The setting of the AFK
A historical and geographical setting for the layout
Initial scenario
 Having made the decision to upgrade the AFK to a railway of regional significance it now became necessary to define the territory that it operated within.  As a university trained geographer with a PhD I felt I might have some informed insight into creating a credible, but fictional, version of reality, not that all geographers live in their own little world! Study of the European peripheries such as the Mezzogiorno, the Zonenrandegebeiten and Brittany as they were during the mid/late twentieth century helped to provide the template for Marronĝaco.

The first decision was to set the population at a very low level compared to most modern European countries, thus justifying the relative importance of the small settlements on the model and the preponderance of rural scenery. Some restrictive factor was needed to underpin this background and the most obvious candidate, in a European context, was a desolate upland area that had probably been glaciated during the last ice age. The Marronĝacan Massif met these criteria. Such an area would have few viable resources, forcing the local peasantry to rely upon herding, hunting and fishing, supplemented by forestry and mining wherever the latter was practicable. The background economic factors were therefore set.

A background was manufactured to explain the province's remoteness and relative neglect. Historical maps of Europe show a very different world from the one that we inhabit today with many nations having varied in size and constitution over the centuries. Marronĝaco was an independent country, centred upon the minor Roman province of Murranaccia, until the later years of the nineteenth century. It was ruled over by a council known as the Elektitanaj, or Chosen Ones, of whom the Prince-Bishop of Fenditavalat was the nominal leader. Control of the country's limited resources precipitated frequent violent power struggles amongst this elite ensuring that settlements remained small, nucleated and heavily fortified. Royal intermarriage and a weariness of the harsh lawlessness saw Marronĝaco absorbed into the newly unified state of Thalnia, as its northernmost province. The region's physical isolation, at some remove from the centres of administrative power, and the more pressing problems involved in reconciling the disparate heartlands of the union, left Marronĝaco a poor relation. The privations of two World Wars exacerbated these problems and today, in the 1960s, Marronĝaco is still an obscure and impoverished province.

As was often the case the central government viewed SG railways as a means of binding the fledgling country together and reinforcing ties to Sarip, the capital. A northern line to Ruritania traversed the province and later a branch was built across the southern coastal corridor of Marronĝaco into Narnia. Although authority was devolved to the provincial governments allowing them to promote secondary railways internal dissension in Marronĝaco resulted in these powers becoming ceded to the individual cantons. Altonia canton therefore sanctioned the construction of the AFK.

This tentative scenario was not without problems for the quasi mainline railway which the AFK had now become, as outlined in the final part of section 2. As conceived, goods traffic would have been at a low ebb, composed mainly of upland primary products, whilst passenger demand would be light, although tourism could boost it. It was imperative to increase the range and volume of traffic to produce a vibrant railway. The interaction between these operational requirements, the parallel universe and the design process became important at this point. The overall design had by now settled into the entire railway forming a helix around the room, with a multi-level central peninsula. The preliminary sketches took the existing Fenditavalat as one terminus and assumed the use of a fiddleyard as the lower terminus. This suggested that six other sites were available for stations, each of which needed a definitive role within the operational concept. Fenditavalat's street running (explained in section 2) precluded a large throughput of trains which meant that traffic should be more intense near the junction but tail off as the line reached the terminus. This in turn implied that there should be some important settlements along the route which merited terminating services as well as originating trains. In these circumstances it was decided that Lacono should be transferred away from the SG junction which would be downgraded to a simple railway installation.
Adjustments to basic scenario
Lacono's removal from the junction requires a series of connecting trains to be run between the city and the junction which could not originally have been justified. Here a local train crosses the plain. 
A number of strategic reasons underpinned this decision. The railway would now run some distance before reaching the major settlement, increasing its importance and justifying a more intense train service. The intervening area, between the city and the junction could be designated as an agricultural plain set in a glacial trough, providing a contrast in landscapes. These differences were reinforced by a cultural dichotomy. Whereas the lower valleys converse in Thalnian, the national tongue (based upon Esperanto) the mountainous areas still speak the Marronĝaccan language (which is an unholy mix of my imagination, Basque, Icelandic and Hungarian provided by Google translate). As a result the railway now crossed the Kasatritikakamparoj (Hidden wheat fields), a prosperous agrarian lowland, before it reached the urban area and then passed into an upland zone known as the Altingablecautoj (High Reaches), or Magasoromban to use the indigenous name.
When compared to the previous picture this photo emphasises the contrasts between the lowland and upland scenery, economies and culture. The mainline runs on a shelf high above the alpine meadows occupying a tributary valley of the Spelcia, which leaves the Leyladinlago in the valley below. The Spelcia basin drains Rolnth canton to the west of the Ero and Altonia. Marronĝaco is the spoken language here.

