Conceptualising a layout

Conceptualising a layout

Postby Marquette » Fri Jan 22, 2010 12:35 am

Due to a recent discovery of a piece of prototype info that I'd been hunting for for several years (a photo of a Polymer Corp. Ltd. tank car - one of their house-owned cars with the PCLX reporting marks, as opposed to the cars they leased from UTLX), I've decided to return to my original focus in railway modelling: Canada's Chemical Valley. (The first reason that drew me to this area came from a childhood obsession with the chemical plant on the back of the old Canadian $10 bill - the Polymer Corp. Ltd. (later Polysar) plant in Sarnia. The fact that it was served by one of my favourite railways, the Pere Marquette, is an added bonus).

What I'd like to reproduce is the Pere Marquette/C&O line from Sarnia, Ont. as far south as Wallaceburg (perhaps further), along with the Canada Southern's (NYCentral) St Clair sub from Courtright (where it met with the PM/C&O) eastwards at least as far as Oil City (but perhaps further east), together with both of the CASO branches to Petrolia and Oil Springs. Next to nothing in terms of through trains, but *lots* of wayfreight/mixed local goodness.

Now, this is a large area, I know, and I've got a feeling I likely won't ever be given Boeing's Everett plant to use as layout space to build the layout properly 1:120. Even with compression, though, this would be a massive area to model.

But I had a thought (which may or may not have been done before) as to how I might go about doing it in such a way that - at least operationally - would reflect the area well.

The idea is to divide the area into a number of fully-scenicked modules. For example, some of these modules would be the Polymer plant in Sarnia (together with the immediately-adjacent Imperial Oil loading area), the Ethyl Corp. plant at Corunna, Courtright Junction where the PM and NYC crossed (on this module would also be NYC's Courtright depot), the C.I.L. plant just south of Courtright, NYC's Brigden depot and stock pens, and other modules for various depots and industries. The ends would see unscenicked (or, ideally, hidden) staging yards representing Sarnia/Port Huron at the north end of the PM/C&O line, Chatham/Windsor/Detroit at the south end of the Sarnia-Wallaceburg stretch, and St Thomas/Niagara Falls/Buffalo at the east end of the NYC line.

These modules would then not be connected immediately to each other - otherwise, you'd have a sight like the locomotive just pulling past Ethyl Corp as the caboose is just clearing the switch to Polymer Tracks 13 & 14, in other words, things would be much too bunched up to have anything like prototypical schedules even with a 1:120 time ratio!

Instead, the modules would be connected to each other via bridges: unscenicked (or just ballasted/grassed), narrow strips just wide enough to hold the appropriate number of tracks (like on the PM/C&O from Corunna all the way to Sarnia Yard, three tracks on the proto - my rough initial sketching shows two). These bridges would be about a quarter again as long as the longest train I expect to run.

During an op session, then, a train leaves the module it's on at the scheduled time. If the next scheduled stop would be reached by cruising through the bridge, cool. If, however, it would take a longer time than that, then the train would stop on the bridge, wait for the appropriate time, and then leave at the appropriate time to make the scheduled arrival. Of course, this time stopped would be fixed, and displayed on the bridge, e.g. 15 fastclock minutes (this would avoid sprinting through to make up for delays in switching somewhere, for example).

So, this layout would lack through running like I would expect on most layouts, and the scenery wouldn't be one continuous setting, but disjointed in a sense. However, I think that if the goal is near-prototypical operations (which it is, for me), then this idea could serve well.

I'd love to hear yous' thoughts and opinions on the matter!
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Re: Conceptualising a layout

Postby ConducTTor » Fri Jan 22, 2010 1:04 am

The immediate idea that comes to mind is a background that zig-zags between scenes creating the required separation. Something like this where the red line is the mainline, the green line is the backdrop and the thick red areas are tunnels. The areas between the tunnels are the different industries / scenes, etc. that you want (crappy drawing but that's what you get for a quick response :mrgreen: ):

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Re: Conceptualising a layout

Postby Marquette » Fri Jan 22, 2010 1:24 am

Well, that's not a bad idea either. Though the tunnels would have to be pretty long?

But one of the things I was thinking about the modules, is that I could, say, start with just Polymer, Courtright Junction and Wallaceburg modules. Then, later, I could build a module for Corunna, and insert it in between. So the modularity would allow for expansion - and you wouldn't be restricted to a certain size: random numbers here, but I could build a module for Sombra on a 2' x 4' piece, but the Polymer plant could be 4' x 6'. Or whatever.

