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Relaxed and Realistic Great Northern

Proto-freelanced HO sectional benchwork track plan offers ops and scenery

It's often the case that my custom layout design clients want to pack the most operating and scenic elements possible into the available space. And when well-designed, that can be a fine approach.


But my client for this project decided instead to focus on more realistic scenes, broader curves, and a more relaxed feeling. The inspirations for the layout are the Great Northern Railway's lines in the upper Midwest; particularly in North Dakota and Minnesota.


My client's instructions were to include only about half the elements typical of this space in HO. Sectional construction was desired because there will be moves in the future. And a major focus was to be the grain elevators that are such a striking feature of the area.

HO sectional layout Great Northern

Click image for a larger labeled Adobe Acrobat (.pdf) view in a new window

The resulting layout utilizes a spiral peninsula to make good use of the space with only two "blobs". The major operating center of the layout is the town of Everett, which boasts a small yard and three good-sized elevators.


Grain elevator operations are also seen at New Flora and Tatanka, with the elevator tracks separated prototypically from the main track and siding. Live or passive interchange with another railroad or another GN line is also provided, along with an at-grade crossing of the other line. And staging below Everett provides plenty of capacity for through freight and passenger trains.


You can read much more detail on the layout in the February 2011 issue of Model-Railroad-Hobbyist media-zine, always free for download on the web! The article includes prototype photos, construction and operating ideas, and more details of the planning process.


The model railroad should offer lots of operating interest while still preserving the wide-open-spaces feeling of the area and plenty of running room between major towns. The client has started construction and reports that he's already seeing just the kind of uncrowded scenes he desired.


Whether your layout preference is for relaxed Midwestern prairie or compact metropolitan terminal, contact me and let's talk about bringing your layout vision to life.

Great Northern model railroad layout
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