Tuesday, January 31, 2012

0028 Savannah Central - People From Another Dimension

Ok, I'm big.  Fat.  Round.  I'm tall and fat.  So when designing a layout I really need to figure out if I'm squeezing too much or not.  While I can force myself to keep someone else's layout to spec, I frequently cheat on mind and narrow an aisle are two.  Aisle widths are as critical to good design as the mainline.

First things first.  I went out to the LDSIG group and posted a question asking what size people did they use when designing a layout.  I was surprised to find out that most that responded used people that were larger than what I normally use!  And I'm 250 lbs!

Ok, then we need to get real with the dimension people on my layout!

The person in the middle (we'll call him a dimensionoid) is now much larger.  We will keep him at two feet wide and 16" deep.  I'm actually not quite that big, but it will do.  Some of my friends are quite a bit bigger.

Dimensionoids have height as well, so when we start looking at benchwork, we'll use a six foot, two inch dimensionoid.

With a large tummy out front...

My thought is that an operations session will have four operators on the layout, and a dispatcher off the layout, probably in the workshop.  We'll have the Savannah Switcher in the port, the Twinterchange yardmaster, and two mainline engineers.  Everyone else will have to be in the shop.

1.  Aisle widths are as critical to good design as the mainline.
2. Check your standards once in a while, especially people measurements (dimensionoids) and make sure they are true to what you and your friends REALLY measure out to.
3.  Dimensionoids have three dimemsnions: width, depth and height.

Monday, January 30, 2012

0027 Savannah Central - Scenic Divider or Not

I'm divided over the divider.  Sn2Modeler (don't know his real name) made a great point that maybe it is more trouble than it is worth.  In retro, he very well could be right!  I've been thinking about it for a week or more now.

The divider's purpose was to separate the two sides of the run from each other making the Engineer feel that the layout is really larger than it is.  My thought would be that it would be no higher than 68" (the height of my eyes) so that I can see over it and it doesn't interfere with the air circulation in the room.  This is very similar to Glue Bob's Ontario Northland layout.  Scenic divider not people divider.

The big problem is moving it.  If and when I do relocate the layout, the divider has to come down.  Also, there are some large knitting mills on this layout (two of them) and the backdrop would separate them from the other side.

An idea...a partial backdrop.  Both blobs get a backdrop that taper off to the layout.  I like it!  Let's give it a try!  I can always remove or add the whole backdrop later!

1.  Backdrops don't have to cover the whole layout.  They can be used sporadically to block scenes.
2.  When in doubt of what to draw, pick the one of the options that you think you'll most likely wind up with and draw it.  You can always change it later, or even during construction.
3. If trackage is running parallel to the fascia, put the divider at an angle to add interest to the appearance of the layout.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

0026 Savannah Central - Last of the Cleaning and Prep

 There are still a couple of things to do.  I've got a few minutes tonight before bedtime, so I'm going to vacuum the floor thoroughly.  Photos courtesy of Taylor, age 6.

I've seen some spiders and a few spider remains so we are going to vacuum around the edges well.  Then I'll treat the area with spiders.  It's important to get the room really clean because you are going to generate more dust.

 The carpet is old but high quality and very comfy to the feet.  It will make for good operations.

 I bought a sheet of 3/8 hardboard and had the Home Depot guy cut a sheet for the top of my table.  This will prevent damage to the table as I bring boards and screws and glue to the basement.  Take the time and spend the money to make sure you don't damage furniture and important tools like tables.

A 2 x 4 sheet of of 1/8 tempered hardboard serves as a cover for the cabinet.  My intention is not to put stuff there, but I'm sure drinks, lunch and Cheetos will find there way here.  I spent about $15 for the hardboard pieces and have a few extras for the woodpile.

1.  Take time to clean thoroughly.  It is good for your allergies!
2.  Spend the time and money to protect furniture and valuables from glue, scratches and damage.
3.  Let Home Depot do the cutting for you.  Its free, they can cut straighter with a panel saw, and it saves making sawdust in the garage.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

0025 Savannah Central - Still Cleaning...

We are still cleaning out the basement...back to the grind stone.