I guess my biggest curiosity is what people think of the operability of such an arrangement. Would having to hold a train at a spot in order to stick to a timetable and to achieve realistic point-to-point travel times reduce the enjoyability of the op session? For my part, I don't think it would. However, as the eventual goal is to have op sessions with multiple operators - this *is* a social hobby in some respects (or at least can be, and the social aspect is one I do enjoy) - I'd like to know what others think: if you were to come operate on a layout like this, what would you think?
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Re: Conceptualising a layout

Postby ConducTTor » Fri Jan 22, 2010 1:32 am

Well no, going the above route in no way deals with hiding a train between scenes - it simply creates separation in a limited space. What kind of space are you actually working with? If you can do something along the wall(s), you can do two or three levels and therefore increase the area you have to work with by 2 or 3 times. In that scenario you can hide trains in the helices between levels.
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Re: Conceptualising a layout

Postby CSD » Fri Jan 22, 2010 1:43 am

Seems like a good way to have all the locations you want and maintain your focus on operations. Good choice on the prototype! My colleague at work is from Petrolia and will most likely be watching your progress over my shoulder. I've seen some layouts divided into separate scenes with the use of shadow boxes. Makes for a real museum quality look.

I'm curious to see how you will incorporate the bridges. Perhaps I don't follow, but it seems like a lot of real estate for multiple stretches of unfinished terrain. Maybe some generic area appropriate landscaping would add to the realism and keep your operators in the moment when waiting with their trains.

Can't wait to see some planning and construction pictures.
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Re: Conceptualising a layout

Postby Marquette » Fri Jan 22, 2010 1:58 am

In the space I have available *now*, I could do the Polymer plant (*maybe* - I'm working on scaling it down such that it still *looks* distinctively like the plant on the old $10 bill, but such that every facility needed to produce styrene-butadiene rubber is present on the model. In reality, the SBR section occupied only about a fifth of the Polymer property) and a smaller module like Courtright; or, Courtright, and a couple other smaller points on the CASO. This is what I could do in my present space and be able to set up for some minimal form of operation (though Polymer on its own could serve as one of those timesaver layouts - not a bad idea, hmm...).

However, I am planning on relocating at some point in the not-too-distant future to the Ottawa area; hopefully once there, there will be more space at my disposal.

CSD: I'm envisioning the bridges as narrow pieces - I'm just pulling this number from the air, but say 3 inches wide for a single track line. This 3" wide piece would be scenicked - ballast, trackside plants, occasional level crossing, whatever. Perhaps it could even go wider than that, to have some house there, or a lake... but the appearance would be generic as you suggest - I wasn't thinking about having it just be track-on-plywood!

I'm planning on having at least one of the Polymer buildings ready in time for the March show, and if time allows, I'm really hoping to do a diorama incorporating a scene I intend to incorporate into an eventual layout.

I got a bunch of initial theoretical sketching done last night while studying C&O track diagrams of the Sarnia sub, and as I was doing it, a thought hit me about the feasibility of laying all that track to P:87 spec. I'm starting to question whether it's a good idea to commit to it or not. I do, however, want to run code 55 rail (maybe 70ish on the C&O line, but definitely no heavier than 55 on the CASO). If I spend all that time laying track to P:87 spec, when am I going to build all those tank cars??? :mrgreen:
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Re: Conceptualising a layout

Postby Marquette » Fri Jan 22, 2010 2:00 am

A further bit about the bridges: these would be removable, little mini-pseudo-modules of their own. So, the layout would also be transportable in whole or in part, and collapsible for space saving, etc.
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Re: Conceptualising a layout

Postby ConducTTor » Fri Jan 22, 2010 2:04 am

Yet another quick thought: there is no way you can truly model an area unless you have a warehouse at your disposal. Picking one or two signature landmarks from a location and removing everything else I think is the way to go.
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Re: Conceptualising a layout

Postby Marquette » Fri Jan 22, 2010 2:09 am

Indeed: That's why I want to scale the Polymer plant down, so that it's only just one subsection of what it had in reality, but arranged in the same sort of layout as the Real Thing had: so that it gives the right visual impression.

And I think that's one of the Most Important Points in layout design: capturing the feel of the area, even if it isn't precise down to the location of the garbage cans.

If you're modelling Ypsilanti, Michigan, for example, you could use stock building kits as is... as long as you have the famous watertower (aka the Brick Dick), anyone who knows Ypsilanti will say "yeah, that's it!". :)
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Re: Conceptualising a layout

Postby ConducTTor » Fri Jan 22, 2010 2:12 am

TTQuebec wrote:Ypsilanti, Michigan


Well, now you have my curiosity piqued - I went to EMU.
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