Thursday, December 29, 2011

Rat Hole in N and HO

Just to prove the Rat hole scheme is workable here are a couple of quick shots of the track arrangement. The single track at the left would represent a sector plate
 Above: N scale 30" x 15" fits with plenty of room to spare It would likely fit in 12" depth
Above: H0 scale 60" x 15" max depth once again plenty of room

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Rat Hole

The paper is dog eared and yellowing in places, it even feels old. This is an old, old scheme I entitled "Rat Hole". Quite how old this doodling is I don't know. It might even pre-date my emigration to the USA. Back then I had this notion that American railroads were all street running and sharp curves with lines appearing between houses and crossing roads and running down the middle of streets at will. Quite how I came up with the name Rat Hole I don't know as its only recently that I've discovered the SP Alameda "Rat Hole". I must have read the term in an article in an old issue of Model Railroader or Railroad Model Craftsman. Once I moved to America and experienced Modern US Railroads for real I saw things weren't necessarily like that anymore. I still think its a good idea though. 

Looking at it with another 13 or so years of Micro layout design behind me I still like it, It still makes me think. If I came up with this concept when I think I did, then the term "Micro Layout" hadn't even been popularised, perhaps even thought of. I visualised it as quite intensely scenic with all the buildings on it. It could also be described as a "concrete canyon" layout. Watching the layout, locos and cars appear and disappear between buildings forcing the viewer to continually change their viewpoint, they are even able to watch the train come towards them hiding the fact that this is quite a small layout. 
In posting this scheme I decided to see what sort of size the layout could be. I laid down some N scale track I have "acquired" and discovered that the layout will comfortably fit in a 30" x 15" space if you chose to use a sector plate in the fiddle yard area. It's even feasible to put it in an APA box.
Just a little something to get the creative juices going.

By way of a post script here's some handy dandy links to some inspiring photographs:
The Rat Hole Job
Whats the Rat Hole?
The Kingsbury Branch in N scale
Chicago Switching 
That should be enough to keep you going for a while. It's certainly started tugging on my grey matter for the moment and having recently acquired a load of N scale stuff. I could very easily build such a layout with the minimum of outlay...

The Model Railroaders new years resolution

The new year is fast approaching and that means the time is here to make public your plans to improve your life in the forthcoming year.
You know the sort of thing... "I'm going to quit smoking" or "I'm going to take more exercise"
The vast majority of these resolutions don't make it out of the first week before they are conveniently forgotten about.
So let's take time to make a model railway resolution...
"I'm going to learn something about a railway I know nothing about and build a small layout inspired by my learnings". (Sorry that's a bit long winded)
But it seems like a very good resolution to me. Especially those of you with you vast basement empires that are getting a bit bogged down because you can't see the end of the project at the moment.
I was inspired to propose this entry by a couple of seemingly unrelated things. Firstly, I am a relatively new convert to using my iPad as a magazine reader and have recently downloaded the App Zinio for it. Zinio is a vast online newsstand and there are plenty of magazines for everyones tastes there to download and read. Even for us Model Railroaders/Railway Modellers.
So, when I was browsing their website the other day and saw that an English Language version of Voie Libre was available I pretty well jumped on it straight away, remembering the advice I got from the late Carl Arendt (that I never took until now) that Voie Libre was a good read with plenty of advice and inspiration and I would enjoy it. As per usual, old friend, you were right. But I'm getting off the point a bit.
The point is that looking at different magazines from different countries can open up a whole new world of influences to you.
For example, did you know that there was a rack operated railway in the Greek islands?
No?
Neither did I. Not until I read the latest issue of Voie Libre anyway, and in the same issue of the magazine also presents you with a very interesting way to go about modelling it.
Of course, you don't have to go and buy an issue of a magazine that you've never heard of to partake in this resolution though. If you are like me you have received countless railway books as presents over the years that have no relation to your interests and have hidden them at the back of your library. Go back to them. I'm sure you'll find more than a few pictures that fascinate you. Then go and look a bit deeper into the subject matter. It could be the start of something new and rewarding.
Perhaps you got a gift card for your local hobby shop for Christmas but you don't quite know what to get with it for that big project. So maybe the next time you're in that hobby shop take a look on some of the other shelves that you usually pass by without a second glance on your way to your chosen section. See what tickles your fancy.
For my part I was in my local hobby shop the other day and saw the H0 scale Bachmann "John Bull" and "Pegasus" train sets. Now, I know nothing about railroading in the first years of railway history, but I think it would be really rewarding to find out about those times and build a layout of some description as you go along. I think the railway modellers new years resolution is a good idea. That's why I'm posting this a couple of days early. Give you time to mull the idea over. I might just try it myself. Why don't you?
After all if you break it it's no different to any of the others you've made over the years is it?

