Construction of the Philly & Scranton

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Active Member
Figured I'd start this thread with a copy of the trackplan I'm starting to build. Up to now, I've been focused on coming up with the trackplan for the Philly & Scranton, which I envision as a branch of the North East Corridor. I've mocked up at full scale some of the locations shown on the plan below, but haven't actually laid track, or done any wiring. Next up is to have some electrical work done in the basement, to support the layout, then, once that is finished, go to town on building the layout.

As it now stands, the plan is to go DCC, with an NCE system.

The left most trackplan is of the 'main level,' representing the former Reading mainline from Reading, north towards Tamaqua, then onwards towards Hazelton, Wilkes Barre, and Scranton. There is a narrow ailse on the plan in the Scranton/Port Clinton area, however I may go with a smaller radius curve heading north from WB/Scranton, into the hidden staging. The plan is for many trains to head from staging into Scranton, then southward from there. The Hazelton peninsula may be simplified relating to all the turn back curves, depending upon final elevations.

The middle plan, is the configuration of the staging level. The top and left portions will be on IKEA Ivar shelves, about 12" lower than the main layout elevation (48"). It is planned that train lengths will be a maximum of 1044' scale feet (144"). Shorter than some large layouts, but pretty decent length for a home layout. Motive power for freights will be 2 E60CF's, or 2 E33's, or 2 CC-1's(Tyco GG-1 shell on Athearn Trainmaster drive), or a dual cab streamlined GE single unit (like the NH EF3's), and maybe a single unit GG-1. Passenger trains will be 2 AEM-7's, single GE EP-4, ALP44, CC-1, GG-1, and MU cars(Silverliner of some sort, + perhaps some others).

The plan on the right is under consideration as an 'upper deck' to represent an electrified line up the Rdg North Penn to Bethlehem, then up the CNJ to Tamaqua or Wilkes Barre, where the lines would join, then into Scranton. This level, if built, would be in the 56-60" level range. Viewing would be aided by step stools. Plan is to build the main level first, but make provisions for eventually adding the 'Lehigh Line', to complete the concept, if time and resources allow. Bethlehem, and the Jim Thorpe areas are the major areas modeled, plus perhaps a portion of the East Penn, between Allentown and Reading.

Comments/ideas/suggestions always welcome.


Active Member
Wow! Carl that is going to be an AWESOME layout. I can't wait to see you start building it. I wish I had that kind of room.

Are you getting any help? How long do you think it will take to complete?


New Member
That's a lot of layout, and it looks fun. I have driven a lot through that region but never with enough time to railfan. :-(

Do you have plans to operate with a crew?


Active Member

I've been 'mocking it up,' as I've done the cad drawings to convince myself that it will work. My other thread, Philly & Scranton Trackplan as some later pictures of these attempts, if you start at the end, and work forward. I have about a 5 minute video of what I've got so far, that I'm looking to place on the tube, but haven't had a chance to do so, yet. When I do, I'll add a link here for everyone that's interested to enjoy. Yes, its a lot of room, but only takes up a portion of our basement-any larger and I think I'd switch scales, for simplicity's sake.
I have some local friends that are interested in my progress, and are looking to help out with scenery, but so far I'm doing things pretty much on my own-I'm not bothered by being the lone wolf, for the moment. As for the future, I will be looking to operate with people that are interested. My feeling is that the design phase is close to being finished, which bodes well for things (more time for operations, down the road).

As for how long it will take to complete-who said anything about completing it? Haven't you heard that I have a '15 year plan'- to keep things simple? 5 years for design, 5 years for construction, and 5 years to operate. I'm just begining year 3 of the design phase, and have done some preliminary construction, but nothing is close to running yet. The basement needs some electrical work, before I go whole hog into the construction phase. While I'm completing the basement electrical work, I'll be tweaking the design some more, and be doing small scale construction projects, that won't get in the way of everything else.

I've driven around and rode fantrips in the region since the 1970's. The design of the Outerstation and Reading yard portions of the layout date back to when I first came up with the idea, about 1980, or 81. I had ridden from Philly to Pottsville and back, on the SEPTA/Conrail 'mid day reverse commute train,' during the Summer of 78 or 79, when I was about a Sophomore in HS. It seemed to me at that time, given the proximity of the Reading and PRR mains north of Reading, and the scenery, which I didn't know anything about, previously, that it would make a good section of railroad to model. I never really traveled outside of the Northeast, with one exception, until after I graduated college. Before my 'Pottsville excursion,' the PRR was my favorite railroad, afterwards, it became the Reading. FWIW, hoppers and 'haulin coal,' are still not my favorite type of freight cars and industry to model, but I'm adapting. I figure to include some TOFC/COFC, perishable, and maybe auto rack traffic, heading to/from Canada and in a generally northeast-southwest pattern, to keep things interesting.

