Site seeing – February 28


Hi my name is Andrew, and I’m a YouTube-a-holic.

It’s true; I love YouTube. In the same way the Internet has changed the way we read about the hobby due to the explosion in E-Zines, how we consume our train videos has changed too.

YouTube has become my go-to place for rail fanning vision. Today’s ‘Site seeing’ reflects the best of railfan video.

YouTube site 1: Delay in Block productions

There’s a great choice of documentary length videos here. Some switching related, others location related. Some are only 6-8 minutes in length, others like this one (Offsite Link) run to just under an hour and show a lot of freight action.

YouTube site 2: Distant Signal

Danny Harmon’s a railfanning machine. He’s been producing railfan videos for a long time (view his website here to buy his DVDs) with some of his earliest videos from 1995.

His recent series on the CSX signalling display and head indication (speed signalling) has been great to watch. Based in Florida he manages to have a great volume of vision and all of it interesting. As he says, he’s a railfan, not a modeller, and his videos reflect this. With great production values and a melodic voice, the Distant signal ought to be on your favourites list.

Look in the resources section for a bunch of links to Danny’s videos.

Other thoughts

We are 1/6th of the way through the year, and tomorrow we’ll be at the beginning of March. In Ballarat (and the rest of the southern hemisphere) it’s the beginning of Autumn. We’ve just had a big cool front blow through with rain and thunderstorms. 2015 is rocketing forward and before we know it winter will be on top of us. Thanks for reading along with me during February. I’ll talk to you next month.


Delayed in Block

· Fall Freights: NS, CSX, and the World’s Worst Railroad Tracks

Danny Harmon (Distant Signal)

· How to Read Signals On the CSX – Part 1

· How to Read Signals On the CSX – Part 2

· How to Read Signals On the CSX – Part 3

· How to Read Signals On the CSX – Part 4


Decisions made, regrets cast aside


I have toyed with  track plans for some time to see how best to fit a layout into the current space that I have. I’ve drawn out 50 different track plans, all of which will fit my needs and space, none of which really grabbed me emotionally.

I took another look at a layout I’d designed early in 2014 last week. Designed to be portable and to be taken to exhibitions. In the space I gave it (8 feet or 2400 mm long) the design was right on the perfect size if for me just a little short of perfect. There is nothing wrong with the layout design or operations plan; it works exactly how I’d designed it to work and with the attached fiddle yard it will be a cracker of a layout to work for extended periods at an exhibition.

It will be:

  • Easy to work by one person,
  • Take about 30 minutes per show (operating session),
  • Allow short bursts of work, interspersed with periods of talking with the people asking questions about the layout), and
  • Worked from the front of the layout.

To get a sense of what I’m aiming for take a look at this video from Model Railroad Hobbyist:

MRH shot the video on Mike Confalone’s layout (I loved it so much I bought his video and book set – they are really worth their weight.) Watch the thing and you’ll be hooked.


The layout is a fictional end of the line switching area. I’ve long been a fan of a little layout call Iota from a long ago RMC article. But while I wanted to make a larger version of the Iota, and have devised several track plans to do just that I’ve never been able to get it to work for me in my space.

You can see three of my published designs here:

  1. The Iota Shortline
  2. Iota in 8′ x 6′
  3. Room Sized Iota

I’d even thought about doing Box Car Haven (link here) as I have the space and boards ready to go. However, I wanted something simpler, with enough work operationally to allow me greater play time, and less staging and management.


The fact that my location and layout is fictional means little to me. I have thought about the location, its history, and its present in-depth. There’ll be a sense of abandonment, growth, decline and then regrowth in the scenic treatment; buildings will also show this time of change on their surface, with old parts, and new construction giving the viewer a sense of time having passed.

The layout sits at a datum of 49 inches off the floor. This is about right for my son’s eye height at the moment. My wife and daughter are a couple of inches shorter than my son and so for now the layout stays where it is. I’d like to have the datum moved up to my eye height of 66 inches above the floor, but then no one else would enjoy the show.

I’ve designed lines of sight into the layout to stop people from being able to see the entire layout at any one time, and forcing them to move, change their viewing angle, look around corners and peer through building alleys into the layout.

The layout though small works on the principle of a two person crew. So even through the engineer cannot see the distances he has to go, his conductor is on the ground guiding him in – just as in the real world of railroading.


