Author Topic: Idaho Belt Freelanced plan  (Read 33848 times)

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basementcalling

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Idaho Belt Freelanced plan
« on: May 05, 2013, 01:59:33 PM »
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Here goes nothing. I'm posting plans for a partially double decked N scale layout in hopes of documenting progress, and improving the product with feedback from the skilled folks on this board. I'll start with the givens and druthers, a picture of each level, and an Anyrail file of the plan. At this point little is set in stone.

I've struggled for years to find a plan to use my 19x20 space effectively, and finally think I am on the right track. That said, the lack of strong prototype is slightly bothersome. Not that I am a slave to proto modeling, but because freelancing is harder, yet it seems to be the only way I can go to get all the features I want from modern railroading into my basement.

Givens & Druthers
N scale
Room: 19x20 walk in walk out basement.
Access: lift bridge or swinging section to preserve access to back yard.
Min Radius: 18 on mains, 15 in industrial and on branch
Heights: 48 to 63 inches from floor
Grades: Max 2.5%
Deck Separation: Min 10 inches from track to upper fascia desired. Greater in most locations.
Benchwork: open grid off shelving. Minimizing legs. Peninsula supported by non load bearing stud wall.
Turnouts: Min #7 mainline, with 10 preferred. #5 in yards.
Track: Atlas Code 55 turnouts with ME concrete tie C55 and Atlas C55 flex. Staging is Atlas code 80.
Routing: Point to point operations with continuous run options
Locale: Western (Idaho for now) former solidly set, second up for relocation
Era: post 2000 modern
Focus: large paper mill. Branch/shortline interchange with a variety of through freights.

The germ of one idea is to represent a modern secondary railroad similar to MRL or Eric Brooman's Utah Belt. Such would be new construction to take advantage of the increase in north/south international traffic. Locating the trackage has proved a challenge, so towns as yet have no names.

The room is finished with a step down ceiling, but not low enough to impact the second deck. Heights were set based on the need for track to cross the entryway from the stairs down from the living room, and for a lift out section on the lower level in front of a sliding glass door to the backyard. The former may become a swing gate. Currently, double decking in both locations on paper has designs here being reconfigured.

Here is the lower level. It consists of the main yard at bottom left, the lift out bridge scene (blue) and first town with a branch. Track does a single loop to gain elevation and put distance between locations and arrives at a scene that will either be a mine/quarry industry for loads out empties in cycle or a branchline that goes into staging. After this the track crosses a large steel trestle and enters another single loop to gain elevation to the second deck.

The branch from the first town goes to the opposite side of the peninsula - roll under access provided to prevent crews from walking around the peninsula. The major railroad interchanges with a modern shortline at the loop, based on UP and St Maries RR interchange at Plummer Jct, ID. The branch serves an oil dealer and a large sawmill. Tracks continue past the sawmill to connect with branch/mine industry on other side of peninsula after a somewhat contorted route to gain elevation. One track is herniated out under the large steel trestle for scenic interest.

The upper level starts at a major paper mill scene. Efforts continue to balance the industrial capacity with passing siding and storage yard capacities. Tracks leave town and head to a visible loop - loosely based on Williams Loop on the former WP. From the loop, which will use a Bellina Drop style raised fascia to focus viewing angles and prevent operators standing where lower deck crews will be operating, the main enters the summit siding, cresting at 63 inches above the floor at the turning wye. Recent plans have this also being a branch that heads back to the under the stairs closet for more staging, and can serve as a way to restage trains between sessions and add operational diversity.

The mainline then descends (perhaps over a curved trestle in the corner on 24 inch radius curve) and downhill into a town based on Quincy, Washington on BNSF. Proposed name here is Klugmann - some of my contemporarily aged members will recognize the pun. This is a major local switching destination, with a local train running from the main lower yard here and back to supply the local cold storage warehouses with cars. Other industries will include grain elevators, a diatomacious earth plant, and a small container facility for shipping refrigerated containers of produce.

Feel free to comment, offer suggestions to improve the use of space, simplify the design, complicate the design to add additional operating potential, or suggestions on how to anchor the overall freelance concept into reality.

