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Cross Street - Urban N Gauge


bmthtrains - David
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Update 1:

Some reflection, explanation, and prototyping!

 

One of the most frequent pieces of feedback I got here on RMWeb while I was building Ring Road, was that a lot of people were fascinated by watching how the model developed over time. With frequent updates, I charted the construction right from the planning stages, so rather than starting a thread with ‘hey, I’m almost finished, look how I’m getting on!’, the audience (you) was able to watch the decisions I made, changes to the plan, false-starts, about-turns, and continued progress over about 7 months of full-on layout building.

 

Looking back on the layout thread on ‘old’ RMWeb, I started documenting the planning stages in January 2008 and construction began in November. By June 2009, it was 95% complete when it attended the Member’s Day.

 

On reflection, I struggle to believe I built so much so quickly – how I ever had the time to spend on it each week I can’t remember! I think in the end I burned myself out – Ring Road was my first ‘serious’ model railway, and the excitement of it all took over, so when completed, other than dabbling a few times unsuccessfully with small projects (most recently in OO), my modelling has essentially been reduced to the ‘armchair’ for nearly two years.

 

I’m hugely proud of the layout, and enjoyed taking it on the road this year to two exhibitions, but for some time I have been trying to find a solution to a major problem – due to its size, I don’t get to play with Ring Road as often as I’d like. Setting the layout up means basically losing the use of my dining room for several days. What I learned is that I need a simple layout that can be plonked on the table, run for a few hours, then put away. The trouble was, whenever I drew a smaller layout design, I looked at Ring Road and felt anything on a single board would be a disappointment in comparison. Until now that is!

 

Finally, I have settled on a design that I think successfully combines the ease of use I require, a design concept that is sufficiently interesting to build, and enough storage to make it fun to operate.

 

Just as with Ring Road, I am starting this thread right at the beginning, with larger ‘blog-style’ updates to present major steps, as well as the usual discussion posts that follow.

 

The Concept

 

Cross Street is designed to sit on a single 6’ by 2’9†board, and as is seemingly my trademark, once again is an attempt to model an urban scene, this time right in a city centre.

 

Though set in a fictional city, the concept is inspired by the stretch of line between Manchester Piccadilly and the Castlefield viaducts. While extremely condensed, the idea was to bring together recognisable elements of the area without specifically setting the layout in Manchester.

 

To confuse the location further, a street tram and station are based on parts of Birmingham, a deliberate move to bring the geography of the layout further south into the midlands.

 

As the name implies, Cross Street is a secondary station on a busy, electrified cross-city line, with local commuter services, freight (avoiding the city’s main station), and longer distance London Midland and Virgin Cross Country trains heading towards the WCML.

 

The track plan is again very simple, 2 loops passing through an island platform station, but with a single-road bay platform in the middle. The track is raised on a viaduct for the entire length of the layout.

 

Storage provides enough space to hold:

4x 2car DMUs

3x 4car DMUs or EMUs

5x Freights (length equivalent to 6 Intermodal flats plus loco)

 

On a single board then, I can stack up to 12 trains – enough to keep me occupied for a few hours! Starting point was the forthcoming Farish 350 – I have a scratchbuilt model of this, but with these due sometime in the next 18 months, there was suddenly enough 4-car passenger stock to make a small layout viable for me (I wont be able to run my Pendolino or Virgin loco-hauled sets on here, but 350s and Voyagers will do nicely instead!).

 

Prototyping

 

As with Ring Road, before I even start construction of the layout, I want to test the concept to make sure it is exactly right for what I want.

 

Step 1 was to take the basic track plan and produce a 1:7 scale model of the proposed layout. This enabled me to see the plan in 3D, and approximate the right building heights to include on the model.

 

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Step 2 was to research the types of buildings I wanted to include. Looking at aerial photos of both Manchester and Birmingham, I built up a fictional ‘story’ for the area in my model – what sort of road was it, where did it go, what was the typical sort of use for this part of a city?

 

Step 3 was to then produce a full-size card mock up of the layout so I could place some trains on it, add a few bits on the PC, and imagine what the completed model would look like.

 

 

 

This stage has proved invaluable, as it has led to some minor changes to the road layout, and helped settle the types of buildings to include. There are going to be some iconic structures here, just as the IKEA on Ring Road drew lots of attention.

 

On the far right by the station will be a building based on the Palace Hotel in Manchester. On the extreme left is a refurbished block of flats similar to one next to the railway in the Castlefield area of the same city. A Toys R Us based on Southampton, and a 1960’s office block in Bournemouth have both found their way onto the layout as well.

