Monday, December 26, 2011

City Dreams re-imagined

So, the Christmas celebrations left my brain with nothing much to do but mull over Tom's rather neat little scheme for an APA box. I liked it as a starting point and I've been working up concepts myself for urban locales so I thought I'd have a bit of a fiddle with it and see if I could incorporate some of my favourite design elements in there. 
Here you are. It's not dissimilar to Tom's scheme. Same amount of entry/exit points and sidings I just messed them around a bit. 
For many, many years I've toyed with the idea of using boxcars as view blocks, and why not? They are the same size as the trains you're trying to hide. Seems pretty perfect to me. It also suggests to folks that maybe these industries depicted here are at the end of a larger freight yard and a yard switcher can quite feasibly keep shuttling back on and offstage delivering cars to the industries.
Next I moved the industry that Tom had at right front to the back of the layout and ran the siding inside the building. In my exhibition experience people like to see cars going in and out of buildings and with the end of the siding hidden inside the building who knows how long it is? It looks like the siding is long enough to take one car. But with a cassette there that is two cars long you can mess with peoples minds a bit. Not unlike a magic trick. That building isn't big enough for two cars so how do they get in there? Perhaps parent would have fun explaining that one to their kids...
The industry at left serves as another view block as well as being another "spot" (or two) for boxcars. A traverser off stage here would also means a loco could exit offstage on one line and re-appear on the other, perhaps suggesting this is a passing siding/loop.
The road was placed there to break things up a bit, a working crossing light would be a nice touch on a small layout such as this, perhaps the crossing would have a working barrier. It would be up and down all the time though and perhaps the mechanism is likely to get worn out very quickly.
Anyway, just another way to look at the same thing.

Friday, December 23, 2011

APA Box Layout Design

Here is a track plan I worked up last night to fit the dimensions (approximate) of the APA Box from IKEA. The setting for this plan is a switching district in a medium to large city. DPM and Walthers brick modular structures would be ideal kits for the warehouses and other industries. This plan features cassettes for moving cars/locos on and off the layout. Each cassette is 14" long. This length will easily accommodate a GE 70 ton switcher and a 55' covered hopper or 50' box car.

The lid of the APA Box would be great place to house a lighting fixture, or it could be removed. The front panel of the APA Box is the only wall panel not used for obvious reasons. Another option you could use would be to replace the two cassettes on the left with a traverser.
The cassettes/traverser could be hidden by attaching two 14" L x 12" H panels to the left and right side of the viewing area of the APA Box.

Operations would involve picking up and setting out cars at the warehouses on the back spur and the industry on the front spur. The cassettes will allow the loco to duck in and out of the visible portion of the layout to shunt cars and to set out empties.

Additional Info:

Minimum Radius: 24"
Track/Turnouts: Atlas Code 83/#4 left and right hand turnouts

Feel free to post any ideas and/or changes you would make to this plan!


Tuesday, December 20, 2011

TerminalTalk Podcast

The Micro Model Railroad Cartel is featured on this month's edition of the TerminalTalk podcast.


iTunes (note: The iTunes Preview web page may take a few days to show updated podcasts. Subscriber feeds should already be posted.)

Sunday, December 18, 2011


Those of you who read my small model railways blog will already be familiar with the APA storage box from IKEA. It's a flat pack, self assembly kit made from pine and hardboard, held together with some socket cap head screws. Assembly is ridiculously quick and easy and when assembled, the kit turns into a very nice storage box approximately 28" x 12" x 14".
If you like storage boxes that is...
Me? I immediately saw the possibilities for a cabinet for a microlayout of some description.
Above: Here's a picture of an APA box assembled as it should be.
Above: BUT if you remove the front it is very apparent that it could make the basis of a very interesting cabinet style layout.
Above: The lid also holds interesting possibilities for attaching lighting
Since I alerted the model railway world to the possibilities of the APA back in June and July of this year if has been adopted with great gusto by the Gn15 world, with a standard for modular layouts being mooted and adopted. I have also heard of an N scale layout being planned to take up two APA's.
As for me. I have three of the boxes but am a little undecided what to do with them. As is not surprising to those of you who know me, I have too many ideas for what to do.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

On18 Re-Think

I was talking to my friend Gary Wise last night, pointing out what I was thinking about doing to the On18 track. We started tossing out ideas and this pretty much came up.

1. This is a fiddle yard. I think I can come up with a way for it to fold out of the way when not in use. Just the height from the track-level of the On30 to the top of the upper fascia is about 28″. That would add quite a bit of operational possibility to the On18 portion.
2. A Sector Plate at this location would switch between at minimum, two fiddle yard leads
3. A Peco E492 right-hand HOn30 switch.
4. Siding. This is important for the operation. The critter will pull up on the main and stop with the coal cars between the two switches. This means that they have to fit within the 20″ approximate space but this is plenty for the small On18 coal cars. I could probably fit 5 cars in the space and that would be plenty coming from the mine at one time. After cutting the coal cars loose, the engine then runs around the cars and comes up behind them to push them.
5. A Peco E491 left-hand HOn30 switch.
6. A Peco E492 right-hand HOn30 switch.
7. A Peco E492 right-hand HOn30 switch.
8. Stub yard. The engine will park the loaded cars in this yard and the push one at a time to the right of the layout to the coal bin. Empty cars will also be brought back and stored here. Right now there is not enough room to put the 5 coal cars on one lead .. but this is the first design. Not having enough room can be a ‘good thing’ since possibly adding an additional siding nearby would allow for a switching puzzle.
9. This is as far as the On18 extends currently.
10. The dashed lines represents the track that will extend over the coal bin.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Sector Plate

What is a Sector Plate? The following is from "Layouts Using Sector Plates" -

"A popular space-saving device is the sector plate -- a track or tracks mounted on a board that is pivoted at one end so it can match up with several approaching tracks."

