My Train Thing

The West Seneca Valley Railroad (WSVRR) is an N-Scale, free-form layout that I have been attempting to build for more than a decade. The original incarnation of it was first started in early 2008 when I had an apartment all to myself. It was a 4 x 8 layout built as single table, having a double track mainline, a modest yard and plans for a turntable. The trackwork was to be all Atlas snap track and Flex track. At the time, the layout was planned and set up as a straight DC layout. I had it up and able to run a limited number of trains and get some basics done, but sadly, this came to an end that fall when I moved. Ultimately, the layout was dismantled and never remotely completed.

While living with some family back in my original home town of West Seneca, NY, I built the tables for this and experimented a bit with some Bachmann EZ track, but after a bit of time, decided to switch back to the Atlas track option. Time constraints from work, a new relationship and other activities meant I got little done beyond building two tables that I ultimately disassembled and gave to my future father-in-law.

Over the next 5 years, very little happened with the railroad. It wasn’t forgotten, but a smattering of different challenges and distractions prevented anything from happening. For a time, I didn’t expect to get back to building anything until after my children were grown and out. Not exactly the way I wanted it, but not really allowing much choice.

Then, I managed to get enough resources together to get a new table set up, and while I had a bit of track leftover, I knew I’d need to find more to build what I wanted. This resulted in my trip to Rock Springs Station Hobby Shop in West Valley, NY, about 30 minutes away from home. While talking to the owner and his wife, they suggested I switch away from Atlas track to Kato Unitrack. Now I’d seen the product before, but I always dismissed it because the price was much higher. However, after he showed me the simplicity of use, plus the fact that it eliminated the need to do all of the extra work to set up for ballasting, I purchased my first pack of track and took it home. It was a simple loop, but it was more than I’d had in years. My father-in-law had also mentioned the benefits of the product and before long, real plans began to come together.

I’d built a new table, 30 inches wide and about 7 long. I had a modest layout planned for the limited space I had in the living room of the duplex we lived in. Shortly before the end of that year, we got the children a puppy (a Siberian Husky we named Dexter) and shortly thereafter, we moved to a bigger space that we thought would be more pet friendly.

I packed up what I had, intent on setting back up again. When we arrived at the new home, I did just that. Unfortunately, the nature of the house left me with only being able to put the layout in the dining room for the time being. But we expected this to only be home for a year or two before we hopefully bought a home of our own. Sadly, this plan didn’t work out, either. Buying a house was going to take longer to accomplish, and unfortunately, Dexter and my wife’s cat, Peach, proved too rough on things. Dexter ran around a lot, and the vibrations on the floor were just more than the layout was really able to deal with. Peach occasionally climbed up enough to go onto the table, and that was a disaster. Finally, room was just not what we thought it would be, and finally I saw the writing on the wall. I packed up the trains and that-was-that for the next 4 years. As time progressed, we got another dog, to be company for Dexter (another Husky, this one a female the family named Ruby at my wife’s suggestion).

The WSVRR at that stage sounded like it was going to end up being a paper railroad. Or perhaps a dream that would never be. Still, I didn’t give up on the idea of maybe one day getting back to it. But not for now.

During that time, my old hope of eventually getting into Backyard Railroading was realized when I became a member of the Mud Creek Central railroad, a non-for-profit group with property in Lockport, NY. The children, my wife and I regularly helped out for the first few years, going in for track work on the days we could, occasionally taking rides and helping at the open house. The spark of the dream was still there for trains, but frankly, there was only so much I could do. If building an N-Scale layout was too much for the time being, live-steam was pretty much out-of-the-question for the foreseeable future.

Then, in the late Fall of 2018, tired of a neighborhood that was going to pits, still a ways off from being ready to get a home, tired of the drama of our current neighbors and their ridiculous attitude towards pets, we moved, again. This time to a very nice side-by-side duplex on the other end of West Seneca, in a much better area. I had room for my shop tools, the dogs had some space to run in (though there isn’t significant fencing, we’ve managed to make that work out for them to some extent), and a nice, dry basement with decent room to work in.

And that lead me to a discussion with my wife. Money and time were a bit tight to heavily do anything with Mud Creek Central, though I am still going to maintain that membership for the future goal of getting active again. But I could build myself a new table and, little-by-little, start putting together a new layout. Only if I had her permission to do so. I was lucky that my wife granted that permission, and before long, I had started making plans. And through about 6 months of revisions and effort, I constructed a quick prototype table frame. The experience of doing so gave me feedback for my methods, and an understanding of what I’d need to do to better support my plans.

I shifted gears a bit over the summer of 2019 and built up some proper workbench areas in the garage to make building the table easier, and stacked up most of the material I needed for the first table section. I went through probably 20 or more plan designs until I finally settled on a dream layout. This isn’t the end-piece; if we get a home, it might change or expand, but there is room for that down the line, if space permits; and if not, the current layout plan, a reasonable 12 x 12 layout, should be able to fit into any semi-modern basement in the future.

That’s where I stand right now.

I am on the verge of building that first table. My goal is to build the 3 x 6 end table to house Charlottesville (named for my sister) is underway, and by the week’s end, I will have the necessary board for the table top. I have the lumber for framing, so in between work on a few projects for clients and my full-time job, I will be setting up that frame and allowing myself to finally run something again for the first time in years. With luck, all of the tables will be built before the snow hits this year, and if I do it right, I can just purchase the track, little-by-little until I have all of it (nearly $1000 in track, but you get what you pay for, and Unitrack has been worth it).

So that’s my story. It’s been rough getting to this point, and I’m sure I’ll have more to post soon. If you’re interested in seeing some of the articles on the progress and process, I am including a link to the category below. Enjoy!

N Scale Articles