Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Designing my train layout - 2

One more digression before I begin describing the design process for my current layout. Every layout that I have built so far (five in all) has incorporated lessons learned from previous layouts and the current one is no exception. A schematic diagram of my old layout is included below.

When thinking about layouts from an operational viewpoint, I find it useful to think in terms of schematic diagrams (which are similar to electronic circuit diagrams) rather than actual track diagrams.A video of this layout in operation under computer control is included below:

The focus of this layout was a station on a single line (somewhere in Germany near the Swiss border since all the rolling stock was either Swiss or German!). There were two storage yards and trains would proceed back and forth between the yards through the station. From an operational view point, this allowed me to model meets and overtakes.

Some of the problems (and lessons learned are describe below):

  • Since the layout featured only a single station, there was really only one viewing position. After a while, this became a bit boring since watching the storage loops was not much fun. This led to the requirement that the next layout would have at least two stations.
  • It became very tedious to sort out problems in the lower level storage yard since access was so limited. This in turn was due to the fact that I did not have the room for a helix to connect the levels. I therefore decided to avoid multiple levels in the next layout.
  • Unused freight yard: I created a freight yard for the station because I wanted to combine some switching action along with mainline train movement. The intention was that freight trains would pick up and drop off cars at the station. It was hard enough to get reliable automatic operations on the main line so this little freight yard was never utilized. Automating a layout is enough of a challenge and in any case, I did not really enjoy switching very much anyway.
  • Inadequate storage for unused trains: This is a perennial problem with railway modelers. There was simply no place to add any extra storage sidings on the old layout. I therefore decided to incorporate additional storage sidings in the next layout.
  • Automating a layout requires a large number of sensors since the computer needs a good understanding of the location of a train. There were not enough sensors on the old layout and the sensors were not well located. These problems arose since I had not really designed my layout with automation in mind. It became clear that sensor locations have to be considered before designing the layout.
All of these lessons have been incorporated in the current layout to various degrees.

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