Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Great Lakes Northern Update #1

This first layout update will serve as a recap of everything I've done on the project since late 2015. It will provide some background on the fictional railroad that I've come up with and a general update of the layout as of early 2017.

Great Lakes Northern Background
First, a little background on me. I've lived in Michigan my entire life and got into trains at an early age. Part of that interest stemmed from seeing a lot of Detroit & Mackinac trains while at my family's Northern Michigan summer cottage on Lake Huron. Ever since then I've always had a special interest in the D&M and anything related to it. Even now when I'm up there I like to check out the Lake State Railway (successor to D&M) whenever I can. Those two railroads are a good part of the inspiration for the railroad I came up with for this layout.

The layout itself is going to be set in early to mid 1990's Northern Michigan. Like some other freelance model railroads I've seen I am going to mix history with a little fiction. In the Michigan I'm going to be portraying on the layout, the fictional Great Lakes Northern Railway is the successor to the Detroit & Mackinac as of 1992. Modeling this time period will be neat because as a transitional period I can use my existing D&M models and they won't look out of place.

While it is set in Michigan, I've come up with the fictional town of Hawkins as the main focus on the layout. Hawkins is a typical northern Michigan town located along the old D&M main line between Grayling and Gaylord. There will be a main downtown with commercial and residential areas along with one large industry (TBD, but leaning toward a paper mill right now) and a small rail yard with connections to the main line. Here it is on a 1992 map.

Map of Michigan railroads from 1992 showing the GLN lines and Hawkins, MI.

As far as the look of this new railroad I've created, I wanted to go with something predominantly blue because that's the color I think of when it comes to Michigan and the Great Lakes. Beyond that I didn't really have any specific requirements. The logo took a little time to come up with, and I probably went through ten or so design concepts, but I'm definitely happy with the results so far. Here is the logo with some of the symbolism explained.

My logo design for the GLN.

In addition to the logo, I've been working on some locomotive paint scheme concepts for the Alco's that the GLN inherited from the D&M. I tried to keep a balance of something that would be easy to paint onto a model as well as somewhat realistic looking. I ended up with what I would call a hybrid of the D&M and Lake State paint schemes. Below is my latest concept for a C425. Hopefully it will look good on an actual locomotive.

My first attempt at a paint scheme for one of the GLN's Alco C425's.

I'm actually really enjoying this part of the project. It just makes it that much more fun to come up with these designs myself. I've been dabbling in graphic design for a few years now so it's nice to get to use some of that here. I'm not sure if I will stick with these designs permanently, but they are a great start and I'm happy with how they turned out.

Layout Progress
Now for an update on the actual construction and modeling. So far I have the benchwork nearly complete, I just need to build a support leg for the small extension I built to accommodate the wye in my track plan. I have a starter DCC system from Bachmann that came with a single GP38 locomotive. I've also bought up a bunch of track and cork roadbed, but none of it has been installed permanently yet. Here is the benchwork so far:

A look at the current state of the layout.

I've gone through dozens of ideas for a track plan and still have yet to completely finalize it. I use the track planning software from SCARM and it seems like I tweak the design on a weekly basis. There are just so many great ideas out there that it's hard to lock myself into something. I'm pretty close though as my last several plans have been basically the same with just a few minor tweaks here and there. Here is the current track plan:

A look at the current track plan from SCARM.

One thing I do need to work on is the center divider structure. Its more of a box shape than a flat sheet, so I just have to make a trip to Home Depot for the lumber to finish it. I had originally wanted just a flat divider wall, but the table was too wide for me to be comfortable reaching all the way to the center. Rather than rebuilding the benchwork, this seemed like a good compromise. Now I just need to build the thing and get it onto the layout.

I've also been working on temporarily laying down some roadbed and track to test out my track plan. To do this I've just been pinning the roadbed and track into the foam with 1" nails. Its enough to keep it in place so I can get a feel for my track plan. Now I just need to buy the rest of the track I need so I can really test out the track plan.

I don't know when my next update will be, but I'm hoping to at least have some decent progress to show at that time. This is a long term project so I'm not really in any rush to complete it.

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