Thursday, 16 January 2020

Inglenook Issues

There are good reasons why the inglenook is considered a classic layout plan, but that does not mean it is without flaws. This is particularly true if you use it as the basis of a British layout. The good news is there are ways around some of the problems.

So what are the issues?

The most basic one is the lack of British prototypes for the track plan and mode of operation.

Yes, there are lots of reasonably compact three road goods yards. But most inglenooks don't have room for any actual goods facilities and most small goods yards didn't have to handle the traffic density that an inglenook does. In any case, when being used as a shunting puzzle operation bears no resemblance to how goods yards are really worked.  In a goods yard the location of wagons is driven by the loading and unloading of goods of different types. An inglenook yard is more akin to a small marshalling yard, with wagon position determined by where they have arrived from and their eventual destination.

So we can use an inglenook to model a marshalling yard, but they tended to be much larger facilities and located near a mainline. That brings up another possible issue for the inglenook, which is that the train never leaves view. That has a plus side as well, of course, in that no fiddle yard is needed and you get maximum scenic value out of the space, but still, it is nice to think our trains are going to and coming from somewhere else.

Mention of the scenic aspect also brings to mind what, for me, is the biggest issue. The visual imbalance between the two halves of the plan, and how to make use of the space on the half of the board that accommodates the headshunt.

But it is still a great plan.

So can we resolve some of the issues? Well, people have done. To be honest the easiest solution is to build it as an American layout, with two of the three sidings serving lineside loading docks modelled in low relief. After all, who knows what a boxcar contains and it seems reasonable that a raw product could be needed at factory 1 and then a finished product is delivered from factory 2. American boxcars can also be made individually identifiable to a casual observer without hinting at what they are carrying, which is less easy for UK wagons. In the last year I've come across some interesting prototypical US  track plans using interlaced trackwork that could also make the plan more interesting. Put it into an urban setting and you can make the headshunt area more interesting, and I've also considered using a car float as one of the tracks to explain the need for some of the stock movements.

But I still want to build a British version.

So the most obvious solution is to build it as a marshalling yard where a colliery or quarry is feeding traffic into one end of a line for onward travel. But that means all the wagons will be of the same type, so you need to set it in a period when PO wagons were around if you want casual visitors to take part in the shunting game.An alternative might be an internal manufacturing site with wagons going between workshops as part of the production process. that would require the game to be slightly altered so that rather than assembling a single train you would be redistributing the wagons across the sidings. I quite like that idea.

We could also make the yard seem bigger, by, for instance, having an overbridge across the ends of the sidings. That could work well in an urban setting.

Add a high level "mainline" and you connect the yard to the wider railway, the headshunt could even disappear under the mainline.

So what am I actually going to do with Rhwbiwch Planc? Well probably none of the above!

Monday, 13 January 2020

Rhwbiwch Planc

...or Apa Valley Lives

Those with long memories will know this blog started to document the construction of a micro-layout to test the waters on my return to modelling 4mm standard gauge after a long absence.

Unbelievably it is now four and a half years since I demolished Apa Valley before our move to the Fens. Since then my indoor modelling space has been restricted to an 18" square corner of a desk, when it was available. Bear in mind that the Rails Round the Garden OO9 micro took up 12"x12" of that space.

As the new studio/office/model workshop takes shape I've been doing a lot of thinking about what the first project should be, as well as the longer-term ones. I've learned a lot about 3D printed kits and scenics in the last few years, but I feel like I'm starting yet again with standard gauge. That means I need to regain my confidence, (re) learn some lessons, and take on board recent trade developments to make life easier.

After the capital outlay on the building I also want to be relatively frugal with my modelling this year, and where possible exploit my store cupboards.

My last plan was to use TAoC to do that. But then Phil Parker had to come up with this idea, Casket Yard! Not only that but BRM also put together this deal with Gaugemaster.

OK, perhaps not that frugal if, like me you have the basics already, and you do need to add the cost of the baseboard kit and storage box in as well. The concept, though, seems too good not to play with. Certainly, that is what my mind decided at 7am this morning.

Two options I've discounted for now are both dockside schemes, one an HO layout based on a picture I came across last year of a 1970's urban New York scene, and the other one based around Scalescenes kits*. Both have their merits, but whilst moving boxes I've come across odd bits that have survived from Apa Valley.

Even at 7am it didn't take much thinking to work out that these could be combined with the Casket Yard idea, and I already have the storage box lying around since we decided getting the Xmas tree into it was too much of a struggle. In fact it also turns out I already have a suitable baseboard built. It is wider and slightly shorter than Casket Yard, but can still fit in the storage box on its side if I use a lower backscene.

Peco medium radius code 75 bullhead points are just a little too long...

