No. 181: Rebuilding Hermitage Road, Pt. 2

February and March have been good months of work on the new Hermitage Road layout.

Here’s a mock up of one of two track plans I’ve developed. The layout is 7-1/2 feet long and 18-inches wide. I have another arrangement that I also like, but there’s no rush to make the decision and I’m letting the plans simmer for a while. I’ll share the other plan on the next post, but it looks much like this one with a twist. The reality is there’s not much room to do too much else other than something like this.

Like the original Hermitage Road, there are three tracks that span out from a single switching lead at the right. However, I’ve added two switchbacks on this version–one of which can serve as a runaround–and I’m also adding a few “dummy switches” to simulate more industries off the layout. I’ve added a crossing as well. There weren’t any in the area I’m modeling, but I like them.

Unconventional Benchwork

I built cut lumber and built the benchwork quickly and easily last month. That’s the conventional part, shown above. Below is the unconventional part. Instead of using wood for the table top, or subroadbed, I’m using LG Project Panel (the green stuff).

Wood is heavy, and this layout can’t be heavy because it has to be moveable. Furthermore, I can’t really add ditches and terrain features below the roadbed using wood. I used instead the Project Panel material–which is quite sturdy but light–and I can carve small terrain features into it. It is firm and flat. The only drawback is it is two inches thick which creates minor problems when using under-layout switch machines.

I used something similar on the first Hermitage Road layout, which I built while living in Germany. The product used there as called Styrodur and it was even more sturdy. The LG Project Panel was as close as I could find to Styrodur here in the U.S.

I glued the Project Panel to the top of the benchwork frame with benchwork and also secured it to the frame with sheetrock screws. On top of the Project Panel I glued 4mm cork to serve as roadbed for track and a foundation for structures.

The photo below shows a mock-up of track and buildings and spaces to see how everything fits. You can see the use of the 4mm cork on top of the green panel. The track plan is linear, and boring…hence my hesitation on pulling the trigger and putting down too much track at this point.


Like the original Hermitage Road layout, seen above, the new version of the layout will have seven industries and a total of 13 car spots.

From left (where the train enters the layout) are:

  1. Team Track (max two car capacity–box/refrigerator/flat/gondola/hopper/tank)
  2. TBD industry on the back wall at right (one car capacity)
  3. Southern Fuel & Oil (max two car capacity–tank and/or box cars)
  4. Hermitage Coal Co. (max two car capacity–hoppers and/or gondolas)
  5. Alcatraz Paint & Varnish (max one car capacity–tank or box car)
  6. Richmond Concrete Block Co. (max three car capacity–one covered hopper and two box/gondola/flat cars)
  7. Grocery Warehouse (max two cars–box or refrigerator cars)

Here’s the draft layout plan again for reference:

While there are 13 spots for cars, I don’t plan on moving a car in and out of each spot in a normal, 30-to-40 minute operating session. If I did, switching out 13 spots would require a maximum of 26 cars per session. However, I envision a typical 30 minute session I’d service 40% of the car spots, which looks more like moving 6 cars in an out–that’s 12 cars total. That’s more realistic and manageable.

Below. Mocking up the old industries on the new layout. In the foreground is a new grocery warehouse, and in the background is my old favorite, the Richmond Concrete Block Co. In front is an in-progress, scratchbuilt Code 55 wye. I’m testing how the industries, road and turnout will all fit together.

Meanwhile I’ve found a good prototype for the Alcatraz Paint & Varnish Co., which was next to the concrete block plant. No pictures of the real plant have been found, so I’m going to prototype-improvise and use the factory building on the right as the prototype for my model. The actual prototype is in Litchfield, Illinois on old Big Four (NYC) lines. You can see the Big Four main line in front of the factory.

About that “To Be Determined” space. I don’t have any plans for it yet but I could use another box car industry. Bill Michael gave me a cool photo of a grocery warehouse in Anderson, South Carolina. This is 1970, but I like the curved loading dock and the elevator house on top. I certainly don’t nee two grocery warehouses but building a customer on the layout to this design would be different and interesting.

Near the SAL main tracks on Hermitage Road was an RF&P branch that had a brewery–that was back in the 1910s. Maybe I could adapt the prototype above into one of the brewery buildings. I like beer, and modeling part of a brewery is tempting. More to follow on that later.


I dragged my wife to the National Transportation Museum in Kirkwood, Missouri (a western St. Louis suburb) a few Saturdays ago. It’s a nice museum with a pretty big collection of railroad equipment. It has changed since I was last there in 2004–and originally in 1990. In previous visits you got the feeling it was a real railroad museum. Today, it’s a lot more like a family-friendly place to take the kids to.” The gritty, blue-collar feel the place once had is gone.

Nevertheless there are still beautiful engines and things to marvel over. Here’s one of those things–a former C&IM USRA mike, nicely restored and prominently displayed. The B&O signal next to it has a control panel where you can change the aspect–that’s a cool feature.

Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord, The people whom He has chosen for His own inheritance. Psalm 33:12

3 thoughts on “No. 181: Rebuilding Hermitage Road, Pt. 2

  1. Love the concept. May I ask if the combination of LG Project Panel and cork offer sound-deadening capabilities similar to Homasote?


    • Hi John, thanks for writing. I haven’t ever noticed a problem with unwanted sound, however running speeds are slow. I think in most/all cases where there is “drumming” it occurs when trains are moving at speed over a layout. What do you think? John G


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