The Acadian Coast Eastern
A freelanced 1930's Maine narrow gauge line                                                                      President and Chief Gandy Dancer:  Sandy Eustis

Givens and Druthers:

I wanted the ACE terminus to include a waterfront scene, with a fisherman's co-operative and a couple of lobster boats and other watercraft sitting around, some interesting waterfront clutter here and there, and maybe even a separate dock for a launch serving a posh summer resort on a nearby island – a good excuse to run a bit of passenger equipment every now and then.  I thought the other end of the line should probably represent an interchange with a standard gauge line -- hopefully with a standard gauge freight car or two sitting there to show just how small two-foot equipment really was. 
I definitely wanted a continuous running loop somewhere in the track plan, but also a plausible operating scheme, with a dozen or so active industries to serve, including a couple in a couple of intermediate towns between the waterfront terminus and the standard gauge interchange.  And of course I also wanted a branch line to an upstate sawmill, and a decent yard, and an engine service facility.

Compromises and Revisions:

We've owned our current 3 bedroom home since 2007, and I quickly convinced my wife that we really only needed one guest bedroom, so my layout  
room, the third bedroom, is 14'2" x 12'2".   14' x 12'  in O scale is roughly equivalent to 7' x  6' in HO scale, and what you have room for in On30 is not driven primarily by using HO gauge track on fatter ties, but mostly by the footprints of O scale structures and scenic features.
  So if you're used to thinking in HO scale terms, you'll know right away that a waterfront terminus with an engine terminal, an intermediate town or two, a standard  gauge interchange scene, a working branch line to a sawmill, and some room for rural scenery is just not all going to fit in my spare bedroom.  To further complicate matters, my wife was none too thrilled with the idea that our grand kids would have no good place to sleep if/when they visited with their mom, and so I had to promise to leave the center of the room open for an inflatable air mattress for at least a couple more years. Since there may be one more move in our future, I also had to promise to make my layout as easily removable as possible -- no nailing of anything into the walls or floor.   
I love doodling track plans, and e
ither necessity is the mother of invention, or 14'x12' really is big enough for a one-man On30 empire, because I eventually came up with a track plan that included most of my givens and druthers (see below, on the left side.) Initially (during 2010 and early 2011), the ACE consisted of just the Winter Harbor and Summer Harbor town scenes.  Later, I added the engine terminal area, the town of Gouldsboro along the door wall of the room and the removable bridge for continuous running.  By early 2012, we realized that visiting grand kids are happy sleeping on air mattresses, but these can be placed anywhere in the house -- not just in their reserved space in the middle of my precious layout room!  So I added the stub-ended center peninsula, which included a grade up to a planned sawmill scene on one side and a cassette-based "interchange" on the other.  I actually laid all the track on both sides of this peninsula and even completed most of the scenery on the interchange side before I finally accepted the fact that my track plan included a pair of significant problems.  First, although the cassette based interchange/staging idea "worked" just fine, I found it both a PITA (pain-in-the-xxx) and an invitation to disaster to have to lift, rotate, and replace a 48" long loaded cassette every time I completed the short run from Winter Harbor to Goodwin. Second, switching in Gouldsboro required me to walk around to the far side of the peninsula just to throw the one turnout at that end of the passing siding or just to couple cars on the slightly curved potato warehouse siding.  I thought about adding some sort of remote control device for that turnout, but I'd still be unable to couple cars there.  

So in 2013 I ripped up everything beyond the truss bridge leading out of Summer Harbor, and revised half of my track plan completely.  Now the ACE runs from Winter Harbor, through Summer Harbor, through Gouldsboro, on a rather tight 22" radius curve around the end of a slightly widened center peninsula, through West Bay (a new rural town scene with a short siding serving a team track), and then back to Winter Harbor.  No staging cassettes, no having to leave my train to go to the other side of the peninsula and back again, and the removable bridge is only in place when non-model railroading visitors come over and want to see a train running around and around.  The sawmill scene and my already-half-built potato warehouse were relocated to Gouldsboro.   To make these improvements, I had to narrow the aisle between Winter Harbor, Summer Harbor and the center peninsula to 24", so two engineers (a full operating crew on the ACE!) can no longer easily pass by each other except in the "harbor corner" between WH and SH.  I also had to omit a standard gauge interchange scene entirely, but I do have a more "sincere" and slightly longer main line run, plus some additional industry spots.  For me, the bottom line is that my revised ACE track plan is more fun to operate than the original version. 
The rebuilding process took about 8 months, but I'm satisfied it was modeling time well spent.  My original (pre-2013) ACE track plan is on the left below, while my revised plan is on the right.   
                                  Original Track Plan                                                                           Revised Track Plan