At least, that is the overall plan. A lot depends on playing around with track templates and my usual overthinking. Blame the latter for the observation that Casket Yard can be overlaid on to TAoC. Truncate the yard, bring the road bridge scenic bridge a bit closer to the platform by dumping the water tower, and place the back scene right behind the station as I did on at Apa Valley and it gives you Casket Yard. That, of course, raises the question whether to actually re-use the Apa Valley structures or to go for a mini TAoC  -"The Art of Compromise - Compromised."  In fact, I think the major compromise is going to be the use of the Peco asymmetric three way point. It will need to be slightly modified to look more realistic. I can justify the use of a FB profile by claiming the line was built as a light railway

The end of the beginning, perhaps, as the studio begins to become usable

* Both of these ideas remain roundtuit projects if I can find suitable homes for them. The HO one might even just fit into the Apa box that Apa Valley once occupied. The dockside one  needs a space big enough to suit a Tymesaver trackplan

Tuesday, 31 December 2019

New Year's Resolutions

The last time I made and kept a New Year's resolution the impact on my life was massive. In fact, it indirectly led me to where I am now, sat in the studio at the end our fenland garden

This year I think it is time for another serious set of resolutions around work, home and hobbies.

There is a degree of psychology involved in setting resolutions you are going to keep. Part of that is ensuring they aren't resolutions that are easy to break quickly. So I'm not going to resolve to cycle every day, but I am going to resolve to lose a little weight and to improve my personal best.

So my modelling resolutions aren't going to revolve around specific projects, other than not starting a new one* and channelling resources into the refurbishment and extension of the ELR.

The prime aim is going to be moving on some of the projects I've already got on the go, including those that have been on hold since the house move four years ago. That doesn't mean finishing entire projects, but rather about getting some of the sub-projects to a point where they are ready for use when I'm ready to progress the bigger projects.

So I might not get around to building a permanent 7/8ths line in the garden, but I will have the basic stock and structures ready to go. Incidentally, the new perspective that the studio has given me on the garden is proving useful for rethinking how we might use it in the future. Building the studio has also created a new more private enclave in the garden that I think might allow me to build a garden line safe from public view.

I'm 99% sure I've settled on the 16.5mm gauge version of TAoC, for reasons I'll explore more here as progress resumes. One of my last purchases of 2019 has been a Prototype Models kit for Wimlcote Station which was, of course, a key feature in Roy's original design. I'm not going to actually build it, since the artwork doesn't match modern standards. I'm going to use it as a reference point in deciding whether to go with the LCUT version or another approach. I've already sourced the goods shed.

It might not look like much yet...

* This comes down to your definition of new. There are three little projects that I've not started yet but that are on my project plan. The most significant is a 15mm gauge garden line based on a lonely stretch of the C&L

Friday, 20 December 2019

Annual Apprasial

Looking out from my temporary home office on to the ELR it is hard not to be depressed.  The goats and chickens have removed most of the ballast, and the changes we've made in the garden mean I'm going to have to relay at least a third of the line next year. On top of which Teddy is away for repair and Tug has one of those annoying electrical faults that I can't find time to explore.

More to the point, I still don't have power in the new studio/office, though hopefully, Jason, our brilliant local electrician, will be fixing that in the next few days. In fact he is hard at work as I write this

But there are reasons to be cheerful. I've got a nice mix of projects to get underway as soon as the workshop has power, and Teddy will be home soon. Well sometime next year, anyway

This year I just lost the time to keep on top of the maintenance of the ELR, given the additional damage caused by the goats and chickens and the wettest autumn here since 1880. A major challenge for next year apart from remedial maintenance will be getting the line fenced in to prevent livestock incursions. Another will be working out an alignment so that I can run a second road into the engine shed and build a lean-to for the carriage road.

It is also easy to forget that I've laid quite a bit of new track in the front garden. It is a strange perceptual thing though that plain straight track across an open lawn never seems that impressive, whilst the same amount of track with a curve and a view blocker seems so much longer.

I don't really see Tug fitting in with my long term plans. A BE loco pretending to be something else has never appealed to me. The CJF controller though has really impressed me and made driving  A BE much more satisfying than I could have imagined, so an idea is forming in my mind.

A Tug replacement? The new loco from ride on Railways
The track has become to resemble a WW1 trench railway

This was the same stretch the day Teddy first arrived, four years ago.

On the model railway front a few ideas are beginning to become more concrete with the prospect of moving into the studio. I've got several 7/8ths projects to finish off, and still no idea of where the 7/8ths layout will go without getting in the way of the 7 1/4" gauge plans.

I think I've just about come down on the side of 16.5mm gauge for TAoC project. It just seems to be in the spirit of the layout that it should be doable by anybody. I might even stick with tension lock couplings. It is, after all, all about compromise.

The other priority is a much-modified version of the Scalescenes boxfile layout using HOf/ 006.5m for the quayside line.

The five backburner projects are the expanded Cadeby layout, a portable 7/8ths micro layout, the next version of the Tanat Valley line, a Kinver Light  Railway style tramway and a 15mm scale  C&L line - though again I've no idea where that one will fit. It would be a bigger version of an aborted  OOn3 layout I started a few years ago that was a simple loop with a single siding.

Power at last!

Sunday, 8 December 2019

National Festival of Model Railways

Since Peterborough is on what passes for our doorstep in this part of the world I thought I would give this show a try this year.  Having said that the list of layouts didn't excite me, but it was this or Xmas shopping, so that was an easy decision to make.

