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BV III: Westcott

WestcottUpdated 1/8/12

One of my model railroad heroes and one of the hobby's greatest innovators is the late Linn Westcott, editor of Model Railroader magazine during the 70s.  He contributed more to this hobby than perhaps anyone else.  His notable accomplishments included the Twin-T detection circuit, some of the first transistorized throttles, L-girder benchwork, hardshell scenery, and zip texturing, as well as hundreds of coined names.  I named my main town after him.

The town of Westcott will look like a classic Midwestern town (population 20,000) that has seen better days.  The main street will be filled with architecture from the early 20th Century.  I may use some of the scratchbuilt buildings from my old layout here.

When time came to do the Westcott scenery, I balked -- something seemed wrong, so I moved on to Glen Oaks (on the left in the first shot).  After living with the layout for 5 years, I finally determined that the track arrangement didn't leave me enough room for the downtown area I'd envisioned, and it was too difficult to reach the cars to uncouple them at industries.  Plus, a new track arrangement would let me replace the piece of warped plywood that served as the Westcott base and, more important, would let me add additional operational possibilities. Specifically, if I had visiting operators, I could set up Westcott as a town that has its own switcher and crew.

So in late 2004, I began rearranging the Westcott tracks for the third time.

Click here to see the final track configuration and Westcott's industries (at the bottom of the page).

