Friday, January 11, 2013

Thoughts on building a car float model railroad

(This piece was originally published on the Micro Model Railroad Cartel blog on Tuesday January 8th)
It's no secret then that I am quite taken with that image of the Naksup wayfreight on the car float. Plenty of inspiration to be had in that photograph. Short prototype length trains in a small space. I figured you could fit the design in about four feet in length in HO scale. I also figure that you could probably fit the concept into an APA box in Z scale.
But before I get too carried away with the scheme lets look at what you'd get in your small space layout. The trackplan is as simple as it gets. Two sidings. You don't even really need any switches. That is the root of the problem with the scheme. If you look at the layout from the point of view of a person who has no idea of what the layout is about would see a locomotive push and pull cars on and off the car float. Not terribly exciting, I'm sure you'll agree.
We need something more to lift the layout above the ordinary. To make people want to take a closer look.
How about making the car float move? Not too difficult a task for some clever modellers I'm sure. I bet there's several different ways to go about making the carfloat move. Those who know me will know I believe in operating features to lift the visual appeal of small layouts.
That would really make the layout different. But where would the carfloat go to? It would have to go offstage somewhere like the trains appear from offstage. I'll leave you to think up your own schemes I have my own ideas.
But when it comes down to it you're still only shoving wagons on and off the car float not terribly interesting operation for the operator.
So lets make a bit more of the shoving of the cars on and off the car float. Take a look at this image of the dock at Woodfibre British Columbia, there's a small yard right alongside. This is a promising development. This could be a very interesting way of going about building on the scheme. Operation would be considerably expanded over the original concept. A locomotive brings a cut of cars into the yard where it is sorted prior to being loaded on the car float. A loaded carfloat arrives, the cars on the float are changed out for those on the dock and the carfloat leaves, then the locomotive leaves with train that was on the float. Sounds pretty good doesn't it?
That's just my thoughts, thats how I would approach the idea.

Waking up...

After 14 months of inactivity I wonder if anyone still reads this?
My Z scale activities may have been dormant but my model railroading hasn't. I've built layouts and explored several new avenues of railway modelling. Even inventing one that was a world wide craze for a while. Though initially not as successful as I hoped for me personally. I was always open to another go at the project.
Then I had this picture bought to my attention. What a delightful scene, and so model-able and you could even fit it into a small space. Say 4' long even in HO scale. This would have been the kind of idea that my late, dear friend Carl Arendt would have gone for in a big way.  I mooted the idea in HO scale but strangely the idea that appeals most to me is to create this sort of scene in an APA box in Z. I bought a whole load of the boxes. I also have stock and track to build this in Z scale.
I've said before that I like Z scale. I was really impressed with the quality of the running of the set I have when I ran it at the Granite City Train show. I've been wanting to do something more with Z but I've been waiting for the inspiration to get a project up and running. To be honest, I wasn't expecting it to fall together like this. So we'll see how things develop.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

T minus 35

Days to the Granite City Train show that is. I love the show. It' s always a great deal of fun and people really enjoy seeing the small trains I bring along. The Z scale layout already runs very nicely. So all I have to do is build the structures that arrived from Zscalemonster the other day. That is the log cabins and passenger station shelter I referred to in my last post. I'm always amazed when I open the bag of tiny lazer etched pieces of wood and see how they all fit together and these from RSLaser and GCLaser don't disappoint at all. The kits look so simple and the fit of the kits is nigh on perfect. A log cabin campsite served by a small passenger depot will make a nice touch on the model.

Friday, September 30, 2011

Summer is over. Model Railroad fun begins

Yes. The leaves outside are turning orange and red and yellow. The MGB is ready to be packed away and I'm ready to have some fun in the model railway world again. The summer break is most welcome, I can forget about things for a while and come back refreshed. The Saint Cloud, MN Granite City Train show is coming up in November and its pretty traditional that I take my collection of "small" model trains to that show. The T scale is coming out of retirement, I'll take along some of my Nano Model Railroading efforts if I think they are worth it when I get them finished and of course the Z scale layout too. Now, way back earlier in the year, on a high from showing it the last time I said I was going to add some more bits and pieces to the layout. A few structures perhaps. I have not forgotten this. I'm looking out for some nice small structures to add to the layout to add some character. I do like these cabins from RSL Laser. But I'm looking for a nice easy smaller depot kit too. Something like this one. But thats an extensive conversion of an existing kit. I'm looking for a relatively quick straight build I think. Any ideas? Feel free to pass on any thoughts.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

An observation about switching

Speaking as a railfan. I'm lucky.
Lucky that my office overlooks a small rail served industrial park and every afternoon a train of varying lengths pulls into the yard and cars are spotted to the industries hereabouts.
Now, apart from the fact that this could be a highly desirable prototype to model for a future layout. (Let's not go there just yet.) I get a daily opportunity to watch switching operations and see how trains really run at slow speeds.
From my office window they run smoothly. No bumping and banging and bouncing over sagging track. From here, no more than 50 yards away everything looks perfect. I know it isn't of course because I've stood down there and heard the bumping and banging and seen the bouncing.
From here it looks just as smooth as the Z scale GP35 did running on my layout from about a foot away.
Now in HO scale and upwards I know modellers can go to great pains to recreate the bumps and bounces of older track. Whereas it is very clear that in Z scale you don't need to bother even if you plan on viewing your model even from as close as your eyes can stand.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Next steps

Where to from here with my Z scale adventures?
I have to admit I was definitely on a bit of a high after the show the layout had run so well. Especially as a "well meaning" N scaler went to great pains to tell me that the Micro Trains GP35 was noted for overheating and could melt the body of the loco. Well matey boy, it didn't. It ran faultlessly for six hours and never felt warm.
The next steps then. Well, I've ordered a couple of kits. A Z track craftsman kit of a centrebeam lumber car. The prototype is a car I see a lot of when I'm out lineside watching trains. They are a pretty distinctive prototype and the kit is not unreasonably priced. When finished, it will add more interest to the freight train as it runs around the layout.
Then for a bit of fun I ordered a pack of these, picnic tables from rslaser.
Fun? Yes. they'll be pretty small. Just how small I don't know. Knowing how small I'll be able to work in Z will help me decide just what I can do. When I get some of these built I'll add a picnic site to the layout for a little visual feature.
What else?
In a few weeks I'm off back up to the Knife River locale again. I'll be running Grandmas Marathon again. The old depot at Knife River still exists to the best of my knowledge so I plan to pay it a visit, photograph it and then construct a model of that and site it on the curve at the front right where there is plenty of space to fit it in.
Another item of rolling stock would be nice. The American Z lines Budd RDC-2 perhaps, to provide a passenger service to the new depot. It's not exactly the same as the RDC-3 that the DMIR used but would be near enough for me I think.
Should be enough to keep me going for a while I think. When I get those projects done I think I'll be well on the way to deciding what I can achieve in Z.