Barriers to Model Railroading: Applying past lessons learned

Why, you ask, are lessons learned barriers to Model Railroading? When you do not take what you have learned and apply it forward to the next project.

I will start with an example of my own. The lesson is using a mock up. How many have taken a plan, whether your own or one you found and rushed in to build the next model railroad only to discover, that isn’t going to work out like you thought it would.

Last year while sorting papers, I came across my original plan for Beckleysville. My first thought was how did I get from this simple plan to the grand designs I finished with for the O scale narrow gauge version. So I went to work over the past month and recreated the plan in a 12 inch= 1 foot environment and discovered that yes, this plan while hitting all the must haves out of the park, was still not a very good plan. The issue that was forgotten was to give the feeling of a small terminal not something so cramped in its environs that it became a switching nightmare. Well let me restate that, it became an un-prototypical switching arrangement. Freelancing is fine, but I wanted to stay with commonly accepted railroad practices from the early 20th century. A mock-up helped me to discover that the combine would always be in the way and need to be constantly moved to switch or just not sit within the platform area. Now certainly the train could have sat while the combine was unloaded and then again at departure time. This did and still does seem reasonable to me but I really wondered if that would have been “the norm” in 1914. The station siding was also very short and would make trim lengths limited to one car and the combine. Again, that may have been acceptable for the volume of freight traffic, but two cars would have made it more like a switching puzzle.

The original Beckleysville plan
Beckleysville laid out
Station area

The station area was in particular too compact even for a small narrow gauge terminal. I have two of the original C modules from the O scale version and could lay out the trackplan, if only lines and switch templates, to see how everything looked. The two modules together are a little over 8 feet (about 2 1/2 meters) in length. I feel that an additional module, making the layout about 12 feet in length, minus its staging section, a better choice.

Thankfully, overcoming a barrier in Model Railroading and applying the idea of making a mock-up instead of forging ahead and building from the plan saved another false start from occurring.

Fine for one freight car and a Combine. Not much room for more.

Barriers to Model Railroading: Applying past lessons learned @January 2021

By: H Mathews

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