In the years since I've also become interested in the Western Pacific, Rio Grande, Milwaukee Road, and Virginian, a lot more than I ever expected. I've toyed with the idea of making a portion of the layout generic enough that it could stand in for sections of these roads, with or without catenary, but haven't been completely successful with this, yet. I am considering however on the right side of the Hazleton peninsula, heading towards Wilkes Barre, to include a ski area, as a destination for my 'franchise' version of the Rio Grande ski train. I also have 2 Little Joes, and the Hiawatha train, that I can run, when desired, even though the MILW was DC. I liked the GN too, as a kid, and could maybe have a 'GN ski train,' with some sort of GN electric, also, but I haven't won the lottery yet, so I'm holding off on that, until later.

You are right, it does take a large amount of floorspace for this trackplan. If I decided to skip the idea of trying to model the Lehigh route, eventually, I think it could be done as a double deck layout, using a mushroomesque design, in about 18'x26'(left half of the room), by using a nolix or two, and stacking the right and side above the left. I considered this recently and can upload the unfinished plan, if there's interest. Besides the floorspace taken up, the layout breaks down into about 10-12 distinct scenes/locations/dominos based on my scenic and operational preferences. If I had the space, there might be 2-3 other locations I'd like to include(like South Hamburg station area with the sweeping curve as viewed from the Rt. 61 road and bridge), Taylor yard, and Tamaqua area, but even with the space I have, I have to make compromises. Most of the curves are 26", 28", and 30" radius minimums, which with mostly 50 foot freight car lengths, and shorty passenger cars, I feel for the train lengths I have in mind, will be 'good enough.' There also isn't as much elevation varation as the prototype(Reading at 200', Tamaqua at 800', Hazleton at 1700', and Scranton around 700'), however this, again, is a compromise I can live with.

Thanks for saying that it looks 'fun!' At times I've been ready to throw in the towel, and at others I build part of something and it confirms that I'm making good compromises. Fun, satisfaction, and enjoyment are what I'm looking to get out of this endeavor, and hobby, including sharing my interests with others. Guess I'm succeeding if it appears that the layout will be fun to others.

Getting back to your question-yes I plan to operate with a crew, someday, but many things need to happen before that day arrives.


Active Member
The following photos are mock ups, track not spiked yet, nor wired. Decided to see what a 15 car train of 50' refers looked like in different places, on the layout, as it now stands.

From left to right:
Leesport-Outer Station in the distance.
Port Clinton
Wilkes-Barre, on the freight/CNJ side.

Photos to be posted soon-having trouble uploading.
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Active Member
The hidden staging and a portion of the Philly area is 36", balance is 48" or higher. Hazelton is about 54" highest point on the line. Table height in the 3 left photos is 48". The CNJ portion of Wilkes-Barre(right most photo, where boxcars are) is 44". Staging below is 36". Passenger line behind is 48".
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Active Member
Have spent the last month looking to get something running from Outer Station, thru Port Clinton, to Schulkyll Haven, and back to Outer Station via temporary connection. This part of the layout is in the center of the room, and fairly level, so it won't get in the way of any basement electrical work.

My plan is to go with DCC eventually, however at the moment, all I have are DC transformers, and Atlas Selectors to control blocks. I've considered going the archaic route of DC and rotary switches, instead of Atlas Selectors, and DPDT switches. Only thing is with a double track mainline and 20 or so blocks, between the hardware and electrical supplies, it becomes expensive to jury rig things too, just to get the trains running.

None of my locos have decoders at the moment, so even if I did spring for the DCC package, I still can't run anything. I'm not looking to wire the entire layout twice. Very crimped for funds right now, otherwise I'd spring for a DCC system, and also finish the ceiling, and walls, etc, as well. Any ideas?


