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Bonus Branch HO Shelf Layout
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HO branch combines Unitrack and craftsman kits in "extra" space

Many people build small or temporary model railroad layouts using sectional track systems like KATO's Unitrack. But one of my clients wanted to take advantage of the flexibility of making future changes (and a lot of on-hand Unitrack components) for a fairly large rail-marine themed layout (shelf-style in a room roughly 20'X32' with an alcove).

He also had on hand a number of built-up Fine Scale Miniatures craftsman kits in the form of already-scenicked dioramas. While some of these might be a bit "back-woodsy" for the main deck, he wanted to incorporate these beautiful models into some part of the layout if possible.
 
One part of the main deck was given over to staging tracks, and we looked into building a separate unconnected deck above this area. By making it an unconnected deck, this section of the layout could be built high enough to clear the staging tracks below.
 
This branch deck represents a distant segment of the railroad served by single-track car ferry from the main deck. The resulting design offers quite a bit of switching, suitable homes for many of the built-up structures, and even a narrow interchange yard representing a connection with another railroad. This narrow yard is at the back and above a visible scene on the main deck. Most of the shelf layout design is HO Unitrack, but because the track configurations were already set on the structure scenes, a few short sections of flex were needed to link everything up.
bonus_brnch_500.gif
click image for a larger labeled view
 
The design offers a reasonable amount of interesting switching and operations. Cars arrive via the car ferry or the interchange tracks at left, are switched into the appropriate industries, and moved back out again after loading or unloading. The combination of facing- and trailing-point spurs mean that some planning is needed to avoid a lot of extra moves. As on many shortlines, the switch crew might use the interchange yard at the left to do some of this classification of cars. This could also be done on the two tracks of the runaround at the right.
 
In the final revision of the plan, we decided to link this deck to the main deck by a long ramp track, but the main elements of the design remained. The version shown here might be the basis for a fun stand-alone switching shelf layout or could be added as an extra deck to an existing plan. Without the constraints of the existing dioramas, substituting flats for some of the structures would allow room for larger industries and a few additional tracks.
 
A number of my clients have chosen the convenience and "future-proof" characteristics of sectional track systems like Unitrack, even for fairly large designs. This small portion of a larger design shows that it is possible to come up with something different from the "regular" appearance of typical sectional track layouts while offering interesting operating challenges.
 

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Copyright 2005 by Byron Henderson