The distinct economies characterising each region would provide a much richer mix of traffics than previously contemplated. The visual differences in the scenery would, furthermore, propagate the impression of undertaking a long journey. Whereas one lowland village might have much in common with another there could be no mistaking it for a pastoral village in the mountains. In this context the physical form of the layout could attenuate these differences. The top level sites would become the upland villages and the bottom layer sites would, commensurately, be the agricultural ones.

One large station site on the peninsula could be occupied by Lacono, leaving the other to be taken by Urteno which, since time immemorial, had been the main intermediate station on the 'paper railway'. Fenditavalat was also 'moved'. Altonia is drained by the river Ero but is bordered to the north by the Orbon basin. To reach the Helcaraxė pass between the two it was necessary for the AFK to enter the Spelcia basin, albeit at high altitude, which drains Rolnth canton to the west. The Ero/Orbon watershed marks the boundary between Altonia and Calviero cantons. By moving the city into the northern canton there was the opportunity to traverse high alpine pastures and to present a snowscene, both contrasting with other sections of the layout and re-iterating that the journey between Relforka and Fenditavalat is a long one (although not so long that the seasons change!)

There was space within the general arrangement for two branch termini, both fulfilling long held modelling ambitions. The area below Lacono was ideal for a port. A craftsman kit of a beam trawler, built in my postgraduate days, had long symbolised the AFK's determination to find salt water, which added various possible additional traffics into the recipe. The other terminus would rely upon the Strub rack to climb out of the main valley to a remote moorland terminus. This would be very compact and generate few products but the interchange traffic would augment that at one of the upland stations. Both branches made trailing junctions with the mainline necessitating reversals of traffic flows to reach them.
Fine tuning
Now that a viable physical plan for the general arrangement of the layout had materialised and a credible general background had been concocted, other aspects of the layout's conceptual development needed attention. As far as possible these were developed simultaneously. A base timetable was tested on a 'cardboard railway' (as described in Section 4) as the outline concept for each station was refined. Given that the general plan simply allocated spaces for stations attention could be focussed upon the detailed design of each one individually as the spatial limitations and basic operational specification were now known. A detailed analysis of each station layout is included in the plans section of the website whereas an overview is provided here. One objective was to create what American modellers refer to as 'paired industries', that is where the output of one workshop becomes a raw material at another factory. In many respects this could legitimately be a focus of criticism of the layout because there is a lot of rather implausible online traffic between AFK stations.
Relforka Lacono
There were many simple examples of NG/SG junctions across Europe, some of which amounted to little more than a NG loop and siding alongside a SG platform. Whilst these might have sufficed for the minor lines outlined in Section 1 they were inadequate for a complex railway such as the AFK, even after the wholesale transferral elsewhere of the adjacent city. Seriously attempting to model such an installation would have overwhelmed the rest of the layout. Relforka was destined from the very beginning, to be a staging area. Almost all the railway's incoming and outgoing traffic passes through here. It would have been possible to incorporate a sector plate into the allocated space but I opted for a two road fiddleyard. This limits the layout's fluidity but as the layout is operated single-handedly it is not a great problem. These restrictions were accepted because they allowed the fiddleyard to be dressed up to represent the Relforka's passenger platforms alongside the SG facilities, at a little remove from the AFK's yards, to which connecting lines disappear beneath a footbridge. This legerdemain is important because it allows a credible closure to a journey along the AFK. Trains arrive and depart from a defined location, rather than the bare plywood limbo-land of a staging yard. Conceptually the junction is merely a railway installation sited for operational convenience rather than to serve a settlement of any significance. Located on the Thalnian Railway's secondary line into Narnia it provides connections between the canton and the rest of the country and has thus been named Relforka Lacono which translates as Lacono Junction. Many remote junctions were named for the town that they served rather than for their location, one of the most well known being Limerick Junction in Ireland.
Relforka Lacono is simply a fiddleyard. The two foreground tracks allow NG trains to be staged but would be a restriction if the layout was operated by more than one person. The SG train, formed of Lima stock, emphasises that the journey has a definite beginning or end because Relfoka simply provides connections to ongoing services.
The Ero Gorge and the Kasatritikakakmparoj
