Refinery Plant Update! Lights!

I had to take an unplanned hiatus on the Refinery / Building consolidation project to order and wait for some new SMD LED street lights from WeHonest on eBay in China. These LED street lights look great and are fairly inexpensive - especially when compared to traditional options.  You will need to do a little bit of soldering before you connect them to a standard 12v DC power supply. WeHonest does supply the correct resistor (680 ohm I believe) for these lights.

So that explains the delay! One of the problems with these lights however, is that a there's about a 10mm of brass tubing that goes through the surface.  This is a problem with my little refinery module as I need it to sit flush.
 Fortunately I was able to bend the tube's at a roughly ninety degree angle.
I used my Dremel to cut a bit of a reservoir for the bent tube and applied a bit of hot glue to hold them in place in the slots I created.  After this, its all about connecting the wires!
And...voila! I have a congested, industrial module with multiple lights that is ready to install on a layout (whenever I get started anyway!)....
I added interior and other exterior lights to the module to give it as much dimension as an operating facility would normally have.  Unfortunately, my camera settings aren't great for picking up the lights, but I think you get the idea.
I accidentally burnt out one of the lights (see below on right), so before this is completed, I'll need to other another set of LED's from China! Arghh!  (By the way, I already have a bunch of these, but when I supposedly organized and packed up all my layout supplies and materials during the deconstruction, I apparently hid these in a location which can't be found!)
While I wait for some replacement lights, I have plenty to do to detail, weather, and scenic the mobile.  More details on that on my next post (probably!).


Combining a Refinery and Other Buildings

Hello! Its been a while since I've posted anything creative, but as the calendar starts to shift to Fall, my hobby and modeling time is back on the agenda again!  I started a small project to basically combine a couple of smaller kits, and the reconcile the mess I made from one of my earlier wiring jobs (so pay attention, here is yet another Quinntopia mistake you can learn from! :-).

Below are sections from my Walther's Refinery kit as well as some Lyddle End (Hornby?) industrial buildings.  As they sat together on my workbench while all the other parts of the layout were being removed, I thought that they all looked quite nice together and I should do something to combine them into one unit.
Additionally, I need to fix my original wiring solution that I had for the refinery.  As you can see in the photo below, each wire lead exited from the bottom of a structure.  This is a terrible arrangement as you then need to drill holes for each lead through the benchwork/tabletop!!  So this would be fixing by consolidation/soldering all the separate leads into (ultimately) one lead (so that only one hole is needed for the installation of this structure).
 So I've got most of the wiring, the base and my plan, I need to install some lampposts, add some details, paint the ground, etc...  All in all a really fun little project!  More details to come!


Whoops! Domain change for the blog!

Just a quick note to inform anyone who made it to the site recently that I neglected to renew my 'quinntopia.com' domain name, so now in order to get to the site you must use the quinntopia.blogspot.com url or domain (just plain old quinntopia will take you to someone else's site).

For several weeks I wasn't aware that the old domain and my blogger url which redirected to that domain were no longer working and it was no longer possible to access my website through the top level domain. I fixed it so it quinntopia.blogspot now works!

Sorry for the inconvenience!  I am still here and still working on the ideas for the next layout!



Lac-Mégantic MMA Train Accident - 6 July 2013

Wow, this sounds scarily like the plot from a recent movie, but sadly was an all too real incident that occurred recently up in Canada.  So sad to see this sort of thing happen.


Five BIG Layout Mistakes...that made me destroy my train layout!

The train room is quiet now: No scenery, no track, no buildings...no trains.  As many of you know, the plan to start over has been on my mind for quite some time.   I've shared a few of the reasons why I was increasingly unhappy with Quinntopia (version 4 being the 'nail in the coffin' so to speak).  The short answer is that I was greedy...I expanded a lot faster than I should have, took short cuts that I should not have taken and tried to do too much.

