Thursday, September 17, 2009

"Prototype designs are easier" -- Baloney!

One of the oft-repeated truisms about model railroad track planning is: "It's easier to adapt a prototype design than to freelance one". But I can tell you, that ain't always true!

I'm working on a few different designs right now. Some are fairly strictly prototype-based, others very freelanced. And the freelanced ones are a little easier. Here's what I mean:

In one design, for example, the real-life branch upon which the layout is based fits reasonably well into the somewhat challenging available space. And there's a terrific long stretch where a yard would fit so perfectly.

Unfortunately, it's not at all close to the relative location where the actual yard was located in real life. And no amount of contortion and contrivance magically transform the real-life branch. The design is working out OK in the end, but it's been a lot of work (most of it enjoyable).

On one of the freelanced projects, by contrast, I can move the yard to the best spot in the space relative to the room, to staging, and to other desired features. Because I have seen enough segments of real-life railroads and learned about how they work, I have a good foundation of knowledge for making the judgments about plausible locations for the various elements.

And that's the key -- for a neophyte without some background knowledge, freelance designs are more difficult to get right. So in that light, maybe the "Prototype is Easier" conventional wisdom is correct much of the time.

Programming note: Now that Fall is nearly here and readers' thoughts are turning back to model railroading, I'll be publishing blog updates more often again.

One of my favorite audio streams lately has been Texas Hellkitten Radio on Live365. The stream's motto of "… a little rockabilly, a little surf, a little blues …" is certainly accurate. It's interesting to hear nuggets from the past alongside more polished modern music that pays homage to those pioneers. And then there's the Psychobilly and Voodoobilly you just don't often hear that often anywhere. (OK, sometimes with good reason.) But overall, a fun trip to a Texas honkytonk -- without the smoke and the unnervingly sticky floor.