Category Archives: SuperNook

Incorporating an Supernook in the design

Thoughts on modelling the Montpelier, OH Elevator

Small layouts have to meet the needs, and desires, of their owners. Often that is not easy as we want it all, but in a small space.  In this post, we’ll look at how you can work with the track layout from the elevator at Montpellier, OH (see this post) to fit in a smaller space, even if you don’t want to model an elevator.

There is so much that you can do with a good track layout!

Disclaimer

So before I begin, I wanted to make this clear:

  • If you want to model the Eden Co-Op, in an as-is, where-is format, if in a somewhat smaller version, knock yourself out. I’ll go through that in the section below.
  • However, should you want to use the track plan and model something else, then I have a few ideas about that for you too.

Now, feel free to read on.

Site overview

Image 1: The Eden Farmers C-Op Ass’n in Montpelier, Ohio USA

After clicking the image above, which I hope you’ll find interesting, you’ll note that the track arrangement is basically a double-ended Inglenook (I call it a Supernook) providing:

  1. a run-around option for the locomotive,
  2. off-spot locations for cars not being spotted under the over-track auger(s), and
  3. somewhere to go off the layout at the end of the session.

The track plan
Image 2: The track plan

And that neighbours, is everything we need to make an operating layout (see my Ops 101 series starting here for more).

According to our friend Google, the branch line is just under a kilometre at 941 metres (or 3084 feet) from the toe of the switch on the left of the branch to the road on the right. To model it all you’d need 35 feet and four inches, give or take. We’re into small layouts so we’re not going to do that.

Site Operation

The elevator receives empty blocks of cars inbound, shipping loaded blocks of cars out. The elevator has its own switcher (an SW-1200 of 1955 vintage) to do all the in-plant moves.  From the video I pointed to in the previous post, I’m guessing that there might be multiple types of grain available for loading within the block, and this is why the centre track is used to store cars before they are loaded.  You’ll note in the video that the switcher is pulling trucks from the centre track.

Assuming that there are no cars waiting to be loaded, the general operation goes something like this:

  1. Class 1 railroad switches a block of empty cars for loading by the elevator (pushing cars in from the yard – left of the above image). They place these cars onto the branch line (top of the picture)
  2. The plant switcher fires up, after being shore powered (it looks like they have a mains plug to float the battery voltage at the right-most building) overnight
  3. The switcher then hooks up to the first block of the inbound cars, pulls forward to the switching lead, and pushes the cars back onto the loading track (bottom track on the image above)
  4. Where a car is not in the right loading order, the switcher sets this car out to the middle track
  5. The switcher then repeats step 3, and step 4, as necessary until the cars are all loaded
  6. Once switching is complete the switcher then goes back onto the switching lead, is powered down and then reattached to shore power.
  7. The class 1 railroad now switches out the loaded hoppers and the cycle starts again.

Modelling Opportunities

As-Is

Modelling a single industry provides you with focus. In this case, it is a single commodity and car type operation. On the positive side though you only need to buy one locomotive. And there is lots of switching. And if that’s your thing then you’re good to go.

While the original site is really big, a model of it doesn’t have to be. You can build a layout based on this industry, using the simple principles of the Inglenook and model it in a lot less space by determining the maximum number of cars that you want to switch in any given session. And

Freelancing Opportunities

The elevator at Montpellier as shown in the last post is big; really, really big. It handles unit grain trains with an empties in/loads out procedure. So I guess you’re wondering “what is Andrew thinking!

A smaller version elevator

But we don’t want to model this site full size. Instead, we want to model a smaller version of the site. And for that, we’re going to use the classic Inglenook design that is double-ended so you can run around the cuts at either end (see this page for an overview of the Inglenook) to shorten the length to something more manageable.

From the track plan above you’ll note that I’ve named the tracks as Branch Line, Overflow and Elevator track. The branch line is the longest track, with the other two being roughly the same size. That is why the Inglenook is the perfect solution to shrinking the track down to a manageable size. In the resources section below I’ve listed the very best calculators (some on this site, others off) to help you determine the length and number of cars you can fit in a given space.

Same track arrangement, different industry

I can think of several industries that you could model, that require constant switching, mainly in the food industry (refrigerator cars, and boxcars primarily) that will keep your single loco crew hopping for each session. By keeping the same track arrangement cars would be left on the overflow track by the Shortline or Class 1 railroad, and then taken by the company switcher and placed onto the loading track.

