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Liberty Loop Window Layout

In July of 2011, we were gone for over a week when we took the layout to Sacramento for the combined NASG/NMRA convention and National Train Show. Because we were gone so long, a lot of people thought we had left Liberty Station for good. We decided to build a new layout to display in the window of the clubhouse so people will have something to look at and enjoy when we're not there.  They can push a button that starts the train running.  And when we are there, it is designed for kids to play with: it's lower down and has no Plexiglas panels to protect the layout.  Everything on the layout that is within a child's reach has been designed to be less fragile (and less valuable) than the things on the modular layout.  The initial intent was to have a transformer for kids to run the train themselves and pickup rail for operating cars; we'll see whether those ever materialize. In the meantime, the layout has grown significantly in size and sophistication.

Like the modules, it was laid out using 4thPlanIt software. It's a figure-8 folded back over itself, one loop within another.

The layout started as two 6 foot by 4 foot panels with Styrofoam glued onto plywood on a 1X4 frame.  For the track bed we used the same HomoBed material as on the main layout.

The crossover is a 30-degree crossing from American Models.  Raulf donated enough of the spare American Models track he had.

Laying the track turned out to be a challenge because the curves are tighter than on our modules.  We had to fit the curves and hold them in place until they were willing to hold their shape.  Then we added the straight pieces in between.

With all the track in place, we staged an initial test run.

We mounted a transformer on the side, in the corner, to see how well that would work.  Not very fancy, but it's the simplest way to mount it.  Initial results are mixed: the first child to run a train with it did just fine, but the next two wanted to play with the wires on the top.  We may need to build a shelf and/or imbed it in a box.

With Christmas approaching, Mike brought in a tree to add interest until the landscaping is finished.  So it's out of scale ... no big deal.

This side of the layout will feature a double tunnel so viewers at the window will see the train come out of the tunnel.  The scenery will be somewhat minimalist and generic so that we can change it with the seasons - Christmas and Hanukkah during December, giving way to winter scenes, then spring, Memorial Day and the Fourth of July, summer fun, and fall with Halloween and Thanksgiving.

Progress continued, with the road crossings installed and track ballasting underway.

Video of the Window Layout

Skirting makes it look so much nicer!

During December, we framed the windows with lights for the Holidays.

We added a four-foot section in the middle to make more space for interesting scenery, and ...

to give us a center pop-out to make it easier to work on the window side of the layout and to deal with derailments and other problems, and ...

to install pick-up rails for operating cars.  We want to make this layout really interactive and fun for kids.

Raulf built a control box that runs the train for a settable period of time and automatically shuts off until the button is pushed again.

In the fall of 2017, Raulf built a new and improved control box mounted with its transformer under the frame of the layout.

In one corner, we laid out space for the mountain and tunnel:

Styrofoam blocks formed the basic structure of the mountain:

With the tunnel corner all built up with styrofoam, Mike begins sculpting it with spackle.

A little paint makes it look more like a mountain:

The basin of the mountain lake was waterproofed in preparation for the pouring of Realistic Water:

We painted the lakebed blue and began pouring Realistic Water:

At the bottom of the mountain, fed by the waterfall, is the boating lake:

with a dam and spillway at the lower end; the canoe rental shack is on the shore.

On the shore, a father and son wait patiently for rain to fill the lake so it can be stocked.

Their patience paid off! The mountain began spilling over the water falls to fill the lake. We added docks and an overflow as finishing touches.

In the meantime, Alex began work on a train station model.  It'll be called "Liberty Station," of course!!!

As he worked on it, we put in a blacktop access road and parking lot.

And here it is in place, with the train approaching.

Looking through the window, visitors see the front of the station:

At night, you can see that the gooseneck lamp is lighted:

Alex's next modeling project was a motel:

Other buildings and a lot of vehicles followed.

We had a problem of trains stopping on a dead spot in the crossover when the timer ran out. The solution was to put sensors across the crossover to detect a train in the area and keep track power on until the train got past the dead spot. The sensors are those two little pipes sticking out of the little building by the crossover and the two standpipes on the other side of it.

Dale created an S-Gaugers truck:

For Halloween, we put a monster in the tunnel:

For Veterans Day, Memorial Day, and other patriotic holidays, we line the street with American Flags:

In the summer of 2012, Bob got the idea of creating several different popouts landscaped around seasonal themes and began work on
a military cemetery modeled after the Bennington Memorial at Fort Rosecrans cemetery in San Diego.

Just before Christmas, 2012, Michael Todd, curator of the L-Gauge Museum, brought in his Lego Christmas diorama:

It fit just great on the center pop-up port.

But that was just the first of what has become a great tradition.

For the Navy's birthday in 2013, Dale created the NTC Park pop-up to commemorate the former Naval Training Center where Liberty Station now stands:

In 2015, Mike created a snow hill pop-up for tobogganing in the winter.

With a growing collection of pop-outs, Dale created a rack for storage.

In 2017, we decided to name our railroad the Grossmont Central Railroad in honor of our clubhouse hosts at Grossmont Center in La Mesa, and Raulf lettered the club's American Models Baldwin diesel locomotive for it:

Occasionally, though, someone brings in one of his own trains to run on the layout for variety.

Take a look at the layout from the vantage point of the Engineer:

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