Open up!

CARM 2017 - Open House

I’ve been asked several times to open my layout for tours, and I rarely do. My layout is medium-sized but the layout room is fairly tight. Get more than a few people in the space and it gets uncomfortable. And since the layout is designed for walk-around control, with turnout and turntable controls mounted on the facia, it can also become impossible to operate if the aisles are plugged.

But Ian McIntosh from the Toronto Chapter of the Canadian Association of Railway Modellers has been asking me for many years now if I’d host a tour. (In fact, his first request was back when I was still modelling the Boston & Maine in HO scale.) And earlier this year, Ian suggested that he and his wife Joan – also involved with the local chapter – could schedule members into time slots, and keep the numbers to something that my layout could manage.

So, I said “Yes”, and I hosted about a dozen people on Saturday afternoon, divided into three 90-minute windows.

Normally, people who visit my layout have a good idea what to expect. Sometimes, they’ve known me for ages and I’ve already shared my work with them. Other times, they’re regular readers of this blog so they have a solid understanding of my layout and my approach to the hobby. Some of my guests this past weekend have read my blog. But for most, I think, it was a brand new experience.

There was a lot to experience, and I’m always interested in what ideas people take away from my layout.

Having had several visitors over the years since I started building Port Rowan in 1:64 in October of 2011, I know that some features are always popular:

The garden scale switch stands I use to control turnouts always generate a lot of discussion. So do the tools I’ve mounted on the fascia to help operators simulate setting brakes and pumping air.

Visitors always comment on my use of environmental audio – the birdsong and other noises that help place the viewer in the scene. My decision to light they layout with 12v Halogen landscape lighting is also often discussed.

I know my approach is a track less travelled. I’ve built a very simple layout in a rather generous space, giving it a relaxed feel that’s not often seen in the hobby. And of course it was a real temptation during the design phase to add more track or choose busier locations.

But I’m glad that I built the layout just the way I did. And it proved itself again on the weekend, as I was able to operate the layout – solo – for my visitors while still holding conversations and answering questions. At no time did I feel stressed by the experience.

I had a couple of DCC-related incidents – possibly caused by something touching on a locomotive and causing a short – but nothing that stopped the show. I’m investigating the issue and hope to have it resolved quickly. Also, I had just two derailments – not perfect, which is my goal, but both caused by (my) operator error so I’ll mark that up as a “win”.

And of course, there’s often a discussion around S scale. For many people, mine is the first layout they’ve seen built to S scale standard gauge. I had many conversations about how I ended up in S, and how I find it to be a sweet spot between the size of the models, and compatibility with a medium-sized space. For me, it really does combine the mass of O scale with HO’s ability to model the space around the tracks, too.

I never try to convince others to model in S: choice of scale is a personal decision, and what works for me won’t work for you. But I suspect a few people left with a new appreciation for 1:64.

(Thank you, Ian and Joan, for arranging the tour. And thanks to everyone who attended. I enjoyed sharing my layout with you!)

CARM 2017 - Open House

2 thoughts on “Open up!

  1. Hi Trevor,

    Your layout is very inspiring and that’s why I’m basically following your lead. 🙂

    As you know, I’ll be using the G-scale stands as well as environmental sounds. In fact, my flowing river with birds sound always puts me in a relaxed state and others who’ve heard the sound also expressed how comforting it is. I’m looking forward to working on my river scene as the first scenic section.

    I have a question: do you overweight your cars similar to what Mike Confalone does on his layout? I plan to overweight mine because I’ve done some performance tests and the extra weight really helps in smoother performance, less derailments, and more realistic coupling. Just wondering.

    • Hi Scott:
      Great to hear from you – and I always enjoy following your work via the MRH forums.
      As for car weights, I probably put in more weight than the NMRA recommends, and some cars are already over weight because of how they’re built: My Wabash flat car, for example, tips the scales at 17 ounces because it’s a die cast car with six die cast tractors on it. I haven’t had any issues with cars that are too heavy (or too light) because with the exception of the coal delivery track in Port Rowan, I have no grades and I run very short trains.
      That said, I also I don’t boost the weight in the same way that Mike Confalone does. It works for him – I suspect since you’re running short trains it’ll work for you too. It’ll be interesting to see how you make out with this. If it does not work for you, you can always reduce the weight…

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