It's been a long slow process, but I've narrowed in on what I really want out of this layout and have finally worked out a plan which I think satisfies at least the top criteria.
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The layout represents the end of a freelanced industrial track - one of those tracks that branches off the main and winds a couple miles or so serving a few industries that seem to be more common than you might at first think. I've selected the industries to give me a mix of car types, car flows, and switching. The industries are all cribbed from real prototype industries in eastern Massachusetts, with varying degrees of modeler's license.
Eastborough is not a real town in Massachusetts, but it could be. There is a cluster of -borough's that includes Marlborough, Northborough, Westborough, and Southborough, but no Eastborough. So, the name Eastborough gives those familiar with the area and idea of where it's imagined to be - somewhere near where routes 495 and 95 cross. The CSX mainline (formerly Boston & Albany) runs through Westborough, and the Fitchburg branch runs through Southborough, Marlborough, and Northborough. The Grafton & Upton shortline is nearby.
You'll notice I haven't been specific about what railroad serves the industrial track. I don't view that as particularly important, so I haven't decided yet. I have a soft spot for switchers like MP15s, but a GP40-2 or GP38-2 is nice too. If the industrial track is served by a shortline or terminal railroad any of those are possibilities. If it's CSX that serves the industrial track, power will be a GP40-2 (CSX's power of choice on locals). CSX sold all it's MP15s a few years ago - some of them ended up on the Grafton & Upton.
At the start of a session, a train is made up in staging with the engine on the front end, ready to pull the train onto the layout. Train length can be anywhere from just a couple cars to a couple dozen cars, although somewhere around a dozen will probably be typical. The runaround that should be mostly adequate, but which will require a couple runaround moves to deal with the largest sessions.
There are no tricks or switching puzzles, just some decent sized industries with a variety of needs. I haven't decided on the mechanics of car routing and the form of "paperwork" to document it yet. The mechanics may be software, or manual. Whatever the mechanics, I'd like the resultant "paperwork" to be able to take one of several forms depending on who is going to be doing the actual switching and their skill level and preferences - any one of waybills, switch lists, PICL lists, or even tab on car.
The biggest industry in terms of car count is Trans Plastics, lifted straight off my N scale Palmer Industrial Park plan, in turn lifted pretty much straight from the prototype Palmer Industrial Park. The prototype industry went out of business over 10 years ago unfortunately - smaller plastic transload operations seem to have difficulty. But I like the big plastic pellet hoppers and the car flow pattern and switching that creates so I'm modeling it anyway. Normally the industry will be mostly full, but like the prototype will only receive and release 1-4 cars a week. Cars are emptied apparently randomly since they get emptied by demand for what grade of plastic they contain. Spots are stuffed in wherever they fit, placement is not important.
National Lumber is cribbed from National Lumber on "The Chocolate" - an industrial park spur in Mansfield, MA. I like the large warehouse with the track only along half of it, and the two door spots on the warehouse, and the fact that the centerbeam unloading area is past the warehouse. I "improved" on reality to have 3 centerbeam spots instead of just one. There will be times when centerbeams are cycled through at a good clip, and times when there's no center beams and only a single boxcar at the warehouse. Cars will almost always be unloaded before the next switch, so there will rarely be respots.
There are a three rail served Tighe warehouses in eastern Massachusetts - Mansfield, Winchester, and Woburn. I plan on cribbing the building appearance from the Mansfield warehouse, which has 9 doors spaced on 77 foot centers. I'll keep the spacing, but trim it to 8 spots. There are rain diverters on the roof, which makes it easy to measure the spacing on a satellite photo, and which will make it easy to line the boxcar doors up with the warehouse doors on the model. This warehouse will take more switching moves per car to get the job done than the other industries. Each car will be billed to a specific door spot. Not all cars will be unloaded by the next session, so there will be some re-spots.
Broco oil is inspired by the prototype Broco Oil in Haverhill MA which just started receiving biodiesel heating oil about a year ago and has been ramping up considerably, adding track, a trackmobile, new storage tanks, etc. My representation of it will need to make do with a single shorter track, but it's long enough to give a good feel of an active business. Since they only receive only B99.9 biodiesel tank cars are simply unloaded sequentially. The empties will always be at one end of the track, the respots (if any) at the other. Broco Oil will be easy to switch, but should allow for moving nice long cuts of tank cars in the process. Biodiesel tank cars are hazardous, with a 1202 placard.
Broco also advertises transloading services. From what I can tell they've only had one customer for that so far, transloaded a few gondolas of rebar to flatbed trucks. That will allow for a very occasional bit of variety from the usual.