General Information Technical Information Neat Ideas
Occupancy Detection & Signaling More things to look at  Crossing Gates
Making the Backdrop Dwarf Signals Operations & Freight Forwarding
Building Down — Steel Frame Construction

General Information

     This is the second ARE. The first lasted for 22 years. It was a 5 ft 13 ft rectangle, closely packed with lots of track.  It featured a rapid transit district that was partially elevated, partially on grade, and had an underground stub-end terminal. Views are available.

     The current ARE is a free-lance layout; that is, it doesn't model any specific prototype. Nor does it represent a specific time. I say it models the anachronistic era. I designed it using CadRail. It is built almost exactly as designed. The physical drawing is from CadRail. The place names are locations important to my family. Many industry names are puns or personal references. You may want to view the track plan and schematic to follow the place names.

     The  ARE  is operated to simulate the movement of cars carrying loads among industries on and off the layout.  There are several schemes for determining the movement of cars.  We used to operate the ARE using car cards to simulate the movement of freight among industries. Now we're using computer-generated train orders.  Both systems are described below under freight forwarding.

     Local trains run from Babel Yard to industries and towns and back to Babel. Local switchers serve Vienna and Carnegie, interchanging cars with the locals from Babel. Through freights run between Babel and Marshal Yards. Marshal, in turn, interchanges freight cars with the world beyond the walls via the Westmoreland Railroad and the Providence & Worcester Railroad. The Westmoreland interchange track is connecting to Marshal Yard and serviced by a local locomotive provided by the Westmoreland.  The Providence & Worcester is a staging track. Both Westmoreland and Providence & Worcester are hidden tracks visible from Marshal by a mirror hung from the ceiling.  

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Some Technical Information

     Train control is by Digitrax Digital Command Control (DCC). (Click here for information about DCC.) Operations are walk around with the engineer following the train. Jacks to plug in the throttles are located around the layout. Any throttle can control any train. In general, the address the Digital throttle uses to address the locomotive is the first two digits of the engine number.

     DCC automates polarity change for reversing loops/tracks. The ARE uses one booster (component that powers the tracks) for the main line and a second booster for Babel Yard (which is a reversing track) and two other reversing tracks: (1) the track from Carol Gardens to Hoboken and (2) the track from the Silver Spring Tunnel to Schenley. Look at the ARE schematic to see where these tracks logically connect.

     Two kinds of switch machines are used. Tortoise slow motion machines are used in Marshal, Carnegie, Carol Gardens, Bergen, and New Rochelle. They are activated on the control panels with a toggle switch. The handle of the switch indicates the direction the turnout is thrown. LEDs confirm the setting, powered through the stall motor. Twin coil switch machines, Kemtron and NJ International, are used elsewhere. They are activated by push buttons on the panels with LEDs showing the setting. More information in neat ideas.

     The ARE operates as part of a round-robin group, that we call the Anachronistic Region, located primarily in Montgomery County, Maryland. Some of the operating rules apply to all layouts in the Anachronistic Region, while other rules are specific to an individual layout such as the ARE. We meet every Tuesday night at a different layout. If you're interested, send email to

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Neat Ideas 

    The ARE uses several neat ideas that may be of interest to other modelers including independent loconet power, mounting switch machines under the layout, control panels, vinyl house siding to hold car cards or train orders, cut-away (longitudinal cross section) tunnel, trackage in the street, backdrops made using pictures from the Internet, track warrants, building flats, and LED headlights.

Operations & Freight Forwarding

     Freight forwarding direct the movement of specific cars to specific destinations, performing the basic function of a railroad. Train orders provides the information the operator needs to run the train, such as train name/number, where it originates, what it does, and when it does it, and where it is supposed to end up at the end of the run. A freight train order identifies the cars on the train, and which industries they are coming from and going to. Movement of trains on the ARE used to be directed by car cards. Click here to see an explanation and example cards.  The ARE now uses computer-generated train orders; click here.  A clinic describing many aspects of operating sessions on the  ARE  is available; click here to see it in a new window.

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2 signal mastsOccupancy Detection and Signalling

Although the ARE first used track warrants to control occupancy of single track sections, this proved unsatisfactory and was replaced with occupancy detection and block signaling.  DCC block occupancy detectors made by  by Richard Napper, MMR were installed along with signals kits from Oregon Signals. A clinic about Occpancy Detection and Signaling is available; click here to open the clinic in a new window.

Dwarf SignalsDwarf Signal

     Dwarf signals are used when there isn't room or clearance for a full-sized signal.  They are mounted close to the ground and are used as a low home signal protecting the entrance of a route or block of track, for minor trackage within interlockings, as starting signals in passenger terminals, and  in yards, sidings and other places so as not to be confused with block signals.  The ARE uses dwarf signals to indicate how a turnout is thrown. Click here to open the clinic in a new window.

Crossing Gates

I've always wanted an operating grade crossing gate with flashing lights on my layout. This article describes what I did to create that annimated feature.  I assembled a set of components. It turned out to be more complicated than expected, but I'm very satisfied with the results. Click here to read all about it.

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Making the Backdrop

    The ARE has unique backdrops made using pictures that I selected from the Internet.  I have written a clinic on how to make your own backdrop.  Click here to open the clinic in a new window.

Building Down — ARE Headquarters — Steel Frame Construction 

     The ARE was built leaving several large gaps, or holes, for future imaginative scenicing. I decided to take advantage of these openings to build down as well as up! I don't think I've ever seen an excavation on a model railroad, so that's what I decided to add.  Click here to read all about it.

More things to look at
Photos of
1st ARE
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 Benchwork & track 
(pictures of places and things)

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Revised 16 August 2015