To be honest, a lot of it worked out okay, and as I look at some of the photos now of the former layout, I do go....'wait...why did I tear it down?'!  However, in order to ensure that the record is clear, I decided to simply put out the four main mistakes or decisions that I made that ultimately (and maybe in conjunction with others) led to me being less and less dissastisfied with the layout.  I will start with number four and work through the the number one reason I had to change the layout:

# 5 --- NUMBER FIVE --- #5

When I put in my tram line back in 2009/2010, Kato's Unitram system was not yet released or available.  I used the tight radius tracks from Tomix (which are fine) and I also used a plastic material for streets ( called 'sintra', the reason was to avoid the common challenge of plaster around the track). Unfortunately, the track needed constant cleaning so that the very light weight tram's could run on the track.  In addition, cleaning this track was difficult because....
....there was a ton of detail on the streets! 
Yes, the cars can be easily moved, but the street lights? Under constant threat of GIANT hand with a track cleaner wiping out a $10-$15 street light? What a pain!  Yeah, I agree, it looks nice, but operations were bad and maintenance was a nightmare.  I think Unitram will solve some of these issues, and next time (if there is a next time!) I probably won't run tram lines where its hard to clean!

# 4 --- NUMBER FOUR --- #4

It's not so much that I had too much track/not enough scenery, its more a result of the fact that my layout was basically one addition after another (Quinntopia version 4 was added on to version 3, which was added on from version 2, etc... you get the picture).   This is not the worst thing necessarily, but it did ultimately mean that my track plan resembled the 'light cycles' game from Tron - but with Unitrack!
So I had a nice long 'main line' but my two other lines were sort of confined within the outside line. Maybe not the worst thing, but everything was pretty much single track.  Hello? I'm modeling TGV's and Shinkansen's and I have single track lines?

# 3 ---- NUMBER THREE ---- #3

Yeah, the terminal looked great.  But as far as how easy/practical/convenient/fun it was to move trains in and out of this terminal?  Not fun.  They went through a maze of switches on basically a long curve and I would have a derailment or power loss each time.
Again, it looks great! But getting trains in/out of that terminal was a pain! I think if I had chosen different switches (I still think the Minitrix R4 Polarized-frog switches I used for the 'throat' aren't too bad, but I won't be using them next time) I might have had different results.  I think a complicating factor is that all the tracks sheer off the right in the below photo - creating what is in effect a lot of turnouts on a large curve.  Bad news.
# 2 ---- NUMBER TWO ---- #2

Below is the ugly interior of my control panel. It looked nice from the outside and (believe it or not) it did work well enough! But I hated the mess! I avoided showing much of the wiring mess in any of the photos I ever posted, so the below is sort of a secret of the spaghetti of wiring that I had set up. Honestly, it was just depressing.

# 1  ---- NUMBER ONE ---- #1

The below schematic shows the expansion I call 'Quinntopia Version 4' in Yellow.  While this yellow expansion section allowed me to have a nice long-running main line, a huge terminal with storage space for long TGV's and Shinkansen (yeah...see above!) it also took something away: Room for people.
Now, I'm not entirely an idiot...I did try to ensure that the areaa between the yellow expansion area and the older 'green' layout section had a good 30" of walking space.  This area was the best spot to observe the layout - you would be surrounded on three sides by the layout when you were in this little U-shaped spot.  But it felt claustrophobic.  Only one person could ever really be there at any one time.  You could watch the layout from other spots, but they are even more 'tight' or from an 'end' angle that doesn't show as much.  

I just did not like the 'feel' much when I went into my train room.  It felt 'crowded'.

It took a while, but I realized I missed my smaller layout (see below for the original size)- but it was far more 'comfortable' in the sense that there was plenty of room to watch and wander around. 
So I think keeping the 'human element' (a "Feng Shui' of train layouts?) is important.  My next layout will be smaller but I think (and hope) I'll enjoy it more because you won't feel so over-whelmed by it.

So that's it!  Like I said, most of this is about going too big, too fast.  I don't regret it as it gives me new ideas and (I hope) smarter ideas on how to make the next version much more enjoyable and easier to maintain!