 

In total there are 17 buildings to design and build, plus the station, the viaduct, roadways and tramline. It has actually turned out to be a bigger project than Ring Road, although 40% smaller in size!

 

Progress will be far slower than with Ring Road – I intend to take a more leisurely pace, modelling when I fancy, and when finances allow, but I expect it will take about 12 months to complete, hopefully to coincide with the release of the Farish 350.

 

So there we are, that is how the concept has evolved, and how making prototypes of the model in 3D has once again been the most crucial part in developing the layout.

 

Next step is to figure out which cupboard in the flat needs emptying to become the layout’s future home, and cost the baseboard and track construction.

 

David

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Edited by bmthtrains - David
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Oh great, now your building a layout thats 1 inch shorter than mine, I might be rather dismayed watching this develop to be undoubtedly 10 times better than minerolleyes.gif

Looking forward to seeing it come on David, after all, you can't have too many layouts... (or can you?)

Ste :)

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Looking interesting as always, but is the posted track plan complete? As drawn there is no connection between outer and inner circuits behind the scenes, so once a train has worked inner circuit into the bay and returned on the outer one, how does it regain the inner. A trailing crossover should fit at the top left, or the siding between the circuits could extend at the left to make the crossover.

 

hth

 

Dave

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David. One thought that springs to mind that the mockups have not explore is the fiddle yard operation. With this plan you will be shunting trains in and out before they run. Have you thought about building a cassette system instead and just being able to pickup and drop the train of choice in?

 

As far as the methods for exploring a layout, a great start and something I can learn from.

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Same size as my layout give-or-take but already looking much bigger !! Great sense of space and atmosphere from just the mock-up; will be watching with interest...

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Hi David,

 

It looks like it will be another classic layout that will certainly wow my socks off!!!

 

Just one thought about your fiddleyards and not being able to run the longer trains. Have you thought about having some extensions to the board at this point to allow for a couple of extra carriages in the fiddle yards?

 

 

Good luck with it all!

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Just one thought about your fiddleyards and not being able to run the longer trains. Have you thought about having some extensions to the board at this point to allow for a couple of extra carriages in the fiddle yards?

 

There's also the long awaited 3 way point from Peco to consider. According to a mag a few months ago it's due for release next month but I cannot find it on a certain Liverpool based website.

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I second all the positive and admiring comments above :yes:

 

In particular the following caught my eye:

 

"Looking at aerial photos of both Manchester and Birmingham, I built up a fictional ‘story’ for the area in my model – what sort of road was it, where did it go, what was the typical sort of use for this part of a city?"

 

I do think using the imagination in this way makes for a more convincing and satisfying layout:

 

Firstly, because I'm sure it lends an extra authenticity which observers will pick-up on, even if subliminally.

And secondly, for the modeller it not only extends the challenge/scope of interest beyond the track-side fence, but adds to the sense of running trains through a 'real' (even if imaginary) townscape. (I hope that makes sense!).

 

One thought from me ... in the mock-ups the backboards are cut at angles, and I wondered whether they may look better slightly curved?

 

Anyway - good luck with this, I just know it's going to be an interesting, educational and inspiring thread :yes:

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May I just raise a question at this, the planning stage - speaking from experience, that's a pretty big single board to lug about, especially with delicate buildings on it. Might it be prudent to build the fiddle yard section as a complete unit and then have the scenic section as a drop in that sits on that? If you bash the fiddle yard when moving it, it doesn't matter as much.

 

Or, now I look at the plan again, split the board down the middle? Electrical connections would be simple.

 

 

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Thanks everyone!

 

The board size is manageable for me, its only 1 foot longer than each half of Ring Road and will be much lighter, and I'm happy with the storage siding lengths, the 4 car unit will be the mainstay of the layout, so I'm happy I can actually fit more in on certain roads. Will see about this 3-way point though, could prove useful!

 

The backscene will indeed end up being curved, I need to design this (and create the photo background) first to make sure it all matches.

 

Cheers,

 

David

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It might be worth having another look at the fiddle yard design.

 

It looks like that to shunt trains in and out of the fiddle yard on the inner circuit that they might appear "on scene", especially the three and four car long units & freight trains.

 

Happy modelling.

 

Steven B.

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Hi Steven, I've checked the design printed at full size, the inner roads were all fine, but actually I decided to turn the outer roads round, so the short and long tracks are now at opposite ends, to make use of the larger 'hidden' track area on the right hand size. If I want to run 7 freightliner coal hoppers though on the inner track (which would just fit in the longest road), I have to take off the last one to reverse it back in, but most trains I want to run fit nicely.

