Thursday, May 17, 2012

Design lessons from Alice Springs

Hi All

Its been a while between posts, and lets just say I have been busy on the layout and work. (roll eyes now).

However, I would like to share a few of the more obvious learnings in my building of "A town like Alice".
You would think that I would have learnt over time, but some times its reality that kicks us into gear.  I have watched layouts such as David Barrows Cat Mountain develop over time.  In one of his interim versions he had 18 inch squeeze points at the ends of pennisulars, only for his redesigns to have more generous aisles and less or no pinch points.

I have to confess that I too fell into this trap.
Post construction of the Alice Springs industrial area, all looked good until I added the main yard boards.  I though that 2ft was more than enough for one person access, after walking up and down that section I quickly learned why alot of operators go for 30 inch minimum aisles.  That's because of the human swinging room requirements.  There is nothing worse than having your arms skim the sides of the layout, just as you are walking up and down the industrial area.

So lesson one, don't be stingy with your people space.  Allocate the space and don't compromise on it.

It gets worse, I also tried to get all I could into the Train room, thus created a layout that was hard to construct.  The design as it stood had a number of different complicated boards.  The slight S shaped board at the west end of Alice Springs took three times as long to construct because of its awkward shape.  So the lesson here is the more complicated you make the construction the longer it will take to actually build, and not just twice but three times as long.

For this reason I have modified the rest of the layout and the next four boards are of a much simpler construction.  I have made them double sided, on one side is Bow Creek, with a 5ft bridge the other side is the fiddle yard with Mereenie oil sidings.
This way I have given the operators the best of both worlds, lost of space to move around, room for cup holders etc.  If might not be a great design as before, but I think more functional.
Lesson two, Keep it simple and things will happen quicker.

Not all layouts are designed to go to exhibitions, but there are little things that I have come up with to tweak the process, ie make it easier.
Alice Springs has thirteen boards and of these only two are different heights, thus this layout should be easier to assemble at an exhibition.
Taking a tip from the military and the aviation industry, all the bolts to protect the ends in transit are the same size and reach.  I have decided to use colours for designating how things fit together.  I seems that we are more visual than we think, and this will just make the assembly and disassembly process alot smoother.
I also found that we always take too much tools and spare equipment, to make it worse, each operator would take there own tool box, and then the tools would end up being mixed between each other etc.  So I have decided to build a proper "fly away" kit.  This will have all that we will ever need, and only use this equipment for exhibitions.
Thus there should be more room for real equipment, and under the layout won't be such a "site".  If Bands can do it, then we should be able to do the same.

Lesson three, standardise, will make lesson two work.

Finally, an Alice Springs status update:
Twelve boards have been built, one to go.  All legs have been built.  Four wiring looms have been built, the biggest first.  Five to go.
Five boards remain for inserting the foam, the rest are done.
All trackage in Alice Springs yard has been marked out, and dropper locations identified.

Roger is coming by this weekend, so I intend to be laying track in the yard by Sunday arvo.

For what ever reason during times of stress, I find that my brain goes into high gear and won't turn off.  As such I have already designed the next three layouts, using this concept. (roll eyes again).



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