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Alameda Belt Line from MRP 2005

Shelf switching layout could be built to fold

This compact N scale shelf switching layout was the result of a request from Model Railroad Planning magazine for layouts that would fit on a 1'X3' shelf. Folding or stacking was permitted, so I used that idea to develop a 1'X6' (plus car float) N scale layout. And the subject? An old favorite of mine, the Alameda Belt Line (ABL) of Alameda, CA.


The ABL was a switching line that eventually was jointly-owned by the Santa Fe and the Western Pacific. For much of its life, the ABL interchanged with its corporate parents through a car float (ATSF) and car ferry (WP). It also interchanged on the island with the Southern Pacific. You can read more about the prototype ABL in the April 1980 Model Railroader and my article in MRP 2005 (which has much better graphics thanks to the artists at Kalmbach). 


n this small space, we can only suggest many of the ABL's features. It's often useful in small shelf switching layouts to overlap the various layout elements as much as possible (such as runaround, industry tracks, and switching leads). Structures would be flats or removable in a foldable version, including the option of plugging in multiple structures in the "jigsaw" fashion popularized by Iain Rice. Interchange to the corporate parents and rival SP is provided to function as staging -- representing the connection from the modeled layout to the outside world.


The car float apron, wharf, and team track area could probably only be suggested by different surface treatments in a foldable version. But these could be much more substantial in a fixed shelf layout. In HO scale, the layout could be bent in the middle and folded around two walls to give a sense of different locations.


Even a small shelf switching layout can provide a lot of operating interest with the flavor of a prototype railroad. If you'd like help in developing an interesting shelf layout model railroad of your own in any scale, contact me today.


Friend M.C. Fujiwara did a beautiful job of building a modified version of my ABL plan, his photos show the result

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