The first modelled section of the journey crosses the agricultural Kasatritikakamparoj (Hidden wheat fields) in the valley of the River Ero. This is the lower level of the model. The area is a plain which was formed by a periglacial lake dammed behind a glacial moraine at the end of the last ice age. Nowadays it is known as the Antaŭagamo, or Front Range, which hides the presence of the agricultural area from the coastal corridor giving the KTT (as it is colloquially referred to) its name. These hills are unfortunately not modelled but they justify the entire nature of the railway. They are pierced by the Antaŭagamarompita, an overflow channel created by the draining lake which offered a ready made route for the cantonal engineers tasked with connecting Lacono to the railway network. A path was cut through the gorge, although this required numerous crossings of the torrent and alternating use of the banks, resulting in a sharply curved, steeply graded track bed which demanded a narrow gauge. The railway's occupation of the gorge has prevented the construction of a new road and so, even today, traffic is forced to climb the tortuous Roman via murranaccia (RN424) before dropping into the valley beyond.
The Kasatritikakamparoj is the granary of Marronĝaco. The valley lies in a glacial trough and is characterised by cereal crops such as these maize fields on either side of the line. The area is a major source of income for the AFK and the train is a beet special serving the valley bottom villages.
Of the two stations in the agricultural villages, that at Boursson follows the layout template outlined in section 1 but that at Breĉo de Glissent  is anomalistic because there is no goods loop due to variations in the ground level. The villages are separated by a long run in model railway terms. This allows trains to stretch their legs in open countryside. A number of halts, of varying importance, have been added to the layout over the years to lengthen the journey for local passenger trains without increasing the urbanised areas. A remote single siding was included in the initial design to serve the preserves factory at Sojonno, which gives the additional complication that it can only be used by down trains. Breĉo de Glissent is assumed to have a small bottle making factory using glass manufactured from local sand deposits. There is no sign of this on the model as it is approximately one kilometre distant from the station and is fed by a long siding which branches away beside the station building. This is a typical AFK dodge. The siding is a short stub which acts as open staging, allowing increased traffic potential at little spatial cost. Besides increasing Glissent's loadings this example of a paired industry provides bottles to Boursson, Lacono and Urteno in addition to Relforka. Perhaps this is one example where the model has borrowed too heavily from American practice as it is unlikely that such a small industry would be either be economically viable or generate so much online traffic for a NG line. The only other feature of note in the KTT zone of the model is the crossing of the Ero at Glissent, the only appearance of the river on the model. Most modelled "rivers" are far too small and look like man-made ditches rather than something created by mother nature. At less than three feet wide the river is till far too small but at least some geographical knowledge has coloured its construction.
The KTT produces many crops adding to the traffic mix including arboricultural crops and soft fruits. This orchard crowds the line at Lamassco, a minor halt adjacent to the crossing in the distance.
Lacono Cittavecchia
Lacono is sited on the middle layer of the peninsula, with Eromarbordo below but nothing above. From the early stages of the design process it was envisaged as the main mid point operational base for the railway and space was allocated for it to be equipped accordingly. The railway infrastructure includes a miniscule marshalling yard, a loco shed, slightly removed from the main boards, and it is the only location at which goods and passenger facilities are separated. This provides a reason for the inclusion of an overall roof, as could occasionally be found on continental NG lines, particularly in France. This layout is far removed from the standard templates but the basic concepts have still been followed. There are only three dead end sidings in the station area as opposed to nine loops. Three of these act as a small marshalling area which is referred to as Gasafabrikatastrato or Gas Works Street yard. This was an important objective in the design brief. Trains originate from and terminate here with blocks of wagons being cut into and out of through trains. Once again one can detect influences from across the pond which perhaps reflect SG rather than NG practices!
The passenger and goods facilities were separated in the final design. NG lines did occasionally build trainsheds and by including this one on the model it helps to emphasise that Lacono is an important city that must be connected to the main network. The two sidings at the right serve the industrial area by crossing the platform line.
A number of industries are assumed to feed the railway and, although none are present on the actual layout, some are visible as background flats. Once again the AFK uses open staging to expand its operations. The two sidings into the industrial area at the right hand end of the layout achieve this, although one is dual purposed and serves the (on layout) city Post Office. The others are off the 'front' of the layout. The cement store and oil tanks are served from the dead end siding with the relevant pipes passing under Gasworks Street whilst the gas works itself is allegedly served, during the night, by a conveyor belt erected across the street in pre Elf and Safety days. The loco shed, at Aspargo, was an afterthought that actually began life as a cassette. A late decision to develop the area inside the semicircular approach allowed a basic shed to be squeezed in. This has become less and less capable of handling the loco and stock requirements as the layout has developed and in many aspects is similar to Relforka, in that it functions as a dressed fiddle yard.

