Thursday, September 11, 2014

Switching the Greater Cataraqui Lines

This summer, for my front porch layout, I decided to look at John Allen's Timesaver switching layout. Could it be done in a very short HO-scale layout? Could a switching puzzle be made into a functional mini-layout? The main challenge I faced was having enough space for a runaround track and adequate tail tracks for it. My layout would feature an interchange track, runaround track and four potential industrial spots for cars to/from the inbound integral interchange. 

Here's what I came up with, all on a 1 by 4-foot piece of plywood. I named the layout the Greater Cataraqui Lines - the GCL - reversing the letters of my Dad's name, as a tribute to his Cataraqui Northern Lines. Watch for an upcoming post on how he built the line's HO-scale car fleet from wood and cardboard back in the Fifties! Remember last summer's outdoor layout? A Union Pacific Geep and caboose bring a DTSL 50-foot box and an ACY 40-foot box for spotting for facing-point and trailing-point setouts, respectively. Viewed from above! First, the facing-point setout:
The Geep pulls the DTSL box from the incoming train.
Pulling ahead to reverse to the runaround track.
Having reversed to end of track, moving ahead to enter the runaround track.
DTSL box uncoupled - only room for one car on the runaround. Geep pulls ahead to run around.
Geep has run around box, now noses on.
Boxcar must be pushed ahead to allow Geep clearance as it again reverses through the runaround.
With just enough clearance for both, the Geep pulls boxcar backwards to spot beside tank car
Moving forward, DTSL box is about to be spotted on the facing-point spur. 
Now, the Geep has returned to the interchange track and the trailing-point setout begins:
ACY box has been pulled from incoming train, now reversing toward runaround.
 ACY box dropped, Geep pulls ahead to back up through runaround.
Backing up through runaround towards boxcar.
Box car in tow, Geep can now pull ahead before reverse movement.
Geep reverses, ACY box enters trailing-point spur to be spotted.
Google+ does it in Auto-Awesome, though it kept my second and third ACY yellow boxcar moves out of sequence. (The correct sequence is as shown above.) 

Lessons learned from building the Greater Cataraqui Lines:
  • a one-car runaround track is really, really short - probably too short!
  • two-car tail tracks would be better, allowing more flexibility in switching move planning
  • once the unit leaves the interchange track there's nowhere to stash cars for multiple moves
  • the two facing-point spurs and their tail track allowed for some switching moves
  • using 30- or 40-foot cars helps with the short tracks, but can tempt the operator to 'cheat' with the 0-5-0 to throw a switch under a car!
This is an extremely compact layout. I can see why most Timesavers are longer layouts! But can they fit on a small table on my front step, to get me outside for some fresh-air operation during the warmer summer months? I most often kept a coiled extension cord running from the garage outlet, ready for use. The layout was usually stored on end in the garage, hence the absence of buildings or details in the above photos. Now, this one fits on my mobile operation station:
Check it out! A fully-functional layout that fits on an old gas barbecue cart! Open the door and you've got a power inverter to power your onboard transformer, with lots of room on the under-layout shelves for car and tool storage. I most often kept an extension cord coiled near the front step, feeding current from the garage outlet. And, it can be wheeled wherever you need to operate - poolside, patio, or front-yard under a shade tree!
There's not a lot of love for John Allen's Timesaver. It's important to read about it - what it was intended to be and what it was not intended to be. Try playing it online!

Running extra...

You'll find the GCL on my Pinterest New Micro-Layout Ideas board, along with some other prototypes, Timesavers, micro-layouts and inspiration. Can somebody email me or comment - I'd like to know if you can see these Pins without signing in!

When operating outside, I do not follow an HO scale Rule G. It was heavenly to have an imported bier in my maple leaf red cooler mug at hand. Grolsch, Czechvar, Keller, Heineken, Hollandia and others caused condensation to coalesce extraneously on the mug exterior during those dog days of summer.

Speaking of dogs, I had a dog named Segue. Speaking of dogs...did you hear about the dog playing a violin on the streetcorner? His Bach was worse than his bite :)


Steve Boyko said...

Very cool setup, Eric! I can imagine it would be fun to switch, cool drink in hand. I agree that a one car runaround is really really short. :)

Eric said...

Cool indeed, Steve! As in, cold one! Fastest blog comment ever! Barely had time to post this to Can Model Trains Yahoogroup!

Yes, one-car run-around can be done, but it would be better to stretch things out a bit! But compactness suffers. There's always a trade-off in model railroading!

Don't ask me if my neighbours thought I was losing it - "Hey, he's taking pictures of a train set on his driveway again" - as I did with my Portage bedsheet layout!

Thanks for your comment,

Sir said...

What a neat little set-up, shame that Kingston doesn't use your talents for a model train club...

Warren Thwing

Eric said...

Thanks, Warren. Kingston club not forthcoming. Today it was the Picton train show, with several clubs: Ganaraska, Picton and others in evidence.

I did pick up a brown GTW sand covered hopper - I think it's a Bowser, but I'll try to identify it. And, lots and lots of reading material and prototype photos.