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the Sussex Branch

This article originally appeared in the October 1990 Railroad Model Craftsman and is presented here with permission from the author

Trackplanning for the Sussex Branch

Copyright Carstens Publications, Inc., 1990, used by permission

By Bill Schaumburg

The DL&W's Sussex Branch has a lot to offer modelers and there are a number of ways to proceed with a track plan for it. Just because it was a bucolic branchline doesn't mean that it has to be a small plan, with ridiculously tight radii on the curves and everything shoehorned onto a four-by eight sheet of plywood. The line, after all, hosted respectably-sized motive power in the days of steam and large, mainline super power was the norm south of Andover Junction.

Moreover, in model railroading, even a modestly-sized terminal or yard has a visual impact much greater than its full-scale counterpart. Newton and Branchville are big places in HO, even when condensed, and they serve the same function as their prototypes, but at an elevated level in the apparent economic scheme of things.

Not surprisingly, even with the decision to use a portion of a reasonably-large basement, careful editing of the prototype route was required. Consequently, the actual junction of the branch with the old main in Netcong was relegated to staging yard status, as was Port Morris, the yard that actually served as the originating point and destination of freights on the branch. As much as it hurts to give up several "modelgenic" buildings and scenes in Netcong, its omission frees up space to do a better job of portraying the rest of the road.

Perceptions are important when making a track plan from a prototype. A list of the possible sites to be modeled was made, then the things associated with them written down. The list represents the "essence" of the locale, the most-important things that make a place unique and memorable. While further research would uncover other details at each station, this impression list and published photos were relied on heavily in the planning process.

By treating each townsite as a key interest area, they became the ruling factors in creating the plan. It was decided that they should fairly represent their namesakes and be familiar to viewers. Thus, the mainline would be a snake to connect them.

The Lehigh & Hudson River's trackage rights from Andover Junction to Port Morris is an important part of the branch's traffic. Sketches showed that it could be placed on a peninsula in its proper orientation so it could feed into a staging yard. That accomplished, the modeled portion of the line was cut off just below Cranberry Lake and routed into the same staging yard to provide out-and-back L&HR movements. A hidden, hand-powered turntable would be appropriate for turning locomotives in the staging area.

Obviously, the staging area, when placed under Branchville, may be used to feed the Lehigh & New England interchange. While much less important to the DL&W, it adds to the model's operating possibilities and also creates a hidden cutoff for continuous running.

While this is a conceptual plan, acceptable (2%) maximum grades should allow sufficient clearance for the hidden trackage. Some of the "hill-and-dale" nature of the prototype has been kept at the same time; grades are avoided in switching areas, however.

Compromises were necessary: the curve in Newton's yard had to be mirror-imaged, Andover's downtown buildings moved to the other side of the tracks, and the L&NE interchange had to be flopped, but most elements are placed in a familiar setting. The actual scenery along the branch does work for the modeler, though, from Newton's memorable shoe factory to the cliffs on the other side of Route 206 by Cranberry Lake.

The minimum radius on the main was held to over 30" and an effort was made to provide some tangent track at switching locations. Turnouts are Nos. 5 and 6, with only a few nonstandard curved ones. Any one taking on a project as big as this would probably prefer commercial track components, but would have the experience to fill in as necessary.

The plan is set in the steam era. To bring it up to the last years would require eliminating everything in Newton but the lineside structures (many no longer in use) and one track through town. If accurate replicas are desired, steam-era motive power would have to be brass. However, the DL&W's engines were attractive and "looked like steam locomotives," very familiar, very much like many generic models. Diesel modelers will have no problem in HO, of course. The Boonton cars and the distinctive DL&W baggage cars can be kit-bashed in HO and N if unavailable by other means.

For traffic patterns and other information on the Sussex Branch, the reader is referred to books on the Lackawanna and an inspection of available photos.

Bill Schaumburg's trackplan

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