The more I examined Frederick, the more it seemed like the perfect prototype. Two elevators, carload traffic of fertilizer, two cotton related industries, and interchange with another short line. All at a “stub terminal” and in a relatively small area.
Of course, I wasn’t the first to arrive at that conclusion. There was a great article by Patrick Flynn in a May 1992 issue of Model Railroader that I picked up that described Grainbelt (Farmrail) operations on the “south end” of the railroad, and had a nice track plan that featured Frederick prominently. He provided some great photos and information about prototype operations in that era that I was too young to see first-hand.
Frederick is almost as far south as you can get in this part of Oklahoma before you cross the Red River and hit Texas. The line is a former Frisco branch line, it once crossed the river into Texas, but after a bridge wash out in the late 50’s, the line was truncated at Davidson, OK. After the merger with the Burlington Northern, the BN continued to operate the line. Farmrail formed the Grainbelt subsidiary in 1987 to buy the whole branch from Enid to Frederick, and abandoned the few miles to Davidson.
However, there are were restraints as I designed the layout. It had to be mobile; since I’m military and move a lot, I wanted this project to be a long-term one that would be relatively easy move from place to place. I also needed storage space, so I decided to make the benchwork an Ikea IVAR shelving based design. I designed the benchwork footprint first, before starting on a track plan.
I knew I wanted the layout to be visually interesting and feature the towns large grain elevators prominently. Casual switching operations are important to me, and I wanted a run-around track since the past two layouts I’ve built were “Inglenooks” with all trailing point turnouts
However, making it all compressed into an 11×10.5 L-shaped shelf layout was not without challenges. Let’s take a look at the town of Frederick:
The line running north-south in the photo is the Grainbelt (Farmrail) line. The one intersecting it near the bottom is the Wichita, Tillman & Jackson. The bottom half of the line is relatively easy for a small layout. The two cotton warehouses and WT&J interchange make for a relatively manageable small scene. However, the longer sidings with the elevators aren’t as easy to compress without making it look too small to be believable
I decided that being able to spot three hoppers per loading spout at the elevators would be a good compromise, and not look TOO small. There will be one loading spot at the Cassidy Grain elevator, and two unloading spots at the Farmer’s Co-op elevator. Also, in 2005, Farmrail built a spur across from the Farmers Co-op elevator for unloading liquid fertilizer. Although its at the end of the window of time I chose to model, I’ve decided to include it.
Other compromises had to be made. Namely, part of the elevator tracks will be on a curve in the corner of the layout “L.” Unaviodable. What bothered me more, though, was the need for Micro Engineering curved diverging #5 turnouts to build essentially the small yard ladders on either end of the layout.
Many modelers I admire urge the use of a minimum of #6 turnouts. It almost seems like a commandment in modern, realistic, prototype modeling. I spent hours drawing and trying to figure it out. I looked at every other town on the Farmrail system to see if it would be a better fit for my benchwork. Hours, hours I tell you, on Google Maps and Railroad Picture Archives. I even considered doing another freelance town that I could bend to my space.
However, at the end of the day, I was looking at countless other compromises on what I wanted to model in order to avoid breaking one rule. Breaking that rule, compromising with the use of #5 turnouts, would provide much more enjoyment in the long run.
I mocked up the layout with painters tape and turnout templates until I had a design that worked. I’ll post a sketch here soon!