Lower Level plan



Upper level plan



Thanks for looking.
Peter Pfotenhauer

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Re: Idaho Belt Freelanced plan
« Reply #1 on: May 05, 2013, 04:45:32 PM »
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Pretty ambitious plan. Good luck.

basementcalling

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Re: Idaho Belt Freelanced plan
« Reply #2 on: May 06, 2013, 01:47:14 PM »
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Pretty ambitious plan. Good luck.

That's one of the things that has the little voice in the back of my head talking to me and a reason to post the idea on here.

I don't want to get 1/2 way into a partial double deck layout and find myself wishing I'd thought things through better.

Peter
Peter Pfotenhauer

MichaelWinicki

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Re: Idaho Belt Freelanced plan
« Reply #3 on: May 06, 2013, 04:52:22 PM »
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That's one of the things that has the little voice in the back of my head talking to me and a reason to post the idea on here.

I don't want to get 1/2 way into a partial double deck layout and find myself wishing I'd thought things through better.

Peter

I give you a lot of credit for that Peter.

I think it was Lee who said in relation to his former pike, "It was a mistake trying to stuff 10lbs of model railroad into a 5lb bag" or something to that affect.

My plan is double-deck in a room smaller than yours and with a track plan that is much simpler.  Your plan gives you a lot of flexibility but at a pretty high complexity quotient.

My layout just achieved its 5-yo birthday and I was tallying up the progress I've made, the time I've invested and the cost in dollars to achieve what I have so far. 

The progress has been very good.  All the track is down, virtually all the buildings have been built and most of the scenery is done.  But I still have a ton of detailing and such that needs to be done.  And I've learned, the smaller the project the more time it seems to take.  I have over 2,500 hours invested in my layout.  That's more than the equivalent of a full-time job for one year– And your layout is bigger.  Just doing all the benchwork is going to take you a lot of time.

Then you have the cost... between track and scenic elements you're looking at more than a couple hundred bucks per square foot easy.  And then all the trains needed to fill those tracks.   It's going to be a big time investment no matter how you slice it.  Easily into 5 digits.  Just a question of how far into 5 digits you'll get. 

And I haven't even touched upon the maintenance for a monster you're contemplating... And there will be maintenance issues.

I love the scope that you have, but do you need something that large and complex in order to enjoy the hobby?  That's the key question.  If you do, then go at it with gusto and full speed ahead I say!  ;)

DKS

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Re: Idaho Belt Freelanced plan
« Reply #4 on: May 06, 2013, 06:51:02 PM »
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I think it was Lee who said in relation to his former pike, "It was a mistake trying to stuff 10lbs of model railroad into a 5lb bag" or something to that affect.

Indeed. My first thought is, how many people will it take to effectively run this layout? Do you anticipate having that many willing warm bodies available for ops? To my untrained eye, it sure looks like much more than a one-man show, and it would be a crying shame to see such a handsome effort sit idle.

GaryHinshaw

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Re: Idaho Belt Freelanced plan
« Reply #5 on: May 06, 2013, 10:04:42 PM »
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I haven't commented up until now because I was trying to get time to sit down with the plan to figure out it's schematic.  But I haven't done so yet, partly because it's complicated.  I think it would be very helpful to have that in place before you worry about detailed track layout.   In my case (Tehachapi BC) I followed the relatively simple prototype schematic and I made sure to think through the staging scheme and how it would work with the ops concept I had in mind.  I also made sure to include all of the switching sites on the otherwise relatively lean through route.   Not until then did I start laying out scenes in my space to figure out which ones would fit and how they might work together.

