Friday, December 02, 2016

Bay Area PCR/SIGs Meet Jan. 27-29

One of my favorite events is returning to the South Bay -- PCR/NMRA, LDSIG, and OpSIG are again presenting three days of learning and fun. Historical rail and layout tours Friday along with no-host dinner. Clinics and free help sessions on layout design and operations on Saturday at the Mountain View Community Center, along with layout tours in the evening. Op Sessions Sunday, including slots for newcomers to ops. $20 suggested donation for Saturday events (includes free refreshments). You need not be a member of any of the sponsoring organizations to participate!

More information and pre-registration at this link.

See you there!

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Switching Operation Design Challenge; LDJ-59

A new layout design challenge was published in LDJ-59 -- anyone may submit a plan and a story for possible publishing in a future Layout Design Journal. The concept this time around is to design a layout focused on switching operation for a roughly 10’X11’ space (with some obstructions).

Any scale, gauge, era, etc. may be used. Traditional freight switching layouts are great, but other concepts are also welcome, such as engine terminal, passenger switching, etc. Target date for submittals is January 31, 2017. Read more and download a 1:24 room template here.

Speaking of LDJ-59, it includes some clever responses to our earlier design challenge, which focused on mountain railroading in a bonus room. The three 16’X22’ Mountain Challenge articles were: HO Northern Pacific focused on 1953 passenger schedule and informed by John Armstrong design principles; three HO multideck track plans for Norfolk and Western 1970s Pocahontas Division with intermediate climbing decks; N scale Burlington Northern Crawford Hill. And more!

Click here to download a free “Sampler” of a few pages of LDJ-59 in Adobe Acrobat format.

Click here to begin or renew your Layout Design SIG membership. Each membership cycle includes four issues of the LDJ.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Clinic References from Indy 2016

Another hectic week at the NMRA Convention! It was great to meet with folks from across the country (and around the world) to share ideas on layout design and operations.

Most layouts in the area are located in basements – it’s no wonder that the Midwest is a hotbed of model railroading – a dry basement is the perfect environment for a layout. Those of us on the west coast could be forgiven for feeling a little envious!

Handouts and/or slides for my clinics from the week are found here.

Update: The handout link on the above page for A Quick and Easy Start for Operations has been corrected.

Saturday, June 25, 2016

LDJ-58: Going Vertical, Mountain Mushroom, Sectional Switching, and More

Layout Design Journal #58 (First Quarter 2016) was quite a bit behind schedule, but is in the mail now and print subscribers should receive it during June and early July. Subscribers for the on-line downloadable version have received email notices.

This issue includes: Going vertical in 13’ X 13’ provides more towns to switch in an HO multi-deck layout set in 1944 in eastern Washington and built in a room constructed inside a garage. Mountain Challenge entry: Coal-hauling mountain mushroom-style multi-deck in S scale plus ideas on supporting upper decks. Steps in designing a sectional N scale switching layout of the Western Pacific’s San Jose branch in the 1960s based on prototype documents. Unique railcar storage idea keeps cars and paperwork together, secure, and accessible. LDSIG Board of Directors election and Indy NMRA 2016 plans.

Download a free “Sampler” of a few pages of LDJ-58

To begin or renew your LDSIG membership, visit this link

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Adapting Armstrong, Mountain Challenge, LDE, and more in LDJ-57

The latest Layout Design Journal is #57. It includes:
- Adapting and building a classic Armstrong design from the ‘50s
- Mountain Challenge: New Mexico Logger plus ATSF
- Prototype documents to create LDEs
- Three room-sized N scale switching layouts: 1960s, 1970s, 1990s
- Ideas from LDSIG tours
Download a free sampler of this issue

To subscribe for paper or on-line delivery, join the LDSIG today!

Tuesday, November 03, 2015

Layout Design Journal Update -- in Color!

The Layout Design Journal of the Layout Design SIG has had some important improvements since I last posted about it here. Beginning with LDJ-52, the LDJ is now published in full color. In addition, a new low-cost option allows LDSIG members to receive the LDJ via Adobe Acrobat download. (Print memberships are still available, of course.) There are lots of great ideas in every issue of the LDJ -- just check out the free downloadable “Sampler” links below to see more -- and join the LDSIG today!

Layout Design Journal #56
- Designing for Passenger and Freight Interchange on the Yosemite Valley
- Staging yard evolves to full-featured yard
- Pulp Mill as an HO Layout Design Element
- Room to roll for realism in bulk commodity industries
- Panel: “What would you do differently?”
Download a free sampler of this issue

Layout Design Journal #55
- A sectional HO design for former interurbans turned freight feeders in California
- Designing a Great Northern branch junction yard based on the prototype using “dimensionless sketching”
- A spare-room-sized HO track plan based on the Midland Continental, a real-life shortline and bridge route in North Dakota
- Building a freelanced freight yard based on best practices
Download a free sampler of this issue

Layout Design Journal #54
Track Plans Based on a Single Industry
- Paper Mill Variations
- Steel in 32 Square Feet
- Cement, Cars, and a Little Beer
Download a free sampler of this issue

