December 30, 2013

Merry Christmas and Happy New year

A Soldier from the US 11th Engineers guides a British tank as it unloads from a train in October 1917. All unloading was done at night under near blackout conditions except for shielded night lights. 

I have been so busy trying to finish the "Model Railroad Goes to War" book, that I didn't have time to do a Merry Christmas Greeting for my blog readers.  I hope you had a Merry Christmas and will have a Happy New Year.   The book is almost done.  I hope to get back on the Aquia Line soon.


December 20, 2013

Capturing Clervaux Diorama

This is a massive diorama project executed in 1/35 scale by a single individual. It is comparable to a large model railroad project but  without the trains. I have ordered his books, but they haven't arrived yet. His web site gives a pretty good idea of the scope and detail of the project.  It is worth a look.
 http://www.diorama-clervaux.com/indexgallery.html




Before I started the 1/48th scale ACW RR project, I seriously considered building my ACW RR in 1/32nd scale. It would have been to Gauge 1 standards. 

To get started I  had a copy of the Andreas Models General locomotive. It was a highly detailed static model of the engine. I also started to collect 1/32 wheel sets and other items. This effort was cut short when Dave at SMR trains introduced his line of locomotives. So I sold the 1/32nd locomotive model to a fellow in Brazil via ebay.  

I do miss the beautiful 1/32nd scale figures that are available in that scale.  Can you imagine the Potomac Creek bridge in Gauge 1!  

Did I make the right decision?

December 19, 2013

Layout Planning Process

There recently was a long discussion on the Civil War Railroads Yahoo group about layout planning. I thought I'd share my layout planning process here too.  I am not suggesting everybody do it this way, but you might find it interesting. It is the system that served me well over the past 20 years and thousands (no exaggeration, I have four note books of track plan ideas, plus unknown scraps of paper) of track plans. 

When I am working on the overall concept for a track plan, I tend to use pencil and graph paper, though napkins, pizza boxes, backs of envelopes, crayons, and bloody finger tips have occasionally been used too. Sometime I will draw the available space on my computer showing walls and a grid and print multiple copies. Then  I use it to sketch possible track plans in pencil.

For plans that will be published I use Adobe Illustrator with a Track Plan plug-in written by Rick Johnson, one of Kalmbach's staff artists. It is available on line if you want to get it.  With these two pieces of software you can generate publication quality track plans. This combo has some CAD like attributes, but it is more a drawing program and not a true CAD package. There is a bit of a learning curve, but not as bad as true CAD.

I have found that if you can make the parts fit with the Track-Plan plug in, it will fit when you go to actually build it. That is because the plug-in uses very generous dimensions for turnouts based on ARA standards, while many model RR turnouts are built to compressed standards. Therefore, once I have a conceptual pencil sketch on paper, I like to draw my intended plan with Adobe Illustrator to make sure things will fit. I frequently find that my pencil drawings are usually too enthusiastic and some cut back in the design usually happens. Here is a typical example of a completed plan.

I also like to make simple sketches of what a scene will look like. I usually just do these in pencil, but sometimes I use Illustrator's 3D drawing features to sketch them out.  For examplethis or this  

Once in a while I will make a 3D sub-scale model of the plan like this

But, to paraphrase Helmut von Moltke the Elder, "No plan survives contact with wood and plaster." Even with the computer aided plan, I invariably find that adjustments are needed as I actually build  the plan in 3D as it takes shape. Once the track is down and scenery started, I go back and update the drawing to the "as-built."

December 14, 2013

Quintessential UK Exhibition Layout

Work has been progressing steadily on the book. I am very pleased with how it is coming along. Hopefully work on the Aquia line can restart next month.

In the meantime, check out this video of a very elaborate UK exhibition layout. One thing I find interesting is how much infrastructure this layout entails. It is quite a job to move it to a show.
I also wonder much much simpler the electronics would have been with DCC.




December 2, 2013

The Commissary Department: Best Job in the Army?




The NY Times Disunion series had a good article on commissary operations in the civil war. It is worth checking out.