I’ve changed all the freight car bogies over to Kadee fully equalised trucks. Proto-weighted the cars to their cubed scale-weight equivalent, and weighted them heavy down low but glued weights along the tops of the cars in the corners to ensure that I’ll get a little rocking motion; it’s not perfect or quite how I’d like it but I cannot fully scale down the physics. In this way the cars move in a very prototypical fashion along the rails – especially Boxcars and Covered Hoppers.

During testing on the mocked up track plan I had a couple of months ago, the cars moved pretty much like you’d expect a real car to move. My switcher strained to get cars moving (so I’d get to feed power in to take up the slack) and then I could ease back on the throttle to keep them moving. In HO scale (I also model in O scale) you have no idea how sweet it is to see a switcher stretching a train and watching cars fight the move until inertia takes over. Once the load stretches out you have to drive the locomotive like the real thing.

The last thing on my list is to limit the speed of all loco decoders to around 25 MPH. And I’m going to drop the output level of the bell, and the sound decoder in general.


As a whole package the design will work, at least for me, to allow a simple and easy to set up switching session any night that I want to for around 30 minutes worth of fun. There’s little management time required and the fun starts with only a limited amount of set up time. There are additions I’ll be adding to the layout to extend the run around the second wall of the garage to extend the switching room and to lengthen the operation time to about the 60 – 75 minute mark for longer operating sessions.

Added to that the CV changes I’ve made to make sure that trains simply do not stop but roll on means that all along the way I’ll be happy working the model to give me and the other operators a sense of what it really means to work my layout.


Gritty, run-down, rebuilt and modernised, the Hunter Valley RR will be a lot of fun to run. I’ve got to spend some time working the track plan out in AnyRail over the next week. Once I have that completed I’ll post a copy here and see what you think.

Sadler’s Sidings – An update.

Earlier in the month I had talked about Sadler’s sidings – T-Trak Andrew’s adventure into the world of operating layouts – his current work in N scale using something very close to T-Trak standards.

He has posted an update to that original post, about building the layout boards which I found to be very interesting considering how small these things are.
Andrew’s use of materials and his notes make for interesting reading. And he’s going to post a full description to his blog shortly. For right now though head on over to the N Gauge Forum – go to page 2 – and read all about it.

T-TRAK Andrew's Blog - Adventures in N scale Model Railways

I have extended my description of the construction of the modules for Sadler’s Sidings at the N Gauge Forum on page 2 of the following thread:
will update this blog in a more orderly manner in a week or two.

View original post

My place on the map

Chris Mears has posted a great article on the aesthetics of layout design. About how things look, how they feel to him as the operator, and as a viewer within his living room space (the layout will be a piece of furniture within the room so I think his point is more than valid. He’s aiming for something that is organic but satisfying from a modelling perspective too. Have a read, I hope you find it as interesting as I did.

Prince Street

I’ve been reluctant to place my layout on a map. In the past, I started with a list of prototypes, a list of what I have already, and a list of what I could or wanted to buy. Past layouts were borne in the common ground where those lists intersected. With the opportunity to start over again this time, I wanted to approach everything from a more emotional perspective.

By hosting my mock operating sessions and pushing trains around on the cardboard deck I’ve been fine tuning locations of not just track or scenic elements but providing myself with a chance to evaluate each element and questions like:

  • Do I like the way the locomotives look when they’re backing down the branch to tie onto a car?
  • Do I like standing here when I’m switching that car?
  • Does it feel comfortable when I reach into the scene here?

Questions like…

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Site seeing – 22 February

The Internet has changed the way we model. No longer do we have the tyranny of distance – where what we model is simply too far away. Over the last few years a modellers ability (in my case from Ballarat Australia) to model US prototype no longer relies on the US model magazines to show me the areas I can model. And this does not apply only to the US. If you want to model Romanian railways, French, Lithuanian, Scottish, Welsh, South African or Chinese railways the resources are out there for you.

Modelling magazines have changed what they present too. There are the old school magazines, like Model Railroader, and the new magazines like Model Railroad Hobbyist, S Scale Resource and O Scale resource among others.

Site 1: The O Scale Resource

Another of the new style magazines, with no upfront costs and advertiser supported. The new March – April edition of the magazine was just released.

  • There’s a review of the O Scale West (USA) show
  • A feature on Battery power, and
  • Making retaining walls from castings

Check the website for more and note that you can also download previous issues for free.


