Phil Irwin's
New Caledonia Central
July 13, 2003

Phil drove the first spike on the New Caledonia Central 35 years ago and has been adding to it ever since. The New Caledonia Central has the distinction of having the only known tunnel through three feet of historic stone wall. The railroad is HO scale, around the wall layout running from Sperryard, through Potstown, and around Foulmouth curve to the Amissburg siding. Phil describes the railroad as generic.

A visit to Phil Irwin's layout is a trip back in time for many reasons. First, his layout is in the basement of an old country house built in the early 1800's, now operated as a bed-and-breakfast. Second, he has models that show the development of real railroads from the 1830s to today's most modern diesels and rolling stock. Third, he has an accumulation (collection?) of HO models covering the evolution of commercial products over the last 50 years. And most importantly, he has incorporated them into his model railroad or has them on display.

Phil's line starts as a narrow shelf diorama going down one outside wall. The line pierces the wall to the next room where a corner space has been used for the first reversing loop. The space is cluttered, not with track, but scenery. It is packed with town streets and industrial activity. The track dives into the small storage room that doubles as the WC and exits swinging onto another exterior stone wall. At this point the line enters a curved stone tunnel (the original foundation wall) and exits to another room. This is the longest tangent track; maybe 20 feet. The end of the room has another space for a reversing loop. It has a small engine facility, some storage sidings, and lots of buildings.

The entire layout features many mini scenes. You can spend hours finding them all. And don't forget the lights. Lights everywhere!! Working signals on the track. Lights in the buildings. Headlights on the vehicles. And a day-to-night sequence of room lighting. The effects are inspiring.

One last note. Phil's power and route control system is an eclectic collection of "classic" transformers, mechanical relays, and magnetic reed switches activated by magnets on the locomotives. It isn't DCC, but the trains run back and forth through his automatic reversing loops with switches being aligned on each trip without the benefit of a dozen electronic circuit boards.

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