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Posted in Layout Designs by Rob Chant. (Last activity on Saturday, October 12, 2019 at 9:49:00 ADT.)

N SCALE: Central Alberta Railway (A Beginner's Layout)

Back in August of 2018, I had a request to do a prairie branch line in N-scale that had to include a simple grain elevator scene, and a small rural town scene. The client left it up to me the exact dimension of the layout, but he wanted it as small as possible. He also wanted Atlas code 55 track used, and he insisted on having a continuous run.

The initial design for the layout was inspired by an article in Model Railroader [June 1988, page 80] by Greg Panas titled "The Northeastern Alberta Rys." While the HO scale layout Greg depicted was even more minimal than the one I designed, it did provide a great deal of inspiration, both for scenery and operations.

I named the layout the Central Alberta Railway, a fictional short line that operated a marginal branch line cast off by Canadian National in Alberta. The layout represents two stations along the line some time during the 1980s. The small hamlet of Dakota is home to station and a grain elevator, and Mann Lake which is the end of the branch. There is a station, oil depot, lumber dealer, and a team track in Mann Lake, which must be switched at least three times per week.

The day starts with the small SW-9 leading a train of three or four cars, and a caboose. The train is made up by hand on the fiddle track, and enters the layout heading north (counter clockwise) to Mann Lake, passing through Dakota on its way. However, because of Dakota's facing point spur, all work at that station must wait for the return trip.

The train crew makes three and a half laps around the layout before reaching the end of the line at Mann Lake. The crew goes to work swapping empties for the loads it brought north. While the switching is pretty straight forward, it will take some time to make all the moves, and reassemble the train for the return trip.

Once the crew leave Mann Lake south bound (clockwise), they make one and a half laps before reaching Dakota again. More than likely the crew will need to pick up a load of grain at the elevator before completing their trip south. When the crew finishes the work, the train is reassembled and the train pulls out of town, making another two laps before heading back down the fiddle track to end the day.

Track Plan:

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Overall view of the Dakota side of the layout:

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Screen captures of the Dakota side of the layout:

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Overall view of the Mann Lake side of the layout:

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Screen captures of the Mann Lake side of the layout:

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TAGS: Design Feature: Beginner Layout, Theme: Branch Line Railway, Design Feature: Continuous Run Option, Design Feature: Fiddle Track, Layout Size: Mini Layouts, Canada (Provinces): Alberta, Articles: Operating Small Layouts


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