Layout Design Journal #53
- Looking Forward to New Mistakes in Designing a Coal-Hauler
- Exhibition “S”witching Layout
- Lighting and Benchwork Ideas from SIG tours
Download a free sampler of this issue


Layout Design Journal #52
- Designing a Narrow Gauge Railway for Operation in On30
- Let's Railroad Like it's 1999! (California UP in HO)
- A Theatrical Approach to Backdrops
- HO Switching Variations in 2' X 9'
    Download this article
Download a free sampler of this issue

Layout Design Journal #51
- Amargosa Railroad Rathole Sub
- 7 Compact Rail-Marine Layouts
- Lessons Learned: The Multi-deck St. Paul Division
- “Nose-to-Nose” Staging
- 32-Square-Foot Design Challenge, Part 3 (mountain mainline to copper to coal)
Download a free sampler of this issue

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Atlanta 2013 Clinic References

It was another whirlwind week at the NMRA Convention in Atlanta. Seth Neumann and I presented the four-hour Layout Design Bootcamp sponsored by the Layout Design SIG. I also presented a new version of my clinic Realistic Small Switching Layouts: Looking Beyond the Timesaver. Handouts with references are available for both clinics here.

Although I don’t personally think that they are much use on their own without the verbal presentation, by popular demand I have also provided a download for the slides from the Realistic Small Switching Layout clinic on the same page. The Bootcamp presentation itself is large and contains many complex animations which do not translate well to a download, sorry that this will not available.

Thanks to the many Convention attendees who joined us for one or both clinics!

Friday, May 31, 2013

Layout Design Journal Update

The Layout Design Journal continues to be a great source of model railroad layout design ideas and inspiration. Here are the most recent issues, including links where you may download a sampler of a few pages. Join the Layout Design SIG today to receive future issues and other great benefits. Back issues are also available.

Layout Design Journal #50 includes:
- Southern Pacific’s Santa Barbara Subdivision Multideck HO
- Thin Walls: a New Structural Support
- Design Considerations – Realistic Waybill Boxes
- 32-Square-Foot Design Challenge, Part 2 (seven layouts in HO and N)
Download a sampler of LDJ-50 here

Layout Design Journal #49 includes:
- Northern Pacific St. Paul Division – an Armstrong-inspired plan
- The Chicago & Mackinac, Part 2: same layout, half the space
- Designing for Train-Handling Challenges on the Calamity & Uproar
- 32-Square-Foot Design Challenge, Part 1 (five layouts in HO, N, and TTn3)
- LDSIG Activities at NMRA Atlanta 2013
Download a sampler of LDJ-49 here

Layout Design Journal #48 includes:
- Layout Design for “Slow Ops”
- The Chicago & Mackinac, Part 1
- Layout Design SIG at 30 – Personal Reflections by the Founder
- Feeders for “Doorminoes”
- Controls & Human Factors Ideas from SIG Tours
Download a sampler of LDJ-48 here



Wednesday, January 23, 2013

"105% Solution" in Model Railroad Planning 2013

I always enjoy having one of my custom model railroad layout designs published in the commercial press. This time, it’s my HO track plan for the Clinchfield Railroad in about 12’X13’ in Model Railroad Planning 2013.

My client wanted the longest possible mainline run for model railfanning and also some resemblance of modeled locations to real-life places. In about 150 square feet, I was stuck for a bit until we hit upon the idea of combining multiple decks with multiple passes around the room. This “105% solution” wound a healthy 2.5+ scale mile mainline into the space.

There was only room for one “blob” (turnback curve), so I doubled up by using the visible layout for a modest suggestion of the famous Clinchfield Loops with a hidden staging loop below. Some scenes, like the yard at Bostic, North Carolina, were fairly accurately rendered, while others don’t resemble their real-life counterparts. Modulating fidelity in this way provides some accurate scenes while allowing more railroad to be packed into a given space.


Click here for a larger view and check out MRP 2013 for the full story.

We even found room for the large desk/workbench the client desired to share the room. The only downside was multiple crossings of the door, but this was OK for him. The layout is now well under construction, with photos published in the article, along with a number of great prototype scenes photographed by MRP Editor Tony Koester.

Thursday, November 01, 2012

Sigh … Asimov was Right

How often have you seen this? An enthusiastic newcomer to model railroading shows up on an Internet train forum on a Thursday, full of fundamental questions. These are patiently answered for the struggling newcomer over the next few days.

But then, a miracle occurs! (Or not.) By the following Tuesday, our newbie considers himself an expert and begins offering pages of (bad) advice to others. In the process, he misuses or outright contradicts the meanings of standard hobby terms and concepts, mixing his turnback loops with his reversing connections and his selective compression with his scale ratios. Talk about the blind leading the partially sighted!

What's more, our newly-minted modeling maven petulantly defends his bogus advice as valid, since it’s "his opinion."

It seems that Science Fiction writer Isaac Asimov was predicting Internet forum discourse when he said:

There is a cult of ignorance in the United States*, and there always has been. The strain of anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that "my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge."
From a Newsweek magazine column, January 21, 1980

*And Canada, apparently