Monday, December 16, 2013

Update 12/16/13

I spent the weekend putting up the plywood shelving, five 1 ft. boards in all, under the main layout. After I did that, I thought to myself, those would work for a staging yard. Anyways, after that, I started to cut up into 12" strips all the cardboard I've been saving. It turns out that only getting through half of it yielded an 8' pile 14" thick so I'm going to recycle the rest as most of what I have down there are products we get regularly at the moment, like a lot of bulk items from BJs or Sams Club. Tonight is clean the floor area so I can start moving around tubs and I may go get one of those metal shelving to use as a work bench as the one I've been keeping my eye on is now down below $80.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Update 12.06.2013

I've seen this on a few other blogs I follow so I'm going to attempt to do that here, a small update, any update each day. This way, I can focus on accomplishing something, no matter how minor, each day, on the layout, the layout room/space, etc. As for today's update, I was able to clean out some of the basement and put in the two cabinets from my parent's house I got from them:

This will replace all the tubs I had here, or most anyways, that you could see here:

Again, small steps to organization.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Slow Down, Get Organized

For those that have read this blog since it's early days probably figured out I like to do something then think about what I just did and adjust or hem and haw about what I did not ready to jump into something else. With that in mind and my relative inactivity in the basement, not just for the railroad, but woodworking projects also, I searched for the reason why.

One reason was that it's pretty dark on the woorkshop side. Nobody likes to work in darkened conditions (hear that people who insist on doing black for fascia and valences and ceilings?). I have 3 older T12 shop lights on the layout side of the basement and had 2 T12 on the workshop side. Since the HVAC ducts are on that side, it tended to appear darker, especially with storage and the like on it. Well, I had that problem solved by one of the ballasts blowing up in front of me. Sparks went everywhere, I hit the power switch and then proceeded to go, now what!? I replaced this shop light and another one with plugged in shop lights suspended from the floor joists (the old ones were hardwired) and then bought 2 separate types of T8 bulbs and wired up 3 outlets in the ceiling to plug them into. One was normal and the other daylight. I will be going back for daylight and may just try to find T12 daylight bulbs as well for the other lights and/or replace those hard-wired lights as well. The light output is so different and actually makes it enjoyable on that side of the basement that I've been doing more stuff down there in the 4 weeks since this occurred.

Another reason is that it was usually muggy down there. I had a dehumidifier but it was old and didn't run half the time. I bought a new one in August. When I plugged it in to run, it read 81% humidity in our basement. As of last week, we're at 40% which is a recommended level (35-50 for summer, 30-40 for winter). I can say this, our electric went up tremendously as the humidity decreased. It was worth it though. It's an automatic 70 gallon one with auto-shutoff and a pump that we drain into our sump. I will also say this, I've noticed a dramatic decrease in my family having the sniffles or coughs, etc., since putting this in. If you don't have in your basement, get one, you'd be surprised at how much it can help the rest of the house.

With those two out of the way, it's time to tackle the other issue. One many modelers face on a regular basis. Get your railroad room and workspaces organized and de-cluttered. This by far has been my biggest issue since I put up the center peninsula. All of a sudden, this 30'x22' basement I had with a smattering of utilities became a semi-enclosed room that was further divided with benchwork and everything that was not railroad related got dumped on the other side and what was got thrown under or on top of the benchwork. When the other side got so cluttered, I put more stuff on the benchwork itself and then put stuff on top of it when we had the threats of Irene and Sandy. Simply put, I still haven't recovered and/or cleaned up stuff since those two events or even gotten rid of stuff that has been down there and unused since we moved in 6 years ago.

With all of that, my #1 goal for the winter is to clean up and get organized. This means putting in shelving beneath the shelf part of the layout. I got 2 sheets of plywood ripped into 1' wide units. I'll be able to put 5 of these under the layout, totalling 40' of shelving. The other 3 will go above where I'm going to be putting the staging (more on that in another post), with essentially 24' of shelving space above it. I've also got 2x4s and more plywood as I'm going to finally build the workbench I should've built 4 years ago. It's going to be a modified version of this one from Family Handyman. With it being made of 2x4s and plywood, it won't cost that much and it should be quick to put together.

The bottom line is my message to anyone starting out in this hobby, slow down and get organized first. This doesn't just mean put together ideas for your layout on paper or doing Givens and Druthers or concepts and the like, but also get the space for the layout and any adjacent space organized, cleaned, with everything you might need to get started. Get your storage solutions settled on early in the process because shoehorning them around built benchwork will be harder then you think. Overall, you'll be better off for it and not waste 4+ years of work and get no farther then having just big, lumbering shelving instead of running trains. If your space is chaotic, your efforts will be chaotic, unorganized, and, ultimately, unproductive.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Changes Coming

This weekend I will have the house to myself. This will allow me to finish all the woodworking and other honey-do tasks I need to do. One of those is going to be cleaning/clearing the basement. This is because I've come to the realization that the double-deck layout is too compact/complex for me with the type of operations I've become to enjoy. One of the trends I've seen lately is the "terminal railroad" or modeling only a few miles of a line (proto or freelanced) but maximizing operational interests as a result. As a result of this, I'll most likely be pulling down the double-deck benchwork, resealing the concrete walls and then probably doing some kind of painting or covering the ceiling. I'm not going to finish the basement as adding another 400+ sq. ft. here in NJ is like adding another $500 to $1k in property taxes per year, something I'm not willing to take on for my hobby. The pic below is something I've been playing around with based on discussions with a number of the guys I operate with who have layouts of their own.