 First we clean out the cabinet and throw Marie's stuff out.  Well, we'll move it to another cabinet and wait until she leaves town, then throw it out.  I always clean house when she's gone.  Deseret Industries (like the Goodwill) loves it when Marie leaves.

 This is one of three boxes of stuff for the layout.  It includes locos, railcars, turnouts and rail among other things.  It is big and bulky, so we'll put it in the cabinet.

 There!  All done.  I figure that I'll be using this cabinet as we build so I'll make a note to get a 2' x 4' sheet of tempered hardboard to cover it.  Stereo is here...we'll need that for construction.

 Here is the light and build we'll install later this week.

 I'm keeping my daughter's step stool.  She'll need it to reach parts of the layou.

 I propped up the 6' table so that we can clean the floor.

 Nice and empty, and finished.  The perfect way for a train room to be!

 We kept the black trash can, and the fireplace will keep the room warm.

 Wow!  First time I've been able to walk in here in a long time!

 The floor is very dirty.  We have a steam cleaner so I'll clean it thoroughly  There are some dead bugs around, so I'l vacuum first.

As always I keep a pad and pencil handy.  I'll need Masonite (hard board) for a cover for the cabinet and for the table, so I better run to the Home Depot.  See you tomorrow.

Friday, January 27, 2012

0024 Savannah Central - Spring - er - Winter Cleaning

When in doubt, throw it out.  Time to clean out the basement tonight!  My, but we have mess.  No delay...let's get started!

 First, we clean up the shop.  Doing clinics makes a mess of my shop so I'm always having to clean it.

 Now for the basement room.  There is a lot of clutter that we just need to get rid of.  Unlike my wife, who would save her own poopies if I let her, I throw things away.  Being a packrat gives me allergies, so if I'm not going to use it....it is gone.  I have some Gatorboard sheets, and old stand, some pink foam, a couple of boxes of train stuff and other things.  Goodbye stuff!

 I cleaned off the table and put the chairs away.  We are going to keep the table for assembly work and photography equipment before the layout gets too big.

 The rolling tool tray gets moved back to the shop, but the step ladder stays here for the light installation in a few days.

 I moved Marie's filing cabinet to the spare bedroom, so I can see the corner.  Dead spiders.  Yuck.  Why does Utah have so many spiders?

 Pink foam goes in the closet for use later on the layout.

 These boxes are locos, railcars and other stuff for the layout.  We need to put them in the cabinets and get rid of the boxes.

 Wow!  Marie actually left one set of cabinets empty!  These are 28" deep as well so they will hold a lot of train stuff.  She won't mind if I throw away a few things.

 The mantle is covered with junk but its all out of the way so we'll leave it for now and put a painting there later.

There!  Wall all clean...now on to the rest of it tomorrow

Thursday, January 26, 2012

0023 Savannah Central - Purpose Revisited

It's 11:13 pm.  I've been arguing with NMRA idiots for about an hour now and have had enough.  Why I'm in the NMRA is beyond me.  Honestly, it doesn't offer me anything but grief from old fools.  We could have a great club without them of course.  Maybe we should.  I'll ponder that.

I've been thinking about the layout tonight...makes me calm, relaxed.  But I can't sleep.  When I can't sleep, I write.  So you get the brunt of it!!!

Let's kick around the purpose of the layout again.  Originally we had:

Move cotton from the fields through finished textile stages and export

Maybe that isn't the best purpose.  I'm seeing this expanded version of the Dixie Central more as a bridge line for moving traffic from one railroad to another, along the river.  But what about over it?  Maybe the Savannah Central owns a bridge and can get traffic from one side to the other?

We can still move cotton and crops, but also resin, perishables and live stock.  I love livestock ops!

Let's check out what the REAL railroads did!  This is what I hate about freelancing...you have to go back to the prototype anyway to study what really happens in the area you model, so you might as well model the real thing!

