All posts by Vinnie Fusca

Getting to work on the Lewiston Branch

Don’t mind the mess on the floor.

I’m making slow and steady progress on the layout.  I want to get the basic terrain, track, and ballast down so I can start operating the layout as quickly as possible.  After that I can worry about landscaping, buildings, and other details.  This will help me stay motivated to completion, because what’s the point of having the trains if we can’t play with them?


Examples of basic MILS rails modules used by NELTC


I participate in a club that uses the Modular Integrated Landscaping System (MILS) for rapidly assembling layouts at shows.  In addition to making layouts a snap [1], the modules also provide some depth to the terrain and provide ways to hide wiring.  We have some general guidelines for incorporating rails into the modules, similar to the PennLUG baseplate standard, though differing in that we always want half a baseplate between the viewing edge and mainline. 


I’m diverging slightly from the standard ballast profile of the club guidelines because looking at historical photos of the yard, the tracks ran at ground level.  Yet, I need to maintain the same rail height for club layout compatibility. That means the ground level ends up being twice as high as the MILS standard and each of these modules ends up consuming twice as many bricks.  I can already see the payoff with the canal that runs through the yard and the extra brick of height gives the right feeling of depth. 

[1]       see what I did there?

Lewiston Branch: Layout Plan

Continued from The Lewiston Branch in L-Gauge: Introduction

My next challenge was turning 7.5 miles of branchline into a realistic, operating, achievable layout plan.  As with any era-specific model railroading project, I started with my historical references.  In this case, primarily the Robertson and Davis’ book Grand Trunk 713 and the Lewiston Branch, but also Grand Trunk Heritage by Philip R. Hastings and Grand Trunk in New England by Jeff Holt.  These were filled with images of trains operating in various points along the line and gave me ideas for the “scenes” I wanted to model along the line.  Most of the line and places I want to model from the 1950s are still here today and I could turn to Bing to help me out.

1. Danville Jct. 2. Lewiston Jct. 3. Littlefields Crossing 4. MEC Overpass 5. Auburn Depot and Androscoggin River Bridge 6. Lewiston Yard

I was able to identify 6 scenes that appeared in historical photographs and I think really captured the essence of the line.  The idea is that any observer familiar with the branch could look at these places arranged together and identify the railroad I was trying to model without any explanation. I’m trying to keep the layout achievable, so for the near future I’m going to focus on the following two scenes:

Littlefields Crossing

Aerial view of Littlefields Crossing in Auburn, ME

The branch crosses a 120’ truss bridge over the Little Androscoggin river.  In the early 1900s until the 1930s an electric tram service, the Portland Interurban Line, crossed the Grand Trunk tracks and over a stone arch spanning the river.  The line was abandoned and a truss road bridge erected next to it, however the stone arch of the Portland Interurban is still there today and is used to carry pipes over the river.

If anyone knows a good technique to model an 80-stud wide stone arch like this, I’m all ears.

StreetView of the Littlefield’s Crossing bridge from Hotel Rd. The vegetation in the foreground is the stone arch of the Portland Interurban.

The Lewiston Yard

1. Lewiston Depot 2. Swift Meat Packing Plant 3. Freight Shed 4. Store House (Platform?) 5. Enginehouse 6. Armour and Company Meat Packing Plant 7. Freight Transfer Platform 8. Freight Transfer Platform 9. Hall and Knight Hardware Company Shed 10. Shed 11. Cross and Company Grain Mill 12. Max Millar Scrap Company 13. JB Skinner Coal Shed and Trestle 14. US Bobbin Company Shed 15. Oil Tanks 16. Lewiston Handle Company

As you can see from the yard diagram I’ve reproduced on the Bing map, the Lewiston yard was full of industries and operating potential.  It could be (and may very well turn out to be) a layout in itself.  There’s plenty of demand for all sorts of rolling stock whether its boxcars, refers at the meat packing plants, gondolas at the scrap company, tankers for the oil tanks, or hoppers at the coal trestle and engine shed. Within the yard the focal points are the enginehouse at the center and the depot at the east end.  A canal bisects the yard providing a visual break and some varying elevation in an otherwise flat surface. 

The track plan.

The 1st draft layout plan in BlueBrick

I opted to make Littlefield’s crossing my westernmost scene instead of the Androscoggin River Bridge.  The Androscoggin River Bridge is about 360 feet long which works out to be 9 baseplates at this scale.  Building the bridge and the river itself would be a pretty significant undertaking, and in my opinion not as visually interesting as some of the other scenes on the line.  I felt like the truss at Littlefields could convey the impression of a bridge at the west end of the yard, but also serve the purposes of representing a scene further down the line.  I’m going to try to put the track and roads at an angle like builder MTM-MD does with some of his creations to make the scene more interesting. 

The yard itself I’ve applied a generous amount of selective compression.  I have an 8-foot long banquet table to use, which pretty much decided how much space I have for the yard.  Full 1:48 scale, the yard would be a good 25 baseplates in length, and I’d guess maybe 10-12 deep, which while super accurate is highly impractical for my basement (and my marriage!)  The structures will be compressed to about 75-80% scale size which allows them to both fit in this smaller space and saves my budget for the project whilst still creating the impression of being full scale.  The northern sidings with their various industries will have to be represented by some short 1-2 car sidings and façade structures.

One shortcoming with this plan is the track is squeezed so tightly that the northern bay where the locomotive would park will have to be non-functional.  This won’t impact switching operations though.  The other shortcoming is that this uses R40 switches which aren’t very realistic looking and may give my 713 model some problems.  Given the price of printed R014s and my space currently available, I figured this could wait for another day.

The Lewiston Depot today. The signage painted on the brick in the early 20th century is still visible.

In the end though, I have 7 spots for switching cars, a spot for the combine, and plenty of space for building up the return train to Lewiston.  The basement is cleaned up (mostly.) and the tables are in place.  Now it’s time to hit the brick.

The Lewiston Branch in L-Gauge: Introduction

Much like Elroy, a scant 50 miles from me on the other side of the green mountains, I’m a huge fan of incorporating realistic railroad operations in minimal space with my Lego trains.  Our influences are the same, Model Railroader and the old Railroad Model Craftsman magazines, the late Carl Arendt’s micro layouts website, and the Trevor Marshall’s Port Rowan in S Scale blog.  I’ve built a number of L-Gauge operating layouts over the years such as my freelanced Port Lego – North Bay, an Inglenook based on the BR Railfreight Distribution of the 80s, and even a tiny switching layout based on modern Claremont and Concord Railway operations in Claremont, NH. 

Continue reading The Lewiston Branch in L-Gauge: Introduction