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.


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