How Much Rolling Stock for a small Layout?

While I was working away on my VIA P42 today, I was also doing a bunch of small layout tasks, making adjustments to track and benchwork, and I decided to pull out the rolling stock from my old layout that I hadn’t sold off that is appropriate for my current layout, Liberty Village in the 1950‘s (exact year/season still TBD). I have sold off most of the freight cars that aren’t useful or appropriate for my layout. That left me with 16 cars on the layout after going through the box, and two sacrificial cars I bought cheap at shows that are going to get cut in half to become part of the scenery at the backdrop, and a couple of cars still in boxes in a tub I didn’t dig out. In my project drawer I have seven kits (8 counting a flat that will probably become a Maintenance of Way car that won’t run much), and I have two freight cars on pre-order. On top of that I currently have three cabooses, which aren’t revenue and are mostly to get in the way of crews switching. So all said, I have 28 freight cars at the moment, for a layout where there are 14 potential spaces to spot them at an industry.

IMG_0180.jpgCPR “Parkdale Yard” Staging, looking rather busy with 12 freight cars, a caboose and a single locomotive.

So, the question becomes, how many cars to I actually need, and how many is the realistic maximum I can have on the layout? I don’t necessarily mind switching cars between operating sessions, and at least my current operating session vision would see a handful of cars switched by CN from one end, and CP from the other, at most maybe two runs with 3 cars in/out of the sceniced area each time.

Accounting for some of the cars that I have already in the count being irregulars (coal hoppers, gondolas, a flatcar load of tractors, tank cars, oddball boxcars that don’t actually belong), and wanting to have some variety of cars from different railroads and coming/going to different places, I probably have room for a maximum of 30 regular freight cars, and maybe 10 irregulars that show up from time to time. When I look at what the CPR Parkdale Yard staging looks like with 12 cars on it above, its already looking busy, and It has marginally more room than the CNR Dufferin Yard Staging at the other end!

IMG_0181CNR Dufferin Yard, two cabooses, two locos and a single box car. There are only two single car pocket tracks to the right instead of three two car ones at the other end of the layout.

The longest train I can run is dictated by the staging traversers length, a small locomotive and max 3 freight cars with a caboose, or 4 without. It’s unlikely many trains even this long ran in Liberty Village because of the tight curves and the nature of taking cars into and out of specific industries. This is good for lots of movements in an Ops session, but will make staging tight. The CN Yard which has four less parking spaces for freight cars than the CPR yard will definitely require me to think about how I set things up for an ops session.

Yes, I’m getting way ahead of myself thinking about operations, but it helps me focus on not buying more kits or cars that I don’t need. It was nice to have a bunch of cars out, and start pushing them around trackwork looking for faults (almost all these cars have crap plastic knockoff Kadee Couplers, and metal wheels on plastic axles, some even had nasty plastic wheels), so I was also able to start replacing wheels and couplers to hopefully have reliable operations when I can run trains!

Operations at the Filmore Avenue Roundhouse

I still consider myself to be a novice when it comes to operating layouts. I haven’t done it a lot, and by not a lot, I can still count my number of ops sessions on two hands, and the number of different layouts I’ve operated on one hand. That said, the quality of the layouts I am fortunate enough to get the chance to operate on is incredible. And the latest is one that I’ve seen in photographs and in print, but never in person until last weekend.

Overview of the Filmore Avenue Roundhouse layout. The whole layout is terminal, operations are taking locomotives from arriving for servicing, through timed servicing, to be ready to be sent back out to work.

Getting to visit amazing layouts like Rick DeCandido’s “Filmore Avenue Roundhouse” and operate them gives me inspiration for my own layout, that it can operate as well and look as good as the layouts I’ve gotten to see do. Rick’s layout is a “proto-freelanced” layout, that is a layout based on a prototype and realistic operations, but which never actually existed. It is based on a proposed new engine terminal adjacent to the Buffalo Central Terminal that the New York Central was planning in 1929. Work hadn’t started when the stock market crashed in October 1929, and by the time World War 2 was over in 1945, the writing was on the wall for steam locomotives, and the NYC never revisited the proposal to build a new facility to service passenger locomotives. As such, the buildings are all based on NYC prototype practices (other than the gorgeous Canadian Pacific 2 road coaling tower based on John Street in Toronto, modelling it is on my to do list and Rick’s is drop dead gorgeous!). Rick’s modelling skill and attention to detail is second to none. Everything has that perfect life worn and used feel, with the right amount of weathering and grime to look like buildings that are out in the environment where work and steam locomotives are around constantly.

Some examples of Rick’s fabulous modelling. His coaling tower (a model of the CPR John Street tower at the Toronto Railway Museum as it fit his space), and a view into the stalls of the roundhouse to see locomotives being serviced.

The layout is operated in real-time, with each session about 2.5 hours long. While that may on the face of it sound like not a lot is happening. It takes three active operators and a dispatcher updating the digital “chalkboard” of the shop for incoming, under service and outgoing locomotives, plus service trains delivering supplies and coal. The session started out with a half hour or so introduction to the layout and the operator jobs. I think Rick was maybe a bit worried it is too much, but I have to say it was just perfect. He was able to clearly lay out everything we’d be doing and tie that to why the railroad did things so it all made sense, and the three of us could figure out how we were working together. Along with my friends Ryan and Doug, we’d have a lot of movements to coordinate between the Staging (me, bringing locomotives in for servicing and departing after, as well as aligning the staging for service trains), the Assistant Holster (taking over from staging after entry to the layout, running service extras, and helping the lead as needed), and the Lead Holster (taking locomotives from assistant, onto turntable and into stalls, then back out to the ready tracks for departure).

