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Posted (edited)

Having thoroughly enjoyed participating in Round 1 of the 2019 BRM / RMweb Cakebox Challenge, I'm wanting to have a second go at some form of scenic composition.  I've been looking at a larger space this time, inspired by Phil Parker's explorations into the world of IKEA Billy Bookcases.  I had a spare bookcase in the garage: while not an IKEA Bookcase, it's very close - my shelves measure 75cm x 28.5cm (the extra 1" width may prove to be helpful in a confined space).

I've space for up to 4 separate scenes - where to start?

1218568482_UnionStation0.jpg.315660ce1356026c31d24e4c15d90628.jpg

 

I've always wanted to build a model of a large city passenger terminus, so why not follow my theme from my cakebox: 49th Street Bridge - and stay in the American city?

 

https://www.rmweb.co.uk/community/index.php?/topic/141216-a-late-beginner/

 

Hence: Union Station.  A whole bookshelf gives me plenty of space: my centrepiece will be the Walthers' HO Union Station kit, which I plan to model elevated, with tracks below (New York's Grand Central is the obvious example - the kit actually comes with a "Grand Central Station" transfer, although the prototype is from Omaha, Nebraska).

 

118744846_UnionStation1.jpg.e403532b705a79bbab54165b10ac23aa.jpg

 

As an indication of the scale - the central atrium space in the kit is over 10" across, and 7" tall (ie: bigger than a standard sized cakebox model).  In the test photo I'm just showing one piece of the kit - a PECO (OO) Bookstall is shown for reference 'inside' the station.  Tracks are represented by the two 6" rulers, but playing around on Anyrail suggests I have room for 4 lines - two full length below the station at the front and two shorter ones.  I don't plan to make this model operational, so there's no need for turnouts, or holes in the side of my bookcase: it's for display.  The era is undefined as yet, but 3rd rail electrics have run into New York for over 100 years, so that's planned.

 

1951951308_UnionStation.jpg.3f8815970e05925bb213a43ce9bd663b.jpg

 

New challenges for me in this model will include modelling the split level station with access from the concourse to the platforms - the Scalescenes escalator and subway kit looks like it could be affordable and useful here - and as a Scalescenes kit, I can try some options.  I was impressed with it in a Cakebox entry by Cornholio:

 

https://www.rmweb.co.uk/community/index.php?/topic/142147-levelsdon/

 

Another challenge will be working to completion without a deadline, so I'm targetting Christmas 2019.  The incentive is perhaps the possibility to move onto future projects once finished - along with American cities, GWR branch lines have always been a big influence, so I'm also seeing this model as the opportunity to practice before moving onto a branchline layout on a lower shelf:

 

 1741423720_UnionStation2.jpg.3bed7f585fc4a96757d52c9be4a4122b.jpg

 

So, here goes...

 

Edited by Keith Addenbrooke
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1 minute ago, luke the train spotter said:

Looks like an interesting project. Any idea for backscenes?

 

Good point - the standard hardboard backing to the bookcase had gone mouldy in the garage over the winter so that's gone.  In his excellent Kalmbach book, Building City Scenery, John Pryke explores layered city backscenes to add the impression of depth (a form of forced perspective) - with the extra inch of width I have on my shelf I could do something along those lines - it may even be possible to see something through the station building itself.  I've lowered the shelf to give extra height for my diorama which will help too.  One idea I've already discounted is to use mirrors to make the tracks look longer / give the impression of extra platforms, because any reflections would pick up the escalators / stairs up to the concourse and give the game away (they'd pop up outside the building).

 

The backscene will be a project in its own right - and a key element in whether the model works or not.

 

1904881333_Cakebox18.jpg.ec57b14e0427ea807a27060aed3921a0.jpg

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Although my interest in designing micro-layouts dates back fifteen years, to ideas Carl Arendt kindly included on his website, I never got round to building any of them.  With only a few kits and a Cakebox model behind me, a bookshelf now seems massive - if you've seen videos of Vic Smith's City Edge Layout you'll know what I mean!

 

It therefore seems sensible to follow the approach that worked with the Cakebox, and I've put together the first part of a very rough cardboard mock-up of my diorama.  This will help me work out what I'll need to do at each stage.  The photos just show the lower - trackside - level of the module, with platforms and an escalator.  I now need to add the upper level with the station building, street scene and backdrop to complete the picture.

