Archive for the ‘Inspiration’ Category

Mine Wars and Little Girls


Pink Panther or model railroader?


The genesis of the next railroad was birthed today. So far, I’ve come up with “Mine Wars: Descent below Xenon 3”. I’ve taken the concept of the 50’s mining layout and blown it up.

The year is 2154 on the planet Xenon 3. Humanity has set up a base there mining unobtanium (ha!), which has been highly automated. Machines augmented with artificial intelligence do most of the work. Eventually, the machines grew too clever and turned on the humans. The railroad models the first days after the automaton androids have taken over the mining base. The pre-programmed mining cars and loads continue to run while the humans fight to gain control back from the robots.

For a while now I’ve wanted to do an apocalyptic themed railroad, but could never bring it all together. The ideas have started to gel, so let’s go for it.

The setting will be a Mars-like red desert planet of the future. A mining operation will be the key scene, with a processing plant and possible urban lodging area (think miner’s quarters). Continuous running loop in a sci-fi space setting featuring droids will add interest. Maybe some robots chasing humanoids as they try to escape the planet.


From A Look at Futuristic Modeling, Apr 1978 Model Railroader magazine.                               Photo: Model Railroader

Inspiration so far has come from various sources. 1. “A look at Futuristic Modeling” in the April 78 edition of Model Railroader. 2. Model Railroaders Eagle Mountain project railroad starting in November 2015, especially for the topography. 3. Laurie Calvert’s sic-fi inspired ‘Clash at North Ridge’ from Model Rail magazine (US) online message boards. 4. Scenery modules and accessories I’ve recently discovered for table top role playing fantasy games.


North Ridge Clash

Clash at North Ridge   Photo: Laurie Calvert


Features I’d like to include:
* Space themed distance planet setting
* Loads in / empties out mine and processing plant
* HO standard gauge track with continuous run loop
* built for exhibition
* undefined scale
* extruded foam-based scenery
* cheap (but dependable) components modified for space theme
* DC power; possibly an auto-reversing circuit on the mine run
* learning opportunities for my 8-year old daughter
* Lots of kitsch and heavy on the sci-fi
* fun, fun, fun!


Photo: Model Railroader magazine


I was so motivated, already this afternoon I ran out to the home supply store and scored a 4×8′ piece of extruded foam, with help from my daughter. Now the research starts to get a track plan, accessory parts and pull it all together. The idea is not to think too much and have some fun playing.


testing the track


Here are some books that I refer back to again and again. Some of the layouts or plans in these were the basis for the real life layouts from my inspiration post.

6 HO Railroads You Can Build  (Bob Hayden) – some excellent information for module builders and city settings, including Port of Los Angeles (Robert Smaus) and the Carbondale Central (Malcolm Furlow).

48 Top Notch Track Plans – Another track plan book which wouldn’t normally flip my toggles, but a couple of the smaller layouts are sufficiently developed to be usefull for planning.

Model Railroading in Small Spaces – very practical tips, including benchwork for stowaway or coffee table layouts. The Northwest Terminal and Port of Los Angeles (above) are very similar.

Shelf Layouts for Model Railroads – I tend to like more “… you can build” books or articles, and this book is bascially hypothetical track plans. Still some good information if you can get a copy at your local library.

Building City Scenery – the ultimate eye candy for urban modeling. Photos do a great job of illustrating city scenery concepts.

Walthers Catalog – Never too far away so I can look up stuff. Pick up at your local hobby shop.

So, I quickly decided on an industrial switching layout. This was new to me, so I hit the internet and did some research. I kept coming back again and again to some concepts and even web sites. These were my inspiration.

When it comes to model railroading, I’m very visual, so a number of images impressed me and shaped my decisions.

My first glimpse came in the form of a blog post.

Ness Street Yard was particularly interesting.

I also hit upon Carl Ardent’s Small Layout Scrapbook. It had a different quality to it, one I would not appreciate until almost a year later. More on that in a following post.

I bought some track on eBay and started down Ness Street. After a couple of hours of fiddling, I decided to simplify and went more in the direction of the switcher from Gateway NMRA – Gateway Central XV. They have some great information on their club web site. I had a little more space, so I expanded their trackplan slightly.

I had not really done an intercity layout before, so I gathered all the information I could. I did notice that there was more information, materials, and kits available for urban settings than when I had packed my things away all those years ago.

I eventually found a gem of a resource. “Building City Scenery” by John Pryke. I still use it as a reference book.

Other urban layouts caught my eye and motivated me to up my game.

 – Wolfgang Dudler’s Westport Terminal RR
 – Kevin Klettke‘s Washington Northern Tideflats District

And I found some real eye candy with

 – Vic Smith’s City Edge
 – Peter Feigenbaum gritty Brooklyn modeling

So off it was to turn a piece of plywood into a gritty city scape I’ve named South Side Industrial District – a freelance, modern urban switching railroad.

Look for a consolidated page of links on the homepage coming soon.