Planning the Railway

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The decision was made.. to build a layout dedicated to the BLS the Bern Lotschberg Simplon railway who run down to Italy along the Kander Valley and through the Lotschberg tunnel. Due to the height that has to be achieved over a relatively short route before the tunnel, Swiss railway engineers created a number of spirals that loop back on themselves, lengthening the route considerably, allowing the climb to be achieved without the need of rack/cog assistance, essential, as this route is used by all manner of international traffic backwards and forwards to Italy. The idea of the spirals, some in the open air, some inside the mountain,  trains crossing in front of you, only to be seen minutes later higher up the mountain travelling in the opposite direction, was too much to ignore, so I didn't! That's why my layout started life as a faithful recreation of the section of line covering the loops up to the resort of Kandersteg at the entrance to the Lotschberg tunnel.

My first plan.. and it wasn't to be my last!

Week after week agonising over the plans, eventually I had scribbled out what looked like a reasonable way forward, so lets draw it to scale. Whoops, I would need a space of  about 8 metres by 6 metres. Not really possible in the space I had available. The idea of building the layout in the loft filled me with visions of freezing nights banging my head on the beams! Liz suggested that I built in the garage, which since having a bit cut off the back to extend the kitchen was too small for anything but a Smart car. But with a bit of judicious pruning of my plans the layout might just fit, so weeks of hardwork followed moving my workshop from the garage to a shed at the bottom of the garden. This of course involved new power supplies, new lighting, and a huge bonfire to burn a lot of the contents of the shed!


Over the intervening weeks, I had been cutting the odd millimetre off my plans here and there (well every little helps), in a desperate attempt to get it to fit the available garage space. I even took over the dining room floor with a masking tape real size mock up of the layout. It was now that I started getting very worried. This layout was huge.


It had become plainly obvious that I needed a bigger space. My mum's garage was big enough, and although a few miles away, it did already have a small model railway project going on in it, so Mum kindly said yes to me borrowing 3 and a half square metres of it. My layout plan by this time wasn't a faithful representation of the BLS anymore, so a decision had to be made that this would be a creation something from my mind, with 'influences' fo the BLS including my loops. And so down to the timber merchants to get materials to start. Being a layout with various levels of track, and of course mountainous scenery, helix spiral's would be needed for the trains to achieve enough height to give a realistic look.

Next - The story of the Helixes

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