 

1076793398_UnionStation4.jpg.be10162d50415069dd514a1ebba4f72d.jpg  225400210_UnionStation3.jpg.ce76c8e551f089b16835f89b68f92f35.jpg  568420753_UnionStation5.jpg.1d748f518f09895e86640f740dc5ccf4.jpg

 

 

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Funnily enough, when I saw the post about the layout on an Ikea Bookcase, it reminded me of a plan from Iain Rice's book about Urban Layout plans
He uses a bookcase, or rack of 3 narrow shelves, and builds a separate scene of one cohesive design on each shelf. Each "unit" has an entry point at one end,
and using shelving brackets attached to the wall, he designed a fiddle cassette which you can left from one level, upwards or down to the next.....

This idea interested me a lot, and I think a bookcase could form the ideal basis for the scenic sections.
I think the title of the layout is "Virtua In Industria" - or something like that.
I'll watch this build with keen interest, as I may decide on something similar to Iain's plan in future - it's a great space saver

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2 hours ago, marc smith said:

Funnily enough, when I saw the post about the layout on an Ikea Bookcase, it reminded me of a plan from Iain Rice's book about Urban Layout plans
He uses a bookcase, or rack of 3 narrow shelves, and builds a separate scene of one cohesive design on each shelf. Each "unit" has an entry point at one end,
and using shelving brackets attached to the wall, he designed a fiddle cassette which you can left from one level, upwards or down to the next.....

This idea interested me a lot, and I think a bookcase could form the ideal basis for the scenic sections.
I think the title of the layout is "Virtua In Industria" - or something like that.
I'll watch this build with keen interest, as I may decide on something similar to Iain's plan in future - it's a great space saver

 

Marc, thanks for the post and interest in the build.  It'd be interesting to see if anyone has built (and recorded) a version of Rice's tri-level plan - I'm sure some will have tried something along those lines?

 

From a passenger line perspective, there could be up to four levels in one setting (before even moving onto the next shelf to start again): an underground or subway line, then mainline platforms below street level (New York's Grand Central Terminal even has two levels here), then street level tramway or similar and finally an elevated line (often found in the UK raised on the familiar arches).  I'm not that adventurous though.

 

I'm afraid progress will be quite a bit slower than on many of the impressive micro-layouts on RMweb, but I will update the thread as I can.  Keith.

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Hi Keith, I'm always interested to see how people use "different" items as baseboards and containers for layouts
I particularly like micro and minimum space layout designs. But I think the whole approach of using a "fixed-size" space, as you're doing here,
is quite an interesting approach - because you have a limited footprint, and have to work within the constraints of that space - so it makes you think very hard about how to use that space well

I've not seen anyone use that concept that Iain Rice described in his book. But I'd really like to see someone try it out. One neat aspect about the concept, is that your layout could almost be like a display cabinet, mounted onto a wall. Moreover, Rice suggests the fiddle cassette system could even be mounted across the back of a door, as another space-saving technique.... interesting!


I suppose the difficulty in the design concept could be when you then want to exhibit your layout. Would a narrow display cabinet arrangement be very stable at an exhibition, where you sometimes get "poking hands" or people bumping into tables? And maybe you'd need an additional, separate, portable fiddle yard? - Again, something built with stability in mind, perhaps from something like Dexion shelf / framing?

Don't worry about slow progress - my own builds always take longer than expected, like so many of us on here ;)
The important thing, is to keep the enthusiasm going, and this can be a strong point with smaller layouts and dioramas, where progress, no matter how slow, will always be quicker than a room-filler of a layout

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Posted (edited)

Progress on Union Station: an upper level has been added, showing the sheer size of the terminal building (a kit I've long wanted to build, mainly for that reason).  A city backscene goes round the three rear sides of this bookcase diorama, and streetcar tracks (which would be inset) are to the left of the station.

The upper level rests on protruding lower level walls, including the central platform support – my memory of the stations in New York is there are more columns at platform level than I’m used to in the UK, which the central supporting line imitates.  The mock-up seems stable enough not to need supports getting in the way along the front: they’re assumed to be in front of the module edge.  This makes viewing - and moving rolling stock - easier.

 

There is a rather important issue though – my buildings have no foundations!  At nearly a foot high already, adding height to the module will skew the proportions of the model and make it appear more vertical / narrow than I want, but some thickness is needed between the levels to be even remotely believable.  I wonder what the minimum I could reasonably get away with will be?

 

181092578_UnionStation7.jpg.ad302cfde0f97de886dadae738b090f0.jpg  1878656215_UnionStation8.jpg.781dc0d71a31da801ee8cb1d80f3a6b6.jpg  561544794_UnionStation6.jpg.08cecb8894b0759ad41fa7212b167d84.jpg

Edited by Keith Addenbrooke

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Posted (edited)

I'm not an expert, but with a little bit of free time this afternoon, I've done a quick internet search that suggests some of the upper level platform tracks at New York's Grand Central appear to be only about 20' below street level (or, more correctly: some of the streets - and city blocks - were built only 20' or so above the upper level tracks when the present terminal station was constructed).  If this is correct, realism will be established by the more careful positioning of the support columns between the levels - many more will be needed after all, but the model can still be viable as a small cross-section of the city.