This intense operating pattern is controlled by a colour light system. A number of conflicting and simultaneous moves occur regularly and it is not uncommon for three locos to be in 'motion' at once. Whilst some systems, such as the Yugoslavian 760mm lines, had a cavalier attitude to such activities it was decided to add a comprehensive signalling system at Lacono. Although such embellishments are not normally associated with NG systems the prototypes provided them where traffic intensity demanded them.
The three roads of Gasafabrikatastrato yard are in the foreground and the mainline runs in front of the vans in the 'spare' siding. The colour light signals re-iterate Lacono's importance. They could be found at various places such as Porto in steam days.
In terms of theoretical development the line was assumed to have originally terminated at Lacono Aspargo but that the site was quickly found to be too cramped. The new Cittavecchia station was sited in the Danulbo quarter of the city (thus receiving an inaccurate and aggrandised name) during the late 1890s when extension work into the Altingablecaŭtoj began. This line involved much heavier engineering than its predecessor including tunnelling at Lacono and Aspargo was connected to the new station by a tunnel.
Caramassco Gorge
Once the line leaves Lacono it describes a 180° turn which poses obvious challenges if the railway is not to become toy-like. It would have been nice to have been able to place a curved viaduct here, such as that at Loup on the CF de Provence, before it was sadly blasted into oblivion by the retreating Germans in 1944. Another option was to take Landwasser as an inspiration and to spring the viaduct from a vertical rock wall, although the presence of a work bench and Eromarbordo presented problems. A much emaciated version, with only two arches, was built instead and named Akvalando as a pun on the original.  As well as disguising the curve in a plausible manner the heavy engineering emphasises that the line has left the plains and is entering the uplands.
Although it remains incomplete, the much compressed Akvalando viaduct provides a statement about the substantial nature of the line through the mountains.
Having turned back upon itself the line enters a space allocated for Urteno, sited beneath Fenditavalat and above Relforka.. This was roughly as large as that available for Lacono and the town was intended as a counterbalance to the main settlement. Urteno's background was a blank canvas in that it had never been defined beyond being the main intermediate point on the 'paper railway'. The town has been 'developed' to represent an upmarket spa surrounded by sanatoria for the rich and elderly, which also provides a credible reason for it becoming the medical centre of the canton. From a design point of view this scenario developed alongside the desire to built a lifting bridge over a lake to help emphasise the costs and difficulties of extending the line.
The Spegulalaguno takes up a sizable proportion of Urteno's space but serves to enhance the impression of a spa town. The area behind the bridge holds the ferry, which provides a large amount of traffic, and the lake gives a reason for another substantial piece of engineering.
Operationally this is the most challenging place on the layout and, in a similar manner to Lacono, it has been (or more accurately will be) provided with colour light signalling. The layout basically consists of four loops which are restricted in capacity by the lake. A number of dead ended sidings are included, with one giving access to a ferry slip. This allows the ferry to act as open staging for one of the AFK's largest customers, the Karamspur brewery across the Spegulalaguno (another Tolkien name translated I am afraid!). This avoids the difficulty of modelling a large industry which would overwhelm the scenery and allows it to be replaced by a photogenic point of interest. It also makes some operational use of the space given over to the lake.
The station facilities are compressed because of the lake and, as at many places on the layout, the overall effect will rely upon the backscene. The station has deliberately been designed in an ostentatious Art Deco style to emphasise that this is a spa town.
Two other sidings provide wagon storage facilities augmenting those of Lacono at the mid point of the route. These are important to the operating scheme. The Vulpafaŭkangulo is a steep gradient which begins immediately off the platform ends which limits train loads and calls for the use of banking engines. Any train over the permitted load drops excess wagons which are placed into these sidings. This then provides an opportunity to run an extra train to forward the traffic or, providing that there is sufficient time between shunting and banking duties, for the pilot to work a trip up the bank. The proximity of Lacono and Urteno, and their perceived different characters, has allowed the development of an intense passenger service between the two. This runs to Varden during certain seasons, extending the journeys of the shuttles and allowing them to serve the ski lift and lido. Varden is assumed to be an upper suburb of Urteno. and is simply a siding part way up the bank.
The railway has climbed onto the upper tier of the railway once it has surmounted the steep ramp of the Vulpafaŭkangulo. Ithilarak station has four loops although two of these are short and act as sidings for the goods shed and an exchange with the Jakarutu branch. The mining and forestry industries each have a dead end siding.  The upper level was dropped in front of the lower level to provide space for a curved viaduct, again emphasising the wilder upland nature of the scene. The next station, known by the railway as Ospicio d'Helcaraxë, but locally referred to in Marronĝacan as 'Talan', has a similar layout but without any dead end sidings. It is set at the summit of the Helcaraxë pass and has been provided for operating reasons rather than traffic potential. It is necessary as there would otherwise be an untenably long block section as the line crosses the Orbon/Ero watershed, having momentarily stepped into the Spelcia basin. A small gravel quarry opens during the summer months and the availability of the railway and the remote location have encouraged the military authorities to establish a camp here. The Thalnian army is a part time militia with compulsory summer training which gives an excuse to run regular troop and equipment specials.
Ithilarak is a narrow shelf totally occupied by track. It relies upon the provision of a high backscene to convey the mountainous nature of the terrain, although the village was a failed experiment that will be replaced in the finished version.
The model railway remains level whereas it should descend to reach Caladonno in the Orbon valley. Although the station was initially intended to be a wayside halt the realisation that Fenditavalat could not take full length trains, because of its mid point entrance, meant that space had to be found to hold the extra wagons. A short loop was provided along the spine of the peninsula to do this, which had the added bonus of extending the snow scene.
The snow scene contrasts with the other areas on the layout adding to the illusion of a long journey. The points indicator for the south end of the loop (under the church) was necessary because the blades are almost at eye level and difficult to see.
The line leads immediately onto the approaches to Fenditavalat, where the fiddle yard once stood, which has been discussed previously. A removable plank, graced with the name of a cassette, can be attached to the layout here to represent Fenditavalat Rivaborda. This site holds the loco and carriage sheds for the northern end of the AFK and also provides storage sidings and interchange with the CFS, the three phase electric railway crossing Calviero canton.