Doug has a laugh while I focus on something working the staging yard. Ryan focuses on bringing a switcher off the turntable onto the ready tracks.

I had a wonderful time. Rick was a great host, and his layout operated perfectly. The only things that went wrong were operators like yours truly putting locomotives in the dirt by failing to check that switches had been set for where they were driving!! I hope some time I can invite Rick to my house to repay the favour of an operating session in Liberty Village and that it runs half as well as his layout did!

The start of a small project – a Nuisance load

As we are still unpacking and setting up our new house, I did want to do some modelling, since I haven’t touched a model since mid-April with packing for the move.  For the Liberty Village layout, because of the space, I won’t be including the very large Massey-Harris or Inglis plants.  They would generate too much bulk traffic or loads/flows that don’t make sense given the amount of space I have.  That doesn’t mean I can’t have some carloads that are coming or going from them that show up every now and then, as a “nuisance” to the operator where it was marshaled between cars that needed to come into Liberty Village and rather than shunting it in the yard, it just comes along for the ride.

IMG_5593I bought two packs of Walthers Scenemaster tractors a few weeks ago. I wasn’t sure how many would fit on the flatcar. Looks like I can buy another pair and load 6 on.

The car I am using for this load is an old Life-like Proto 2000 flat car in Toronto Hamilton & Buffalo paint.  I bought four tractors (they come in 2-packs), as I wasn’t sure how many would fit, and didn’t want to have too many.  Now that I’ve got them out, I like the look of four on the car, but it almost feels underloaded.  I was looking at my friend Trevor Marshall’s post about his tractor load on his S-Scale Port Rowan layout, and he has 6 on the same length car, and the AAR (American Association of Railroads) directions from the 1940’s for loading tractors!

IMG_5599

Painting extra detail onto the basic looking Walthers tractors to make them look more like Canadian built Massey-Harris equipment.

As I want the tractors to look like they are Massey-Harris built at the plant in Toronto, I am painting the wheels yellow, as Massey-Harris tractors had bright yellow wheels when new.  I suspect the Walthers tractors are a nominally a John Deere or International Harvester (they also come in green), so they are not an exact match for what was built-in Toronto, but with yellow wheels and some details like the exhaust picked out in silver, they will make a passable load of Massey-Harris equipment.

IMG_5598Starting to look at cutting pieces for the blocking.  This is confirming I really need to go out and buy a new strip cutter.  Mine is done for and I can’t get clean consistent and square cuts from it anymore! NorthWest Shortline Chopper 2 here I come!

This probably won’t be a project I finish quickly given the need to buy more tractors, and I can’t seem to find my fine scale chain (though I may wind up using super fine wire as it’s easier to work with than the chain is to tie them down, But it was nice to sit down at my new desk for an hour and actually work on a model again.  Who knows, maybe whenever I start preparing load cards and waybills for operation, I’ll tag this cars eventual destination as Port Rowan on Trevor’s current layout!

Form 7355 – Safety Rules – June 1, 1952

Sometimes when you go to a Train Show, the thing you spend the least on is the winner of the day.  I went to the Ancaster Train Show today with some friends, carpooling out from the City, then going for a relaxing pub lunch after before returning to the City.  With layout planning dominating my thoughts, I haven’t been getting much work done on building models, and, to be frank, the joy of the thought of building a layout has me focusing on finishing things that are on my workbench to clear it for layout building projects, rather than looking for more to start.  On the day, I didn’t spend very much at all.  I bought a single reference photo of a CPR Steam Locomotive, a detail part (singular, sad really), a sheet of decals, and a couple of pieces of vintage CN paper (A 1947 Eastern Canada Passenger Timetable, and a 1952 set of Safety Rules). (Edit: I also got a 0-6-0 Steam locomotive, but I didn’t pay for that, it was a generous gift from a fellow modller who reads the blog Rick De Candido as an opportunity for a future project, see the single photo I bought and some future post about it!)

The Safety Rules, are the clear winner of my day, for a whole dollar, I got a copy of a June 1952 Canadian National Form 7355, the Safety Rules for Train, Engine, Yard and other Transportation Employees.

IMGP4306RawConvA little yellow book with 36 pages of Safety Rules, in force as of June 1, 1952

These are a wholly entertaining read, looking at how Health and Safety matters were treated 65 years ago.  “Obedience to the rules is essential to safety”.  The rules read like a how to manual of how to blame the employee if something happens to them, in the guise of a set of rules to make sure they operate the railway safely.

IMGP4309RawConvThe Index and General Notice inside the front of Form 7355

Now, while these rules may not have a lot of applicability on a model railroad, one fun thing caught my eye when I got home and actually looked at it closely (because lets face it, for a $1, I bought without even thinking twice).  Form 7355 has a sign and tear our page in the front for record keeping.  Upon issuance of the rules, and employee had to acknowledge the requirement to know the rules and obey them.  The receipt was to be torn out and maintained by a supervisor or foreman.  This is the kind of paperwork you could easily re-produce and use as part of an operating session.  Each new operator has to sign on and acknowledge they will be bound by the railways safety rules.  At the end of the Op Session, it can be a little souvenier of their visit to your railroad and era.

IMGP4308RawConvReceipt Page of Form 7355.  Something you could require all your Ops Session crew to sign to ensure they are fully on board as railroad employees following your safety rules.

As is often the case, the show was much more fun just for seeing friends and chatting shop than it was in terms of buying anything.  As always it seems, there were lots of shiny things to try and draw you in to buy, but for today at least, cheapness won the trip for me!