Monthly Archives: June 2014

Six degrees of separation

…or is that inches?

Perceptions are very important in model railroad design. Unless you are designing or building a switching layout, most layouts are intended to depict a railroad that goes somewhere. In all but the most generous of spaces, that means we need some way of getting extra length of line into a given space. Double decking has become a typical means of doing so, but there are times where parallel lines on the same level of railroad are needed.

The key question then, in our struggle to show a line “going somewhere” is how to visually separate those lines. A six inch horizontal separation, as in from the mainline to the second yard track in the shot below, is very little in visual terms.20140128_112017

When we get into the vertical dimension, as in the next shot, 6 inches is a significant difference. I’m not sure why, but the vertical is an excellent way to separate parallel lines, which are schematically separate.20140128_113631

Another factor is to figure out what draws the eye into a scene. In my opinion, this is an area where model railroads have a distinct advantage over a static diorama. The motion of our trains is something that captures our eyes and attention. Considering the shot above, a static picture allows the eye to see the whole scene, and notice both lines through the scene (which are about 3 or 4 train lengths apart on the layout. When viewing the scene in person, the motion of a train catches the eye, and we tend to focus on the train, and the line it is on. My experience in looking at this spot tells me that I don’t even notice the other line, even though the bottoms of the bridges are very close to the lower line, especially when there is a train passing through.

Because of this, I’m not concerned with designing a double deck layout. If a 6 inch vertical separation is visually adequate, I’m not concerned about a second level of railroad being a distraction when viewing the layout. How much is enough separation? I’m not entirely sure, I’m going to have to do some mockups before too long to see how deep a deck works (at this point I’m assuming 24″ wide shelves stacked over each other will work) and how far apart they need to be. I should also test closer spaced tracks, with a small, inch and a half or two inch vertical separation. That would allow a physically close, yet schematically distinct, industrial district (for example) I could also use this sort of idea around the smelter, or mining areas of my plans.

Alberta & Columbia v.2

Let’s take a look at the second design I came up with for the planned space in my basement this time. While the first plan was a single level, due to the nature of the space and my desire for a respectable mainline run, it suffered from a duckunder to reach the main operating space. With this design I went to a double deck plan, with walk-in access. I’m presently at version 7, but nearly every plan has been some variation on this basic layout.a-and-c-v2-lower

Continue reading Alberta & Columbia v.2

Spring Break (Up that is)

The biggest reason it’s been quiet around here the last couple months is because I’ve been home. I seem to have way more time to post when I’m out on the road, as long as work isn’t crazy busy. When I’m home, I have renovations, railfanning, fishing, and all sorts of other things to keep me occupied. I’m fortunate that the company I work for gives me (and all the other guys who work the 22/13 rotational schedule) a hitch off in the spring. What’s the point of going to work if you’re just going to sit in the shop and the hotel, right?

I have a couple ideas for future posts coming up, so as long as I get off my tail and actually get them ready, this page won’t be quite as slow. I have version 7 of the A&C nearly complete, and a bunch of other plans to post as well. I can post on some of the equipment I’ve acquired, and I have lots of photos and a few videos to add as well.bm2360-namaka

I don’t feel like putting up a photo-less post, so I’ve got three views of my 2-8-0 today. The first is taken at Namaka, on the Southern Alberta layout, with a small mixed freight. The geartrain on this engine is extremely loud, but I’m working with it anyway. When I got it, it wouldn’t even run because the quartering was way out on one axle. Once I got that fixed, it would quit on portions of the layout due to the noise filter on the circuit board. It runs well now, just makes a lot of noise. Currently I have it out of service as I’m building an Athabasca Shops cab kit for it, and will be converting it to an oil burner as well.bm2360-branch

The next shot is on a small wood bridge up on the branchline. It’s a two man job to run the branch usually, so I rarely take my equipment up there because I’m usually running solo. Since I took this picture there has been an extra bridge added parallel to this one, as there was some reworking of the trackage around the stock pens (out of view to the right here), and added in a runaround track to make serving the coal mine much easier.bm2360-bradshaw

The final shot is on the return leg from the branch. The tracks in the upper right corner are the siding and mainline at Bradshaw, where the branchline joins the main. I don’t know the exact specs on the branch, but it’s steep and sharply curved. I wouldn’t take anything larger than a 2-8-0, or GP9 up there!

Thanks for enduring the wait, next time I’m thinking a post on v2 of the A&C is in order, or maybe an equipment post.