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Photographs © Angela Sutton, 2005.  Permission is granted for personal downloads or publication in not-for-profit media.  Please let me know if you want to publish something!
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Model Railroad
    I am currently working on a model railroad featuring Subdivision 6 / Section 18 of the Monongahela Division in late 1948 and early 1949, between Beck's Run and 20th St. in the South SIde.  This is the extreme north end of the division, just below its connection to the Panhandle Division at 'MONON' interlocking.

     My layout was going to be 1940's PRR in Western Pennsylvania, N scale.  The 11'x15' front bedroom of my apartment was available for construction, though, since I rent, I could not penetrate or modify the walls or wiring.  Practical table size is really 8'x15', after allowing for door swings and aisleway access.

     I wanted prototypical track arrangements and operations on a continuous segment of the railroad without ridiculous compression, allowing for 20 car freight train lengths.  I wanted to feature a shop facility, some interlocking and signalling opportunities, and a good mix of switching and through running.  I was willing to forgo passenger traffic and focus primarily on freight (especially bulk freight) if necessary, though passenger traffic would be a plus.  Additionally, I wanted a tall layout near eye level without much hidden trackage or need for additional levels.

     So what fit?  I knew I would be working on a relatively short segment of railroad, no more than a couple of miles.  Most of the Pittsburgh area shop facilities were in the middle of large yards that would be difficult to represent satisfactorily.  There were a few, however, that were not so extensive.  Youngwood, PA was one.  It sat in the wye between the Southwest and Sewickley branches at the south end of the Youngwood yard complex south of Greensburg.  In addition, 'YU' interlocking guarded the northern end of the wye, providing a signalled interlocking close by.  The Sewickley Branch itself was fairly short but generated a large amount of traffic from coke oven batteries up in the hills that often required reverse running or runarounds to switch.  As I began tio plan, however, I realized that there wasn't a really satisfactory way to wedge the wye and turntable in the space simultaneously and still allow branchline running.
     I turned then to 30th St. Yard just south of downtown Pittsburgh.  It began as the northern terminal of the Monongahela Division, but morphed into a feeder yard for the massive J&L South Side Works complex.  This was also a small facility, but adapted itself better to a linear track plan.  I also gained the complex 'OB' interlockng plant, a four track main, and commuter traffic, as well as at least one and possibly two interchanges.  From here the plan developed as a simple loop with switching activity out of the grade-separated yard.  The schematic is simple, but in practice I suspect that the variety of traffic will keep everyone hopping at the op sessions.  (For a funny consequence of this choice go here).

Track Plan
     Here is a pdf of the current track plan:

Monongahela Division Section 18

     I developed the plan from period PRR Employe Timetables, the 1939 track chart, Abe's ABC Maps of the Pittsburgh Operational Switching District, 'OB' and 'MONON' interlocking diagrams, Hopkins maps from the 1930's, Sanborn maps from the 1930's, and period photos through the Historic Pittsburgh website.  There are a few edits left to do at the north end of 30th St. Yard (I recently acquired a pair of Monongahela Connecting Railway rulebooks that detail ops at this interchange) but the planning phase is more or less done.  There are two optional extensions.  The first is to develop more of the Mon Conn trackage into their 29th St. Yard and down an embankment amdist the J&L buildings to a connection with the P&LE main.  This could be done on a very narrow shelf with flats for the steel mill buildings.  For now, this trackage is represented by a short, detachable fiddle yard for Mon Conn traffic in and out of J&L (not shown).  The second option is to extend the hiddem trackage out to a visible curved yard (20th St.) that connects the PRR Whitehall Branch to the Allegheny & South Side (Oliver Iron and Steel's plant railroad) paralleling the P&LE main.  Staging for this is currently being provided under the PRR main staging and the Duquesne Brewery area.


Overview of the south end of the railroad.  Staging on a transfer table will go up at the right of the photo sometime during October.  The gaping hole to the left will be the Beck's Run viaduct, construction immanent.  The lower level Homasote is roadbed for the hidden portion of the Whitehall Branch - once the rest of the layout is done, this connection gives me the option of modeling 20th St. Yard, a short section of the Pittsburgh and Lake Erie mainline, and a connection with the Allegheny & South Side switching line.

Track laying through 'OB' interlocking north of Beck's Run: roadbed phase 1 - full size print of the track plan laid over the Homasote, with holes poked thru at key points

roadbed phase 2 - Sharpie dots placed at holes thru paper, above

Finished cork roadbed thru 'OB' interlocking

Another view of the roadbed thru 'OB'

A closeup of my method for superelevation - 1/32" basswood, sanded to profile.  The 1/32" height at the outside edge translates to 5" N-scale, an appropriate height for a 50mph curve on the PRR.



Due to an unplanned move, the original plan staled out and had to be abandoned.  The new place is somewhat more cramped, and doesn't have a spare bedroom.  Consequently, the scope of the railroad had to shrink a bit.  I salvaged the OB trackwork, and will use it as the north end of a new plan, running down to Hays and West Homestead.  For the new plan, see here:

Monongahela Division (Revised)