Thursday, July 16, 2009

How to execute Staging Appropriately

I'm in a bit of a quandary on how to implement staging for the layout to achieve the kind of operations that would be representative of the Harrisburg Line. By the schedules I have seen, there were approximately 35 east and westbound trains in addition to a number of locals, 3 or 4 of which would be of interest in modeling. I should note, I am only counting trains that run multiple days (usually more than 3). Harrisburg yard handled, i.e., drop-offs or pick-ups, about 10 trains, Harrisburg TV handles about 28 trains, and Rutherford handled 6 RoadRailer trains. I will not be modeling RoadRailers because 1) I don't have the space to model Rutherford and 2) RoadRailers were a semi-maintenance nightmare for the prototype so I can't imagine how fragile they are in N scale. In addition, there are extras, particularly coal off the Lurgan branch, that would add to the number of prototypical trains. I also have a desire to model 2 trains in each direction, PIBA/BAPI and PIES/ESPI, off of the Royalton branch that actually went into Enola from the Port Road branch but a yard transfer job happened to move cars from Harrisburg trains to Enola and vice-versa.

As one can see, that is a lot of trains to represent. I'm not going to be trying to run every train, but a decent sized sampling (50%?) so I will need a significant amount of staging. Complicating manners is a self-constraint of only having the footprint of the layout in which to place staging. In my original designs I had done, staging was under the first level and included the peninsula (I figured I could build it in sections as it was nicely divided into 4 sections) with two different loops to turn trains. While turning trains automatically would be nice, it's not a requirement as is not having double-ended staging tracks. With the new arrangement of the room, I'm a little more limited in how much I can put under the first level as the new orientation of CP Capitol and CP Harris resulted in the staging of Amtrak/Royalton and the Lurgan Sub within under the first level. Secondly, I am somewhat concerned with trains that need to go from staging and run westbound have to constantly climb approximately 30 inches just to reach their entrance to the main part of the layout. I worry about the wear and tear on engines, especially considerring that a helix is already in the middle of a mainline run. I've read through Tony Koester's Multi-Deck Model Railroading book and have taken notes on what not only he has done, but also others he mentions/has pictures of. With that, I see a number of possible solutions:

1. Keep the previous designs' elements on staging on a "level 0" and worry about locomotive maintenance as it arises
2. Adjust CP Capitol and CP Harris and/or their staging alignment to free up more space under the level 1 footprint, essentially number 1 above, but with more room for staging tracks and possible return loops
3. Follow some of the examples, like Ken McCorry's Buffalo Line, that go, at points, staging-scenic-staging-scenic where the staging levels are the width of the level above it's footprint
4. 4 Levels that follow staging-scenic-scenic-staging. Not sure if I can pull this off as I live in a home built in the late 60s and my basement height isn't much about 7ft.

I'm really leaning towards number 3, I just need to do some more research on what the heights/resulting benchwork widths would be to achieve enough access and still make operating comfortable for the both mainline levels. Because the upper level is approximately 12" wide, while the bottom is 18"-24" for approximately half, I have a concern that the amount of trains stored on the upper level staging would be smaller than that on the bottom, thus creating operation inequities. Compounding the issue is that "East staging", which is what would be on upper level staging, must contain both trains heading out the Pittsburg/Buffalo lines as well as the Lurgan branch, so it should be larger than the bottom level. I guess I should also do the old adjustable bookshelf tests to get the right height/spacing requirements and see what looks good. Lastly, the less access I have above the staging yard, the farther apart I need to make the centers of the parallel yard tracks, thus reducing the number of tracks.

I'm open to any and all suggestions and really think nothing is out of the question, as long as my givens/druthers are met. One thing I'm not against is double-up staging, where one track can hold more than one full length train. This would effectively increase my staging capacity while still remaining within the width restrictions and possible center line adjustments.


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