Tag Archives: Rob Chant

Operations on a Maintenance Centre Layout (Part 7 – Op till you Drop)

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.

Setting Up

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.

Final Thoughts

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.

Till next post.

Resources

Where to buy stuff:

Australia:

Overseas:

  • Head your Office Depot (or similar retailer)

The series so far:

Staying in Contact

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

Aaron Riley’s Metra Service Centre Layout

This post is made possible by Aaron Riley. I’d like to thank him for his assistance, his time and especially for supplying the images of his Metra maintenance facility layout that I first saw on Facebook (more information in the resources section at the bottom of the post). Adapted from a Robert Chant design in HO scale, Aaron has executed an exquisite small layout that in the photos does not look small. Let’s take a look around his Metra Service Centre.


Rob Chant’s layout concept

In the original Facebook post Rob Chant commented that while he “hadn’t designed [a maintenance facility style layout] before, he thought it would be something that would extend his model railway design skills“.

He said further that he thought “the layout owner’s space would be a good fit with his design and could include a load of detail and some support structures.”

I heartily agree with both perspectives. Rob’s concept and the layout Aaron built from it are outstandingly good and show what can be achieved in a small space. And remember, as you can see from the plan below it is not a lot of space; the layout is only 8′ (2400mm) in total length; with a total width of 4′ 5″ (1346mm) and maximum board width of 18″ (450mm).

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

And there’s a lot packed into that small space. Yet it doesn’t look crowded; quite the reverse is true. It looks wide, open and has relaxed look about it. Lived in, even.

Enough of the overview let’s dive in.


Looking around Aaron’s Metra layout

Image 1: Looking into the layout from the fiddle yard
Image 1: Looking into the layout from the fiddle yard

In image 1 above, you can see Rob’s use of the administration building as a view blocker ensures that the viewer’s eye is distracted where the layout ends, and the staging begins. It’s a great design feature. In addition, provides a verticality to what would otherwise be a flat, horizontal layout. it gives the viewer, no matter the angle of viewing, a framed view of the layout. It’s a thoughtful design feature that makes Aaron’s layout, and Rob’s plan a cut above.

Image 2: Looking over the administration building toward the storage and engine tracks
Image 2: Looking over the administration building toward the storage and engine tracks

In image 2 above, it is interesting to note Aaron’s prototype solution to the problem of overcrowding and short sidings. You’ll note the three-car set is fouling the two cars in the siding. This is common where older facilities were designed for shorter cars. Things get put wherever they’ll fit. During late nights most running facilities like this one are crowded, with train sets packed in like sardines. It’s nice to see that modelled, even if Aaron did so unintentionally. It really adds to the believability of the scene.

Image 3: View from the administration building - note the details in Aaron's scenes
Image 3: View from the administration building – note the details in Aaron’s scenes

In image 3 above, what I noticed first was the sense of openness. Taken from the other side of the Administration buildings, it is great that Aaron has been able to achieve this and fool the eye and the mind on what is a small footprint layout. And there is a wealth of detail too. I love the cracked hard standing area, not overtly achieved. Subtle but unmistakable. It is really great work and carried across the layout.

Image 4: A Metra transfer run prepares to leave for the heavy maintenance centre with a tired motive power unit
Image 4: A Metra transfer run prepares to leave for the heavy maintenance centre with a tired motive power unit

In image 4 above, what took my eye straight away was the photo-realistic building flat. It is an eye-catching feature. The prime mover looks to have just been loaded, as the tie-downs have yet to be fastened to the flatcar.  This transfer freight movement will be heading off to the upstream maintenance centre later where that prime mover will get a rebuild before being replaced into another locomotive. I’m impressed by how the scene has been dressed. With most of the buildings flat against the rear of the layout, wide-open space reigns. Cleverly done Aaron.

Image 5: With the maintenance centre behind you, it's amazing what you can fit in only 8 feet x 1.5 feet
Image 5: With the maintenance centre behind you, it’s amazing what you can fit in only 8 feet x 1.5 feet

In image 5 above, we’re standing roughly in alignment with the face of the maintenance centre buildings. No matter how many times I look at the scene, I just don’t see how it is not 16 feet long.

Image 6: Aaron's use of photorealistic buildings and large buildings add to the scale and apparent size of the layout
Image 6: Aaron’s use of photorealistic buildings and large buildings add to the scale and apparent size of the layout

In image 6 above we’re looking toward the heart of the maintenance centre. Cleverly Aaron has not tried to model the entire building, yet there is enough darkness to hide the fact that the buildings are not as deep as they appear to be. Once again, the height of the surrounding buildings, and the service centre, illustrate how even in a small space you can use the vertical to make things appear bigger than they really are. It is something I’ll be using on my current small switching layout when I get around to making the warehousing and other structures. Also, we see another of the photo-realistic buildings; with knocked out windows, rusty roller doors, and a run-down look from an earlier time. It grounds the newer parts of the layout and suggests a history we just haven’t heard yet.

Image 7: Aaron's use of tall photo-realistic and large new structures add to the vertical scale and complement the small footprint of the layout
Image 7: Aaron’s use of tall photo-realistic and large new structures add to the vertical scale and complement the small footprint of the layout

In image 7 above, you’ll note the uncluttered nature of the layout. There’s work going on here, but there’s room to get about, without bumping into things. This particular scene also shows the actual depth of the maintenance centre buildings, just a car length long. Not that you’d notice while switching. The layout ticks so many boxes for me in regard to how small layouts should be built. With thought and care not only in the design but also in the execution of that design.

I guess by now there’s no hiding it: I’m a fan of this layout. There is so much to learn from how Rob has designed and Aaron has built the layout. And there is much more that you can add to what’s already here. That’s for another post and another day, however!


What’s in the next post?

In the next post, I’ll show I’ll share my knowledge of the types of depots that passenger trains operate from in my experience.  It’s not something that is often discussed in the hobby press, or online groups. So if you have no idea what I mean by a running depot, we’ll cover that in the next post, and in the series of posts that follow.

Till next time; Andrew


Resources

  • Aaron’s original post on the Micro/Small Model RR Layouts group on Facebook – membership of the group required to access the post (and well worth it too!)

Staying in Contact

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

I’m working on a new series of posts – here’s a quick teaser…

It’s been a while right?

Shift work, long days, cold nights, and all that stuff.

The good news is there’s a batch of content coming focusing on Locomotive, and Railcar maintenance facilities… you are going to love it. How to model each one, operations possibilities and all in a small space. I want to thank Rob Chant and Aaron Riley for beginning the discussion on Facebook.

Here’s a taste of what’s coming over the next few days! The day it posts depends on how I feel after my second COVID-19 vaccination tomorrow. Here’s hoping for the best outcome and no headache, etc.

There’ll be more posts to come during October though covering a range of topics from the micro size to the mammoth 8′ x 2′ footprint, including:

  • Motive Power Depots (MPDs) for diesel or electric locomotives,
  • Electric Multiple Units (EMUs), and
  • Diesel Multiple Units (DMUs) throughout October.

Aaron Riley’s Metra Railcar Facility layout

Based on a Rob Chant design (more on that in the next post) Aaron has built a cracker ‘L’ shaped layout in only  96″ x 53″ with a width of only 18″.

This is a taster, there’ll be more in my next post!


Resources

  • Visit Rob Chant’s Facebook page for more great designs.

Staying in Contact

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