Goodbye to Pembroke I

I am often asked if I have a layout, and I’m always cagey about it. Technically, you could say I have a layout. This is the layout I described back in Model Railroad Planning 1999 (at least I think it was 99). Most of the photos in that article were of a little diorama I created, though, and there are few photos published of the actual layout. Here is the long, sad story of my first model of Pembroke, which never got off the ground.

In about 1996, I proposed an article on planning for Proto87 in Model Railroad Planning. The editor didn’t see the angle at first, but after a few drafts, I convinced him. Then, I decided to move to England in the summer of 1997. So, I decided I would get as much as I could done before we went so I could take some photos that highlighted it.

Through the spring, I worked feverishly on finishing some of the layout, any part of the layout, finally concentrating on the area around the crossover. Then I was ready to take pictures, but the weather wasn’t cooperative. I got some halogen flood lights because I didn’t want to plump for expensive photo floods, and attempted the photos with those. I also shot a role outside at dawn on one of the only nice days we got. Unfortunately I swapped the rolls of film (you remember rolls of film, right?) and wound up with one set that was totally yellow and another that was totally blue.

It was too late to shoot again, I was moving across the ocean in a matter of days, and the layout was already in storage under my friend Scott Calvert’s layout. So, I resolved to build a little diorama that would serve for the article once I got to England.

Pembroke looking south

So the layout sat under Scott’s layout for four years while we traveled around Europe and suffered in Henley on Thames. While we were there, some things happened. The first one was an encounter with Bruce Pappin, who had the first photos I’d actually seen of the townsite. Up until now I had been working from fire insurance plans, and some assumptions. Nothing like building a model to make a photo of the real thing show up, I always say.

In Bruce’s photos, you can clearly see that I got the level of the river completely wrong, and the gound around the station is not right either. Both of these are difficult to change, especially the river as it holds the fascia to the curve at which it is bent.

The second thing that happened is that one of the stock rails came loose. This shouldn’t have been such a big deal, but it was soldered to studs that were in turn soldered to PC board under the ballast. I can’t see how I can mend this without making a cold joint inside the ballast or lifting the ballast. That method of track laying was, it turns out, not especially good.

Frog detail

I could fix everything, but there comes a time when the list of things to fix is so long, it’s just easier to start over, and I think I’m there now. Certainly the fact that the layout sat for almost eight – count ’em – years partially set up in our current basement indicates that there is something seriously wrong.

So, I’m starting over. This is the year that we renovate the basement and make it a comfortable place for making trains and for the kids to play. Time will tell how these two activities mix.

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