Thursday, January 29, 2009

Puzzling over Model Railroading

After years and years of wanting to do a model railroad layout, I came to several conclusions:
1) I would never have the space to do even a modest HO size layout.
2) I would never have enough money to do even a modest size layout.
3) I would never have enough time to build a modest size layout.

So, I decided scale back my expectations and do what I could do. I went to N-scale, which is not quite half of the more popular HO scale. I also set a layout size of 4' x 1', being small enough for one person to carry through a door (as in out to the garage for storage). There is actually a group that does "micro layouts", and 4' x 1' is considered quite generous by their standards.

Now the real question is what can you do in four square feet? That is just enough room to move a small train back and forth. Boring, right? Not if you make a puzzle out of it. With only two switches, three sidings, and eight cars, you can create a puzzle with more than 40,000 possibilities. If you randomly select five car to put together in order, it can take 40 to 60 moves and a good deal of "brain grease" to build a "consist". Robin has gotten pretty good at this as we tested the layout.

Now the question, "is that realistic?" Model railroaders are always talking about "prototypes", which are the real railroads they base their models on. It turns out that the Hull-Oakes lumber mill down in Dawson is at the end of a six mile spur, and has only two switches and three sidings! While their sidings have considerably more capacity than the typical puzzle, it still requires a bit of "back and forth" to get empties in and loads out (see my videos). A little "compression" is forgivable, even expected in a model railroad.

Believe it or not, there actually are "Beaver" and "Duck" woodchip cars (one each) running around the Willamette Valley (this picture is the prototype with some nice graffiti). I've got a ways to go before I can work on details like that, but hey, I'll get there.


Eldon and Janeil Olsen said...

Ken and I toured the Hull-Oakes rail yard this morning. Ken took lots of photos and got answers from the tour guide Don (who had been around for over 30 years). Don wants to see the finished product once Ken finishes it. What an amazing piece of Oregon history. Eldon

brenda said...

Can we come see it sometime?