Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Limited Space Prototypes

Moulée St-Pie Inc. in Saint-Pie, Quebec, on old Montreal Maine & Atlantic defunct branch between Farnham and Ste-Rosalie (former CPR) is a great source of inspiration.

This small locality is served by 2 unusually located feedmill and elevator built in the middle of the town. One of them, the oldest, is built tightly against the mainline. This is what I'd like to reproduce on the layout.

The space between the building and the right of way limit is about 55 feets, thus 7-1/2" in HO. Walthers Farmers Coop elevator is about 4-1/4" deep, so it bring the total layout to about 12" wide. That means my earlier estimates were right.

On the prototype, a nice and tall hedge is growing along the track which could provide visual interest.

At this point, I consider I've planned enough the layout. No need to go further, only a real mock up with tracks, structures and freight cars will help me to find the best balance for this scene.

A new approach

As previously stated, I'm interested in experimenting with IKEA shelves for my next module. To maximize my investment, I decided to build only one module and not two. First, it cost less. And you don't have to handle annoying scenery and electrical gap.

The Ikea shelf is 74 inches long by 10 inches width. Not very large, but enough to get a decent elevator scene. 10 inches isn't enough to develop a deep enough scene. Track clearance and security margins aren't good enough. On the other hand, I don't want to get a shelf to width because in will induce more forces and risk of sagging. I consider 12 inches to be a good average. Also, I'm seriously thinking about bashing my old Walthers elevator. My previous structure was about 5 inches width. The elevator is about 4.25 inches.

Having operated QSSR a few times last year, I know the main issue was the fact sidings and "yard lead" were too short to make switching moves easier. That doesn't mean switching will be "easy", but only that I won't have to make a ridiculous and irrealistic amount of useless moves. It may sounds stupid, but being artificially forced to do irrelevant things is the saddest thing in existence!

I feel we always under estimate a siding length. We probably inherited it from our spagetthi bowl design or oter contrived conceptual ideas. A siding shouldn't always be the required lenght to handle a definite number of car spots. In fact, we operating, you need extra space to store cars while performing a vast array of moves.

How does it materialize with my design? I placed the turnout on the amovible cassette. Yes, a zero-turnout module. Nothing less, nothing more. Not only it gives me long and realistic sidings, but I don't have to care about scenicking or painting the turnout (which can be really tiring). Also, having the turnout in the clear makes it possible to scenic the foreground with trees and bushes to "hide" the place where the trains coming from.

Building this layout will be easy as one-two-three. I don't plan feeding the rail underneat the layout. Instead, the very few wires required will be buried into trenches dug out on the styrofoam slab. As a lighting valence, I'll use another IKEA shelf with LED fixture for cabinets installed under it. Backdrop will be a photo of a generic and suitable countryside scene mounted on a lightweight board. It could be a 1/8" masonite or a 1/4" foamcore. I could also be possible to just tack the photograph on the wall. I'll see when I'll be there.

The structures will be scratchbuilt and kitbashed from stuff I already own. If you are skeptic about such a diminutive layout, just Google "Logansport and Indiana Northern". This layout really show how a generic elevator scene can have character.

In the end, this layout will have at least 5 car spots (even more in fact) and the possibility to handle 5-car long trains with a caboose. Not too bad for a 74" long board.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

IKEA Shelf Layout System

I've tried to build many layouts in this room and all failed because they were too bulky. I feel using the usual shelf layout recipe is a no go for me. Also, I don't want to drill too much holes in my freshly restored office.

Well, while browsing the IKEA catalog to find suitable shelves for a display in my refurbished room, I found out a cheap shelf with concealed bracket caller LACK. They are available in 74" and 43" lenght and 14" deep. They can support upto 30 lbs of weight, which is more than enough for a shelf layout.

When you think about the cost of shelves brackets and hollow core doors, the IKEA option is tremendously cheaper and easier to implement. Better, it looks good from the start and it's bullet proof to implement. After doing a few researches over the web, I found out quickly I wasn't the only soul out there to have seen the potential of this system. 20$ for a layout benchwork, it's hard to beat. This interesting thread on Atlas Forum gives some insight about using the LACK shelves.

For my the St-Pamphile module, I seriously thinking about rebuilding it from scractch. Not a big deal. The original module weight a ton, is bulky and well, not in great shape after it got covered under junk in the damp basement. For my purpose, I would use two 43" LACK shelves and glue 1" thick styrofoam plank on it. Adding a thin MDF fascia should do the job, bring the entire modules a 3" high. I prefer to handle smaller modules than a very large one. If I need to do dirty work on a module, I can take it outside. I will also need a 54" long amovible cassette to do switching moves.

When I rebuilt the wall, I took care to place a full 3/4" plywood sheet beneath the wainscot. My house was build in 1875, so forget about your usual 16" spaced wood stud. Walls are made of superposed 3"x12" lumbers. So no need to fear shelf brackets won't have solid backing to support themselves.

Updated track plan

About the layout itself, I'm seriously thinking about adding a 12" additional length to the original feedmill siding. It will allow me to store cars and do more switching moves. It was a shortcoming I identified on the first version of this layout.

 Also, I'm seriously thinking about using my four large Walthers grain bins I purchased in the past and which never saw a real use. It would be a nice addition to have them beside the feedmill and represent a modernized industry as can be seen in Cookshire, Quebec (old CPR Short Line, now CMQ) or in Clermont on ex-CN Murray Bay Subdivision. Walthers bins are a little bit large, I must agree. I'll have to mock up the structures to make sure they work together. If not, I'll probably have to build new ones from scratch.

Saturday, May 9, 2015

A Reboot?

It's been a year since this project have been put aside. It was the time to restore my office room to its former late 19th century splendor.

I now have the time and place to reboot this project again. This time, I'll make it simpler. When I stored the layout, I ripped the turnout because I needed them for the club layout. Thus, I have to rebuild the track again. However, I'm planning to build a one-turnout layout since operation in St. Pamphile is going to be spartan. I remember Lance Mindheim's article about that in MRH last year. I really think, for a small home layout, it is the way to go.

My idea is that I don't need that much a runaround. Also, I'd like the idea the railway company came and ripped off the unused turnouts to rebuild where they were needed, just like the real prototypes do.

On another hand, I have 4 Walthers grain silo doing nothing except gathering dust. I willing to use them to modernized and enlarge my feedmill so it looks like an industry big enough to sustain minimal freight traffic.

Now, at this point, I'm thinking about what I'll do with the benchwork. I'd like it to be less bulky, but maybe I'll keep it as is.

Also, the layout will be much shorter. It used to be 13 feet long. Not it will be 9 feet long with a removable 3 feet cassettes. It will make operation a little bit more tricky, but that's fine with me. In fact, today I was talking with Stéphan Vachon from Sartigan Railway and he was retelling stories of switching puzzles he had to solve when he had to handle more cars than his sidings could handle.

Stay tune. By the way, remember this project is mainly done to learn and try new technics.