Model Railways

Manheim Industrial Railroad

Just some random photo links I’m forwarding to myself for the someday file and a tea break well spent.

Each link follows the same format:
Photographer
Photo caption as a direct quote
Link

Chris


Bob Kise CR 7567 North Heading up the old Cornwall RR connection
http://www.rrpicturearchives.net/showPicture.aspx?id=3439215

Seth Eberly East penn rail way had to bring in the Middletown & New Jersey # 2 because Tropical storm Lee washed out the trackbed.
http://www.rrpicturearchives.net/showPicture.aspx?id=3037565

Seth Eberly M&NJ #2 idels away after just shifting some tank cars around at farrel gas.
http://www.rrpicturearchives.net/showPicture.aspx?id=3038849

Paul Koprowski After many years of working in upstate New York as the only active locomotive on the line, Middletown & New Jersey 2 now lives a quieter life of shifting tank cars at the East Penn’s Manheim operation.
http://www.rrpicturearchives.net/showPicture.aspx?id=3273456

Paul Koprowski The only markings left that tell of this unit’s history with the Middletown & New Jersey Railway in upstate New York.
http://www.rrpicturearchives.net/showPicture.aspx?id=3273458

Paul Koprowski The East Penn Railroad’s Manheim operation has received some new power in the form of ex-SP B30-7 7874. Built by GE in 1979, it was moved here from the ESPN Lancaster Northern line to work with MNJ 44-ton 2 on former Reading rails. Seen from the Manheim Community Park which borders the tracks.
http://www.rrpicturearchives.net/showPicture.aspx?id=4824473

Kevin Painter ESPN 7874
http://www.rrpicturearchives.net/showPicture.aspx?id=4825190

Kevin Painter MNJ2
http://www.rrpicturearchives.net/showPicture.aspx?id=4825191

Ken Sherta This switcher is used by an oil company to move cars on a spur that was the Lebanon branch of the former Columbia & Reading.
http://www.rrpicturearchives.net/showPicture.aspx?id=3638332

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Matchbox (part 2?)

I wanted to revisit my earlier post that introduced a model railway design that I had named “The Matchbox”. The vision for that design remains clear in my head but as I re-read that post I wonder if I could have done a better job of explaining the basic idea?

Hopefully, the following illustrations and text will be helpful.

matchbox2-1

Above is the basic idea. Borrowing a dimension inherited from a wall in our apartment, it’s footprint is six feet in length and nine inches deep. I’ve shaded in the major construction components to provide some initial bearings. For the sake of this exercise, let’s not get too bogged down in details like the size of individual elements and focus instead on how the design works.

“layout” (red)

As the name implies this is our diorama representing the complete scene; track, trains, and all. The complete area is scenicked and finished to a presentation standard.

“staging drawer” (brown)

Equal in area to the complete footprint of the layout, the staging drawer is deep enough to store rolling stock inside and is open along the top.

“fascia” (grey)

Wrapping around the exposed faces of the layout, the fascia covers the complete front expanse of the layout. When the layout is in the closed position, this completely hides the horizontal seam between the two layers and the secret buried deep inside.

matchbox2-2

“backdrop” (blue)

Equal in length to the layout and reaching to about twenty-four inches above the finished scene.

“valance” (black)

The valance frames the top of the layout and also contains the lighting rig.

“cassette style switching lead” (white)

Instead of storing the cars loose, they are pre-loaded onto cassette-style staging units. Complete cassettes are stored inside the staging area within this matchbox’s envelope.

The staging drawers, valance, and the backdrop remain fixed (e.g. “to the wall”). They do not move. So, in terms of how the layout changes during an operating session:

  1. The layout is opened up by sliding it out into the hallway
  2. A cassette (containing a train) is selected and lifted out of the staging drawer
  3. The cassette is attached to the end of the layout and left in place until the end of the operating session
  4. Once in place, the cassette bridges over the staging area
  5. At the end of the operating session, the cassette is returned to the staging drawing
  6. The layout is slid back into the original closed position

It’s really that simple.

Traditionally, a model railway remains fixed in place. If we need that extra length of track, we achieve it by adding to the layout by attaching staging to a free end like a pier jutting from the land out into the sea. In this case, I propose moving the layout out of the way to make room for the extra track we need. This is made easy by mounting the layout on a set of drawer slides built onto the top of the integral storage unit. It slides open and closed like a matchbox and in doing so, both reveals the trains stored inside and also evolves the plan from static diorama to operating model railway.

matchbox2-3 end drawer

As I noted, I based this idea around a plan that was six feet in length. At most, I would expect to only need to open it up to add about two feet of additional length (i.e. where that staging cassette is attached). That leaves a space at the other end of the board where a second drawer could be incorporated. It could be used to store more trains but I suspect it would be better utilized as a placed to store those tools I use most often.

matchbox2-4 front drawer

Instead of the drawer opening from the end, it could just as easily open from the front of the layout. If I were storing tools inside, this might actually be the better idea since it could open directly over my work table.

