Thursday, April 23, 2015

Possible New Direction

So I've been doing more research the last month or so. The more I do, the more I'm being drawn into an area, and specifically, a line in the Conrail system that has been suggested to me countless times, the Boston Line. The other one most often mentioned when I talk about what I like is the Buffalo Line but in Conrail's day that had very little operating interest with only 1 manifest and 1 ML in each direction. As I mentioned earlier, the first spark in all this was an article written by Jeff Wilson from the October, 1993, Model Railroader. The only reason I found it is that, being a subscriber, I have access to the online archives. I've found a bunch of other things too, but more on that later. I have a few Conrail books at home and they all devote a few pages to the line. The more I read, the more I liked it, I mean, it has

  • Mainline freight including intermodal and auto (Multi-Level) traffic
  • Interchanges with 4 railroads - Pioneer Valley, B&M, CV/NECR, and MCER
  • Decent sized industrial switching area in Indian Orchard section of Springfield
  • Amtrak trains, although, in the model world this might only be the Lake Shore Limited due to space constraints
  • And picturesque scenery
I make no bones about it, but from afar, I really admire the Cascade Subdivision by Mark Lestico. It was the first issue I got in the Layout Design SIG followed by being in N Scale Railroading. It's an operations oriented layout with fantastic scenery, simplified benchwork construction, and simplified trackwork/plan. I need to figure out how to work out the details, but areas of interest on the layout would be:
  • Paper mill of some kind representing Woronoco 
  • PVRR Westfield interchange, salt distributor and quarry
  • West Springfield Yard
  • Springfield Station area
  • Representative area for Indian Orchard industries, former Athol Industrial and Athol Industrial tracks
  • Palmer and it's interchanges with the NECR (nee CV) and MECR plus one or two industries
  • West Warren because of all this
So now to reach out the few people that have helped me doodling track plans and the like and see how we can fit this in to the area I have available for the basement.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Where to Next

So the blog has been quite. Reality is the entire benchwork has been taken down. The basement area is a mess of stuff I saved and stuff I moved in the dismantling process, plus those stupid plastic bins I now need to move around or find a permanent spot for (more on this later). The other thing I've been questioning is area/locale to model, again. In going simpler, I had mentioned that one of the things I missed with just about any of my previous plans was coal operation and/or mountain scenery.

A fellow modeler said I should look at the Reading cluster up in Hard Coal Country. This became tempting, very, very tempting. In fact, I had looked at the plan Byron Henderson had done on this area. It could fit my space and a few adjustments could be done but otherwise it would've worked. Unfortunately, I love mainline, heavy duty railroading just as much. I tried to come up with good plans adapting from this but never found something I really liked nor was I into it that much to really find a good solution.

With the release of ModelRailroader's Digital Archive, I realized I had access and went back through old issues. Two plans/layout write-ups jumped out at me based on Conrail or former Conrail. One is Bob Sprague's Hershey Plan which can be found in the September, 2013, Model Railroader.  The other was a write up on the Boston Line by Jeff Wilson from October, 1993.

Whenever I've described what I kind of like in my model, more than most will say why don't you look at the Boston Line. It's single-tacked, good amount of rolling stock, has many interchanges, a few yards along it's route, etc. It seems to be a good modeling subject. The article definitely shows that to be the case and access to some ZTS charts for the area also shows it would be good prototype to model.

However, I keep coming back to the Hershey area. While I was going off looking at the steel industry, one of the things I liked was the ability to keep someone busy at just that industry during an ops session, and if done well, they might have to avoid other traffic through the area as well. Well, with there being 3 major plants and a few storage items, Hershey's complex would fit that bill as well. That's something I probably didn't really look at initially but have become more attuned to with operating. Also, one of the drawbacks I've had with these plans is trying to get the Harrisburg area itself into the plans, thus requiring some kind of second deck, which we all know I just took down. Bob's plan incorporates the more modern TV terminal at Rutherford. I believe I could move some things around and leave myself enough room, first by eliminating the M&H peninsula, and incorporating a peninsula that could include the quarry in Annville and a condensed version of the Lebanon area. This would allow for more expanded operations.

Operations is another aspect I'm looking at simplifying. While I am part of a group of operators, it's becoming clear that there are going to soon be more operating layouts then space available on a calendar. I'm also the last person to have joined the group so when it comes to roster's, I'm the AAA call-up and as a result only are only 2 or 3 regular crews. While I understand it, trying to come up with a layout design that could keep 7 or more operators probably isn't really needed. I could do one that could keep a handful busy and call it a day, operating whenever I think it would be ok.

