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Apocrypha, USA


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Well, this is my first actual thread on here despite lurking and sporadically contributing for the last 9 years or so. I have started this thread to cover the build of my first layout in about 38 years after a few words of encouragement on another thread, so here goes. Forgive me if the first few posts repeat anything from the other thread but I feel I need to also copy some of it here for completeness.

I’ve had an interest in American railways since I was a teenager (I’m 52 now – Eeeek!) and I first saw photos of a K37 and a Shay. Until recently I had not done any modelling since I was about 16 but I have finally started again. I have commenced the construction of a micro layout with an inglenook track plan but it’s early days yet. So far I have some track on a board and some scratchbuilt structures in various degrees of completion / success as well as some odds and ends of locomotives and rolling stock. I should probably warn you all in advance that prototypical, historical and geographical liberties will be taken to possibly disturbing degrees.

My primary focus is making a scene rather than operation. Operation, for me, is a means of adding another dimension to the scene in the form of movement. I want the scene to "look right" to me even if it's actually full of inaccuracies or anachronisms etc. to someone else.


Originally I intended to set the layout in Louisiana in the 1940s as a number of photographs that I found online were my inspiration for wanting to attempt making something again. However I have decided to set it "somewhere in the USA" and keep it a little vague (as is the case with the town of Springfield in The Simpsons) as I doubt my ability to create something that is scenically accurate to Louisiana.


The time period will also be a little vague due to the rather motley collection of stock that I have. I have a Shay built from an MDC Roundhouse kit when I was about 15 (I'm very proud of it), a Consolidation built from another MDC Roundhouse kit, another mongrel of a Consolidation being built from an assortment of old MDC, Bowser, Manuta and scratchbuilt parts plus a GP9 that my father gave me. The GP9 is in Union Pacific livery which also stretches reality a bit in terms of location. I additionally have an odd assortment of 40 foot box cars and a hopper lettered for various railroads.


Why Apocrypha? “Apocrypha” are actually works, usually written, of unknown authorship or of doubtful origin - writings or reports not considered genuine. The adjective “Apocryphal” means something pertaining to a story or statement of doubtful authenticity, although widely circulated as being true. Seeing as I intend to bend reality somewhat in terms of time and location, I thought Apocrypha sounded like a suitable name for the place in which the scene is to be set.


In my universe, Apocrypha is a small rural(ish) town not far from a larger population centre. The layout will be in 2 halves (that’s the plan anyway – “Railroad” street at one end, with some shacks / houses. a general store / gas station and some suggestion of a depot nearby and then some sort of industry at the other end. What this industry is I don’t know, but boxcars come in and boxcars come out…. And yes, you guessed it, it’s HO scale.


Although an inglenook, there will be a fiddlestick at either end to allow through-running and allow a train to be pulled on and then shunted rather than just propelling, if that makes sense. It’s just about a 3-2-2 but like I say, operation isn’t my main focus.


Track is Peco code 100 because that's what I have and because I need to be able to run my ancient locos on it comfortably (and I'm erring on the side of caution in regards to flanges etc.). I won't be superdetailing the stock because it needs to stand up to being handled by me and my children and I can't leave it on the layout, which will live in the top section of a built in wardrobe when not in use. The main board itself is a floating shelf measuring about 46.5 inches x 9.25 inches


I'm spending as little money as I can and scratchbuilding as much as possible, not only because of limited funds but it's because it's what I enjoy. Personally I would rather have a poorly built model that I have made myself than a perfect one that came pre-built.

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This is the water tank that will be part of the suggested depot near the fiddlestick entrance. till plenty to do (including adding more bands round the tank) and it's far from perfect but it is 100% scratch built from card, paper, coffee stirrers, balsa wood and a commercial door. The spout is a bit of plastic sprue with a paper sleeve wrapped round it.


More to come as I progress and more photos as and when I take them.


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So here are a couple of shots of the layout as it is currently. Basically it’s a shelf with some track glued down but it works and I can run trains so technically it’s a layout.


The backscene was really just meant to be a proof of concept. It’s some foamboard and duct tape with some print outs of a panorama of the Atchafalaya Basin that I found online stuck to it with an own-brand Pritt-Stick alternative. It’s designed to be removable so I can work on scenery without marking it and locates (in an ingenious / Heath Robinson manner) onto the shelf using the bracket that the shelf is designed to “float” on. Much of it will end up being hidden by low-relief structures and trees and in reality it doesn’t look too bad so the proof of concept may end up being part of the finished article – bodger that I am.


I used a shelf and the foamboard partly because they are light and strong but mostly because this part of layout building is not one that I enjoy – the “engineering” part, as I call it. My Grandfather Ben once told me that as a carpenter “I’d make a good butcher” and I never let my father see me solder because I am the West Midlands Dry Joint Regional Champion. Nevertheless, it works and now I can start designing and building the rest of the structures now that I know how much room I have to work with, which is nice.



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Here are a couple of shots with the structures plonked approximately in place (I’m not fully decided on where one of them will go yet) and some stock on the layout. The Shay (that I built when I was about 15 or 16) needs a bit of TLC but it still works. The lettering on the bunker refers to a layout that never got built that was going to be the “Roccard and Brittel” Short Line. It’s nice that ex-Roccard Lines # 12 will finally have a new home after all these years :)




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Not had much time to work on the layout for a few days but last night I did manage to find an hour to mock up where additional structures and features might go using odds and ends such as small boxes, blocks of wood, scraps of paper etc. This also allowed me to make notes about the space available for certain buildings and doodle a rough design for the industrial end, actually on the back of an actual envelope.


I now feel I’m ready to start work on the remaining structures as soon as that magical combination of “free time occurring at the same time as I’m feeling creative” occurs. I’ll keep you posted and take some pictures as and when that happens.

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Nice job on the buildings.


Having spent a good bit of my career working on the MP/UP Southern Region, a more typical engine for Louisiana would be an MP GP7/9/18 or an SP GP or a KCS GP.  By the time the MP/UP merger most of the UP GP7's were long gone.  If you do want an oddball, a WP GP40 would be plausible, after the UP/WP merger the UP sent several older GP's to Texas and Louisiana to live out the ends of their lives in warmer climates.  Several of the local mechanical departments actually go the air conditioners working, so it was like prying teeth to get the local crews to give up those engines.


Big industries Louisiana were wood pulp/paper, sugar cane, salt  (prior to about 1975) and then chemicals, chemicals, chemicals.  Oh yeah, they have chemical plants.  Northern Louisiana has cotton and cotton seed mills (cotton seed meal, cotton seed hulls, cotton seed oil) plus lumber mills (pine and plywood).

Edited by dave1905
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Thanks for the info Dave. I'm happy running the GP9 for the time being for reasons given in my first post and certainly until I get around to acquiring something else. I probably won't buy any locos or stock until the layout has progressed much further, just in case it all goes horribly wrong, but when I do I will get something more location-specific. I'm more interested in steam than diesel but a small diesel switcher that could plausibly have existed in the region during the 1950s would be nice.  

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1950's steam in Louisiana would have been 4-4-0's and 4-6-0's on shortlines and 4-6-0's and 2-8-0's on the larger roads.    You would also have the predecessor class 1 roads, the Louisiana & Arkansas (KCS) and the Texas Pacific (MP).    


If you have access to a model railroad article index, look up Cyril Durrenberger, he wrote articles on modeling east Texas in the 1920's, 30's, but the flavor would be very much like what you are pointed towards.

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More work in progress. This is a flat which will go against the back scene at the right hand side when finished. The paint is still wet in the photo, as is some of the PVA. It's still only half complete; it needs a roof, an awning and loading dock (possibly) and details such as signage and pipework but it's getting there. This one is a complete flight of fancy. I did a quick doodle on the back of an envelope and then made up as I went along.  It's mostly bits of balsa stuck to a foamboard shape. Balsa isn't my medium of choice but I seem to have lots lying about and thought I'd try and use it up.


Here it is just plonked on my bedsit table in front of a bit of paper with one of the back scene photos on it. I'll take photos of it in situ on the layout when it's finished.


Edited by SonOfMike
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