My thoughts...look at the Central of Georgia Railway!

003 Geneva Steel Corp in HO - Learning About Steel

I've changed the name of the layout as you can see above.  In the car I learned that Paul actually worked for a steel mill here in Utah called Geneva Steel in Vineyard, UT.  So we'll call it that and start researching.

My generous friend Randy is a steel modeler (though I didn't know it until Saturday) and loaned me a $1,000 worth of steel books to read.  He'll be a great source of information.  Alan offered some too, but since Randy had the stack waiting for me at the Train Shoppe I took 'em and ran.  The stack included Freytag's Steel book and Bernard Kempinski's Steel Modeling book as well as others.  Lots of good reading.


As I do with most projects I try to study the prototype and most often model from a prototype.  My Savannah Central Railway is probably the only freelance railroad that I've ever built, but even it is based on several key Southern railroads.

Wikipedia is a great first stop!  While you can't believe everything you read on Wiki, it generally has good, basic foundational knowledge of your topic.

Wiki Geneva Steel Report

The mill is located just south of me in the Orem, Utah area, which means that I can sneak down there for photos.  I think it is VERY beneficial to model something close by so that you can reference it.

Key Information about the Mill (per Wiki):

The plant was an integrated steel millAn integrated steel mill has all the functions for primary steel production:
  • iron making (conversion of ore to liquid iron),
  • steelmaking (conversion of pig iron to liquid steel),
  • casting (solidification of the liquid steel),
  • roughing rolling/billet rolling (reducing size of blocks)
  • product rolling (finished shapes).
Raw materials were shipped here by rail, processed into steel and steel products, and then reshipped by rail to their final market. The plant, in addition to having all of the facilities for primary steel making, included on-site conversion of coal into coke, plus other facilities for post processing of coal byproducts, including production of inorganic fertilizersBlast furnaces converted raw iron ores into pig iron, and final conversion into steel was via open hearth furnacesRolling mill facilities for forming steel into plate, pipe, and some structural shapes were also located here.

The current satellite photography shows the mill has been razed.  Nothing is left at all it seems.

The mill would have had a blast furnace, open hearth furnaces, rolling mills for pipe and structural shapes.  The plant operated until 2002 so we probably want to model the more current version of the mill so we can use more modern locomotives and track.

Here is a video of the destruction of some of the plant!

More articles on Geneva Steel:
Photo of plant http://www.media.utah.edu/UHE/Pictures/p0000124.jpg
Older mill info http://pwencycl.kgbudge.com/P/r/Production.htm
So I would think this shot would indicate that we'd need to include the building with the sign.  Note the wonderful Wasatch mountains in the background that make our home here so beautiful!

Ingot and track foundry photo.

The mill in 2001.  Just before going bankrupt after a government bailout.
Shot of the mill...don't know what the "sanding tower" device is.

This has to be the prettiest steel mill ever!  Geneva Steel in front, Mt. Timpanogos in the background, and Lake Utah in the front.  This is NOT the Great Salt Lake, but a large freshwater lake south of Salt Lake City.

You just HAVE to have one of these snazzy looking locos on the layout!  Can someone identify this make/model for me?

A note from Ironman:

The plasma cupola grew out of an idea developed by the Westinghouse Electric Corporation, the Electric Power Institute, the Modern Equipment Company and General Motors in 1983. The project was to develop a plasma cupola that would allow the melting of lower cost scrap, reduce coke consumption, increase productivity and improve process flexibility.Geneva's coke ovens were wearing out, and the plan was to melt cheap iron scrap in the cupola when scrap prices were low, and operate the blast furnace when they were high. In both cases the molten iron would be fed into the BOP. In this way Geneva could shut down most of their aging coke ovens and be more flexible during changing economic times. The plasma cupola was designed to produce 50 tons of molten iron per hour when charged with up to 70% of cast iron boring's or scrap. Unlike the General Motors experiment, theGeneva experiment did not produce enough iron to economically feed the hungry Q-BOPs like the blast furnace.

