Conrail First Years ho scale modular system - Professional Model Trains

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HO scale modular dioramas system and fixed layout ... to pictured HO scale trains!

The Conrail Early Years (The colorful motive power) is a new Conrail project made by and composed by some parts (many single modular dioramas and one fixed layout) that make up a system in HO scale, set in the early years of the company (1976-1978) and show a small part of the Conrail Atlantic Region (Lehigh Division), freelanced set in Pennsylvania. Is focused on Allentown Yard westside and Bethlehem area, before the reconstruction by Conrail of the 1978-1979.
The first years of Conrail were characterized by an heterogeneous and huge fleet of diesel locomotives, inherited from the railroads that merged into the new railway reality created by the US government. Many of these engines, for some years, kept their original colors. This era was commonly named "CR Rainbow Years.

Allentown Yard was a Central of Jersey Central RR important facility since 1930, when the railroad had an enormus freight volumes of traffic. It was situated near a strategic junction with two others roads, the Reading and the Lehigh Valley between the routes from New York to Harrisburgh and Sayre, passing through Fullerton and Scranton on the northbound line. It served the heavily industrialized Allentown-Bethlehem urban area and it was obvious that it would become a big priority for Conrail.
The yard suffered from an obsolete layout, with the mainlines too close to the double-humps and severe constraints on capacity and efficiency requiring the double handling of some of the freight cars traffic. At the end of 1978, Conrail began a reconstruction which led to a tripled train handling capacity. The mainline was relocated from the center of the yard to south of the classification tracks (see map of the right below).

(Left) Allentown and Bethlehem trackage map in 1976. (Center) Allentown Yard westside junction at "R" tower between 1978-1979. (Right) Yard actual configuration.
(Click on image to enlarge)

In this HO scale reconstruction of this huge facility, it was necessary to accept some compromises, especially in relation to the space available and the type of dioramas to be built. Compared to reality there are some differences, also importants. For example, some turnouts are missed on the northbound exit from yard on the double mainline to Fullerton, beside Allentown East sub-urban area. Westbound to Harrisburg, chooses a period focused in 1977, a single section of the mainline is reproduced up to the first bridge (a truss type) over the Lehigh Coal and Navigation canal.

The staging layout has the following measures: meters 5,80 x 1,70. Every single diorama has the following measurements: 100/140cm long by 60/80cm wide. The base is in multilayer plywood 1,8 cm high, with thick slats on the bottom to create space to accommodate electrical cables. Using foam and cork sheets, I have done the terrain and the scenery, formed by small plains and some hills. With the putty in paste form I completed the whole thing. For the track I choose the Peco Streamliner and Walthers Shinohara code 83 "flex track", with some parts of Atlas. The turnout in size 8 and 6, at least, are also from the Peco and Walther brands. Some block signals (semaphore type) are allocated entering the yard on the mainline and in proximity of crossing and sidings, as reported in the stock image.
In the scenery of the fixed layout are present some structures, essentially as background stand for industrial and commercial buildings that simulated the Bethlehem and Allentown East zone. Trackside there are some shanties, junk yard and others little houses. A "first aid" refuelling diesel point is allocated on siding, near an industrial "stock oil" tanks area. On dioramas, the trackage shows the final section of the mainline coming from Harrisburgh (section numer 1), with eastbound trains that entering Allentown Yard by the west gate, comprising the truss bridge over the the Lehigh canal and St. Albert street. On the opposite side (section number 3), is reproduced a part of the yard with the classification tracks and team-tracks positioned on the north side. The central module (number 2) is focused on the "R" tower with the intersection of the mainlines to/from Sayre to the north and from/to Harrisburgh to the west (as shown on the detail map and sample photos here below).
The layout and dioramas backgrounds consists of photographs of the area, printed on very light "Forex" panels. The backdrop of the dioramas system portrays the south side of Lehigh River, with the Lehigh Coal and Navigation canal portraied on the images (viewing point with the north behind).

The system layout at glance

1) Name: CONRAIL EARLY YEARS (The CR's Colorful Motive Power) Lehigh Line
Type: fixed "at wall" layout
Scale: HO (1:87.1)
Size: layout 5,80 x 1,70 meters
Prototype: Conrail
Locale: Pennsylvania
Era: 1976-1978
Minimun radius: 24'' mainline, 22" yard sidings
Minimun turnout: no.8 (main) no.6 (sidings)
Track: code 83 WALTHERS, ATLAS and PECO with railbars Detail West and KV Models
DCC Control: Digitrax Super Empire 5 Amp. set

2) Name: CONRAIL EARLY YEARS (The CR's Colorful Motive Power) Allentown Yard Westside
Type: modular dioramas system
Scale: HO (1:87.1)
Size: diorama 1,20 x 0,60/0,80 meters (4 modules)
Prototype: Conrail
Locale: Pennsylvania
Era: 1976-1978
Minimun radius: 28'' mainline, 24" yard sidings
Minimun turnout: no.6
Track: code 83 PECO with railbars Detail West and KV Models
DCC Control: Digitrax Super Empire 5 Amp. set


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