Cramming Action Into a Tight Space
Small Layout Industry: Caspian Woolen Mill –
To begin with I think I should point out that my main layout is very small, 42X24 inches, that doesn’t leave a lot of room for industry (1). It is somewhat based on Enfield, NH and one side features lake-side scenery and a rock cut, while the other side features the ersatz Enfield (which is thus far unnamed). While most of the “town” is consumed with a passing siding at the passenger station and a spur for the freight depot and a feed store, the other part of town is occupied by Caspian Mills (an industry inspired by Baltic Mills which was a real woolen mill located in Enfield).
The problem was how to get some switching into an industry that had to be crammed into the interior space of what is basically a slightly expanded 180 deg. curve based on 9 ¾ in. radius Snap-Track. Fortunately, the real mill not only received and generated various freight cars used for woolen production, but it also had a coal fired power plant that at one point also provided electric lighting for the town of Enfield. I loved the idea of moving 34’ coal cars around, as I already had a good selection of those, but I also liked the fact that a power plant would allow me to switch something that wasn’t a 40’ or 50’ box car. I had planned the mountains and other scenery around the buildings I wanted to have in town, but everything still ended up being very cramped so that prevented me from putting the power plant on its own spur. Of course the only option left to me was to have the same spur serve the needs of the power plant and the mill’s woolen traffic. While I am now limited to only one box car in or out of the mill at any given time, I can serve both requirements of the mill by moving the woolens and ensuring a good supply of power to the industry and town.
Obviously, the mill isn’t finished and neither is this portion of my layout, but I think the idea is clear and I have done some operating to check for function. Because there is only a passing siding and a spur on the other side of town (the spur is normally occupied by less than carload traffic to the depot) there aren’t a lot of places to stick the box car while the coal hopper is switched… normally this means occupying the main but that isn’t an issue since, with one operator and DC power, there is only one train being run at a time.
Although it isn’t optimum I think Caspian Mills strikes a good balance between my desire for a realistic industry, requiring more than one car type, providing sufficient switching opportunities, but still fitting inside of a very small space. Hopefully, one day, I will have the room for a larger layout but for the time being it has been a fun challenge to cram as much railroading as I can onto such limited real estate.
(1) This layout is designed to be hooked up to a couple smaller switching layouts I have built and that does provide a bit of variety for operations but generally I do not have the space to hook them together so this one is a standalone acting as both a loop for my children to operate and a point to point for my operating needs.