My modeling philosophy: 

Build something that looks reasonably good, and runs well enough to be fun! 

It's really that simple, but I find myself getting deeper and deeper into some aspects of modeling which will delay or even prevent the day when the layout can really host an operating session. For example, as I build freight cars, I add some extra details, such as finer stirrup steps, backdating from AB to K brakes, etc. But I tend to try to add just a little more to each car. On the first few tank cars I built, I added a brass wire train air line. Easy enough, and it took 15 minutes or so. Then I went to finer stirrup steps, cutting off the clunky ones on the Walthers 8000 gallon tank cars. Then I decided to back-date the brakes to K, which was still used in the 1930s. So I picked up some K brake set castings. Oh, boy! The cars look a little better with each one, I think, but the time for completion increased from two to three hours each (including weathering and new trucks and couplers) to probably ten to fifteen hours each! Since I'll need probably 70+ tank cars, that's a WHOLE LOTTA TIME! So I have to back up and decide where "good enough" is. The new stirrup steps look great, so I want to keep them, and the train line takes little time but adds significantly (in my opinion) to the underbody detail, so I'll keep them, too. The brake system is what really takes time, but the individual castings for the K brakes look so good, also! Maybe I can simplify some of the piping I've added. Hmmm. See my problem?

As far as how the models run - Switching to metal wheelsets in sprung metal trucks is the single best thing I ever did regarding operability of my rolling stock. The center of gravity of the car on which they're added lowers substantially, and the sprung trucks really help the wheels follow slight irregularities in the track. I'm not worried about the rolling quality, as long as rolling resistance isn't TOO high - pulling a hundred cars with an SW1500 isn't a major coup in my mind. The second best thing I did (like the wheelsets, begun on a previous layout - in Seattle), was to buy an NMRA gauge and check all track and rolling stock and make them all match, and to do the same with my Kadee coupler heights. The third thing, done at the same time as the first two, was to simply remove those cars and locos that refused to stay on the track after the first two items were done. The trucks and standards reduced train operation problems probably 50% between them; removing balky stock reduced the remaining problems by probably 90%. The result: trains that stick to the track like glue! Sure, there's still the occasional wheel on the ties or separated couplers, but not enough to spoil the fun. My trackwork is careful, but it's not laid with micrometer precision - I knock burrs off rail ends, and solder joints on curves before they're curved, but I can put down a pretty long stretch of track in an evening. 

How I want to operate the layout (when it's at the point to begin operating):

Sometimes with a crew - I estimate eight to ten people - to run a full operating session via a train schedule complete with timetable and switchlists, and sometimes I just want to be able to build a train and run it around the layout. Sometimes I'll run in a "time warp" with some of the Atlas, Life-Like Proto 2000 and Spectrum diesels I've picked up over the last few years. God! Fifteen years ago, if anyone had told me I'd even allow a Bachmann or Life-like prime mover NEAR my trains, I'd have laughed at them! 

I expect that a lot of my rolling stock and structures will wind up being quickly assembled and then tossed onto the layout (with new trucks and couplers on the cars, certainly), and then pulled off later for modification to improve the appearance (weathering, adding detailing, etc.), or maybe even being replaced completely by something more in line with the final atmosphere I'm trying to create. Replacement will be particularly true with structures, I'm sure.

Well, enough blathering for now - you've probably moved on already!

Check back - changes coming soon!

If you have any comments or questions, feel free to e-mail me at this link:

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I look forward to hearing from you!

Mark B.