I find the idea of sliding the model railway around novel and amusing. What I find attractive about the plan isn’t so much borne of this amusement as it is the way that the design provides places to store extra models, tools, and materials. Typically these find places on shelving near the layout but they often look cluttered. In this design, they are tucked cleanly, invisibly inside. Between uses, all that is shown to the casual viewer is the model set.

Rick de Candido has written two really neat blog posts in which he presents some terrific suggestions on how staging cassettes could be built. He presents an idea that not only makes it easy to move an entire train but to do so in a way where the cars are protected while in flight. Even my modest cassettes are in the range of twenty-four inches in length and I feel that is approaching about as long a cassette I could safely maneuver without accidentally dumping everything on the floor. Check out Rick’s blog posts by clicking on this link: https://fillmoreavenueroundhouse.wordpress.com/2017/06/21/staging-cassette-mk2/

I’ve had a lot of fun playing around with these sketches. I hope this article has been useful in helping to further explain the idea.

“I am not a layout designer…”

The posts all start with a variation of the phrase “I am not a layout designer”. Each time Rick de Candido presents an idea that is unique, yet undoubtedly draws from the experiences he’s gained from building the Fillmore Avenue Terminal and what he’s learned about his own relationship with the hobby. You can see the family resemblance in broad, aesthetic terms but it’s clear that none of these ideas is a simple rehash of a common theme like: shelf layout done three ways.

The conceptual plans all seem to be grouped into a blog category titled Tech  – Layout Concepts and if this all goes to plan the link below not only invites you to his blog but loads this particular series of posts:

https://fillmoreavenueroundhouse.wordpress.com/category/tech-layout-concepts/

Elsewhere on the site are a series of articles, each devoted to describing one type of train operation on the layout. I enjoy re-reading these articles and often think that they could stand as individual layout design studies. A favourite among these is the one in which Rick writes about managing express cars received from trains that have just arrived or are being prepared for the next train out:

https://fillmoreavenueroundhouse.wordpress.com/2015/12/08/express-car-ops/

Through detailed text and annotated with terrific photos, articles like the above describe how a layout could be created based on only this extract. Each time I’ve read Express Car Ops, I’ve caught myself thinking just how fun that job would be to hold at Fillmore and, equally, just how fun this alone would be if this was all the layout I had at home.

This style of writing is something I wish we were treated to more often in the hobby. The railroad, both real and in model form, is a community of activities. As with any community there will be stories that we are attracted to and that draw our attention in. In doing so, we’re invited to get to know the greater story on a more personal level since we’re provided a chance to relate our story to the one we’re discovering.

Maybe not a layout designer like the ones we typically get in the pages of the latest track plans book but I’m grateful for that. We could use more people that aren’t.

Thanks Rick. You’ve created something really good both in the model railway and also the website dedicated to telling its story to the rest of us. I appreciate the work and have always enjoyed checking in.


A close runner-up in Fillmore extracts that I think would make a superb layout would be an extract based on the activities Rick describes in Service Train – Coal:

https://fillmoreavenueroundhouse.wordpress.com/2016/01/17/service-train-coal/

This train serves to deliver coal to the coaling station and boiler house in the scene. That detailed coaling tower would make a superb signature scene instantly identifying the story of the layout and each operating session would be devoted to the acts of a single shunting engine, moving coal hoppers around.

The Matchbox

003_Welthölzer_anagoria

Image from Anagoria and found in Wikipedia and used under Creative Commons.

Closed, the matchbox is a advertisement for a brand. It’s entire surface area is dedicated to that statement. We know that there are matches inside and we don’t need to see them to trust that they’re there waiting for us to use. I like this simplicity and have always thought the simple matchbox was among the more brilliant ideas we’ve presented as a means of packaging a product.

A model railway exists in two states: One where it’s a static diorama and tells a story by presentation of details alone and a second state where it comes alive as a piece of kinetic sculpture. How can its design favour the very different design criteria to better serve those very different demands, basically: That shelf isn’t going to get longer just because I need more track to run a train on.

Or could it? Presented above are a pair of pages I’ve taken from my sketchbook based on an idea that I’ve been thinking about, based on a classic matchbox.

Matchbox1

The “scene” is the identify of the layout. In between uses, the entire available area is made available to casting the scene in which the railway is set. To create enough space for the scene I have truncated the plan just in front of the turnout. This isn’t a problem since, in this state, our ideal is presentation and not operation.

