Well, it appears that I'll be doing a bit more than I anticipated...
First, since I needed a couple of small supplies, I decided to check out another hobby store I "found." Pretty much every hobby store is about 45 minutes or more from me at this point, so I thought it would be nice to check out something new. As it turns out, this one appeared to be in somebody's house, and when we tried to call there was no answer. So, no hobby store. But we were close to the MA border by that point, and it would have been more than an hour to get down to Wolcott and the Hobby Gallery (the only hobby store "nearby" that has detail parts in stock).
So we decided try Tucker's Hobbies in Warren, MA. Everybody kept telling me I had to go check it out. Although it wasn't quite what I expected, they had a great supply of detail parts in stock. So it was a trip worth making, although I'll have to plan ahead, and perhaps call in an order before I head up that way again, since it's over an hour. I always seem to forget to order something, and it appears they are the most likely to have what I need in stock.
I also picked up a Bowser covered hopper. So I'm making some modifications to bring it up to the approriate level of detail. I've decided I much prefer to work on a craftsman-style kit than to scrape parts off of an existing model. There is an Intermountain model in pre-production right now that looks great, although I'll need to make a few modifications to that as well, it appears.
I also have one of the Eastern Car Works depressed center flat cars on the way. This will be a good starting point for either a 17050- or 17060-series flat. It's a model of a 36'-long car, and the prototypes are 36'8" and 37'6" respectively.
I still plan on ordering a model for a 17300-series flat as well, either the Sunshine or Protowest one. So I'll be working on completing some of the less common cars on the roster.
I also picked up one of the Athearn RS-3 locomotives. It's a nice model, although there are a number of modifications to make. One area that needs work is the plow, and I think the Atlas one is a bit more accurate in this regard. I'm working on a closer study of both to identify the differences between them, as well as the accuracy. I don't have an Atlas one yet, but I may pick one up if I can't discern what I need in the pictures. Note that the Atlas one is not currently available in a New Haven paint scheme, and has not been released in the delivery scheme at all.
LayoutI'm working on a new plan for the layout, again. Our planned move may not happen as soon as we thought, due to a few complications, so I'm going to start working on a new layout here. We've also decided to stop pretending that we're going to use the basement for other uses, so I'll have a full 10' x 20' area to work with, plus another small area if need be.
While I've still considered a multi-level layout, I want to avoid a crawl-under design. I'll need to provide some sort of a lift-out or door to access the center of the room, since that is the operating section of the layout. So the current plan is to model the station/arcade area, and the Highland Line west through Stanley Works. All three of the lines (Highland east & west, and the Berlin line) will go to semi-hidden staging. The Berlin line will be at the same level as the main layout, hidden in the Stanley Works buildings. There will also be a semi hiddne track that completes a loop for continuous running. The remaining staging will be beneath the layout, but doesn't have to be low enough for scenicking. The lower level staging will also complete a loop for continuous running.
The Berlin Line will complete a continous running line around the top level only. The Hartford/Waterbury line will complete a longer run for continuous running utilizing the second level, so the trains will be passing a different intervals. I can also allow slow trains to run through this loop while running alone, while doing the local switching.
I'll still need to do a 2-level entrance of some sort, but the staging doesn't have to be at as low a level, nor will it have as many tracks crossing the opening. How I get the trains to the lower level is the question right now. I'd like to stick with a maximum of about a 2% grade. I would prefer to avoid a helix, partially due to the reduced radius and increased grade as a result. But the bigger factor is that the lines that enter the helix are both double-tracked main, which complicates things more.
So my next option is an around-the-room helix.
Version one of the around-the-room helix gives me the most room to work with for the lower level staging in the location I want. The problem is that the two mainlines are decending in the opposite directions, and each will need to circle the entire room once. This again makes things a little more complicated.
Version two is a turnback on one of the mainlines, so both tracks can descend side-by-side. In addition, I could reduce the trackage to a single double-tracked main, instead of having it 4 tracks wide. The only real problem with this design is that the turnback is over the location where I want the staging, reducing access slightly, or the length of the tracks. In addition, I have to add a second loop under the turnback to maintain continuous running. The turnback and loop would both extend outside of the layout room itself, so it will not interfere with the rest of the layout or operation.
The only major difference that this layout will have from my intended layout is that it will not feature the Berlin Line at all. All traffic to the Berlin Line will be handled off-layout by the dispatcher (usually me), and the Hartford/Waterbury staging will be immediately below that so all off-line activity will happen in one place (which is outside the main operating section of the layout, and hidden from their view).
I expect that I will still have at least 3 jobs plus the dispatcher, that could potentially support 3 two-person teams:
The yard switcher. One of the local 44-tonners that handles the switching on the Highland Line.
HDX-5. This is the only local freight, and will also switch the same industries as the yard switcher.
Through trains. This includes passenger and freight. All of the Hartford-based or bound trains will dropp off and pick up cars here.
The dispatcher will move cars "dropped" at the Whiting Street Yard by the New Haven trains to the Commercial Street Yard. He will also pick up cars dropped there by trains bound for Berlin Line industries. He is also responsible for all trains entering or leaving staging, and will switch locomotives and hacks to their new trains to ready them to enter the layout.
The center aisle will be somewhere between 30" and 60" wide, depending on how I decide to model the PF Corbin factory on Myrtle Street.
Sketches and details to follow, and I hope to start building the benchwork relatively soon (and reuse as much of the existing benchwork as possible). The method of constructing the benchwork is still undecided as well, although I'm leaning towards re-using as much of the OSB that I used for the last layout, along with foam and homasote or cork roadbed.