The Layout

I have spent many days over the past couple of years photographing and viewing trains at the Rochelle Railroad Park in Rochelle, Illinois in the United States.

I am an intermodal railroading fan, so Rochelle was the perfect place for me, with the UP Railroad’s massive Global III intermodal facility just down the road. Unfortunately I am a BNSF fan, so when it came to planning my railroad I decided to change things slightly…my layout therefore features a BNSF intermodal yard near Rochelle…slight abuse of modeller’s licence! šŸ™‚

Here is a map of Rochelle, Il. showing Global III, the famous Railfan park (which I am unfortunately not modelling) and the S. Caron Road industrial area.

At present my layout consists of five 4ft by 2ft modules which contain a small intermodal yard and a small industrial area, and three 3ft x 2ft modules which contain an industrial area and a tunnel, along with two end boards (the one 45″ by 36″ & the other 41″ by 36″) which contain loop tracks, thereby enabling me to have a continuous layout.  I have also added a new 11ft x 1ft classification yard, and a smaller yard & a loco servicing facility on a 6ft x 2ft board. So, in total, the layout is about 46ft long (if laid out in a straight line), in a U-shaped folded-dogbone configuration.

The layout was originally built around the Bend Track modular system, which is an improvement on the NTrak modular system in that it only has a double main line as opposed to triple, and is double-sided, which makes it a lot more flexible with setup choices. More details on the Bend Track concept can be found on the Bend Track website.  However, as I no longer take my layout out to exhibitions, I’ll be making it more permanent, which means viewing from one side only and tracks across the board joins, for better reliability.

The blue track is at ground level, the brown track is elevated, starting the gradient at the top right hand corner, crossing over the lower track (which is in a tunnel), then going back down to ground level again.  At the summit of the hill there is a single slip & a turnout, which leads to the planned staging yard, classification yard & loco servicing facility, which are all elevated above the other track at the back of the layout.

I am using the Digitrax DCC system, running a Super Chief command station with a DT402 throttleDT400 throttle as well as two UT4 throttles. I am also using Digitrax BDL168 and BD4 block detectors, along with two CML SIGM20 signal controllers and one Digitrax SE8C signal controller which enables me to have realistic operating signalling and block detection.  For point control I am using four CML Electronics DAC20 stationary decoders, two Digitrax DS64 quad stationary decoders, a Tam Valley Quad LN servo decoder, and a few DCC Concepts Universal DCC decoders.

I run Railroad & Co. software enables me to have a layout schematic on a panel on-screen showing the location of all the trains and the status of the turnouts & signals. In the future it will be used to enable automatic operation of passenger trains on the mainline thereby enabling me to concentrate on local switching without worrying what is happening on the mainline.

I also use JMRI OperationsPro for realistic switchlist creation and operations management.  These are relayed to 4 Android tablets around the layout so the engineers have access to switchlists on the go, and the system can be updated on-the-fly as they complete their jobs.