So that's where I'm at, still cleaning and planning. Hopefully as the weather gets nicer and we get adjusted to having the 3rd kid, I'll get more focus on what I'm doing moving forward.

Monday, January 5, 2015

(De)Construction Lessons Learned

So as I deconstructed the benchwork this past weekend, I paid attention to how solid or un-solid the benchwork was that was coming apart. First feedback I want to give/emphasize is


So I used quite a bit of these. Some worked fine and others didn't. I will say, everywhere I used them I also had glue support if it was structural, like along the center peninsula. That worked out ok but the glue really didn't bond as well between plywood pieces as I would have thought. I'm not sure why. Also, if you do insist on using drywall screws, use the longer kind. I had a mix of 1 1/4" and 1 5/8" (I think) and the longer ones held much, much better, almost as good as the 1 1/4" wood screws. But if you can, use the wood screws as that's what they are made for.

Second, if you can afford it and/or have one already, use pocket holes for everything. The last few updated sections I did, I used pocket hole screws from my Kreg Jig. These were the most solid joints in my benchwork and were also easy to undo. I also used it for my last few L-girders, eschewing using glue for them. This enabled me to reuse both of these pieces of wood as well.

Finally, be careful of using "scrap" wood. I gained access to almost a pallet full of half-sheets of cabinet grade plywood. I ripped these down to the 1x3 size I was using. While the 9 or 11 plys allowed for added strength, it appears, after about 4 years in my basement, that the glue itself seems to be delaminating. This usually means it has dried out. For the most party, my basement has been pretty damp except for the winter months and even then it's not bone dry, hovering around my 35%-40% setting on the dehumidifier. I think it was stored outside for a while before I got it. Meanwhile, the "hardwood" plywood I purchased from both a local lumberyard and local big box stores seemed to be just fine and were as solid as they were when I put them up. I'll probably use the gift cards I just got for Christmas on buying a sheet or two to rip down to new 1x3s and 1x2s for the new benchwork lattice.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

New Year, New Layout

Happy New Year!!  As I mentioned in a previous post, I had contemplated whether or not I wanted to continue with the double deck layout or switch to a single deck. With addition of our 3rd child, I'm realizing space is at a premium in our house. As is time. I had one of those "talks" with myself and concluded that if I want to have something running or operating over the next year or so, it won't be a double deck layout. So, as of the day after Christmas, I started dismantling the benchwork. I've seen some people take a panoramic shot of their layouts on the 1st of each year. I think I'll start that this year as well. Here's my shot below:

Here are two other shots as well:

As you can see, the top level is gone completely as are all the backdrops. I'll probably remove the peninsula items later this afternoon and readjust the shelf brackets to the new base height of the layout, which I'm going to attempt to put the railhead around 53". I'm nominally 5'9" and according to the "proper layout height" diagram pervasive in the model railroading press, my preferred layout heights range from 52" to 41". Most of the layouts I operate on are somewhere in that range. The areas on the layouts I most enjoy operating on are on the higher side. Two in particular are set at 52" and the other's upper deck is 54" for railhead height. These are HO layouts so i think the 53" will be good in N scale as well.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Go West Young Man!

So a few things happened recently. As you could tell from an earlier post today, I've contemplated going back and forth on simplifying, knocking stuff down, etc. Well, the first thing that happened in this questioning was removing the idea of a gate. I then designed a loop under the helix to the second level to go under the layout and back to a run through staging. I had even lowered the shelving to accommodate this and reattached the subroadbed above. The more I looked at it, however, the more I realized that the 2nd deck really had nothing to do operationally with the first and was almost a 2nd railroad in need of the same operators as the 1st level. This didn't really sit well with me so after some consultation with the others in my operating group, I decided to shelve the plan to go to Lordstown and Warren, including the GM plant and the WCI Steel Mill and concentrate solely on the Ft. Wayne Line. I kicked around a few spacing plans and came up with a pretty good plan from Alliance through Crestline. Here's level 1 from Alliance through Orrville:

Note that things have been flipped around and the Canton Yard is simplified and now across from the Republic Steel plant which has also been slimmed down some. I rearranged some of the other industries as well. Here is level 2 from Wooster through Crestline:

This plan shows the space between Wooster and Mansfield dominated by a couple of large elevators as well as the GM plant on the outskirts of Mansfield. This plant is on the old Erie mainline. I also tried to keep the plans simple with most industries straight-lined off the mainline, with the Wooster area the exception due to it being on a corner. That worked out ok because those industries are in an industrial park that loops back in on itself.

I feel both of these plans add a little more "dead" space around the layout in areas where non-railroad items could be modeled. So if I stay with everything as is, this will be the intended plan going forward.


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