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!!

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