Saturday, May 29, 2010

Concept: Four-Square Switching Layout

I can dream up layouts faster than I can build them. For example., my Island Rapid Transit series at Virtual Railroader is still a WIP. Then along comes the new issue of Model Railroader (June 2010) with an interesting around-the-wall harbor side layout (New York Central Pittston Harbor Subdivision). The idea – not necessarily the layout itself – caught my attention. Those who are familiar with my layouts at Virtual Railroader website, know that I like Trainz layouts built on a square of four baseboards (e.g., Bearpaw, M-Line, and others). The basic reason for this is that I love the effect made possible by using scenic backdrops. Because of the limits on topography scenery drawing, groupings of baseboards larger than four in a square result in a backdrop being rendered at a distance while much of the foreground topo is missing. This is too weird an effect for me. Four baseboards in a square seems to be the limit in Trainz.

Scene from M-Line showing backdrops.

I’m not going to design a layout here and now, nor am I going to build one any time soon, but I will say that the potential, especially in a configuration similar to M-Line would work here.

My proposed layout would differ significantly from the MR layout in that:

1. We don’t need a staging area – we can use portals
2. There’s far too much trackage for my likes
3. The Trainz layout does not need to be so compressed (a baseboard side is 72 meters long, nearly half a mile)

My Approach

I would begin by getting out a sheet of paper, or two, and sketching general ideas for switching potential. Basically, you are going to want a way to ship cars off the layout and bring new cars in. Having a mainline served by portals takes care of this.

You will also want a track or two to make up and break down freight trains. I’ve found in the past that switching takes time. There’s no need to get carried away with long trains and many tracks.

Once I had some idea of what I wanted to do, I would then go through my collection of industrial buildings to see what I had and could use. I would focus on interactive industries, though if boxcars are being used it doesn’t matter whether an industry is interactive or not.

I would also check the Trainz Download Station to see what new industrial buildings have become available or whatever else may have been there all along, but which I don’t have in my collection.

Consider also the possibility of using a waterfront container industry and/or a ferry boat (see John D’Angelo’s article “A New Idea For Ferry Operations.”

Then I would get out a sheet of quadrille paper and start sketching to scale. There’s no need to produce a complete or final drawing. All you need is a basic plan. It’s almost guaranteed you will change it as you build the layout.

OK, So I Lied

I wasn’t planning to do this, but I couldn’t resist. Here’s a concept plan. It could use some work. Also, it’s not in scale. The four baseboards would be more spacious than shown here. Still, the scheme has some useful elements, including a mainline with a portal at each end. One end would generate trains; the other would receive them.

Also included are two tracks for making up and breaking down trains, a small classification yard, some industrial sidings and a branch line with a portal. This portal would be used to receive trains, load/unload them, and return them.

I would have the mainline portal in the upper left corner emit trains randomly at perhaps 20-minute intervals (this always takes experimentation). The lower right portal would just receive trains. A session would begin with a switcher building a train for the branch or a consist for the mainline. By then a mainline train should arrive to drop off cars and pick up the waiting consist. Then the switcher would go back to work, sorting cars. At some point the switcher could take cars out the branch line and return via the portal at the left. You could have any number of sessions set up and varied by the initial placement of cars, time of day and weather. If you really want to get ambitious, you could have another branch line go to an iportal and have that connect to another layout via its own iportal.

This plan should be considered to be a schematic. That includes the essential parts, but does not include the additional items that might be found in such a location, such as engine house, locomotive fueling, yard office, etc.

There’s no need to get complicated with lots of track. A simple scheme like this will keep you plenty busy.


Thursday, May 13, 2010

Building The IRTS - Day 8

The latest installment of our series "Building The Island Rapid Transit System" is now available at the VR Reading Room, here.

-- Al

Monday, May 03, 2010

New eBook Introduces Trainz

Are you new to Trainz? Do you know someone who might be interested in learning about Trainz? How about a retiree who no longer has a place for a scale model layout? Or a younger person who doesn't have space or who is interested in computer simulations?

If any of these shoes fit, you will find John D'Angelo's new ebook "Railroading On Your Desktop" fills a major need in introducing people to this great hobby of virtual railroading. The book is available in Adobe Acrobat (PDF) format at Lulu, an electronic publishing web site for $7.99. Just follow this link.

As many of you know, John joined me at Virtual Railroader right after I posted the first issue of Virtual Model Railway Journal (now Virtual Railroader) and has been with me ever since. Between the two of us we have accounted for roughly 95% of the approximately 300 articles at VR (I lost count years ago). Those who are familiar with John's many articles know he has a natural way of describing things and making the complicated into something understandable. He also is know for his inventiveness in exploring the possibilities of Trainz.

"Railroading On Your Desktop" is an excellent introduction to the capabilities of Trainz and includes instructions in many areas. I commend John in his new book venture and heartily recommend it to anyone new to Trainz (old timers may find some new things here, too).

-- Al