As Phil Parker pointed out when we were chatting it is a show with a wide remit and a big audience to please, so it tends to have a bit of everything. Had I gone with a wad of cash in my pocket and some specific projects in mind I'm sure I would have found plenty of opportunities to spend it, with an excellent range of traders from the specialist to the box shifters, and if I go again they will be my focus. It was also nice that the spacious layout allowed plenty of room to get to the trade stands most of the time. Oddly the one I found hardest to get to was Freestone Model Asseccories. I wonder if that is part of what seems to be a bit of a renaissance for card models.

For me, there were just a handful of layouts that made an impression. Bewdley was interesting since it is a location I know well

I liked Burnham, but couldn't really get a good photo of it. I was relying solely on my mobile phone for once and I'm still getting the hang of using it at shows.

Leysdown was my favourite, I loved the spaciousness of it. I have to say it was one of a number of handful of layouts making really good use of subtle levels of sound as well.

Returning home I found a long-anticipated delivery from Rapido that certainly brings back memories of my mostly unhappy schooldays.

 And today I'm back to moving long-forgotten books and models into the new studio.

As well as welcoming two new goats into our herd, to wreck more destruction on the ELR

Tuesday, 26 November 2019

The Art of the Possible

The new building is far from ready for use, but I thought it would provide a safer refuge for the baseboards of The Art of Compromise than either of the sheds have been. So here it is in its new home, and despite the ravages of mice over the last five years there are still substantial remnants of my Templot plan in place.

A lot has changed in those five years.

The original idea, to save you trawling through old posts, was to take a break from the somewhat down at heel Tanat Valley and then come back to revisit it both refreshed from the change and having improved my skills enough to make the investment in a new version worthwhile. TAoC had always been one of my favourite plans, so seemed an ideal candidate. When not in use it could be displayed as two separate dioramas in my then office/workshop and then combined with the fiddle yard to be operated in the library.

Conventional wisdom seems to be that the layout can't actually be built as Roy Link originally drew it. As a result, most versions of TAoC are modified to a greater or lesser degree. I wanted to prove the original design was feasible using either the models he specified or their current equivalents.  In fact, I wanted to go beyond that and show it was possible to build it with handbuilt EM gauge rather than with Peco Setrack points. That would also provide the opportunity to test out EM conversions as I got round to them. An additional benefit, at the back of my mind, was that I could later replace the scenery with updated TVR structures as a halfway house to the next full-blown TVR layout.

So what has changed and where am I now?

Well obviously we moved house, and I built a  7 1/4" gauge railway. Modelling has been restricted to the OO9 micro layout to experiment with the new generation of 3D printed loco kits and beginning to dabble in 7/8ths scale. I've been building up a small collection of recent RTR OO gauge releases as well, some for eventual conversion to EM, and some for an OO dockside micro layout.

The new building gives me the space to keep a layout like TAoC, or even larger permanently set up, which is a nice plus. On the negative side, I seem to have less free time than ever thanks to the garden and animals, never mind work.

Then there are the developments in the hobby, such as the rise in 3D printing and laser cutting, and in particular the fine-scale bullhead track from Peco in both OO and, via the EMGS, EM.

Oh yes, and Chirs Ford built his version of the TAoC using a very similar philosophy

So the options I'm considering:

Carrying on with the original plan for TAoC but using Peco finescale track in either OO or EM. If I went down the OO route it would let me exploit some of my RTR stock until it is converted. I could build a small Apa Valley type micro layout in EM to test any stock I convert to EM in the meantime

Keeping very close to the original plan, but using 18" wide baseboards, primarily to allow a little foreground into the model and protect the running line from curious fingers. That would swing the pendulum back to EM. I could reuse the original baseboards for an N gauge version of Minories.

Skip straight to the EM TVR on 2ft wide baseboards, again using the existing boards for Minories.

And, of course, even if I go for the first of these options, I could still build Minories on the baseboards at a later date.

Sunday, 24 November 2019

The purpose of life, railways and everything

Well, the purpose of an agricultural tramway is to carry agricultural produce. The goats took that into their own hands by destroying the entirety of my vegetable plot.  Meanwhile, timber and coal traffic has been disrupted by the end of the "tramway" being lifted for my wife's goat-related deforestation project*. A project that has been balanced by hedge planting on my part but which means I need to reinstitute  20m of track in the Spring.

But then in the Spring, we are getting a different breed of goat, and that does definitely mean having to remove a stand of conifers. Conifers that currently hide both the big metal engine shed and the stock siding. That is a Bad Thing in the language of 1066 and All That. The upside is it lets me remove the infamous 8ft radius reverse curve, which also means it is feasible to fit in a second road into the big metal engine shed.

It is  Bad Thing that to do that means relaying another 40m of track, building an extra point and altering the geometry of one of the existing points.

It is a Good Thing, I suppose, that goats generate their own kind of agricultural traffic. Mucking out the goat shed produces a rich, and ripe, source of compost. The input to this process is bales of hay and straw, but I think I'm going to need longer wagons...

* She didn't check in advance that whilst certain shrubs are poisonous to goats, goats seem to be aware of this and so don't eat them.