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

Saturday, August 04, 2012


One of the major gaps in model locomotive rosters has been a quality mass-produced N Scale Alco S‑1/3 or S‑2/4, a fact with which I have bored readers before – and before that. S‑2s, in particular, were on hundreds of different railroads' rosters from 1940 to the present day.

So it was extremely welcome news from the National Train Show yesterday when Atlas announced its upcoming model of the Alco S‑2. In an embarrassment of riches, Bachmann also announced an S‑4 model in N scale at the same show. I would have made do with either, frankly, but the S‑2 is terrific. (Yes, some may grouse that one of the manufacturers could have kicked us down an S‑1/3 instead of similar-appearing S‑2 and S‑4 models – but let's not be bitter.)

 Depending on road names and liveries, I'll have some S‑2s on order as soon as possible. And maybe an S‑4 or two for good measure – they fit my 1955 modeling era as well.

But it does raise a question for me. I had considered modeling the prototype Alameda Belt Line (ABL), which was exclusively S‑2 powered in my era. But partially due to the lack of a mass-produced model of the Alco switcher, I developed a proto-freelance theme instead. Atlas is doing different versions of the S‑2, so one of them will probably be pretty close to the ABL's units (after some custom painting, of course)

So now … stay proto-freelance? … or ABL?

Wednesday, August 01, 2012

The Layout Design SIG

In my last blog post, I referenced my article from the Layout Design Journal (LDJ), published by the Layout Design SIG (LDSIG). I was surprised to receive a couple of emails from blog readers who were not aware of the SIG and its magazine, or didn't realize that the SIG was still active and vital. So here is a bit more information about the LDSIG.

For anyone interested in model railroad track planning and layout design, I think the LDSIG is a fabulous resource and well worth membership (full disclosure, I edit the LDJ). Besides the quarterly magazine, the SIG also sponsors programs at regional and national meetings (such as at the Grand Rapids convention this week).

"Samplers" of a few pages from each of the last seven issues are available for free download as Adobe Acrobat (.pdf) files. I'd encourage those who aren't yet SIG members to take a look – there are many interesting layout design ideas in every issue. Back issues of the LDJ are also available.

LDJ-47, Summer 2012
- Planning the Newcastle-Fassifern Railway with Layout Design Elements (LDEs)
- Improving a Classic John Armstrong Plan in N Scale
- The Continuous Model Railroad: More Railroad than your Room Can Hold
- Proto-Freelance Midwest NYC Layout Inspired by Published Plans
- Weighing the Scales: Experienced Multi-scale Modelers Discuss Pros and Cons
- Benchwork and Fascia Ideas from LDSIG Tours
Download the free "sampler" of this issue

LDJ-46, Spring 2012
- Three Crossings at Newburgh, Ohio
- Small and Portable: Baltimore's Wicomico St. on the B&O
- Designing a Busy Chicago Passenger Terminal, Multi-deck HO
- Planning for Signals, Part 3: References
- Oakland, California's Howard Terminal in N Scale
Download the free "sampler" of this issue

LDJ-45, Winter 2012
- Breaking Marley’s Chains – On2 to S for CN Branch
- SP on a Shelf – Houston's Clinton Branch
- Heavy Switching Design Challenge from Tulsa 2011:
  - The Copper Belt Railroad in N Scale
  - Kansas City Southern in Neosho, Mo.; 1956
  - The Pittsburgh Transfer Railway
  - Johnstown and Union City – Mushroom "cut-and-paste" design in N Scale
  - The Terminal Dock Railroad – Northeastern Rail-Marine
  - Electrasteel Corporation
- Gooseneck, Bottoms and Bluffs – Multi-deck HO design for Kansas City's West Bottoms
Download the free "sampler" of this issue

LDJ-44, Fall 2011
- Sectional, modular and portable layout focus:
  - HO Sections Designed to Move – and Do!
  - HO/HOn3 FREMO Modules for Home and Road
  - Compact OO English Terminus Display Layout
  - N Scale Free-mo Modules as Layout Design Elements
- What would you do differently?: Tips from five successful layout builders
Download the free "sampler" of this issue

LDJ-43, Summer 2011
- Designing a “Three-way” Layout Design Element on the BN
- Lessons Learned: Phil Monat's Multi-Pass Delaware & Susquehanna
- Three stories on lightweight benchwork ideas from Gatorfoam™ and Luan
- Planning for Signals, Part 2: Model Implementations
- Signal Repeaters
Download the free "sampler" of this issue

LDJ-42, Spring 2011
- Designing the California, Oregon and Western
- Thoughts on Multi-Pass Design
- 90 Feet more Mainline on the Idaho-Montana Railway & Navigation (UP)
- Layout Design Challenge -- Road Warrior Revisited:
  - B&O’s 26th St. NYC Yard
  - Central California Traction in Stockton and Lodi
  - SAL, ACL, A&W in North Carolina, 1925
  - Timetable and Train Order “Trainer” Layout
- Design Considerations for Prototype-action Couplers
Download the free "sampler" of this issue

LDJ-41, Winter 2011
- The Ultimate 4X8? RGS in HOn3
- Garage Bay Passenger Ops Design Challenge: Calif. Bayside Commute and Reading Lines in Philadelphia
- Modeling a Mile: Layouts for W&LE / Nickel Plate; B&O; WM
- Planning for Signals, Part 1: Prototype Practices
- Design Ideas from Milwaukee 2010
- “This Column does not Exist": Support Column Ideas
Download the free "sampler" of this issue