Terminal for Sale...

Well, as part of the process of 'rebooting' Quinntopia, one of my favorite pieces is just too large to fit into the next version.

So its for sale...see this listing on eBay:

Maybe...I could dismantle it and use the two buildings separately!  That would make two nice, modern style office buildings. But, before I do that, I thought I would try and sell it.

But, as I mentioned on my last post, what its worth?  Hard to know.  On the one hand, its 'homemade' has no 'warranty' and has a lot of errors, goofs, and gaffes.  So is it presumptuous of me to ask a high price?

Then again, I put a lot of time, energy and effort into it. So what's it worth?

Its like Economics 101...let's see what the market will bear! If nothing else it should be interesting.

And now I'm having second thoughts, maybe I should abandon the whole station idea altogether and just try and sell or re-use myself, the two office structures?

Not sure, not sure... thoughts? Comments?


Preparing for the Next Stage

Well, its all over!  I have to say, now that I've gone through the demolishing stage it feels both liberating and exciting!  I have lot's of photos and lots of memories of 'Quinntopia Versions 1 though 4' and (more importantly) experience and thoughts about what to do better.  The above photo is - of course! - the infamous yellow legs that once held the layout.  I have a simple little table top (originally used to set up a 1/32 Carrera digital slot car system!) that I've put on top to have a place to clean and organize all the stuff.

Speaking of 'stuff'....Baronjutter (one of the many great people I've met through this blogging experience!  I've said it before but its worth repeating if you are new to this blog: I highly recommend starting a blog to share your hobby! Or at least connect and share on one of the N forums!) made a brilliant point that demolishing a layout really only means the loss of scenery and benchwork.  My benchwork was pretty shoddy and the scenery looks old after a while, so really I've only lost a little bit of track.

Where's all the other stuff? Here it is!

Below is most of the track.  For the time being its crudely organized by manufacturer and type (e.g. "Kato curves", etc...) and still needs to be cleaned and better indexed so I know what I've got on hand.  Also, some of it might be sold as well!
 I have short little shelf that I use to store small buildings on.  Most of these will be boxed up for re-use....or sold!
 Some of the larger highrises awaiting storage....

 Again, my workbench, now unusable until I clear some space out!
As you can tell from some of the above comments, part of the process right now is to make room and select what pieces will be a part of the next layout.  I already know that a trolley/tram line is out (I love the idea; but I could never get my trams to operate well except at high speed!), large yards and/or lots of switches are out; and a terminal-end passenger station will also be out.  Which means this big monster is surplus!
While I know I want to sell it, its so large, its not easy!  It basically has three parts: The terminal, the canopy structure, and the platforms.  The biggest problem is that the platforms are about 65" (1.65m!) long!  Combine that with a station that is 16" wide and about the same tall, and its a nearly impossible structure to shop in one box...more like three! And I just question...with all the hassle of getting this ready to ship, the size of this thing, the cost of shipping....is there any return in it for me to even both selling it? Should I just hang on to it?  Maybe just sell it to someone in the local area (Seattle? :-) )
Well, the station and canopy can fit in one box (I believe the box below is 18x18x24 - which is a huge box for shipping and will easily put shipping costs close to $100!).  But is this stations still cool without the platforms?  Geez...what other maniac would even have a layyout to fit this on! Am I crazy! :-)
What do you think?  And how much do you think its worth?  Since I built it custom, I feel its pretty unique, but its also 'home-made' and there's really no reference point to compare this to.  I've obviously also got a lot of time put into this building, so I don't want to just give it away! Quite a problem!

I still have some other stuff to put on eBay, thankfully not quite as problematic as the 'psuedo Berlin' terminal shown above! But this one is sort of 'in the way' at the moment for me mentally.  Guess I'll clean track until I figure out what to do!


The End is Nigh!

