Track planning seems to be a sticking point for me. I’ve now planned the SP to YV interchange multiple times over the years, and getting it “right” is always a challenge.
I’ve previously shared what the 1st iteration of the interchange looked like as built. The second time planning was for an article in the Layout Design Journal, issue #56. Almost as soon as that issue was out, new information surfaced and because I’m now of the mindset that planning and building Merced is the best place to start the YV, here we are again.
The former Southern Pacific Lines station in Merced. Now in use as offices for the local park district, the YV trains would come here to pick up Pullman sleeping cars.
Before beginning to plan, I set some parameters for the initial attempts. My aim was to fit the interchange scene, highly compressed from what would be over 16’ of layout space if modeled to full scale, into a roughly 6’ space. I decided that I want to maintain the ability to operate Pullman Sleepers on the line, meaning the mainline curves need to be no less than 28” radius, and probably 30” or 32” would be more comfortable.
I should note that I’ve picked modeling Merced because of a number of reasons. First, Merced is where the YV ‘starts”. It’s were both connections to the rest of the world is, via the SP and the ATSF. Second, Merced has a lot of value with regard to switching. Both locals eventually work here, the daily passenger train works at Merced, and there are spots to load cars, unload cars, and turn equipment. Third, setting the scale with Merced will help me scale the rest of the railroad, determine what kind of compression I might employ.
The area to begin with at the SP interchange, includes a number of functions and tracks that I feel are important to model.
There are a couple of “must have” elements in this section of the railroad. First and foremost of course is the actual interchange with the SP. That track comes off the North/South SP mainline, passes in front of the SP Station at Merced, and then takes a slight bend to the East, running along side 16th Street in Merced. A spur comes off on YV territory, running back South and reaching the Merced Ice and Cold Storage Co. To the North, another line breaks off and has back to the SP lines just in front of the Golden State Creamery. The YV mainline runs then to the Northeast, crossing 16th Street, before reaching the YV station and freight house in the yard at Merced. It sounds complicated, but really, on YV property, this involves two turnouts is all.
In an article about how he approached modeling this area from the January 2010 Railroad Model Craftsman, Jack Burgess discussed his approach to the interchange. He only build a couple inches of the SP Station, and included some of the SP mainline, and then the spur to the Merced Ice and Cold Storage Co. He didn’t include the track that passes the creamery heading back for the SP line as the space didn’t allow for that.
Wes Swift’s Merced Ice and Cold Storage facility is in the foreground, while the SP mainline is in the far upper right corner heading behind the backdrop to where the SP station would have been.
Wes Swift approached the area in a similar fashion, focusing on the Merced Ice and Cold Storage and the lead into the YV yard, while including a short span of the SP mainline leading into staging instead of modeling the SP station.
My first attempt at building this area included room for the ic company, and room for a full-size model of the SP Station, along with a spur that would have gone past a partial model of the creamery, and room for two of the SP tracks along with a track intended to indicate the lead to the turn table that the SP had in the same area.
Now, however, I’m looking at how to approach this area somewhat differently. I want the function of the area to be the focus, and not necessary everything I included on the 1st plan will fit. Functionality involves some possible sacrifices when it comes to what structures to model, and I realized that if I model the YV trackage and leave out all the SP trackage except for the North-most return track past the creamery, I might be able to fit a better operating version of the interchange into my given space.
(Note: For a better idea of the layout of track at Merced, see Jack’s 2010 article, or his book, Trains to Yosemite, page 96 and 97.)
I stat down, then, with some of these thoughts and started to design on the Railmodeler Pro CAD program. The program is OK. It’s fairly easy to learn, but the track libraries are limited and it’s only going to give me a rough idea of what will fit before I move on to drawing on a large piece of paper with full size templates. At some point I need to move on from this software to a more versatile track planning program.
Design 1: This was designed for function only, it doesn’t follow the prototype track layout, but let me start getting comfortable in the 6′ space.
My first design, intended to fit in the 6’ space, was designed purely for the interchange and ice house function. I kept the curves to 30” radius on the right hand side for handling the Pullman’s, and also included only one turnout to reach Merced Ice. That turnout was reversed from the prototype in order to have everything run straight through from the interchange to the curve into the yard without having to run more than straight through the turnout. This basically shows I could get the function into the space, but it isn’t even close to what I had in my head when it comes to prototype-based track planning, so I moved on to version two.
Design 2: The lone turnout now matches the prototype, and I attempted to bend the
Design 3: We now have all the turnouts, but in order to fit in the space, I’ve had to angle everything, and the interchange tracks are short. The small piece of track in the upper right hand corner is intended as a dummy of the SP mainline.
Design 4: This version is getting closer to what I want to build, but the curve on the right hand side that heads to the YV yard is only a 22″ radius, meaning only freight trains would run here.
I tried a number of versions of the track plan intended to fit in a 6’ space, preserving the 30” radius headed toward the Merced Yard. I also tried one version with a 22” radius, in the event that giving up the Pullman service became an option.
Design 5: Now 8′ long, with the 30″ radius mainline curve, decently long interchange tracks, and a small space between the turnouts, this is the plan that I’ll move on to draw at full HO scale.
Eventually, I decided to try approaching the problem from a different angle. I had been planning as if the YV and SP interchange needs to be located at the entry to the room. I decided to plan as if the interchange didn’t need to be located at the entry, but could be on a different wall, expanding the space available from 6’ to 8’. This change was the key to the version of the track plan that I drew in my last drawing. The extra two feet let me eliminate close “S” curve in the track at the turnouts going into the curve to the East, and it let me have decently long tracks at the interchange for spotting freight or Pullman cars. While I’ve given up modeling the SP station in this plan, I can still have Pullman service. Either the Pullman can be spotted at the interchange, or a removable extension could be used to spot the Pullman on. Depending on how the rest of the lower deck of the whole layout turns out, its also possible that the Pullmans for the YV could be in a hidden staging track. There still is much to plan, but the interchange is first, and solving the issues with this area gives me confidence I can solve the other track planning challenges as they come.
With a plan that I like now in hand, I can proceed to drawing the plan at full scale on a large sheet of paper which will allow me to check sight lines and place some equipment on the track diagram to make sure everything will work in HO scale like it did on my screen.
Time to get back to work!