Former content of as of September 21, 2014



Better pictures including an iso can be found in the June 29th post at

Fantasy Model Railroading

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Ship Channel Modules

Lately, I have been working on four Free-Mo N modules 2 feet wide and 4 feet long with the track plan tentatively as shown below:


This is easy to build and, probably, John Hunt and I can complete the portside module and the large ship table with no track that might replace the three ship modules previously shown in this space. The ships will have machined bottoms so that they will look like they are floating despite merely sitting on the level Envirotex water surface. The ships can be moved around or replaced by other selections from John's vast N scale collection of prize-winning scratch built ships.


Clearly, this central module lends itself to incorporation into a stand-alone layout. The following fantasy layout was completed by adding yards and return loops. The yards are parts of a large WinRail drawing that was intended to incorporate the principle features one might desire in a combined freight and passenger stub terminal yard. I won't know how well I have succeeded until I test each yard with every permutation of operating sequences according to the code I will describe at soon.


The benchwork for the four modules above is almost finished. We are using legs recycled from HO modules.

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I have learned a thing or two about by working on, especially how to use pages and the links to them; however, for now, I am willing to put everything on one page. This morning, I replaced turntables with end loops or added end loops to stubs with turntables for a new look and a new mode of operations. Of course, the various stub ends have yet to be worked out sufficiently carefully or worked out to replicate actual small yards on real railroads. Google Earth and Bing Maps are useful; but, the historical maps are sketchy at best. Below are samples of track plans that have been replaced in some cases for ease in construction rather than esthetics.






Finally, on October 28th, 2013, I have a ship-channel-complex track plan that might be simple enough to build given the space. It is easy benchwork, return loops for continuous operation, turning wyes for point-to-point operations, numerous mainline routes, plenty of yard space for operations and storage, and a ship table with no trackage to maintain that can accommodate all of John Hunt's oil tankers with very smoothly machined interfaces with the smooth surface of the Envirotex water so that they can be moved about or replaced and they look like they are truly floating in the water.


Here is the variation I came up with on November 4th:

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Double Track Twice Around

Here is a layout plan with a lot of track and not much scenery. I expect to alter the yards they conform to John Armstrong’s criteria for good operation.

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And, for my own amusement, here is Winrail’s 3D rendering of a different version of the above:


And here is a 3D rendering of a slightly different version with different turntables and five parallel tracks for a very short stretch that could be extended as far as space permitted.


Or in the usual plane presentation:


And, here is a version with no grades. The tracks cross at grade.


Here is an extension of the above layout. A central section with numerous unnamed industrial sidings drawn in at random.

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This could be extended by placing the petroleum refinery module between the two ends. The track is at grade; but, the structures and roads are above and below grade. Some of the industrial sidings have been removed to accommodate distillation equipment and oil tanks. The view of the ship channel from Google Earth suggests how to model the nautical module that for Free-Mo N replaces the background picture.

Combination of the Ship Channel and the Double Track Twice Around

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However, as it is nearly time to start a Free-MoN module for my petroleum refinery (under construction), here is one of the latest track plans employing WinRail, Google Earth, and Paint.NET: (It is very rough, but shows the idea.) See, also, the Free-MoN section of my homepage.


Pure Fantasy

Imagine this labyrinthine bench work that would require 26 feet by 22 feet to provide a two foot outside aisle. What? You think I need three foot aisles? How about scene breaks throughout like the Bayou City and Gulf peninsulas with panorama photos on both sides?


And, here is another layout copied from Winrail: (I have considered copying the industrial sidings from Gordon Bliss’s track plan (N Scale Railroading, May-June, 2010) so that his operating schedules can be reused here with different cars and car numbers.) I wonder if anyone has bothered to write software for practicing operations on a giant fantasy (virtual) layout. Please inform me if you know. For now, I sketched in only one or two sidings.


Also, employing two variations of John Armstrong’s stub yards and almost no other non-main-line track in a true point-to-point layout with a scenic break throughout, I drew this layout for a rectangular room 18 meters by 9 meters. I got tired of converting inches to feet; so, this is in metric. N scale, after all, is a metric gage, namely, nine millimeters. Multiply meters by 3.28 to convert to feet. It turns out that Print Screen gets the best rendering of this layout; so, I might as well let you see the Winrail 11.0 screen as it appears to the user.

