Hello, I'm about to start my first real layout. It will be a loose model of the Birmingham Mineral railway that existed until 1996. It will be set between 1915-1940. On this line Coal, Limestone, Lime and Iron Ore were transported to feed the booming steel industry in Birmingham Alabama. This old L&N branch line basically took central Alabama from post Civil War squalor to a pre WWII industrail powerhouse. I want to capture the golden age of steam and for that matter the rail road. A time when not only industrail goods were transported but things like the piano for the Compton (long dead limestone quarry town) Church arrived by rail. A time when the train was the only way to travel. The prototype line made a 100 mile loop starting in Birmingham to Oneonta to Atalla to Gadsden to Syllacauga to Calera to Birmingham. I plan to model the first 30-40 miles, Birmingham to Oneonta where I grew up. It will be a T shaped layout the main part will be a large single track oval. Starting from Boyles Yard just north of Birmingham in imaginary land the single line proceeds past the ADC Coke plant to Palmerdale. Here at Pdale the the line branches to Bradford Coal mine on the left side of the T. The main line curves around and branches again at Village Springs to the limestone quarry of Compton wich makes up the right side of the T. The mainline continues on to cross the Little Warrior River a spur goes to the Swansea mine just across the river. A mountain will run the middle of the layout and Swansea will not be seen. The Swansea spur will be a through track to the ABC Coke plant hidden by the curve of the track,mountain cut and trees on the Swansea side and the coke plant on the other side of the layout, a loads in empties out setup for hoppers on a single track. Full hoppers will be backed into the coke plant and then picked back up across the table at Swansea vice vesra for empties. This disquised passing siding will be about mid table. From Swansea the mainline goes to Oneonta curves around through the tunnel to just north of Bolyles Yard wich is not on the layout yet, completing the oval. I have thought about squeezing this all in a 4x8 oval but I feel a 4x10 or 12 would be better for HO. There will be passing sidings and small spurs at the industries. Since the sides of the layout will be divided by mountains I think a walk around throttle will be my best bet. I am considering DCC. The locomotives include a 2-8-2 Mikato, 2-6-0 Mogul and my son's Thomas. My daughter wants a colorfull old 4-4-0 and I may add a modern 4-4-0. My fear with DCC is installing the decoders in the IHC and Bachman locos. I'm sorry for the length. Any comments would be greatly appreiciated. Thank You.