The O Scale Resource Magazine (Offsite Link)

Coffee and copperclad

Chris Mears is building a new layout at the moment in N Scale and has chosen to hand-build the switches and track work.
In this post from the Prince Street blog he share some valuable lessons learned while building a major switch on the layout (which looks smashing by the way). Lessons like taking your time, protecting your creation until it is ready to be installed on the layout, and the value of learning from your own experience while teaching others.
I hope that you enjoy his post.

Prince Street

When I got out of bed today I thought I would make some coffee and then head west to join up with some model railroaders from Moncton who were visiting on the Island today to operate on some local layouts. While savouring the first mouthfuls of hot espresso I figured I’d switch on the computer and double-check today’s schedule. Then I realised I’ve made a terrible mistake: the Moncton guys weren’t going to be here today. They’ll be here tomorrow. It’s been a long time since the last time I was that grateful for re-reading an email. Feeling a little embarrassed, I poured another coffee for myself and looked around for something quiet to pick at so as to not disturb the tranquility of an early Saturday morning. It didn’t take long to warm up the soldering iron and with that in hand, I added the missing rails to my…

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Site Seeing February 21

It’s all operations Saturday, thanks to Martin Hogg, the owner and operator of Brett.

Site 1: Brett – a full operating session video

Martin Hogg’s released a new video (Brett’s been featured recently on the blog).

This time you get to see a full operating session from start to finish.

This video shows just how much enjoyment you can derive from switching on a relatively small layout with a reasonably simple track plan.

I’m guessing the operating session lasted around 25 – 30 minutes from start to finish. As soon as I get some feedback from Martin I’ll update this post and let you know for sure.

Good work that man! On you Martin.

Update 1:
I talked with Martin Hogg today and he confirmed that the operating session takes about 25 minutes (although he says its heard to be sure as he was busy phaffing around with the camera to be sure). He’ll be running another session to confirm that but I’m pretty sure that it’ll be right around the 25 minute mark, depending on the work to be done.

Site seeing – 20 February

While looking around for some research material for a fellow weatherer recently, I came across a site with a surprisingly large amount of information on prototype trucks. Now that the information pertains mainly to ‘N’ Scale is neither here nor there. The more information you have on trucks under freight cars the better.

Site 1: Mark Peterson’s N Scale Model Railroading Projects & Resources

For the N Gauge modeller Mark has a lot of useful information for N gauge modellers, but there’s more there than just that. Go take a look at the site and then check out the truck detail page.

Visit more.

Site 2: Trackside Treasures

For all things Canadian, including up to the minute updates of train movements. Eric Gagnon’s site states that it’s about ‘Trips, Trains and 35+ Years Trackside with Canada’s Railways’.

You can read more about the railways of Canada and his published works here:

Site seeing – 20 February

If you’ve taken a look at the layout design gallery over on the original site, you’ll note that I really like small layouts.

Today’s site seeing picks up on that theme with a small layout build over on the RMWeb site.

Site 1: Tilley S Yard

The layout design for the Tilley S Yard (an Inglenook using a double lift traverser) and set in the mid 1950s in the ATSF Zebra stripe era. What I think will be really interesting is the scenic treatment on this layout.

Set in Chicago in the winter, there’ll be snow about and on the ground. I must say I am looking forward to how this layout grows over time and how the scenery, affected by the weather in Chicago comes out. The link to the first post is below in the resources section.


RMWeb: Tilley S Yard, an Inglenook set in Chicago in the winter of 1956-1957 (Offsite Link)

Site Seeing 18 February


The IAIS Grimes Industrial Line

1 – The IAIS Grimes Industrial Line

In my site seeing post yesterday I mentioned the publishing bonanza we’ve inherited thanks to the internet. One of these great sites is the free (as in Beer) internet Model Railroading Magazine – the Model Railroad Hobbyist (Link Here).

Apart from a great magazine that I’ve read since issue number one, there are the modellers blogs that are associated on the site. Among the best of the blogs is the Grimes Industrial layout blog of JFMcNab (Link Here).

You can also see a range of photos from his layout on the Unofficial IAIS Railfans website (Link Here).

Take some time and take a look around and discover the Grimes Industrial Line. I think you’ll enjoy the Grimes Line sites.


Watch one of James’ videos from his YouTube channel: