Steven Burrows

Chicago & North Western – Cooper Falls Subdivision

in HO Scale by Steven Burrows

The layout is approx. 5m x 7m and adjoins the workshop under the house. With half the track laid, too many English GWR/SR kits to build and reduced time for the hobby, years ago I made the switch from GWR/SR (1938) to the only lefthand Class 1 US railroad, the Chicago & Northwestern (1969). In 1969 there was still evidence of the absorbed M&StL and Omaha Road, the CGW had just merged and Amtrak was still a couple of years off. GP7s and GP9s are the backbone of the loco roster with ‘modern’ stock consisting of GP30s, SD40s and SD45s. Some have Soundtraxx or QSI sound.

The shape is basically a large oval with a branch depot (Willow) on a centre peninsula. Cooper Falls takes up three sides of the room and a view block (a wall that supports the house above) shields the return lines along the far side. A double track mainline allows continuous running which some operators (railfan types) prefer. Off-layout staging would allow timetabled operation but this has not been built.

In Cooper Falls there’s plenty of switching to do on both sides of the mainline (crossing between passing trains adds to the challenge) and one can make up a train in the classification yard and head off to Willow for more switching. The trackplan is freelanced and has evolved with changes in switching operation and changes in industries.

Some of the alterations such as old trackbed are still in evidence, giving the scenery genuine ‘history’. Other history has been made up such as ‘new’ items on buildings (different in colour to the rest) and bricked up windows and doors. When I observe old industrial buildings, much of the detail comes from items that are no longer there such as boltholes, old conduits that lead nowhere and painted render where an adjoining shed once stood. Purely for time reasons I tend to kitbash rather than scratchbuild structures, but I find these architectural defects are invaluable for hiding joins in the re-arranged kits.

There are no grades and the track is set 1400mm above the floor. Track is Peco Code 75. It is an improvement in appearance on the previous Code 100 but the pointwork has not been as robust. The next layout will probably have Code 83.

The layout is part of a local ’round-robin’ and runs on DC and DCC (NCE) on alternate running evenings. Typically DC nights are run-bys while DCC encourages a lot more switching.

A new larger layout (at a new address) is being planned for the future. Cooper Falls will have new trackage, but will retain most of its buildings and will still be a freelanced junction. However it is intended to connect it to staging and a few LDEs adapted from actual C&NW depots.