A Sector Plate is in the same 'family' as a turntable. A turntable is a length of track pivoted in the middle. A Sector Plate is pivoted at one end - so think of it as a turntable with the bit beyond the pivot whacked off on one side.

There are several uses for using a Sector Plate on your layout. A layout of any size can use them for a fiddle yard where the Sector Plate replaces a yard ladder. For micro-layouts they provide a way for you to have operation in a very small area. Sometimes they are hidden in a building. You see two tracks entering the structure but what you don't see is the Sector Plate hidden within. This provides the ability to switch a loco from one track to another and all you need is a length of track long enough for that loco.

Pretty sweet.

Here's some links to look at:

Layouts Using Sector Plates
Layouts Using Sector Plates Pt 2

Indexing sector plates - the second article down titled "and still more fiddle yard tips!" talks about two ways to index sector plates

Turntable & Sector Plate Fittings - This is a commercial site selling fittings but worth looking at for ideas

Video of a Z scale sector plate - this YouTube video shows a Sector Plate in operation. The relationship to a turntable is obvious. It might be argued that this example IS a turntable I suppose .. not that it matters in the least.

I know that Tom shows a Sector Plate on his plan and I would hazard a guess that Ian has some knowledge of these. Since my On30 layout is seriously lacking in operation with the current design I am planning to add Sector Plates in the future. What I am going to look at is a fiddle yard that folds up out of the way when not in use at the end of the "L-shape" foot .. and possibly another hidden in a building.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Cartel Member: Ed Traxler

My layout is currently 2'x8'. I keep wanting to put it in quotes like .. "layout". Originally it was a pair of On30 modules I built to partner with other members in the Carolinas On30 Conspiracy Group. I've more or less retired them from that and have them semi-permanently mounted on my bedroom wall as my .. "layout". There. I'm happy now!

The focus is a 16 oven Coke Oven Bank with a siding along the warf. This is the On30 portion of the layout and operated by the Deep River RR - an aggregate company. When a mining operation folded in South America in the late 1800's the owners shipped the locos and railcars back to South Carolina/North Carolina to move aggregates, minerals, stone . and coke. That explains why around 1940 a 30 inch narrow gauge is still in operation. On a higher level is the On18 line that brings the coal to the coking operation. This whole operation is 'somewhere' in North Carolina near the Deep River Coal Field. Finally .. a bit of the standard gauge LC&NRR shows up - represented only by ties .. and perhaps some guys laying rail.

In the photo the colored bit is mostly finished .. with the blue structures still to be built. The little bit on the left .. that green rectangle is where a town will go .. someday.

Train Geek & Technology Nerd

Although that title might be self proclaimed, I think it sums me up in one line. I am the founder of Shortline Modelers Lounge, employeed full-time as a print and web designer and a full-time freelance web developer. Oh, did I mention I have three boys! As you can see, I really have no time to build a massive layout. I would love to some day but my taste in shortline railroading is so vast it would be pointless to build one at this time (I would end up tearing it up and rebuilding it weekly). I grew up in Northern California around some pretty well known logging and shortline railroads and there is something appealing about them all. Further, logging in Eastern Europe and Japan are spectacular.

With that said, my life will become a series of models, dioramas and micro layouts and I couldn't be happier!

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Cartel Member: Tom Conboy

I have been a model railroader for 27+ years, and I have worked on large layouts as well as small ones. My current layout is an 18" x 48" HO layout featuring the grain business of a small, Midwestern town. This layout includes a fiddle yard for staging as well as a sector plate for moving trains on and off the visible portion of the layout.

I discovered on my previous layout (4' x 6') that one does not need a large layout to conduct operations in a prototypical fashion. Micro layouts can (and do) offer realistic train movements with highly detailed scenes. All of this within a space that anyone could manage.

I plan to use this blog to share my ideas on planning, building, and operating micro model railroads.

Welcome Aboard!


Serial Model Railroad Builder...

That's what it says on the publicity cards I have on my displays at trains shows in the Midwest. There are, as I speak, currently three working model railroad layouts in my basement in varying sizes and scales. There was until 2 weeks ago a fourth one, but I tore that up to replace with a new layout. There are also 5 baseboards down there for other projects that are started and stalled. There are also three IKEA APA boxes down there as part of another model railroading experiment. Then lets go and have a look in the freezing cold garage where there's another three baseboards from previous layouts waiting to be recycled/reused/disposed of as I see fit.
ALL of these baseboards are under 4 square feet. The maximum size of a microlayout as defined by my good friend, the late Carl Arendt on his website Micro/Small layouts for model railroads.
I've been interested in Model Railways/Railroads for as long as I can remember and I've been designing and building microlayouts since before the term was even invented.
Whilst I have the greatest admiration for those who build basement filling empires, it's not for me. To me there is too much inspirational stuff out there to tie myself down to one layout.
So just don't show me a picture of a railway who knows where that might lead...

The Cartel Is Complete!

The Micro Model Railroad Cartel is made up of the following modelers:

Tom Conboy
Ian Holmes
Ed Traxler
Shawn Branstetter

By the way, that spells "TIES!"

Come join us as we discuss and share all things Micro Model Railroad!

Coming Soon!