One thing you'll notice is the Steel area. I'm becoming more and more interested in this industry, how to model it and how it operates. There are industries here that represent typical traffic found on Conrail. I've got no specific area in mind to model, but this would be influenced by the industries and traffic found in the Dearborn division.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Current Basement State

So I've mentioned that I put a bunch of things up on the benchwork before Sandy came through and that most of it is still up on the benchwork. Well, here's some photos to show it. I will say this, my techniques created pretty strong shelves!

One side of peninsula with wood, paint, and carpet on it.

Other side of peninsula with even more wood on it

One wall with even more wood on it and some more paint.
Someday I'll clean all this up and either rebuild the benchwork or something, :)

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Multi-Pass Concept

So I mentioned in my previous long winded post that I had looked at the heavy industries served by Conrail in the Rust Belt region. I came up with the following types of industries from that general area:

  • Steel Mill of some kind
  • Auto Plant (Assembly or Stamping or both?)
  • Oil Refinery
The one that I thought was interesting was the Oil Refinery. Until watching The History Channel's The Men Who Built America series, I hadn't realized that the origins of oil in this country came from The Ohio/Pennsylvania area. Some one had said that at one time and I hadn't paid much attention to it. However, while doing research out in that area I found a number of larger refineries both in Ohio and Pennsy. I thought those types of industries were only in NJ or Texas or other port areas, not inland. Who kew?

So, combining the list above with a few other sections for modeling and I had 7 areas of the layout with 2 for the Yard and subsequent yard lead/industries around it, one for staging, and another one that will be the "filler" one, more on scenery but will have some operational aspect. Here is what I came up with from a concept effort:
The green locations would generally be "upper level" areas of the multi-pass while orange is on the "lower level". The pass around on the left would actually go behind a wall I have constructed to give an aisleway back to our gas meter. I figure a 3" wide strip there isn't going to hurt that aisleway. The inspiration for this type of plan came from one of the layouts I operate on here in South Jersey, the Raccoon Valley. It has a very similar layout as mine but a few more operating areas because it's much larger. We're talking 30 car trains in HO scale on some staging tracks. When you take a train across the layout it doesn't go by quickly. It is also double-track as are a number of others I operate on so I'm still weighing double-track or single-track. I go back and forth on it so that may not be decided until track meets roadbed.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Narrowing Focus

As I mentioned yesterday, I'm heavily leaning towards the multi-pass design. That's not final, but I think it's the easiest way to ensure a relatively longish run on a single level layout in my given space and minimize the hidden trackage. Since this would be freelanced, I started going about the types of industries I'd want to represent on the layout. I've usually been focusing my efforts in research on the eastern portion of Conrail. That area is really dominated by chemicals and intermodal (and auto distribution) customers. There are a concentrated pockets of other important customers, like grain/food in Delaware and South Jersey, but by and large, that was the heavy traffic coming into the Philly/NYC area of Conrail.

A few weeks ago, when the configuration was presented to me, I was still holding out hope of doing the Harrisburg Line. The more I looked at the operations, however, the more I realized I would either have to a) severely compress the line or b) add more operation and traffic then existed or even exists today on this portion of Conrail's system. Because I was holding onto the idea of a single track line with industrial support, I started looking at other areas of Conrail that had decent traffic. I hadn't realized it but the Indianapolis Line between Berea and Galion, Oh., is single track. It doesn't have many largeish industries or decent yards. One could proceed into Cleveland, but then that would introduce the Chicago, Buffalo, and Cleveland lines into the equation with possible need for staging, etc. I went a little further west and thought about centering the layout on Marion, Oh. I went to the Rail BBQ there a few years ago when the CRHS held it at Marion Union Station, however, I felt that there might not be enough industry on either side of it to really work not to mention intermodal traffic diverted to Columbus at Galion. I haven't completely ruled it out, but I kind of left that area and started to explore other areas.

So the next course of action was to download appropriate ZTS documents from the Multimodalways archive. I really started exploring the areas from Columbus up through Cleveland then back down towards Pittsburgh which was a mix of the Indianapolis and Pittsburgh divisions. The thing that jumped out at me was all the various parts of the auto industry and also the number plants tied to the steel industry as well. To me, that felt like the Conrail that had a nice, big, industrial presence and really moved the goods in and out. This research actually brought me to the Ft. Wayne Line between Alliance and Crestline, Oh. Anything heading towards Indianapolis or Columbus used this line as a shortcut, thus avoiding Cleveland. This included Mail-3 and other TV/Mail trains. It also supported a number of signature industries like Rubbermaid, Smuckers, Step2, and GM in the area as well as the Republic Steel plants in and around Canton. It also had interchanges with the W&LE as well as the Ashland Railway. What this section lacked, however, was a single classificat-type yard. In fact, it really had two smaller, industrial support yards, one in Mansfield and one in Canton, both generating locals out to the various industries in the area.

