Monday, January 31, 2011

Mentioned in dispatches

A quick shout out to fellow model Railroader D Tom Conboy and his OTRR Model Railroad Blog.
Tom gave this site a mention in his latest Terminal Talk Podcast. So if you've dropped in from listening to that "Hello" to you. I hope that you'll find something to interest you and perhaps you'll sign up and follow and learn something about my obsession with small Model Railway Layouts

Saturday, January 29, 2011


Just a quick posting to keep you informed on the lack of activity hereabouts.
I have found myself drawn to the delights of T scale again and am working on a few projects to ready my layout Gonou for its outing at the Granite City Train show on April 30th.
The GCTS is a great show and I would encourage any Minnesotans reading this to pay the show a visit.
Rest assured I have not forgotten this blog and am working on a couple of articles for it.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Model Railroad Planning 2011

Whilst in a Hobby shop yesterday picking up some bits for some T scale scratchbuilding projects I saw MRP 2011 on the shelves. As I have, in the past, contributed to this publication I pretty well always buy it.
When I got it home and out of its baggie (it came with a free track planning booklet) I have to say I was not disappointed. Yes there was an inordinate amount of large basement filling empire plans. The issue opened with 4 articles featuring smaller shelf layout plans and schemes including one in British OO scale!
This was all a huge surprise and made for a very interesting read. Quite worth buying.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Duluth Steam - Track plan

After the sketch I decided the next step was to mess around with some track and draw up a trackplan to see just how it would really work out.
Five feet by 18 inches and it all fits perfectly.
When I tell you that the curve into the power station is 10" inches you will all hold your hands up in shock and horror. But I will just laugh. You know why? Because I tested it. Just now. A Walthers Hopper and Factory direct trains Trackmobile will navigate a 10" radius curve. Quite comfortably.
This is one of the keys to making more of a simple trackplan. I'll write about that more at a later date when I get less distracted by good ideas.
Looking at the trackplan I can now outline the operation of the layout for you.
A short train appears from the right hand fiddle yard and leaves a couple of hopper cars in the siding in front of the steam plant, before disappearing off into the left hand fiddle yard. These could be seen as hoppers carrying coal into the power stations or bringing "fly ash" (the waste by-product) out to be dispatched to cement plants where it is used in the manufacture of cement.
Loaded coal hoppers in, empty ones out. Empty ash hopers in, full ones out. Perhaps periodic delivery of boxcars to the front siding too. The power station can be quite the busy place. In addition in Duluth, the plant is alongside the North Shore Scenic Railroad, so if you wanted you could run preserved railroad passenger trains as well.
So, all in all there is an awful lot going on on this small layout.

Thursday, January 13, 2011


You will have noticed in my sketches I pay little attention to the method of storing the trains off stage. I do that because basically everyone has their own perferences.
There are several choices on how to do this.
The simplest and probably the one that takes up the most room, is the simple fan of sidings fed by a series of points/switches. I think 3 sidings is a good minimum. So in order to store three 4' long trains off stage you'd need one three way point (about 8" long) plus a curved section to take the sidings out to standard track centres (so the trains don't foul each other on sidings) another 6-8" minimum. So to store a 4' train you need approaching 5 1/2" foot of space. Perhaps not a problem if your layout stays home all the time but if you like to go to train shows and you only have 4' 6" space in the back of your car then you might have a problem.
Aonther solution that takes up less space is the traverser or transfer table. Here a section of baseboard with the three tracks lined up on it slides on drawer runners or a similar mechanism to line up with the tracks on the main baseboard. This arrangement need only be as long (or perhaps in inc h or two longer than the longest train you plan to operate on the layout. You want a 4' train? the traverser could be as little as 4'2" long.
A variation on this is the sector plate/train turntable. Where instead of sliding across the baseboard. Your transfer table rotates around a fixed point. Handy if you want to turn your entire train offstage so that the loco leads without getting your grubby greasy fingers all over your pride and joy. Of course if your sector plate is 4' long and pivots around a central point you need 2' clear space fron and back when you rotate the traintable around through 180 degrees. If you don't need to rotate the turntable through 180 degrees. You can always move the pivot point off centre so when the table swings it doesn't protrude as much.
A fourth option is the train cassette. A cassette is a length of track with protective sides and carrying handles thay you can store a train on that are kept out of the way when not required and plugged into the layout when the train is needed. Cassettes can be kept stored on a rack out of the way taking up very little room. My only concern with this method is how unwieldly a cassette of three feet plus in length might be. Short cassettes to carry a railcar are certainly very viable and I'd certainly consider the cassette option for a railcar on the Duluth Steam layout. The PECO Locolift is a good simple cassette for such a purpose.
There is also room for experiment too.
On a small Gn15 layout I built called The Apple Valley Light railway. I developed a hybrid system called the "traintable" I used a kitchen lazy susan as a turntable and constructed interchangeable train cassettes to plug into it. You can see it in the background of some of the pictures. It worked quite well on the small narrow gauge trains.
So there you go, as they say.
"You pays yer money, you takes your choice" I've built sector plates with no problem but have had a few issues building traversers. So I prefer sector plates. But will use cassettes when the need arises. Like I say it's all up to you.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Duluth Steam

I think I have mentioned before my desire to build a model railroad layout based on scenes in Duluth, MN and here is a scene I keep coming back to again and again.
The Steam heating plant.
I clearly remember seeing the steam plant for the first time back in 1998 on my honeymoon. I was immediately captivated by it. The whole scene just fitted together perfectly. A scene break at one end in the form of the road overbridge, the grand architecture of the plant building and the magnificent harbour bridge in the background. I do love the location. I think I came up with my first idea in 2003 and here's my latest sketch of the idea.
The size of the layout would be about 5' x 18". Its a pretty close representation of the real thing. Most of the elements of the location are there. The overbridge, the main building with the corrugated siding annex, the road under the road overbridge (which is approximately mile 26 of the famous Grandmas Marathon which I've run twice and will be doing so again in June this year). You could even get the harbour bridge and the William A Irvin on the backscene.
I just showed the sketch to the wife who said.
"I wondered when you'd get around to building a model based on Duluth"
I guess I have approval...

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Happy New Year!

I'm writing this post from Caribou Coffee in Canal Park in Duluth, MN. It is about 10 degrees and a wind is whipping up last nights snow. It is, no to put too fine a point on it a chilly start to the year. So I send all my followers and folks who check out this blog my very best wishes for the new year and I hope that your layout designing and building adventures are rewarding and successful and if this blog helps you on your way then I'll be very happy.