Monday, November 26, 2012

Sandy and Waffling

So as most of you know, New Jersey, New York, and other parts of the Northeast experienced Superstorm Sandy late last month. While my house only suffered a few loose roof shingles and the loss of power for a few days, the benchwork once again became/still is a refugee of the items in my basement. Right now there are tools and wood for my daughter's furniture all over it. Obviously, that's one project that does need to get done sooner then later but I've got off-days coming up to complete that, hopefully. The other thing is do I want to just rip down the existing benchwork and start over. I've done so much waffling on plans, one-level or two, where's staging going, etc., that I wonder if having a blank canvas would just be easier at this point. We'll see, hopefully it doesn't take me a year to get all the stuff off my benchwork like it did after Irene. Of course, if we keep having these types of storms, I may have to reconsider my storage space solutions in the basement as well.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Layout Plan Updated

I finalized the plan late last night. I would appreciate any feedback on it.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Yard Design - Part 2

So I spent the latter half of last week and Saturday finalizing a yard design plan. I'll be honest, this one I copied/modified from a blog I follow, The Little Rock Line. Allen had posted his yard redesign a few weeks back. I had asked him it's size in a comment and he replied with a blog post on it and the train lengths he was able to generate/service within the yard. I had about as long, if not a tad longer, space but it was also thinner. So I started with his schematic and photos and started to apply the concepts to my area. Here is the resulting design:

As you can see, there is now 357in. of classification space, a small station, a single A/D track and a small runner track from the A/D track back to the lead/loco servicing. Since all manifests will end here, I wasn't too worried about the lead looping around the corner. The other nice thing is if I ever expand towards the rest of the basement, I'd only have to straighten out the yard tracks and the runner could be extended as a second A/D track so there's some expandability built into the design as well. One of the other items I've been playing with is establishing an operations plan. Since I'm designing for operation, I'd like to have the concepts down to test out some running in XTrackCad to make sure the design is fluid enough.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Yard Design

As I stated in my last post, I'm reworking the design for a single level heavily influenced by David Popp's Naugutck Valley layout. I've actually got a branch line design and its junction area with the mainline completed. The one thing I'm struggling with right now is the yard design. I had come up with one design but I just don't know if it'll work okay or not. I don't think I have enough classification area. The design I've come up with has 245 inches of classification tracks assuming, 4" per car on average, that's 61 cars on the classification tracks.

The layout itself will operate very similarly to how the South Jersey Conrail operations were, with a few twists here and there like some commuter and Amtrak service. Essentially, Conrail had a few manifests that terminated in the major yard, Pavonia in Camden. From there, about 5or 6 locals were dispatched to the various lines across South Jersey. The design above is almost a 1 to 1 adaptation of the yard found on David's layout with a small intermodal facility instead of a freight house and a single A/D track that is double ended. One concern I have is the A/D track is double-ended going into staging. Some other thoughts I've had. Since this is a terminating yard, does the A/D track really need to be double-ended? Also, maybe I can use the siding leaving the Yard as the yard leave or the A/D track for a yard based on the right hand side. I'll play with it some more but if any of my dozen readers have any thought, please don't hesitate to share them.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Update on No Progress

Well, I guess I finally hit that proverbial rut when it comes to the layout. It was bound to happen sooner or later. Essentially, I built a lot of benchwork, had some things come up, and the layout, or should I say benchwork, sat with more and more being put on it. Let's put it this way, I have very nice shelving in the basement now. It's not just the layout, but other things around the house have been put off. With two small kids, time is hard, especially when they involve using power tools of some kind and you have to work around naps and other commitments. But, I recently just started making a list of the other stuff and checking them off as I do them. I'm half-way through the list. So as I see the end nearing for all those honey-do items, I began looking back at the layout and what was stopping me there. I finally came up with the reason:

Double Deck Layout

There really is no other reason. A double-deck layout is a daunting task. Others in my area are building them but are doing so on semi-scheduled work sessions. With my lack of a set schedule, I don't think I could do that so it'd be whenever I get down to the basement to do some work. I've also never been happy with the helix, it's location, or even usage (see my 50+ other posts on differing designs and placement). Every time I went into the basement, I would cringe on where to start, what to do. It's gotten to the point where I don't even want to look at that side anymore. It's also becoming my storage for the parts for the crib/dresser, which isn't necessarily a bad thing, but it's just another obstacle (truth be told, that dresser better get done before anything else happens on the layout0.

Enter Mr. Popp

Back in February I bought Building a Model Railroad Step by Step, 2nd Edition (Modern Railroader) by David Popp. It wasn't until April or May that I really started to sit down and read it. Well, it changed my philosophy on what I want to do. If you're a subscriber to Model Railroader you can find his plan in their track plan index or in the book itself. David's layout was built for operation. In March, 2011, he wrote a series of operating articles in that month's Model Railroader using his layout as an example. While the book itself is a good read and provides techniques on building a layout, it's not showing anything really earth shattering that isn't covered elsewhere in the hobby press or online. No, what finally changed my philosophy was his operating chapter at the end of the book. I want to operate. I like to operate and attend a monthly session on another person's layout. To me, if you don't operate on a layout, you're just running trains under the Christmas tree. Don't get me wrong, there are wonderful layouts built that don't operate, but to me their just displays whereas a layout that operates, has a functional purpose, it becomes a living, breathing thing. I want that in my layout. I could've gotten that with the double deck plans, but it would've been a looooong time coming. So instead, I focused on my space and used his track plan as a guide for a few differing concepts. Here's the one I'm currently actively using as I do a little more detailed planning:

