Monday, January 16, 2012

0013 Savannah Central - The Track Gang Moves the Rails

So we made a list of the 10 things that are wrong with the plan and we are going to fix them today, or at least try.  Some things you can't fix, so you have to decide if it is a deal killer or not.  Once we get these things fixed we'll make another pass through the layout and then turn it over to the LDSIG group and let them check out the plan and provide feedback.  If you aren't a member of the LDSIG and lack to track plan, you should join.  They are a bunch of great guys (except the few NMRA bashers that rise up once in a while) and are usually very helpful.  Their quarterly publication (published by Byron Henderson) is incredible.

Before we get started let's draw in major hazard and issue #11.  I forgot that this room has a very low light switch that is directly in the way of the port.

The top of the room's light switch if 27" from the doorway and 44" high to the top of the switch plate.  It could NOT have been in a worse condition.  My priorities prohibit moving it as we may not stay in this house, so we have to work around it.  Some solutions are:

1.  Build over it at 45" high
2.  Build below it at 40" and put a building in front (wife won't like that)
3.  Move the switch (money, time, electrician which I'm not having good luck with
4.  Move the switch to the front of the layout....Hey!  I like that idea!

We'll decide later, but for now I'm going with 45" high benchwork here.  Because I want my daughter to participate, I'm keeping the benchwork lower than I would normally.  I'm 6'2" so I like it around 48" to 50" so that I don't have to hunch down.  We'll make this layout 42" normally and 45" at the port.  This means the Port track will be on an include coming OVER the loop, which will have to decline slightly.

1.  Narrow shelf in the middle section limits scenery and structures
The area in the red circle is barely a foot wide.  That means it is about 6" on each side.  This is hardly enough for trees or flat scenery.  It can be done, but its not going to look very good.  Widening it will shrink the aisle on the bookcase side.  Widening on the other side will mess up the 24" radius curves.  Hey!  Here is a radical idea!  If you can't have a good scene on either side, why not overlap the two levels and have one good scene and the other track goes below?  We'll play with that idea.

The width of the benchwork here would be about 1 1/2 feet wide.  Very narrow.

I made a layer called BACKDROP and drew in where the scenic divider would normally fall on a layout like this.  Now let's try building an OVERLAY where one track goes below the other and opens up the scenery.

Actually, I have a better idea.  I don't like hidden track and don't like tunnels on railroads that don't have them (South Georgia is pretty flat).  So let's do this.  I'll draw in the benchwork (magenta line) and we'll just push the backdrop within a few inches of the back track.  That track will suffer from a scenery deficiency, but won't be hidden so the operator can stay with his train.  That leaves one foot deep scenery on the much more important main passing siding.  I like this much better.

2.  Would like the port shelf to be a bit deeper
My thoughts were to model Savannah's famous River Street.  It is a line of large cotton exchange warehouses along a brick (ballast stone) roadway.  The track is imbedded in the ballast stone road, dwarfed on one side by the old brick warehouses and the river is on the other side.  The point at the top of the blob below must stay at 2 feet.  So maybe we can round the port area and widen both sides to give more room.  Put a small flat building in that narrow spot.

This is where we now have to navigate for the lightswitch.  So here is a lesson: room dimensions are 3D, not 2D.  Measure and place everything on the track plan.  Especially watch for hazards such as fire, electricity, flammable materials and water lines.
 The problem here is that we have a loop that is too close to the Port.  Let's make some measurements.

 Switching to the OBSTRUCTIONS layer in red, I draw a two foot line to represent the minimum person clearance on the layout.  Ouch...too tight.

 Maybe I can slide the layout down in the room a bit to open it up.  I take a measurement at the aisle on the bottom and it is at two feet.  Rats.  No moving.  Back to the top.

Ok, so the pass would be one and a half feet.  Let's face it.  I'm not a girly guy.  I'm 6'2" and about 250 lbs, mostly around the tummy.  I took a tape measure and shut the door down to one and a half feet.  I was able to turn sideways and get through the door easily.  So here is the deal.  Do I want to violate my standards and do something that I know is stupid?  Not really.  Why do you say?  It's just one pinch point.  Well, there is more there than a pinch point.  There is a key scene on the wall at the port, which is too thin already.  That means I'll be knocking off what detail I can squeeze in there.  I'm saying no go.
Twisting a loop makes it shorter.  This makes it an over/under arrangement.  When I flipped this loop I picked up a 1/2 of a foot of clearance in the aisle!  Yeah!  Rats, I lost a 1/2 a foot near the bookcase.  Well, the bookcase may have to go if I can find a place for it in the house.  Actually I don't like this solution.  It makes me put holes in the backdrop or remove it all together.  In order to trick the operator into thinking this layout is bigger than it is, I need to keep the scenic divider in tact.

Throw this solution out.  Time for bed.  Night ya'll.


  1. Your backdrop seems to be causing you significant challenge. Is it worth it?

    Points to consider:
    1) Backdrops dividing small spaces can make the overal space seem "confined" or "clastraphobic". The room no longer welcomes or invites visitors and operators.
    2) Your planning this layout with your daughter in mind, so you might want visibility of the whole layout. Not for your daughter, but more to monitor other young friends who want to watch trains.
    3) The narrow curving backdrop will be challenging to build. More challenging by your desire not to impact the room.

    Given your space constraings, and island style layout, trying to achieve "single pass" scenes could be over constraining. Rather than a backdrop, double sided buildings or trees may serve you just as well.

  2. This has REALLY gotten me thinking...and kept me up most of last night! I put the dividers in (two feet high on a 44" high bench) so that I could have a view block from "incincere" (sorry Byron) trackwork on the other side of the bench. This is South Georgia flat hills at all. There is no challeng building a curved backdrop...but there is when you move the layout, which is likely in the next six months. I've designed and build small layouts with dividers and haven't gotten the claustrophobic feeling, but I do see your point. I'm going to think about dropping the dividers over the weekend...will let you know how it goes. Thanks for the great ideas!!!


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