USS did not leave their Geneva successors a lot of modern equipment. They had to replace the old open hearths with Q-BOPs, there was no continuous caster, they had to add emissions equipment, and the coke ovens and rolling mills were aging. Their only hope was that they were the only primer plate producer on the west cost. And, with the fall of the plate market, this was not enough to keep them in business.

A great source for Geneva and general steel information:  The Steel Industry Forum (Searchable)

I searched out another 100 or photos and drawings for the steel mill.  Other sites I used were

http://www.flickr.com/ - a repository of great photos
The Utah State History Archives http://history.utah.gov/
Google Images http://www.google.com/imghp?hl=en&tab=wi

When you search for images, look at the web page that you find for other links.  There are massive amounts of photos, documents and drawing available these days.  You don't have to have a book!

The Mighty Paul wrote...

I haven't done any scratch biulding but thar is on thing I would love to learn. Do not worry about money. I plan to build this layout over years not weeks.. I got online and looked up what is avilable in steel mill kits. I have listed the kits and spce requirments for yo. They are
933-3056                     Electric Furnace   12 5/8 X 11 3/4 X 12
933-2473                    Blast Furnace        28 X14X 21 1/4
933 2972                    Coke Ovens
933-2973                    Rolling Mills           32X11 1/8X10
If we could get all four models pus servece tracks on the layout that would be great.

Ok Paul...I got it!  Now, one lat thing...what YEAR will be the year for this layout as the milled changed significantly.  I love the modern bright blue arc furnace...but the older Rio Grande railroad days are dirty, dark and big fun.  Your call!

1.  Modeling things that are close by give you the opportunity to research in depth, take your own photos and measurements and tap local "experts" for information.
2.  Knowing "why" someone wants to model something can help you design the layout more quickly.
3.  When searching for data be sure to look at other links on the websites you hit, and on Google Photos be sure to type in the search line differently several times as you'll get different things.

002 Geneva Steel Corp in HO - Steel Mill Basics

Before you design a model railroad you need to know some things:

1. What does the customer want?
2. What are the limitations?
3. What are they asking for that will cause fatal mistakes, i.e. will cause them to not work on the layout?
4. What do we need to know about the railroad?
5. What skills to they have, and more importantly, DON'T have.

So our customer wants a steel mill layout on a shelf in HO scale.  That becomes our purpose for the design.  We'll now start our standard parameters list as a separate file.

The limitations are the small area of 7' x 7' feet, the fact it is in a rehab center's "hospital" room, that lighting is poor and that it needs to be configured for someone with physical limitations and may have to sit to work on it.

Fatal mistakes is always fun.  Our customer usually doesn't want to hear them.  So you have to be VERY subtle in how you explain it to them.  Paul has very limited funds.  The Walthers Blast Furnace list price was $150 just for this one structure.  I see them listed for $300.  To model a whole mill you are talking over $1,000 for just a few structures.  Then we have $300+ in track due to the turnouts, even cheap ones are high.  Another $200 for wood.  If we keep it DC instead of DCC maybe keep it to $50 for power pack and wiring.  We're at $2,000 grand just for basics.  I'm sure this is a deal killer.

The Walther's Blast Furnace Kit, now out of production but available.

What does Scott know about steel making?  A little.  I've spent hours taking photos in Alabama at the mills, but I don't know much about track arrangements.  Good idea for me to get a book, or touch base with Concrete Keith who grew up around them and is modeling a large operation on his railroad.

Railroad Shop
There is a book about steel out and some guides like this one

What skills does the customer have?  He is an EXPERT at soldering and wiring and digital controls.  Wiring and track work shouldn't be a problem.  I'm not sure he has good carpentry skills, so we need to keep the bench easy or find some help.  Don't know about his other skills, but he has had layouts before.  We'll have to ask him.

Before we go any further...he and I have to chat.

