In Episode 4 of The Hills Line with James McNab, I mentioned I had built a set of view blocks to mask trains when they’re on the Hill Track. This acted as a way to reinforce the fact that they had left the modeled portion of the layout and were in staging.
As a reminder, the Hill Track connects the Iowa Interstate’s yard in Iowa City and the industrial spur. Its name has nothing to do with the namesake town of The Hills Line. Instead it references the steep grade between the two end points of the track.
Since the layout is a single-train affair, there’s no need for significant staging areas; a lone track is more than sufficient. The model version of the Hill Track runs parallel to the industrial spur running track along Maiden Lane and ends on the lift-out section across the entrance to our utility room.
I resisted building any form of hidden trackage for staging so that I would avoid the issues that always occur with any form of hidden track, regardless of the simplicity of the setup. The view blocks gave me the best of both worlds. Trains were no longer visible once they had moved behind the screen, but still easily accessible to restage or rerail cars.
However, the first version worked better in theory than in practice. I came to prefer a shorter length for the on-layout view block, so that trains became visible quicker when arriving and stayed visible longer when leaving.
For the off-layout view block, the original version was built to match the height of the on-layout section. The result was a rather unnecessarily large piece of wood that ended up bringing attention to itself… which was the opposite of its intended goal.
It was a simple matter to rebuild the two sections, one shorter and one skinnier. But the end result remains the same. Trains once again go beyond the basement.