Layout Design on the Santa Cruz Northern

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Duration: 5:18

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The open vista that Jim Providenza has on the helix of his Santa Cruz Northern model railroad has been termed by another modeler as a herniated helix. This is a funny but apt term. Jim made the helix on his double deck layout with different radii so that the bottom track is a 30 inch radius and the upper two tracks are 32 inch radius. This is only a two inch difference, but on the back wall all the tracks vertically lined up. This creates a four inch separation on the visual portion of the helix, which allowed him to expose the track on the second level and have the bottom level track hidden from the scene.

Alongside Allen Keller, he discusses his layout design. It is designed to handle as many different kinds of freight operation as possible so that it has a number of passing sidings. It is relatively long especially for the size of the layout and has switching areas they are not puzzles. Real railroads didn’t have switching puzzles. The original railroad built in his bedroom was a steamer railroad. Because of this, all the trains terminated at the major yard at Mac Street and then cars were sent off and transferred to connecting railroads.

When he was designing the current Santa Cruz Northern he wanted to move into the diesel era. Unfortunately, he didn’t think through the the staging he would need on that railroad, leaving his with not enough staging tracks. Jim goes on to discuss the diesel era and why he chose to model the early 1970’s for his railroad. For more ideas for track building, visit the Model Railroad Academy archives.