After spending the better part of the year not getting very far on the construction of the layout (for a variety of reasons) I'm considering the options again. There are always lots of decisions to make on what to model and I find that indecision is directly affected by the ratio of planning to doing.
I'm now to the point where I want to get the basic layout up by the end of the year. When planning a layout, even a small one, it's sometimes easy to forget how much this entails. So what and I really trying to accomplish?
1. Prepare the layout room.
I have to complete moving the doors, patching the walls, and removing the old layout. The moving the doors project itself may also include fixing a crack in the floor of the utility room, and tiling the utility room and closet. There is a small amount of electrical work (moving switches) as well. In theory this is a one-weekend project if all goes well. (The rooms aren't that large). I'll need to determine how much lumber I'll salvage from the old layout as well.
2. Build the benchwork.
This will probably be done in stages, with the lower benchwork (staging) built first, all staging track laid, and then the upper benchwork built. Before any work on the upper deck is done (including trackwork) I need to cove the corners and paint sky. I don't have a table saw, or a chop saw so I'll have to call on some friends to help move this along.
3. Build the helixes.
I have to complete the two decks first, then connect them with the helix. The exact approach to staging for the Berlin line is as yet undecided. I could feed it into the closet, which would probably allow better access to the track, or loop it into the helix and include a couple of staging tracks on the main staging deck. This would be more complicated to build, but would keep all of the staging in one place (and allow longer staging for the Berlin line). This also requires access to a table saw.
4. Lay track.
This is pretty straightforward at this point. Most likely I would complete all of the mainline (including turnouts) before laying the sidings to allow testing and operation.
That in and of itself is a lot to do in a few months. I work pretty quickly when things are organized, so it's feasible, but I'm not sure how probable. The focus next year would be...what?
If I have a mainline built, I'll want some trains to run. The locomotives I have with decoders are all locomotives that won't be used in the future because they don't meet my modeling standards any more. So I'll need to get a decoder installed in at least one locomotive, and I should start from the beginning with sound so I don't have to go back and do it again. Then I'll need some rolling stock.
So I'm back to waffling. Proto:87? I've got a test set of wheels and they look great. After comparing with a code:88 wheels I found that the tread is the same, it's the flanges that are different between the two. It's noticeable, when side-by-side, but not so important once you're running trains. Plus, if I go with proto:87 I'll have to change out wheelsets on the locomotives, and I have to hand lay (or modify) turnouts for the staging area. That would delay the layout further.
So I'm back to working with fine scale HO specs. I can live with that.
Then there's the rolling stock. While I'm enjoying working with the resin kits, my skills and supplies make them slow going. Simpler standards then will make it easier to populate the layout more quickly, and probably be less expensive as well. The problem is that there is no really good resource to verify the accuracy of the many kits and RTR models on the market. From an operational standpoint, how much does this matter? That is my primary goal, get this running so I can start some operations. For photographs I can populate the foreground subjects with the more accurate and detailed cars.
I'll still stick with companies that are generally respected for fairly accurate models. I'll also try to verify specific cars in the ORER. But to run even a small operating session I'll need a lot of cars. So I'll have to populate it with a mix of useable cars. Since these will be among the first on the layout, they will also be among the first to retire.
So I'm back to an HO-scale rather than proto:87 model, and with looser overall standards for the models. Keeping the overall goal in mind (get operations running as soon as possible) helps to make decisions. Scenery will have to wait until the trackwork is done, and a decent amount of rolling stock (freight and passenger) will be the focus for next year.
But first, I've got to get that benchwork done!
Update Jan 25, 2011 - Wow...am I slow. October 2008 and I was talking about laying track in a few months?!? I'm hoping for next month!