Why I chose not to design my layout – part 1

Introduction

I’ve designed a lot of layouts over the years, because I wanted to and because I got paid to. With my new layout though I wanted to take a more organic approach, one that relied less on the ruler and more on the eye.

Apparently I’m not the only one following this process. Over on Lance Mindheim’s blog, he recently wrote in a post  that (offsite Link Here) – “… with a smaller project a lot can be accomplished in 1:1 scale simply by mocking things up full-scale with boxes and loose pieces of track.  The elements can be re-sized and moved around until you get the look that you want…

I know exactly what I want this new layout to look like. I know the signature scenes I want to include, and I have my set of wants that have to be included to make this enjoyable for me. Sometimes you simply cannot beat the mod 1, mark 1 eyeball to tell you when you’ve hit the mark.

It’s all about the operations

Over the last couple of months I’ve played around with the physics on my DCC & Sound equipped engines. When I’ve times the sessions using an old Tablet computer set aside specifically for that task, what I’ve noticed is that when running prototypically, that is with slow switching speeds, easy moves, and time between moves to allow the offsider (a conductor, or second person) to do their work, eating up 20 minutes is very easy.

To enjoy an operating session I have to be actively involved in the doing of the work. To do this I have made changes to freight cars that I’ve found have a profound effect on how I work. For example; I’ve brought average car weight up, close to the Cubed-Root (CR) of the real car. You might not want to do this if you are running plastic trucks and wheel-sets or have cars traversing long distances as wear and tear will show.

Coupler Bounce what the … ?

With Kadee equalised metal trucks and metal wheel sets I’ve noticed a complete change in the physics involved, and that is what I had hoped for. So when I couple up to a single freight car with a CR close to the real weight you do not get what I call coupler bounce.

Coupler bounce is where the car takes off in the opposite direction (thanks Sir Isaac) when a locomotive pushes up against the car’s coupler face. My lighter freight cars continued to do this no matter how lightly I pushed up to couple on. The added weight causes friction in the Kadee truck journals, and physics come into play such that the extra CR weight requires more energy to get moving.

As I convert cars over to Kadee trucks I’m making sure that I CR the weight to make sure I get better handling characteristics. I know that this flies in the face of the accepted practice, but once you see this in action, especially in a longer string of cars when the slack runs out, you can never go back.

It’s all in the switch action

I love working yards, and switching industries. I was born to play at doing this. It keeps me happy, and engaged, and with many locations to switch, that are independent of each other I will never get bored with the challenge of switching a layout with multiple customer spurs and car spots.

I love the down and dirty, first mile, last mile railroad action that you find in customer switching. With a marshalling area that allows me to make up trains for delivery to interchange, and break down trains for delivery to customers and I’m about as happy as anyone can be.

In part two of this particular rant, I’ll talk more about the operations and paperwork that I’m going to use on the layout. For now, the sun is out, the wind is very cool and all is well in Ballarat. So I’ll leave you to it…

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About Andrew Martin

After a long IT and Telecommunications career in the USA and Australia, I've decided I need a break. Professionally I'm focused on direct contact customer service - people helping people. Hobby wise I'm focused on model railway layout building and modelling. I blog, write and publish as often as I am able.
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