In early fall of '95 we began construction of our layout designed to represent the Pere Marquette Railroad, circa 1945, as it existed between Grand Rapids and Bay View, Michigan (known as the Petoskey Sub Division). Baldwin and Ludington, Michigan (known as the Ludington Sub Division) and Plymouth, Michigan and Chicago, Illinois.
Many members wanted to include the car ferry operations at Ludington so the original design was reworked to make that possible. This led to the bonus addition of Manistee and because we're accessing Manistee from Kalava we are able to include the Manistee and Northeastern RR to operate between Manistee and Traverse City.
Construction began with a floor to ceiling (12 foot high) stud wall in an "S" shape that became the central mounting platform for cantilevered bench work on two levels on each side of the wall. The wall is also used to carry all of the electrical wiring from centrally located computer nodes to the remote locations around the layout. This wall also supports hand painted scenic backdrop for both levels and supports a lighting valance for the upper deck.
The design creates a staging yard of 9 tracks on the lower level that represents the two ends of the mainline (Chicago, Plymouth). The tracks leaving this yard run on opposite sides of the backdrop toward a helix at the other end of the room. Here both tracks ascend the helix emerging on the upper level approximately 16 inches above the lower level. The tracks continue running on opposite sides of the backdrop until they meet at Wyoming Yard ,directly above the staging yard.
There are 13 passing sidings along the mainline each representing recognizable locations and most accommodating industrial spurs and station stops for passengers. Each end of each passing siding will be regulated by a double head search light signal, a single head search light signal and a dwarf search light signal. Each is controlled by the dispatcher and/or track occupancy.
All of the mainline track (750 feet) and the entire branch line track (350 feet) have now been laid. Including the towns of Manistee and Ludington where the car ferry Badger is under construction.
Scenery is well underway all around the layout including many structures.
During operations trains will be controlled by the North Coast Engineering DCC system using tethered and radio controlled cabs and all train movement along the mainline will be regulated by a centralized traffic control system operated by a dispatcher in a separate room. This system will allow the dispatcher to throw turnouts and regulate signals from a panel connected to the layout.
To communicate with the dispatcher, train crews will use an open line telephone system comparable to a circa 1950's system. Much of this interface has been installed and some portions are operational.
We have gone all out to have the best model railroad possible. Products being used include North Coast Engineering DCC with Soundtraxx sound in many locomotives. We are using Micro Engineering track and turnouts. Our entire operation will be CTC controlled and feature cutting edge communication and signaling technology
Well over 5 miles of wire, 90 detector cards, 13 DCC boosters, 150 Tortoise switch machines (some 50 turnouts are manually controlled) and 3 mother boards with 25 input/output cards have been installed to date with many more of almost everything to come.
Finally, a layout lighting system has been designed to allow members to individually light only the area in which they are working during our work sessions using remotely located switches. For our operating sessions all of the lights can be controlled from a central location. The system is comprised of eight circuits and nearly 260 light bulbs. When these lights are on, all other room lights are turned off creating a museum quality atmosphere.