Basically, it is very easy and a simple process to change from "armchair modeling" to a working model railroad, no matter how much space you can devote to it. Simply call Erhard at 1-407-928-8120 and outline your whishlist in a casual phone conversation. There are no "silly" questions! After all, it is your dream that we want to become a reality.
Depending on your imagination and the given restrictions (like space or budget), we will work out a preliminary guideline. Then Erhard will get to work and draw up a computer design which you will be able to view online and comment on vie email.
We use only top quality materials and sophisticated techniques like cabinet grade wood, Digital Command Control for comfortable and realistic operation, track from internationally recognized manufacturers like Peco or Atlas, and only the best we can find for structures and detailing.
In order to provide our customers with lots of fun and joy operating their layouts, all construction processes follow our in-house standards and a very rigid quality control is applied by us.
The Design Process
Designing a layout can be tedious and frustrating, especially when it comes to convert the 2D trackplan to a 3D layout. Why is that? Well, most folks who use the tradtional "pen and paper" method to design their empire don't draw in the correct length of a turnout or don't get the turnout's frog angle right. This is where tiny diffferences add up to inches in the overall design work and this is also the main reason why the diligently worked out plan won't fit the real space.
We use a CAD system that has been developed by a model railroader for model railroaders and thus perfectly meets our special needs. It has libraries for a very wide range of track and other objects ready to be used and, if an object is not included, offers the possibility to create one's own objects or libraries.
Using this software allows us to provide our customers with accurate designs, delivered in a very short period of time. Usually, the preliminary track plan is up for online viewing and discussion within 3 to 5 days.
Here's an example of how such a design could look in 3D:
Every layout design contains the following features:
- - the shape of the layout,
- - a grid to transfer the plan to the future layout,
- - the benchwork,
- - if applicable, module or section borders,
- - the track plan,
- - the electrical wiring plan,
- - scenery completed with structures,
- - a 3D-view of the layout.
If the customers whishes, a 1:1 printout of the plan can be mailed to him at actual printing and shipping cost.
We charge US-$ 1,500.00 for a design. If the customer orders the layout to be built by us, 50% of that charge will be applied to the layout cost as discount.
The Foundation Of The Layout...
... is referred to as benchwork. In general, benchwork has to be sturdy and rigid to provide a good support for the layout. On the other hand, it should be as lightweight as possible in case the layout has to be moved.
We overcome this contradiction by
- 1. using only top cabinet grade and straight wood and
- 2. applying modern construction techniques.
A typical benchwork comprises of 1/2 inch pine or maple for the fascia frame and an open grid construction to support track and scenery. All wood is sealed with a fire-protective paint and all connections are screwed and glued. This combination avoids warping of the wood and results in a rigid, yet lightweight base for the customer's empire. The legs are made of 2 1/2 inch square oak, poplar, or maple and have adjustable feet to compensate for any irragularities in floor heights.
This is one of the most important components of your layout. Without quality trackwork, trains will not run properly and operating the layout will be anything except fun. Therefore, we devote about 60% of the total construction time to top quality trackwork. This does not only include laying the track but also the choice of the right brand and manufacturer. Some brands conduct electricity better than others, some have a more realistic look than others, some .... the list goes on.
Depending on the use and location (indoor/outdoor) of your layout, we select the brand and manufacturer that best fits the bill.
Apart from having the "right" track, it is also vital that trains run "as smooth as silk", meaning that there should not be any audible gaps or visible kinks in the rails that could cause a train to derail. We also don't like visible track feeders and so we hide them underneath the track. Track connections are soldered with the exception of some expansion gaps that enable the rails to contract or expand with changing environment temperatures.
Electrical And Electronics
When it comes to running trains, you obviously need some power to do so. Providing the power is easy as this is done by an adequate power pack. However, we also need some wiring to connect the track to the power pack.
We developed a color code for wiring in order to ease maintenance and debugging. Furthermore, all wiring is run in cable conduits to avoid accidental breakage and injuries if you have to work underneath the layout. Since some components of a layout need more power than others, we make sure that the correct wire gauge is used to support the currents needed.
DCC is standard on all our layouts. Depending on the size of your layout and the number of trains running simultaneously, we find the most cost effective system and install it properly. When the layout is delivered, we will train you to operate the DCC system.
What is the difference between DCC and Cab control?
Basically, DCC allows the user to run a number of trains simultaneously and independent from each other on the same track whereas cab-control requires one insulated block per train. In theory, one could have 9,999 locomotives running on the same track at the same time with DCC.
Every DCC - locomotive is equipped with a device called "decoder". This decoder has a unique number (or address) assigned to it. In DCC, the track is constantly powered whereas in conventional cab control, the track is only powered if the user turns the control knob on the power pack.
In DCC, the track is used as a data bus (or line). The DCC central unit (basically a computer) generates the commands for a specific locomotive and sends them via the track to the engine's decoder. That decoder in turn constantly listens on the track if a data package with the decoder's address is on the way, and then executes this command. In conventional cab control, all engines on the same track move in the same direction with the same speed if the user turns the throttle knob.
So, generally spoken, DCC adds more fun to the layout and actually lets us "play" with our railroad without having to observe electrical blocks needed to be turned on or off.
We offer custom made animations for your layout. This ranges from self-propelled vehicles to a shanty man waving a lantern. All projects are built in-house to ensure top quality.
Be it free-lanced or prototypical: scenery sets the stage for your layout and makes it come alive.
If you would like to have a certain region modeled at a given time period, we do extensive research work and might even go on a field trip in order to recreate that scene on your layout.
Materials used in scenery building include non-flammable foam, wood, wire mesh, plaster, and many more depending on the specific needs and themes to be modeled. Rocks are carved from either plaster or foam and then painted to their natural colors.
Depending on your specification, we build either a "rough" (or basic) scenery that will be completed by you, or we finish the layout with a fully detailed landscape.
Structures are as important to a layout as scenery in general as they help to set a time and place for the railroad. You wouldn't want to have a modern glass high rise in a 1920's layout setting .
We choose the buildings for the layout to fit the period of an overall theme. If nessessary, we scratch build structures and preferrably use original drawings to do so. If we can't find those drawings, we work from photos ar even vintage postcards.
Materials used for scratch building include styrene, strip wood, and brass. All structures come painted and, optionally, weathered.
Apart from having top notch trackwork, you also want reliable and well performing rolling stock on your layout. If we buy locomotives and cars for your layout, we make sure that all wheels are exactly in gauge and all electric and electronic features work properly and according to nowaday's standards.
If you want to run your already bought equipment, we offer a free of charge check and advice for your rolling stock. In any case we strongly recommend to upgrade to DCC if the model allows it.
In the real world, locomotives and cars are prone to wear and tear - as are our models. Only our models need little maintenance like a bit of wheel cleaning and very little lubrication. To simulate the prototype's wear, we offer weathering of rolling stock to give it that prototypical "used" look and feel.
How does it work?
To provide you with the best service possible, we created a workflow and some paperwork to accompany it.
Basically, you can call Erhard at 1-407-928-8120 Monday to Saturday from 8 AM to 5 PM for an initial inquiry about your layout. During our conversation we will discuss the basic data for your layout but we will not yet determine a price tag for it.
Following our conversation, you should view and download our project profile, fill in the data as complete as possible and return it to me. You may either send it via USPS or attach it to an email.
Once I have the profile in my hands (or on my computer), I will start designing your layout and send you the preliminary result as a discussion basis.
If you approved the design, I will send you a construction contract which describes the work to be done. Please return one signed copy of that contract together with your initial payment. Construction work will start either at a previously determined date or after your initial payment is in our account.