Monday, May 8, 2023

Thinking outside the Room – Part 3

As promised, we are now back for the third and final installment of Thinking outside the Room. Having selected a few good design elements, it’s time to tie things together for a “final” plan of action.


Many observed rightly that the staging bulge right in the middle of the room was an atrocious waste of prime space and I agree. But it was a step required to further my thoughts. In architectural design, we often explore ideas that are deemed useless or not optimal to figure out “why” they aren’t and what is good about them. They won’t be the final option, and we know it, but they are useful steps to learn more about the project, our priorities and the potential of the space available in front of us. Maybe 90% of things will be wrong or unwanted, but there is a 10% that could provide a key for another option. It is also a way to learn why a bad idea is a bad idea. Simply discarding designs based on feeling doesn’t provide a great deal of foresight. And if you are asked why it’s bad from people who think it’s good, you have zero argument to sustain a positive conversation about it.


In the case of Monk, drawing this option with the bulge proved many things:

-          The bulge does take a lot of space;

-          Looking at a staging with entering a room is far to be appealing;

-          A working surface on top of the bulge would be to deep to be really useful and it would reduce access to tracks for maintenance;

-          Framing the best scenes under the cabinet is a winning move;

-          Superposed staging yards are indeed a neat use of space, particularly if they have exactly the same geometry.

Staging inside versus outside the room

Armed with that, we know that we have some good elements to work with and a few deficiencies to work out. First, let’s take the staging yards outside of the room. We explored the workshop option earlier in part 1 and it didn’t make sense. But there is also some space on the right side which is full of storage shelves. Many things on these shelves are hobby related and must be protected from dust. It isn’t the case right now so building a new room to protect them would not reduce storage space and provide for shelter from wood dust. Storage shelves could be installed under and over the staging layout.

The full mainline run is now restored

As you can see, we are now addressing two completely separate issues by building a single 6’ x 10’ storage room. Something completely unexpected, but very fortunate and practical for the house.

Some scenery to tie hings together

With the staging outside, we can restore the continuous scenic mainline around the room and let scenes breath. Since both staging are one over the other, the entire visible track is thus a long gentle grade typical of mountain railroading. It’s about 1.1%, which is quite acceptable in HO and in line with prototype National Transcontinental Railway design guidelines of the 1900s.


Refining ideas by hand; a better lakeside scene

It also opens another door which is of uttermost interest. It is, once again, inspired by the siding at Lac Therrien that was built on a causeway. This siding, in the middle of nowhere, acts as a place where you can stage meets between trains. It would be long, capable of holding trains pulling about 20 cars. I can already imagine building a shelf to rest on and a control panel in that area to railfan trains meeting there. It’s also a good excuse to implement a realistic yet extremely simple signal system. The visible part of the layout would then be 2 CTC blocks: a stretch of mainline and the siding, sandwiched between two staging yards.


Jérôme's drawing explaining CTC blocks

On the visual side of things, this new track plan has a powerful argument for it. Both staging areas punch the wall in the exact same spot. Also, the Abenaki bridge scene no longer needs to deal with a nasty curve. Having the swing gate to the room crossed only by a straight piece of track makes geometry much easier to deal with and is more forgiving with track alignment. I also like the fact both scenes under cabinets are no longer linked together in front of the doorway. This connection felt clumsy and was broken when the gate was opened. Now, they connect in a more natural way around the wall instead of being broken at the doorway. It’s a natural spot for a vertical separation too.


Lac Therrien seen from the aisle

I’ve discussed that plan with friends and most of them agree it’s a much better and elegant version. It is a serious contender and can be built easily, economically and can run in a matter of a few months. It’s now up to me to make a long due move.


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