 

One major area of deviation in my module from the layout at Grand Central (as the station I'm mainly referencing) is the placement of my terminal building directly above the tracks on my model, rather than to the side, as is more conventional for a terminus.  This is a simple necessity given the constraints of the bookshelf vs the size of the station building - if "Rule No. 1" for effective micro-layouts could be said to be "less is more" (as demonstrated by many fine examples here on RMweb of course), then I realise I'm not making life easy for myself with this project, particularly as a very inexperienced modeller, but I could equally end up with something quite visually interesting if I get it right.

 

In terms of era / rolling stock, I've been offered some uncompleted passenger car kits - how many or of what type I don't yet know, but my plan is that they'll be used to define the era when I find out more.  At the pace I can work, there's no rush.

Edited by Keith Addenbrooke
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Posted (edited)

My next step is to break down the build into stages.  This is partly as I don't have a dedicated space for modelling,* but is also a practical way to get me building.  I've identified six stages to tackle:

 

541088385_UnionStation9.jpg.7b6207a73db36810ec740e31e11cd3fd.jpg

 

1 - Lower level track and platforms

2 - Union Station Building

3 - Supporting columns between the levels

4 - Cityscape backscene

5 - Platform detailing, including the crucial means of passenger access between levels (proposed use of Scalescenes Escalator)

6 - Street level detailing, including streetcar tracks (inset).

 

There will be a pause now - probably for a few months.  Step 1 will depend on rolling stock I've been offered to check platform heights and clearances: my experience of this kind of US commuter line is that high-level platforms are normal.  Looking at the station kit suggests Step 2 will also take me a while:

 

1518454721_UnionStation10.jpg.3b4cf805573a581891e40cac1b825422.jpg

 

It's a kit that's been around for some years: there's an insert with the instructions with a Fax number to use if any parts are missing.  A photo of a completed model was on the front of Model Railroader quite recently though, in October 2018.  Building the station makes sense so I can work out the positioning of the supporting columns in Step 3.

 

Having put together a 1:1 cardboard mock up, the existential question is whether it looks OK (or not) that the terminal building runs lengthwise over the tracks, rather than being end on.  My mind is telling me it should be at right angles over the tracks, but there isn't space on the bookshelf for that.

__________________________________________

* while this can be a disadvantage - I often have 20 minutes spare where I could do something productive if it was all laid out, the flip-side is that I'm thinking in terms of micro-layouts and dioramas I might actually be able to try building.  Having done a quick audit of my ideas pipeline, I now have plenty of micro-layouts I could start using kits and bits I've collected, and I may make a start on one (or more) of those as well.

Edited by Keith Addenbrooke
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Posted (edited)

Further to the posts from the Bank Holiday weekend, I consulted a Dr of Civil Engineering about foundations for tall buildings above shallow rail lines before going further.  Their advice is as follows:

 

"The trains do run in the basement, like an underground carpark. Sometimes, they insert the piles first then dig down around them so they effectively become columns over the upper part and piled foundations over the lower part.  They build ground beams linking the tops of the piles and a cast a floor slab with holes in it so then they dig down to make the basement (for cars or trains!) lifting the soil through the holes left in the floor slab and lowering excavators through to dig  deeper. More slabs are cast as they work down if it is a multi story basement. Those holes can then become escalator or lift shafts/atriums (or atria) etc.  It is called top-down construction and allows you to build up and down at the same time!  Your mock up is the right idea, but you may need beams (i.e. thicker sections) in addition to your floor slab to stop the ground floor slab bending."

 

With regards to older buildings (such as I'm looking at in New York), the approach was to start with the tracks in a hole and build up.

___________________________

 

Well, I've certainly learned something! (My apologies to those with experience of underground lines, for whom all this may well be rather obvious).  In terms of the model: Step 3 - "Supporting columns between the levels," represents what would have been the most critical part of the real build.  I'll need the rolling stock I've been offered to check vertical clearances under the beams I'll have to add in, as well as for platforms.  It'll be a couple of months before I receive the passenger car kits, confirming a pause in this project, probably until late Summer.  In the meantime, I've another idea for a micro-layout ready to lauch, but that's another story...

 

Edited by Keith Addenbrooke
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