Modelling a typical continental NG line.
Section 1 presented an idealised set of templates that many continental NG railways adhered to, both in terms of operating procedures and the equipment provided to run these services. If one is being brutally honest they offer thin prospects for an interesting operating session, particularly on a small 'stand alone' layout, be it either a terminus or a through station. In essence the mixed train passes through the scene six times in the session, three in each direction, makes a brief halt and departs. The day is then done. The train will, furthermore, be composed of the same locomotive and stock, although it might occasionally drop off or pick up a couple of wagons from the goods siding. On high days and holidays it could even cross another train at the station.

This scenario might appeal to a modeller who is not particularly interested in running trains, and a surprising number of modellers acknowledge that they are not, but who wishes to develop a small fleet of stock detailed to exquisite levels. The temptation for many modellers is to massively augment this basic service thereby spoiling the ambience that they have assiduously strived to create. There are ways to replicate this simple type of secondary line and still maintain some operational interest. These are examined in the "Operating the original Fenditavalat" section.

As was noted in Section 1 it was possible to find exceptions to this basic NG railway. Some regional lines developed into complex systems within a well defined area. There are still caveats, however. Many such railways were effectively groups of amalgamated small lines that unsurprisingly offered three trains per day each way. What might, at first sight appear to be an interesting modelling opportunity, such as a junction, either with the SG or another NG line, might only spring to life two or three times per day. These NG lines often operated independently of each other, even though they were under the same administration, rather than being configured to provide connecting services. It was also not unknown, on a long single line, for it to be impossible to travel between the two termini in a single day because the line was operated as two or three independent segments rather than as a whole. There were many remote NG junctions across Europe where very little happened for much of the time!

Operating the original Fenditavalat

Early history
One glance at the Operating Sessions section of the website will reveal that the current version of the AFK does not follow this lead (!) yet the AFK did not spring form the brow of Jove, fully formed. There were many vacillations along the road to the railway as it is now. This might seem to be stating the obvious, but it is important to realise that the ideas underpinning the model underwent many revisions before arriving at its current realisation. The AFK, as a concept, is now over forty years old (in 2018) but even so the layout is still evolving and changing. For anyone contemplating a freelanced railway this is an important point to grasp. The longer that the layout can mature the more plausible it is likely to become, always providing that it is set on a firm prototypical foundation. This credibility in many respects is gained from a multi-layered approach which only develops with time. Even today I am still "discovering" aspects of Altonia that were previously little known.

The origins of the railway were simple enough. I became dissatisfied with the performance of 009 equipment during my undergraduate days and decided to re-use some redundant 00 equipment placed under hand-made 7mm NG bodies. This was well before the advent of commercially available 7mm NG and also before the formation of the 7mm NGA. There was a need for a small portable layout which could easily be stored or moved around, as befitted the demands of student life. This materialised with an 8'6" by 15" footprint and served its purpose for many more years than originally envisaged. This design can be accessed in the Original Fenditavalat section of the Layout Plans.

One glance at the plan, comprising five salvaged Peco points and a crossing, with a fiddle yard (one siding) behind part of the modelled scene shows that the maximum amount of track was crammed into this small area, which was arranged to show a railway terminating in the main square of a small town having entered it through an ancient gatehouse. A roster of only one loco, one van, an open and a flat wagon, along with an embryonic bogie coach and the prospect of a railcar, meant that complex operating schemes could only be dreamt of.

The railway needed a setting, however, if the trains were to be run coherently. For want of better inspiration Tolkien's "Rivendell" was translated into Esperanto to give the town's name, setting a precedent for many other Altonian names stolen from fantasy novels over the years. A rudimentary historical and geographical background for the railway was also devised. The railway ran across Altonia province from the junction with the mainline at Lacono to the isolated town in the hills as a complement to the national railways, hence its name (inspired by the Sardinian Complementary Railways). A 'paper railway' was devised to provide some substance to the train timings which followed the three trains per day format. Occasionally changes would be made to this imaginary railway and the details of the timetable were amended accordingly but otherwise the railway went about its business as a small scale NG line quite happily for many years. The stock increased as time allowed, but never overwhelmed the layout as it was all hand built and the railway was very much on the 'back burner' at this stage in my life as I played and coached a large amount of sport.
The original Fenditavalat
Replacement of the original and looking forward.
The railway remained unaltered for around fifteen years because it served its purpose. Even by the end of this period the AFK could only call upon a limited roster of rolling stock. There were four locos and three railcars, the single carriage and around twenty wagons, mostly completed, when disaster struck. Unfortunately the steel rails of the original track rusted and the railway became inoperable, necessitating a complete rebuild. By now the railway had a permanent home with slightly more space available for the replacement. There was also the possibility that a greatly enlarged area could be made available for the railway, although this seemed to be a remote prospect at the time. In these circumstances the original layout's demise was not quite the disaster it might otherwise have been. The track could be replaced with nickel silver rails and the points could be scratchbuilt to my requirements rather than using standard formations.

