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