Of course, I love the concept you have for a contemporary western pike with the types of industries you have. It's an idea you should have no trouble developing into a real railroad.   To help you refine your plans, think about what kind of geography and traffic really appeals to you.  (For me, the big draw of Tehachapi is the geography of the line, including its model-like curves, and the type of traffic it hosts.)  You seem to be fond of the interior northwest - the swath from Idaho to northern California.  If you are fond of manifest traffic vs. intermodal, I would recommend something patterned after the Oregon Trunk Line which connects the east-west BNSF lanes in Washington to the north-south UP lanes in California, and hosts mostly manifest trains.  You could do a freelance inspired by the traffic patterns on this line, and the range of scenery it spans is awesome: from mid-altitude Sierra forests in the south, to Ponderosa Pine forests in southern Oregon, to lava beds in central Oregon, to rolling golden wheat fields near the Columbia.  Here is a nice map I ran across yesterday that shows the contemporary division points on the BNSF in the PNW, including the OT:

http://www.bnsf.com/customers/pdf/maps/div_nw.pdf

When I look at that map, I see opportunities for: interesting connections at either end;  trackage rights over the UP's Klammath sub in the middle (with its I-5 intermodal traffic); and at least two branches that could be operated as short lines, like the City of Prineville Ry.  What I don't see in this part of the world is a paper mill...  Of course you would have to massively compress this scheme, but that is a perennial challenge.  (One more attraction of Tehachapi is that the prototype segment I model is only about 30 miles, so compression is relatively easy.)

Just some more food for thought,
-Gary

P.S.  I agree with the others that this plan is ambitious, but I think a pike the size you drew is not crazy.  A decent metric to consider is complexity, which, roughly speaking, is total number of turnouts.  The long stretches of mainline you have around a room are quite nice and relatively easy to build and maintain.  It's when you start adding complex branches, hidden track, or large switching districts, that things can get bogged down to the point that you never want to enter the basement...  You might want to think about modeling the mainlines and staging first, while leaving hooks in place for a branch or two later.
« Last Edit: May 06, 2013, 10:23:48 PM by GaryHinshaw »

basementcalling

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Re: Idaho Belt Freelanced plan
« Reply #6 on: May 06, 2013, 10:54:24 PM »
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Indeed. My first thought is, how many people will it take to effectively run this layout? Do you anticipate having that many willing warm bodies available for ops? To my untrained eye, it sure looks like much more than a one-man show, and it would be a crying shame to see such a handsome effort sit idle.

David, a full out ops session with helpers (Oh, did I mention those) could require more bodies than the space allows. Aisles are 36 inches almost everywhere, and wider in many, save a few choke points of 30 inches around the turnback blobs. I'm about half way between DC and Richmond, VA, so there are places within reasonable driving distance where lots of N scalers live. Not much locally, but I prefer a "Field of Dreams" approach: If I build it they will come.

I give you a lot of credit for that Peter.


And I haven't even touched upon the maintenance for a monster you're contemplating... And there will be maintenance issues.

I love the scope that you have, but do you need something that large and complex in order to enjoy the hobby?  That's the key question.  If you do, then go at it with gusto and full speed ahead I say!  ;)

Michael, nothing has to be this big. There's a 1 x 8 shelf spot in the living room that could hold a decent modern industrial area switching layout that would keep me happy, but I have the roof over the basement spot. It is not quite an HO space, and pushing the large size of an N scale space, but 388 square feet minus the closet under the stairs - which is staging and storage so it probably should count - is not outrageous.

Luckily I've been accumulating N scale rolling stock since 1989, so I think I am pretty well stocked. I used to be pretty active in a couple NTRAK clubs, but watching trains go round and round on flat loops got boring. If I don't have it in my basement already, I could probably sell something else on EBay to buy the rolling stock or engines I need for the era I settled on, but you're prying my Big Boy from my cold dead hands.  8)

I haven't commented up until now because I was trying to get time to sit down with the plan to figure out it's schematic.  But I haven't done so yet, partly because it's complicated.  I think it would be very helpful to have that in place before you worry about detailed track layout.   ...