To boost operations you could work as follows:

  1. The session starts with the loco on the right end tail track
  2. Empty cars are pulled from the overflow track and pushed onto the loading dock or to the loading doors
  3. As cars are loaded they are pushed to the end of the loading track
  4. More cars are pulled from the overflow track, and the cycle continues
  5. As space is freed up on the overflow track those loaded cars can be switched back to the overflow track using the branch line as the run-around
  6. Rinse and repeat until your loads are completed and a train of loads is assembled on the overflow track
  7. The session ends when the loco is parked up on the right end tail track

Here are my thoughts on what your food-based industries could be:

A frozen foods manufacturer (meat, vegetables, fish, you name it) – empties in, loads out with a slab-sided warehouse and environmental dock door arrangement.  A modern facility (from the 1980s onward) would be a better option. The doors would need to line up with boxcars of the era. Mostly 50 or 60 footer mechanical refrigerators. Luckily, there are plenty of those on the market at the moment.

Other industries off the top of my head are a breakfast cereal factory, or Snack cake bakery (think Hostess), plywood factory, auto part (castings) manufacturer, a food-service warehouse (a mix of dry and frozen doors would work here similar to the old Austin, TX SYSCO/US Foodservice warehouse, using doors rather than docks.

The list of ideas is almost limitless. If they ship a lot of stuff to other factories you could use the track plan and scale it down as needed for your site. Making it a stand-alone layout means you could have a small, high-quality operations based layout up and running quickly, and prototypically in just a couple of weekends. Then spend a couple of years adding detail you go. 1 locomotive, especially an older SW, rusty GP9 or a patched GP20 would do. Try a leased unit.

I hope this has given you an idea or two, and that you’ve found the post useful. In the meantime don’t forget to check out the resources below. Like, comment and subscribe if you find my content useful. I hope to hear from you soon.

Resources

Staying in Contact

Interested in keeping in touch or discussing posts, pages and ideas?  You can do that in several ways:

First mile, last mile railroading – what is it?

So what is it?

First-mile/last-mile railroading, what modellers refer to as customer switching, is the customer end of railroading. That is the setting out and picking up cars from a customer’s premises on the railroad. This can be directly from a customer’s spur, a ramp at the local yard or a team track, off the local mainline.

It is the point at which the customer and the railroad meet. All railroad economics relies on it and always has.  While in the modern era the customer has gotten bigger to take advantage of intermodel and block trains, the underlying forces remain the same. Customer shipping goods. Railroads picking up goods and moving them to their destination. Destination (consignee) receiving and accepting goods.

So why is this important to me?

For you, the small layout builder/operator, the first-mile/last-mile end of the operation is the:

  • simplest to model,
  • easiest to operate, and
  • most interesting to work with for the longer term

Whether you use a ‘tuning fork’, inglenook, supernook, or another layout design element you enjoy, by focusing on the customer end of the operation you make the layout simpler to build, which means getting going faster. You can operate for 10 minutes, 30 minutes or for as long or short as you have the time for. And over the life of the layout (whether that is a few months, or a decade or more), operation varies day to day, session by session, from a well-designed customer operation so that no two sessions are ever the same.

If you’ve been following the blog for a while you’ll know that I enjoy watching Railfan Danny on Youtube. Danny has just released another video, this time a Q&A session. One of those questions was about first-mile/last-mile railroading. I hope you’ll watch the entire video, for those without the time, I’ve linked to the 7:11 mark to watch the section specific to today’s post.

Resources

  • Railfan Danny’s “Railroad Questions Winter 2021”

There are more switching videos over at Danny’s YouTube channel, just follow the link below to go to all the videos with ‘switching’ in the description:

Staying in Contact

Interested in keeping in touch or discussing posts, pages and ideas?  You can do that in several ways:

Insight – Why am I modelling the way I do?

A recent conversation with a fellow modeller has bought me back to thinking about why I’m modelling, and what my modelling should represent. Let me explain.


I have a lot less modelling time now than I ever did before, due to my work commitment, which is driving the nature of my modelling in different (if interesting new) directions.

Among the changes I’ve had to make is in the scope of the work. Because it takes longer to complete larger and more complex projects I’m focusing on smaller easier to complete in a day projects as my primary goal. I have some large projects that remain on the table. These will be for items I cannot buy, kitbash or otherwise make out of something else.

Will this change the nature of posts that appear here on the Andrew’s Trains blog? No, I don’t believe so. This blog has always been about small layouts with lots of operational potential, and that is in line with what I am moving to in my modelling.

Weathering will continue to play a large part in my modelling, upgrading blue-box style kits to better reflect the prototype is where I found real joy in modelling as a young man. And I’m going back to that in a big way this year. There’ll be more posts along these lines to come over the next few months as I get my modelling life back in order.

With a demanding and hectic work life simplicity is my goal. Modelling simplicity likewise has to be the case. Simple projects that can be done with:

  1. tools I already have,
  2. resources I already have, and
  3. that can be completed in the time I have to give them.

