Progress – Rails Reach Kennicott and Nicolai Jct

I finally feel like I’m making progress again.  For the last three months or so, work has just been beating the snot out of me, and I haven’t had as much time to work on the layout as I would have liked.  However, that’s now starting to improve, and the mainline is starting to appear on the main layout.

The first matter is a bit of a track plan change.  You’ll notice on my original track plan, Nicolai Junction – the place where the fictional Nizina Branch breaks off the prototype mainline – was originally pretty inflexible.  Because the single track mainline split into the siding and main for Kennicott, and then the branch broke off the siding, the whole thing could get jammed up if you were loading a train at Kennicott and it was fouling the switch.  Plus, the McCarthy siding was short, so it wasn’t capable of holding a full ore train.  So, the track plan adjustments begin…

I extended double track up from the McCarthy switch, made one mainline diverge as the Nizina Branch and the other diverge as the Kennicott main, and then connected the Kennicott siding into the mainline.  There are also crossovers between the two main lines going both ways, so that traffic moving off any line can move onto any other line without being blocked.  The new Nicolai Junction will also now be the northern end of CTC on the layout, extended up from my original plan of ending it after the north siding switch at McCarthy.

Here’s the new line diagram:


I’ve also completed the tracks in front of the old Kennicott mill, and posted a 1:160 print of the mill for scale and alignment.  I intend to model the old mill at full scale, as one of the signature elements of the railroad.  To make sure it was going to fit, I printed 1:160 versions of the front and side elevations of the mill – based on the National Park Service CAD drawings.  Thankfully work has a large HP plotter which makes this much easier…

The electronics for Nicolai Junction are being installed on a fold-down panel located below the junction.  That way the wires all stay up and out of the way, the LEDs don’t shine down on the lower deck, but it can be lowered if maintenance or changes are needed.

Now, about turnouts…  Originally when I started the CR&NW, Atlas code 55 was still nowhere to be found due to their Chinese production issues.  Because of that, I made the decision to go with hand-laid turnouts using FastTracks tools.  However, it’s taken me far longer to get to trackwork than I initially expected, and the Atlas turnouts are now available again after about three years.  While the hand-laid turnouts look incredible and work well, they’re painfully time consuming to build.  The two in front of Kennicott took me a solid afternoon to build and tune.  Consequently, I’ve decided to use them where the switch is a prominent foreground visual element (such as in front of the mill building), but just go back to good ol’ Atlas switches elsewhere.

That’s it for now.  Hopefully by the end of the week I’ll have track extended down to the McCarthy control point and some of the backdrop up, so it’ll look a bit more like a model railroad and less like a bench stuck to framing.


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