If you haven’t checked out the conversation over on Rene Gourley’s blog, regarding the interface and hardware we use to control our model trains, you really owe it to yourself to head on over there to catch up. The latest post is here:
Actually running the trains is such a fundamental part of our hobby but in reading through the posts on Rene’s blog, I realize that my thoughts on the subject are so very superficial. I had some thoughts on the design of the interface but the discussion is running much deeper, to the hardware level. In trying to better understand and “catch up” to the speed of the thread and the calibre of talent running through the discussion I find myself thinking about those aspects I’d like to control and how I’d like to control them.
(That conversation is brilliant. From about here on out, I can’t promise the same calibre of thought but plunge onward anyway.)
Given my interest in the dance steps involved in moving rail cars, from the customer and commodity’s perspective, I couldn’t help but wonder if this thought fit into the control thread:
A loaded freight car performs very differently than an empty one. For open cars we can replicate the appearance of a load with a loose material to represent coal, gravel, or whatever we carry in our model hopper cars. What we can’t scale and represent, as easily, is the mass of that load and the effect loaded cars have on our trains.
Using the example of covered hopper cars being loaded at the MaxYield Co-op I wrote about in One hundred cars and fifteen hours I thought about trying to find ways to distinguish between a loaded car and an empty one.
- On the surface, as we feed cars through the mill, we can simply label them “Loaded” and be done with it. In terms of the game of operating the model railroad, we’re done;
- Since the model is sealed, we can’t easily add weight inside the car to represent it when it’s loaded. This weight shouldn’t be permanent so we can empty the car;
- What if we had a brake installed in the car. As we feed the car through the mill, we could use this brake to add drag to the car’s wheels and make it harder to shift. It’s not really adding weight but the “heavier” car would drag more and be different to move around compared to its “empty” state;
- Mass, rolling resistance, and similar characteristics do not scale in our models so we’d need to consider the effect of these heavier cars in the train. Obviously, we’ve debated this one to death in conversations on the ideal weight for a model train car and what I’m proposing is a car that is only occasionally like a problem car.
My interest here in representing this car goes a bit past just having heavier models to adding something tangible to do while pretending to wait for the car to be loaded at our miniature mill. More than just setting a stopwatch timer once the car is in place.
Just an incomplete thought on a lazy Friday. It’s beautiful outside and my mind is wandering just about everywhere.