I’ve been watching the Boomer Dioramas’ channel for over a year now. I never cease to be amazed by his skill, dedication and most of all, his artistry. This two-part series is a standout.
I hope that you’ll enjoy learning the skills, tips and tricks that Boomer uses to build this mixed media kit. Apart from being a beautiful little kit, there is a lot of scratch building that elevates the kit from good to brilliant.
Building Showcase Miniatures Wrecker
This two-part series is an absolute must-watch. I’ve learned so much about building mixed media kits just watching. And I’ll be referring back to them regularly to increase my skills as I have several kit builds that have stalled because of my limitations.
This all started when I saw a Facebook post by Aaron Riley showcasing his Metra Service Centre layout, adapted from a Robert Chant design, in HO scale. I reached out to him and asked if he’d be willing to share more about his layout with us all. Aaron was gracious and extended many images and much information about his layout that allowed me to create that initial post. What most struck me from the outset was that the layout in the photos does not look like what it is, a small footprint layout. It appears larger while providing a great deal of operating potential that would provide many years of interesting operations for anyone interested in building from Rob’s original design.
Inspired by the layout I pulled information from my day job working in a similar location and wrote the Operations for Maintenance Centre Layout Series (see the links for all 7 parts in the resources section below). While you don’t need to read all of the posts before taking on this post, there is a lot of contextual information there that will help in understanding the redesign that I’m proposing.
I want to take Rob Chant’s original layout design, which is more suited to an earlier time of operation (say through the early to mid-1990s) and bring it into the 21st century. Those not in the rail industry often think that maintenance centres change little over time. Nothing is further from the truth. As operational needs and operators change, major often drastic changes to facilities occur that allow operators to streamline and manage throughput (lowering costs in the process). My depot has changed twice in the last 20 years. Each time with major additions to its layout.
Enough preamble, let’s get into the meat of the article and look at how to bring Rob’s design into the modern-day.
Rob’s Original Design
For reference here is Rob Chant’s design, as used by Aaron Riley to build his layout. I’m going to be referring back to this image quite a lot. It may be worthwhile to either open a new window, or another tab with this image to make referring to it easier.
Bringing the layout into the 21st Century
The design below mirrors, to some degree, what I see at work every day.
Comparing the two designs you’ll notice right away the differences. The second design is streamlined and devoted to one function: getting train sets out of the gate and onto the mainline and the reverse as needed. To cover all of the changes I’ll start on the left and move to the right.
Parts Warehouse – GONE
Starting on the left top of the layout you’ll notice that the parts warehouse is gone, along with the scrapping line, sand house and locomotive shed. In modern facilities such as this, all parts have been moved into the main maintenance sheds and are now delivered by road. Except for rolling stock being returned from upstream maintenance centres, nothing arrives by rail.
Scrap Line – GONE
Scrapping too has moved off-site. As I mentioned in the article series major maintenance is carried out off-site at what I term upstream maintenance centres. Determination of end-of-life status for railcars and locomotives happens at this higher level and not at the running depot level.
To help you understand why running depots no longer have the means or the authority to scrap rolling stock onsite let’s go down the rabbit warren to understand the three major reasons for removing rolling stock from the asset register (or roster if you prefer):
Condemnation occurs when rolling stock is:
life expired because of age, mileage covered, or material stress such as fractures in frames, failures of major high-cost components
determined to be uneconomic to continue to maintain or repair, often because of the rising cost of replacement parts or sub-assemblies driving ongoing maintenance costs above those of outright replacement
Withdrawal occurs when rolling stock is:
considered to be excess to current need due to adverse economic circumstances such as a downturn (COVID caused a lot of this), which usually means the asset will be stored out of service until needed later on by the operator,
determined to be no longer required by the operator, yet is still in a saleable and serviceable condition in which case it will be put out for tender by interested parties and often sold into service with another operator, and finally
determined to be no longer required for operation by the operator, but usable as a source of spare parts to keep other similar units running by the operator
Accident damage occurs when rolling stock is:
involved in an accident and has suffered damage sufficient to make the cost of refurbishment equal to or more than the value of the asset, its insurance value, for example, it will be stripped of usable parts by the maintenance teams, and then sold by tender to interested scrappers
Locomotive Shed – GONE
Locomotives are generally left out in the open on an available track spot, so shedding is no longer required. All light maintenance that can be carried out at the running depot would be carried out in the regular maintenance sheds. These items would include checking and topping up fluid levels, replacing minor components such as oil filters, light globes, brake blocks, windscreen wipers, cleaning the crew compartment, emptying waste tanks, etc. All other maintenance items would be carried out at the upstream facilities.
