CP Executive train in Albany

CP Executive train in Albany

Friday, October 23, 2020

Planning scenery in Cut Corner


As my North Albany section was finishing up (backdrops are all that remain for "basic details") I looked towards the next section of the layout, the approach tracks into the yard. My layout consists of four “main sections” and any further layout growth may mean rearranging them with additional modules. The four corners are temporary and do not represent specific areas of the D&H’s Colonie Main. However, I did want the scenery on them to be plausible. The two LDEs that straddle this corner were divided in part by a large embankment and an interstate highway that crossed on a bridge. 

Because of the amount of space available and the odd shape of it (my wife asked me to cut off the rear corner to increase access space to the laundry area behind it) I didn’t want to attempt to model a highway that would be 4-lanes wide, only about 24” deep, and end abruptly at a backdrop. Additionally, there is a small public park that I spent a lot of time at studying for law school and I might model it but couldn't do it justice on this corner. IT is just visible in the upper left picture above. So, instead I modeled the embankments on either side with the railroad tracks (including a curved switch that leads into North Albany yard) passing through in a generic scenic cut. Because of these reasons, I decided to call it "Cut Corner." The below picture shows it facing south in March of 1984. 

There were a couple of considerations in planning the hills. First, I needed a scenic transition from the abandoned yard (North Albany) on the left and the more suburban, commercial scenes on the right (Colonie). I also wanted to hide the curved switch from view as it didn’t fit with the scene. There aren’t many areas of the layout that will be covered with expansive trees and grass and such as most will be detailed to represent track-served industries. I wanted to take advantage of this section to give the eyes some rest from buildings and enjoy New York trees and scenery. Also, the Colonie section has a hill or berm along the back and the terrain on the corner had to visually mate up with them. Finally, I decided to curve the backdrop here instead of having it come together at a 90-degree angle in the back.

So, it shouldn't be a difficult section to build but there are enough new things involved that it will be a learning process. Thankfully, if it turns out bad I can probably just take a putty knife and scrape it all off and start again. And there are no structures to build!


  1. Nice and inspiring layout you're building here.

    I am starting a 6 by 10 feet HO layout myself that is also based in the Albany area that represents the modern Amtrak and CP/CSX action like in Kenwood Yard and Rensselaer. Because it's not the ideal shape and size to put a big river (the Hudson) into it and I want to have something that represents Rensselaer station, I decided to use Menands as a substitute for Rensselaer so the big Amtrak station will be called "Albany-Menands".

    It's also going to feature a fictional CDTA Commuter Railroad similar to Boston's MBTA commuter rail system and it's trains will use the dark blue paint scheme the CDTA buses use. The freight yard representing Kenwood Yard will be called Shaker Yard and due to lack of room for a two-end yard, it will be dead-end like where they put the oil tanker cars there.

    I'm also big into highways, so Interstate 787 will be in it, mostly elevated and bending down around some freight tracks near Shaker Yard to make the tracks between the two 787 directions like they have in Downtown Albany for a short stretch. For making the buildings in Downtown Albany, I'm going to print out a 2D image of the Albany skyline and put it against the edge of the layout to avoid the hassle of modelling the unique buildings in 3D and it'll make it look like you're right outside of downtown Albany.

    I look forward to seeing your layout come together! Thanks for sharing your project