Cramming Action Into a Tight Space
Small Layouts Need Passenger Service Too –
Sure my layout is pretty small and yes I operate at least one GP18 so, to a rivet counter, my time frame would need to be closer to the 1960s or later, but I like a good passenger train. Passenger trains can add a little variety to an operating session and the passenger station can be one of the busiest “industries” on your layout if you work it right. That brings me to what I want to talk about today which is including passenger operations on your small layout. To begin with I should take some time to rationalize my passenger consist to you because that should make my decisions a little more clear.
Power for my passenger train is a B&M Minute Man BL2, I like to use a “flexible” time frame and the BL2 makes a great passenger locomotive on a small layout during any time period. The real EMD BL2 (Branch Line – 2) predated their more famous GP units. It was an attempt to make a road switcher, suitable for branch line service, out of F3 mechanical components and it didn’t really do well which led to the GP7. Several North-East railroads did acquire BL2s, BAR ran them the longest as far as I know, but more importantly B&M bought four. Fortunately B&M had their BL2s equipped with steam generators and that is what makes it suitable for passenger operations on my layout… that and I think it’s a neat looking locomotive. I could have used one of my Bachmann 60 foot “heavy weights” to kitbash a poor man’s Doodlebug or RDC type interurban car but a true passenger train is what I wanted, even if ridership is low.
I decided early on that I wanted some sort of milk service and Micro-Trains made an interesting looking Bellows Falls creamery car. Since my flexible time frame stretches from the 1950s-1960s it is perfectly acceptable to offer milk service on a passenger train, but I wouldn’t really care if it wasn’t prototypical.
Finally I needed a passenger car. Due to the tight radii on my layout I needed something short and, with a small fleet of Bachmann 60 footers sitting around, I figured I would decorate a combine up for B&M. The combine works well for my purposes because I doubt my small station would generate enough passengers to justify a full coach and many real life mixed trains utilized combines, that gives me the excuse to expand the consist if I decide to add time sensitive less-carload to my operations.
The operational scheme goes something like this; the first train of the day is a passenger train heading north – towards the real life White River Junction. Milk and passengers are loaded up and the train proceeds north and would, in theory, disappear off the layout to staging (my staging track isn’t attached right now due to space). Stops are made in Lebanon and West Lebanon (Westboro) allowing my residents to get to work. The milk car is forwarded to White River Jct. where it is attached to a south bound train to Bellows Falls for delivery to the creamery. The remaining passengers disembark at White River and get their connections to points elsewhere. In the meantime the daily freight arrives from White River, does what switching is needed, and then heads back north. Finally the passenger train arrives south bound with an empty milk car and passengers coming back home from their places of employment. The BL2 then continues south with its consist to what would be Canaan, NH and is turned on a Y left over from the steam era. The train will overnight in Canaan and then head north again first thing in the morning. See how complicated two stops can be?
At any rate, my little passenger train adds a great deal of enjoyment to my small and very limited layout. If you are dealing with reduced space don’t hesitate to add passenger service if it suits you. In a worst case scenario you could make it a mixed train and throw some basic switching in as well.