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Model Railroad Design For A Waterfront

Updated: Nov 26, 2023


Model Railroad Design Service

Washington D.C.'s Georgetown waterfront, shown above, makes for a compelling modeling theme if there ever was one. Library of Congress photo.


Dock themes are a perennial favorite among model railroaders. Who couldn't be drawn in by the the opportunity to combine rail and shipping in a relatively small space. Among the many great subjects to choose from is the B&O's footprint in Georgetown (Washington, D.C.) laid out in detail By Duane Carrell in the B&O Historical Society's Sentinel Magazine (Vol. 25, number 1) as well as a number of blogs and articles on the internet. Shown below is one way to skin the proverbial cat from a layout design standpoint, a way to capture this wonderful theme in model form in your layout room.


Model Railroad Design Service
Georgetown Model Railroad Track Plan

There is a bit of an art to converting any prototype theme to a model railroad plan. We have so much less space and have to deal with issues such as reach in distances and lines of site. There will also likely be portions of the actual scene we don't want to incorporate. For these reasons every design will quickly evolve into some form of proto-freelancing, selective compression, and making decisions as to what to incorporate and what to omit.


Model railroad designs aren't meant to be visual exercises. They aren't meant to serve the same purpose as a painting. When I work with a design client I'm constantly aware that the ultimate purpose is to be a guide for actually building a layout. A good design must be easily constructed given the owner's skill level. It must be comfortable to interact with. All track should be easily reached and seen. No Rube Goldberg devices such as helixes to gosh knows where. No hidden track diving into dark cubby holes.


With that theme of practicality in mind, some changes from the prototype were made. First, the actual branch "street ran" right down the center of K street. In the interest of construction ease, I moved the main to the side of the street so you wouldn't have to deal with the numerous complexities of embedded track. Also, the Whitehurst Freeway runs over the entire line, making it largely invisible from the air. Clearly the Freeway is something you'd have to skip as a scenic feature if you have any hope of actually seeing or operating the railroad.


Layout At A Glance

Scale: HO

Track: Atlas code 83

Turnouts: Number 4, manually thrown (7 lefts, 7 rights)

Minimum radius: 18 inches

Depth of background structures: 4 inches minimum


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4 Comments


ecnl88
ecnl88
Mar 18, 2022

Thanks for the kind words Ben as well as the link to your site. I was just down there last week. There still are a decent number of remnants from the past making it easy to visually what once was. Without question it's a theme that begs to be modeled.

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Ben Sullivan
Ben Sullivan
Mar 18, 2022

Lance - really enjoyed your take on the Waterfront! You really captured the essence of the industries in such a small space. It's neat to see it arranged as such. My own rendition won't be a whole lot larger than yours, and I think you've got more industries represented! :) Super cool. Incidentally, you may enjoy this post over on my blog. I uncovered an old magazine called Model Rails that in its first issue outlined the operations and a track plan for the waterfront. The author provides a lot of nice details and atmosphere/flavor for what the operations were like along the waterfront. Enjoy. http://gbblog.sluggyjunx.com/2021/03/20/model-rails-magazine-vol-1-no-1-the-georgetown-terminus-ca-1957

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ecnl88
ecnl88
Feb 13, 2022

Great idea for a blog. Thanks. I'll add it to my list of future postings.

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bstokesndp
Feb 12, 2022

A compelling design, Lance. Can you do a follow-up post with some information on the prototype arrangement and the decisions you made in compressing?

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