The original configuration of Fenditavalat. pre-dates the current layout and breaks the viewing convention. Whereas north is to the right everywhere else, it is to the left at Fenditavalat. The design parameters also cause the practical problem that any train entering or leaving the town square is out of sight of the operator whilst running upon a ledge fifteen inches above Lacono. There is the added problem of points leading to the cassette giving the potential for an abrupt drop into the abyss. For safety reasons the movement of trains out of sight in this area is kept to a minimum which has necessitated complex electrical arrangements duplicated between Fenditavalat and Ospicio d'Helcaraxë local control panels.
The branches
The branches were added to supplement the traffic patterns and to complicate operating scenarios. Jakarutu is very small and is squeezed into a space only made available by the use of Fleischmann rack mechanisms. Beyond being a remote hilltop town there is no additional rationale, other than that it allowed the modelling of an alpine landscape in summer.

Eromarbordo basically consists of three loops in the standard manner although sidings have been added to access the quaysides. The station acts as an alternative destination for outgoing goods such as grain, although once again some imagination is required to envisage these facilities. The placing of the Carrodantis chocolate company's cocoa store also provides originating traffic in addition to fish which has to be interchanged either at Relforka or Glissent. The Carrodantis factory at Lacono provides another (unlikely) example of a paired industry.
The two branches provide further opportunities for contrasts with the main line. The alpine vegetation on the rack branch helps to set the scene for an isolated rack branch.
The quayside at Eromarbordo also allows a different scene to be modelled. The smoke houses, one of which is in the background, cure locally caught fish providing one traffic. Fertiliser, based on ground up fish and seaweed provides another from this short spur.
One final traffic  deserves a quick glance. The cities of Fenditavalat and Lacono, along with Urteno each have campuses of the University of Marronĝaco, an ancient Medieval foundation. They generate much Postal traffic between themselves and the remainder of the country and so Post vans can often be seen attached to passenger trains.
By developing the theoretical background at the same time as designing the track plans and testing the operating scheme the layout presents a more coherent whole than it would have done had the three processes been carried out separately. Once the layout had been built there was little need to alter it due to unforeseen problems.

In some respects the operating scheme owes more to American modelling influences rather than to the European NG prototypes. There is a far wider variety of traffic than would have been likely to have been found in reality and there is a lot of online traffic between stations that would have been unusual on the prototype. This was a conscious decision and the only defence that I can offer is mea culpa!

Much use of visible staging has been made to allow many of these ostensibly large industries to be removed from the layout to boost traffic without dominating the rural scene. The junction station is the prime example of this but modelling it, albeit in a shorthand form allows journeys to logically begin and end at a defined point rather than in storage sidings.

One final point, the double deck method of construction has allowed a much fuller rendition of a regional railway than a single level layout would ever have done in the space available.
Continue to Section 4
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