Bill Denton's Milwaukee Road Kingsbury Branch in the January 1997 Model Railroader was another revelation. In a very compact space – and in N scale – Denton had created an appealing replica of a real-life area that worked as an operating layout. The urban scenery was realistic without requiring scale acres of benchwork. And the concentrated activity typical of a real urban terminal provided plenty of engaging operating potential without unduly straining plausibility.
Looking at the layout photos, I realized that the urban buildings were strikingly effective as backdrops, towering over the railroad passing below. The busy trackwork intersected the street grid at interesting angles and suggested a real business with real work to do. And the many sidings, sufficient runarounds, "off-spot" tracks, and numbered door "sure spots" added realistic operating interest without resorting to tedious switching puzzles. Denton described the operation of the layout in a follow up article in the May 1998 MR. He has taken the layout to various train shows and events, a real benefit of the sectional approach. (The original intention was that these sections were to eventually become part of a larger home layout, but I don't know if that ever occurred.)
Of course, it didn't hurt that Denton is an excellent modeler and photographer. The images in the MR articles showed me that N scale urban railroading could appear very realistic in a very small space. While I didn't give up the Midland Pacific idea immediately, a new concept of urban railroading began to form. Bill Denton's Kingsbury Branch completely changed my perception of N scale and opened my eyes to the possibilities of urban railroading in a very inspirational way.
*My layout design and operating plans for the Midland Pacific were covered in detail in the Layout Design SIG's Layout Design Journal # 35, December 2006.