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Posted in Layout Designs by Rob Chant. (Last activity on Thursday, June 11, 2020 at 11:02:00 ADT.)

HO SCALE: Great Divide Railway & Mining Company

I spent the last few weeks designing this layout for a client that wanted to model a freelanced iron-ore hauling railway in Australia. The total length of the fictional line would be roughly 90kms from the coastal port to the ore concentrator located in the mountains, and would be based loosely on the Western Australia Pilbara operation.

Map of Line:

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Along with an ore holding yard and the export operation, the facility at Port Mourilyan also has a fuel loading siding to supply the mine via a short unit tank train along with loading for chemicals to the mine. We also allowed for the loading of mine equipment via a team track near the mining warehouse in the main yard located in Mourilyan.

The yard at Mourilyan is also the location of the state-of-the-art locomotive maintenance centre that keeps the line's small roster of Downer Rail built GT46C ACe at peak performance for the long, steep climb up the mountainside. This yard is also the site of the company's open-air car repair shop that maintains the fleet of 26-foot ore cars and keeps equipment downtime costs to a minimum.

GT46C ACe Motove Power:

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After leaving Mourilyan, the line makes its way through some compulsory sugar cane fields that would be common along this part of the railway. To tie the line into the real world, the railway crosses over the North Coast Line which is part of the state's narrow-gauge network and also has a port facility along the coast.

Once over the former government rail-line, the scenery starts to transition into more vegetation and water crossings as it snakes its way through the Johnstone River Valley and heads further up into the mountains. About mid-way along this journey, the railway maintains a ballast quarry and passing siding in the small locality of Coorumba. This is also the site of one of the many RIP tracks, where failed rolling stock can be set-off for any needed running repairs.

Once the trains cross the Palmerston Highway to continue its westward journey, the scenery starts to get even more rugged and dramatic as the 2.2% climb continues. The line soon encounters the first of several tunnels bored into the volcanic slate along this part of the route.

Once the trains pass over the 100-foot high curved trestle spanning the tree-lined gorge at Maalan, the scenery becomes almost breath-taking as the line clings to the side of a sheer rock face. Only several hundred meters after exiting the railway's second tunnel, the line crosses in front of a waterfall on a 300-foot long bridge; one of the longest spans on the line.

About two kilometers past the waterfall, the ore-hauler finally comes to Ravenshoe which is the location of the line's biggest ore-concentrator, and the turn-around point for the mainline trains. This last station on the line is also the junction point of a branch line that continues southwest to serve another of the company's online ore-mines.

Magnetite iron-ore is mined at a nearby strip mine at Ravenshoe and trucked to the concentrator where it is processed into pellets before being loaded into ore cars for the journey to port. The load-out for the concentrator is built on a balloon loop that circles around the huge complex and then under the three flood loaders.

There is also a rotary dumper house that unloads ore-cars incoming from the other mines in the area served by the branch line trains. The complex also has another RIP track, a load-out siding for fuel and chemical unloading, along with a crane for equipment to the mine, and another spur track that serves the mining warehouse.

Although the layout was designed to host as many as 4 or 5 people, it would most usually just be the layout owner operating trains over the line. Since my client wanted this to be his "forever layout" I also included a few options for expansion. He has either the choice of expanding up to a second level using a three loop helix that could be located behind the curved trestle scene if needed, or to continue in a bigger room on a single level layout by wrapping around another peninsula by the door, and continuing the mainline further southwest to more mines.

Overall, this layout came together very nicely and it was an absolute joy doing the 3D treatment, and seeing the final scenery and structures taking shape. The thing I like most about the plan (besides the big, prototypical structures) is the way the scenery transitions from the relatively flat lands near the coast then subtly gets more and more dramatic as the tracks climb through the valley, across the gorge, then pass the waterfall. I think it will easily be a very visually impressive layout with some great operating potential as well.

Track Plan:

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Overall Views of the Layout:

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Trip over the line from Port Mourilyan to Ravenshoe:

Port Mourilyan:

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North Coast Line crossing Scene:

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Johnstone River Valley:

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Coorumba (Ballast Quarry):

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Maalan (Curved Trestle Scene):

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Waterfall Scene:

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Ravenshoe (Ore Concentrator):

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Return trip from Ravenshoe to Port Mourilyan:

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TAGS: Theme: Industrial Railway, Layout Size: Large Layouts, Theme: Mining, Theme: Scenic (Bridges), Other: Australia, Types of Industries: Ore Concentrator

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