Sunday, November 28, 2010


No, we are not sitting idle doing nothing!!!! In fact we are so busy that we haven't had the time to post!!! will be posting shortly... AND with a LOT of updates.

Friday, November 26, 2010

The port as it stands now...

As of right now, the benchwork is done. This is a small preview of what the port will look like.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Benchwork.. contd.

The main material used to make the road-bed of our layout is insulation boards. The main reasons for using it are that they are easy to cut and shape and also that they are strong and will be able to withstand the pressure that the running trains and the scenery will apply when the entire model is up and the trains running.

The benchwork had to be made in a few time-consuming steps, details of which are as follows.

Firstly markings were made on the insulation board where the turnout motors and uncouplers would be placed. the holes were cut out and corresponding markings were made on the plywood as well.

Once the corresponding holes were made on the plywood, wood frames were attached on the ply to strengthen the insulation boards.

The support for the insulation board was made stronger by adding foam in between the wooden frames. The insulation board is cut in the shape of the port.

The port is finally taking shape with the insulation boards placed on top of the foam framed with wood.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

A Small Addition

Added a small engine house to the plan... placed the order for the turnout as well... :) This will add a great advantage to the operation... :D

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

A whole lotta holes!!!

(An account of what's happening behind the scenes)

It was about 5 o clock in the evening when our neighbor couldn't contain the curiosity any longer. She came to find out whether or not we were having any carpentry done in the house, and if there were a lot of workmen. Carpentry work yes, workmen- er, no! Kaustav managed to make a lot of noise creating 6 holes in the plywood that wold be the baseboard to our layout.
I had gone out to the hardware store to buy drill bits only to return to find a busted drill machine! So then, we had to make do with the hand drill and chisel that we had. The noise level picked up and so did the curiosity of our neighbor. (That's when she had come in to inquire)
Well, the job did not go as planned, but it did proceed in the path we wanted to take...( I guess that's saying something!) And I helped!
The formal description of the work done will follow soon...

Saturday, November 20, 2010


The benchwork for this layout was simple, but it was really difficult for me to do it on my own, so I had to take help of professional carpenters.

Anyway, to start with, first a 3D model was prepared with all the dimensions:

Now the actual benchwork:

The primary objective was to make this layout as portable as possible. To do this, the table top is made removable and there are two separate rectangular structures on which the top sits. The top is made out of 12mm ply on 1 inch X 1-1/2 inch solid wood frame. There are locking system on the frame that helps it sit securely on the legs.

The cassette is made on a separate, long bench. It's a 4.5 ft. long cassette that can hold 15 N scale cars with a locomotive with ease. This limit is enough for me, and this length of train will be a "long train" from my layout's perspective as the layout is small and the traffic will be pretty slow moving.

Scratchbuilding: Operating Bascule Bridge

If you look at the track plan, it's evident that you need a lift bridge to let the ships and barges reach the quay. Now building an operating Bascule bridge was indeed challenging initially.

This bridge is a complete wooden structure with proportionate counterweight that helps in smooth operation of the bridge. The rivets are made using measured drops of acrylic paint. Some more finishing still need to be done.

For complete details on construction, please visit All Model railroading Forum. Here.

Here is a very basic under the baseboard, hand driven operation for the Bascule Bridge.

Scratchbuilding: Oil Storage

So far we have 4, but we will be making more soon... :) These are made from the cardboard cylinders that you see in toilet paper rolls! Here is a detailed construction description in All Model Railroading.

Scratchbuilding: Cranes

Well, without cranes there is no port! And so far we have made three of them-all mounted on rails. Special attentions were given towards detailing the jib:

For a detailed description on the construction, please see All Model Railroading Forum. Here.

Scratchbuilding: Ships

Well, here is a brief introduction of our pride and joy (In ascending order of size). :)

Goj: A railroad tugboat, previously commissioned for ferrying car-floats. Since the decline in the usage of car-floats, she has been towing barges.

Severus: A small cargo ship, about 30 m. Based on a prototype built in the mid 1950s, special attention was given to model the hatch and the derrick.

Sirius: An oil-tanker. Our very first ship and the favourite so far. This ship is an ancient coal fired vessel, built in 1920s in Europe. Then it was bought by an American Company in 1930s. (The ship is still in good condition and is serving small oil businesses around Wrightsville Port.)

Betelgeuse: A container ship. our very own red giant, and the largest vessel in our fleet. Betelgeuse is an old cargo ship recently remodeled to serve as a container ship to support the growing demand of modern age inter-modal transportation.

