The Val Ease Central Railroad ©
Taking Z Scale to the Public Around the World
(Text and photos © Copyright Jeffrey MacHan)
A Compact Electrified Alpine Track Plan
Once upon a time, I dreamed of building an electrified layout set in the Swiss Alps. There I planned to watch the mesmerizing articulated Krocodil wind through forests, glide over breathtaking bridges, disappear into mountain tunnels, stop to drop off and pick up those 'cute' little European freight cars while a regional passenger train made stops at several stations and depots along the line. It was gonna be Great!
In fact, I got well past the armchair design stage. The track had actually been laid out and test fit on the base, bridges and buildings (including a castle!) had been positioned and the catenary post spacing had been determined. Then something unexpected happened. Someone, who shall remain nameless, dared me to add a third suitcase to my flagship Val Ease Central Railroad! I could not refuse the challenge! The unfortunate consequence was the dismantling of the Swiss project and the eventual sale of all its components, including the Kroc and the rolling stock.
The track plan is all that remains of that abandoned adventure. Since I don't want it to go to waste, I am sharing it with you in the hope that it will come to life or give you inspiration for your own Z empire. Those of you who are familiar with the VEC track plan will recognize the influence of this plan on Centre Val Ease.
This track plan includes catenary for two-train operation and interesting scenery possibilities.
I used Märklin sectional track for the original design. Flex track would allow more free flowing curves with easements. The plan can be expanded to add more operation and to eliminate the ultra tight curves. The grade was in the neighborhood of 4% which is not unusual for a mountain setting. During the testing stage, passenger and freight trains successfully negotiated all of the curves and the grades.
Track components included 2 double slip switches and 3 curved turnouts in order to maximize use of space and to provide some operational interest. The catenary was single line except for the main line section along the front edge of the layout and the depot - team track section.
The plan called for 2 train continuous operation circling the two ovals or 1 train traveling over the folded figure 8 via the left hand double slip switch.
The main station track acts as a passing siding to allow a through train to pass a short train. The team track and the switch back to the gravel tipple / fuel depot offer interesting switching maneuvers. The upper depot siding can be extended to lead off to undiscovered possibilities. The engine service area was designed for a single loco shed or a car shop or both if you make room for another turnout.
This plan as built actually fit into a vintage steel steamer suitcase that I discovered in an antique shop in Vancouver, BC and bought for this Swiss Alps project. It measured 36 inches by 22 inches with a 5 inch deep lid which allowed me to include the grades, forests and bridges. The depth of the lid allowed the addition of 3D carved foam mountain slopes with forests, waterfall and of course, the castle overlooking the fertile valley and the charming village below.
So feel free to expand this plan to meet your personal tastes or if the urge to go "portable" hits, you really can build it into a large suitcase or steamer trunk.