Panorama of part of Youngstown layout, during one of our working sessions. More scenery in evidence!

Youngstown

HO scale (3.5mm / foot). DCC Gaugemaster Prodigy Advance ™ with up to 4 cabs in use. Analogue control of switches (points) and remote uncouplers.

This  freelance layout is nominally based on Youngstown Ohio, USA. It is a large continuous run layout, designed for operator and viewer interest. It incorporates 3 areas where switching (shunting) takes place, plus a main line which showcases impressive block trains and passenger services. It is mostly based on the Chesapeake and Ohio (C&O) system, but with a considerable amount of modeller’s licence.

Set in the late 1960’s to early 1980’s, we run a wide range of locomotives and rolling stock from a variety of railroads, with many different liveries on show.

Rio Grande Railroad loco 5933 leads a block coal train around the curve into Youngstown Station
Rio Grande Railroad loco 5933 leads a block coal train around the curve into Youngstown Station

Having chosen the location at random, we then learnt that the real Youngstown had many miles of freight sidings, at least 6 different railroads (some narrow-gauge), 3 or more steel-works and many other related industries either supplying the steel industry or using its by-products. During the period modelled, it also had major problems with organised crime, corruption and pollution. Diplomatically, we chose not to try to model all of these latter three aspects. The first version of the backscene (plain dark grey) was probably not too far from the atmospheric conditions of the time!

Clearly the size and scale of the prototype presented a dilemma, which we solved by deciding not to try to make a representational model, but rather to give the flavour of American railroading. We chose a North American prototype because we knew nothing about it, seeing it as an opportunity to learn something new. Most members of the Team have UK-outline layouts at home, so this is quite a change.

This is a large layout, as can be seen in the following image, taken at one of our annual Open Days-

Youngstown layout
Youngstown layout

We have a dedicated track and loading ramp for TOFC (Trailer on Flat Car (Piggy-back)) services, which run as high speed priority freight traffic (so-called “Hot-shots”).

TOFC (Trailer on Flat Car) intermodal train being made up ready for departure
TOFC (Trailer on Flat Car) intermodal train being made up ready for departure

Seeing one of our long block coal trains of up to 30 x 100ton hopper cars running through the passenger depot (station) and past the industrial areas and classification yard makes quite an impression. Even this is a poor shadow of the real thing, where trains 2 miles long are common!

Freight and passenger trains have to recess (take a loop line) in order to pass on the single-track main line.

RDCs (Rail Diesel Cars) provide a local passenger service and Amtrak national passenger trains call at the local depot.

We have a variety of industrial locations and activities to justify meaningful switching movements, including a chemical works and warehousing. One switcher (shunting locomotive) is used in each of the Industrial and Classification yards. Overall it means that there is almost always meaningful movement on the layout, and frequently at least two things happening all the time. We think that this is important as part of the performance aspect of exhibiting is to entertain our visitors.

Locomotives switching (shunting) adjacent to the chemical works
Locomotives switching (shunting) adjacent to the chemical works

Thanks to the range of skills in the Team, we have been able to learn a lot from each other, as well as

  • Building and install DCC plug-in stations around the layout for about £2.00 each (2016 prices) (LINK TO DIAGRAM)
  • Install an always-ready capacitor bank to power route-switching, which is more efficient than using a commercial CDU (Capacitor Discharge Unit)
  • Doing DCC hard-wire decoder installs, including some quite difficult ones
  • Fine-tuning DCC decoders after installation
  • Using laptop power supplies for points (switches) and remote uncouplers for reliability and low initial and replacement cost
Baltimore & Ohio SD45 locomotive passes the chemical works hauling an intermodal train
Baltimore & Ohio SD45 locomotive passes the chemical works hauling an intermodal train

We have not tried to model the C&O signalling system, mainly because no-one  here can understand it. From what we have learnt about grade signals, siding signals, train order systems, CTC (Centralised Train Control) and authorities for trains to pass signals at red subject to direction of travel and weight of train, and all the rest, it is all too confusing. So, if you can explain this subject, please come and enlighten us!

This YouTube video shows one of our early working sessions, when we were track laying-