The orange portions are supposed to be hollow core doors as that is what David's layout is based on originally (didn't know that until I read the book). While I don't think I'll use them, that's what is was supposed to represent. Essentially, I'll have 5 main switching areas where I'm thinking of 4 or 5 locals to do the work. My guess is anywhere between 2 to 3 manifests would bring in cars to the yard where they would most likely terminate, although I think having one going through would be good to add variety. The locals would originate in the yard and go out accordingly to the various towns to switch. Adding some spice, I'd like to institute some passenger operations into the scheme. I'm thinking of the branch going out to the auto plant having a small commuter yard between the two towns on that line. The one thing I learned from that operations chapter is you don't need a sprawling, double-deck layout to keep a nice contingent of operators feeling busy. Adding in some commuter operations can fill time/space while the locals are built up. I figure the manifests come in in the morning and perhaps one in the afternoon. The locals scatter to do their work and come back for the work to build up the departing evening freights. In between each of those would be the morning and evening commuter runs. I figure a 6-7 operator crew is all that would be needed, which would include a dispatcher and yardmaster.

As for a more detailed design, I've actually already hashed out the 2 Industry town with a brewery and plastics plant as well as the Junction/Industrial Town with a few industries. I've begun work on the auto plant and while I completed the yard, I'm probably going to flip some of that around to see if I can make it's operation flow a little better without compromising certain necessary aspects like diesel service facility, enough classification tracks, etc. Hopefully I'll be blogging more on that design process and the eventual replacement of the benchwork in the basement (and maybe pics of the crib and dresser) in the not-to-distant future.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

One Option Removed

Well, as is life, something comes up that helps to narrow benchwork profiles down. I had been playing with a single-level plan that would require a lift-out section to enter the layout and a section that could be removable to get to the storage side since I probably only go there to get decorations or a tool or two every now and then. Well, also on that side is our furnace and hot water heater. The image below shows how i have my current benchwork, minus any helix:

Well, Thursday we had to get our hot water heater replaced. The unit was apparently built in 1994 and it wasn't functioning all that great. Also, whichever of the previous owners replaced the furnace did not do the exhaust correctly and we had downdrafts back into the basement and up through the return into our house at times. I had kept getting whiffs of what I thought was gas, but more like the stuff you smell when you drive by a refinery or something like that. Regardless, the gas company came out and said between the age of the unit and the improper ventilation they recommended at least doing the exhaust and suggested we were only buying up to 6 months before the unit would eventually need to be replaced. I should note also, every now and then it just didn't seem to operate well.

Anyways, what it showed me was one, if I had closed off that side and made getting to it a required through the layout, I'd be risking damage to the layout with the guys needed to move it back to that side. Also, the more room at the bottom of the stairs, the better off the installation and removal would be. They were very professional and the guy saw all my benchwork and said "Model Railroader, huh?" and proceeded to ask me about what scale and such. I guess when you have enough experience going into people's basement, you can tell that stuff right off the bat, especially with no track there. So, that makes it a little more clearer on what kind of flow/benchwork I should be doing in the basement to meet real-life needs versus my modeling/operation one.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Train Legnths

So in part of my re-examining the layout, I went back to my trusted XTrackCad to do some train length viewing. I chose a typical Amtrak train, coal train, a few intermodal train mixes, auto parts train, generic box car and tank car sets.

Clicking on the picture will give you a bigger picture of it so that you can also see the labels. I had always done 8 feet as the max train size. Looking above, it looks like a unit train of tank cars would be my largest train at 7 1/2 feet. Now, I'm not sure if 15 60' box cars is a good measurement or not, something I'll probably have to go down into the basement and pull out some cars to take a look. I remember doing this before, and 8 feet is what I had for the coal train, which I was using to set the standard length, but I also think I added at least one more engine on it, which would probably be more prototypical for a loaded coal train. So in quick closing, it looks like my 8' train length is a good measurement to build any staging or A/D yard tracks off of.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Starting Over? Maybe

Well, it's probably time for my annual "where do I want to go with the layout" post. However, I think this year is a bit different. You see, in mid-January I welcomed my 2nd daughter into the world. With the joy of her birth also came the realization that time, money, resources, will be harder to come by then they were with just one child. I also keep looking at the double deck benchwork and go "really, I'm going to build something on all this?". I've started to look back through my 2 notebooks of sketches, ideas, wants, and desires. What I've come to realize is that I want out of a layout is something that can give me a taste of the following:

  • Mainline running
  • Largeish Industrial switching
  • Yard switching
  • Continuous running
I would also like at least a token appearance by a passenger train. All of this in a room area roughly the size of 18' x 11', which would leave 3' of walkway to the other half of my basement. Here's a picture of my basement, complete with labels:
Part of my waffling also has to do with the desire to no longer have a helix that blocks the water meter in the lower right. I've also been re-reading the Building the Burlington Northern in N Scale from Kalmbach and I just got David Popp;s book, Building a Model Railroad Ste by Step, 2nd Edition. I really like it but in reading it, I've come to realize that while David's layout isn't huge, it has mainline operations, industrial switching, yard switching, and some passenger operations, all in a 10x10 area, plus aisles on 3 sides, initially. He has since expanded it to occupy a 16'x17' area (including aisles). These 2 layout books, plus a lot of the readings I've seen recently in the LDSIG's Layout Design Journal and site and some of Byron Henderson's Layout Designs have me rethinking all of this and questioning, can I get what I want with a much simpler, non-double deck layout. 

So with that, I think I'll go back to the drawing board, but if anyone has any ideas, feel free to download the picture above, sketch some stuff out and feel free to contact me and let me know your thoughts or provide some comments here if you wish. I'm not married to any of the walls currently configured, as everything is screwed into the slab floor and joists. 


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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