Saturday, February 26, 2011

Staging Compromise

Sometimes the ideas are right there in front of you but you just need someone to give it to you straight. And there's nothing better than getting that from someone who's well versed in pseudo-prototype route creation in an IM session around midnight. After some much needed refocusing, I came through my series of IMs with Ed that the line I'm representing would really only have enough traffic to support the line itself and would not have the quantity of "run-through" traffic I was trying to build staging for. For me, this meant my manifests would be 1 from each direction to terminate/originate on layout. If an extra is needed, I'll have an extra track in staging to use during operating sessions. I also looked at the other "special" type of trains like TOFC/COFC, coal, multi-levels, etc. I came to the conclusion that only one each of TOFC/COFC, multi-levls, and a grain train (due to the importance of agriculture in areas my layout's line would go through) in both directions would be needed. As for coal trains, I have areas for 4 trains so I figured the empties for this should be accounted for off-line, unless I have an online customer like a power plant. For the makeup of the train, I was thinking of something like this:

Direction Start End
East 6 6
West 6 6
On Layout 8 8

For more detail on the break down, I have a Google docs spreadsheet. What this lead me to was developing a 6 track staging yard with a 7th track for extras or continuous running. Here is what I came up with:

Each of the stub ended tracks is between 110" and 104" and there are three that are continuous that are obviously longer. Mirroring this on the top and bottom levels will give me the 6 staging tracks plus 1 extra to meet the operational needs. Also, like my post yesterday, I decided to do the run around the layout again. Here was that breakdown:
  • Overall Time to travel staging to staging: 12 minutes, 5 seconds
  • Percent time on actual operating layout areas: 93%
  • Percent time in the loop area: 27%
  • Percent time to stage train: 7%
So the on-layout time to run across the layout from staging to staging is similar to the mid-run helix plan, this one has all but the time it takes to stage the train at the end of the run on the actual layout. Now all I need to do is connect the turnback loop climb with each staging yard and I should be good. Oh, and my next "progress" update will have some exciting developments I think.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Decisions, Decisions

So I've reached the point in my benchwork construction that I really need to have a firm plan/vision of where I want to go with the layout when it comes to things like staging, transition between decks, etc. To this end, I had developed what I call a simplified plan, which is linked to on the Design page of this site.The one thing I kept looking at there was that the helix took up quite a bit of real estate and a good portion of a run across the layout. As a result, I started playing around with some other types of designs, looking at ways I could climb between the decks and still get a decent length of run and avoid the helix in the middle of the run. I actually found my inspiration in Tony Koester's Allegheny Midland and a layout it inspired, John Saxon's Cedar Valley Short Lines. It was actually the flow of John's peninsula that led me to look at how I could achieve the same transition between levels on my layout and also have some interesting switching opportunities and separation of the lines. Here was the plan I came up with for this transition:

As you can see the two levels enter from the left with the lower level closest to the table edge and the upper closest to the backdrop/stud wall. Only one loop is used and placing the transition between levels closest to the backdrop, I was able to get the switching opportunities without sacrificing the 18" minimum radius I'm trying to keep on the layout. The total length of the mainline (blue track) on this section is at 612" or 51'. Having to rise about 12", if all other elevations are kept where I think they should be, would result in an average grade of just under 2%, not too steep of a grade and is comparable to that of the helix. Of course, I could increase grades here and there to give more variety, but you get the general idea. The other result of doing this type of design would be to move staging below the lower level and use a helix to go to and from staging. The thought I had was that this would allow a greater, visible, "on-layout" run over the helix mid-run plan I linked to above.

To confirm this view, through the power of running trains in XTrackCad, I ran an engine at 30 scale mph from the probable starting area in staging to the probable finishing area in staging for each plan. I did a straight run through, no switching or stopping in the yard or waiting on opposing trains. If the results had come out clear one way or the other, you'd be reading about the finishing of benchwork instead of reading a post on what do I do now? Here are the results of the Helix mid-run plan:

  • Overall Time to travel staging to staging: 13 minutes, 10 seconds
  • Percent Time on actual operating layout areas: 63%
  • Percent Time in Helix between levels: 32%
  • Percent Time staging train: 5%
So about 1/3 of the time spent on the layout is spent climbing between decks in the helix. As a result, the other plan has to be better, right? Well, not exactly:
  • Overall Time to travel staging to staging: 23 minutes
  • Percent time on actual operating layout areas: 51%
  • Percent time in loops area: 15% (note, this is included as a direct comparison to the helix above)
  • Percent time in Helix going in and out of staging: 48%
  • Percent time to stage train: 1%
So the overall run across the layout has increased, but that is misleading. The time from exit staging to enter staging was approximately 12 minutes, 30 seconds for the helix mid-run plan and 11 minutes, 50 seconds for the loop/helix to staging plan. That was not the type of run across the layout I was going for, as it moves the time someone has their train hidden from roughly 4 minutes on the mid-run plan (solely in the helix transition) versus 11 1/2 minutes for the helix into and out of staging. What I guess this is trying to tell me is I'm really SOL'd no matter which way I want to go or try to find a way to have the loop and open staging, perhaps using the area I keep using for the helix. If anyone else looking at the planes I've posted over the past year here or these two ideas now have thoughts or guiding questions, please, by all means, throw them out there. I'm at the point now in my benchwork, I need to construct the helix base and tie the floating peninsula to the wall benchwork so this is something  I really do need to get a handle on as I don't want to bring stuff back down again.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Layout Progress - February 17, 2011

Call this the one step forward, two steps back update. As you may have noticed, I haven't updated the site on progress much this year. Quite frankly, it was from a lack of anything substantial to report. For some reason, after the holidays and all the family stuff was over, I was not motivated to go down into the basement to work on the layout, even though I was so close to being ready to lay subroadbed. It kept gnawing at me on why this was the case. This past weekend I finally faced the music on why, the layout was too large for myself and too large for what the family needs from the basement.

Our house does not have a garage and the only additional storage available to me, at this moment, is a shed that's already filled with outdoor items. As winter took hold, some of the outside things that should be kept inside and out of the elements made their way downstairs. At first, these things were put off to the side or stuffed in a corner. After putting up Christmas lights, they were moved around to various other parts of the basement. As I started work on redoing the staging area, all of this extra stuff in addition to what was already down there, kept getting in the way. I realized I spent more time moving things around then actually building anything. I also realized that even though the drawn up plan said I'd have enough space for my table and miter saws to actually use, I found I didn't. So with that, I took my cordless drill and disassembled the two peninsulas/free-standing sections that allowed the layout to grow to far side of our basement. As you can see, the "left peninsula" and long area by the stairs are no more.

So this also meant a refocus on the layout plan. I honestly used someone's plan as the basis for my new design as they were kind enough to send it to me when I asked. I also took bits and pieces of other plans I've seen elsewhere, including Model Railroaders' current series of Bay Junction for the junction town for the mine branch as well as borrowing something Tony Koester did for his Allegheny Midland with the Coal Fork Extension by having the branches "continue" past their on-layout tipples, effectively double the number of mine runs possible. I've updated the Design page with the latest plan which I'll work towards. I am tinkering with a slight modification in that instead of staging being out in the open and using a helix to transition between decks, staging would be on a shelf below the layout and the transition between decks would be through a series of on layout loops over a "peninsula" created against the wall with the support posts (left-side of the design). So now it's onwards with some reconstruction to connect the remaining peninsula with the helix base, complete the helix base and then on to starting to run some main wires and going from there.


Welcome to the my Conrail Model Railroad site. I will document the research, design, construction and operations of my N-scale model railroad based on Conrail's Ft. Wayne Line in Ohio.

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