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Modeling a Model Railroad.

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This is a complex, expensive, multi-disapline hobby and I am a profoundly ignorant man. I have no idea at all how to build a model railroad so instead I am going to build a model of a model railroad, a development railroad, on which I can test or validate each decision I make, or at least gain a practical understanding of the design trade-offs involved in such decisions.

I have already purchased a pair of hopper cars and I have pre-ordered a locomotive.
  • Scale Trains SXT31368 Rivet Counter N Scale Gunderson 5188cf Covered Hopper, BNSF - 485339
  • Scale Trains SXT31370 Rivet Counter N Scale Gunderson 5188cf Covered Hopper, BNSF - 489097
  • Scale Trains SXT31877 Rivet Counter N Scale GE DASH 9-44CW, BNSF/Heritage III #5017 DCC & Sound Equipped

NOTE: I have decided to model modern BNSF.

This will allow me to:
  • Experiment with couplers, trucks and wheelsets
  • Learn about DCC
  • Experiment with JMRI

What I have learned is that I want to purchase a lower end locomotive and a few cars for my development railroad and save my rather spontaneous purchases of Scale Trains products for the future. There is also, no necessity at this time to have decided on a railroad to model. A better practice would be to only make a decision when forced to make a decision.

NOTE: I have decided to experiment with the LocoNet bus on my model of a model railroad.

This does not represent a long term commitment, however Free-moN Standards and Recommendations Revision 6 specifies that an "NMRA compatible digital command control (DCC) with LocoNet, by Digitrax or equivalent, shall be used for layout control." As I have limited space it might well be that my model railroad will be built in modules and a good place to start in this hobby might be to build a Free-moN module to take to an event.

My development railroad will likely be built as a Free-moN module except when experimentation necessitates deviation from the standard.

Additional thoughts:
  • I am currently researching a purchase of a DCC system that I can interface with JMRI. This will be used on my development railroad.
  • I have installed JMRI on my computer.
  • I have a rather dusty house. It has occurred to me how incompatible this situation is with a model railroad and this problem will need to be addressed, perhaps by changing addresses.

Near Future Purchase List:
  1. An inexpensive DCC ready locomotive. I want to learn how to install a decoder.
  2. A decoder to install.
  3. Some rolling stock that I can abuse. Is not abuse just unanticipated weathering?
  4. A bit of track
  5. A JMRI compatible DCC system.

I had an interesting conversation with my son this morning about model railroading. He observed that on a real railroad, a train goes past and does not come back, at least not for a very long time. A train moves stuff from one place, an originator location, to another place, a terminator location, perhaps with intervening stops, and it does not just go around in circles like a great many model trains. My personal experience riding DART (Dallas Area Rapid Transit) as a passenger validates this observation even for a local commuter trains. I would observe that a simple length of strait track with a train going back and forth is likely more prototypical than a model train going endlessly around a loop unless you are modeling a train at an amusement park. So ... when I am standing next to my imaginary future model railroad I do not want to see the same train pass in the same direction over and over again. This will likely be a design constraint for my model railroad layout.

One of my early operational goals for my development railroad, my model of a model railroad, will be to learn how to have JRMI automatically shuttle a small train back and forth along a straight length of track with a simulated stop at each end. A next step would be to do the same with two trains on the same track with a siding and a pair of switches.

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