The New Rock Springs and Sweetwater County Line

Here is the latest version of the track plan for the New Rock Springs. The layout is well under way just behind my back as I type these words. I expect to build it with almost all recycled materials and at no (new) expense to myself.



No track plan should be deemed final until every conceivable operating circumstances has been envisioned on its arrangement of track. A few weeks ago, I began once more to think about operations. I was disturbed by the huge amount of preparatory work that Eddie Aycock has to get through before every operating session on the Bayou City and Gulf Railroad. I began to be convinced that the software was part of the problem. I wrote as follows:

Hi Eddie,
I have been thinking about the operating sessions somewhat over the last few months; and, I believe I can help a little with my personal reasons for giving the operating sessions a pass. First of all, I wish to express my thanks for the efforts you and Gordon have put into this initiative. I appreciate, too, the personal instruction I have received from Gordon, including his hospitality on his home layout. That said, I must mention three aspects of the sessions that discourage me enough to stay away:
1. I realize that you have put a great deal of effort into preparation for the sessions. Regrettably, that increases my anxiety to do well lest I fail to justify that effort. I wish you could take much less trouble to set us up. In fact, a session that required no preparation at all would be better from my view. I am just beginning to give a little thought to a plan that would utilize the state of the railroad as we found it at the beginning of the session to determine what the operations should be once a few initial goals were predetermined by the participants*. This leaves the maintenance of the railroad to be done in a much less painful manner. By now, it seems that there should be no further difficulty with dead spots. I hear that DCC is supposed to be simpler than DC. It seems that the wiring system we employed was flawed. This could be remedied. Finally, the cleaning of the track should have been achieved during the regular running of trains by using the Aztec system and placing a few restrictions on the sort of equipment the members run informally – and its condition.
2. The Rail-Ops software may be conceptually ingenious; but, it leaves absolutely no choice to anyone but Eddie and Gordon. Suppose each of us were assigned an industry on the line and were allowed to place a certain number of service requests to the BC&G that would determine freight operations. The operating session could be divided into a small number of periods each representing a business day. If I am the lumber yard, I might place an order on three of the five or six days. Furthermore, I might purchase a block of passenger train tickets to go from Austin to Bennett on the first day, from Town C to Town D on the second day, and whatever I wish on three or four of however many passenger train trips the session can accommodate. I may not be calling things by their correct railroad names; but, that brings me to my third difficulty with the sessions.
3. By this time, my principal goal for each session is no longer to have a good time but to avoid humiliating myself with my inexperience or the diminution of mental agility that seems to accompany old age. Sometimes I feel that certain club members are involved in a competition - one with the other – and, quite simply, this makes me nervous. I can’t approach a task with the fear of making a mistake uppermost in my mind. I wonder how this ever came to be an issue; but, for certain, it makes mistakes MUCH MORE LIKELY.
* If I can specify the space in one box car, say, I might need for equipment from which industry on the line or which freight station if the source is remote for my lumber yard and the number of flat car loads I may need to haul lumber from my yard to the Budweiser brewery and for some number of additional purchase orders, the dispatcher can determine how many cars of what description must be taken to the appropriate sources and to the lumber yard to be loaded at the beginning of the Nth day for delivery during that day – or, for that matter, to be stored in a yard somewhere for delivery on the a later day of my choosing. This might be enough work for the entire operating session. (1.) A designated member will have made up train orders before the session starts because the various industrial and personal requirements will have been shared on the club mailing list. (2.) Early in the operating session, one train or more must circulate on the railroad and pick up the necessary cars and deliver them to the sources and the lumber yard. These determinations can be facilitated on the fly by a designated member who is responsible to determine where the required number of cars can be found at the beginning of the session. Since the location of rolling stock changes during the session, adjustments might be necessary that require communication with yard operators and/or other dispatchers. Quite generally, though, we have plenty of rolling stock everywhere. ….
It’s the middle of the night. I’ll stop for now. We need to think about this much more, that is, if there is any possibility of change. The idea is to involve the members in what happens. I think the authoritarian way in which railroads used to be run is no longer feasible.