Large, multilevel, sceniced layout, designed for operations. Enjoy the mass of 2 rail O scale. Features DCC (some sound) with car card/waybill operations based in the 1950's in the midwest. Steam and diesel. Coal, reefers, oil, milk and bananas form an interesting traffic mix.

Report on op session by Mike O'Brien.


We had the pleasure of participating in an all-day operating session on Ted's layout near Chicago during a convention in April 2006. He operates using DCC command control, some ground throw and some power switches, car cards and waybills, and an informal "ask the roving dispatcher (Ted himself)" dispatching system. Normal operation of the layout is with a bigger crew, more throttles and a dispatcher, but because of construction concerns and dust above the basement Ted went with fewer crew members this time. Train order boards at stations are being installed.

The layout is multi-level, running from hidden staging at the lowest level to hidden staging at the highest level. There are from one to three visible levels in between. There is no helix--tracks wind around the room gaining elevation, although there is a hidden loop around the stair/restroom that gains elevation. In O scale, which needs large radius curves, it seems to be the best solution to go from level to level by wrapping around the room. The problem of way freight switching on grades is solved here by having "brakes" where needed which consist of a metal wire sticking up between the rails, operated by a knob on the fascia.


Above -- Closeup of an old Alco switcher. O scale has a heft and a size which encourages realistic closeup viewing. The upper levels of Ted's layout are high enough to be close to eye level. Great!


Above -- Operating out on the line. Ceiling height is a generous 9 feet or so, despite being in a basement. We are seeing two main working levels here, with a third level up in the back. Note that the operator stands on a step to work the upper level. Room is nicely carpeted. Aisles are nice and wide. Refrigerator has cold drinks for crew. Bathroom is just down to the left, kind of under the stairs.

Note that trains are up close to the aisle for great viewing. Some buildings are still cardboard mockups, but to scale and shape. Lots of info is along the fascia. Note lower fascia is grass green, while upper fascia is sky blue. Carpet and under-layout skirting are brown. At the far left of the upper level you can just see a sturdy handle, useful for balance while standing on the step.


Bruce Carpenter works the main yard. Boxes are provided for standing on. The yard is a little high up--note the staging yard underneath. A crew of two worked the yard while I was there. Note all the paperwork. The mess behind on the right is temporary boarding over the engine terminal to protect is from construction debris while a large addition is being built to extend the layout (and the house above). Unfortunately, the layout was in a bit of disarray due to the hiatus in operation over the last six months caused by major construction.



Okay, here's a big picture of the car card and waybill system at the main yard. Sorry to make you scroll around a bit to see everything, but it has lots of interest.
Note the car cards are simplified, with the road initials and car number prominent at the top. An emblem (or herald, or logo) is used as decoration, and makes it more railroady.
The car cards and waybills are standard sizes and layouts, making it easy for operators new to this layout.

We like the clever use of a switch plate for the throttle plug, with a Milwaukee Road emblem (upper right).
The divider cards in the pockets are narrow instead of full-width. Good idea.
Members of the work crew who finish a project get credit with a sign on the fascia, giving their names.


Did I say the upper staging was easy to get to? No.
The upper staging is built into the lighting valance over the main yard.
Emergency access is rarely required, as above.


The lower staging is also under the main yard, accessible when on your hands and knees. Boy, it holds a lot of O scale equipment!


The layout plan is like a big wye. Thus there are three lines, which all come together here in the photo above. A busy area! Basically, two lines wrap around the room, while the third line loops around the center of the room on a peninsula. So there are three staging areas.


Again, here is where the three legs of the big wye come together. The main yard is in the distance on the left.


The main yard, operated by an NCE DCC system radio cab.


For eye candy, here is a typical view of a train going by on the upper level.

BELOW, our last picture, a verrrrrry wide panorama of the layout room. You may scroll to the right to see it all.
Hope you enjoyed this little report. We sure enjoyed the operating session! Thanks, Ted.


Email contact: mike at (@) -- Mike O'Brien, Pasadena, CA