Tag Archives: HO Scale

Reworking the Maintenance Centre Layout for modern prototypes

Overview

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.

Rob Chant's original Track Plan with numbers keying to Aaron's gallery of photos
Rob Chant’s original Track Plan with numbers keying to Aaron’s gallery of photos

Bringing the layout into the 21st Century

The design below mirrors, to some degree, what I see at work every day.

A running depot for passenger operation of diesel hauled push-pull train sets
A running depot for passenger operation of diesel hauled push-pull train sets

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):

  1. 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
  2. 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
  3. 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.


Wrap-Up

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.

Resources

Aaron Riley’s Metra Layout

Operations on a Maintenance Centre Layout Series

Staying in Contact

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

Site Update – RailBox XAF10 Modelling pages updated

The modelling article on the RailBox XAF10 class cars have been updated. There is new content and the third step of the rebuild article promised some time ago. There’s more information below.


What’s happened

My last update on this project covered the addition of a short history of the class. This time we’re getting into the meat of the project.

This new page covers the dangly bits between the frame and the rails – brake rigging. This is a task focused modelling article on how to simulate the brake rigging on the model without going over the top. Thanks go out to Tony Thompson whose original post on his blog got me started on this particularly enjoyable journey. (There’s a link from the new page to Tony’s original blog post.)

Throughout the series I’ll be aiming to complete the entire project section within an hour (between getting home and dinner for example) and at the end of it have a model that you can be proud of. Here’s what I mean using before and after photos:

Image 1: The basic Athearn BB kit sans brake rigging

Image 2: Same kit (undec) with brake rigging – a subtle difference but well worth the effort

You can head direct to the page by clicking this link, or head over to the project home page clicking this link. I hope that you enjoy this new part of the project. Like, subscribe and follow to keep up to date with all the new content here on Andrew’s Trains.

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 – November 4 – The ‘I got track plans coming out my ears’ edition

Small layouts are my thing. Like most modellers in Australia space here is at a premium. So a small space layout, offering lots of operating potential, is the way to go.

Recently a long time model railroad friend Shortliner Jack shot me several links over to look at. We’ll be coming back to look closely at those this month. For right now though let’s take a look at a downloadable and one of Shortliner’s links.

Site 1: Designing small shelf Layouts for operating fun

Presented back in 2015 at the NMRA’s Thoroughbred Limited 2015 MCR Convention in Kentucky I felt that this download (in PDF format) provides a great overview of small layouts and a bit of learning about the why and how along the way.

small-layout-handout

The details shown on the Inglenook drawing on page 4 are wrong (you can find out more about Inglenooks in this post); besides that however there are some exceptional small layout designs that should inspire the modeller in you to get out there and make something.

Site 2: Railroad Line Forum – Layout Design Ideas

This is the site that Shortliner Jack pointed me to as a source for his next layout inspiration. Being in the far north of Scotland, buried in snow for 9/10ths of the year, and surrounded by only boxes of Whisky for company he has a lot of time to work on layouts. One layout in Proto48 caught his eye specifically:

There are so many more designs in this thread large and small that you’ll spend several hours looking through and pondering them all. Great ideas and thanks to Robert Chant for sharing his design on the forum.

 

Site seeing: 23 October – The weathering I’m not worthy edition

Back in August I showcased the work of Martin Wellberg, from Borne in the Netherlands. He’s back after working on another set of large models. On to the visual feast.

Site 1: Martin Wellberg’s ‘Dirty Stuff 2’ on Freerails

I’m not going to write too much about this, this is entirely weathered train porn, it’s that simple. First let’s look over Martin’s HO Scale B&O Boxcar:

Second let’s take a look at what I consider to be the best weathered freight car I’ve seen:

Hope that you enjoyed these images. Thanks go out to Martin for being so willing to share his work.

Site Update – October 12

I’ve created a new section for Track Plan Ideas.

This section is where I’ll be posting well thought out designs that I can’t be fussed putting into the various railway CAD programs.

Each is at the concept stage and I’ll provide an overview of the location, industries and an operating scheme for these small layouts. The first layout so covered is on the Vinson Lead in Austin, Texas.

If you’ve a moment head on over to ‘The Vinson Lead – small and simple V 1.0‘ and see if this fits your bill for a great little model layout. There’ll be more to come as I now have a new scanner (yippee!).

Site seeing – September 11 – The cause weathering is cool edition

Weathering is cool. Having said that, it is an art that takes time and experience to master. Today’s modeller has a very skilful eye and has nailed so many subjects that I just had to share.

Site 1: Dean Bradley’s Rails in Scale blog

Courtesy of Dean Bradley (http://railsinscale.blogspot.com.au/)
Courtesy of Dean Bradley (http://railsinscale.blogspot.com.au/)

Focused primarily on NSW railways in the years between 1986 and 1989 Dean’s work is very skilful. I showed a teaser image at the end of my post from September 09 this year of one of his 46 class electric locos. Got some nice feedback from that and having had the time to look over Dean’s other posts wanted to share his work.

There are not a lot of ‘instructions’ regarding his weathering technique which is a shame. However, Dean’s results speak for themselves. About the best blog post for understanding Dean’s full weathering process is from 24 October 2013 and titled ‘On Track models NHEF Hopper – weathering tips‘.

Site 2: Dean’s Facebook page

Apart from being a very good modeller and weathering artist, Dean is also a manufacturer and contract weatherer. Have a look at his Facebook page for more information and for lots of model photos of his work.

Site seeing – 24 February

It’s been a busy month here at the HVL. Unfortunately much of it focused on the business of making a living and not making trains. A necessary evil, I am sure that this too shall pass. Now off to the races.

Site 1: Brian Moore from Plymouth, UK – Quisling, CA

Brian has a set of images that are growing of his HO scale modules over at his Flickr site.

Second Street and Main Street crossing
Second Street and Main Street crossing

There’s 70 images in the set so far, and some great modelling to view as well. Enjoy.

Site seeing – February 02 (the scrap edition)

Well the modelling illustrated in these videos is all about scrap.

One of the industries I’ve considered for my new (home) layout was a small scrap dealer. On the layout extension that industry will I hope get a run. On the main layout at the moment there is simply not the space needed to make even a small one. Thankfully ChessieFan2 has done almost all the hard work for me by producing two videos that take you through the stages of building the industry. Additionally he has made another video where he discusses making loads for your scrap gondolas too. Enjoy.

Site 1: Modeling a Scrap Yard – Part 1

Site 2: Modeling a Scrap Yard – Part 2

Site 3: Creating scrap loads for your gondolas

Watch this video through until 14:57. Beyond is talk about the layout in general.

 

Site update – January 1 – Happy New Year edition

I’ve added a new Modelling section – My 12 Foot Layout.

This will provide a Work-in-Progress report of what’s happening in the layout build process. For now there’s a front page. It provides my overall thoughts and a photo showing the proposed design (already laid out in track).

As I stated on the page there’ll be more coming in the future including:

  • Track laying,
  • Building construction,
  • Detailing,
  • Operations design, and
  • A session report or two

Looking forward to getting this underway this month.