Active Member
1st train to run on the layout, 5/29/2013. Power was a VGN EL-C and RDG GP-35, with 3 coal cars, and a caboose. Ran about 6' from just outside of the Schuykill Haven yard, to just outside of Reading's Outer Station, with the temporary tie-in. Photo is adjacent to the Schuylkill Haven yard, looking south towards the Schuylkill Haven passenger station.
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junk collector
Otiscnj, I like how you have the big vision of the big layout......with multi-levels, several switchyards and a lot of complexity. That's what makes the hobby interesting for me.

A very ambitious plan! The thing that jumps out at me most is the narrow aisles. Even for one man operation, it looks tight. Also track density, especially on the right side of the plan, leaves little room for industries or scenery. Are you sure that is what you want?

Thanks for posting about your experiences. It is exciting to see.


Active Member

Thanks for your kind comments! Having grown up mainly in the Northeast, I'm used to a complex rail network. As somebody else may have said, 'you model what you know.'

Thanks for your comments also! Most of the aisles are in the 30" range, inspite of what the plan shows. Is that to narrow-maybe, maybe not. Generally, most of the traffic on the layout will represent bridge traffic, that traverses the line from end to end. There will also be some traffic from the 'unit train assembly points,' or yards, with the actual mines modeled 'off layout.' There will be a few areas of concentrated industries, with maybe 5-6 sidings, like Hazelton, and Wilkes-Barre. A lot of traffic will be passenger trains, as part of a branch of the North East Corridor.

A lot of scenes will involve building flats on painted or photo backdrops.


Active Member
I've been reconsidering things since my last post. I've now moved Hazleton where Tamaqua used to be. Schuykill Haven has moved to a peninsula where Hazelton used to be, with Tamqua moving to the back side of the Port Clinton peninsula, and where Schuykill Haven used to be. What used to be the Hazleton pennisula has become attached to the Port Clinton peninsula, and and is now where Schuykill Haven is on the current plan.

Result is a smaller yard in Schuykill Haven and the curve going the wrong way, north of the yard/town, + a much shorter run between PC and SH. Benefit/trade is elimination of the wye in Tamaqua, but longer run between Tamaqua and Hazleton, + including a small yard to represent Mountain Top on Penobscot Mountain, and perhaps some more space to model Hazleton.

Here are some photos, of the Schuykill Haven area:

View 1:From the Port Clinton area. Curving climbing track is the Little Schuykill Branch into Tamaqua. On the left side of the peninsula will be a mining area or two (Minerville Br. and LNE Summit Hill Branch, coming out of Tamaqua.)

I'll upload a copy of the current version of the revised trackplan in the coming days.

View 2: Schuykill Haven on the left, along with yard. Station on right represents W. Cressona. Minerville Branch and RDG Mainline will run parrellel, seperated by a stream(like the RDG and PRR between SH and Pottsville). On hillside behind will be LNE Summit Hill Branch.


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Active Member
Its been a while since I posted an update. I'll upload the latest 'trackplan' in the coming days.

I've made a number of design changes, based on comments from some 'operating buddies,' and others. I've been doing design work, and building full scale mock ups over the last 6 months. More to come, soon.


Active Member
Here are 2 photos of what I'm currently working on.

First photo is of a PC merchandise train, getting ready to leave Taylor/Brother's yard between Wilkes-Barre, and Scranton. 2 PC E60CF's are up front.

2nd photo is of mock up of Reading Yard, looking towards Outer Station.

Looking to get Taylor yard and into Wilkes-Barre CNJ side wired up in the coming weeks, then on towards Hazleton. Also looking to get Reading laid out, from hidden staging, to the junction with the Belt Line and East Penn Branch.

I've changed the trackplan some, since my earlier posts, as I've gotten some advice from 'experienced/expert' layout designers and operators. Hope to post the revised plan soon.


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Well-Known Member
Staff member
Don't know how I missed this post, but all I can say is wow! This is more than impressive and like one other poster mentioned, I WISH (so badly) I had the room for such a layout.


Active Member
As promised, here is my current track plan. I got some advice earlier in the year, from some local operators, which caused me to revise my plan some. Its a single level plan, with hidden staging around the upper outside walls(under Port Clinton area to Wilkes-Barre). At this point, no Reading Terminal, or Scranton, beyond Bridge 60. Will discuss further plans, if there's the interest.



Active Member
Oh ya I like the updated plan simplified a bit more.

The trackwork you already laid, where is it in the plan? How much do you have completed so far? is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to