Of course, I love the concept you have for a contemporary western pike with the types of industries you have. It's an idea you should have no trouble developing into a real railroad.   To help you refine your plans, think about what kind of geography and traffic really appeals to you.    If you are fond of manifest traffic vs. intermodal, I would recommend something patterned after the Oregon Trunk Line which connects the east-west BNSF lanes in Washington to the north-south UP lanes in California, and hosts mostly manifest trains.  You could do a freelance inspired by the traffic patterns on this line, and the range of scenery it spans is awesome: from mid-altitude Sierra forests in the south, to Ponderosa Pine forests in southern Oregon, to lava beds in central Oregon, to rolling golden wheat fields near the Columbia.  Here is a nice map I ran across yesterday that shows the contemporary division points on the BNSF in the PNW, including the OT:

http://www.bnsf.com/customers/pdf/maps/div_nw.pdf

When I look at that map, I see opportunities for: interesting connections at either end;  trackage rights over the UP's Klammath sub in the middle (with its I-5 intermodal traffic); and at least two branches that could be operated as short lines, like the City of Prineville Ry.  What I don't see in this part of the world is a paper mill...  Of course you would have to massively compress this scheme, but that is a perennial challenge. 

Gary, thanks for the thoughtful feedback. A modern railroad with no intermodal would be an interesting exercise. Modern stack trains are like passenger equipment for models - expensive, and they don't pay for themselves in N scale, but they sure are pretty to watch as through freights. I've resisted most of the intermodel models other than a  few of the old Walthers sets and Deluxxe Innovations Twin Stacks.

I have a weakness for the timber industry and tank cars. They sort of go together with the chemical side of a paper mill.

The schematic is in flux right now after the light went on that to get a continuous run mainline connection I could convert the turning wye at the summit into a mostly staged branch that feeds back to the Klugmann end of the upper deck. As much as I want trains to only travel over the route once per session, restaging a layout this size between operating sessions would take time away from construction and maintenance, both of which need to be allowed for.

I love building scenery. Period. The variety you describe in Oregon is intriguing, but the lack of industry along that route is a concern. I need to find a decent city/town to locate the layout. I've struggled with that, as nothing seems to quite fit. I wind up with one end of the imagined line going off into no mans land where making money running trains would be tough.


P.S.  I agree with the others that this plan is ambitious, but I think a pike the size you drew is not crazy.  A decent metric to consider is complexity, which, roughly speaking, is total number of turnouts.  The long stretches of mainline you have around a room are quite nice and relatively easy to build and maintain.  It's when you start adding complex branches, hidden track, or large switching districts, that things can get bogged down to the point that you never want to enter the basement...  You might want to think about modeling the mainlines and staging first, while leaving hooks in place for a branch or two later.

We think alike on that. I could build just one deck with the mainline, and leave entire lower decked branch line as staging. But one thing I want is to have both sides of the modern scene" big time through freights on long hauls ala UP and BNSF, along with smaller branch or secondary lines like a Blue Mountain RR, or WATCO, Idaho, Northern, & Pacific, or something similar. That may dilute the overall message of the layout, but I think featuring both can make up for the lack of interchange in most mountain railroading.

I can easily leave out the loads in/empties out secondary helix branch which takes a major section of complicated trackage and engineering out of the plan. Adding it later would be tough with overhead clearances of 8-10 inches only, so a decision needs to be made on that before construction goes much further.

Oh, yea, 2 walls of benchwork are up. I can reuse several areas from an incomplete previous layout that lost its appeal because I rushed to get it up and going  before answering the key questions to create a believable story and schematic for the plan. Not making that mistake this time. Summer vacation starts in 19 days ( I teach middle school - therefore I can accomplish anything :D ) and I have 3 months coming with only my second and third jobs to tie me up.

The new basement floor is just begging me to walk on it and put in more model railroad. Even the cat agrees. She wants more jungle gym spots. :facepalm:
Peter Pfotenhauer

GaryHinshaw

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Re: Idaho Belt Freelanced plan
« Reply #7 on: May 07, 2013, 02:00:47 AM »
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Ok, I took some time to try and sketch the schematic of the track plan you posted, but I think I'm missing something fundamental in the peninsula trackage...  Here is what I came up with, hopefully annotated enough to be clear:



Is this correct?  I don't understand how the two levels are supposed to relate to each other.  Can you clarify?