1.  Layouts do cost money and the modeler should have a budget.  The budget can be worked over a period of time as a weekly allowance.
2.  Accessing the skills of the builder is key to design.  Forcing them to hand lay track when they don't like it and never have will kill the layout's likelihood of survival.  Be realistic.  If trackwork is a problem, keep it simple and to off the shelf options.
3.  The designer needs to first educate themselves about the railroad and its key industries.  Knowing the key factors and quirks makes for a very realistic layout.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

0022 Savannah Central - No More 3rd Plan It

So here is a fine predicament!  I use 3rd Plan It software to draw the layout, as you see on my daily posts.  When I bought the new computer I had to move the software.  That's when I realized that the temporary password that I had was never updated by Eldorado Software.  So I wrote the owner Randy Pfeiffer and asked him to send me the password I paid for when I updated the software.  I wrote several times in fact.  No answer. Frustrated, I posted on the 3rd Plan It egroup for help.

Later today I got an email from one of Randy's friends and supporters.  It turns out that Randy had brain surgery...in fact several surgeries, and has not been able to function!  My 3rd Plan It copy has now shut down and I can't draw on it anymore.  Randy did write me today...and he's in bad shape.  Said he would try to help me out.  Lord!  This hobby is just too complicated.  We wish you well, Randy...I love 3rd Plan It!

So instead of drawing the layout...you will get my "Belly Dancing for Increased Aisle Width" clinic!

No, that is not me.  Hang in there!  Maybe I'll have the pass code tomorrow.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

0021 Savannah Central - Wide Open Prairie!

The wife was able to finish her cookbook project in the basement along with filing and general clean up so that I can now access the basement 100%.  Yeah!  We started cleaning it out tonight and will finish over the next few days.  I still have to put in the light.

I tried to get more done this weekend but was just exhausted and had a lot of train club stuff to do.  Our club is growing fast and we had an awesome presentation on Decoder Pro.  What fun!  But with all the volunteer stuff going on and a new Callboard Magazine to publish this might be my last post for about two weeks.  I'll be at the World's Greatest Hobby show here in Sandy, Utah for one whole weekend as well.

So busy...too busy for a hobby.  Won't have much lined up after that.

So if you don't see a post for a few days, you know I'm finishing up the magazine!

I did go to Home Depot and Lowes this weekend and look at the lumber.  For some reason the sandply at Lowes is better and cheaper than Home Depot.  One thing I also found out is that they aren't charging $0.50 per cut after one or two cuts anymore.  I may just have them do the 2.5" plywood cuts for me on their panel saw instead bugging Thayne the Viking.

Each time I build a layout I shrink the wood.  My earlier layouts were build with 2x4's and dimensional lumber that was large.  This time I'm going down from 3" plywood strips 1/2" thick for the open grid to 2 1/2" strips.  The legs have been 2x2 dimensional stock, but I'm going to use 2 1/2" plywood in an L formation with a small 2x2 hardwood at the bottom for the adjustable feet.  This way all my timber is pretty much 2 1/2" ply all the way around.  It makes it much easier.

Your thoughts?

001 Geneva Steel Corp in HO - Layouts for Friends, Take 21

Designing layouts for friends has several big advantages.

1.  It let's me design layouts, which I love.
2.  It forces me to think outside the box and makes me work in areas I normally wouldn't design in like passenger service or cattle transportation.
3.  It let's me learn more about layout design.
4.  Usually they are smaller layouts and its a bigger challenge to fit what is needed into a small space.
5.  You make solid friends when you spend quality time picking their brains!

I've designed many layouts for friends and I get a great kick out of seeing them built!  Its like having a child!

Let me introduce you to my buddy, the Mighty Paul Thorum.  Paul loves his trains as much as I do and wants a layout.  There is a catch to this one.  He has some severe medical issues and currently resides in a rehabilitation center where the nursing staff is helping him get better.  Even with his health issues the Mighty Paul doesn't sit still.  So he needs a layout to fit in a 7' x 7' area in the rehab center.  Oh, there are LOTS of issues with this one!  I'll be glad to design it for you...I'm up for a challenge!  The rehab center has approved the layout...but I'm not sure they know what is coming.


