Matson’s Landing in L-Gauge – Choosing Motive Power

This is the second in a series of articles documenting the creation of brick-built layout, from start to finish. For part one, see Matson’s Landing in L-Gauge – A Layout From Start to Finish.

Before starting on the layout proper, I first want to define and build my motive power and rolling stock. The actual design of the track plan, including grades, number of cars spotted, and so on, will depend upon the equipment running over it. There are a few things to consider before beginning:

  • Scale – Six-wide or Eight-wide? I used to build six-wide trains, but I’ve come to enjoy the detail that can be added to the larger eight-wide trains. Six-wide would make for a smaller, more portable layout, but eight-wide allows for more space for batteries and motors.
  • Era – Most logging operations that are modeled seem to fall into the late 19th or early 20th centuries. Choosing a specific year, or year range, will help narrow down what kind of equipment to build.
  • Location – What part of the world should I aim for? Eastern or western United States? Maybe another part of the world?

Here’s what I first selected:

  • Scale – Eight-wide. I really want to be able to add detail. This will make for a larger layout, but I think it will be worth it in the end.
  • Era – I’m aiming for the turn of the 20th century. This seems to be the height of logging by rail type operations, and research material for this time period is plentiful.
  • Location – I live in northern New England in the United States, and logging operations were plentiful around here back in the day. This also opens up research material, as I can literally step outside of my door and look at scenery that was logged by rail at one time. One of my favorite hiking trails, in fact, runs along a portion of what used to be the Lye Brook Railroad, a small logging operation run from 1914 to 1919 by the Rich Lumber Company of Manchester, Vermont.[1]
Lye Brook Railroad
Lye Brook Railroad as pictured in Volume 14 of the Walloomsack Review. Now a popular hiking trail.

With my basics defined, I started researching equipment. Generally, when one thinks about logging railroads, they think about small wood-fired geared steamers slowly crawling up steep grades, pulling strings of weather-worn log cars. The big three that immediately came to my mind where Shay, Climax, and Heisler.

Building the Clishay
“Building the Clishay” by Bob Maynard

A lot of builders put together Shay locomotives, with good reason. They look great while running! The exterior gear shafts provide some movement not seen on rod driven machines. I don’t consider myself to be a steam builder, or a Technic builder, though, so the gearing was a little off-putting for me. A Heisler, with its gear shaft underneath, might be workable, but, due to another of my other hobbies, I had Climax locomotives on my mind. In my Live Steam life, I’m working on a 1/8th scale “Clishay” locomotive. Billed as a cross between a Shay and a Climax, the Clishay[2] screams “small logging operation”. I love the hand-built look of it, and since the gearing is pretty simple, I thought it would lend itself well to a LEGO® design. The basic layout is similar to a Class A Climax with a vertical boiler. This, then, was where I began my prototype research.

In the next installment of this series, I’ll talk about the Climax designs that I looked at, and where I am currently with the build.

[1] Bristow, Preston. “Vermont’s Long Trail and Logging Railroads.” Walloomsack Review 14:31. Accessed January 6, 2017. http://benningtonmuseum.org/library/walloomsack/volume-14/vermonts-long-trail-and-logging-railroads.pdf.

[2] For a great overview of a Live Steam scale Clishay, visit https://youtu.be/hBkAVHcHCJk.

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