 

David

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Hi David,

 

Only just found this - looks great.

 

I love the mock up models and really like the sense (as with Ring Road) of looking at an urban scene which just happens to have a railway running through it...if that makes sense :blink:

 

Watching with interest...

 

Pete

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Update 2: Thoughts on architecture

 

What makes building look right on a layout?

 

I've started roughing out the main 'iconic' buildings that will grace Cross Street, and its brought my thoughts towards this question. There are certain buildings that I know will be part of the model. Based on real locations, they will give a real sense of place to the model, but how do you fill in the buildings in between without losing a sense of reality?

 

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This is why I seem to approach modelling as telling a story - what is this street for, where does it go, what is the history of these buildings? One of the key buildings I am starting to work out is based on the Palace Hotel in Manchester. Sitting next to the railway viaduct, it is a glorious terracotta brick palace with a distinctive clock tower. The model will be a good challenge for me as it will involve many layers to get the complex relief of the exterior, unusual roof detailing, possibly a working clock face, and a lot of ornate brick detailing to get right. As it is based on a real building, it will hopefully look right sat as part of the layout.

 

As for the buildings around it - how do you chose what should be there? If you aren't modelling a real location, making sure that the buildings placed next to this 'real' one look right is crucial.

 

The first step I do is to look at what is near the actual real building. What sort of street is this, is it in the city centre, or further out? Are the neighbouring buildings retail, office, residential?

 

Then I develop a broad idea of the sorts of buildings I want - a converted brick warehouse that is now appartments, an updated 60's block of flats, brand new offices with a Tesco Metro or Sainsbury's underneath, and so on. Now I have to give these buildings a story - what was here before them, when were they built, and what are they for?

 

I try to imagine the street as built - what was the typical architectural style and method of construction (stone, brick, etc). Which buildings have survive, and what would they look like? Which were demolished, and what has replaced them and why?

 

And finally, I try to give logic to the heights of the structures themselves. There is an aesthetic element to this planning - I want to get a balance, usually asymmetric, to the focal points of the layout. But there is also the 'real' issue to consider - zoning regulations. On Cross Street, the Palace Hotel is one of the most distinctive (and therefore locally famous) buildings in this fictional town, so it is imagined to be a listed structure, and also its views may be partly protected. A rule has been set then, that no building may be taller than the clock tower, so the converted tower block you see in the photo is the same height as the hotel clock tower.

 

By going through the layout plan building by building, street by street, I can give a proper history to each building, so just like the real world it is imitating, each separate building has a reason for being there, and despite contrasting architectural styles and sizes, appears to be 'right', rather than a random collection of model buildings in a line.

 

Early days for the Palace Hotel - a tricky (and important) one to get right, I am first designing the exterior in 2D, then working out how to build up my layers to give relief to the brickwork. I am working out each element on the computer as a printable skin, then once I'm happy with each element, I can build the card base of the building (complete with interior rooms) and then start to apply each layer at a time.

 

More progress on this soon.

 

David

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Hi,

 

Looks good to me - and a good approach to building up your streets (I used the same meathod on Gresby but with loads less street) have you tried having a cruise around places like the northern quarter and the university in Manchester and places like Preston and Leeds on Google Street View?

 

Looking forward to seeing it develop!

 

Simon

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Hello David,

 

Your approach to the selection/placement/rationale of buildings is much the same as mine.

 

An analogy I often use is that model railways are like film: It's about creating a convincing scenario that transports the viewer into your personal realm - get the production values right and you can create a totally convincing picture.

 

Good luck with Cross Street, it's going to be one to watch :yes:

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  • 2 weeks later...

Palace Hotel construction Part 1

 

I've started constructing the actual card building now - this first shot shows the 3D 'concept sketch' next to the basic card construction of the final model.

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The open frame on the front allows for the window apertures, and the tower is only built to the base of the bell tower. This will form the basic shape of the hotel, with the brick skin already under construction out of various layers of the design printed onto thin card:

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The roof railings are beautifully made Noch laser cut pieces. I've added curtains to a couple of rooms, and I have to say I'm pretty pleased with how this has come out. I wanted to really push my architectural modelling skills with the diversity of structures on Cross Street (unlike Ring Road, not all the buildings will be 21st century boxes!), and this is the first time I've had a go at modelling a period building. The brickwork design has come out well, and tomorrow I hope to make up the skins for the opposite frontage, the sides, and the recesses around the clock tower. After that the tower itself is the order of the day - the most complicated part of the design!

 

David

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