Manheim in N or HO. How big is big?

In yesterday’s post on the Manheim Industrial Railroad design project I moved quickly through some key design features. I mentioned how Google’s aerial imagery in both their Maps and Earth app’s was so crisp that you really could print those photos out, to scale, and build the model track literally over the plan. It’s easy to wield the sword of selective compression but aiming it at this prototype would only undermine the elegance of this beautiful, simple, design.

Overall length of Manheim Industrial Railroad
feet in a mile5280′
Manheim is 1.34 miles long7075′
Scale conversion (1.34 miles to X scale)7075′531”976”
Subtract the following measurements from overall length
five cars inside Ferrellgas (1 car is 85′)85′32”59”
one turnout (Ferrellgas spur)7”12”
switching lead into Ferrellgas531′40”73”
end of Ferrellgas spur to edge of Doe Run Road crossing110′8”15”
width of Doe Run Road crossing50′4”7”
Edge of Doe Run Road crossing to end of track (switching lead) in inches1116′91”166”
same (length of scene) but in feet1116′8′14′
Remainder of mailine length (inches)6299′440”810”
Remainder of mailine length (inches)6299′37′67′

I created the above table to help me measure the layout as I understand it. Referring back to the aerial images the layout is comprised of these basic scenes:

  • Ferrellgas on Doe Run Road is the main subject matter for this layout. This is scene 1.
  • The interchange with Norfolk Southern at the other end of the line, “1.34 miles” away is scene 2.
  • Finally, scene 3 is, I suppose the variable, that is compromised to fit inside the room since it represents the run between scenes 1 and 2.

Scene 1: Ferrellgas

I had estimated that, inside Ferrellgas, they can have three cars “on spot” and it looks like there’s room for two more before the gate at the entrance. Between operating sessions, as in real life, this is where the engine is stored. I can measure right off the aerial photos but it’s about two more cars from the gate to the fouling point on the turnout; plus the turnout; then about five hundred feet to the end of track.

“about five hundred feet to the end of track” is a pretty neat measurement because that’s about how much space there is inside the gate. Jack’s not kidding when he says things get real interesting real fast when there’s cars on spot inside and even just three more ready to swap out.

Scene 2: “Interchange”

Wandering around the map using Streetview it’s pretty fun to look at the myriad of interesting buildings clustered around the wye tracks where we connect with Norfolk Southern. Some of this could be included in the layout but it would be easy for this to dominate the layout space so, to be honest, I wouldn’t include much of it at all. Just enough of the buildings to establish this as the other end of the railway; enough to say “town” and imply that connection point. I actually imagine this interchange as being two straight sidings on a very slim shelf. Depending on how room space works out this could easily be folded under the rest of the layout though I don’t feel the need to add in a helix. Only the future knows.

I have a sketch feeling of how this space is calculated but also haven’t dedicated as much time as I’d like to, to this, but I know these are considerations:

  • In Jack Hill’s article he talks about Ferrellgas receiving 9 or 10 cars. I don’t know how many cars Ferrellgas orders or receives in a block (how many NS drops off) so think that the sidings at the interchange should be a median based on this. I don’t think I’d go longer than 10 cars.
  • This scene is only that one turnout. There’s only one turnout in the real thing. Any more and the scene gets exponentially easier to work in but less enjoyable–I want to be thinking and engaged in this operation. Lost in how mundance and meditative it will feel.
  • Why the siding length is important is because I want an equal length of track at the headshunt and the sum of these two linear dimensions should not be counted in that intermediate space I’m using as Scene 3. It bugs me to be working in one town and to have my train working in another town and I don’t want to have that here. I can see actually working on a few sketches of this scene, part because I haven’t yet and part because I have the time now, when I don’t need an answer.

Scene 3: the middle

We should have a conversation about how much space it takes to communicate distance. I would think that, at least, you’d need three times the length of the median train to support the idea of a train arriving in this scene, being in it, and the last view of it as it leaves the scene. Does that make sense? I find the idea of a long single track “mainline” very, very attractive but also the table of measurements seems to estimate this blank run as around forty feet and that’s a length of run that’s probably a bit too much and also impractical in most houses. Finding forty feet for the N scale version isn’t impossible. It would be really, really fun to stretch out forty feet of flex track on the floor here in the apartment “just to see”. I have at least that much leftover N scale code 55 flex track so this daydream is closer to a reality, for testing only (wink!) if I really was that curious.

Choice of scale compared to the perception of space

I recall Jeff Kraker’s fascinating article in Model Railroad Planning where he discussed how we interpret space regardless of the size of our models. That we don’t really run our trains faster or slower because the models are larger or smaller scale and that “how far” they run is, on one hand, a simple calculation passing the scale factor into the real life dimension and the difference of how we perceive space. In my N scale version, the mainline is about forty feet in N scale and about seventy feet in HO scale. Imagine the basement isn’t a limiting factor, I already feel like you could use the same forty feet in either HO scale or N scale and you would feel as good about what it feels like to follow the shove as we move cars in and out of the layout.

It will be interesting to sketch around some options for this scene and explore how each, as a variable in another aspect of this design project, influences those decisions. I expect to learn alot about what I’m looking for, for space, and how I think that room could be employed to actually do this. How does that affect how I present this?

I sort of wish I was already doing this. I don’t crave, so much, the actual switching but think that following a engine and a half dozen tank cars through suburban somewhere would be a nice, ambient, part of this afternoon.

Categories: Manheim Industrial Railroad, model railway design

Tags: ,

2 replies

  1. Two things I had to bulk out my rolling stock fleet with: hopper cars and tank cars. Hanley Spur trackage included a lot of…fuel!

    Esso had a multi-car spot, as did Shell. I imagine other industries got their own fuel shipments. Ships also unloaded bulk fuel from the adjacent harbour.

    Tank cars were mixed in with other industries’ cars in trains. I have three big propane tanks, and they still ‘deliver oil’ just so I can use them occasionally. But most of my added tank cars are short, mostly single dome. I only have single spots for my three fuel dealers.

    In this post, you had me at “5280” because I remember that number so well from my transitional Imperial/metric schooling. That other number I remember is “1760”.

    Tanks for sharing this,

    • Good morning Eric!

      Do you find, on Hanley, that these kinds of fuels have a wonderful opportunity for something “big” like a railroad to serve its community on a very personal level? Would those coal loads be for local fuel dealers where a home’s fuel is sourced? Likewise for gasoline if that’s also a commodity moved on your railroad?

      I had never considered the diversity in fuel types. I used to think that it was a Boolean of coal or oil but, with age, it’s obvious that those are only major groupings. Coal is sold in grades and “oil” is, well, it should have been obvious to me. As we all know gasoline is itself never just one thing so that would have to be managed accordingly on the railroad and probably has different kinds of tank gars for each type of gasoline. Probably too there are kerosene and other liquid fuels too. A lot of dealers on the Island would also receive packaged fuels so I assume a boxcar dropped at the Imperial Oil spur in Murray Harbour isn’t unrealistic either. The possibilities certainly merit another coffee or tea’s worth of contemplation. Gone are the days of operating my Pigeons Inlet Railway & Navigation Company with car cards as simple as “tank car” or “hopper car” being placed at a siding with either a “oil tank” or “coal trestle”.

      5280…SD40-2w. For an engine so iconically Canadian it wasn’t until I was in Calgary two years ago that I saw my first one ever.

      1760…RSC-14. Now, that’s a connection my heart makes long before my minds slips into gear.

      I love these patterns and the connections that seem to flow out of them.


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