Hess’ Ohio Central Railroad Open House
Lee Stoermer Aug. 2019
Division NMRA July 2019 open house event was hosted by Doug Hess.
Located in a 143 square foot, fully finished, climate controlled lower
level room in his home, Doug is working steadily on creating a recent
era, freelance version of the Ohio Central Railroad. He jokingly
commented that he had been ‘in the process’ of building for a while as
progress came in spurts. He added that the open house spurred him to
push on with a couple items to help show some extra progress. I have
heard that statement of the impending deadline as an added incentive
from many open house hosts!
visitors took advantage of this time and were able to learn of his
design goals, current projects and future plans. Doug has space
constraints, as most of us building a layout do, which have caused him
to implement some unique construction techniques that can definitely be
used by others on their own home layouts. The layout is built on a
series of 30 inches wide units in an around-the-wall style, leaving a
wide-open central space.
room is a comfortable, well lit area. Lighting is on two circuits, one
being the center ceiling mounted room lights and the other being the
around the room track lighting. Doug demonstrated the dramatic effect
of turning off the center ceiling lights and leaving the track lighting
on. It gave an excellent shadow box effect, drawing your attention in
to the layout operations area.
says he may in the future add a narrow central peninsula coming in from
the rear wall that could add a specific industry operation. He
cautioned though that he did enjoy the openness of the central area as
an aid in construction and ease of movement operationally. This can be
noted in the photo showing Doug (on the right) and two visitors,
easily fitting into the space.
In looking forward and planning
ahead, a pair of redundant turnout operation push button panels are
located on both corners of the room for the operation of the staging
yard turnouts. This will allow operation of the staging yard from
either side without having to walk around the future peninsula. In the
following photograph, the black background material seen behind the
rolling stock, hides the three-track staging yard, while one of the two
track control panels is visible.
Entry into the room is through
a chest high duck under as the layout is an around the room walls
layout. While the lift out is not fixed in place, it can be removed for
open access into the room, it isn’t a lift up or swing section as
during operations it is secured in place. The mounting method and
electrical connection are due to be revised, Doug states.
layout is designed to support operations with three to four operators,
using a car card system and Digitrax DCC. He has a staging yard that is
semi hidden, in that while on the same level as his layout, it is
separated visually by a low relief back drop separation that will
consist of scenery and low relief structures. Multiple online switching
locations and the use of an active interchange track give great
Doug has a unique photo backdrop that
is installed on his layout already. He utilized a drone to take a
series of photos from one specific location nearby. A photo editing
program was used to stitch them together into one long panoramic
view. He then had it printed and using sheet styrene as backdrop
base material, mounted the styrene sheets to the wall, and then adding
the photos. The effect is dramatic and instantaneous.
comment Doug made to me while we were discussing his layout ideas and
plans, was that he was a bit hesitant about having the open house event
at his layout. In asking why, he said wasn’t sure there was a lot for
others to see as his layout wasn’t fully sceniced, or even had a lot of
structures. I mentioned to him that personally, I enjoy seeing layouts
that are under construction as it gives you a better view of the
construction techniques that are utilized. Trying to see how benchwork,
wiring and such are in place on a completed layout is near to
impossible, without being a contortionist looking up underneath those
layers of plaster and scenic turf! I heard similar sentiments from
several of the visitors as they listened to Doug speak to each of them
about his building methods and materials used. One visitor in
particular that I spoke with said he had been stuck in trying to decide
how to build framework. Now, after seeing how Doug’s went together, he
felt better prepared and ready to press forward beyond the perpetual
‘planning and design phase’.
Something I noticed was that Doug
was able to speak with every visitor that came to his layout. He was
able to spend some time with each one, having a conversation and
discussing not only his layout but also model railroading in general.
Not every layout owner has the time to be able to spend like this with
all of their guests during their open house, which to me makes it that
much more of a memorable event.