Roadwolf's portal for his random thoughts and ponderings

Model Railroad Project update!

Hobbies Blog and Journal

My Goal for 2020, was to get my Model Railroad project, the SVNO, up and running. The first Phase of this project was to build a layout room which would be a finished space in which I could build the layout, and achieve 'finished' results. I had worked on a previous layout in this same space, but because the room itself was unfinished, the overall feeling of never being able to finish the layout was daunting every time I stepped into the room. The solution? To finish the room and start over!

Having a finished space is important. Due to the nature of the space, I didn't entirely finish the outer walls right down to floor level. The room is already a livable space, and due to the way the structure is constructed (old post and beam barn) the idea of cutting into the walls to run electrical conduits just seemed overly dangerous. So I ran conduit along the surface - or rather just upgraded the existing conduit run from 1/2" to 3/4" and moved it down a few feet so it was below the layout.


I may end up installing some finished looking paneling under the benchwork, or just making drawers or leaving it open. Right now, I haven't decided and I figure that answer will come to me, after I have made the benchwork and after I see what I have to work with, and what I have to work around in terms of supports.

The biggest part of Phase 1 was to install drywall, and plaster it so it was nice and smooth. This will after all be the model railroad's backdrop. The second major component before benchwork went up, was the installation of a ceiling. I decided to go with a 2x2 drop ceiling, and I wasn't disappointed on how easy it was to install. Now that the grid is installed, plopping the tiles in won't be too difficult. So, once I find a good deal on ceiling tiles, I will plop them in.



Having completed the main layout room, thoughts turned to the utility space. I still am not sure how to set that area up. It used to be where a gas furnace sat, to heat the space. But it would also be a handy area to install a bathroom. Or a small crew lounge. The idea of installing a bathroom seems like the smartest path, and to do this will require some plumbing to be installed to the location.


The Utility Space

This led me down a rabbit hole for a week or two. Planning about how to trench pipe out to the building, and planning the purchase of said pipe, and renting excavators. But wait... Today I realized that this isn't exactly progress on the model railroad. This is for it, yes, but not focused on the layout itself.

Knowing this now, I have decided to put that plan off until next Spring, when I can have more of a head start, and be better prepared in terms of knowing where to trench and such.

Phase 2

Phase 2 will consist of installing the benchwork in 2 sub-phases. The benchwork all the way around the outside of the room along the wall in one phase, and then the Barrington peninsula, which will likely be constructed similar to a half-wall.

The first sub-phase will consist of 1x4 open grid framework in the wilderness area where the track will be winding its way through some hills, and flat-top plywood areas in the towns.


The Barrington Peninsula will jut into the room.

The Barrington area will also be flat, and likely will use a large piece of 1 inch thick plywood as it's base, with some supports to brace it.

I am still not final on a set track plan. However, I will be placing white presentation boards on the benchwork, and will use them to draw a plan. I believe doing this will give me a better idea at how the layout will operate, as opposed to trying to model it on a computer. Yes, I have modeled it on a few programs, but it always just doesn't feel right.

Phase 3

I am hoping Phase 2 is completed in the time span of about 2 months to put me at about July. At which time I can focus on Phase 3, which will be laying the track, and installing the wiring. With the idea of possibly installing a signal system, the current plan is to install the track, with every other joint being soldered to a feed wire. Each block will land on a terminal post, and will be fed back to a rack, where the blocks will be connected to the main system, using booster packs, and circuit breakers. This will allow for a central location to install current sensors for block occupancy.


Another goal for Phase 3 is to program a MySQL, java/flash, and php based online system for controlling operations on the model railroad. I have called this PTC-Lite, but it really isn't PTC per-sae, as it doesn't directly control the trains. I don't really believe that using computers to control and automate anything is a really good idea. Let the human's think and do. Let the computer's assist them and keep things in order.

On that note, I think a reasonable name for this system might be the ORTT, or Online Real-time Time Table.

The way it works, is that operators, will log in, and based on their assignment or job, will be assigned a user-class. Either a Engineer, Conductor, Yardmaster, or Controller. There will also be a Guest class, and a Admin class.

The Engineer and Conductor are similar, in that both will have full access to the manifest list for their train. They will be able to manipulate it, and move positions of the cars around in their train in a linear fashion. They will also see the cars stored at the industries on the route they are assigned - and the cars awaiting pickup by them will be highlighted. As they operate, they can drag cars off of their train, and place them at the industries, and also pick up cars the same way.

The Engineer has a special ability that the Conductor doesn't. The Engineer is able to call for clearance, and request to occupy tracks, such as the mainline - all through the application. The Engineer may also notify the yard that the train is approaching and request clearance into the yard. The Yardmaster will then tell the Engineer what track to bring the train in on.

The Yardmaster has the ability to control the occupancy of his yard. Along with the ability to see information on, and manipulate the digital location of any car in his yard. The Yardmaster, can also request freight cars for yard servicing - to be picked up from other yards, or locations. In this way, it operates as a industry on demand. He can use the app to sort blocks of cars, and ready them for trains. Once a cut of cars is ready, he can clear it for departure and assign it to a manifest.

The Controller oversee's the whole mainline, and approves track occupancy. The Controller's other job will be to moderate the various industries on the layout and ensure they have the cars they need, or request them if they don't.

This system will be able to be used on a tablet, or computer. The idea of possibly even incorporating in a digital controller is also on the drawing board.

I would like to find someone to develop this with me. I'd consider hiring someone for this purpose.

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