One of my goals with the NCR shelf layout I’m working on is to try and compress as few items as possible. This includes the actual railroad right of way. Many model railroads tend to completely ignore the mechanics of prototype rights of way (drainage, spacing, sub-roadbed standards, etc…), and I didn’t want to be one of them.

I started my quest for replicating a proper CR mainline right of way by doing some looking on the web. One of the first things I stumbled on was the amazing document repository of They have a selection of Conrail drawings that included a right of way standards diagram.

From this drawing, I created a foamcore template and plotted the right of way on a piece of scrap styrofoam that I had laying around. The drawing was for a double track line, but I based my single track dimensions on the dimensions from one of the tracks to the end of the roadbed. I wanted to build something to see how these dimensions looked when applied to N Scale models. I applied a quick scenic treatment, including ballast and ground cover to get the proper effect.

Results and Findings

After everything dried, I realized that I really am not happy with it. It looks too much like something that once had multiple tracks and had been seriously reduced. While the real NCR fits this exact model, it still seemed too wide, as if there were three tracks at one point with a single one remaining.

While it “seemed” too wide, I still wanted some real prototype proof, so I took at look at some photos of the area I’m intending to replicate, and it looks like the study piece was indeed too wide.

I’m glad I did the work, and did the research, and I’m glad I came to a solid conclusion now. Also, and this is an important thing, I think it’s important to try out ideas like this on “study” pieces, the same way that artists will often sketch out ideas for paintings well before committing them to canvas.