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Douglas Hess’ Ohio Central RR – East Central Ohio     July 20, 2019

by Lee Stoermer

The Potomac 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!

Twenty three 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.

The 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.

Doug 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.

Doug’s 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 operational potential.

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.

A 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.

Pictures by Bill Mosteller and Lee Stoermer

Last modified: November 09 2019 16:47:03.