-Gary

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Re: Idaho Belt Freelanced plan
« Reply #8 on: May 07, 2013, 07:05:22 AM »
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I love building scenery. Period. The variety you describe in Oregon is intriguing, but the lack of industry along that route is a concern. I need to find a decent city/town to locate the layout. I've struggled with that, as nothing seems to quite fit. I wind up with one end of the imagined line going off into no mans land where making money running trains would be tough.

Might I suggest Klammath Falls OR as a town worthy of modeling inspiration.  This is where the BNSF Bieber Line (the southern end of the Trunk) meets the UP I-5 Corridor.  North of town the BNSF runs on trackage right over UP to Chemelt where they split off again.  Here is a map of the Falls highlighting some of the rail assets:



In town, there are numerous interesting features, including 2 yards, one on the UP one on the BNSF, an Amtrak station, and several industrial districts.    On the west side of town there is a propane dealer that receives LPG tankers, and a few lumber complexes that handle centerbeams, chip hoppers and box cars.  These are reached via a bridge over Lake Ewuana which used to feature a wye at either end, and a moveable span in the middle:



Here is one of the mills reached by that branch:



On the east side of town there is an oil dealer that has a substantial tank car capacity:



Just southeast of town, the Bieber Line and the UP Modoc Line (now a branch line) run through an agricultural valley that has numerous elevators and fertilizer facilities.  There is also a scrap yard that has several old steamers(!):



I could imagine designing something with a schematic like this:



where the visible action is centered on Klammath Falls and you run the mainline north to the split at Chemult (including the very scenic stretch along Klammath Lake), and as far south as you like on either line, then each railroad recirculates into their respective staging areas which simultaneously serve NB and SB traffic.  No restaging necessary if you don't mind running the same trains again.

Now I want to model Klammath Falls.  :lol:

-gfh

Philip H

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Re: Idaho Belt Freelanced plan
« Reply #9 on: May 07, 2013, 08:34:22 AM »
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Gary,
That's one of my favorite Oregon spots - and you nailed all the appropriate scenes to string together in a layout.  Heck you could trun that scrap yard into a railroad refurbisher (Walther's now has their great "new" kit to help you out  :trollface:) and then the Big boy an dthe rest of the streamers could live there.

Basement,
As one of the DMV A$$hats (in maryland on the DC boarder) I think I see myself running a train or two on your layout once it's up.  That said, I agree with Gary that you have a great space to let N Scale stretch it's legs, so do so.  That complexity issue was one of Lee's buggaboos.  While we made progress solving it before the untimely demise, we all learned that too many code 55 turnouts makes a drinker out of any man.
Philip H.
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conrail98

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Re: Idaho Belt Freelanced plan
« Reply #10 on: May 07, 2013, 10:39:25 AM »
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You have roughly a 20x23 space. One thing to consider is your benchwork flow. I think you mentioned that you are essentially building this by your self. You've got a lot of flowing benchwork there that might be rather hard to build by yourself. I always like to go back and look at Mark Lestico's Cascade Subdivision as he was essentially a lone wolf when building it and has a handful of guys that operate it. Also, you have almost the same space as the D&H Layout being built in Australia whose thread is here. Look at the simplicity of that plan. I bring all of this up because I have built my double-deck benchwork by myself (actually built twice as much then took it down) using modular methods. It went up ultrafast, a few nights and weekends. Unfortunately, as I began to even look at starting track laying I began to realize what you are worried about, is this really too much railroad or layout for me? I have a space that's half as wide as yours, so for me, it really was too much for the space, especially if I had a number of guys in the aisleways. One way to figure that out is I've been using roughly 30"x15" ovals (could go to 30x20) and placing them around the layout at various operator points to see, one if they'd fit and two where there might be operators on top of each other that could cause issues during operating sessions. Just some food for thought,

Phil
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Re: Idaho Belt Freelanced plan
« Reply #11 on: May 07, 2013, 11:42:51 AM »
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You have roughly a 20x23 space. One thing to consider is your benchwork flow. I think you mentioned that you are essentially building this by your self. You've got a lot of flowing benchwork there that might be rather hard to build by yourself.

This.

