Frank Benenati's Maryland Junction
February 22, 2014

Pictures by Thomas Gaffuri and Bob Rosenberg

Considering the extreme cold and disruptive snows thus far, we could easily describe this winter as being really rotten, but we finally caught a break in the weather on the weekend of February 22nd, allowing a pleasant drive to Damascus MD for a tour of Frank Benenati’s HO scale Maryland Junction railroad. 

The layout is set in an area of Maryland not too far from where he actually lives, and represents the early 1960’s just prior to the B&O – Western Maryland merger. The motive power is first generation diesels from both railroads with some older WM steam mixed in. The layout itself, based on a Jeff Madden track plan article that appeared in a past MR, is a 20'x12'  rectangle that requires a duck-under to access the inside area. Trackage is code 83 on the mainlines and sidings are code 70.  Frank started it when he was overseas, so it’s built in sections that it can be crated and shipped if necessary, although it doesn’t appear to be going anywhere anytime soon, and he mentioned the possibility of adding a staging area at some point in the future.

One aspect of the track plan that makes it not look like a modular layout is the curves transition to straight sections that are by design not parallel to the module edge. In addition,he purchased the lumber by the meter so the open grid benchwork sits just about a meter high. Consequently all the track work had to be supported on risers to get my desired track elevations. Grade was kept at 1 percent or less and #6 to #8 turnouts were used to ensure smooth transitions and good train performance. Using curved turnouts also created additional opportunities for sidings and needed run-arounds. Additionally, the layout is designed so that trains can be run continuously in both directions on two separate, independent circles when they’re not having an operating session. The railroad operates on DCC, with Bull Frog manual switch throws from Fast Track retained from the old DC days; they’re a reliable and inexpensive way of controlling turnouts that he described in a March, 2013 MR article. Switching operations are accomplished with a card system. One had to be impressed with the way he has done his scenery; all of the structures, whatever their origin, seemed to be well suited for the time and locations he has tried to create and there weren’t so many of them as to look crowded. The bridges in particular were placed in such a way as to blend in naturally with their surroundings.

 I like to visit other modeler’s layouts because I always manage to take some useful idea away, even if it’s something as simple keeping the area under the bench-work clean and uncluttered rather than trying to hide the stuff under it with skirting; it looks so much better when the clutter is not there at all (ask me how I know this).
Bob Rosenberg