There can be many sources of inspiration for a train layout, and having them helps when visualizing one’s overall goals. This layout has provided that in several ways.
The Bessemer & Lake Erie is an ore carrier linking the Great Lakes to the steel mills of Pittsburgh. Ed Cronin has recreated the mainline from Albion to North Bessemer with several of the passing sidings, industries, and yards included. To fit all of this into a single basement, Ed has designed the mainline as a loop that crosses the room several times, with Albion and North Bessemer sharing the same yard. Traveling one direction on the loop is northbound, and the other is southbound.
Most of the major scenery is complete, so you can really immerse yourself in the landscape. The centerpiece of the layout is a river scene with two bridges crossing the river and mainline.
Because the prototype’s mainline hasn’t changed much over the years, the era of the route is flexible. Everything from massive 2-10-4 steam locomotives to F-Units to modern Tunnel Motors fits the look.
The most impressive aspect of this layout is the operations. In a separate room, Ed has recreated the Union Switch & Signal Dispatch Panel used by the Greenville dispatcher. The fully-functional panel allows the dispatcher to see where every train on the layout is located, as well as change any of the mainline switches. During an operating session, every train has an engineer and conductor. The dispatcher communicates with the conductors using radio headsets while the engineers operate the trains. Every train/conductor has a clipboard with instructions for picking up and dropping off cars.
What Ed’s layout illustrates for me is the importance of interactivity. The ability to have dynamic operations and sessions adds to the life of a layout. Even with my shelf layout, I want to have good replay value.
As a bonus, I got to use my DL&W hopper on a coal train to break it in.
If you would like to see more of Ed’s layout and hear him speak about it, be sure to watch this documentary.