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I model the Susquehanna Division in HO as it was in May of 1954, permitting the use of the best of Pennsylvania Railroad steam and first generation diesels. The visible part of the layout is the area around Northumberland, proceeding south (railroad east) to Kase tower then to hidden staging areas representing the division's main line to Rockville and branches to Wilkes Barre and Mt. Carmel. Proceeding north (railroad west), a short portion of the division leads to staging for Williamsport and points north. No attempt has been made as yet to conduct operations any more sophisticated than continuous running and making up trains, although I believe the layout could be operated in a protypical manner with 4 or 5 people.

Although the Susquehanna Division in reality is a river grade route, practicality has demanded that the model route must have grades and tunnels. Occupying a 13X18 room, the layout has about 120 feet of double track main with a five track double ended yard at Northumberland with complete engine facilities. Minimum curve radius is 30", and the maximum grade is 2%. Scenery is about 60% complete, with a great need for more trees. Control is by a Digitrax Chief. No signals are installed, but a system is planned.

Steam motive power is all brass, including 1 H9s, 2 L1s, 3 I1s, 1 K4s, and 1 M1b. All have been regeared with idler gearboxes and Sagami motors and have added weight. Additional steam is required and will be added when the right engines are found and the funds are available. Diesels include a FA/FB/FA-2 set, F3A/B, and NW2, SW9, and S4 switchers. Other diesels are waiting for me to get to them. I just obtained two Stewart/Kato power units awaiting the new Highliners A units. All rolling stock, including passenger and freight cars, are detailed and weathered as realistically as possible, in most cases using photos of particular prototypes.

Layout Diagram.

Why I Love DCC:

The Ore Train--It is a beautiful day in May, 1954, in Northumberland, central Pennsylvania. But down at the PRR yard the guys have been too busy to notice. S-390 has to be assembled and put out on the road--a day like any other spring day. Earlier this morning four Decapods, class I1sa, 4620, 4628, 4644, and 4308, were marked up for today's trip to the LV interchange at Mt. Carmel. Hostlers have been topping off coal and water. All morning two switchers, today an H9s 2-8-0 and a Diesel Alco S-4, have been pushing and pulling hoppers with iron ore and coal as well as a handful of boxcars around, sometimes even working both ends of the same track. There is even one of those black BeanO four bay hoppers. The crews have been called, and we watch as they check over their charges, the enginemen on the ground poking and prodding with oil cans and waste, firemen intently getting the fires perfect. One engine, 4628, is just coming off the turntable, moving very slowly, but without hesitation onto the ready track. Now it's time. The switchers have moved on to other chores, one heading to the cabin track. First one, then all four of the Decapods begin to move toward the eastbound departure yard. What a sight; they don't call them hippos for nothing. Two, 4628 and 4308, move toward the front of their train, the other two assigned to the rear. First 4308 backs down to the first boxcar and makes the joint, then 4628. On the other end, 4644 eases up to the last hopper, then 4620. As soon as 4620 is coupled, the H9s brings up the N5 cabin, coupling it to the rear of 4620's tank. We wait as the air is pumped up, brakes checked. We notice that the enginemen are absolutely intent on the task at hand; the firemen even now are tinkering with their fires. Suddenly there is a blast from 4628's whistle, and all four enginemen open their throttles, unleashing over 360,000 pounds of tractive effort. Amazing what a little coal and water can do. Slowly S-390 gathers momentum, its motion felt as well as observed as the hippos do exactly what they were designed to do 30 years earlier. 

Reality? No, but it is as close as we can get 46 years after the fact. That is why I have DCC, and I particularly like my Digitrax system, although I use a variey of manufacturers' decoders. On one throttle of my handheld controller I can operate the lead Decs, consisted together. On the other throttle of the same controller I can control the rear helpers. Serious railroading, as it used to be. 

Sound? Not yet......but it is coming, as long as I remember to warn my wife when S-390 is ready to go. Now if their were only a way to reproduce the smell of coal smoke.......

Photos:

Photo 1 - I1's 4644 and 4620 move coal and iron ore eastbound to Northumberland. It will go to Shamokin as tomorrow's S-390.

Photo 2 - Norhumberland engine facility, with a little help from Tichy and before ballasting.

Photo 3 - L1 110 eastbound out of Northumberland Yard for Enola with mixed freight.

Photo 4 - Northumberland engine terminal.

Photo 5 - It wouldn't be PRR without Alco's!

Photo 6 - I-1's moving coal and iron ore.

Photo 7 - F-3's moving freight.

Photo 8 - Shifting at Norry.

Photo 9 - L-1s 110 eastbound into Northumberland with mixed freight.