While I'm not actively pursing this more, at the moment, the research has led me to look at incorporating the two major players of steel and the auto industry into any future layout. One, they are traffic consumers and generators, being switched multiple times a day. Two, other then intermodal traffic, those two areas were big money makers for Conrail and to really only represent them as perhaps overhead traffic I think would be wrong. So add them to the list of focus areas for the layout plan in addition to intermodal operations. With that, I started doodling, but I'll put that in another post shortly.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Directional Leaning

As I mentioned in my post a few months back, I've been working with a few individuals on other possible configurations for my layout. Most have centered around a G-shaped layout. The only question really left to answer at this point is do I modify the double-deck benchwork I still have up or tear it down and put up simpler lower level benchwork. Before I answer that question, however, I thought it would be wise to work with the general layout shape and really see the total number of people that might be able to fit comfortably in the space provided. To do that, I drew out the shape I keep coming back to and added what I call people blobs to it. These blogs are 30" x 15" ovals, well, really two 15" circles and a square joined in XTrackCAD. Here is what I ended up with:

As you can see, there could be 6 operators on this layout and that would probably be the max allowable for the space available. I added these people blobs to my other designs and concluded that double-deck spacing for towns/operators would be much greater then if I did single-deck. In fact, I think I'd lose potentially one or two areas in order to keep the operators separated. I haven't ripped out the double deck benchwork yet (mostly because there's still a ton of stuff on it) but I'm thinking I will just after Memorial Day.

Now the question goes to the type of layout for this space. I want a continuous run. Sometimes you just want to sit back and watch trains go around while enjoy a nice drink or having visitors over to see the layout. One option is to run the turnback loop behind a low backdrop all the way back around to staging. Not bad, except that could be a lot of limited visibility/hidden trackage. Another thought I had was essentially a folded dogbone with the top and right-side being multi-pass areas. I operate on a layout that has a similar configuration but has staging essentially below the left-side and some areas that are about half a train length of visible trackage so your switching in tunnels. I can get away with making the staging on the left-side of the wall, thus eliminating that type of hidden trackage and I'd probably limit myself to 3 areas of the layout on differing levels where the two lines would parallel or cross each other.Transitions would be key in that type of design but I've visited and participated in enough layouts that while operating, you don't really notice the other "levels" when things are clearly marked. So that's where the planning/decisions stand right now. I've completed the dresser, crib and beds. Now just need to stain them. Hopefully by June I can get back downstairs and get this all straightened out before the next hurricane comes here and I repile stuff on the benchwork.

Friday, March 1, 2013

Update on Stuff

I've been slowly making progress in organizing the basement. I've almost completed the dresser and bed sections I need to for my daughters' furniture. Just waiting on it getting a little warmer out so I can stain them outside since I have no garage. I've also been clearing out some shelving areas that were originally dedicated for staging that may wind up as staging or as workbench space/tool cabinet hanging. Finally, I've been working with a few people on various designs or at least flow of the layout in the space that are variations on many of the ideas I've come up with before. Sometimes it's good to have others look at things just to give fresh ideas or better thoughts on space utilization or even interpreting prototype track arrangements better/more space efficient.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Moving Forward

So I've decided, after some consultations with friends, I'm going to move forward with the Conrail C&P theme. While I think the Harrisburg line would be interesting, as I'm more focused on operations, the sheer volume to give that line justice is above what I can do from a resources perspective. Also, I just like seeing trains roll through mountains, Appalachians or any of the west coast chains. I've updated the site to have a "C&P History" page that's in the link at the top or can be done here. I've also updated the Layout Plan page with a conceptual laying out of LDEs. In the concept you'll notice that staging is now on the bottom level. Why I didn't think of this sooner, I don't know, but since I moved it down there, ideas for all the various themes I've done started flowing. I've also been reorganizing the basement. Right now, it would look like my workbench area will be on the wall adjacent to staging so I may set something up where the dispatcher would also be there and a "portlet" into the layout room for viewing the trains as they leave staging.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

New Plan Coming

I may have found a plan that is what I want. Actually, I may have two plans, but we shall see. One would be within the footwork of current benchwork with a prototype theme but focused on operations heavily influenced by a really nice layout and design. The other would be much truer to a prototype with operational items but bending of history slightly or a mix of flags running which would require all new benchwork but it very well could be worth it completely do to its prototype accuracy. Stay tuned ...


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.

Conrail Ft. Wayne Line © Header image from J. Alex Lang Template Nice Blue modified by Indian Monsters. Original created by