September 2018 Update

September 5, 2018

They're all out working, clearly.

It’s been a busy summer on the railroad! My uncle visited in August and there’s nothing like a visiting dignitary to get you motivated.

The Roundhouse

One of the exciting parts about moving to HO scale was that I would be able to 1) afford and 2) have room for a roundhouse and turntable. I decided to make this one of my first projects on the railroad, despite the fact that this is one of the more complicated structures I expect to build. As if it weren’t a big enough project, I also decided to light the interior.

Making decisions is one of the hardest parts of model railroading, which is why I chose the roundhouse/turntable as my first project. Why? Because there’s very little to decide! Sure, you have to decide how many stalls (five) and what model manufacturer’s kit to go with (a vintage kit from Heljan), and what color temperature LEDs to buy (warm white). But more importantly and relevant to my point, there is really only one way for the roundhouse, turntable, and the track that connects them to be laid. In other words, it makes a good module to work on, because it doesn’t affect much outside of itself.

Quiet night in the roundhouse

I’ve still got a good bit o work to do yet (the undisguised wires are mercifully not visible in the above photo), but I’m happy enough with the progress that I’ve moved on to other things for now.

Filling out the roster

I’ve put a fair amount of time into researching operations on the Southern Railway’s Murphy Branch. For the uninitiated, I’ll translate: what trains were run on this railroad and what was their purpose? By answering these questions I can better model them, or at least be a little better informed if I decide to freelance the trains I run.

Passenger service on the Murphy Branch ended in 1948, but in the 1937 timetable there were a total of four passenger trains. Two eastbound and two westbound. Since my tentative plan is to model the 1940’s, four passenger trains a day sounds pretty good to me. As such I have begun to acquire a few pieces of “varnish”:

Southern Varnish

I was pretty happy to find these. The price was right and as far as I can tell they are a good match for the kind of coaches that were run on the Murphy Branch. Once I find some baggage cars I’ll be set.

I’ve also been thinking about how an operating session on the layout might work. How many people could it support? (probably four) How many trains would there be? Would a session be a day long, or half a day? How closely should I follow the employee timetable?


A lot of work has been going on elsewhere on the layout, including building a scenic divider between Bryson and the grade from “Asheville” (staging), roughing in mountains along that grade, hanging track lighting, building structure kits, and mocking up track layouts.

I’ve also been doing a fair amount of work beyond the Murphy Branch, helping out my friend Mark on his N scale Feather River Route, along with Rick, the Chief Signal Maintainer. If you’ve never worked on someone else’s layout you might think, “Hey bub, imagine what you could be getting done on your own railroad in that time!” The truth, however, is that working on someone else’s layout is so rewarding that it’s beyond worth it. Beyond the fun of working on something as part of a team, when you come back to your own pike you are inspired to do more, and sometimes we all are in need of a little inspiration and motivation. My uncle’s next visit won’t be for a while!