Hello N Scalers!  As you can tell from recent posts (or lack thereof!) things are winding down with the original 'Quinntopia v5' and as I think I've expressed before, I have been inspired/challenged by the idea of a simpler, but more 'quinntopia-ish' layout.  Does that make sense? Maybe, maybe not.  What it really means is that my next layout will be more urban with fewer yard tracks (and switches!) and at least a three track main line with a two track elevated 'metro' system.
In the interim, the old layout needs to go.  Yes, all the buildings are saved, most of the track (with the exception of some of the flex track used mainly in the yards and the passenger terminal - which is cheap enough and too much of a pain to try and salvage, so it goes right into the landfill unfortunately) and the long 'Memorial Day Weekend' seemed like an appropriate and convenient time to end my procrastination and start the process of demolishing the Quinntopia layout.  Thus, I am sharing a few photos of the 'progress'  today....
 Yes, its bittersweet, but sometimes to start something new, old things must pass away.


The Hiatus - an explanation

Hello fellow hobbyists!  I've been away for awhile, right?  So I think a brief explanation is in order for my rather sudden silence on this blog for the past three months!  As some of you may have gleaned from my posts in the past year, I've decided I want to re-do the layout and try some different things (still very much in keeping with the urban theme) but I also wanted to simplify and automate a lot of the train operations.  So I have been thinking and planning and, in the interim, doing projects like the 'bookcase diorama' thing and doing various ideas in sketchup and other programs!

I have also decided that my collection was getting too large; I started to accumulate more locomotives than I really need (well, 'need' being relative!) and far more buildings that I probably wasn't going to get around to.  I discovered that I started to 'collect' things not out of just a pure enjoyment of the hobby, but out of a desire to be a completist or have more and more of something.  For me personally, this approach started to take a little of the joy and fun out of the hobby.  

So I decided to winnow down the collection; I am keeping a lot of the 'must have's but also parting with some favorite items - realizing that I must draw a line somewhere!   If you are interested in some of the items I've reviewed or accumulated and have posted about in this blog, I have many of those items up on eBay now (the auctions end around May 11th, my user id is 'joemesmero' which is silly and makes no sense, but is another story!) if you want to take a look.   If these items can find a home with one of my blog readers and friends I think that's a good thing!

And, like most of us, I have family and professional commitments that lately have taken out a lot of hobby time (a six week bathroom remodel that was supposed to be a one day project is one of those things!)!  Fear not....I do have some other ideas and projects that are in progress and I hope to share on this blog soon!

Thanks again for reading!


Bookcase Diorama Project #6

The diorama project is slowly coming along (hah! I remember that this was going to be a little Christmas vacation project!).
So as you can tell by some of the photos, there's been some additional foliage applied as well as the installation of the electrical wiring for the signals!
So before I get any criticism from the prototypical-ly obsessed, these are not working signals (yes, mein freund, I am talking to you! I can read snarky remarks on any forum in any language with my trusty friend Google translate! So..be nice!) these signals are just here to represent what real signals MIGHT look like - and of course to add some color and interest to the diorama.

Still a lot more work to be done, but its finally starting to look like an urban landscape!


Bookcase Diorama Project #5

Hello! Hello! Hello! A quick update as January is quickly getting away from me!  A fair amount of work has been done on the diorama since my last post, with the most obvious in these photos being the laying down of ballast!  You will also notice (probably need to click on the photo to see it in 'large size' mode!) that some of the other 'walls' were painted, tagged and added.
 So a lot has actually been done! You can see some steel girders installed to support the city street, signals, and even (yes!) cantenary!!
However, I am reminded how much I hate ballasting! Yuck! But its something that must be done (well, if you don't use pre-ballasted track!).  I am using plain old Woodland Scenics 'fine' light brown this time.  While I still have a lot of light grey left over from the layout, I wanted a different look for this diorama.  I like the color, but I still think that even 'fine' Woodland Scenics ballast is too large looking for N scale.  But its cheap and available!

Okay, time to get back to work! Ciao for now!