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Double deck layout history

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Double deck layout history
Posted by PATRICK A FLORY on Wednesday, December 05, 2018 9:13 PM

Jim Hediger did not build the first one.  MR had an article about one by an artist named Francis Lee Jacques in the winter of either 1961 or 1962.  The staff should look this up and give this man his credit.  

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Posted by Steven Otte on Thursday, December 06, 2018 9:18 AM

Looks like you are correct. Mr. Jaques' double-deck On3-1/2 layout was published in May 1962, and it even has a proto-helix connecting the two decks.

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Posted by carl425 on Thursday, December 06, 2018 9:40 AM

No offence to our hosts, but why do you assume the first published in MR was is fact the first one built?

I have the right to remain silent.  By posting here I have given up that right and accept that anything I say can and will be used as evidence to critique me.

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Posted by Hal Miller on Thursday, December 06, 2018 10:46 AM

No offense taken Carl. In the intro paragraph to the story about the Ohio Southern in the January 2019 issue, we describe Jim Hediger's layout as "One of the first multi-deck model railroads," particularly as we know them today. Indeed, Francis Lee Jaques also built one of the first. We were careful not to say "the first" because we couldn't verify it.

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Posted by mlehman on Thursday, December 06, 2018 2:05 PM

As a historian, I can tell you that writing history can be tricky. Hal called it just right here.

Hal Miller
...we describe Jim Hediger's layout as "One of the first multi-deck model railroads," particularly as we know them today. Indeed, Francis Lee Jaques also built one of the first. We were careful not to say "the first" because we couldn't verify it.

Not to knock whoever is first, history is often about significance. Jaques may have been first, but even the early date isn't a guarantee of that. Hediger's layout may have been the 7th or 8th even, we just don't know. What is clear about Jim's layout is that it came at a time when the hobby was under a great deal of change and operating concepts and track planning were a big part of that. In a sense, the OS was a seed that finally fell on fertile ground as a concept that would be widely embraced, as it was in the years that followed. So it's not even magazine exposure that speaks to what what eventually happened, which was that Jim's fashioning of the concept so it was a significant factor in the wider acceptance of multi-deck layouts.

Mike Lehman

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Posted by mlehman on Thursday, December 06, 2018 11:51 PM

I just happened to have started the article when I made my earlier comment. Had a chance to finish reading it and now I'm wondering if there's a OS trackplan floating around back somewhere in the archives?

Mike Lehman

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Posted by Lonehawk on Friday, December 07, 2018 5:30 AM

mlehman

now I'm wondering if there's a OS trackplan floating around back somewhere in the archives?

 

 

Yep.  There's a copy of the track plan in the database here: http://mrr.trains.com/how-to/track-plan-database/2007/08/ho-scale-ohio-southern.

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Posted by dknelson on Wednesday, December 12, 2018 5:50 PM

Steven Otte

Looks like you are correct. Mr. Jaques' double-deck On3-1/2 layout was published in May 1962, and it even has a proto-helix connecting the two decks. 

Forgive the belated chiming in on this topic but I have been unable to log into the Forums for over a week (and the "new" Kalmbach Media customer service area is in my experience not coping very well).

Thanks to Patrick for reminding us all of the jaw-dropping layout of Francis Lee Jacques in the May 1962 MR.  It, and the somewhat similar layout of Paul Detlefsen in the December 1961 MR, demonstrate how incrediblly authentic railroad atmosphere can be created with the minimum of anything resembling prototype fidelity!  Jacques, who I believe was a charter subscriber to MR, was a pioneer and a visionary on multiple fronts.  Anything that gets people to use the Archives to look at his layout is a great service to the hobby.

But the matter of Francis Lee Jacques preceding Jim Hediger as a builder of a double deck layout as that phrase is used today is not all that clear to me and it is partly a matter of semantics. 

First of all, looking back at older 1940s and 50s issues of MR there were a fair number of open grid layouts shown that could have been regarded as double deck layouts had the builder chosen to scenic them that way - but that was the era of the "insincere" spaghetti bowl plan with tracks doubling or tripling back on themselves on rising levels in a contained space (looking for all the world like some complex freeway interchanges), but the builder feeling some need to retain topographical "reality" by having the different levels connected with impossibly steep rock faces, improbably tall retaining walls, or be covered and hidden by a mountain or hill, instead of the separate fascias and the portrayal of tracks that are intended to be miles away from those below or above yet in the same footprint that are the mark of a multi level layout.  Until that scenery was installed (and it often was never installed) many layouts had the "look" of multi deck.  

Indeed even in the same 1962 volume of MR and the Jacques layout, take a look at Earl Stowell's layout in September '62 MR page 40.  Now here are what look like features of a genuine double deck layout, including the multiple fascias indicating a separate level not just a higher elevation of track (where milepost 10 is inches away from milepost 20 and share a hill or wall), AND what sure looks to me like a genuine helix.  Unfortunately it was not a layout visit article so the views are incomplete. 

And also looking at the 1962 volume of MR in January '62 John Armstrong designed a multideck layout, the Pueblo & Salt Lake, and the MR staff artists described and labeled an upper and lower level on their track plan in just the ways they'd do today.  The artists also attempted to portray scenes of how the two levels would look to the viewer but clearly they punted since Armstrong himself admitted that he designed the things but had no idea how they'd be built, or if they could.  He just assumed necessity would be the mother of invention.

It was Armstrong and Linn Westcott who challenged Jim Hediger to actually build a true multi level, multi deck layout seemingly with the belief that nobody had done it thus far.  So what of Francis Lee Jacques's layout?  After all the article in question was written by that same Linn Westcott.  Well, in Westcott's write up he says Jacques "in a sense" had a two level layout.  It was not two level to the visitor and viewer.  Only someone standing inside the operator's pit saw the "guts" of the two levels.  The invisible level, and that "proto-helix" that Steve Otte mentions, got trains back to the visible starting point rather than providing additional operate-able railroad.  And the invisible level did not attempt to follow the same footprint as the visible level because there was no need to, as only the operator would see it anyway -- it was not real "revenue" trackage to coin a concept.  It was an extraordinarily creative solution to a problem other layouts dealt with by throwing genuine realism to the winds by having the same rail line go past the same point two or three or even four times just to "get somewhere."  

As Hal Miller and others have pointed out, who knows who was really first at a genuine multi level layout.  But for how the phrase has come to be used, that is, the same rail line, a layout with one footprint, but using multiple levels to convey and create actual physical distance, both levels being equally visible and equally "real" as a portrayal, then at the least Hediger seems to be the first to have explained how you can do it, what it would look like, and showing a proof of concept and not just the wishful thinking of some of Armstrong's articles.  The achievement is and was real.

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Posted by wjstix on Thursday, December 13, 2018 9:55 AM

Proving who was the first to do anything is pretty hard, as something "new" is often based on ideas that were floating around at the time, and often combine several ideas. I recall that someone back around 1940 - maybe Linn Westcott? - drew an idea for what today we'd call a shelf layout, with a lower level of plywood for the layout, and an upper level with a valance for lights, with a note saying something like 'the top of the upper level could be another level of layout'.

It's kinda like trying to figure out what was the first Rock 'n' Roll record. There are so many Rhythm & Blues, Western Swing, Boogie Woogie, and other "pre-Rock" records that have similar traits to early Rock'n'Roll that it can be hard to find the first song/record that was clearly Rock'n'Roll and not something else. 

Stix

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