Operating with a Reversing Loop:

After operating on my revised track plan for a few months, I decided to treat the part of the reversing loop along the bottom of the revised plan as a branch line to Prospect Harbor (another real town on the Schoodic peninsula, but on the opposite side from Winter Harbor.)  All of my trains originate in Winter Harbor and run either on the main through Gouldsboro, around the end of the center peninsula and past West Bay, to the location labeled "Goodwin-Prospect" on the plan, or else they depart the main just before Gouldsboro and run the branch (counterclockwise around the reversing loop) to the same location.  Goodwin-Prospect is the end of the line for both routes; anything beyond that location, headed in either direction, is treated as an un-modeled part of the system.  After arriving at Goodwin or Prospect Harbor, trains are run forward to the other end of the reversing loop and backed to the Goodwin-Prospect location, but facing in the opposite direction from which they arrived. They're ready for a quick drink at the little water tank I put there before their return runs.   

I use 4 position car cards to govern operations, and for mainline trains arriving at Goodwin, I simply rotate all the car cards for the cars in the consist to their next destinations, and treat the turned train as the next train headed down the main from the un-modeled interchange at Goodwin.  But for trains to Prospect Harbor, I don't rotate car cards on arrival, because I have what amounts to a long siding running from the location of the Potato Warehouse on the revised plan, down to the start of the removable bridge.  This track is actually part of the continuous run loop, which I use less and less as the layout develops.  During the summer of 2014, I built a 24" long removable shelf that replaces the bridge and hugs the West Bay side of the aisle.  So I now have a REALLY long siding there -- long enough to include a string of Prospect Harbor industries.  So trains arriving at Prospect Harbor are turned to face back down the branch toward Winter Harbor, but they then switch that long siding on the way back to Winter Harbor.  The Prospect Harbor siding has 3 spots for the brewery (yes, I swapped the locations of the brewery and the potato warehouse as shown on the revised plan), a single spot for a pulpwood loading yard, 2 spots at the Prospect Harbor team track, and single spots on the removable shelf for the Prospect Harbor marine fuel dealer and the commercial fishing dock at the end of the line -- 5 industries and 8 car spots on one track is pretty darn space efficient!  Here's a pair of pictures that show the arrangement:

For what it's worth, I currently have 23 freight cars on the layout, and 18 industry locations to move them among. 16-20 revenue cars are moved each day (the others have a "Hold for 1 Day" or "Hold for 2 days" notation on the car card for their current location.)  I have a "6 car maximum" rule for all movements on the main or while switching (including a mandatory caboose or combine when running between towns), and a "5 car maximum" rule for all movements on the Prospect Harbor branch.   I've learned that moving 16-20 cars in short trains to their new destinations requires four scheduled out-back trains from Winter Habor per day (3 to Goodwin and 1 to Prospect Harbor.)   Every several days, I need to run an afternoon "extra" to handle heavier than usual traffic -- i.e. fewer cars with "Hold" orders.  It generally takes me about 2.5 hours of real time to complete a full daily cycle, but of course I can stop operating at any time and continue later.  I've probably run 30 simulated days to date, both alone and with an occasional second operator, and my car card system continues giving me fresh challenges and new train consists every day.  The reason for this is that some of my cars take as little as 2 days to cycle (2 ventilated boxcars of fresh lobsters go from Winter Harbor Seafood to the Goodwin interchange every day, have their car cards turned immediately for the return trip to WH, and then make the same run again the next day, thus taking only 2 simulated days to run through all four cycles on their car cards), while other cars cycle in anywhere from 3 to 7 days (a 7 day cycle occurs because 2 of my cars move among 4 different industry locations, with 3 days of "holds" along the way before they complete their cycles.)  Adding just a few more rules adds a bit more challenge.  For example, no carloads of seafood are permitted on the morning  "express" run to the interchange, and that train does no way switching on the way there!  In fact, ACE operating rules specify that out of respect for the noses of paying customers,  loaded cars of seafood can only move from the Prospect Harbor commercial fishing dock once a day,  and loaded cars of seafood headed for the interchange are permitted ONLY on the late morning "fish train" to Goodwin.  Since those trains tend to be avoided by passengers if at all possible, they carry my SR&RL style long caboose instead of the line's only combine.   
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