Building a layout that's along the waterfront

Discussion in 'Track Planning' started by railBuilderdhd, Dec 13, 2007.

  1. As I research what I want to build and the more I look at rails from on-line mapping I realize I would like to incorporate waterfront docks where I can have trucks and ships loading and unloading containers from the rail. I’ve got some ideas from what I see from the on-line mapping but wanted to know if anyone has anything to help me with creating a waterfront layout. I still want to model in HO and I would like to have the era be 1980’s till now. Any layouts someone may have or articles they can point me to for research would be great. I need to know what size the slips will be for ships at HO scale or would like to see how others have modeled the waterfront.
  2. pgandw

    pgandw Active Member

    The smallest container dock I have seen was the SeaLand facility at Kodiak, Alaska. IIRC the pier face (which was parallel to the shore) wasn't even as long as the ships. But any full-scale ship in HO is going to be on the order of 5ft long. And the traditional piers in most harbors are going to be at least one ship length long.

    Which is why I'm choosing to model a free-lance "dog hole" port along the Northern California/Southern Oregon coast in 1900. Dog hole schooners of 70-90ft length were in their last days of active commerce then.
  3. Kevinkrey

    Kevinkrey Member

    railBuilder, you might want to consider Duluth MN. There are several railroads that handle grain, coal, ore, taconite pellets, limestone, lumber, and more. I am modeling the Duluth Missabe And Iron Range railraod, but ore docks are in Two Harbors MN, not Duluth. Anyway, plenty of action for a model.
  4. Russ Bellinis

    Russ Bellinis Active Member

    How much room do you have for a layout? As Fred mentioned container docks take up a lot of space. Not only are the ships huge, requiring long docks to accomodate them, but the terminals are probably 5 times as big as the ships. I worked at one of the smallest docks in Los Angeles Harbor, and our dock was long enough to accomodate three container ships end to end, and the terminal next door shared a continuation of the same dock that would accomodate an additional 3-5 ships! One trick that could be used is to build your model railroad about armpit height or even at eye level, and put some tall models like refineries, grain elevators, warehouses, etc between the front of the layout and the docks to act as partial view blocks. If you have to look between these various industries to see the dock, you could model a partial container dock and just part of the ship with the remainder of the model "off scene."
  5. Russ - You don't by chance have photo of the dock you worked at or anything that you can share to help with the design of this model. I like the idea of building to block some of the view but I would like to build the layout to extend far enough to model a large dock. Dreams are made of these kind of thoughts.
  6. Russ Bellinis

    Russ Bellinis Active Member

    I'm sorry, but a container dock was really the last thing I wanted to model so I didn't get any pictures.

    PHL Moments: A Photo Roster of some variation or another - SoCalRailFan Forums

    Here is an old thread on the So Cal Railfan Forums. You may need to join to view the page, but membership is free just like the Gauge. There are a number of pics in this thread that show some of the things that act as view blocks to the ports and docks, although people trying to get locomotive shots are only concerned with view blocks that block the locomtive they want to shoot. If you go to So Cal Rail an Forums, in the "Industrial and Shortline" Forum you will find a lot of pictures of railroads around the harbor. Most of the interresting pics will be the Pacific Harbor Line or PHL. One of the interresting things about the PHL is that the owner likes the classic paint liveries. They have a Green Goat as well as a SD40-2 painted in Santa Fe Zebra Stripes. They used ot have a low nose GP 9 painted in SP Black Widow.

    Here are some more pics.

    A little PHL Sunday Service - SoCalRailFan Forums

    In fact even a few stragically placed stacks of containers can act as a view block to hide the fact that you were not able to model the entire dock.
  7. thx_1138a

    thx_1138a New Member

    When OK but where?


    You should check out John Pryke's Union Freight. It starts in Model Railroader Sept 2000 (three parts). It and other info on east coast/mid-west city modelling are covered in MR's Building City Scenery. You should also do some searches re ports and containers at The Model Train Magazine Index. I think I saw one on an N scale container port.

    I also have to draw attention one "picky" point: modular and sectional are not the same thing. A layout can be sectional and still not modular, but most modular layout are sectional. Modular involves interchangeable pieces like Ntrak. Freemo is typically more sectional with the only constraints being electrical and section interface standards. Check out MR Feb97 for The Basics of Modular Layouts.

    That said, be forwarned that both sectional and modular cost more to construct (benchwork). You will simply use more lumber and screws. Care must also be taken with the wiring to leave "slack" for cutting and reattaching or use terminal strips that can be unscrewed. Modular layout usually use standardised plugs like cinch-jones or DIN (like old keyboard plugs).

    You might want to consider building something small to keep you excitement/interest up and trains moving. The Acardia Terminal in MR Mar95 is a small layout built to be removed and used as part of an larger layout (eventually). That issue also has info about Bill Darnaby's Maumee Route and his use of extruded foam as part of his benchwork. The Pennsylvania RR in a Modest Space in MR Mar97 and Welcome to Port Kelsey MR Aug97 would also make good reading. They are not set in your era (80's) but scenery, structures and rolling stock set location and time. The other guys are right--start planning and building for the future. If you think you might want to do a muti-level or "mushroom" down the road you REALLY have to plan for it in what you build now.

    Hopefully you have access to a library of MR and RMC (yours or a friends). Reprints should be available.

    Hope this is the kind of info you wanted.

  8. Russ Bellinis

    Russ Bellinis Active Member

    One problem that I have with modeling docks after working on one for 11 years, is that they only look good in still photos. No matter how much detail you put into the dock scene it doesn't look right on a model railroad! Why? Basically there is movement all of the time all over the dock. If you model a ship at the dock there will be a "hammer head" crane working that ship. When the crane stops working the ship, the ship leaves. The cost of ships and crews is such that they don't sit at the dock to give the crew time off! There are trucks pulling chassis around the dock with transtainers loading and unloading containers on those chassis. There are surplus postal jheeps inthe colors of the stevadoring company running around the dock for checkers and bosses to note where containers are, sign them out to or receive them from truckers. Their are trucks picking up or dropping off chassis in the chassis yard somewhere on the dock. To my eye, if it doesn't have a lot of movement, it just looks dead. Maybe it is just that I am so familier with container docks that I'm too fussy.
  9. Dansco

    Dansco Member

    Hers an Idea that Iv been kicking around for a bit now...

    One thing that I noted on many layouts with water fronts is that the "water" is invariably the front of the layout. It occurred to me that an ocean/port scene was a good fit for a backdrop painting/picture. So rather than have my water front near the front of the layout, I created this design with the water front in the back..

    In this design the water (blue triangle) on the left side of the layout is against the scenic divider/backdrop (Orange vertical line) . There is more going on in this layout, but I just wanted to show you how I might do a waterfront. FYI: The crane thingy half in the water and half out is to represent a crane.. which is YET TO BE SELECTED.

    Hope this helps

    Attached Files:

  10. nice idea, having the water in the back of the layout. More ideas to keep thinking about.

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