Category Archives: TOMA

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:

Evans Hollow Industrial: Build Update (A name finally)

It’s nice to have the time to allow ideas to form in their own way, and in their own time. Deciding on a name with the new layout has been one of those journeys…


Finding a name

Tonight after dinner the family and I caught the end of my favourite movie ‘Field of Dreams’. I believe this movie is the ultimate Dad and son movie. The constant refrain in the movie is: ‘If you build it, he will come’. I’m under no illusion that my Dad will walk out of the corn field any time soon to spend time to operate with me. (I don’t have a cornfield, and I’m avert to cornfield meets in any case.) On the odd chance that he does walk out of the corn he’ll have a great time working the layout. So you know – there’ll be a complete post covering everything you’ll want to know about operating the layout in a future post – never fear.

I doubt that I would have my love of trains and transportation if it were not for my Dad. We were not a well to do family but my father made sure that I had a train set or two, including a Triang 00 scale Dock shunter set. We had our issues he and I, but then which father and son do not? Without his early influence I doubt I’d have had my life long passion of railway modelling and transportation.

My Dad (Evan Louis Martin) was a World War 2 veteran, suffering silently all of his life after service with PTSD. Passing through the veil in 1993 I will be celebrating him in October 2021 on his 100th birthday.

It’s fitting then that the man who started it all for me should have this layout named after him. After my ‘Field of Dreams’ moment last night I’ve decided instead on celebrating the man who bought me to my passion. So I’d like to welcome you to the Evans Hollow Industrial.

There’ll be another post on the layout soon, Part 3 covering the building of the trestles. All the best until then.

Site Seeing – the Model RR to Go edition

Good day readers wherever you may be, and whatever you may be doing. It has been a while since my last post. That’s mainly down to my work schedule being all-consuming, and the days being long and the start times being all over the clock face. Nine months into my new role as a tram driver I’ve just managed a couple of weeks off and needed every moment to recover.

While recovering and looking around for some layout baseboard design ideas today I stumbled across Rick De Candido’s Fillmore Avenue Roundhouse blog.

His section of layout concepts (click this link to open a new window) has several great ideas. He really thinks outside the box on many of his designs. There is such creativity from this space starved modeller.


POST UPDATE – August 8, 2019
It appears that Rick’s WP site has been removed. I’m trying to contact him through multiple sites to see if there is a new site for this layout. I’ll do my best to keep this post updated.

His terminal layout is something to see too, and can utilise up to 6 operators on the layout during each 2.5 hour operating session. Well worth the time to visit the site and take a long read through the many useful posts there. Thanks to Rick for sharing his passion.

Rick’s Fillmore Avenue Roundhouse layout

Unfortunately I have no contact details for Rick, and there is nothing on the site where I can post a comment to let him know that I’ve profiled his site. If any of you can help with getting me in touch with Rick would you please reply to this post?

Ops, TT&TO, invective, and blah-blah-blah

It’s been a while since my last post. Life has become hectic with lots of work (as the opposite to none at all for quite some time) so to keep the blog moving I thought I’d cross post my response to Joe Fugate’s recent editorial: Secret to needing less layout on page 11 of the June 2017 edition of the e-zine ‘Model Railroad Hobbyist’. I found that as I read through the responses there was a lot of heat being generated by those for and against the smaller layout ethos. A recent kind email from a new model railroading friend Charles Malinowski got me to thinking about the original post on Joe’s editorial and the thought that perhaps it might be time to draw that line in the sand on this blog too.

If you can, take a moment, to read of some of the initial responses to Joe’s posting. Then either read my post on the MRH  site or as reproduced below. Don’t be shy. Got something to say, then comment and start the conversation here. It’s the only way we all learn.

Am I missing something? Did the hobby just become a pain in the butt during this discussion (and I’m not through reading all the responses yet)? Timetable and train orders, and… all to much work for me. While I understand that model railroading is all things to all people I don’t need all of that other stuff to make a me a happy modeller or operator.

I like small layouts. I live in rented accommodation, and will likely for the remainder of my life due to circumstances beyond my control. My wife loves the idea of me ‘not’ cluttering the place up with ugly wooden stuff that takes over the space, so I have to consider the aesthetic of any layout design as well as the piece of furniture it must also purport to be.

I’m limited in space, money and the time I have available to actually build the thing. So a long time ago I took the first mile, last mile approach to railway modelling. I model industries and locations where there is a lot of work to go on (switching) at an industry or location (such as a team track facility) getting the loads in and out in an efficient and useful way.

Do I care about Timetable and Train Order operation? Nope. Does it affect me as either the modelled customer or as an operator? Nope. And lastly, does it affect my enjoyment of the hobby? Nope. Would I love to model TT&TO operations? I’d love to but I cannot afford it.

I use paperwork, operations plans and rule books to model, and there’s a reason for this. I like my crew (usually my son and I) to feel the need to get the work done efficiently and with haste. There’s a train to catch out there somewhere and our cars need to be on it. I love operating by real railroad rules and with prototypical operations paperwork.

I focus on the things that matter to me, and that is the first mile and the last mile. What happens in between where the rail line curves away from my business – is none of my business. I put a lot of thought into what makes operations work for me. And I’ve shared that online as well. And it is not all that hard to achieve, especially in a small space. You can read more about that on my blog.

Joe’s TOMA approach I like. It means that it is achievable, in space, time and money. It gets you working quickly and allows for interests to develop as your skills and knowledge develop. Big TOMA, small TOMA, even in between TOMA… who cares? The idea is to get something going that allows you to play, find out what you enjoy the most and do that with the effort you have available.

Thanks Joe for sharing that article. I’ve been following along with the TOMA approach because it mirrors what I’m already doing and because it makes sense from my son’s perspective (Dad can we get something running now, I want to play with the trains again).

I appreciate that others do things differently. It’s a good thing. Let’s not get so focused on the forest that we forget about the trees. Happy modelling from Ballarat in Victoria.