December 29, 2016

Double the Pucker Factor

Smiling Marty standing in the choke point. This is the
tightest aisle in the layout and of course, it's
where everyone loves to stand!

Marty McGuirk gave me a ride home from work tonight. He came down to the basement to see the projects under way.  We discussed various topics including DCC problems. He is switching to NCE from Easy DCC.  I agreed to buy one of his boosters but not until after bashing my head on a protruding piece of wood under my layout while looking at wires. Ouch. With Marty's booster, I will have a total of 3 for the layout.

We also discussed plans for how he could fit White River Junction in an expansion of his layout. But I'll let him discuss that on his blog.

In looking at the Aquia Line he pointed out that the tight curve at Falmouth was the main problem with the layout that I should probably address if I redesign the layout. Perhaps it was not a coincidence that just last night I was running McCallum with 9 cars around that curve and I got an intermittent mystery electrical short. (Further debugging showed the short due to the rear axle of the pilot truck contacting the valve gear. It's probably due to the insulating paint on the valve gear wearing off. Because these locos are built to scale, the wider wheel gauge makes the wheel come too close to the valve gear. At least there is a fix by adding a thin layer of insulation to the valve gear slider.) 

I had looked at designs in the past that moved Falmouth out of the narrow part of the front room and to crew lounge.  For example see this post.  But I took another look after Marty left. My experience with putting a track for PoLA under the stairs convinced me that anything but a straight piece is going to be trouble. So with that in mind, I drew up Option 5, which is the 13th major redesign of the Aquia Line. Maybe it will be lucky 13.

This plan has a lot going for it. First, it gets rid of the worst feature of the current Aquia Line - that is the tight 180 degree curve at Falmouth. There is now room for a 32 inch radius curve. It gives up the 10 feet of run along the wall where Falmouth currently is, but it gains about that much as it runs under the stairs. Moving Falmouth also lengthened the sidings so that the layout could now handle 8 or 9 car trains.

There are other advantages of putting Falmouth in the crew lounge area. One it doubles the TT&TO pucker factor - operators leaving Falmouth for Stonemans Station and vice versa will not be able to see if the track is clear. So they will have to rely on their time tables and train orders to decide if it is clear to go. I already have that situation when leaving Aquia for Brooke, so this will double the fun.

The other big advantage is that the layout could be built in manageable phases with little wasted effort, as Gerry alluded to in his comment to my earlier post. The Aquia Landing phase is ready to lay track, so that would come next.  Once that is complete, I could remove PoLA and start building the Falmouth extension. Only when the Falmouth extension was ready, would I cut out the old Falmouth and tie it in.  Since the benchwork at Aquia Landing is ready for track, the project becomes more manageable.

Another plus is that there is no blocking the way to the office, so I could set up a dispatcher there and they would have access to the layout if necessary. Furthermore , I could lay a track across that gap for a continuous loop when desired.

The main draw back of Option 5 is that the plan does not have as long a run as Option 4. I think the double pucker factor makes up for that.  Runs in the closets can be "miles" long. There is no turntable, but that is prototypical. The USMRR planned but never built a wye at Falmouth, so a wye is more realistic.

Below is a revised G&D Matrix with option 5 added to it. Yes, it scored higher than option 4, picking up points in manageable, large curves,  switching (as Falmouth and Burnside are included), TT&TO due to double pucker factor, and points for better prototype fidelity, more scenery and longer trains.  And to top it off, CINCHOUSE likes it because it gets rid of the bumps. She doesn't like to bump (she doesn't remember that disco song, but I do.)


  1. I like it, Bernie. I think eliminating that tight curve will give you more reliable operation. I also think that visually, having Fallmouth in the next room makes it feel like more of a journey to the end of the line. I also like the more generous aisle spaces. Finally, the opportunity to use the former Fallmouth site as a large piece of scenery (the Army Camp) is terrific. Too often, layouts are packed with track at the expense of modeling opportunities such as this one.
    My only question is with regards to the "continuous run" option. I think it's an excellent idea for those times when you just want to watch something run while you work on projects, or entertain visitors, or break in a locomotive. I know I would love to have such an option on my own layout - but my space is too narrow to allow it.
    But how would you connect the ends, with a wharf as one of the ends you would need to join? Would you eliminate that wharf? Would you be okay with that?
    - Trevor (Port Rowan in 1:64)

    1. A continuous run is a very low priority for me and honestly, I didn't think about it much. I suppose some type of simple connecting track built in a tube, or a maybe bridge would work. I would have to take care in construction to ensure that the tracks in Falmouth and Aquia are on the same level. The new Falmouth would likely be a bit lower than PoLA as the O scale track needs to be lower to clear the stair landing. So a continuous run may not be possible.

  2. Lucky thirteen! I like this new plan a great deal! Plus it even scores out as an A /91.7 on your latest algorithmic analysis! Cool beans.

    While I have no doubt you will fiddle with the “final” (ha, ha, ha!) design a bit more, and come up with at least two to three to five more iterations in the future, overall this new version of the layout looks very promising. First, there is no need to expand the current peninsula footprint, which, considering the space considerations there is a good start. Also, this new version of Aquia can be built incrementally and allows you the option of keeping POLA, or other potential future project layouts up and operating in the other space until you feel the need to start building the new version of Falmouth. Second, moving Falmouth to the other room, which hasn’t been discussed much of late, is a very solid move. The new larger Falmouth scene also increases the running time and operational potential of this true point-to-point operation. In addition the construction of a wye at Falmouth is also significant and will add to operations more than the current turntable. The fact it would be possible to run longer trains from Aquia out to Falmouth –and vice versa- because of increased yard length/storage at the new location is also a big plus. Third, for those of us who visit the layout in person -and not just through the blog- the fact harbor construction can begin immediately is also nifty. Finally you can build that camp “diorama” in the current Falmouth space, a scene that will no doubt impress the military modelers who visit, in addition to the “normal” model railroad types.

    Two thumbs up!