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.
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.