The earliest drafts for an expanded Fenditavalat envisaged a more conventional prototype and plans were prepared for a station at the foot of the town adjacent to the river Orbon. The town's importance had increased during the interim period (it had also become a city) and it was envisaged that a connection would be made with a three phase electrified railway across the neighbouring canton to give a northern outlet for the city. This would provide an excuse for exchange traffic as well as the opportunity to model little known prototypes. It was envisaged that the only buildings would be railway installations. Buildings take time to prepare and few could be salvaged from the original layout due to the nature of their construction. The plan was actually marked out upon the new replacement baseboards and preliminary construction had begun when I got cold feet and decided on a review. The previous concept had served well for fifteen years so why abandon it now? The replacement was ‘relocated’ into the town square, as its predecessor had been, although there was now a little more room for additional facilities.

This decision to locate the terminus in the town square needs closer examination. The arrangement had been plausible in its original format because there were so few trains during the course of the day that they were unlikely to cause to much inconvenience in a rural backwater where there was little road traffic. In its initial configuration as a stand alone layout, supplied from a fiddle yard (an elongated siding which was placed along an adjacent wall at right angles to the layout) there was little change in the operating technique of the new layout. The lengthened running loops and the increased number of sidings could simply accommodate longer trains rather than more trains.. The through train still ran from the SG junction, having become a fixture in the timetable, but it could be expanded to two coaches and a Post van and goods trains could run to six wagons and a brake in contrast to the four previously the maximum.
The way it used to be! The 2-6-2T and the original coach, based on a tramway carriage plus the 'new' Austrian radial coach and the Post van saunter into Fenditavala's square to be met by the Post bus. This was the main train of the day. The original carriage is now an 'extra' and had to be located in an obscure drawer for this photo.
My personal circumstances then altered and it was possible to contemplate an massive increase in the layout. In this context the longstanding brief for Fenditavalat should perhaps have been changed. Inevitably it was not. This has had ramifications for the new layout. The number of trains using the square has vastly increased and there is also considerably more shunting and marshalling of trains than there was before. Even during the sixties, when the layout is set, there would most likely have been an outcry about the congestion and calls for a terminus outside the city. Secondly, on a more practical note, the layout's design incorporates an approach from behind the goods yard as in its predecessor. This was an involuntary constraint placed upon the first layout, although a conscious decision was eventually taken to retain this feature in its successor. The passing loop is restricted in length as a consequence whereas it could have been made longer in a more conventional design. The AFK lives with this shortcoming, which had an impact on the final layout design, as will be outlined below. I suppose that I really ought to consider replacing the constricted street running with a properly designed track layout and a sixties glass, steel and concrete station building standing beside the Orbon!
The way it is today! The longer express with larger motive power (at the left) meets the connecting electric service whilst the car train, which runs when snow blocks the passes, waits in the foreground to depart. It is difficult believe that this congestion would have been tolerated for too long before moves began to shift the railway.
Although a simple history and geography of Altonia had originally been envisaged (and altered several times) it was rather nebulous. Altonia beyond Fenditavalat simply consisted of a fiddleyard and a list of imaginary stations and distances providing the framework for a timetable because there was little need to elaborate any further.

This situation changed once it became possible to put the railway into a large room. A number of design options were available the best of which can be summarised as follows;

(1) The conservative, standard British default option, of building the layout on a single level with a large central operating well and a fiddleyard occupying at least one side and more than a quarter of the model's run. I am convinced that most people produce designs like this because it is what they see at exhibitions and copy, even if they do not intended to show their layout to the public. I suppose that this choice could have produced a Lacono deluxe or an expansive version of Fenditavalat had I opted for a terminus station.

(2) The second alternative option, in a similar mould, would have been the creation of a single level layout, perhaps with Fenditavalat on a one sided central aisle, and a couple of small stations before the railway entered a fiddleyard. In this case the railway would have had long runs between its stations placing much emphasis on the scenic side. Underpinning both options would have been the understanding that the AFK remained a low key NG railway of localised importance with a spartan timetable.

(3) The third choice was effectively to go for broke. This would owe more to American influences than British practice. The layout would be multi-level, incorporating some method by which trains moved between levels. The objective would be to maximise the length of the mainline run and to include as many stations as possible. Although the room is quite narrow it was also felt that it should just be possible to squeeze a central peninsula into the central area to increase the mainline's course. This was the option selected. 
More consideration of the design and the construction technique is available in the Double deck section of the website.

The chosen design would not in itself have precluded the AFK from remaining as a basic NG railway but the cost would have been the incorporation of a massive amount of underused capacity, as was found on the prototypes. It would seem unlikely that many modellers would select this option if given the choice! Layout space is difficult and expensive to acquire and the inclination is to make the most intensive use of it possible. The decision was therefore taken to recast the AFK as a more important line of regional significance operating as a secondary quasi-mainline through Marronĝaco province in conjunction with the CFS. Having made this decision the design process began. Numerous drafts were worked up, some more fanciful than others, although the triple decked version with an electrified commuter section serving a largish city would have been interesting, both to operate and to build! Alongside the practical process of establishing what could be fitted into the space there was a need for a more precise geographical context than had existed previously.
Double deck construction
Continue to Section 3
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