This is the focus of my modelling going forward. Likewise to layout building. I have a couple of projects that I want to complete, one of which is a Supernook, a new design I’m working on now that will begin with the baseboards build before we left the USA 13 years ago. I’ll be continuing on with the US-based shunting layouts, but I’m interested in building a Australian/UK-based Minories layout soon as well.


Takeaway

I’ve made modelling a complex and often difficult endeavour. I’ve lost my love of producing models that I enjoyed building and that I am proud of. Life is short, and more so as I near my mid 50s. Time with my family and enjoying what I do is not limitless. So the time is now to make the changes that keep me happy, healed and enjoying what I do. I hope that you will stay along for the ride. With almost 100,000 unique views over the last 3 years I’m hopeful that you will stick around and see what is coming.

Site update – 20 March – Updated 12 foot home layout design page

There has been a lot of thoughtful experimentation going on at Andrew’s Trains of late. While I was ‘reasonably happy’ with my Mk 72 layout design I wasn’t joyous about it. Recently while rediscovering some of my older layout designs I came across the design for ‘Industrial Park East’, as shown below, from somewhere about 2006-7.‘. Something in this design called out to me and so I set off on a slight redesign from the Mk 72 to Mk73 version. The changes I made have allowed me to get the ‘flow’, and the look that I wanted. I know this all sounds like something ‘the Dude’ would say from the Big Lebowski at this point but if it doesn’t work for you while you’re designing it, then it sure won’t work for you once you’ve committed track to plywood.

There’s a lot more information on the what, the why and the wherefore on the additional layout design page (yes I added another one to keep it all straight in my head). If your interest is peaked and you’d like to see more click the link in the line above and head on over to read on.

Thanks for reading – now it’s back to your regularly scheduled programming.

Site Seeing – March 18 – The ‘other’ Glendale freight layout edition

It’s been a while since my last post and that is thankfully due to being fully employed for the first time in two and a half years. A full-time job is a very satisfying thing. But I digress.

As I wrote in my March 6th post I’ve worked up another idea for the Glendale Freight layout. Let me say from the outset, that this is not one of my better ideas; especially after seeing Bruce Petty’s original layout. There’s merit in the ideas expressed in the design certainly – it just doesn’t have that vibe going on as Bruce’s layout does in spades. Before I go on to tear my work apart let’s take a look at a 1/12th scale model and why I find them so useful for designing a layout.

So what’s wrong with this layout idea?

  • Firstly the central theme of the design is not the freight station, it is the entrance from staging onto the layout.
  • I wanted to have the train enter through a portal of buildings, cross the street and then go about its business. It’s a pretty skimpy idea right? There’s no meat on the bones though.
  • Why this means to enter onto the layout instead of some other way? Is there some missing story about this means of entrance; did the city grow up around the freight station for example? But isn’t this supposed to be Glendale CA, right? Well, is it?

The layout is overall 8 feet long (2400mm) and each square is 12 x 12 inches (300 x 300 mm). It is 2 feet (600mm) wide. And it’s very linear.

So what would I do different now that I’ve built this mini layout?

  1. Angle the entrance onto the layout,
  2. Angle the buildings and the street to the long axis of the layout,
  3. Cluster the switches near the end of the run around, and finally
  4. I’d make a transition between the industrial area on ‘main street’ at the entrance end and the other end of the layout – making it more suburban

And having had a while to think on how I’d make those changes here’s a rough drawing of the layout that ‘could’ spring from this thought experiment.

This design has gravitas. It is the last bastion of railroading in the inner city, and the edge of the suburbs. Sure there are some strange curves, and I’d rework the industry lead and the industry back wall too. But it is much more interesting and tells much more of a story than the first layout.

This layout could be setup as is with the industries, it could be modified for a single industry layout (say an industrial workplace such as a foundry), or it could be something that I’ve not considered and that you already have swimming around in that pool of ideas in your head. As an aside, I videoed the first layout build process. If interested in seeing that video let me know in the comments and I’ll post it here over the next week or so.

Site seeing 28 September – the Sprung has springed edition!

It is spring in the southern half of the world, and as a result everyone is coming down with seasonal allergies after a very long (well it seemed that way), cold (no it really was as cold as charity according to the weather bureau) and miserable winter.

Today is also marks my brother’s birthday – so Happy Birthday Scott. Hope that you get the message. More importantly I hope that you are reading the blog! But enough of me and onto the site seeing!

Site 1: One turnout layout variation

I’ve mentioned Chris Mears’ site in the past. His current post provides some interesting thoughts on variations among other thoughts on the “One turnout layout” posited by Lance Mindheim in the May 2013 edition of the Model Railroad Hobbyist Magazine.

Read the article, and then read, and take part if you’re willing, in the discussion at the end of the post. It’s been thoughtful reading. Not saying that I agree with it all, but it has been thought provoking.