August 2011 Status - Looking Back, and Looking Forward

KTL Freight Yard 1132

It’s been about two years since construction started on Sumida Crossing, eventual replacement for the old Kitchen Table Layout (KTL) seen in the photo above (which itself had served me for close on two years, although that overlapped the later construction somewhat). The old KTL is gone now, broken down into its component elements and reused on the new layout, or stored away on shelves and in bins awaiting reuse.

The old layout was constrained to running two six-car trains (and a small freight branch/yard that couldn’t do much), plus others on sidings. Not much, but aside from one or two glitches (one bad unijoiner caused problems for weeks before I found it), it mostly worked and provided hours of entertainment for very little investment of time (the cash investment was much higher; all those pre-built buildings were expensive, and back then I was still buying from overpriced importers so the trains cost an arm and a leg (now that I buy direct from Japan they only cost one arm).

After two years of building I have a layout that looks fairly good and (when I don’t have it apart) lets me run two trains, and will shortly let me run six or more (I really have to finish up the rewiring of the commuter and subway loops and start converting more trains to DCC). And I’ve derived a lot of enjoyment from the research that went into it, and the construction. Not to mention having an excuse to buy more trains.

What I see in the next year is getting DCC really working, and starting to work on long-delayed projects like the signaling system, and maybe a computer-driven dispatchers panel. I’m also going to work on more structure-related scenery, building up the Riverside commuter station, putting down roads along the riverbank and in the village area, and maybe even building the Tortoise-driven grade crossing. I may even put down ground cover in the village and Riverside scenes rather than just having painted foam as scenery. I suspect the Urban Station will be put off for another year to let me focus on the other things, but I might get inspired to do more there. In any case, there’s lots to do yet and I’m in no danger of losing interest.

One big help for that has been maintaining this site. Not only does it give me a place to keep notes and links to pages of interest, the self-imposed goal of writing something, however brief, each week gives me a motive during the week to work on the layout, even when I’m going through one of the parts where lots of work produces seemingly little result. And writing up the results of my research helps motivate me to do more, particularly when I receive comments or email from people who have found one bit or another useful.

I’ve been distracted from the layout itself these past two months in doing the big “convert the site from iWeb” project. That’s nearly done now, and I expect this to be the last post on the old system. I might move as soon as Monday, but more likely during the week I’ll switch over to the new provider (whomever it is) and start serving the new pages I’ve been creating for the past two months. Between DNS cutover to a new provider and the difference between how things work on my desk and how they work in the real world on someone else’s server, I expect the first week to be a bit rough, and it may not be particularly stable for a few days.

And in that, a few things will be (temporarily) lost. There won’t be a comment system to go with the musings initially (I have several options, and need to spend more time figuring out which is best for me) but my email address (on the About the Site page) will still work. More importantly, while I’ve moved most of the content over, there are still several large gaps. First, the Construction section is in for a major rewrite, which just isn’t going to happen quickly. So initially there will be very little on the history of the layout construction. Second my pages of notes (mostly photos) on prototype Scenery will have a substantial time investment to convert, and I don’t have an urgent need for them, so that will come later. Another largely missing part will be my notes on Japanese Freight. They’ve always been rather sketchy, and I want to do some significant cleanup, so that’s going to take time and again isn’t a priority. Finally, while I’ve already moved over some material on structures and other non-train items, many of these also need work and await time.

What I do have is all (or nearly all) of the pages about my layout itself, and the collection of trains I run on it. I also have most (and may have all) of the pages about prototype Japanese passenger trains around Tokyo, as I use those for reference fairly often (converting them was a big reason I didn’t switch weeks ago; there was a lot of work there). I also have most of my pages about electronics and electrical systems for the layout and other “craft” pages (backdrops, lighting circuits, plaster casting). All told, as of today the new version is up to 92 (I think) Musings, 112 other pages, and a total size (mostly photos) of 106 MB. Rather staggering when I think of it that way.

As noted previously, the URLs for individual pages are going to change. I should be able to put in forwarding entries for some of the ones I think are most commonly used, and a clean error handler for the others, but if you’ve bookmarked anything you’re going to need new bookmarks. I’m also going to need to figure out how to handle RSS, and whether I can do more than the current Musings and Photos RSS feeds. Whatever it is probably won’t be there on day 1, and the old RSS feeds will certainly break (maybe I can keep the Musings one working; we’ll see).

Enjoy the old site over the holiday weekend, and expect some disruption during the week, but hopefully the new one will be up and fairly solid and stable by next weekend.

Other website changes:
- Updated the Reservations and Recently Arrived pages. I have yet another Kato subway train on reserve (Kato seems to be getting into this segment in a big way) and my two Tomytec bus systems (needed for the Urban Tram Layout) arrived this week.