Over two years after my start on the girder layout, during December 2003, I was hacking around the internet and found Carl Arendt's pages on micro-layouts. This great site kept me occupied for longer than it probably should have since I had other stuff I should have been doing, but one piece in particular interested me: the sections with layouts without points ("switches"). Now most of the "operating" versions feature sector plates, traversers or cassettes, although Carl has the "El Dorito Mine", which features loading and unloading minerals, which I may eventually rework as "Wheal Oggy", a Cornish tin mine. But, I looked to my left and saw my "Yard of Straight Track". At the time I couldn't get at the display cabinet with my On9 Springfield loco and the little kibbles, but I mailed to Carl:
"There is, in fact, a way to build an operating layout with literally "no switches". I have a tiny test and display track I built for my O/9 Springfield loco. It's about eighteen inches long and the loco pushes or pulls two flat wagons. What makes the operation interesting is to assemble a set of different _loads_ in a particular order in the minimum number of moves, the flats holding just one load each.
"I got the idea years ago when I worked close to a woodyard that used a track with wagons to move timber from shop to kiln to treatment vats, but a couple of years ago built a Lego Mindstorms monorail that did a variation of the standard "ball sorting" algorithm beloved of AI experimenters, and I've since started looking at industrial processes that can be broken down this way, and there are a fair few."
I'd got to Carl's site from the Gn15 site and I thought fondly of Cuddle once again. One of the layouts on Carl's site is 72" long by 8" wide, to fit the rules of a "micro layout" (four square feet in G scale). That would be plenty of room for the shale oil process, and I started work with a pencil and paper. But one night I had the idea that if I took out the stamp mill, I might have room for the rest in 36", which would fit on my windowsill.
First I came up with an operating plan and game. Then I set to work to fit it into the space. This meant I had to think about rolling stock, to get the lengths worked out. It turns out that it fits easily and I put together some sketches.
The next stage was to build a disposable space model. Much to my wife's delight, I used up some of the battening from behind the kitchen door and a piece of fome-kor cluttering up the study. The result fitted onto the windowsill in front of my workstation, but first I had to clear the space, again much to Sue's delight.
Above is the space before I cleared it. Note that it's morning, and yes, the poor benighted thing in the foreground is one of my various computers, being used as a prop for stripwood. Below, the space afterwards Since the computer hasn't been used to ventilation for a while, I've blocked some vents in order to break it in gradually. Note that it's darkest night. Making the test track took about forty minutes. Clearing enough space to get it onto the windowsill took the rest of the day. The object on the track is a sheet of paper roughly the shape of my intended Guiness engine caricature. Using a controller balanced precariously on top of a pile of books, it did actually run first time.
As I did with the Mindstorms™ projects, I'll lay out what I expect to do from here and record the various bits on the pages below:
Before Christmas (2003), Carl Arendt suggested that I submit some stuff for his site that tracks work in progress and I'll probably do that. I've been wanting to do this for many years but finally I may have the impetus (and a sufficiently limited project scope) to get going properly.