You can't say enough nice things about people who combine pictures on the modern-day ground, Sanborn maps, and a good bit of gumshoe research to pull out a story.
Saturday, September 29, 2012
Friday, September 21, 2012
You've got to admit that model railroad operations does tend to focus your mind. Many have said how running on a double-deck layout isn't that distracting; usually you're so focused on your own train that you don't know the action happening on the lower level.
That's also true for keeping track of what's happening near you. One of my first operating sessions almost ended in disaster when the crew switching Campbell started pulling a long train of cars towards San Jose, and a crew in San Jose started pulling a long train of cars towards Campbell. Because there's a curve between the two stations, the crew didn't notice that they were trying to occupy the same track until it was too late.
Soon after, I printed out some of the Operations Road Show paper flagmen, and I keep a few scattered around the layout so crews can guard track and avoid another crew intruding into space they need. Usually this works, though we've got a few flagmen with wheel marks showing that even careful crews sometimes run over flagmen.
John Plocher liked the paper flagmen on my layout, but felt they were insufficiently noticeable. John came up with the elegant solution of the DCC Brakeman, a little PC board cutout of a brakeman with a base that could touch both rails to power an LED. His little brakemen are both human-shaped and light up nicely - a great idea and very nice implementation.
John has put the plans up on his website, but he also had a set of brakemen built and assembled. They're currently for sale at the Train Shop in Santa Clara for around $7; the only work is to solder the figure onto the base, and attach the weight to the base. Go pick a few up for safety!
Monday, September 3, 2012
SwitchList cuts the effort, but while I don't have to make twenty cards for all twenty cars of dried fruit leaving from Plant 51, I still have to decide what shipments might be received or sent from each industry. It's possible to learn what each industry might ship, either from books or from the OPSIG industry database, but that's stuff the computer ought to know how to do well, right?
Time to make that computer work a bit harder.
For now, the feature's simplistic; not all kinds of industries are listed, and some that are listed only have a few suggestions. But I think this could be helpful; I'd love feedback on whether you find this to be a useful feature, and I'd appreciate suggested cargos to include.
Check out the latest version of SwitchList over at the main SwitchList site, try it out, and if you like the Suggest Cargos feature, make some suggestions of your own about potential industries and cargos that SwitchList ought to know about!