Sunday, March 8, 2020

Great Help for Designing and Building a Shelf Layout

Soon after taking down my large (17 by 21 foot) double deck (at one time triple-deck) layout, I joined three Facebook groups dedicated to shelf layouts—like the one I am building now.

My goal was to pick up some ideas, get some encouragement, maybe even show off a bit of my work.

Micro/Small layouts is a group is for anyone who doesn’t have a spare room or basement to devote to a layout. (Which isn’t me, but they still let me join.) People don’t need a layout to participate.

HO Scale Shelf Layouts defines a shelf layout as something that utilizes a narrow shelf of various depths and may or may not be supported by legs. It is linear in design and could be around the room or along the walls. (That is more like what I am doing.)

And Shelf Layouts, Switching Layouts and Layouts for Small Spaces is pretty much just what it says in the title.

It was a great decision to join, for the following reasons. 

First, it reminded me again of how great these Facebook groups are (even if you, like me, am ambivalent about Facebook and its growing power over our lives).

Unlike model railroad magazines, which only show the best layouts in North America (or other countries), Facebook groups are open to anyone of any skill. You get to see such a wide variety of modelling, from beginner to expert.

Everyone is welcome, in other words.

Second, model railroad magazines devote their precious real estate (pages) to finished layouts—you aren’t going to see lots of photos of layouts under construction. But Facebook enables people to post photos at all stages of the process. You can learn a lot by seeing benchwork!

Third, the modelling comes from all over—Canada, the U.S., the UK, Europe, Japan. It is great to see so many different styles.

Fourth, the groups allow people to ask questions. Some people show the space they have and ask others for ideas—and get them. And some modellers, like Rob Chant of The Journal of Model Railroad Design blog, post plans and suggestions on the Micro/Small Layouts group.

Fifth, what a creative bunch model railroaders are! Some of the layouts are just tracks in boxes. One folds down from the wall. 

Others are one switch, a spur and an industry—all the space someone had. Some people make intricately-detailed dioramas.

The need to build a layout of any size or kind is strong—and many people are up for the challenge, if the meaning of the word “layout” is stretched in different ways.

These groups (there may be others) have been very helpful and inspiring to me as I created my new Gateway Spur, an HO scale switching layout. You might enjoy them, too.

Wednesday, January 1, 2020

Introducing the Gateway Spur

The new layout has a name: The Gateway Spur.

I took it from the name of the main road that runs near my home. It follows the original line of the CPR when it first came to Winnipeg in the late 1800s.

As I wrote earlier on this blog about how the CPR came to Winnipeg, until 1881 the CPR planned to cross the Red River at Selkirk, north of the city of Winnipeg.

But the Winnipeg business community, realizing that being bypassed by the railway would turn their city into a backwater, made the CPR an offer it couldn’t refuse—tax free land.

The CPR obliged, and turned south away from Selkirk. Today it is a small town, and Winnipeg became known as the “Gateway of the West.”

So, Gateway Spur it is. (Even if, in real life, the line became the Marconi Spur before the rails were lifted and the right-of-way turned into a walking and cycling path.)

Fed by three staging tracks, the Spur is a simple line, serving seven industries and a team track.

It runs along three walls: 10 feet by 21 feet by 17 feet. (Excuse the simple track plan.)

I haven’t yet decided what the industries will be, but there will be a brewery (a large complex with three tracks), a mill, a plastics manufacturer and a furniture company.

I’m working on a simple operating scheme that will indicate which cars need to be picked up and which ones dropped off.

The most recent version finds me assembling a train from the two-track yard (based on what the operating scheme says I need for that day’s turn).

Then it’s out along the line to do the work. A session today took about 25 minutes to drop off and pick up seven cars.

Since this is pre-1989, that means trains all have a van (caboose). This adds a few moves to the run, increasing the time needed to complete a session.

Train length will be 5-6 cars, maximum.

Before ballasting, I want to run trains to see if the track arrangement really works. So far, so good.

All-in-all, it’s a good start to 2020, and for the Gateway Spur.

Saturday, December 14, 2019

New Layout Update: Good to be Back in the Basement Again

In August, I closed the chapter on the M & M Sub.

After 25 years, the large double-deck layout was no more, save for an L-shaped portion of the old upper deck that I planned to use for a switching layout.

