Monday, January 4, 2016

The HO Bug

I'm not going to lie, progress on the layout is just inching forward. Some of that had to do with family commitments over the holidays and some of it trying to get the basement setup to house both storage for a growing family and a layout but I'm increasingly finding another item getting in my way, HO. Ever since my dad said I could have a layout in my parents house but it had to be in this small corner of the basement, I've concentrated on N scale. As such, I've bought (collected?) a ton of rolling stock and, lately, track. I also realized over the holidays that a lot of this rolling stock doesn't fit the era or theme of the layout and that I'll be selling of parts of it over the next few months (like a bunch of Amtrak stuff I bought because AMTRAK!). I know people jettison their collections all the time but 25 years of buying stuff has a strong appeal to see it through to a layout.

One factor is every other layout in the area I operate on is HO. More of the owners are adding sound to their diesels and I love the sound they make. While I've heard some of the new ESU Micro's inside a N scale C44-9W, and it sounded friggin' awesome, I've looked at the instructions and basically go that's going to take up a lot of time to add in, time which as my kids get slightly older is becoming less and less. I know the guys kid me about N scale all the time, there is encouragement as I think some are genuinely interested in operating an N scale pike so it's not a strong contributor but it's there.

A second factor in all of this are my children. N scale is nice, but for children, it's harder for them to relate to, they like the bigger trains and sound and the like. I want my kids to come down to the basement and enjoy running them like they do the Christmas train set. This weekend, I took them up to a Greenburg show (should be renamed everyone's Lionel junk). I came home with another HO starter kit and the track I need to finally help them build out the Model Railroad family layout from their video series, but it made me think even more about doing HO in the basement. In fact, my dad even talked about converting from his B&O collection to doing a small switching layout or shelf layout based on his hometown MN&S. That really gave me pause in thinking of what I'm doing in the basement.

Another factor is the type of operation I enjoyed. When I started out designing the original layout, it was really from a railfan perspective (and overly optimistic too). As I operate more and more I've found I like two types of operations, yard and local (yes, I know over the road trains are needed but if you get stuck just doing that in a session, it's usually not an enjoyable one). With that in mind, enter in the musings of Lance Mindheim and others in regard to the simple, prototypically operated modern(ish) layouts. The approaches taken to come up even with an 12x20 layout (I couldn't find his series write-up on building it) are more along the line of my type of operational interests. I could see myself being able to build something like that with my other time commitments.

Finally, that last piece, the time and resource commitment. I "think" doing something in HO would be quicker then doing the N scale layout but I'm not 100% sure. There'd be less track to lay but benchwork construction would probably be the same. Filling out the roster for what would be needed for a layout of my space would definitely take less in HO (at first) then it would be in N (hello lots of auto parts boxcars and covered hoppers I don't currently have). But at the same time, I can get 3 N scale locos and probably 2 freight cars for the cost of 1 of each, respectively, in HO. I guess I'd have to do some analysis on that.

So that's kind of where my mindset is at right now in regards to the layout. Of course, this could just be traditionally hemming and hawing one does after going through the holiday season with its breakneck speed, little free time and usual outlay of resources.


Allen H. said...

HO? I've had that thought after seeing what's available in HO compared to N.
Also the fact that we're all getting older and my eye sight is starting to show signs of age, ugh.
But like you, I have a basement full of 30+ years of N scale collected and to jettison it for another scale, wow! I would have think real hard before doing that?

I have a good friend who did just what you described, HO SOUND! I gotta admit, it does sound tempting. But instead of HO, I'd probably go HOn3.

All in all I hope it's just a passing idea. But good luck with what ever decision you choose.

Mike McNamara said...

Regardless of scale, I would definitely consider the Lance approach if I was looking at starting a new layout. And my kids are college and beyond now, so I technically have more time. My layout is going on 13 years now, and as you know I just started some Ops. I probably could have done it sooner, but I wanted certain things in place before I did that. Much of the time could be described as "inactive" over those 12+ years, with large sections of progress at certain points in time. I don't consider my layout large really, but it is big enough to have taken quite a bit of work to get to this point. In reality though I could have taken a simpler approach and had things up and running sooner.

