Thursday, December 31, 2009

Two Month Summary

Two Month Summary

I am very happy with the Dixie Central so far! Last night cinched it for me. This concept will work! The roundness of it, the waffle design and the distinct scenes make it a very eyecatching layout. You want to crawl in and investigate it.

So far I’ve put in almost 50 hours and close to $900. The benchwork is very time consuming and not nearly as light as I had hoped once the legs were attached. It is much straighter, flatter and stronger than I had imagined. The splinters are unbearable. I so wish I had painted the sections and may still do so. However, they really need to be painted before assembly. Using the Roto Zip and taking more time in the cutting process to be accurate would have saved a lot of time. I think I could build another set of these in half the time. The legs are still a bit wobbly and I may still have to make more modifications. The view blocks are excellent and do their job well. I’m still not sure that the Masonite backboard is going to work, but we are going to proceed.

Actually, the cost is not too bad. I figure that the total would be around $1,500 US. Similar to the cost of other 4 x 8+ small layouts I’ve built. Tonight I’ll add the DCC system to the list. One already exists, so I’ll use current costs and a couple of jacks for the throttles. The use of used equipment and structures helps defer some of the cost. The structures that I bought would have easily cost $100 and another $10 in paint and supplies, not to mention the 10 hours I’d need to build them. They still need modification, but not much. I consider myself lucky in this regard because most used structures are poorly constructed and aren’t worth the time to rebuild them. Ready to roll cars are VERY expensive and with the number of easy kits (Athearn blue box, etc) the cost of building a layout is going to skyrocket. The locomotive was very pricey, but it really needed to be a fully functional show piece. You could save $200 of the cost and use something less fancy.

As to the track plan itself, I’m still a little dissatisfied. I really wanted a longer main line but to do so just sacrificed too much scenery. Still, I can reach 100% of the layout from the pit and the view blocks are going to make it seem much larger. We won’t know for sure until we actually operate it. Moving up to two locomotives and adding some passenger flag stops might make it more interesting.

As of yesterday I got confirmation that the scenery design is going to work. Each section is designed with key focal points in the center of the module that keep your eyes focused away from the view blocks. These seem to work. One thing that I’m going to have to do is to increase the level of detail in each scene, which will be costly and time consuming. A large amount of figures will be needed and probably some creativity.

Water is still the big focus. The deep foam, while a pain in the butt to work with and quite expensive, is going to yield fantastic results. Section Three’s ocean, beach and water tank run off will be the first. These will be slow and painful assemblies as I’m doing them for a June clinic and I’m tinkering with new chemicals and techniques. Building water off the layout is not something commonly done (I’ve never seen anyone do it before, in fact) and the level of detail needs to be exemplary, yet simple.

I’ve got a leg up on the structures since most of them are already assembled. In about one or two evenings I can have them all detailed and ready to go. The jury is still out on the Cotton Gin. Really, it needs to be the focal point of the railroad and should be scratch built. But I am having a hard time finding a prototype for it that is not enormous. When trying to get NMRA AP points, freelanced structures don’t get it most of the time. You really need to model a solid prototype. I will probably add the wharf first on Section Three since it has track on it and is required for operations. The turntable presents a new and challenging project, as well as a time eater. I need to scratchbuild it for AP points, and to buy one is quite expensive. Besides, there are not good small turnouts. One plan is to build it for kit reproduction and sell it as an On30 turntable.

Speaking of On30, I’ve been looking at the design and it really works well for N, S and On30 scales. This is just the kind of interesting platform for On30 and its portability lends itself to a nice N scale display layout. For S I could see more of a switching layout design. I’m sure we’ll see an On30 version soon!

Scenery is really going to be fun. Everything has to be done just right to make it work. When have you seen a winter scene on a layout, at the beach and with no snow? One thing I keep forgetting to mention is that not only do the seasons change as you go clockwise around the layout, but the time of day changes as well. This is incredibly challenging to do! Every little detail has to be accounted for from length of shadows to lighting effects. The plan is spring at 6:00 am, summer at 12:00 noon, fall at 6:00 pm (sunset) and winter at night. One key issue facing me is the covering of the scenic divider holes for the track. There is only so many ways you can penetrate a board without a full tunnel.

The electrical system is not too complicated and I’ve still not planned it out fully as of yet. My Digitrax DCC system will go in the hole under the mountain on Section Four. There is ample space on the luan top to use as a work table. The UT5’s are a bit of an issue in that I want to use as few as possible, but need to be sure you can easily operate the layout. My first thought was one in the pit on Section Four, and two on the outside perimeter on Sections Four and Two. For the AP program I have to light a lot of the structures. I’m not sure how to power it yet and how the wiring will be connected from section to section. The electrical part is always my weakness and least favorite part.

I’m having fun…and that is all that really matters! Happy New Year!

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