Sunday, February 10, 2019

Once Every 15 Years, I Guess

When I started layout design and ops consulting in 2004, I knew that I needed to appear on the web. I was in a hurry, so choosing my email ISP for my web hosting for convenience’ sake was the path of least resistance. After all, I only expected to need about six or eight pages – how big a job would it be to re-do it later?

Yeah, about that. 60+ pages later, it’s a huge job. Over the years I’ve added topics of general usefulness for folks (I hope), as well as examples of custom layout designs for clients.

The creaky and arcane tools I started with in 2004 never really got much of an upgrade. And recently, my previous ISP announced they would be shutting down the tools, which would delete my site.

It’s probably for the best. The previous tools had been balky and not remotely easy-to-use for the last five or so years. Not to mention that nearly 40% of the recent visits to my site are coming from phones and tablets rather than traditional browsers. My old site did a poor job of accommodating these visitors.

The new tools I am using allow better interfaces for these devices, although I have not yet tweaked every page for best appearance. But the most-commonly-visited pages should be better for mobile users now – and I will get to the rest over the next few weeks.

Because of the arcane limitations of the Year 2000-era tools, web addresses (URLs) for my previous site were non-standard. That means that the addresses of content have changed on the new site, but nearly all of it has been recreated somewhere on the new site. It was painful to give up a decade-and-a-half of others’ links to my content, but it’s the price of existing in the current millennium.

Another consequence of retirement of these tools is that my personal web pages on the Oakland Harbor Belt layout concept will also disappear. But I’ve moved on to a new concept (more on that later) and I have archived the OHB content to make it available in some form sometime in the future (as if anyone is interested!).

When the numbers of visitors to started to grow quickly in 2008, I began paying closer attention to visitor- and page view counts. Since the beginning of 2009 my site has served over 3.5 Million page views. Not bad for a site that just started out as hanging out a consulting shingle in cyberspace.

So thanks for your support and interest over the years, and I apologize for the inconvenience of lost URLs. If you would like to link to my content again, I encourage you to do so – and thanks for that effort.

Tuesday, January 08, 2019

Signaling the Death of Expertise

Shaking my head at the amateurs on forum threads lecturing real-life railroad pros with decades of pertinent experience. The topic as I write is Signaling, which is something many modelers think that they understand, but don’t. And yet they prattle on and on, trying to justify the incorrect position they took at the outset with ever-more outrageous digressions from reality.

My advice (which would only be ignored) would be to stop digging, take the “L”, and value the opportunity to learn from generous experts.

I recently read Dr. Tom Nichols’ book The Death of Expertise, an exploration of how uninformed people believe that they know more than bona fide practitioners. A key quote: “Americans have reached a point where ignorance … is an actual virtue.” As Isaac Asimov also told us – and as is on display every day in Internet forums.

Saturday, December 08, 2018

Switching, Logging, Moving, and more in LDJ-62

Sorry for the delay in distributing Layout Design Journal #62. New membership volunteers in the Layout Design SIG are working hard to get up to speed. Most members who choose paper delivery will have received their issue by now. On-line delivery emails are going out right now.

This issue includes: Switching challenge 10X11 HO layout features urban switching and RDCs on the Esquimalt & Nanaimo. Bonus-room HO multideck layout modeling White Mountain, NH logging. Moving and rebuilding a large HO Midwest-themed sectional layout. Conceptual design for N scale multideck Northern Pacific in Montana in 1949. Ideas from Kansas City 2018 Tours. LDSIG News and Announcements.

To download a free “Sampler” of a few pages of LDJ-62 and other recent issues, visit this link.

We are now working on LDJ-63 and hope to distribute it in January; so renew soon if your membership is expiring. To begin or renew your LDSIG membership, visit this link.

Friday, July 06, 2018

Switching Layouts and More in LDJ-61

It’s been a crazy year or so, with lots of family medical issues and other challenges -- in other words, life! But as things return to normal, I hope to be posting here more often.

One area where I’m catching up is my work editing the Layout Design SIG’s Layout Design Journal. After a long delay, LDJ-62 is in the mail.

Although I did not set out to structure the magazine this way, this issue ended up with a major focus on switching layouts. A detailed design story covers Jonathan Jones’ N-scale Central New Jersey Newark layout featuring innovative modeling techniques, lighting, and construction. A 10X11 HO layout previews the designer’s large future home layout featuring Chicago, Burlington & Quincy switching in 1966.

There’s an update on a nifty Western Pacific prototype-based San Jose, CA N-scale sectional switching layout -- very interesting to me as it’s my own back yard and a favorite prototype. Another article suggests lessons on model railroad scenery perspectives from museum diorama builders. A photo essay on movable benchwork ideas for gates and elevators from Orlando 2017 rounds out the issue.

To download a free “Sampler” of a few pages of LDJ-61 and other recent issues, visit this link:

Click here to join the LDSIG and start receiving the LDJ in print or as an on-line download.

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Mitchell, Mountains, More in LDJ-60

Layout Design Journal authors and volunteers have produced another excellent magazine. LDJ-60 includes: Don Mitchell’s design for an Sn3 Denver, South Park, & Pacific layout in a challenging garret space. Wind River Canyon Layout Design Element in N scale. Two multideck 16’X22’ Mountain Challenge articles: HO East Broad Top and Pennsy; Southern Pacific’s 1950s Cuesta Grade in N scale. Three Progressive Rail branches in 10’X11’ Switching Challenge space. LDSIG news and announcements.

Click this link to download a free sampler of a few pages of LDJ-60.

Click here to join the LDSIG and start receiving the LDJ in print or as an on-line download.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017


A new word for the day: Implausintransigence. That’s the act of asking a question on an Internet forum and then steadfastly refusing to be swayed by factual answers that are contrary to whatever crazy thing the questioner wanted to do in the first place.

Bottom line, your railroad, your rules – do whatever you like and save everyone the trouble. Why waste your time arguing with people making the effort to provide you with facts that you're going to ignore anyway? SMH, as the cool kids say.

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