Sunday, March 22, 2015

Starting Staging

What started in Saybrook has continued and the layout is expanding again. I won't go into all the whys and wherefores of staging - just suffice it to say that it's A Very Good Idea. In order to support the illusion that our trains are actually coming from "Somewhere" and are going to "Somewhere Else" you need to have a staging area. It can be as little as one track, or as large as many multi-track yards, but they're most effective if hidden.

To get even a rough idea of what you may need for staging capacity, start with how many trains you plan to operate during a typical session. On my layout, I'll eventually have 4 locals operating:
  1. The Valley Local (naturally) which operates from "Hartford"  to Middletown and East Haddam;
  2. The Air Line Local which operates from "New Haven" to Middletown;
  3. PDX-1 which operates from "New Haven" to Old Saybrook; and
  4. PDX-2 which operates from "New London" to Old Saybook and up to East Haddam.
In addition to these 4 locals - which are the main actors of the session - there are, um, 71 trains(?!) that go through Old Saybrook during a typical day in 1947 (click here for the details), but fortunately, I only "have" to model four of them (click here for how/why):
  1. The Pilgrim (e/b 1:17p)
  2. The 42nd Street Express (w/b 1:32p)
  3. The Bostonian (e/b 2:07p)
  4. Through freight FGB-2 (e/b 2:30p)
These 4 mainline trains are just supporting characters, going through the Old Saybrook scene from "west" to "east" or vice-versa.

Now, as you can see, there are a few towns that are in quotes - that means they're not actually on the layout. And of course "west" and "east" are in quotes too. So how can I operate prototypically without having the required towns - Hartford, New Haven, New London, and even New York and Boston?

That's the job of staging.

On my layout, "Hartford" staging is relatively easy - it's essentially just one-track within the Middletown yard, hidden behind the Wethersfield backdrop when the session starts. But what of "New London," "New Haven," "New York," and "Boston?" Well, opening up the wall for Old Saybrook was only the beginning of that answer. For the rest of the answer, see the following photos . . .

This is how things looked when I started. I've used this photo before to show the "before" position of the door, but here it's to show how the bike shop area looked with all my racing stuff (I moved things so fast, I forgot to get a better "before" photo of this area).

This is the shop area with all the bike race stuff moved - and you can barely make out a mockup of the return loop in plywood on the floor in the far corner. And note that by this time, the door's been moved 10" to the left and the benchwork for Old Saybrook is in.

A Black & Decker Workmate is an ideal tool for constructing the L-girders: 1x3 web with a 1x2 glued & screwed to the top.

Compare this shot to the one above - L-girder benchwork goes quickly (though help from friend Dick and my dad helped things go even quicker)

And here's the new staging area just about done. Note plastic sheet stapled to the ceiling joists in order to cut down on raining dust and such. It's no use having the rest of the basement nicely finished if all your cars & engines pick up all sorts of dirt while in staging and track it around the layout (heh - "track it around" - get it?). I also move the lighting to be in line with the layout.

And here's what it looks like as of now - just about ready for the plywood subroadbed, cork, and track. I still don't know yet exactly how many staging tracks I need, but this area of the basement is by far the most suited for staging, so I just built out to the maximum footprint I could. Since I plan on having a return/reverse loop here, trains from this one staging area can head "through" Old Saybrook either eastbound or westbound depending on which route they take at the main switch. And, best of all, it's totally hidden once you shut the door - so if you're sitting in Saybrook, the trains you see could plausibly be coming from "points west" (New York, New Haven) or "points east" (New London, Boston).

I still have a few logistical things to work out with regard to the actual trackplan in staging and Old Saybrook (especially the length of hidden mainline that will go behind the Saybrook backdrop), but I'm pretty pleased with how this is working out. My staging capacity here is by no means unlimited, but it will certainly give me enough to convey the impression I'm looking for - especially considering the limited number of trains I need to run.

If you haven't considered staging in your plans, I strongly recommend you reconsider. It's space well spent.

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