The Mighty Paul says "design me a shelf layout to produce steel and I don't want a tail chaser."  That's all well and good, but he is only giving me a 7' x 7' space to work in.  Ok, we'll see what we can do.


We have to pay very close attention to parameters.  I've seen Paul's room and it is very big for a rehab room. It has big windows, a computer desk, and lots of floor space.  The 7' x 7' space is mostly a corner, but since he has actually more room than that, my first thought is to make it mobile.  Then push it back in the corner.  That means wheels.

No round-de-round means we don't need loops, which is good.  A 7' x 7' area is about what it takes for a 4x8 that we are so used to looking at.  Throw all those plans out.  But maybe we can be more creative with the space.

Paul was talking about N scale, but he really doesn't have the steady hands and fine motor skills for that, so I begged him to stay with HO.  Actually, if he didn't want steel, I'd guide him to On30 since it is cheap and much larger.

The Walther's steel mill kits are what he wants to use. These are big and expensive kits.  We need to make them go a long way.  I've got an ap for that!

Moving layouts, as this one will be, will need some special consideration.  This one can't tip over when pushed to be moved.  It might need to lock in place.  Wiring needs to be kept to the unit itself.  Lots to consider.

So get your ideas ready!  I'll need your help.  Post comments!

For you future Layout Design Wizards, I'm going to start adding words of WIZdom to each post.

1.  Designing for others is a great skill builder as it forces you into areas you wouldn't normally go, makes you listen to THEIR needs instead of your own, and it makes you attuned to their limitations.
2.  Handicapped people or those with medical limitations have special needs that must be considered when designing a layout.  Good evaluations and heart to heart chats lead to understanding of needs.
3.  Steel mills are HUGE!

Monday, January 23, 2012

0020 Savannah Central - Fascia-nating!

On every layout I try to play with new ideas that either were never done before or never caught on, but still were good ideas.  On this layout I'm going to try a fascia idea I came up with a few years ago.

I love dry marker boards!  I love to make notes, draw and think using them.  Home improvement stores carry the raw board in 4x8 sheets.  What if I make my fascia boards out of them?  I can draw and write on them.  Would be great for ops, for repairs and for use during construction.  What I didn't know is whether it would cut, bend and drill very well.

So, let's test it.  I got a 2 x 4 board and brought it home.  My daughter drew on it and erased...was ok.  I cut it and it did chip just a little, but was ok.  I might have to cover the ends/edges.  Drilling was fine.

I'll keep playing with the idea....write in with your comments!

Sunday, January 22, 2012

0019 Savannah Central - Switching the Port of Savannah

Ok, we have a track plan for the Port of Savannah, so let's put it through its paces and see if it makes sense.
Here is the port trackage.  Let' turn on 3D!
 The train backs down grade to the port (grades aren't drawn yet) after dropping of the caboose on the Coats and Clarke Mill Siding.  This is allowed per the company rules because I just started a rulebook file and made not of it!
 Let's first drop off the box car and the reefer so that the flat and gondola can be offloaded on to an awaiting freighter.
 Cars are dropped, and the turnout is thrown.

 We'll back down to the portside track and leave the two cars for unloading.

 We'll pull the loco forward and go get the two cars we just dropped off. Actually I probably wouldn't do this maneuver like this but its late and I wasn't thinking.

 The box and reefer move up...
 And pick up the empty reefer for its return trip.

 We'll drop the empty reefer off and go place the boxcar and reefer in doors #1 and #2.  Luckily the cars are in order, because if they weren't we'd have to use the run around turnouts to switch their position.  So far the track is working well.

 Cars are spotted at the doors and paperwork is exchanged.  Let's go home!

 We link up to the empty reefer and move forward toward the yard.

Yup...the track plan is working well.  Can't wait to see the real thing run!