Proper Planning Prevents …

August 21, 2010 § 1 Comment

… poor performance.

I always knew I would find it difficult to meet my wife’s target of starting to build before the end of June – due mainly to the aforementioned reasons that the materials she thought I might use were entirely unsuitable, and if I was going to do it then I was going to do it properly – even if I did have nearly three months. I did however need to show Ania I was serious. So the first step was to get some proper baseboard.

Most of the German periodicals on the subject show plywood as the material of choice. My dad’s layout baseboard, was some sort of soft fibreboard similar to what is used for noticeboards, and covered the walls of my university architecture school’s studio walls for pinning drawings to. For display layouts designed to be dismantled and moved arround between exhibitions, plywood is the stronger and more durable choice, it is also cheaper and more readily available but it is more difficult to work with. The more common choice at least among layout builders in the UK is fibreboard. This is much easier to work with but is not without  its problems. The first being availability. It is not the sort of thing you find in your local DIY store. It is not something I had seen in any of my local model-shops (not that there are even that many of them) either. After much searching on-line (the internet must have hit the model-railway periodicals’ advertising revenue hard) I eventually found a company called Sundela that made exactly the product I was after, it was even marketed under the name Hobbyboard. Their distributor list is not exactly extensive so after much deliberation I decided that mail-order was preferable to a 70+ mile round trip on a saturday morning. Its arrival (over two weeks) later caused much excitement with my son Matthew, although I think he was a little perplexed when, after mummy had said the big parcel was for daddy’s trains, it was eventually opened to reveal 3 large plain-looking grey boards.

In the mean time I got busy with some proper planning. I read various blogs and forums describing  in meticulous detail the relative merits of code 75 and 83 versus code 100, and various manufacturers adherence or lack of to such and such a country’s standard practice concerning guard rails on turnouts,  and I now know the difference between flat-bottomed and bullhead rail. Considering the number of other compromises one has to make when building a model railway, I found some of these arguments about prototypical practice when it comes to track work slightly pointless. If you want to emulate prototypical running then your average Inter-City train would need to have at least eight coaches, or more on the continent. If each coach is a foot long then your average station platform needs to be somewhere near 3m in length or longer, and few people have this sort of space, even in their lofts. In the end it was all academic as my final choice of track system was governed more by how the turnout geometry would fit into the proposed space (and that my dad still had miles of unused Code 100 track in his loft). I had a little help from some planning software called AnyRail, freeware that comes complete with libraries for all the major manufacturers track systems. This was a major leap since the last time I tried any sort of layout planning about six or seven years ago, when the quality of available CAD tools designed specifically for this purpose lead me to believe I could do better myself by building my own blocks in AutoCAD.

I have often found in my experience both as an architecture student and as a professional computer software developer that the more simple and elegant a design or solution looks, the more effort has gone into it. You will learn from this blog that I am a bit of a perfectionist, and it was quite tricky getting a design that I was happy with. Here are some of my first attempts.

There were many considerations. Primarily I wanted to maximize the Stadtbahn element, that is why I chose a curve to get the longest run of railway arches. I was never going to fit an entire station in the space I had, and I did not just want a model of a station. This  pushed the station onto the shorter side of the curve. Curves on model railways are always much tighter  than they would be in reality, this means that track spacings have to we wider to compensate for larger overhangs when a long carriage is placed on a curve. While curved platforms are quite common, particularly in Britain, they look very poor when modeled. most of the work went into minimizing the wasted space between tracks around the station throat in order to leave more space for other models. Other considerations were the locations of bridges over roads so they would not conflict with under-board point motors.  So here is the final design, with some notion as to where the roads might be.

The more observant or knowledgeable among you will notice a large concession to the prototype. The Berlin Stadtbahn is four tracks, two S-Bahn suburban, lines and two Fernbahn lines.  Once outside the station my stadtbahn has only two. The real art of model railway building is knowing where to compromise and making the best use of the limited space you have.

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§ One Response to Proper Planning Prevents …

  • J Sinnett says:

    All we can do is admire what you are doing, particularly considering the lack of space.
    You are certainly a perfectionist which you can only have inherited from your mother,certaily not from your father.There is plenty of track and points in the loft should you need them.
    Love Mum & Dad

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