Matchbox2

When it is time to use the model railway to support operation, the scene slides to reveal a tray that resides under the layout itself. That tray can be used to store extra rolling stock pre-loaded onto storage cassettes. Those cassettes could be added as a bridge over top of the tray that connects to the track on the layout to add to the available length of track in the scene and provide enough room for a train to reach into either of the sidings.

In truth, this isn’t an entirely revolutionary idea. Removable storage cassettes that clip onto the end of the scene feel as established an idea as the hobby of model railways itself. Their traditional design in fact would be simpler to engineer than what I’m presenting so what makes this idea intriguing to me?

We could divide the available room to provide a staging area aside the scenic section. However, we’re taking space we need simply to invest it for storing stuff we’re not using. Further, to the audience, I’m worried that we wind up telling both stories in the same voice. I think that can prove visually confusing.

By hiding the extra rolling stock within the layout’s envelope I don’t need more room than the layout occupies simply to store the cars. Also, they’re afforded a bit more protection from the world buried deep inside compared to being on a shelf mounted on the wall or in their factory boxes stored somewhere else.

This storage space itself could and should store more than just the trains. I’d place the layout’s control system in here and even the basic modelling tools required for typical modelmaking. I could easily see enough room in this hidden space for some knives, sanding sticks, tweezers, and the usual kit.

Matchbox Sketch5

In this plan the backdrop and lighting valance are static. They don’t move with the layout. This too is deliberate. When I’m operating a train on it my attention is on dividing cars between the various car spots indicated on the plan A-B-C-D-E but likely where I need light so I can see to couple and uncouple cars or read data from a car’s side I’m standing, fairly stationary, around F-D-E.

The local art store sells wooden trays intended to be used for painting in the same way we’d use a stretched canvas. I could see two of those, face each other to form the top and bottom halves of the layout with a set of simple drawer slides acting as the means of moving the layout for operation. (These trays come in sizes up to 12×48″).

I don’t know if this is an idea that I’ll tease out much further but it is something that I’ll refer back to. In a few weeks, we finally move into our apartment and it’ll be time to start seriously exploring some exciting new venues for the layout to live in. Having posts like this on hand will be fun to refer back to.

Cheers,

Chris

1, 2, 3, 4. The mockup edition.

hide-seek warehouse 2

In many ways, this is the view that excited me the most when I first started exploring this presentation style. Even as presented, I feel the border surrounding the boxcar could frame it more closely.

hide-seek overpass 3

Moving from left to right, the next scene is the view down the street. The track passes overhead, jutting out from one building before disappearing behind another. The bridge is really only inset just over an inch inside the face of the scene but it feels so much deeper. In addition to playing with the orientation of each viewing window, I believe we can play with the overall height and relative position.

In terms of colour and texture, I’d like the fascia to be treated in a muted tone not unlike older concrete. Colours very close to this should be used for the street and sidewalk, as well as the bridge sides. In this way, this scene is presented in an almost monochromatic manner that relies on form and shadow to describe the scene. Exceptions to this could apply to the inset building walls that line the sides of this scene. Perhaps two bands of lovely aged brick walls?

In my mockup and also in my vision for this scene, the bridge’s deck does not reach all the way to the back of the scene or touch the backdrop. This slim opening at the back of the scene might invite some overhead lighting to reach around behind the bridge and bounce of the street below. Though I didn’t include the form of buildings on this other side of the tracks they shouldn’t be rendered with the same level of detail as the foreground ones. Their mass and colour is their purpose and they should not detract from the detail and focus that is ultimately at the bridge area in the exact center of the layout and this scene in all planes.

hide-seek coal dealer

I love the idea of these urban coal trestles that were placed beside warehouses so that a boxcar could be unloaded into the warehouse or a hopper could be emptied into coal piles below. The coal trestle provides a chance for lots of black-grey coal dust. Little hints of stubborn vegetation peek in from the seams around the edge and perhaps even from between the ties. If possible, the detail could array back from the front of the scene to a median resolution at the track’s centreline, and fading as we move back through the scene.

hide-seek complete

The mockup is constructed of foamcore and is thirty inches in length. It is eight inches deep and I believe about twelve inches high. The stepping in the fascia is not intentional. I envision this plane to be a constant and regret that my stock of foamcore sheet didn’t provide a panel large enough to present it as I saw it being. As I mentioned in the original presentation of this idea, this is a layout I do not intend to build. That said, I had a lot of fun constructing the mockup and am excited to see my idea as a massing model. It’s fun to explore around it and test how each scene works.

I love the way the boxcar is framed in the first scene. I’d like the opening to frame the boxcar and to use that car to identify the railroad. This identity is both the railroad company and also a clue on the era and perhaps even the climate.