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Christmas Wishes

In keeping with the festive season I thought I'd take this chance to thank all you, both followers and those who just drop in, for taking an interest in the blog and so, courtesy of Google translate. I pass on my Holiday wishes to all of your in your native tongues*
Joyeux Noël et une Bonne Année
Frohe Weinhnachten und einen guten Rutsch ins neue Jahr
Glædelig jul og et Godt Nytår
God Jul och ett Gott Nytt År
Prettige kerstdagen en een gelukkig nieuw jaar
С Рождеством и Новым Годом
Nadolig Llawen a Blwyddyn Newydd Dda
Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year! 


Of course if anyone feels that I have neglected their mother tongue like Flemish or Walloon (which aren't on Google translate) let me know .


*That is, according to the stats of the blog my viewers are in France, Germany, Sweden, Denmark, Netherlands,Russia, England, Wales, America, Canada, Australia and New Zealand.

12/22 first edit to add Dutch...

Sunday, December 18, 2011

The Holmes Hall Light Railway

There is, in my basement, a triangular shaped baseboard. How I ended up with a triangular baseboard is neither here nor there. But the circumstances that prompted its construction changed and I moved on to other projects but kept the baseboard. I still keep looking at it and coming up with different schemes to use it. I'm sure that one day I'll come up with an idea I really like and proceed to build. But I thought I'd share this one with you to get you out of the idea of thinking that your model railway baseboards have to be rectangular.
The Holmes Hall Light Railway, (and just what is wrong with naming a scheme after yourself?). Is envisioned as a narrow gauge layout using 9mm gauge track for the permanent way. Typical combinations would be OO9 in the UK or HOn30 elsewhere. Perhaps even O9 would be workable. The 9mm gauge would allow the use of 6" radius curves and tighter without looking too silly. I've measured this up and sketched the track plan on the baseboard I have so I know this scheme is workable on a triangular board that is 4' long on the long side.
The scheme was influence by a combination of the English country estate railways of the early 20th century (like those pioneered by Sir Arthur Heywood) and the farm railways like the potato railways of my native Lincolnshire in England.
The feature of this layout that excites me the most is that part of the model on the right where you actually get to watch the train come towards you, rather than the usual view of a layout where the trains cross your field of view. The train enters the scene at the apex of the triangle and runs towards the viewer along the side of a road, it then rounds a tight curve and moves into the yard where it could shunt the wagons into the goods shed or the coal shed at the back of the hall. The line that runs behind the goods shed runs through a hole in the backscene into a fiddle yard that I have envisioned as being a fold up one for ease of storage and transportation, where it can then complete a loop to run into the scene once more.


Saturday, December 17, 2011

Dark Satanic Mills (part 2)

A few years ago I was on a roll with Dark Satanic Mill layouts, producing several ideas for schemes. Here's another one I just found. I know for a fact there are other sketches concerning this concept and if I discover them I'll post them too.
This particular scheme was inspired by a set of pictures posted on RMWeb of some remains of an old railway line in the Bradford/Halifax area of Yorkshire. The whole site was very compact, hemmed in on all sides by a road, a footbridge, a roadbridge and cutting wall. The obligatory DSM was on the other side of the road to the yard, and forms the backdrop to the layout. Once again my scheme was to depict the rundown years of the 1970's and early 80's. There is a single track suburban commuter line in the foreground that a single car or two-car DMU regularly calls at. The rear has a couple of sidings that serve a scrapyard, imagined to be the other side of the footbridge at the left hand side.
Operation would be thus: A short freight train leaves a couple of empty wagons in one of the sidings and departs. After the train has gone a grotty little 4 wheeled shunter (switcher) appears from offstage collects the wagons and takes them offstage to the scrapyard. After a while it reappears with wagons loaded with scrap that it leaves to be collected by another short freight train that passes through the station later in the operating sequence. Some might say that it doesn't sound much for operation but those who know me and my other layouts will know that this is not a dissimilar sequence to that one used for operating Wingetts Recycling my 7 day model railroad exercise. So I know from experience that it works and isn't dull and boring.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Dark Satanic Mills

