The Louisiana Central will usually be running in the year 1964. I say usually because the software that I’m developing for car routing will have the flexibility to “run” in any year that you choose.
The year 1964 was selected for a number of reasons. I was a teenager back then, and I had been interested in trains long enough that I was beginning to pay closer attention to the railroad infrastructure, and I liked what I saw. I could find a spot near trackside in a “railroady” area and spend hours there. Even without the benefit of a bunch of trains running by, I could be perfectly content just studying the infrastructure around me. While finding spots like this has become much more difficult, when I do come across one of these places, I’m still perfectly content.
1964 saw almost all railroads fully dieselized with large fleets of EMDs, ALCOs, Baldwins, etc., and these first generation diesels had lots of character. I especially liked the ALCO and Baldwin brands because of the way they sounded and the way they were built. It doesn’t take a trained eye to recognize that the techniques used to build them were an outgrowth of building a steam locomotive. In fact, in many ways it handicapped their efforts to build a competitive product. But to study an early ALCO…that was the way to build a diesel like a steam locomotive…literally!
In 1964, the freight cars still tended to be smaller, seldom more than 50′ in length. And much of the railroad infrastructure was still intact, even if some of it was no longer used. Turntables and roundhouses, towers, track speeders and sheds, and steam cranes were commonplace. Depots, offices, shops and sheds were built of either brick or wood…metal buildings were not a common site (except for the original corrugated metal ones). And there were so many buildings, facilities and details! There seemed to be a lot more activity around rail facilities, not surprising since the railroads were much larger employers than they are nowadays. I loved being around all of this. I even loved the smell of it all; diesel exhaust fumes, brake odors, kerosene (from caboose heaters)…even the smell of creosote is pleasant to me. In short, 1964 to me is just like being in the late steam era, sans the steam locomotives.
Initially I will be running with diesel power because, for me, it is much easier to get a large fleet of diesels running smoothly than a fleet of steamers (or at least the fleet of steamers that I have).
Eventually, the Louisiana Central will roster some steam locomotives. I already have a steam fleet (roster) of about 9 or 10 locomotives, but even though they all run, none are truly operational in that they have been in storage for many years, and must be cleaned and lubed and have decoders installed. A few are already painted for the Louisiana Central, but most have to be stripped and repainted. And the older brass engines will probably have to be re-motored to bring them into the modern age. Since I’ve been bitten by the sound bug, the decoder installations also include the mods required to install speakers. Going back to the previous paragraph, this is why I chose to run diesels initially.
When the steam does finally appear, I may keep the year at 1964 as it wouldn’t be too unlikely that a little shortline would be still running steam then. But I also can easily backdate the operation to 1958 or so if I feel it is important to do so. I’ve even considered the possibility of changing eras periodically much as my friend Lou Schultz does on his C&O railroad. In backdating, a few freight cars would have to be pulled, and I’d remove any vehicles from the roads that were too new and add a few older ones. Billboards would have to change and maybe a few industry signs. But as I build and detail the layout, I’ll keep anything that dates the layout “portable” to facilitate this change.
I doubt that I’ll ever move the railroad era forward though. I just enjoy the older scene so much more than the present one. There is plenty of modern stuff to get excited about, but not enough to tempt me to update the layout.