Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Houston, we have a problem

I guess it's always better to find things out as you do mock-ups then after actually trying to cut wood or building something. Tonight, I went down to the basement after examining my plan a little more closely to figure some things out regarding the helices, particularly the one that transitions between the 1st and 2nd level near the furnace. The aisle width between the turnback loop on the peninsula and the edge of "curved" fascia of the helix was a minimal 24". I didn't think that would be bad for one person to traverse at a time, especially considering there'd be very little traffic really going down this aisle as it'd probably be the one exception always walk with your train on the layout. However, as I looked at trying to build the base for the helix, I quickly came to realize that this aisle width would be much tighter, possibly 18" or less. To me, that is an unacceptable width for road crews to navigate, even if it is only one at a time. Also, if the assumption is road crews would stand at the top and just wait for their trains to come out of the helix and pick them back up again on the turnback loop, we all know Murphy would deem the other end of this aisle dead man's curve where no-train shall pass without a problem.

The other issue I began to think about was the branch line and its impact on switching and blocking of the aisles. After only participating in two operating sessions, I can already appreciate the time and space required to properly switch a large industry. Each of these mines were to have upwards of 15 cars. Each run would require the drop-off of the empties and the pickup of loads. Now, on the surface that doesn't seem like it should take that long, however, if one has to block cars, as should always be done when picking up cars from an industry, this can get quite complicated and time consuming. So moving the mine run(s) off somewhere else would be beneficial to the operational ease/comfort level of the layout. I am also having this same question on both the auto plant and chemical plant but from feedback I've received on the design of each, I might receive bodily harm if I change their configuration, especially the chemical plant.

As a result, I'm thinking of taking the other side of the basement, i.e., the left side of the layout plans, and doing the following:

  • Creating Branches that run on the "outside" of the peninsula that would serve, on the lower and upper levels respectively:
    • Either the Auto Plant or Intermodal yard (ala Huntsville Intermodal Facility)
    • Mine branch with a single mine
  • Creating looped staging with 18" aisle clearance between the furnace and the edge of benchwork and 18" aisle clearance between the edge of the turnback loop and center wall but also a 45"-48" "space" between the left peninsula and that center wall, perhaps to be used by the dispatcher or a workbench
  • Moving the power plant to the second level to be on the center peninsula as I think it's a very visual industry
  • I only need to build one helix which is a plus from a time and material perspective and it's in a spot that has always been designated for helix assignment
I'm working through these details and really need to get them complete in short order as I've already rip plywood into dimensional widths based on the other design and while they footprints are close, there are some subtle difference between them (like what do I do with the bracket standards now?). Does anyone have any other thoughts?


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