Monday, 26 May 2014

Good Enough For All Practical Purposes

Mike Cougill's excellent and thought provoking blog has been looking at the concept of the Freedom Layout again. In doing so he has referred to a formula familiar to project managers around the world that essentially boils down to "You can't have everything"

Mike explicitly talked about cost, size, quality and time as the main elements that need to be optimised if a layout is going to get built and not be a millstone around the owners neck.

From where I'm sitting on the learning curve I would have to suggest there are two other factors, and to complicate things they aren't static.

One is skill. I'm very aware that my skills have improved since returning to the small scale side of the hobby, but at the same time I'm learning new skills I'm also coming across new barriers of incompetence. I don't want to limit my modelling to what I know I can achieve today, but at the same time I don't want to be so ambitious that I reduce the chance of success.

The second is prototype knowledge.

When I set off on this journey I thought I was reasonably knowledgeable about railways. In fact if the conversation is about narrow gauge railways of the British Isles I can probably hold my own in a pub conversation.

What I didn't realise is the extent of my ignorance about certain aspects of standard gauge railways that I now think are essential for building a realistic model. Point rodding is an obvious example, but only one of many. Frankly I had no idea how the brakes really worked on wagons - and didn't need to until I started to think about how to model them.

There is, I suspect, a third factor, which is the point at which additional effort becomes of limited value in adding to the overall effect. I suspect it will be sometime before I have to worry about reaching that point.

All of which brings me back to TaOC again.

Whilst travelling and the weather have both been interfering with my modelling they haven't completely stopped me thinking about it, and the actual degree of compromise I'm prepared to accept. If I was building it in OO I think even at my usual glacial place I would have it up and running by now, but then what would be the fun in that?

Should I have gone with copperclad  trackwork though? That would have speeded things up even in EM.

So would going with the track plan as it came out of Trax, but I made the call that I wanted to put the final plan together in Templot so I have more guidance when converting the template to track and so I can sort out things like conflicts between timbering and sleepers.

So that is what most of my bank holiday Monday has involved, and here is the Templot design as it currently stands. A little more tweaking is needed but it just about works.

I've tried to get it as close to Roy's original design as possible whilst still using A6 points. Ideally I would have liked to use B6. For comparison this is how my Trax version looked.  At the end of the day there isn't much in it. I used A5 points in the Trax version but I don't think the space saving was worthwhile.


  1. James,

    I was about to comment on your coupling options and then this post cropped up.

    We all have to start somewhere and the so called finescale modelling can involve a very steep learning curve, the only way to develop the skills needed is to actually build something and be prepared to learn by making mistakes. Keeping things simple gives you a more realistic chance of getting something up and running within a reasonable time scale which will help maintain interest and drive you on. When it comes to track there is nothing wrong with using copperclad but given your quest for realism I don't think simple PCB points would satisfy you in the long term. As one well known modeller has put things," you only have to get the track right once and once it's down it's down, scenery and other things can be chopped and changed about but changing track at a later date means a near rebuild of all you have constructed ".

    Couplings are a problem and all I can say is that the best method is the one you find the easiest as regards constructing and installing them not to mention operation. I have never made or used the AJ but am told it's fiddly to build, install and maintain, the S & W is easier in all respects and was originally designed and made to incorporate a wire hook, the etch came later. So there is nothing to stop you from adopting that design and making your own hook etc, etc. However seeing as you have invested in the AJ jigs then you having nothing to lose by fitting a couple of wagons with them and seeing how you get on.

    As regards the amount of free time you have for modelling, well I agree with Iain Rice when he says that the odd 10 minutes modelling here and there can make a huge difference and give you the feeling that you are actually making progress.

    I hope some of the above makes sense and gives you a little more food for thought.


  2. Geoff,

    Excellent advice as always. I'm 90% certain to go with S&W for now, but I want to start fiddling with the AJ early so I can build experience of them for use at a later date.

    As for the odd 10 minutes of modelling ...yes but there are times when I just feel so drained that it takes me the whole ten minutes to get in the right mood. Once track laying is done I actually have quite a few small projects planned that I'm hoping will speed up apparent progress enormously.

    Which brings me back to the trackwork. I've gone through that dissatisfaction stage with the Tillig track which I think is why I'm avoiding the copperclad option this time. I also know I'm not going to get it "right" right this time. That is also why I'm drifting away from the Tanat Valley for this layout, because when I go back to that theme I want to do so with both more prototype knowledge and better skills. There is not truth at all it is just so I can justify getting a class 22 at some point.

  3. I'm a big fan of the idea that the most important thing is to get started and then finish something. There are lots of layouts that would be perfect in all respects but are either never finished, or don't even start because their builders can always find something else to do or some other skill that "must" be learnt beofre starting. I once heard someone say they hadn't even switched on a soldering iron because they were still aquiring all the different types of solder that "proper" modellers said were required.

    The S&W couplings are a good example - go with them. AJ's are like a supermodel girlfriend - nice to look at but soooo high maintainance.

    Likewise track. If copperclad gets the model built - go for it. The learnign curve is a lot shallower. You'll see progress fast and be encouraged to carry on with other jobs.

  4. Hi Phil,

    That's certainly true where the couplings are concerned and this evening is going to be spent starting the task of converting to S&W on all the EM gauge stock I've got so far - which actually, other than a second loco to partner the Sentinel is pretty much all the stock I need for the layout.

    For me at the moment, is less clear cut with the trackwork. I already know I can build working pointwork using the C+L components, and actually find it rather therapeutic, though yes, rather more time consuming than building with copperclad. Amazing how obsessed you can become with finding all the chairs that have fallen onto the carpet, for a start!

    The big learning curve for me is Templot, especially because I use it so infrequently. You could argue for a minimum space layout it is overkill, but on the other hand I wanted to make absolutely sure there were no hidden traps, like a need for an unfeasible small radius, to stop the plan working. Of course now I know the Trax version, produced in about 1/10 of the time, would have been fine. Typical, isn't it?

    Hopefully I've got a couple of weeks with limited travelling so that should see a lot of progress across the little jobs that have become stalled..

    And by tomorrow I'm actually intending to make a start on the track laying.....