No. 183: Rebuilding Hermitage Road, Pt. 3 – Laying Track

I have settled on a track plan for the new Hermitage Road layout. Here is a view, below, of the original Hermitage Road track plan under construction in March 2020. It was pretty simple.

Here is the revision I have been planning up until a few weeks ago. It is similar to the first revision I posted last time:

I was a little unhappy with this track plan. It maximized the same space, but I didn’t like how everything was square with perpendicular angles. There was no flow.

The advantage of building the layout perfectly square with the front fascia and backdrop is that it makes it easier to apply backdrops. For example, it’s easy to make road that cuts perpendicular across the tracks disappear into the backdrop.

For weeks and weeks, I tried numerous ways to angle some of the trackage to break up the square lines, but in so doing I always lost precious industry space. Finally, one evening about three weeks ago I was looking at photos of a St. Louis switching district and decided to try to maintain the track arrangement but reset everything on the layout on a 10-degree angle from the front fascia. That’s about the angle of a #6 turnout.

I angled a few of the buildings against the backdrop and in an instant the whole picture orientation of the layout changed, and I liked it.

I played around track and buildings for a few days, and here is what I ended up with, below. I was well pleased.

Same space, same industries, and basically the same track plan. Gone is the boxiness. Gentle curves now lead to customers set on angles to the viewer. I’ll have a problem with roads disappearing into the backdrop, but I can handle that.

The layout is really simple, and if you’re a follower of Lance Mindheim you’ll this plan is “not complex”. However, you may notice the lead at the bottom of the plan. There are multiple “dummy” (non-operating) turnouts that lead into the aisle, and an odd S-curve leading into the coal dealer at the bottom left. The point is to suggest that there are more industries in the aisle. The reverse curve off to the coal dealer suggests an industry lies ahead to the left, off the layout, and the turnout to the coal dealer was added later. In the early 1900s, railroads did this all the time and trackwork in tight areas was awkward. It’s awkward here on purpose. In my opinion it is complex without actually being complex.

Auf Gehts!

Let’s Go! Now that I had a plan, I began laying track. I already had the yard lead laid from the previous track plan, so now I need to add the long sidings. This new track, shown below, will serve the Grocery Warehouse and a small, single-car industry-to-be-named-later.

Below. The track used on the grocery warehouse siding is leftover Micro Engineering Code 55 flex track removed from the original Hermitage Road layout. To remove the track from the original layout, I cut all the feeder wires and then soaked the track with rubbing alcohol for 10 or 15 minutes. Once the rubbing alcohol cut through the matte medium glue used to secure the track and ballast, I carefully peeled up the flex track with a scraper tool. The track was covered in glue, paint and ballast from it’s first application.

Next I brought the track up to the kitchen, where I soaked it once again with rubbing alcohol and let it sit for another 10 or 15 minutes. Then, I carefully brushed it with a toothbrush to remove as much dirt and ballast as possible. Oh…why the kitchen? It has long, hard, flat surface good for cleaning flex track, and I can make a mess up there and clean it up quickly in the sink.

I washed all the gunk off the track, then hit it one more time with the alcohol, and then used a medium-stiffness brass-wire brush to remove any remaining ballast on the bottom of the ties and on the side of the rails. I bought this particular brush in Germany but I’m sure there are many like it at Lowes or Menards.

When all that mess is done, and the kitchen was cleaned up (Pro Tip: Don’t forget to clean up the kitchen), and the track is dry, the old track looks something like this, as seen below: Ready for re-lay and re-paint (below). I just saved myself five or six bucks.

Here’s the recycled track, going into the grocery warehouse lead. I spread Elmer’s white glue (not school glue) on the cork roadbed and pinned the track into place. The pins keep the track straight and on the proper alignment. Note the irregularity of the tie spacing. That’s the result from cutting the webbing from underneath the ties and spreading them out a little.

Below. Here is new M.E. flex track being prepared for the other industry leads. In this photo the webbing between the ties is being removed. It’s a tedious process, but it allows irregular realignment of the ties, as shown above, which enhances the effect of track that has seen a little less maintenance.

Here’s the same result with new track, below. It looks great and is ready for laying and paint and weathering.

Eventually, all this track will look something like this. I’m striving for slight variation in tie spacing and color. This photo is from the first Hermitage Road layout. The ballast is finely sifted dirt from a roundhouse site.

With the track and buildings installed, I hope to paint and weather the track to look something along the lines of this, below. This is from Tom Johnson’s current L&IM layout.

Here’s the new grocery warehouse staged on the new track, below.

For the second “industry-to-be-named-later” on this track, I’m considering modeling the old Rosenegk Brewing Company. Rosenegk was on the RF&P, a few blocks away from the SAL main tracks–but it was actually on Hermitage Road as you can see below.

Below. A few months ago a modeler friend, Robert Hultman, saw the blog and sent generously some photos of a neat bulk unloading trestle just a block away from the brewing company at RF&P’s Bolton Street Yard. Robert sent a lot of photos; here are two, which show an RF&P Alco S-2 working cars dumping sand or gravel. I wish I had room for something like this.

Robert made the images above and below in June, 1965.

I hope you all had a wonderful Easter and are enjoying God’s rich blessings. Jesus was the first of those to be resurrected, and it was done in the full sight of mankind, to show man that God never lies, changes, or deceives, and that He fulfils all his promises. – John G

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