Bulk Oil & Diesel Tanks – MOVED
The bulk oil tanks for locomotive fuel have been moved to the area near the admin offices. This allows for trucks to deliver directly to the tank area. No supplies are received at the running facility by rail. The tanks can be serviced by trucks 24 hours a day, and most likely receive a top-up on Monday, Wednesday and Friday.
Road Vehicle Garage – MOVED
With the focus changed to getting train sets serviced and onto the mainline, road vehicles have been moved off the layout. Any of the greyed areas can act as parking spaces (so long as there is clearance between trains and vehicles).
Crew Amenities Building – ADDED
The crew amenities building and the cleaners annexe have been added to provide better facilities for change rooms, meal (mess) areas, toilets and training rooms in line with modern practice.
Hazardous & Waste Storage – MOVED
These two sheds have been moved to the maintenance shed (off layout) in line with modern practice.
Paint Shop – GONE
All paint-work has been moved to the upstream maintenance centres.
Contaminated Storage Tanks – MOVED
As with the other storage buildings mentioned above, all of this storage is now contained within the maintenance building footprint.
Bulk Sand Storage Silos – MOVED
Sanding facilities have been moved to the roof of the maintenance facility to save space and simplify sand delivery to sandboxes wherever it is needed. Sand delivery comes in by road at the rear of 4 road on the paved area there. There is an air feed sand line that runs across the top of the maintenance sheds to the loco sanding facility between 9 and 10 roads.
As an additional point of interest, passenger cars can be filled by a sand buggy (not a dune buggy, unfortunately) that allows sand service to passenger cars when and where needed in the facility. The sand buggy has its own air supply to blow sand into the sandboxes.
Road Numbering – ADDED
Each road has been numbered and is used as follows:
1-3 are for ‘ready; train set storage, that is these sets are ready to run out onto the mainline.
4 through 8 are maintenance roads where:
4 road is the washing road.
5 road is the wheel lathe road.
6, 7 and 8 roads are all pit roads for general service and maintenance of train sets.
9 and 10 roads are for locomotive storage and supplemental sanding
11 road is the locomotive fueling road
Modellers should note that fueling and sanding may occur without interfering with maintenance activity on 8 road. 9 road may be designated the locomotive arrival road. And when time allows sanding can happen here, before the locomotive goes to 11 road to be fueled. After fueling the locomotive can be stored on 10 road until needed.
This is the last post in the current series based around Aaron Riley’s excellent Metra Layout. I’ve tried to share my knowledge of the operation of these facilities and I hope that you have gotten something from the series. If you have a comment on what you’ve enjoyed and would like more of would be appreciated.
I’ll be moving on to looking at how I would operate the Australian RIP track layout I posted about some time ago. I have another very small layout design that I am working on at the moment in that vein, and I wanted to see what sort of operations you can have on a 4 foot long RIP track layout to keep it interesting. More on that in the next post.
Welcome to the final instalment of the Operations on a Maintenance Centre Layout series. In this post, we’ll run through the game using the layout as the game board, the train sets as the pieces and using the cards offered in the last post as the modifiers and randomisers for the game. Let’s begin.
If you have not already read through the series, I suggest that you do so, You really need to have the background and knowledge of the previous posts to make the most sense of this. Still, it’s your electrons, so let’s get started on operating the layout as Rob Chant has envisioned for Aaron.
Please keep in mind that the following four steps (which are all paperwork related) can be done well before your next operating session once you have your train sets built, and the paperwork bundled together (as I posted in part 4). Now you see why I say you need to read all the previous parts to simplify this final post.
Step 1 – Set up your train sets
As we’ve already discussed a train set consists of a locomotive, a cab car and one or more trailer cars. This is the smallest (whole piece) in the game. Each train set needs to be stabled on the layout. Where it is doesn’t matter, it must be on the modelled section of the layout to matter at the start of the operating session.
Step 2 – Set up your train set paperwork
Using a train set holder (see part 4 for more information), that contains the basic set data, match your locomotive cards, cab car cards and trailer car cards to the locomotive and cars in each train set. Once this is completed you can now determine the state of the train set before the start of the running day in step 3 below.