Nothing happened until November, when I started working on the new layout.

Since the “benchwork” (two-inch Styrofoam) was already up, things went quite quickly.

By December 4, the first train was running.

Today, I think the basic track plan is set (although never say never).

The new layout models an industrial spur on the outskirts of a fictitious major Canadian city.

The idea is that trains leave the city (staging) and go through a more rural area to reach a small town some distance away.

The time is pre-1989, so I finally have a prototypical reason to use by two Rapido vans.

It also gives me a reason to use more boxcars serving industries, since that was more common 30 years ago.

The layout serves seven industries, including a transloading facility (team-type track).

Maximum train length is five or six cars, which is perfect for switching that many industries.

The layout is supported by a three-track staging or fiddle yard at one end.

Trains enter from staging (the city), and can switch two trailing point sidings before entering a larger industrial area in the nearby town.

After switching in that area, trains head back and can switch two more trailing point sidingss on their way back to staging.

The layout is centred on a large industry (a mill) in the corner, built by my friend Rick Ritchie.

It’s quite a change from the large double-deck M & M Sub., with its 230-foot mainline, two levels, large yard, controls for four operators, and trains of 18-20 cars plus two or three locomotives.

But I am enjoying it, especially the building part.

There’s still lots to do; the layout looks a mess right now without any ground cover. And there’s lots of tweaking and fine-tuning to do, plus adding scenery and backdrops and fixing the structures.

But so far, the little layout is doing exactly what I hoped: Rekindling my enthusiasm and interest in the hobby—which had waned over the past few years when I finished my previous layout.

In other words, there’s a reason to go back into the basement again . . . .

Sunday, November 10, 2019

Goodbye to Stoney Hill Yard

Stoney Hill Yard on display.

This summer I took down the M & M Sub. It prompted interesting conversations with other modellers who have either taken down their own layouts, or know they need to some day soon. Like this update from Chris Round in Great Britain, who shared about taking apart his first foray into Canadian modelling.

After visiting southern Ontario in 1994, I became hooked on Canadian railways.

Living in the United Kingdom, we do not have the space for large basement railways. As a result, I had become a dedicated N gauge modeller and had produced several successful layouts of the British scene.

But Canada in HO scale quickly had me hooked, both for more interesting operation and for much smoother running of the actual models.

By 1996 I had completed Stoney Hill Yard, a portable exhibition layout 16-feet long with a fiddle yard at the rear. It was very successful and had many invitations to exhibitions.

As built, it was a stub end yard, but I had allowed for expansion. By 2000 Stoney Hill West had been produced as the other end of the yard with an extended staging yard to make a complete oval. 

The combined layout was 29 feet long.

I took it to several shows, but both transport and size limited the number of exhibitions it could attend.

Subsequently, Stoney Hill West was made into a stand-alone layout, and gradually became the main layout I exhibited.

In 2017 Stoney Hill Yard was exhibited for the last time. After that, it gathered dust in my father-in-law’s garage since space in my workshop was taken up by my new layout, Atherley Narrows.

I have a lot of affection for Stoney Hill Yard. It took a lot of effort to build and attracted a lot of favourable comments at exhibitions. 

It was difficult to think about letting it go. But a number of factors came together which made me finally decide to dismantle the layout.

First, a couple of fellow members at our model railway club recently died. I helped their wives dismantle their layouts and sort through a lifetime of collected models, books and other railway paraphernalia.

The sheer amount of stuff made it difficult for the wives and I thought that I would not want my family to have to sort through all of my possessions in similar circumstances.

I was also struck by the large number of uncompleted or even unopened boxes of model railway bits and pieces we all keep. 

It caused me to start getting rid off anything which used to fall under the category of “I’ll keep it, it might well be useful sometime.”

Second, my father-in-law is now 90 years-old and mobility is an issue for him. The layout in his garage was an additional obstacle to manoeuvre round.

I won’t pretend making the first move to demolish the layout was not difficult. But now that it’s gone, I do feel like a bit of the burden has been lifted.

In the end, it’s better not to hold onto everything. We need to let go and move on.

Plus, I still have two exhibition layouts and a workshop full of stuff, and hopefully at least 20 years ahead of me to slim it all down—so my family is not faced with sorting out a complete mess when I go.

Chris watching a train on Stoney Hill Yard,
which is still going strong.