Monday, January 30, 2017

Improving a Track Plan

I believe a good design is one that is simple, easy to understand and free of hindrance. While I want continuous running, I certainly don’t want gimmick such as duck unders and lift out sections. Also, having large aisles is on top of my list. Because, it's much practical when building the layout and doing maintenance. I'd rather sacrifice layout benchwork than aisle space.

For this reason, I bumped the room width to 14’. It makes a huge difference and will be much more interesting in the long run.

It was also a good opportunity to fine tune the concept. No surprise I removed some trackage and took the occasion to slightly relocate Tring on the long wall. Many reasons are behind this but the first one is to clear the staircase well. I have no problem having trains running over the the staircase, but I don’t want any operation to happen there, particularly such an important spot as Tring. Also, the prototype was located on a long straight stretch of track right after a curve, exactly as represented on my most recent track plan. It also allocates more space to correctly model the old Placo veneer factory which is a landmark in the area. While it could be operated, this industry was a dying one at that time and probably saw very little rail traffic. I'll will be a scenic element so I’m not bothered it is over the staircase. Placo can use Tring team track if they want to ship by rail!

Another benefit from this new Tring location is I can decently stage large way freight trains on the wye legs. Two operators could virtually schedule meets if wanted. There is also a better spatial and scenic separation between Tring and St-Sébastien, made even more dramatic by the staircase. Finally, removing curves from Tring yard will make operation far easier. I certainly hate coupling cars on curves and I’m probably not alone. With repeat mistakes of the past when they can easily be avoided.

Also, I decided to place all the industries siding facing the same direction. Not only it makes operation easier (yes, I’m not that much excited running around a train) but improve the feel of a long main line run. The reason is easy to understand. We you leave Tring, you have to travel all over the layout without stopping nowhere. You blow the horn and control your speed, that’s all. But the best as yet to come: you’ll meet the 1.6% ruling grade in this direction which will be more interesting to battle against that way. On the return trip, you take your time and switch the industries one by one as required, taking your time and increasing the perceived distance. With five industries, whom many have multiple spots, I think there would be more than enough action for a single operator. Keep in mind designing a track plan for operation isn't just about meeting the requirements, but also about telling a story.

It is certainly a little bit weird to put so little track in such a comfortable space (14’ x 23’), but I think it’s for the best to be immersed in scenery. You can't reproduce a backwood branchkine with dozen of towns and industries! Such a railway is generally dominated by forests and fields which can’t be traded for a higher track ratio. Keep thing simple and manageable! Also, given my freight cars weight a lot and only stations are on flat lands, there should be enough challenge to make this a decent layout. Also, you can’t model the branchline look by stuffing all kind of stuff.

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