This is the Northern Pacific's transcontinental line through Montana. The only place this line sees the light of day on the layout is in the interchange yard at Laurel, on the inside of the inner peninsula. Basically, this line is used to store trains, and acts as two staging yards. It's also a way to just run huge trains when I feel like it. I won't get to see much of them when I do, though! Because of my own preference for the Great Northern Railway, this line, though representing the NP, will see a lot of GN equipment. Maybe I should have called Laurel Shelby, and this line the Great Northern Mainline. But the connection to Laurel was real, though no effort is made to represent Laurel as it really was, and a connection to Shelby never existed. 

This photo was taken in mid- November 2003. It's a shot of a train sitting on what will be hidden track underneath Glenrock. This is just outside Seattle staging's yard throat, which begins just out of view at the top right of the photo. This train will have to run through Minneapolis staging at the other end of the layout, then back around on the second track to get to Laurel, where it will be on the visible portion of the NP Mainline.
Here's a lower level shot of the same view. Even without scenery, things are looking good! Too bad this will all be hidden trackage. The locos are Proto 2000 0-6-0s. They look good and run great! The ore cars are Roundhouse cars I decorated for the Einstein & Washakie Railroad (that's what I named my model RR W-A-Y back in High School. The tank cars are Walthers, as are the box cars. The tanks have varying degrees of extra detail and weathering.
NP Control Panel.JPG (274504 bytes)This is the graphic for the NP mainline control panel. From the panel, which is currently under construction, the Laurel yard operator will control all the turnouts in Minneapolis and Seattle staging yards, as well as operate the turntable. Although this same town also represents Scottsbluff, Nebraska, I'm just calling it Laurel for simplicity. I'm thinking the Laurel yard, though modest, will require a full-time operator to handle the yard switcher and engine terminal, as well as the trains passing through between Seattle and Minneapolis, some of which will be making drops and pick-ups in Laurel. Combining that with the trains (both freight and passenger) to and from Frannie and Orin Junction, this could be a real hot-spot on the layout.
05-03-01 NP Panel Populated.jpg (117661 bytes)This is the completed NP control panel. It rolls around on a small, chromed steel kitchen cart. The cart also has a shelf that's useful for holding tools and what-not.

This line is a fancy staging setup for the north and south ends of the layout. I could have simply made the Frannie Cutoff (which will serve as both the connection from Frannie to Laurel and the connection from Orin east to Scottsbluff, Nebraska, and beyond) the lead into a Laurel staging yard that was just a return loop (like the CB&Q East line), and considered doing exactly that. But there are a few advantages to this more elaborate staging arrangement, not the least of which is that this staging track will be relative easy to get up and running quickly, since it is not scenicked except at Laurel, and all the track is on a single level (the lowest on the railroad). So as I start building the Frannie Cutoff and the main modeled parts of the line in Wyoming, I'll almost always have at least some limited operation with the NP Mainline. As more and more of the Wyoming Mainline is finished, the NP Mainline will slowly devolve into a purely staging operation. Still, Laurel should be a very interesting operating spot on the layout. Trains will come in from east and west staging areas, most of which will simply pass through, but some of which will drop cars bound down into Wyoming and points east through Nebraska (out through CB&Q East from Orin Junction - meaning around the Wyoming Main and back out the Frannie cutoff through Laurel, at this point representing Scottsbluff), and other trains will come off the Frannie Cutoff, with cars bound for east and west destinations. Not shown on this drawing is a double crossover on the west wall of the basement; if worse comes to worst, some trains from Frannie may have to take one of the resulting giant reversing loops (each yard will be in one reversing loop) to change direction.


There's really only one town on the NP Mainline: 

Laurel. Only the junction between the Frannie Cutoff and the NP Mainline is modeled.