Mistakes I Made on my HO Scale Model Railroad: The Maple Valley Short Line

One of the great things about HO scale model railroading is that the modeling never ends. I suppose that can be true of any scale, but for me, HO scale is a perfect example of a modelers dream.

I started building the Maple Valley Short Line model railroad four years ago. My train room is twenty-one feet long. I have four feet of depth to work with because the room is narrow.

Now that I am forty-eight months into the project, I recognize that I made some mistakes. They’re not problems that require tearing track out and starting over, but they do impact the operation of the railroad.

The ends of my “shelf-type” model railroad are 48 inches deep. The center areas are 36 inches deep. I chose not to build a flat switching railroad with lots of spurs, ladders, and switches. I wanted to include mountainous areas, which immediately limited what I was be able to do with the track plan.

I wanted to run at least two trains simultaneously, but I didn’t want simple ovals. I designed an interesting track plan, but with every curve the limitations grew.

As you can see in the photos, I have a mountain ridge winding through the center of the layout. The outside mainline runs along the ridge and then to the wider curves at the ends.

The biggest limitation is the sight line. The scenery details behind the ridge are partially hidden. The ridge is four inches high, so the area just beyond the ridge is virtually invisible. I’m tall, so it’s not a problem for me.

I am determined the scene behind the ridge will have as much detail as the area in front of it.

The Maple Valley River runs across the center of the layout. There are six bridges crossing the river in an area thirty-six inches deep. The first bridge carries two turnouts, connecting the two mainlines. The second is a steel twin-track bridge. The third is the Maple Valley River Trestle connecting the mountain ridge over the river.

The photos show the bridges crossing the river behind the ridge. There is also a wooden vehicle traffic bridge at the back of the layout. That is a lot of great river detail, but it is behind the trestle. The view through the timbers of the trestle is incredible!

I discovered a rather big problem the first time I tried to run my biggest steam locomotive around the mainline through Maple Valley. The line includes two short tunnels through the mountain ridge. The engine won’t fit through the tunnels. No problem, I just run steam on the outer mainline.

I wanted the curves at the end of the layout to be wider, but I chose to stay within 48 inches. Even that depth created problems when I was laying the track. I had to climb on top of the bench to get it done. The outside radius is 22 inches, the inside radius is 18 inches.

Ideally, there would be more room between the two curves. Since the outside curve is elevated, it creates the illusion of greater distance. I am very pleased with the appearance of the rock face along the curve.

Recently, I visited a huge club layout I have admired for years. At the back of the layout was a narrow-gauge railroad that was part of a mining operation. The club members decided to take out the track and rebuild the whole area. I was so surprised!

Decisions are a big part of model railroading. Future results depend on choices made at the beginning. The possibilities for the Maple Valley Short Line model railroad were somewhat limited by the size of my train room. However, the end result is a model railroad I am very proud of. I love working on it.

I have tried to stay focused on small areas while working on scenery details. Small is huge. Rocks, twigs, grass, weeds, broken boards, and crud, are all incredibly important to a great model railroad. I’m working on all of it.

I recently received a comment concerning the Scandal at Maple Valley, the ongoing saga concerning the disappearance of Sylvia Meisner. The reader said, “I want to live in Maple Valley!” To me, that’s exactly how a model railroad scene should make us feel. I want to go there!

I am happy to say the Maple Valley Short Line model railroad is far from complete. Every time I work on the layout, even for a little while, I am inspired to do more. That’s model railroading.

One thought on “Mistakes I Made on my HO Scale Model Railroad: The Maple Valley Short Line

  1. Pingback: Things I Did Right on my HO Scale Model Railroad – A Coffee State of Mind

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