Dark Satanic Mills (or in Model railway parlance DSMs) is a term lifted from William Blakes famous poem "Jerusalem" written in 1804 (only later turned into an emotionally charged highly patriotic hymn by Sir Hubert Parry in 1916). 
Dark Satanic Mills are a symbol of the Industrial revolution in England, huge factories built of Brick or stone filled with what was then the latest hi-tech machinery manufacturing the goods that turned England into the then greatest industrial power in the world. Later the empty shells of these structures came to symbolise the industrial malaise that inflicted England in later years. But I digress.
The model represents a rundown SLT (single line terminus) in an industrial area of a city in the North of England.  The station has clearly seen better days. It was once a intermediate station with lower level goods yard on a busy commuter line but following the cutbacks and rationalisation of British Railways in the late 60's and early 70's it's now the terminus of a rundown branchline, with the lower level goods yard now turned into a permanent way store.
The influence of the model is unashamedly from the Model Railway Journal scenic O scale masterwork Inkerman Street (about halfway down this page) A layout that left an indelible mark on me and many other modellers who saw it, including those who queued up for hours to see this layout at the first Model Railway Journal exhibition at Central Hall, Westminster.
I got so into the concept of the layout that I didn't produce just one sketch visualising the model. I produced four. Viewing the layout from all angles focussing on different areas.
 Above: General overhead view
 Above: A view down the layout from platform height, to get a feel for the factory towering over what remains of the station.
 Above: The station entrance under the road bridge is a distinctive and unusual prototype feature.
Above: Another overall aerial view.
To be honest, this idea still fires me up. In fact a 4' x 2' baseboard with embankment built on it exists in my basement. The only thing that stops me finishing the layout up is acquiring the stock to use on the layout from England. I've been working on that detail off and on for three years or so. Things get pretty expensive in that regard. Could any of my American readers suggest a location in the states for such a scene. Chicago or Detroit perhaps? I'd be interested to hear.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Something different

I thought long and hard about which of my "visions" to post to mark a return to posting sketches after this extended hiatus. I could have posted something fairly conventional, a slice of modern railroading perhaps. But no.
I decided to make you think. I want you to see that there's so much inspirational stuff out there and when you find it, well who knows what can happen.
This is a sketch of Victoria Station on the Great Orme Tramway in Llandudno in North Wales. The Great Orme Tramway is a 3' 6" gauge funicular (cable operated) railway, built in 1903 for the purpose of taking people to the top of Llandudnos scenic feature, The Great Orme. Some more images can be found on this google image search page. I've travelled on the line several times while holidaying in North Wales. It's a trip I'd recommend anyone to take. It only costs a few quid and takes about half an hour to get to the top. The views from the train as it climbs up the steep hill are quite something.
At first glance it doesn't look much, just a single line terminus (or SLT in micro layout parlance). The distinctive cars appear from between the two buildings, arrive at the station, pause to let passengers on and off before returning offstage between the houses.
But what would separate this from the normal is the fact that this model of a funicular railway would run in the same way as a real cable railway. The line runs at a steep 40 degree slope pulled by a cable. You could wind the train down on the cable by hand or you could operate it by a motor. Really clever people could set it up to operate automatically.
The site is incredibly compact, only about 150 feet from buffer stop to the gap between the buildings, which in OO/HO scale is about two feet. The whole location could be easily modelled in a space the size of an APA box.
Of course, the Great Orme Railway is not the only cable operated railway in the world. San Francisco immediately pops to mind if you're more in mind to be inspired by American prototypes.
It might not look much as a layout, but I bet you that as soon as someone sees a train running up that 40 degree slope they'll stop and look and then take a closer look at all the other details that you've put in the model.
Do it.
Think different.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

The Micro Model Railroad Cartel

There's a saying that goes something like "You can never have too much of a good thing". This is very true thanks to the internet. Particularly when it comes to blogs. There's lots of good stuff out there about everything. Something pretty much pops up everyday and today is no different. For today sees the beginning of a new blog out there about Micro Model Railroads. It's called The Micro Model Railroad Cartel and I have been asked to add my name to it as a contributor.
Why should you go over there and sign up to read the musings of 4 guys pontificating about a niche in model railroad design?
Well the way I look at it is this. It doesn't matter how many forums I'm a member of, (too many I can tell you) I can always find something different and interesting on them. The websites I know and take for granted you might not know even about. The railroading books that I read are not the same as the books you read.
Perhaps the 4 amigos in the Cartel will between us, manage to impart some new interesting inspirational information to you. If we do then that's fine it will be worth while.
Give us a while to find our feet and we'll see what happens. I can't promise that you won't read the same stuff here as over there but I'll do my best to hide that.