Step 3 – Using dice for randomness
Each train set has to be cleared before leaving the yard for the mainline. This requires a dice roll (I’ve referenced this in Part 4) which I’ve decided can be a 6-sided dice. Keep in mind that if you’ve skipped the previous parts, what we’re doing is looking for switching opportunities (that is operations) within and without the yard. The dice assists in allowing chance to determine what train set is fit to run out of the yard, and what needs servicing or maintenance.
Step 4 – Consulting the card packs
With the die cast for each train set you now work through the results of the die roll to see whether the train set runs out as expected (which should be the bulk of outcomes), or maintenance on a loco, car or set is required.
Where a loco, car or set requires servicing, you consult the specified card set and follow the advice thereon. (Part 5 contains the downloads that allow you to print the cards in PDF format)
Minor delay cards mean just that. A set may not be clean and ready to run out. Or lights might not be functioning on a car in the train set. Sometimes no fault is found by our maintenance and train staff (represented by the die roll). I’ve skewed almost 43% of the cards toward this outcome because it is quite common that while a fault is reported by the train crew during use, maintenance staff either clear it on first touch or the fault has cleared by the time they get to it.
Medium delay cards work in the same manner, as do the major delay cards. The difference with these two card packs is that they provide for switching operations of “spare” cars and locos between sets, and require in some cases that cars and locos be moved to a higher level maintenance centre (for resolution of the problems) and thus you now have switching moves to complete.
Step 5 – Generating a switchlist
I suggest using a switch list as it allows me to enjoy the switching without the headache of remembering what goes where (click this link for an example I built using Excel in a new tab). You can keep it super simple and write everything you need to do using a pad of paper and a pen or pencil. Whatever floats your boat.
Once you understand what you need to do from the switchlist, it is time to get playing (or switching if you prefer). Among the things that you may need to do to train sets on the layout could include:
Moving train sets to service tracks,
Cutting locomotives off train sets and replacing them with another loco, or
Cutting a car, or cars out of a train set and moving them to maintenance tracks, before cutting a replacement car or cars into the train set, and clearing it for service (to staging),
Moving trains sets from service tracks to storage tracks when ready for service,
Building trains to be moved to upstream maintenance centres, and finally
Moving trains (of cars, of locos, or mixed consists) off the layout to those service centres.
After your first operating session, you will also be receiving cars and locos back after they’ve been fixed by the upstream maintenance centres (staging). These will require switching to either storage roads or into train set consists. And so the operations will go from there onward.
For small layouts built around maintenance centres, the hope of long term use and enjoyment at home or for exhibition use requires an easy means to make the layout work for you. Through the use of switching activities, randomness and an adversary (as mentioned in a previous post) you may find that you have more than enough to keep your interest using my method here.
I hope that you’ve found this series of benefit to you and your layout. Perhaps you can adapt what I’ve described to your own use and situation. Perhaps you can use it as is. If it gets you thinking about how you can use a system like this to improve your small layout operation then I’m a happy man. Let me know in the comments or on Facebook (link at the bottom of the page) how you have put it to use.
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!
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.
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:
a run-around option for the locomotive,
off-spot locations for cars not being spotted under the over-track auger(s), and
somewhere to go off the layout at the end of the session.
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.
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:
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)
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
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)
Where a car is not in the right loading order, the switcher sets this car out to the middle track
The switcher then repeats step 3, and step 4, as necessary until the cars are all loaded
Once switching is complete the switcher then goes back onto the switching lead, is powered down and then reattached to shore power.
The class 1 railroad now switches out the loaded hoppers and the cycle starts again.
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
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:
The session starts with the loco on the right end tail track
Empty cars are pulled from the overflow track and pushed onto the loading dock or to the loading doors
As cars are loaded they are pushed to the end of the loading track
More cars are pulled from the overflow track, and the cycle continues
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
Rinse and repeat until your loads are completed and a train of loads is assembled on the overflow track
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.
The Evans Industrial shelfie layout has hit a major milestone! Read on…
A quick heads-up for those of you following along with the slow build of this layout. We’ve hit a major milestone, with the completion of the wiring of the layout underside. No track down at this stage, but that is coming in the next day or so, and aiming to be at the testing stage during the Mothers Day weekend.
(That’s the second week in May if you need reminding like me!)
I’ve completed the wiring to my wiring standards. You can download a copy from this site, just head down to the resources section at the bottom of the page.
