02 January 2004

I've been spending more time on building the railroad than on updating the web site. But many things have happened, so it's time to make another update.

Operating Sessions!

The first phase has been completed, to the point of running a number of operating sessions over the summer and fall of 2003. This includes the staging yards at Mendota, the main yard at Western Avenue, and the various industries on the Ford Line.

A session runs about 2 to 2 1/2 hours, with one person running Western Avenue, and two switch crews out on the Ford line. One crew handles the Ford Turn, which only serves the Ford Plant itself; while the other crew is running the Brewery Switch. This job handles the remaining industries on the Ford line. Once work is completed, the turns return to Western Avenue, where the crews exchange jobs and head out again. One more operator is needed to handle the various transfer runs to and from Western Ave.

Each of the switch crews can be run with one or two operators. Not many people in the Twin Cities run with two person crews, but I'm going to buck the local trend if I can. I've got the aisle space for it (by design), and it's been shown to work nicely. Of course, each of the switch jobs can also run nicely with a single person, so I can handle a wide range of available operators.

Boy, do I need cars. A large part of 2003 was spent building cars for the layout. I've probably doubled the car fleet in the last year. Thank goodness for nice boxcar kits from Branchline and Accurail.

The op sessions began with only about half of the designed trackage, and maybe one fourth of the planned staging capacity. It was quickly demonstrated, as I needed to use a temporary fiddle yard to make enough trains to keep a good yardmaster busy (the others are busy enough anyway).


But the sessions ran well enough to convince me that the plan was a good one, so I shut down the sessions in October to begin construction of the remainder of the layout. First to be done was putting up the backdrops on the existing portions. 0.060" styrene sheet screwed to the wall, then painted "Cayman Blue", gets me started. I'll come back and do more later; things like trees and other details need to be tied into the scenery plan.

Ford Plant Ford Line industries Ford Line industries

It's amazing what a difference this makes. The layout space is much more clearly defined, without having to resort to the full valance treatment (which I feel eats up a lot of the space in a room).

Next is the peninsula. This is the other half of the layout, with two large staging yards (Minneapolis and Saint Paul) and 4 additional switching districts. This is being built to maximize the amount of useful storage space underneath.

One method to help this goal is the use of welded brackets to support the two staging yards. The brackets are 1/8" thick, 1" square tube steel, butt welded with a small gusset in the corner. They're very strong (I could probably do a chin-up on them, if they were mounted higher and if I could still do a chin-up), and have a very small intrusion into the space that I'd like to fill with trains (the lower deck) or shelves (below the lower deck).

welded steel brackets staging yard shelves

Other work

I also painted the concrete floor of the basement. I should have done this long aga. It also makes a huge difference in the quality of the space. Rustoleum Basement Floor Coating is the stuff I used. I like working with the stuff; it applies easily and without much odor at all.

aisle by main yard

The narrow part of the aisle you see there is 4 feet wide, and most of it is wider than that.

I've also created car cards of my own. I didn't like the small size cards from Old Line Graphics, which appear to have become the standard for various software packages. Mine are 2.5" x 4", and the pocket opens sideways. See PDF files of the front and back sides.

16 March 2002

First update in quite a long time. I've torn down all the benchwork I had up already, finished the ceiling, revised my plan, and built somewhere between a third and a half of the benchwork needed.

Bracket & standard benchwork just isn't cut out for a permanent model railroad. I just was not happy with the stability of the final result, especially in the face of upward forces (such as catching a piece of it on your shoulder as you come up from underneath the layout).

The new benchwork uses a couple of designs for my own shelf brackets. One is heavily based on Lionel Strang's Working on the Railroad design, and another is my own design. Both work, neither is clearly superior to me.

Trains are now running from Valley Park (west staging) into Spring St. yard, where they're then moved into Western Ave. yard for classification. It's not complete yet, but it's a start.

A little bit of inspiration...

From the pages of the Minneapolis Star Tribune


One of my outstanding questions has been answered. The smoke density charts are known as Ringelmann charts. Thanks to Gerald Kackman for that information.

Other work

I've also started work on the computer interface to the railroad. There is one interlocking plant on the line, but it's pretty much right in the middle of everything. All software will be running on an embedded Linux system, using some form of CMRI compatible hardware.

2 Feb 2001

Preliminary plans were published for your comments. Many comments were received, and much other time has been spent on a revised plan. But I haven't put any of that information in an online form yet.

I started on benchwork yesterday, with the goal of having something resembling benchwork done by tomorrow (2/3), for symbolic reasons more than anything else. I'm using a combination of open grid and L-girder, using ripped plywood rather than dimensional. The whole structure is being attached to the walls using standard & bracket shelving forms.

So far I've got about 16 feet done, out of about 28 along one wall. I'm pretty happy so far: everything is nicely accessible, and quite sturdy. My concern is not whether the stuff will fall off the wall (it won't), but how it will all react to a sharp bounce upwards (catching a shoulder on the rise up after working underneath, for example). The weight of everything (5/8" plywood framing and surfaces) should hold things stable enough, I think (and hurt the bejeebers out of your shoulder).