Progress Reports and Mistakes

Like any published media, blogging allows one to control the message. This weekend I found myself asking two questions:

Do I show work in progress?

Most model photographs show finished work which is fine since that is where we all aim to be going.  Many models and model scenes embody tens, hundreds and even thousands of hours of work.  Does one wait until all is finished before sharing anything about the project or phase thereof?  I guess it depends on the size of the project.

Scrum agile software development aims for 1-3 day task size. The idea is to be able to measure progress. If a task is many weeks long, how do you know if you are getting anywhere?

I am going to report on work in progress when I feel that I have gotten something done even if it isn’t finished.  Wanting to have something done is getting me into the basement so I consider that a good thing.

I have finished the baseboard side and end members.  Next is installing some hardwood blocks to provide solid mounting for the inter-section alignment pins. I don’t trust pine to not squish. Here is an action shot where the action is glue drying:action_shot

Do I report mistakes and failures?

Model magazine how-to articles hopefully present a clear and complete set of instructions for completing the project.  Rarely mentioned are the missteps and learning that went into producing the instructions.  At some point, somebody had to figure out the right way by finding all the wrong ways.

I have decided to report on relevant mistakes if only to  provide a periodic reminder that imperfect people can still build model railroads. Imperfect progress is better than a perfect lack of progress.

In the current case, I flubbed the glueing up of one of a baseboard side members by offsetting the end blocks in manner proper for the end members. By the time I realized my mistake, the glue was firmly set. I was forced to choose between writing the materials off and producing three other matching pieces to match.  Locally sourced materials mean that I can get more if I need to so I decided against introducing more confusion since confusion is how I messed up in the first place.

I plan to use the partial side member to test how much of a curve one can put in 1/4″ birch plywood.  I want to try curved baseboard edges at some point and I now have to opportunity for destructive testing.  I also know that my choice of wood glue is not going to fail on me.

3 Minutes

Here is the complete baseboard base set up in the driveway. My first attempt at setting it up took three minutes which is a nice payoff for the extra fiddling to make the legs fold up and nest together.  Everything can move attached to one of the two sections and no tools are required so that failure mode is avoided.  Even I can count to two.baseboardbase

Baseboard Plan

A portable layout presents an interesting design challenge as one needs to balance weight, strength, setup and teardown time, and appearance.  1″ plywood and 2×4’s would certainly be robust but require a mighty moving crew while foam core will be easy to move but be vulnerable to wear and tear.  In my case, the layout will not be going to shows every weekend like some UK layouts do but remaining mostly set up in the basement with perhaps the occasional outing.

To that end, I have chosen to try out a couple of interesting design strategies I have encountered in the UK press and online community.

A Separate Support Structure I encountered this idea in Gordon Gravett’s description of his Arun Quay layout.  The legs and main supporting surface are separate from the baseboard sections which sit on top.  That is set up first and leveled then the much lighter layout sections are slid into place.

In Gordon’s design, the backdrop and all are attached to the substructure.  In mine, they will be attached to the modules.

A Sketchup rendering of my substructure

I have almost finished building the substructure except for sanding and painting.  I used some 3/4″ fir plywood I had on hand for the sides and ends so they are substantial.  (The illustration lacks the diagonal leg braces or any indications of hardware because my Sketchup skills have not progressed quite that far.)  The legs are hinged and nest in the sections for transport.  If there is some suitable weather on the weekend, I will set them up outside for sanding and photographing.


Plywood Sandwich Baseboard Frames  I am not sure where I first discovered this style of construction but I have been wanting to give it a go.  Two thin pieces of plywood are used to sandwich 1xX blocks to produce rigid and light frame members.  It looks like non-linear baseboard edges would also be easy to produce if desired.  I have some thin baltic birch ply and pine 1×3’s in the shop waiting to be rendered into many pieces and assembled into three 2’x4′ sections.

baseboard section
My Section design

Full Assembly  The entire lashup will include detachable backdrop sections and lighting bar to frame the scene.  I have some flush mount clips to attach all that but final design is still in flux.  Nevertheless, here is an artist’s rendition of the final baseboard assembly.  Actual layout and fascia left out for clarity.  (That’s my story and I am sticking to it.)fullbaseboard