I am watching this project as a microcosm of my own Very Grand Plan. While I originally was considering the "straighter and simpler" approach you're suggesting here, I was getting objections (...Gary...Michael... :D ) that it was "too rigid" and detracted from the flow. I agreed, but I do believe it's necessary to strike a balance between "a model railroad" and "a layout", if you know what I mean.

I know I will likely back off from my flowing benchwork profile currently on paper to make it a little more buildable. At minimum, square-up some edges to reduce time spent curving lumber.

Just in observation of the various layouts I've worked on or otherwise experienced, the larger the layout, the straighter things tend to get. But, yes, try to keep the benchwork flow from turning too "organic", which adds materially to construction time. Not that I don't know anything about construction time getting in the way.  :facepalm:
...mike

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GaryHinshaw

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Re: Idaho Belt Freelanced plan
« Reply #12 on: May 07, 2013, 01:03:44 PM »
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Buildable benchwork is certainly an important consideration, but I don't think it should drive things.  To me, the important order of operations is:

1. Layout concept (prototype/freelance, era, ops style, etc.)
2. Layout schematic (where to trains go and what do they do?)
3. Identify LDE's (the scenes you must and/or wish to include)
4. Lay out LDE's in the room, in the proper order if possible.  This is where thinking about people flow is critical.
5. Design benchwork to accommodate the track layout, paying special attention to multi-deck issues.

This is the order of operations I followed, and it seems to be working out ok.  As far as benchwork goes, I just designed  boxes to follow the track layout and made sure that single boxes were small enough to handle by myself.  I drew them in XTrakCAD so I could figure out what angles to make the various miter cuts, as in this uper deck example:



then it was off to the chop saw:



When it comes time to add the fascia, I might rigidly follow the frames, or I might add spacer blocks to the front edge to allow for some curvature.  Not sure yet.  But I'd worry about items 1, 2, and 3 first.  I'm still concerned that I can't make sense of the existing schematic...

-Gary

P.S. Sorry for overloading p.1 of this thread...  :|

conrail98

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Re: Idaho Belt Freelanced plan
« Reply #13 on: May 07, 2013, 01:32:11 PM »
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Gary, I think you hit on what I was trying to convey. You can do straight benchwork with flowing track and get the desired effect. Your last picture is more along the lines of what I was referring to,

Phil
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MichaelWinicki

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Re: Idaho Belt Freelanced plan
« Reply #14 on: May 07, 2013, 03:36:35 PM »
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I have a space that's half as wide as yours, so for me, it really was too much for the space, especially if I had a number of guys in the aisleways. One way to figure that out is I've been using roughly 30"x15" ovals (could go to 30x20) and placing them around the layout at various operator points to see, one if they'd fit and two where there might be operators on top of each other that could cause issues during operating sessions. Just some food for thought,

Phil

You make a good point about aisle width Phil.

And you usually end up with less than what you think you have because:

-The fascia is cluttered with throttles and bottle/cup holders and clip boards. 

-And then if your switches are controlled by switches/throws that are located on the fascia, along with a track "map" you need to step back in order to read the thing.  So take one non-svelte model railroader, add in a fascia covered with "goodies", mix in the I-have-to-step-back-in-order-to-follow-the-trackplan thing and that 36" aisle width becomes nada in no time.

After thinking about it a little, the overall height of the upper deck presents a challenge...

My upper deck is the same height=63"  And originally I planned the upper deck to be at least 15" deep, but some testing found that trying to reach more than a foot at that height wasn't a good thing (not to mention allowing shorter folks to be able to see everything), so I scaled all my upper deck benchwork down to 12" deep.

The other thing I had to do was simplify the upper deck trackage.  Trying to deal with switching cars that are more than a couple full-tracks beyond just wasn't convenient.  I use the actually road numbers of the cars for operations, so you have to be able to see them.  And even if you use color tabs or pins or whatever to control operations you gotta be able to see'em.  If you can't read the road numbers or see the colored tabs then you're left using directions like this "Take any red boxcar from track three and deliver to Whitley Lumber".  And I didn't want to go there.