Westcott In the beginning... The town itself is tucked into the corner of the layout.  There's now a hillside on the left, leading down to Glen Oaks.  In this shot I'm experimenting with the buildings I already have, to see how large I can make the town without making it seem too urban.>
Westcott In October, 2001, I began planning the town in earnest.  One of the problems with the configuration shown above was the fact that, because the layout is almost at its highest at this point, it was almost impossible to reach the trains (behind the buildings) on the siding for uncoupling.  So I decided to reconfigure the tracks and the town, which I first did on the computer with 3D Railroad Concept and Design, then translated to a 10-foot long piece of corrugated cardboard to see how it looked in real life.  (October 2001)
Westcott This shot shows the effect I'm after -- lots of buildings. For this shot I've borrowed buildings from all over the layout just to try to create an effect.  It'll be a sharp contrast to Glen Oaks, across the aisle, which will be another backwoods area, much like Froton.
Westcott Here's Norma inspecting what I thought was my final trackplan on the cardboard.  (October 2001)
Westcott I then used an awl to transfer the track lines from the cardboard to the plywood, laid down the cork roadbed, and finally the tracks themselves.  (October 2001)
Westcott All the tracks were laid, with the exception of one spur track.  I decided to wait with that until I decide exactly what kind of buildings would go in each of the spots.  Here, again, buildings from all over the layout are being used to get a feel for the effect.  However I was able to reconfigure "Ship It!" and actually do some real switching in Westcott while I made up my mind about the final industries.  (October 2001)
Westcott Fast forward the clock to late 2004. Here's the way the track arrangement above looked with the buildings removed, before any redesigning. (December 2004) 
Westcott To design the new track plan, I decided to skip the computer program and do it 1:1, so I taped several sheets of layout paper (as in "advertising layouts" not "train layouts") together and made an exact tracing of the area and of the existing tracks.  Then, on the basement floor, I started experimenting with flextrack to get the new track arrangement.  In the end the entire mainline was pulled closer to the aisle, and the passing siding was brought right up to the edge of the fascia.  I then temporarily taped the tracks to the tracing and brought it to the layout. (December 2004)
Westcott The new track arrangement gave me room for a "delivery" track, room for a "holding" track (where the Westcott train can temporarily store cars), and most important, gave me much more room for a real "downtown."  (See new trackplan below.) I tested the layout with some temporary buildings, to see how it would look in context.  Loved it! (December 2004)
Westcott Next step: laying out the tracks "for real."  I taped actual turnouts to the tracing and used flex track to make sure everything truly lined up.  I then outlined the turnouts, flextrack, and the whole area on to the paper. (December 2004)
Westcott Destruction began by removing the entire piece of warped plywood, taking measurements, and cutting the new plywood. This is how it looked several days before Christmas. (December 2004)
Westcott Once the plywood was fit into the space, I used the tried-and-true method of making holes in the paper template with an awl at the track centers and poking a magic marker point through the holes to mark the plywood.  I then glued down the cork.  Unlike the entire rest of the layout, I used white bathroom caulk to secure the cork, rather than Liquid Nails.  The caulk holds well, but makes it much easier to remove the cork if need be.  (December 2004)
Westcott Then, from out of nowhere, I got smart.  I realized I could work on this piece of layout at my workbench, rather than huddled under the layout with a flashlight.  So I got out my Workmate and set it up.  (December 2004)
Westcott With this arrangement, I could add the track wiring, the turnout wiring, the turnout switches, and the turnout linkages, all without clunking my head on anything.
Westcott Here's Westcott as it stands in early 2005, looking from left to right (or North to South).  At the lower left of the picture is the tunnel portal leading to Glen Oaks.  Up top, the mainline passes through the backdrop behind the red building.  For the time being, my old "Gee's Potato Chips" building resides on this siding.  (January 2005)
Westcott Moving a little to the left, you can see how the main town of Westcott will look.  With the exception of the depot (center) and brewery (far right), and perhaps the unbuilt Spectrum buildings (light tan), few, if any, of these buildings will find their way into the final city, since most were built for my 1970's layout and aren't up to today's standards.  But it gives me an idea of how the building density will look.  I really like it.  The gray building to the right of the depot will later be replaced by an identical, scratchbuilt building, Renay's Quilts. (January 2005)
Westcott Again, moving to the right, in the foreground is the Westcott Freighthouse.  This will be this model's final location.  The red building in the background is a mockup I'd made for the Diljak building in Glen Oaks.
Westcott Against the wall in back is Unikemco.  I haven't decided if this building will remain or will be rebuilt.  (2012 note: it didn't make the cut and was replaced by Wesolowski Chemical -- see below.) And, no, you're not seeing double -- those are indeed two water towers back there.  Neither will stay there.  The one on the right was built in 1978, the one on the left was built in 2003.  Both were built using plans from a 1976 issue of Railroad Model Craftsman.  They're there because I was showing a friend the difference between my skill levels today and in the olden days.
Westcott At the far Southern end of Westcott is Lee One Electric -- which will remain there -- and Littletini Manufacturing, which will eventually be replaced.  (January 2005) (It was replaced with Lester's Feed and Seed in 2009.)
