Over on our Facebook page, reader Martijn van der Linden asked a great question about where, exactly, some of us find our research material while building.
My short answer was, everywhere.
For a longer answer, here are a few of the places that I look for information and inspiration.
Online: The Internet has, literally, the world’s knowledge at our fingertips. The difficult part can be sorting out useful information from not-so-useful information. I tend to follow some of the scale-modelers websites, some modeling blogs, and a lot of Facebook forums that include information on the railroads or scales that I am interested in.
My Personal Collection: I’ve been collecting information on trains for a number of years, so I have a decent collection of books, magazines, and photographs that I’ve picked up along the way. Much of this was second-hand, either from modelers who were leaving the hobby, or from train show vendors with good deals.
Libraries: Everything I have in my personal collection can be found in libraries. Here in rural Vermont, libraries tend to be small, so I may need to look in more than a few for the information that I need, but it’s usually worth it. Many libraries, especially the small local ones, haven’t had their collections digitized, so you’ll often find information that you can’t find online.
Historical Societies: A number different organizations have historical societies who collect and sometimes publish information about the past. In my case, The Rutland Railroad Historical Society publishes a quarterly journal that contains photos, drawings, and sometimes interviews with past railroad employees. This gives me a wealth of information about that particular railroad. Outside of the Rutland, I also like to visit town historical societies. A lot of times these small places will have photos and documents that, like small libraries, can’t be found online. Some will even have museums with artifacts from the railroad that you’re trying to model.
Museums: Museums are amazing places, ranging from the small town ones mentioned above, to the big railroad oriented ones like those in Strasburg, Pennsylvania. Several years ago I had a train display at the Danbury Railway Museum with a couple of friends. As it turned out, their collection of rolling stock included two Rutland cars that were being saved for preservation. I was able to get detailed photos of the cars, and chat with a couple of the guys who helped moved them originally.
Train Shows: Train shows are my version of the best holidays. Surrounded by hundreds or thousands of other train fans, browsing through tables of products ranging from brand new to decades old, I always find inspiration. A couple of the large shows that I attend include collections of photographs, where I can sometimes find photos or drawings that have never been published before. I generally can find a book or magazine to add to my personal collection as well. A lot of the attendees go there to buy models. I go to attain information.
Other Modelers: Many of my friends are modelers, and most don’t focus on the same things. For instance, while I tend to collect information about the Rutland Railroad, I know that if I ever need information about the Ma & Pa, Cale would be a good source. My friends also model in different scales, so I can, for instance, ask my Live Steam friends how a particular boiler arrangement might work, or an HO modeler where to find information about older diesel locomotives. Some of these friends have, or do, work for the railroad, so they can sometimes give me information based on experience.
For a few specific places that I like to look online, here are some links. Keep in mind that I’m a northeastern United State modeler. Other countries may have other sites worth looking into.
Railpictures.net – User-submitted photos from all over the United States, searchable by road name, locomotive type, and location.
Google Books – Digitized books going back to as far as the 1700s. A couple of my favorites are the Car Builder’s Cyclopedia’s, and some of the Railroad Structures books. You can also sometimes find railroad timetables, and industry information from the time-period.
With Elroy’s articles on Matson’s Landing, and the A/D Track concept, as well as the the Track Geometry article, it seems we have a bit of a theme running right now with train layout design. I too am working on some layout planning, but unlike Elroy’s smaller, personal layout, I’m working on layout designs for my club, PennLUG. And since this is a different kind of beast from a home layout, I thought it would be great to illustrate all the planing that goes into a train layout like ours.
For several years I’ve wanted to write a set of articles covering the design and building of a LEGO® train layout from start of finish. With the new year and the launch of Brick Model Railroader, I have the opportunity to do so. This post is the kick-off to a series of articles that I’ll write as I design and build a new layout: Matson’s Landing.
The original Matson’s Landing is an HO scale layout designed by modeler Jack Matson. I discovered the layout years ago while scanning through “Micro/Small Layouts” at the Carendt.com blog. While many model railroading publications feature the grand basement-filling layouts of master modelers, Carendt.com focuses on small track plans that fit into a minimum amount of space. The designs on this site perfectly capture what S scale modeler and author Trevor Marshall defines as “Achievable Layouts”. In other words, layouts that are small enough to be worked on in a reasonable amount of time, but large enough to be entertaining. Given our large track scale, Achievable Layouts are perfect for the L-gauge builder.
As can be seen in the original track plan, the Matson’s Landing layout offers lots of opportunities for a LEGO builder. The display contains two scenes, divided down the center of the plan. One side showcases a waterfront logging camp, where logs are off-loaded into the river/lake to be floated to a mill, while the other side of the display features a wooded landing area where logs are pulled out of the forest. While not a lot of space is allowed for train cars, there is plenty of room for switching a few loads of logs with a small steam or diesel locomotive. The setting of Matson’s Landing could also allow for some steep grades with lots of brick-built scenery.
My initial plan is to scale up the HO design to fit L-gauge track size and geometry. For the article series here on Brick Model Railroader, I hope to cover the following topics:
Benchwork – The base of the display
Layout Design – How the track geometry is planned
Landscaping – Everything visible above the base, covering brick-built hills and valleys
Locomotive Design – Planning, testing and building of a small steam-driven logging locomotive
Car Design – Planning, testing and building of log cars, and possibly others
Scenery – Covering trees, water, shrubs and other natural features
Building Design – The logging camp area features a couple of small buildings that are perfect for the LEGO medium
Operations – How the layout is run, and various options for running it differently
During the process of building this layout, I encourage readers to offer suggestions as we go, making it a community project. I look forward to everyone’s feedback, and welcome the opportunity to learn from other builders.
Understanding LEGO® track geometry, and best track layout practices, can be a little tricky for fans new to the hobby. And even veteran builders can learn new things about how the various LEGO track pieces can be used to create new layouts. Fortunately Hungarian LEGO train builder Ashi Valkoinen has written an excellent PDF on LEGO track Geometry, which we are happy to share with our readers here on Brick Model Railroader. It’s a great resource for any one who wants to understand better how to work with LEGO track.
You can read the PDF here, or you can download Ashi’s original PDF on LEGO 9v Train Track Geometry from the link bellow.