This is my first post here and I am excited to see what becomes of this in the future. I guess I’ll start with the beginning.

I moved back to my home state in early 2000 after a six year enlistment in the Navy. I had always had an interest in Model Railroading, but I didn’t have the funds to pursue it while in the service, plus it had the stigma of being and old man’s hobby.

After buying a house and getting settled in, I decided to look into Model Railroading as a hobby and was impressed to find out that the models and control systems had improved enormously since I last took a long hard look. Atlas, Proto, Athearn Genesis, to name a few, were producing impressive locomotives and rolling stock. There were several well designed DCC systems available. These discoveries raised my interest and I began purchasing rolling stock.

Since my home is close to the Reading, PA area, I had some obvious choices of prototype. Of course, The Reading is immensely popular in this area, but I grew up in the 1970-80 diesel era, and I wanted an available prototype to use for inspiration. This lead me to the Norfolk Southern in and around Reading. I also quickly became aware of a rapidly growing regional railroad called the ‘Reading, Blue Mountain, and Northern’, more commonly, ‘Reading and Northern’ to local railfans. I decided that the NS and R&N would become the prototypes for my layout.

I went into ‘complete immersion’ mode absorbing everything model railroad related. Books, magazines, videos, whatever I could find. I started to buy NS and R&N locomotives and rolling stock from LHS and Ebay.

In a short time I had collected enough equipment, at least I though it was enough, to properly outfit a model railroad. As most modelers do, I decided my basement would make the best area for the layout.

The problem was, although I avoided seeing it at the time, was that the basement was completely unfinished, had high moisture, little lighting, and needed a lot of work. I proceeded to frame out the basement and construct walls and the ceiling. I was working on a layout plan at the same time. When the basement was far enough along to be able to start some layout construction, I built the peninsula for the Reading freight yard north of Spring Street in the City of Reading. That was as far as the layout ever got. I could not find an arrangement that represented the NS and R&N the way I wanted with the original track plan.

The whole layout idea went dormant for a few years, and then I decided to rethink the layout using a multi-level track plan. I developed a plan that I liked. It required me to rip out the peninsula, but that wasn’t a big deal really. I was moving towards finishing the room to continue layout construction when I got news that I was going to be going to ‘school’ at work, and once again decided to put the layout on the burner for later to concentrate on this new training program.

That leads me up to the past few months. I sat down and had a long hard talk with myself to decide if I wanted to build a layout, or just sell my collection and be done with the hobby. I decided I still had a desire to pursue the hobby, but had to make some fundamental changes to my approach. The layout if built in my basement, would have taken me a lifetime to build and get to a reasonable state of completion. I decided to reduce the scope of the layout to a spare bedroom upstairs in my home. Due to the reduce room size I needed to stay with a multi-level design and use a helix.

I initially tried to shoehorn the layout plan from the basement into the bedroom and quickly realized I didn’t have the room, and quite frankly didn’t like that design anymore. I wanted to use my existing equipment, but didn’t have the room to properly model the NS or the R&N together in this space.

That’s when something I had read struck me, I would create a ‘freelanced’ prototype layout. I decided that I would use the story that the NS bought (or at least bought trackage rights over) the R&N to ease freight volumes through Allentown and provided an alternate route to points north. This allowed me to model a much smaller  portion of the R&N, but include my NS equipment on the layout.

Once again I recalled from my youth the area of the R&N I wanted to model. It was know as the Pottstville Branch in the Reading days, and covers the territory where I spent alot of time as kid. Places like Cressona, Schuylkill Haven, Deer Lake, Pottsville, to name a few. It seemed like a perfect fit.

I told you all that to get to this. I am currently working on the layout plan for my railroad. This blog will be my way of sharing my learnings, failures, and accomplishments with other hobbyists interested in what I am doing and thinking about doing something similar. I plan to post pictures, drawings, videos, plans, and my thoughts as I progress.  As importantly, I’m going to ask all of you to give me feedback, help, and ideas to make what I am doing even better.