November 2010 Status: Pausing for Thought

Riverside Temp Backdrop 2560

After completing the outer loop in September, I took a break from construction. Partly this was because I wanted to run trains, and the next bit of construction I had planned would require disrupting that for a time. Partly it was because I had a number of loose ends I needed to catch up on (chronicled in past musings). And a part of it was an inability to nail down the final design of the Riverside Station track, which was the next thing I needed to work on. Here’s a reminder of the station design:


Note: the station entrance building (green-roofed building in the photo above) has moved back to the front of the station since this diagram was made. It’s moved back and forth a couple of times, and may move again, but right now I think it belongs at the front.

I had planned to lay track for the station back in July, as part of the JNS Forum’s 2010 Station-building contest, but throughout the course of that, I kept finding other things to work on (all of which obviously needed to be done). And every time I turned my attention to the station, I found myself changing it, moving the station building, adjusting the placement of the pedestrian walkways, or even changing the track slightly. All useful things, but I was clearly avoiding committing to a final design. And when I do that, there’s a reason for it.

Eventually I decided to just focus on other things, and let the problem of the station design percolate in the back of my mind, in the hope that something would work itself out. After nearly three months I turned my attention back to the station last week, cleaning off all the things that had been “temporarily stored” where the tracks would go, and putting the risers, inclines, and track back to mock-up the station once again. And I find myself right back where I left off, well almost. So much for procrastination as a design methodology.

It’s not so much that I’m unhappy with the planned track arrangement. It’s that I don’t really have the space to do what I’d like, which is to spread the tracks out more and have a larger space between the descending track and the ascending track for the split-level platforms. Plus, the track position is constrained by the connection to the subway (and the eventual connection to the helix), as shown on the track plan. The end result is going to be a compromise, and I’ve known that all along. I just don’t like compromises, and I keep trying to refine the design to minimize the negatives.

One thing I did decide was that I needed to raise the bridge at the right end of the scene a full inch more than I’d originally intended, to provide adequate clearance, because the descending track ends up running under one of the bridge footings (and was higher than I’d expected, to boot). This means that the upper track will be sloped for its full six-foot length within the station (as shown in the diagram), rather than level except for the last two feet. That was something I really didn’t want to do, but it’s the one aspect that became crystal clear after the pause. I really knew that in September (which is why it’s shown that way in the diagram), I just needed some time to accept it.

I’m still not happy, particularly with the front-most track, which is going to have to go at a bit of an angle to make everything line up, as seen in the end-on photo below. This will require a bit of “slight of eye” in the design of the station platforms on the descending track to hide their decreasing width (or perhaps I’ll make them shorter than a full-length subway train; there are prototypical examples (see Togoshi-kōen on my Stations page) of stations with short platforms and long trains).

Riverside Station Grade 2561

So, mock-up in place, I’m going to stare at this for a few more days, but I’m getting close to pinning the foam down. Then I’ll separate the two tables from their neighbor and their backdrops, so I can pull them out and work on the backside (working in the “slot” between the raised central track and the backdrop would be quite awkward otherwise, and I need to pull the backdrops off to apply the background photos to them anyway). I’m hoping this will go quickly once I start, and I can have it all plastered, roadbedded, painted and reassembled by the end of the year. Past experience says I’m being optimistic. Work on this will be tracked on my Phase 2j Construction page as it goes (typically updated whenever I post a new Musing, and not otherwise). Any major milestones may get mentioned in a musing, but I’ll likely be writing about specific sub-projects or other topics until it’s all done.

Getting Organized

In other website news, I’ve restructured a bunch of my non-Musing pages over the Thanksgiving holiday. The basic idea of this website is to be an “online notebook” about my layout. I used to keep layout details in three-ring binders, but I never maintained them. And with Japanese modeling, I found that most of my sources were online, and thus references to them were mostly URLs. The idea was to have a more dynamic reference for design ideas and source material (and one which was potentially useful to others) by putting it online, and so far this has worked out pretty well. Too well, in fact: not counting the Musings or Photo Albums there are over 100 pages now. I like to write at least as much as I like to play with trains.

I originally structured the site as six sections (titles across the top of this page) which matched how I used to use notebook dividers, and pages were typically associated with one of the five sections other than “Musings” (a few fall under two sections). But as the year went on, pages were added when I had something to record that didn’t fit an existing page, and even with a couple of past clean-ups, the organization was a bit unclear. This came to a head a couple of weeks ago, when I couldn’t find one of my own pages to look up a detail without firing up the editor to figure out where I put it. That convinced me I needed more structure.

Well, either that or a Search box. But iWeb doesn’t support that natively (except within the blog subsection, which I have), and while it’s possible to use Google Search to provide a site-specific search box with iWeb, it requires jumping through more hoops than I want to (creating, maintaining and uploading a site map, among other things). The reason I use iWeb in the first place is so I can focus on content and structure, not the minutia of web-page authoring. Mind you, Google does a pretty decent job of indexing my pages all on its own. I’m continually surprised when one of my pages turns up in the top ten on some search I’m doing about Japanese trains. I think that just underscores how little English-language material other than Wikipedia is available. Maybe one of these days I’ll give Google Search a try, but not yet.

So what I’ve done is rearrange some of the pages, moving them to other sections, and added more page-to-page sideways links to form pages within a section into one or more chains of related pages. This is mostly noticeable in the Background section, which includes pages on prototype railroad history, technology and similar details, since I’d already been using similar structure elsewhere. I also took the opportunity to update some of the pages with additional notes.

Other changes: (some of which happened earlier in November and weren’t mentioned previously)
- I split up my History page into two pages, and added a lot of detail to the 20th Century page. I still need to track down some of the sources I used for the original (mostly historical documents I found online, but it was written before I started adding hyperlinks and references sections to my prototypes pages and I lost track of what came from where).
- Updated my Train Power Requirements page with a bit more about DC model motors and their relationship to DCC decoders; I have more to do here.
- Some updates to the Prototype Catenary page about the differences between DC and AC catenary.
- Added more info to the Electric Propulsion page about the kinds of motors and control systems used on the prototype.
- More updates to my page on Freight Cars (still an incomplete list of types, but getting more complete). This was motivated by a desire to acquire more freight cars, but not ones that are no longer in use, to create a mixed-freight train (to go along with my unit container and oil trains). I’m still working on that, although as a side effect I ended up putting a Schnabel car on reservation, which won’t fit in a mixed freight, but does give me a high/wide train (or will, once I figure out what locomotive it needs and buy that).