail), building the equipment (freight cars so far, but passenger cars, and eventually steam locomotives will come in the future), building structures, and creating and super-detailing scenery. I have always enjoyed those beautiful museum displays, whether animated or not. The craftsmanship that goes into building something believable has always been fascinating to me. So, if those are the activities that I enjoy doing and (most of the time) find relaxing, then that is what I should do within this hobby. The end result of this effort is a 3D representation of what I had in my head.
Sectional Design
Since about the year 2000, I have been involved in modular railroading. I was involved in a modular N-scale club for a couple of years, and now I am involved in the local modular S-scale club. Modules are an effective way to transport and set up a relatively large layout fairly quickly. Of course, these layouts are used to entertain the show's visitors. However, the idea can also work effectively in a private, home layout. A modular (conforms to some standard) or sectional (arbitrary shapes and sizes) layout is easy to move (either within the home, or to another house), and could potentially be taken to local train shows or be sold off. A more traditional layout that is built like a fortress inside of a room or basement is all but destined for a landfill when it is no longer wanted. I will be using the word "sectional" throughout, because my diorama will not conform to any modular standard.
Back to the Hazel Mine
So, with that background in mind, I decided that I wanted to model a true 1:64 scale replica of the Canonsburg Hazel Mine and its immediate surroundings. I want to do this in a sectional fashion, so that I can take it apart and take it with me in case of a move. I also want this to be "permanent", meaning, I am tired of throwing layouts away. Finally, in my ideal world, I would like to have a scaled-down version of the entire 23-mile PRR Chartiers Branch line in a dedicated building some time in the future (dream big!). So, the Hazel Mine layout is going to be a diorama that may be integrated into this larger layout down the road.

February 04, 2017

Area Schematic
The diagram below is from a Sanborn map dated November 1913. The space of the diagram scales out to be 4' by 8' in S-scale. I purposely kept the slightly rotated angle of the tipple on the right, such that most of the track work does not parallel the front edge of the layout (which is the top edge in this diagram). Yet, the orientation allows for the complete capture of all the main structures around the tipple, a good chunk of the Chartiers creek in the back of the layout, and even a bit of the Fort Pitt Bridge Works buildings (the gray rectangles in the lower-left corner). The track is still toward the front of the layout (for easy reach), and most all of the buildings will completely fit within the modeled space, including the mine entrance (in the lower-right corner of the diagram). Also shown in the diagram are two vertical orange lines. These represent the dividing lines of the individual sections. For this diorama, all will be 4 feet deep. The one on the left will be 34.5" wide, the center one will be 25.5" wide, and the right one will be 36" wide. Once the sections are built and have structures on them, they will need to be carried by two people, and they cannot be more than a total of 29" tall, for them to still fit through a regular interior house door (at an angle). However, my estimate is that none of the structures will be that tall.

March 10, 2017

Design Diagrams
This time I want to build a complete CAD drawing of the entire project, so that I can think through all the steps to making this new layout/diorama, and so that I can share with you what is in my head. This first screen capture is of the three sections' core framework. In the diagram the corners are butt-jointed, but in reality I want to make mitered corners, glued together with wood glue and biscuits. For now, the sections will be set up in the center of my room, so three of the four sides will be visible. I am thinking about applying stain and lacquer to the plywood to make the diorama look like a nice piece of furniture. This, and subsequent diagrams, are inverted from the Sanborn diagram above, because they are shown as viewed from the front of the layout (the normal viewing angle). So, the coal tipple building will be on the section on the left-hand side. As stated above, the section on the left is 36" (91cm) wide and 48" (122cm) deep, the middle one is 25.5" (65cm) wide and 48" deep, and the right is 34.5" (88cm) wide and 48" deep.