Westcott Because of the new trackwork I was able to have Ship-It send more rail traffic to Westcott industries, which necessitated a dedicated switch engine for the town.  A friend, Les Breuer, convinced me to buy a Broadway Limited SW-7 with sound.  This is the first diesel ever purchased for the BV, and it meant I had to come up with a color scheme for the railroad.  After much experimentation in Photoshop, I landed on CP Gray and Pullman Green, with a Daylight Scarlet band (which matches all BV engine cab roofs).  (March 2005) I gave it my MMR number -- 346 -- as a tribute to that accomplishment.
Westcott In January 2010 I began building the city of Westcott in earnest.  I decided to build from the back to the front, so the first buildings to be finished were the ones that rest up against the backdrop. Fitzgerald's Department store, named after one of my good friends, Paul Fitzgerald, was the first to be completed.  This is a kitbash of a Bachmann Spectrum building that I'd bought at the NMRA convention in 2002.  Originally the building had four floors. (February 2010)
Westcott The next building to be built was another Bachmann Spectrum kitbash.  I turned this one into a Ben Franklin.  Because the right side of the building won't be visible from the aisle, there's nothing in the picture windows. The original building, a variety store, had 3 floors and was one "panel" longer. (March 2010)
Westcott Here's another of my favorite little scenes, just outside the Ben Franklin.  A man holds open the door for an elderly lady, while a poor little dog is tied up to the lamppost, just a few inches short of being able to get to the hydrant.  (March 2010)
Westcott The third background building and farthest to the right as you look at Westcott, is this one, a kitbash of DPM's M.T. Arms Hotel.  The original had one more floor.  On the ground floor on the left is Cafe JTM, named after my current employer (J.T. Mega, an ad agency that specializes in foodservice products).  On the right is M&H Office Supplies, named for my former ad agency which, after it closed, became  the source of all my home office supplies for the last 7 years. (March 2010)
Westcott The JTM Cafe/M&H Office Supplies building is really just a flat with a roof on it.  Here's a side view.  The rest of the M.T. Arms kit was used 8 years ago in the town of LaPointe.   This completed the buildings for the rear three blocks of Westcott. I've written an article about the construction of these buildings, plus construction of the streets.  This will be Part 3 of the "Building of Westcott" series and will appear in a future issue of Model Railroader magazine. (March 2010)
Westcott The first of the foreground buildings for Westcott was this one, Renay's Quilts, named for my quilter wife Renay. I began this building in March, but it took until August to finish it, thanks to my duties as NMRA Communications Director.  It's actually the second time I scratchbuilt this same building, the plans of which were printed in a 1973 issue of Model Railroader as Faber's Cyclery.  The first time I built this building was in the late 70s, but my skills weren't up to my standards today.  This new version will replace the old version on the main corner of the town.  (August 2010)
Westcott Here's Renay's Quilts from the back.  The billboard, incidentally, was one I wrote back in the late 70s when I did advertising for a local bank.  I'd put that billboard on the original building and liked it well enough to include it on this version.  The lightning rod is actually a hypodermic needle still in its plastic mount.  (August 2010)
Westcott Because this building was made for my wife, it, of course, had to have a full interior.  So here's the inside of Renay's quilts, complete with three overweight ladies, Renay (in the blue dress), a young girl, a table overflowing with fabrics, and walls of bolts of fabrics.  Both walls are printed photographs of the inside of quilt shops I found on the internet.  The big quilts hanging from the walls are reductions of five of Renay's actual quilts.  (August 2010)
Westcott This is the first of the two main, "up front" blocks of Westcott -- Frank's Barber Shop, 1st Northwestern Bank, and Treeg's Drugs.  In Part 1 of the "Building of Westcott" series which will appear in Model Railroader magazine in early 2013, I describe how to build these structures and detail them.  The article will appear in a future issue.  Treeg's Drugs, named for my pharmacist cousin Jim Pietryga, was a structure scratchbuilt in the late '70s, and was on my original Bona Vista layout back then. Contrary to what I said above, this did make the cut and is currently on my layout.  (September 2011)
Westcott For those of you from the upper Midwest who remember the Northwestern Bank weatherball, yes, mine lights up red -- "Warmer weather ahead!"  (September 2011)
Westcott The second main block of Westcott contains Renay's Quilts, Westcott Interiors, and the Tubafore Arms.  The Tubafore Arms (so named, because I originally used a piece of 2x4 (say it out loud: 'tubafore") to determine how high to make the building), was a structure that appeared on my original '70s/'80s Bona Vista layout. The construction and detailing of these three structures are also outlined in Part 1 of the "Building of Westcott" series.  (September 2011) 
Westcott Part 2 in the "Building of Westcott" series of articles outlines how I created this town square for the city.  The square sits alongside the mainline and next to the depot, and is purposely low so as not to obscure the main buildings behind it.  The article will appear in a future issue of Model Railroader magazine. (September 2011)
Westcott In the center of the town square is a statue of none other than the city's namesake, Linn Westcott.  The statue was made from an O-scale figure.  (September 2011)
Westcott One fun little detail in the town square is this guy, struggling to mow the overgrown lawn.  In the article I describe how I created the mown lawn.  (September 2011)
Westcott In Part 3 of the "Building of Westcott" series, I describe how I built the background buildings and created the streets.  It was a 5-step layering process that turned out very nicely.  Here, I'm spreading black chalk over styrene to give the street some color and texture.  (September 2011)
Westcott Here's the way this portion of Westcott looks when it's finished.  The depot in the foreground is mentioned in a blurb below. Yet to be modeled is the four feet around the curve to the left, and the six feet to the right of the brewery.  (September 2011)
Westcott Here's a closer view of the town square area of Westcott.  (September 2011)