Just a couple of notes for those of you wondering:
Yes, I love wiring and electrics
Yes, the wiring is designed as a modular unit, to facilitate troubleshooting and replacement as necessary over the years
Yes, the wiring is extensible, in that this layout will be able to join up with other small layouts being planned in the future for this series
Yes, I had a lot of fun, and a little frustration – more on that in the article that I’ll be publishing in the next week or so – plus there’ll be a video too that I’m working on for the remainder of my vacation – I go back to work Sunday.
Hope that you have been able to get out and also do some modelling, and thanks for continuing to follow along with me. Stay well, stay safe, and stay modelling.
Content is moving around, and off-site to my other modelling related website to simplify the purpose and the mission of Andrew’s Trains.
I’m in the process of transferring all of the modelling related content off site to my modelling related pages on my personal website. THe aim is to keep layout designs here and all other content including the modelling articles there. That will take place during the first quarter of 2020. I aim to be layout designs only by April 2020.
Where will it go?
All of the modelling content will be transferred in stages to:
It’s a work in progress. However I’ve written up an new landing page for the VR GY wagon series as well as a part 2 of the build process this couple of days off. So you can head on over there to read more about that process. More information on the build was requested by a couple of readers and I apologise for the delay in getting that completed. Life has been busy, and my time is limited. But it is getting there.
I’ll keep you advised as things change and changes to both sites rollout.
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.
This video came to my notice thanks to a post on the Australian Model Railway Magazine’s (AMRM) Facebook account. And while not Australian in any way shape or form, Geoff Taylor’s Barmouth Junction layout is a visually stunning model.
Well worth the time to travel over the line and listen to it’s creator tell you about the layout. It’s a masterpiece and while not a small layout it is so well modelled and I imagine it is just as good to operate on that I wanted to share it with you.
Well done Geoff and the thanks also to British Railway Modelling (BRM) magazine for showing us the layout.
It’s officially Australia Day so I thought I’d share more work done weathering the Southern Boxcar underframe and sides. It’s interesting to see how the added brake gear (see more about that here) has become just another part of the model, and no longer seems to dominate the underframe, just as I had hoped it would.
Southern Boxcar 36188
I’m relatively happy with the work so far. There is work to be done on the patches to tone them down “just” a touch.
Beyond that though the underframe weathering is what I now consider to be just right (considering that it will be hard to see). I had to add a bright white background behind the model for it to show up. Very pleased with how this work has come out. It looks perfectly functional, and most importantly, looks the business.
I’ve weighted the model appropriate to my needs (that’s roughly the cube root of the on rail weight). This is heavy by the ‘normal’ standards, but with the Kadee sprung and equalised trucks under them my cars run like dream.
Rust spots need adding on the side, especially on the sliding door (right) side of the car as this area takes a real beating in service. There’ll be less on the left side. I’ll be using Ken Patterson’s oil weathering process, as outlined in the video in the resources section below. I’ve not used this particular method before so it will be interesting to see how it works for me. I’ve weathered in oils before and enjoy them very much, this will be one new technique for quick and dirty rust weathering.
The roof needs to be attached to the car and I’ll be weathering it to match the side weathering. I always do the sides before I do the roof because much of the run off ends up on the car sides.
Work has been busy and I’ve not had much time to model, however I did get time yesterday to begin the weathering process on a couple of car underframes that have come through the brake rod upgrade program. Pictures below…
An E&C Shops kit this PS-1 50′ single door boxcar has been in the shops recently for brake rodding updates. With the deeper side sills it provides a good view of what I’m trying to achieve through the upgrade program – adding ‘something‘ between the bottom of the car and rails.
From a lower point of view the rodding detail on this car disappears into the background clutter of hard angles and shadow (image taken in reflected sunlight on my workbench – late afternoon – with nice and flat tones)
Taken at normal railfan height the rodding is there and fools the eye, at least my eye, into believing that this is a super detailed car. Rolling by you’d never guess anything otherwise.
XAF10 class prototype car
Work continues on the XAF prototype car, an Athearn Blue Box kit. I’ve had my concerns throughout the upgrade that things would stick out like a sore thumb. I needn’t have worried. I like what’s emerging.
This is the car with all brake rodding work completed. I was worried that the brake rodding would be too obvious using the 20 thou brass.
After applying the base of the undercar weathering the experiment has borne sweet fruit. This looks much more like I wanted it to look. Same lighting and location showing the hard angles and shadows. Once on its wheels and with further weathering applied the rodding will disappear into the background, yet have that wow factor as it goes past.
Thanks for stopping by. Comments? Questions? Let me know.