The plan you linked to in my mind looks like you could easily have trains running in a matter of 1 month: simple benchwork could probably be done in 1 weekend with the right planning (and maybe a little help - hey I'll stop by if there is a beer at the end of the day!), no grades so simple subroadbed in an evening or 2, trackwork can start with the main and drop in the turnouts even if you don't lay all the rest of the track - a few work sessions based on my experienc e laying track, and do include that connector for continuous run (you can weed it up later to look out of service) - you'll want it and the kids will like it too, and a simple drop or slide in section across the opening (it can be "Bruce-ified" later :-). Simple wiring to start then add more feeders for reliability.

The one thing that can sometimes delay progress is the "getting it right" and "getting the dream layout" going. I have been guilty of that. This can just delay the "just do something and have fun" part of model railroading. That is why I think Lance is really on to good ideas.

So, regardless of scale, I think your thought process is making sense if you feel a simpler plan will get you wher eyou want to be sooner.

Phil D said...

Thanks for the feedback Allen and Mike.

Allen, you are right, the whole ditch the 25 years worth of stuff would be a huge mental stumbling block for me. Like I said though, if my dad who’s been collecting rolling stock longer then me would be willing to give it up to do an entirely different railroad, i think I need to look long and hard at it. The other factor is much of my stuff is DC and older locomotives at that (read Bachmann Spectrum). I’ve purchased more modern locomotives but still with DC and only have a few decoders as of right now. And yes, sound on a model railroad is almost becoming a must for me. I just think it really brings the layout alive.

Mike, I’m not entirely sure it’s about “complexity” with the current plan, although it isn’t as easy or simplified as the one I linked to. I would probably adjust Bob’s plan to remove the flowing benchwork and make it a little more square. It very well could be the feeling of being overwhelmed on where to start? I don’t really know. Sometimes I’ve gone to the basement and knocked out a few things looked around and said, really, how much progress did I really make? I also understand nothing is a drop it on the plywood and a layout magically appears. I have a friend who got an entire classification yard that fit his basement perfectly and he still hasn’t connected the ends to even make just a rudimentary loop. I think you’re right, the plan I linked to, or perhaps a slightly more elevated one, could probably get me up and running trains by summer, probably towards the end of it with spring sports season starting soon. What I really think it’s coming down to the kids (and PJ hasn’t even gotten anything yet) have HO and show interest every year to go visit layouts, run trains, go to the train store (helps that the folks at Sattlers would give them cookies when we came). I already told them next weekend we will go and get some of the materials to build out the family layout and then I keep thinking that if they get bored with the 40”x60” little layout or want to do more, what would be next for them? The answer, for me right now anyways, keeps coming back to going to the basement and “run on daddy’s layout”.

narrowtracks said...

If I had to do it again, I'd build a simple layout like Lance proposes for when my son was young. Right now he is 11 and I have nothing rally to show (almost 10 years since my last layout), just some modules running Sn2 brass that I fear having he and his friends run. A simple HO layout would be great, would help me build my skills, etc... I still have some time to do it simple for a while... Hmmm

If you build Lance's... It could be the family layout. Why wast time and money on a 40x60"

I must say, disposing of 25 years of stuff would be "freeing". Think of all those incomplete dreams you'd be getting rid up... Feel the weight coming off your back... Even Selling at 20 cents on the dollar would probably fund a layout such as Lance's... 1-2 locos and 15-25 cars... Let it go....Let it go...

...or not.

Dave K.

Phil D said...

Thanks for the feedback Dave K. I agree, it would be "freeing". I just unloaded a lot of older cars that I have no need for and it felt good. I'm inching closer to the making the switch but mentally I'm not there yet. The latest MRP has a really nice shortline switching layout that would be a good mentality to follow, albeit a little more compressed then I probably would want to do.

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