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About the PRR
The Pennsylvania Railroad is an N-Scale model railroad. The railroad is powered by Digitrax DCC , and automated through the open-source JMRI software. Turnouts are powered using Tortoise switch machines. The layout features a functional automated block signal system, which does not exactly replicate the PRR's signaling practices, but uses prototypical signals and aspects. Track on the PRR is a mix of Atlas and Peco code 55.

At present, the PRR consists simply of a representation of the heart of the prototype, Altoona, PA. This will eventually be the east end of the layout, and as such, the dual-track mainline is split in two. A balloon track around the roundhouse reverses the eastbound main into the westbound main. A return on a temporary drop-leaf reverses the westbound main back into the eastbound main. A tail track from Altoona's shops will become a second westbound main, and the eastbound main will split in two, allowing a prototypical four-track mainline to pass around Horseshoe Curve. Most locations on the layout are representative, and are not based on any particular location. There are a few exceptions that are meant to represent a prototype.

AltoonaAltoona
Altoona is the heart of the PRR, and is the first prototype location represented on the layout. There are three areas represented in Altoona: The Altoona and Juniata Shops, the 12th St. Shops, and the Altoona Division Yards.

The yard is a 6-track staging yard off of the westbound main as it enters Altoona. This area is used as on-layout storage for trains.

The 12th St. Shops are represented by models of the Master Mechanic's Building and an upgraded test plant. I know that the Walthers Machine Shop kit I used for the test plat does not look like the prototype, but I like the model, and I figure a transcontinental PRR would have had heavier testing needs, requiring a larger building. (How's that for rationalization?)

The Altoona shops consist of a 3-track locomotive shop, a 3-track car shop, a machine shop, steam refueling facilities, diesel refueling facilities, a sanding facility, and a 27-stall 3/4 round roundhouse. A RIP track off of the turntable serves as the DCC programming track.

The Juniata Shops are represented by a facade of the west side of the Erecting and Machine Shop. A staging track from the westbound main represents the access to the E&M Shop, and allows for possible addition of an off-layout staging yard.


Paradise
Paradise is the main yard of the PRR. Although there is a real Paradise, PA, this is not meant to be a representation of that town. (On the other hand, I do have a four-car Strasburg excusion train that may put in an appearance every once in awhile.) The yard will feature six arrival/departure tracks, and six classification tracks. Also planned are a single cabin car track ("caboose track" for the non-PRR), a MOW track, and a small arrival departure yard dedicated to servicing Panther Creek coal mine (coming up in a moment). Paradise will begin behind the Master Mechanic's Building at the 12th street car shops and expand around a 90-degree curve.


Horseshoe Curve
Horseshoe Curve requires no introduction. It was, and is, one of the most famous train-watching spots in the country. Horseshoe Curve was a massive engineering project to extend the length of the PRR's main east-west mainline up a side valley to allow for a much shallower grade on the east slope of the Allegheny mountains. At its peak, the Curve was four tracks wide and hosted trains such as the Broadway Limited on its run between Chicago and New York.

The model will feature all four mainlines, and will be scenic-heavy. This is the second scene that will be based on a prototypical location. The space for the model is an alcove in the basement, allowing visitors to stand between the east and west approaches and watch trains, just like the prototype.
 

Panther Creek
Panther Creek is a small Appalachian coal mining town. The town centers on the Panther Creek Coal Mine, which is served by the PRR. Panther Creek includes a coal tipple and a small yard for sorting inbound and outbound hoppers. The town of Panther Creek is too small and remote to merit a passenger station, and the railroad only serves the mine.

The main features of the model of Panther Creek are the mine (Walther's New River Mine), and the yard. The yard is small and is mainly designed to stage cars at the mine awaiting pickup or dropoff. Cars from the mine will be carried by the branch locomotive to and from the small coal a/d yard at Paradise for sorting into or out of road freights. The mine will back up to the backdrop, allowing the mine track to slip through the backdrop unnoticed.
 

Newark
Although not based on any specific place, Newark does have one distinction that could hint at a prototype location. Most people would say that "Newark" is pronounced "new-erk." Sons and daughters of The First State know better. They know that when the word "ark" is placed after the word "new," it is still pronounced "ark." Hence, Newark is pronounced "new-ark." That being said, the town of Newark is not particularly based on Newark, DE. Newark is an industrial town with tight, winding curves, curved switches, and crossovers. In addition to the many industries, including the coal power plant, Mom's Hardware (a Holden/McGraw Industry), and Pattington Printing, Newark hosts an intermodal yard used by PRR TrucTrains.

Newark is behind the scenic divider from Panther Creek. One might remember the disappearing coal mine track... It emerges into the coal power plant, providing a loads-in-empties-out interchange. Instead of running mainline trains through, a switcher carries short strings of hoppers between two small yards: one serving Panther Creek Coal Mine, the other serving Newark's power plant. The effect is that loads delivered to the power plant emerge as freshly-filled cars in the mine, and empties delivered to the mine emerge as freshly-emptied cars from the power plant.


Morrow
Again, Morrow, OH is not intended to be based on a specific place. Its inspiration came from the song "Train to Morrow", and was planned long before I discovered that there actually is a Morrow, OH, and that the PRR served it! In fact, the PRR Morrow train station still exists, long after the rails have gone.

Operationally, Morrow has a passenger station and an interlocking with the N&W (or NS in modern times). The track disappearing behind the hill is actually the entrance to an under-layout staging yard. Scenically, Morrow is on a very narrow shelf, so there's not much room for scenery. One thing that I am going to try to do is mock up a drive-in movie theater using an old iPod. With the push of a button, the theater will play the Muppets' rendition of "Train to Morrow".


Helix
After Morrow, the mainline enters a helix, headed up, up, up! Each turn of the helix will feature a vignetted scene taking the mainline across the plains, with the last turn featuring the mainline's departure from Denver and entrance into Clear Creek Canyon.


Idaho Springs
As the mainline exits at the top of the helix, we come to Clear Creek Canyon and Idaho Springs, a small Colorado mountain town. Idaho Springs is a real city, but my intent is not to re-create the town as it exists today, or even as it existed in the 1950's. My father is a G-scale modeler, and has recreated a beautiful scene of downtown Idaho Springs in 1899. My goal is to recreate my father's version of Idaho Springs as close to building-for-building as I can get. I don't know if I'll be able to include the Argo Gold Mill or not, but it's a signature structure of Idaho Springs, so I'll probably give it a try.

Idaho Springs is said to be two miles long and three blocks wide, which is good, because it will exist on a narrow shelf just above Morrow. Operationally, Idaho Springs will feature a crossover and a small passenger station. As the mainline leaves Idaho Springs, it plunges under the continental divide at Loveland Pass.

To be continued...