O Scale Trains Magazine Extra Board

Brian Scace’s Take on Givens & Druthers

by Brian Scace

Givens: These are fixed. It is what it is.

Scale (for us!)
1. Affects minimum radii – of course it does!
2. Affects gradients – while grade is scale independent (2% is 2% in any scale), the height needed is scale dependent (say 4″ clear railhead-to-overhead in O).
3. Reach over benchwork dictates depth and is scale independent. The affect to consider is this: in N Scale, I can reach across the Grand Canyon; in O Scale I can reach across the street. This effect can dictate the flavor in O (urban or mountain scenery rather than the Wide Open Spaces).

Real Estate
1. Related to scale choice, regarding radii and blob size.
2. Conditions: Ceiling heights, lighting choices, entrance points, pipes and heaters and furnaces, oh my!
3. Remember to put in the power everywhere!

Prototype and Era
1. Are you a prototype modeler? This is a Given. Freelancer (or a prototype guy picking a prototype)? This is a Druther.
2. 40′ PS-1 vs. 60′ Plate C cars, large steam, auto racks, teakettles, Pullmans, all have bearing on radii, track spacing, and overhead clearances.
3. Mechanical clearance is a consideration.
4. Visual ridiculousness is a consideration.

The Decision Point!
Balance the Big Three! (Sometimes you just have to compromise to accommodate that what you won’t compromise over.)
1. You might have to rethink scale if prototype and space aren’t negotiable.
2. You may have to dig if scale and prototype aren’t negotiable.
3. You might have to put the Y6 and Class A in a case and build a coal branch with 4-8-0s or era-change to Geeps to balance ’em all.
It’s better to realize and come to grips with these issues and work them out in the paper phase than in the wood-and-plaster phase!

Physical Condition of the Owner/Operators
1. Aisle widths; affects available railroad space.
2. Duckunders, liftouts, train-gates. Engineers or tower operators?
3. Height: Height of ceilings affects height of benchwork. Height of benchwork affects accessibility/reach. Don’t forget to consider height of benchwork for accessibility underneath, as well. You gotta wire it somehow.

Time and Treasure. Be Honest Here
Be realistic about the time and money invested. This is a hobby. Your responsibilities come first.
1. Be realistic about the time available to build it. Patience is not infinite. Consider bringing a segment (such as a switching district or branchline) up to operation before tackling the big part.
2. You’ll do well to suck it up and think about longevity, too. Face the reality of, “How much lifespan is reasonable, and can I still build benchwork when I’m 90?”
3. More importantly, be realistic about the amount of time required to maintain it! Build it only large enough to accommodate the amount of track you can stand to clean.

Special Considerations
1. Anything bizarre that has to be included in thought, such as that diorama of the Oakland Mole you bought at O Scale West.
2. Anything you really loathe and want to avoid. You like the PRR but everyone models Horseshoe Curve. How about all those things you screwed up on the last railroad(s), such as hidden yard throats?

Druthers: These are sliding scales.
Some examples:
Railfan < ——– v ——–> Employee
Railfan (collector, model builder)
Include continuous running without shame. The Loop can be your friend.
Employee (replication of operations/car shifters) Point-to-point, terminal, yard ops., branch or shortline.

Hermit < ——– v ——–> Exhibitionist
Exhibitionists should consider:
1. Wider aisles. Can your crew get to the source of smoke past all the tourists?
2. Lounge space
3. Amenities: finished spaces and working plumbing
4. Traffic Flow (duckunders, aisle routes, can they get out?) and supervisory space (space for chairs from which to watch and criticize the whole operation while being out of the way)
Hermits can utilize/design space with:
1. Narrow aisles
2. A bucket and no public areas
3. Multi-use with impunity (such as the workshop in the same space)

Replicated Scenes < ——– ^ ——–> Flavor (assuming plywood isn’t on the scale)
Replicated Scenes:
1. Consider view blocks to break up the space, so that close-to-full sized scenes can abut with impunity. Diorama boxes, modules, and the like
2. If space is really constrained, look at the Brits, who are the masters of the fiddle yard, sector plate, and other such devilish play.
1. Scenery can flow between scenes
2. Selective compression is more tolerable
3. Track arrangements aren’t replicated

The Freelancer Druthers (Also useful if you haven’t chosen a prototype to be all frothy about, yet)
Heavy Mainline < ——– ^ ——–> The “Pecan & Peanut”
Locale: Mountains, Plains, or Urban
Era: Again equipment dictates.

Definitions To Think About:
Blob: The area needed for your trackage to enter a scene, turn at least 180 degrees, and exit the scene. A peninsula is the classic blob. A return loop is a bigger blob. A helix is the Mother Blob.
Constraining Radius: Your minimum radius might not be your constraining radius. An example is a double-track main. If your minimum radius is 56″, the radius of the second track is 60″, assuming 4″ track spacing. Hence, your constraining radius for planning purposes is 60″.


This article was posted on: January 17, 2011