I lack inspiration to get started with modelling. It does not make sense to me just to build a random house or to put light into a random car or to pour ballast on top of some random piece of track.
So I have to either invent some stations and their history, or choose something from real life to build – simplified obviously.
I have decided for something in between. I use this track plan as a starting point (shown here as all levels on top of each other as it shall be, the levels “folded out” and finally only the visible parts):
The last picture is not quite right: The white track should not be so symmetrical and the depth (i.e. the height of the picture) not so big. The two turnouts to the right are not necessary. And they do not look nice either.
The history is that the front station is Skive and the rear one is Spøttrup.
Even though both stations are real, only some parts of them will be recognizable from reality. And the rolling stock will be from different periods.
I have a few considerations about the layout:
1. Will it become dull with so little visible track? Maybe. I don’t exactly need to hide the lower level. The front can be open and I can add some LED strips to light up the track.
2. Even better: I will make a “paradestrecke” in the front of the lower blue level – as the Kamstrupvej layout.Whether that means sacrificing the side track at Skive station or make the first part of the track towards Spøttrup the side track instead or if the entire layout need to be a bit wider to make another track at the blue level? It has to be thought through. Maybe I can make a detachable track that can make the layout 15 cm more narrow if we get sleeping guests?
3. There is not much space to clear the tracks in case of accidents in the shadow stations. It has to be made as open as possible. But anyway I must be prepared to accept that many derailments will have to be fixed lying on my back underneath the layout and working blindfolded with my hands inside the shadow stations.
4. The level crossing between the blue track might be a challenge regarding signalling in JMRI. I might have to represent the crossing as two turnouts. And then I have to make sure that warrants always are routed straight across these virtual turnouts. Plan B is to substitute the crossing with a small helix in each end and then have two tracks crossing at different elevations. But plan A has to work. There must be a way for JMRI to handle a level crossing.
5. There is no fiddle yard and no turntable or other interesting stuff on my layout. But I only want to drive (passenger) trains and not move wagons from A to B. And the layout should be able to host 8 or 10 passenger train sets. And that seems like a lot on a very small layout.
To address point 1 and 2, I have extended the layout with a “paradestrecke”. It means that the layout will become 10 cm deeper, so that it will total 120 x 255 cm. But if these additional 10 cm become detachable, it will not be a problem.
Besides, I have added a turnout and a small siding for the machine shed in Spøttrup.And turnouts and track is now oriented as the two tracks closest to the real station build were:
Maybe I can make the edge behind the “paradestrecke” out of some kind of net, so that it can be semi-transparent in the sense that trains and tracks on the shadow stations are visible when there is sufficient light in the shadow station. Or maybe that edge can be detachable too?
The track will cost 4730 kroner (at lokdok, which is one of the cheaper dealers). And that is in addition to the track I already have on my prototype layout. Besides a servo costs about 25 kroner and I need one for each turnout. And the new layout adds 22 turnouts. Decoders are very cheap because I am building them myself, so never mind them.
Not to take the entire expenditure at once and because the construction is probably going to take very long time, I am considering to start with only the layout below. I will then wait a little with the line between Skive and Spøttrup. In addition, I have removed some of the sidings. This way the track for phase one is only 2760 kroner, and I only need 11 servos:
In spite of those limitations, I will get experience with building in several levels, to get the new layout defined in ECOS as well as JMRI including signals, warrants etc. and to make several trains run each their schedule.
Realistically, it will take a long time just to get this first phase implemented. Especially if the Skive town level need to be detachable. But the I have started and have an extendable basis.
As an alternative or as a supplement to the shadow station, it might be worth considering a Nelevator. The problem is that it is extremely expensive. And to put it mildly, it is not prototypical to have trains in a multi-level elevator. In addition, it will not be under ECOS or JMRI control. But it would make all my rolling stock visible as opposed to the shadow stations.
One can of course build a DIY elevator using parts for drawers etc. that might be available in IKEA or elsewhere. In addition, one would need a good stepping motor and other mechanical stuff, which would easily cost a few thousand kroner. Here is a description of how somebody in Germany has started such a project. Or search google for “vertical fiddle yard”.
I will however stick to my plan with shadow stations – at least for the time being.