And... hooray!  The four feet to the left of downtown Westcott are finished.  That's "Gee's Potato Chips" in the background (a take-off of my favorite Chicago brand, Jay's Potato Chips), and in front of that, Westcott Salvage ("Your crap is our scrap"), which was made almost entirely from bits and pieces salvaged from other models.   At this point, there are only about 8 feet of scenery left to build on my layout. (December, 2011).

Westcott's trackplan and industries

Here's the new trackplan, roughly sketched in.  Quite a bit different!  Only Lee One Electric remained in the same spot.  Red tracks are the mainline, blue tracks are the passing siding. Not shown in this diagram is Westcott Salvage, which is on the aisle-side of Gee's.  Unikemco is now Wesolowski Chemical, and the "holding track" now has the industry of Westco on it.
Westcott Although not an industry, here's the Westcott Depot, a structure I built for my "Master Builder - Structures" certificate, and one that earned a Second Place-Online Structures award at the 2004 NMRA Convention in Seattle.  It was scratchbuilt from plans in the February 1970 issue of Model Railroader.  For shots of the fully detailed interior, see my "The Road to MMR / Structures" pages.
Westcott Lee One Electric was the very first craftsman-type kit I ever assembled (Campbell's "Campbell Supply Company") back in the late '70s.  It's named for my late Dad, Frank, who was an electrician and came up with the "Lee One" variation of "Leone."  This is the only industry that kept its original place in the new trackplan. 
Westcott The Westcott Freighthouse began its life in the early '80s as Campbell's "Tuckahoe Valley Produce Shed."  When I recently realized that these types of structures don't exist in the Midwest (duh!), I added a storage area to the right end and renamed it.  This structure has been moved to a more "up-front" location on the current Westcott trackplan.
Westcott Osgood Brewing, a Walthers "Milwaukee Brewing" kit, is the cornerstone of Westcott and is the transition point between the downtown area and the industrial park.  It's named for my good friend Dick Osgood, who used to brew his own beer.  This will  be the largest industrial building in the city.  The bottle-shaped water tank came from an idea my friend Chuck Diljak had, and was made from one of those little airline booze bottles.
Westcott Wesolowski Chemical replaced the old Unikemco industry on the layout, although the chemical tanks on either side of the structure are from the old Unikemco building.  It's named after master modeler and good friend Wayne Wesolowski, who, in real life, teaches chemistry at the University of Arizona.  The building was scratchbuilt using plans from an article Wayne published several decades ago, called "The Aurora Foundry."   The structure butts up against the back wall of Westcott.
Westcott Gee's Potato Chips, the large structure in the background, is a kitbashed Walthers Golden Valley Canning Company model.  When I was a skinny teenager growing up in the suburbs of Chicago, I would eat a full bag of Jay's Potato Chips every night and never gain an ounce.  This industry is named after that Chicagoland icon. In the foreground is Westcott Salvage ("Your crap is our scrap") which was scratchbuilt almost entirely from bits, pieces, and scraps left over from other structures.  It's a detail haven, and I loved being able to use so many of the castings I'd been hoarding over the past decade.  (October 2011)
Westcott Westo was the very last structure that was added to the layout.  It was completely scratchbuilt using a few old Model Railroader articles as inspiration.  I documented the construction of the structure, and hopefully it'll appear someday as an article in the commercial press.  (January 2012) 



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