All these models are scratch built using cardboard, electric wires, toothpicks drinking straws and like. The detailed construction histories can be found in All model Railroading forum.
Coming up: A lot of boats and barges.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Introduction and Trackplan

To be very honest, I am not a very good track planner, and even if I am, I am too confused to understand what I like and what I don't. So since the time I decided to make my next layout (that was in the first half of 2008, just after moving to Calcutta from Bangalore), I don't know how many different plans I created. I spent nights boring the hell out of my wife just laying virtual tracks - I would like bits of one but the others were not acceptable, some were too big, some too small, some complicated, some too simple - and the plan(s) kept on changing.

One thing was for sure, right from the start-it had to be a port-In fact I have as much love for ships as I have for trains and was determined to combine them. So I started scratchbuilding . Started with my all time favorite Sirius-the oil tanker, then a series of ships, and tugs and cranes and bridges... Well you know, everything you need to represent a port. And, for all these months I squeezed my pocket to keep on buying things that I require to build a layout-tracks, turnouts, electronics and of course, I kept on changing The Plan.

About 3 months back, I happened upon a plan in the pile of layout drawings which inspired me to start with a waterfront layout in the first place-Ian Rice's 'Coalport, Maryland, 1941' featured in his book 'Small, Smart and Practical Track Plans'. And suddenly I realized, why I was unable to decide on anything for so long-because unknowingly I liked this plan, or better to say that loved this plan so much, that I didn't really like any other designs-neither mine, nor others. So as much as I wanted to make a plan that is unique and all created by me, I decided to go for this one... What could I have done? First cut is the deepest... :-)

Why did I like this plan? Well, this had everything I want and would love to see! Large water body, interesting switching, a draw bridge, a carfloat, a trestle, a lighthouse (LIGHTHOUSE!!!) and the most important part was that even though this was a pure switching layout, it had that depth of field, that very interesting and intriguing entry and exit. Also, if you try to imagine how the trains are going to run on this layout, you realize that even though this is a small layout, that reverse loop can crate a sense of distance that is generally not present in most switching layout.

However, I did not adopt the exact plan, rather, I could not adopt the exact plan, I have just been inspired and heavily influenced by it. Why? Several reasons-

  • Ian Rice made this plan keeping mostly hand-laid tracks and turnouts in mind-for me it has to be off-the-shelf. I neither have the time, nor the patience to hand-lay tracks. So, the plan had to be readjusted for longer turnout lengths.
  • High cost of turnouts (given that I need to import EVERYTHING from US, they cost nearly double)-so I had to reduce the number of them in the layout.
  • I decided to move at least 20 years ahead of 1941-of course because I wanted to have the option to model in Diesel, but primarily, because my wife requested for one thing that I could not refuse (or even wanted to)-A container ship! To model a container ship it was important to move the era to past '60s because before that they didn't even exist.

  • Also, the car float had to go - so far, I didn't find satisfying evidence that car-floats and container ships actually existed in harmony! I hated it at first, but then I realized that squeezing a car-float in would have made the layout really clumsy for what I have in mind, and moreover, I would have something to look forward to extend the layout in future! Of course, if by then I find enough evidence that car float and container ships go well together.
  • Instead of a Warehouse, I decided to go for a Grain Transfer facility where grain barges bring the load in, then are unloaded by pneumatic unloaders which is then transported out of the port by the grain hoppers.
  • The only part where I didn't agree with Ian Rice's plan is putting the trestle right in the middle of the layout. In my mind that would actually create obstruction to the objects behind it and the visual effect might be a little compromised. So I decided to pull that to the far right of the layout-where the industry stands in Mr. Rice's design. This will also give an added advantage over the original plan, an over and under action!
  • I removed one runaround (the top one) in the original plan.
  • Added a small boat yard in the left corner.
  • I am planning to build a small tunnel in the background hill. I personally like the effect of trains appearing/disappearing through a tunnel and I think it increases visual effect to a great extent.
  • I gave the trains a longer run and gave myself a chance to model a small town scene at the far left.
Layout Statistics:
  • Size: 6' X 3' with cassettes feeding the trains from the far left
  • Benchwork: 12mm ply on 1"X 1.5" wood frame-totally portable
  • Track: Code 80
  • Min Radius: 11"
  • Grade: none (I am keeping the coal trestle grade off the main list as it's a special operation for the railroad. Trestle will have at least 6-7% grade)
  • Era: 1960-1970
  • Motive power: Diesel and occasional steam
The layout will also have complete remote switching and uncoupling, as well as automated signaling system.

As of right now, the benchwork has been completed (to be discussed in my next post), the necessary materials and tools have been gathered, the workspace cleared and I have a long Thanksgiving vacation which I plan to put to optimum use in formally starting the project!!