Analysis Paralysis

Analysis paralysis. This is me right now.

I have a number of model train projects on the go, and I’m not executing on any of them.

Lance Mindheim just wrote a post “Fear of the Inconsequential” where he wrote about the “fear of getting it wrong”. That’s me, all right.

What do I have going on?

  1. Neglected fascia
    Neglected fascia

    Fascia – I started installing fascia on the layout, but I quickly realized I don’t know how to get around the corners. I’ve reached out for help, got some, but I lack confidence. Some of it is too long and needs to be trimmed, and I don’t have a table saw. I feel like it’s not going to look very professional, so right now the majority of the fascia sits in my garage, painted and slowly getting dirty and unusable.

  2. Ballast – I’ve ballasted all of the visible CN track that I am going to do. I’ve done patches of the CP track but I haven’t finished it. Why not? I really don’t know.
  3. Scenery – I’ve done some bits of scenery here and there, but the main part of the layout – Georgetown – is undecorated. I have an idea in my head of what it should look like, but I don’t know where to start so I don’t.
  4. Kits – I have several model kits that I haven’t started. Some are Intermountain grain hoppers and for those I am just intimidated by the number of parts. I have a couple of Athearn “blue box” kits that I know I can do, but I haven’t done them. Also I have a grain elevator mostly complete, but I can’t move from 85% complete to 100% complete because.. I don’t know why not. I have some great decals from Precision Design on it but I need a few more.

I know I should “just do it” as Nike said. Something is better than nothing. I can always go back and make it better if I don’t like the result.

I know this.

But I have to get over this internal fear of screwing up before I can move forward.

Here’s hoping that happens soon.

What do you do to push past these internal roadblocks?

Planning for the New Layout

It’s time to start planning for my next model train layout. Hallelujah!

In my life I have had two serious layouts: the Nova Scotia Eastern and CN in Bathurst, NB (circa 1975). The NSER was torn up in 2004, and the CN layout lasted until 2009. Both were removed prior to moving.

As I write this, workmen are in the basement putting wallboard up. Soon my train room will be boarded, painted, and carpeted, and I’ll be ready to start pounding spikes. Thankfully I am not doing the room preparation this time.

I don’t have a track plan yet, nor even much of an idea where and when the layout will be set. I think my next step will be to update my givens and druthers list.

Here is a diagram of the room and an idea of how the mainline will run. You can see the room is not exactly rectangular. It is a little over 20′ long but only 8′ 6″ wide at the smallest, or 11′ 11″ wide at the widest.

Train room diagram v1

I would like a peninsula to use more of the space in the middle of the room. This track layout gives 80′ 10″ of mainline running.

So… any thoughts on track plans? 🙂

Model Railroad Wiring

Railroadman posted a great post about his model railroad wiring recently.

Wiring can be intimidating but it is necessary. The most important thing to do is PLAN AHEAD. Don’t add just enough wires for what you need right now. Plan ahead for what you think you will need. Don’t hang them by the most direct route. Plan the routing and make things neat. Have a wiring diagram. Try to colour-code the wires if possible.

All that being said, I don’t have a wiring diagram for my layout yet. However, I haven’t done any permanent wiring yet either. I have soldered drops from the rails and strung some temporary bus wiring to get trains running, but I have nothing permanent. So far my colour standard is red for one rail and green for the other.

The first thing I need to do is figure out where the blocks should be. 🙂

Building a layout – shelves

My new layout is an around-the-walls style layout, with a peninsula coming from one end of the room. I decided to build the layout on shelf brackets screwed into the wall studs, with shelves cut from 4×8 foot sheets of plywood. This way, I would not have legs under the layout, leaving room for storage of my model railroad equipment and railroad ephemera.

I started by deciding what height to make the layout. As I mentioned before, the whole layout is on one level. Most people say you should build it somewhere between belt height and shoulder height. I chose a height of about 44″ from the carpet to the top of the plywood. I wanted it a little on the low side so kids would have a chance of seeing what’s on the layout with a little stool.


After borrowing a friend’s stud finder, I set about marking where the studs were on the walls with a pencil. I used a laser level on my tripod to make sure I was building the layout perfectly level.

Maybe I was geeking out a bit too much. Maybe I just wanted to use my Christmas present. 🙂

I screwed the supports into the wall at each end of the plywood sheet, then screwed the supports into the sheet from below to ensure no screw heads would be on the top. I then filled in the supports between the ends and screwed them into the board too. The result was a very very firm layout with no wobble. I’m pretty sure I could stand on it, but I haven’t tried. 🙂

In the corners where I couldn’t get supports in, I used little metal connectors to screw the two boards together and prop up pieces of plywood I cut to fill the corners. I reasoned there wouldn’t be much weight there so they didn’t have to be as strong as the rest of the layout.

For the end with the peninsula, I built a traditional box structure and put legs on it. The peninsula is going to be on legs and I figured it would need a firm, rigid structure to attach to.

I haven’t built the peninsula yet, since my layout room is doubling as a spare bedroom for a few more weeks. Soon, soon!

So far I’m very happy with the method I used to build the layout. It has made tracklaying a breeze and I appreciate the rigidity of the structure. The NSER was built on legs, and wasn’t attached to the walls, so it was a little wobbly until the whole thing was built. This layout is rock solid.

Room Preparation

I tore the Nova Scotia Eastern Railway up in the summer of 2004 to get ready for our move to a larger house. Being a good railway baron, I ensured I would have (more) space for a new layout in the new home. I ended up with a 10×16 foot room, which is about double the area of the NSER.

Empty roomThe first trick was to get the room ready. It had four walls, if you could call them that. Two of the walls were the concrete foundation, and the other two were framed but had no electrical work done. There was one heater in the room and one single-bulb light fixture. The floor was concrete and there was no ceiling. Clearly a lot of work needed to be done!

Empty roomMy father-in-law and I put the framing, insulation and wallboard/gyproc up. The ceiling is gyproc as well. I painted the entire room light blue, including the ceiling. I had a flooring dealer come in to install dark grey carpeting with an underpad, for comfort.

We put in six electrical outlets, two each on the long walls and one centered on each of the short walls. I wanted to have plenty of light, so we put in four two-tube flourescent fixtures on one switch plus provision for a track light on a dimmer. The baseboard heater remains on one of the walls, controlled by a thermostat in the room. There is no telephone connection in the room yet, but I plan on installing one as well as a network port for a future computer.

Finished roomI think the finished product looks pretty good. I’m glad I decided to go with the four light fixtures. It may seem like overkill but I like being able to work without having shadows in the way. I think it will work well when it comes time to take “railfan” photographs. I still haven’t put the track lighting in, but that will come in time.

Finished roomI should mention the two floods we had in the basement. We had a problem with the drain tile around the house, and in the winter of 2005-2006 our basement flooded several times. There were two times in particular where the train room was flooded enough that the carpet became saturated. Both times I had to rip the carpet up and bring in blowers and heat to dry it out, after sucking up whatever water I could with the shop vacuum. Fortunately no model railroad stuff was damaged and the carpet seems to have survived. Even though our flooding problem is fixed, I still don’t leave anything on the floor – just in case.