Wow…. When you run into a planning block, it can be rough to get past it. I’ve had that problem recently. The common term is “analysis paralysis”.
I was thinking about what might have brought on the “AP”, trying to solve it. The short answer is that I’ve planned myself into a corner. I played into a couple of issues, and it’s coming back to “bite” me so to speak. I could go on and tick them off, like a somewhat nebulous future space with a shared current space, desire for multiple locations, in the end, though, I feel like I over-included research items and that seems to have just stuck me firm.
Let’s unwind this. I know the space I have, I am somewhat sure of future space, and I know that my plans will fit in both, but right now, the layout has to share. That’s a huge challenge, believe it or not. While we accomplished quite a lot last year with our consolidation and cleaning in our garage, the demands of a family of 4 with storage for holiday decorations, tools, outdoor equipment, and a car mean the layout has to share… and do it well, with that stuff when it’s not inn operation, and it also has to be mobile enough or in a spot that is stationary enough to be available for operating when it’s time for trains. People had and do build portable layouts. It’s not unheard of. The challenge I have run into is building a portable layout that includes everything I want to include. Part one of unraveling my issues with planning this relates to making sure the planning allows for the space to be used properly.
I’ve spent time looking at multi-deck layout planning for this project. You can go back and find some of my thoughts in earlier posts. However, something I’ve come to realize here is that for the space I have, planning multi-deck means the helix needs to be separate from the layout, and then that’s a portable section, any return looks have to be portable, and that’s another section, and the layout needs to be balanced if it’s stacked so that it’s heavy on the bottom and it won’t fall over on it’s own when being moved, usually be 1 person (me). That’s a challenge. Most folks with multi-deck layouts build stationary, around the walls, kinds of layouts, and while my plans include things being stationary at some point in the future, that’s not reality of now.
I was recently gifted a piece of 4×8 plywood by a friend, and the sight of that plywood sitting in our garage, leaning up against some things, gave me the idea of looking back toward my earlier years and 4×8 layouts. I know, there’s a lot of stuff people don’t like about the classic 4×8 model railroad. It’s a space hog, needing room around it, it’s limiting in the curves that it can accommodate, etc… etc… If you don’t have your own pet-dislike of 4×8’s, just Google the track plans for them, and you’ll find all sorts of threads online suggesting other kinds of layout design. But…. In my case, and island type of layout plan is an ADVANTAGE instead of a drawback. Look above… an island solves not going to multi-decks, killing the need for a massive helix that moves on it’s own, and it eliminates the separate turn back loops too. Moving a contained layout around, with heavy legs on casters, is much easier for one person than the multi-deck affair. The weight is distributed much better. So far, I’m liking where this is going. There are island-type layouts in the model railroad press that are not just 4×8’s. Anyone remember the Model Railroader project layout based on the Milwaukee Road Beer Line? With the addition they made a few years ago, that layout is 17’ long and still just 4’ wide.
Am I solving my block by building a 4×8? Well, no. I recently exchanged some questions with another friend who has a great coal-hauling layout. Steve was kind enough to answer some questions about his… 4×8…. layout. He models more modern that we do here, but the lengths of equipment are applicable. Steve’s layout handles his 50’ equipment through 22” radius curves, and the 40’ and smaller cars handle the 18” radius he has in some spots. Ok, that’s good info. While I’m leaning toward a footprint that is more like the Beer Line than Steve’s layout, I now am starting to form a few ideas here about what I can and can’t fit.
I think of track planning as a massive personal negotiation. The historical information, photos, maps, and all the piles of research say to the track planner “THIS is what you need to include”. The planner then says back “this is the space we have, not everything fits”. The operator says “I want to run 30 car trains”, and the planner says “then get the information to cull some of what it’s presenting and we’ll see what we can fit, but we’re probably not going to get a 30 car train.” On it goes. It’s sort of a pruning process on the info tree. With the massive amount of information I’ve collected, not only on coal hauling in West Virginia, but also on the industries in and around Cincinnati and Columbus, OH, it’s not surprising to me that the information part of the equation here overwhelmed everything and brought the space planner to a complete halt while the operator just panicked and said :I just want a train when everything is sorted out.
I can see some compromises coming here again too. I had set out at one point that I wanted to include some Z class 2-6-6-2’s in my plans. There’s not a chance of including those if I go to 22 or 24’ radius curves. Ok. I like smaller steam anyway. I’m comfortable with M class 4-8-0’s and the W class 2-8-0’s as the mainstay of this project. That’s not an issue for me. It also means that the larger 6 axel passenger equipment is probably out, unless it’s running into a station, and then off, not making any kind of layout tour. That’s probably OK too. Several sources list the N&W as having had open platform passenger equipment in service into the 1930’s on less heavily trafficked routes. We recently acquired a shorter “old-time” combine and coach that would be perfect for a local passenger train.
Where does this leave me then? I’ve unraveled some of the issues I’ve been having. I’m no longer looking at a multi-deck layout, I’m now looking at an island. That realization is like a weight being lifted off.
Some other challenges, like lack of a readily available N&W hopper appropriate to 1927, that I can also overcome in stages. My friend Eric recently stated to a group of friends (and I am paraphrasing here) that unless you tell someone that something doesn’t match a prototype, they’ll most likely assume it does, and if they notice, and ask, then you can explain things. I can take that approach with my coal equipment, and set up enough equipment to get started with, and then replace or augment with resin or scratch built equipment over time. That thought was seconded some time ago by another friend. It makes sense to me. I know some serious model railroaders who are also historians of their prototype railroads who have anachronistic, or ‘foobie” portions of their layouts. Nobody would know. The number of people who would know would be small, and then the number who would say anything is even smaller.
So, here we are, then. I have a space idea that will work, and I have solved some of my other hurdles, even if they’re temporary hurdles. What will go in the space, and how will the layout take shape? I had hoped to be showing you a track plan at this point. What I can show you, though, is a start, with a promise of more with explanation thrown in for good measure as I progress.