January 8, 2012

Ah, Sunny Florida

Top down, visor on, iPod synched - ready to boogie.
There is nothing like a trip to sunny Florida in January. Prototype Rails 2012 is over and I had a good time.  Here are some of the highlights.

A scene on the FECNtrak oNeTRAK layout

The FECNTrak group was present with part of their oNeTRAK layout.  Gregg Stoll, Tom Chaffee and Matt Gatof gave me a run down on their layout and let me operate a train. Their oNeTRAK modules really capture the intent for oNeTRAK when I first proposed the oNeTRAK concept at the NVNTrak Christmas party nearly 15 years ago.

They have some nice modules that combine intense switch districts and open running.

They use balloon tracks at each end of the layout to reverse the trains. They are lucky that their prototype has an actual balloon track in Hialeah, FL that they selectively compressed for one of the loops. They use the other loop as a staging track.

It was appropriate that I got held up at a grade crossing in Melbourne by a 150-car long northbound train on real FEC as I returned to my brother's house on the night I met with the FEC guys.

I went to several good clinics. I especially enjoyed Dave Ramos's NY harbor layout presentation, John Roberts talk on his O Scale C&O layout, both of John Wilkes talks, Jim Lincoln's discussion of prototypical auto rack unloading and Gilbert's Thomas talk on the Tropicana Juice Trains.  I had trouble getting my iPad to project the photos for my talk on my layout update, but everyone seemed to enjoy the talk nonetheless. My make-and-take class was small but the students all did great jobs. The meet organizers asked if I could return next year to do it again.

On Sunday I visited John Wilkes and Tom Wilson's layouts on the west side of Florida before flying out of Orlando. They are both super nice guys and it was pleasure seeing their layouts. Both have impressive double deck layouts. I believe that mountain railroads are well suited to double deck layouts as the frequent tunnels and hills allow one to hide much of the infrastructure necessary in a double deck layout.

John used aluminum C Channels for his benchwork and thus his layout seems to be built to Hadron collider level standards. His track work is very nice with over 100 hand laid turnouts. His scenery is also coming along nicely. It is a complex layout, with two helices and two railroads running parallel to each other with some shared track.  But he has generous aisles and it all feels just right. I got to run a test train and I look forward to returning for a real op session.

One of three operating areas  on John's layout.  His scenery is progressing nicely. He specializes in highly detailed
and accurate coal tipples.

A scene on John Wilkes layout. He models the L&N and Southern where they share trackage.
He uses Florida native lichen to make his realistic trees.

Tom's layout is chock full of interesting structures. His upper deck is primarily devoted to a steel mill which was featured in my steel mill modeling book. I had a chance to operate it a few years back and it is a hoot. The lower deck is more rural WV and PA scenery. Tom gives me good ideas for future steel mill related projects and we may have some new items coming out soon.
The Brass Monkey Bar - where workers go to flush the monkey?

A little photoshop fun with some of Tom's cool mill structures.

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