When I look at the layout, my attention and imagination are so drawn to the forms at the bridge scene. It feels like a classic, almost science fiction-like, view of the new urban place. Layers of transportation stacked over each over and threaded through one another. A quilt composed as much of panels of commerce as action.

That leaves only the coal yard. It’s the least expressive of the three scenes yet it depicts something that I just like and find appealing. It’s probably just me and my imagination, but even across this short distance, I feel like I’ve travelled much further on this trip, having followed the train past street-level warehouse and manufacturing lofts, breaking the silence of a busy midday street, until eventually arriving to deliver that single car at the end of the line.

 

 

1, 2, 3, 4.

morley_sask_front_view

In proposing the sketch of the grain elevator layout I found something that I am still really amused by. Something that presented both the layout and the fascia on an almost level field where one was just as interesting to look at as the other: the layout filled with rich visual textures and details begging to be explored yet also providing a source of backlighting for the shadow play arranged by those silhouettes in front. Those sketches and then the mockups that followed also provided me with a chance to explore vertical dimensions like how much height was required by the scene.

3part-1

What if the borders were tightened to provide just enough room to look across a freight car’s roof or to peer underneath? While I didn’t have a place in mind when I sketched that out, those close quarters felt urban. Urban things like people on a crowded sidewalk or the way a train must snake its way between buildings on its trip to work from home.

3part frontelev

What if we cut into the fascia in sections? We might not even arrange each opening in the same orientation or on same elevation or plane. In the above sketch:

  • A is cut open large enough to provide a full side elevation. Rail cars parked by factories. The scene is shallow and its horizontal bias plays on the length of the scene and excuses the height completely.
  • B is the alley. Vertical. It’s taller than A but very narrow. Like seeing a train crossing the street downtown we see it moving between the buildings and that extra height provides a view deeper into the scene.
  • C is cut open, wrapping around the corner.

Initially, I thought this was really neat for the way it played with the scene but, looking at the sketch, I also like the way it plays with definition of the sides and ends of the box itself. A and B are a presentation that might feel more passive as we watch something moving against something else but C, that view from the side and end simultaneously, is a terminal space from things arrive, leave, or rest.

3part planview

In traditional model railway layout design we must provide white space to communicate distance or frame each element. In this concept, that white space isn’t required and we could quite radically tighten up the overall footprint of the layout. Furthermore, since we are more actively managing the view of the scene, we focus our work on modelling only what is required to complete the scene from that one perspective.

As a concept, it’s something that feels like it works as a static display or an exhibition layout and perhaps less well as a traditional model railroad. I may mock this up but don’t believe I have any interest in taking this much further than that. I’ve been trying to invest more time

All things must pass

allthingsmustpass v1-1

The model railroad, designed for operation, where you don’t model either end of the industrial process it is supposed to represent and really only provide enough stage to host an extract of the operating session. Just enough to model the bit I’m interested in:

  1. Engine enters the stage from “C” and moves through the scene to exit at “B”
  2. “B” represents a place where loaded hoppers are retreived. I’m not interested in modelling how they are loaded I just need them to come from somewhere to support the play. Further, by excluding this scene from the layout it can be greatly reduced to only a single track where I add or remove cars from the layout instead of a complex yard of tracks, cars, and scenery – all of which distracts from the purpose of the plan and the intent of the experience.
  3. With the engine shoving from the tail end, a string of hoppers is shoved through the scene. Even though only one motion in one direction, it’s a dance of delicate steps: feeding in enough throttle to maintain inertia but not so much as to break traction on the rails.
  4. Cars are fed into an unloader of some sort located at “A”. Again, not interested in building a model of this and don’t feel I need to.
  5. Repeat from step 1.

Just sawing back and forth through the scene and enjoying just how good it feels to watch and listen to well-made models in action. Not that it demands more detail, but from another page in the sketchbook, I found this page providing some additional detail for the typical operating session:

allthingsmustpass v2

The length of the operating session is determined by the amount of time I feel like attending. When retrieving hoppers, it is just running across the stage. When shoving them through the unloader though, even though the actual unload point is off-stage and not modelled the act of feeding cars through it one at a time is a very important part of the operating session.

  1. The train rests, all three cars and an engine of it, on stage
  2. Grab a notch on the throttle to shove the first hopper into the unloader.
  3. Pause while it’s unloaded and then shove the second into place…then the third. With
  4. With all three now unloaded move back to staging.
  5. Return with as many hoppers need to be unloaded next or if this is a day where we only received three hoppers, bring the engine home and go get on with life.

In terms of reference, the operating session looks one heck of a lot like the second half of this video:

And the sound and look of that little engine is a lot like this: