Fate of the Dorchester & Dixiana Branch

After nearly a year since the last post, those of you who check the site for signs of life occasionally (both of you) had probably given up hope.  What progress has been made on the layout?  I think I’ve laid about 6 feet of rail in the past year.  Life is busy, my family needs more time, my job is more demanding, and some of the friends who shared this dream when it started don’t live here anymore.  Excuses?  Of course!  But none that I’m ashamed of.  Life is full of seasons, and there are times in life when you have to set aside everything that’s not essential to focus on things that are truly important.

So what now for the layout?  I still love the hobby, love the Southern and Interstate RR, and I do desire to finish a layout someday. Changes in our family needs mean we need more space, and the layout is the most obvious target. While I’ve resisted the idea of having NO layout, I’ve come to the conclusion that my current layout is too much for me to build and operate. . . sigh. . .

I believe I need to simplify to a single-deck layout and no helix in the back room. Other than the helix, there’s no problem with the current footprint as long as I can open up more storage space underneath and clear a better path to the bathroom in the corner than going through the utility room.  It’s tempting to eliminate the upper deck and just complete what I’ve got on the lower deck, but when I really think about it, it’s the coal branch operations and mine runs I’m after more than the mainline and interchanges of the lower deck.  After tossing around many ideas and staring at graph paper for hours, I’ve come to the conclusion that a modified version of my upper deck is the best candidate for the redesigned layout.

I will consolidate the design into one room, so the branch to Dixiana will be shortened to stop short of going through the closet, but all loaders will still be modeled. The Glamorgan branch is tricky because it requires one loop of the helix to get all legs of the wye functional in the layout room, so I will likely need to truncate that end of the line to make it work. I plan to lower the top deck about 3″ to a more comfortable height that’s still close to eye level.

These changes will do many things:

  • First, I can concentrate on one railroad instead of three (this is both a positive and negative)
  • It will also reduce the amount of hoppers and other rolling stock needed which will allow me to complete trains in less time
  • It will cut down on the amount of electricity needed for lighting which will save me from putting in new breakers
  • There will only be about 1/3 of the track on the upper deck compared to the lower, so I’ll be able to finish it faster than before, and it means I don’t have to buy any more rail
  • It will allow me to work on scenery as I go (I’ve been holding off on the lower-deck scenery so I don’t mess it up when building the upper)
  • It will simplify operations so I can run a session by myself or with two people, though the amount of switching would justify two-person crews and keep four busy for a couple hours
  • I’ll also be able to raise my workbench, something that will become more important as I get older (the current one already hurts my back)
  • It will keep us in this house, at least for a while longer
  • The simpler project with a more reasonable finish line (I know it will never be truly finished) will motivate me to get back in the basement

So there you have it. The next update will probably be a bit of news on destruction, but I hope that will be followed by much more construction!

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7 Responses to Fate of the Dorchester & Dixiana Branch

  1. Tom Patterson says:


    It sounds like you have a lot of very good reasons for pursuing the changes you have planned. And if it allows you to enjoy the hobby even more, all the better. I’m looking forward to seeing your progress!

    Tom Patterson

  2. Bill Michael says:

    Great to hear. Simplification seems to be affecting many (note Jim Six post on MRH). I am glad you are staying with the Dixiana/Glamorgan theme. That is the one coal hauling theme that attracts me. Right now I am locked in (as much as any modelrailroader is ever locked in) to the FEC in 1960. That is what brings back childhood memories. But rather than the main line with 10 passenger trains plus freight, I am modeling the end of track at Florida City and the agriculture traffic, packing houses and switching. I moved a small quarry using modelers license so I can run rock trains (kinda like a mine turn :) )

  3. Peter Thayer says:

    Some Destruction is a good thing, if the vision can not be achieved then it is wiser to meet the goal, just promise us one thing; Please do not go Narrow Guage.

    • Dan says:

      Ha! I promise. . . at least for now. The destruction is underway, and man have a learned a little about how I need to do construction from trying to take apart some stubborn pieces!

  4. George Banic says:

    Hi Dan,
    Checked the site for the latest news on your layout and got more than I bargained for! Understand the need to scale back a bit in order to keep the layout going, and it will make it a lot easier for you to progress the layout on your own. Keen to see what the ‘new’ layout looks like.
    Cheers from the land down under!

    George Banic

  5. George Banic says:

    Hi Dan,
    Checked in again to see/hear the latest on your layout. Had similar issues to you in progressing my layout(or lack thereof) over the last few years, but have been inspired to get back into it again. Have started building the scenery behind the IRR yard at Norton (finally). I note that Atlas will be bringing out N-scale IRR hoppers soon, so another reason to get enthused about the IRR! Keen to see your plan for the new layout too.

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