Wednesday, April 29, 2009

There should be warnings ...

There are some perfectly dreadful track plans being published on the Internet lately. If only these were required to carry a mandatory advisory:

If you won't stop the CAD for yourself, please, do it for the Newbees you are misleading.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

A Railfan Sampler

I've had the pleasure of having another article published in Issue #2 of the Model Railroad Hobbyist e-zine. The layout design project itself was a bit different from most for me in that it was a very specific railfan focus practically to the exclusion of any traditional operating elements.

There is one fairly large yard, but it's meant to be a place for consists to be changed or power swapped, not as a base of local switching operations. And the scenes are famous railfan locales (Tehachapi, Cajon, etc.) rather than the more common towns and industries found on many layouts. The overall layout is quite large, occupying a floor in a commercial building, but the effort to capture the essence of famous scenes like The Loop and the horseshoe curve at Caliente demands a lot of space.

Model Railroad Hobbyist is a free download here and you can see the track plan and read more about the design itself. While working on the project, I snapped some railfan style photos during a pass through the Tehachapi area on a "slightly intentional" railfan trip I wrote about here earlier.

You can also see two different approaches to large HO track plans featuring Tehachapi in my Layout Design Gallery.

It was an interesting project with a unique layout vision and concept and it's great to see it in the "pages" of Model Railroad Hobbyist.

Over the weekend I happened to pluck the Georgia Satellites' eponymous 1986 debut release from a teetering stack of CDs. AC/DC meets Allman Brothers Band in a torrent of power chords and 12-bar blues! I suppose many would consider the band a one-hit-wonder, but there's a lot more here than just the radio-friendly "Keep Your Hands to Yourself". Lead guitarist Rick Richards shows off his "Dixie-fried" chops throughout, and the tunes where lead singer Dan Baird and Richards join voices are particularly effective, such as on Terry Anderson's "Battleship Chains" and the turn-it-to-eleven rocker "Can't Stand the Pain" (aided and abetted by Richards' stinging slide work). Unfortunately Baird left the band after two less-successful later releases, but Georgia Satellites shows they were really on to something for a while.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Selective Obsession

We've often heard of "selective compression", the modeling concept of reducing the size of something (a structure, for example) to better fit the layout. A nine-bay factory building becomes five bays wide, for example. A concept I use fairly often is "compressive selection". This is choosing a smaller example of something because it's more achievable as a model. For example, if considering a mainline junction with a branch as a subject for a layout, I might focus on the branch and only suggest the heavily-travelled mainline for a more achievable scope.

But many folks fall prey to "selective obsession". This is where one idea, one element, one town, one industry becomes stuck in their minds and they refuse to consider any change. This leads to compromising the entire layout for this one prize, even though the end result is unsatisfying overall. The other elements are squeezed into less and less space; the operating connections become ever more convoluted; and any logical fit to the real-world exceedingly remote. Yet they hang on to that one idea, come what may.

This might be the guy who wants to handle forty-car grain trains on his HO 4X8, or the fellow who insists on a division point yard, even though it shrinks the rest of the layout so severely that the yard makes no sense operationally. Or the poor soul who clings desperately to an admittedly lousy design from an old book because he already built the benchwork.

Becoming too locked-in to anything too early in the design process restricts your flexibility and creativity just when you need it most. Balance is the key. When you find yourself resisting logical ideas and alternatives because you say to yourself, "But I can't give up Chicago!"; you may be a victim of Selective Obsession.