Friday, November 5, 2021

A Screw On Lead Extension

The switching lead on my mini test layout would be pathetically short without an extension.  Since I expect to carry the module up and down stairs and round corners, the extension has to be removable.  I wanted it to lock nicely into place and be easy to install and remove.  I ended up using a threaded insert and a screw with a knob.

Here's a side view of the extension installed.

And here's what it looks like when removed, with the layout flipped over to show the threaded insert.

There's enough of the 1x3 going under the layout so the extension can't tip down.  The top piece the cork roadbed is glue to is also a 1x3.  In between a spacer of a scrap of 1/2" ply and a scrap of paneling made up just the right thickness to match the door.  When I tested clamping it on to see how much the extension would flex, I was surprised to see the whole door bow up along it's length as the inside end of the extension pressed up on the bottom of the door.  That's why I added the 1x2 stiffeners along the front and back edges of the door.  The extension itself flexes a little, but not enough to worry about with only the weight of an engine and cars on it.

The brass threaded insert has a 3/8-16 machine screw thread on the inside, and coarse wood screw threads on the outside.  You drill a 1/2" hole to screw the insert into.  I picked up both the insert and the screw with a knob for a head at a local hardware store.

Getting the insert screwed in right proved to be tricky.  My first attempt I used a washer engaged in the two slots at the top of the insert to screw it in, and it dug itself it several degrees off from vertical - enough that it affected how the board seated against the door.  Some experiments in scrap wood showed that it's very difficult to get it to follow the hole straight in.  What I ended up doing is getting some 3/8-16 threaded rod, which I threaded a regular nut onto and then the insert.  I wedged the top of the rod against a handy prop (my drill press) to keep it exactly vertical over the hole and held there firmly enough to resist the tendency to wobble when screwing in the insert.  I used a wrench to turn the whole thing to drive the insert straight in.  Not too hard once you know what needs to be done.  Here's the setup, doing a trial run on a scrap of 2x4.

The end result is easy to remove, easy to install, and seems to align itself quite nicely.

Wednesday, November 3, 2021

A Mini Test Layout

The astute observer may have noticed I haven't posted much for the past year, and wondered if this was because I was busily building the Eastborough Industrial, or if I was still waffling.

It's the latter.

I'm happy with the trackplan, the only minor reservation I have is Trans Plastics - that's a lot of cars (somewhere around 20) for a medium amount of operating interest.  I've had thoughts of substituting a smaller plastics industry.  But that's not what's holding me up.

My waffling and delays are construction related.  How do I frame the layout - traditional grid with plywood on top, foam on top, hollow core door, stressed skin panels of my own construction?  Do I use roadbed at all, and if so what kind?  How high should the layout be?  I was originally thinking somewhere around 50", but a friend has pointed out that he likes operating the lower deck of his layout sitting in a rolly chair so maybe lower might be good.  Lastly, basement complications have meant that until recently I haven't had a workable shop set up to build anything in.

Time to get the ball rolling by building some disposable tests.  A benchwork experiment is in the works.  But what I've started on first is a mini test layout.  It's built on a hollow core door, with a removable extension for a lead.

The door is 79" long by 15" wide, and the extension is 52" long by 2.5" wide.  The extension is held on with a hand screw from below, and is easily removable.

The right side in the photo is the “front”.  Along the back is a single industry inspired by Placon (formerly Plastic Packaging Corporation) in West Springfield, MA.  The industry track on the left can hold 4 plastic pellet hoppers spotted for unloading, plus one more off spot squeezed in before a comfortable clearance point.  The track on the right is the storage track, for more off spots.  The storage track can hold 4 plastic pellet hoppers.  The middle track is the main track that continues off the bottom end to another industry.  The lead out the extension is imagined to continue on to the yard.  There’s space for 6 pellet hoppers and an MP15 between the points for the industry track and the end of the modelled lead.  I think it should offer some interesting switching.

So, what do I hope to achieve with this layout?  In no particular order...

I want to have something to operate until the Eastborough Industrial gets far enough along for some operation.

I want to try out different operating heights.  I have an adjustable height desk in my home office, which can adjust from 23" to 49".  The layout is 3" thick (I added 1x2's along the bottom front and back edge).  Putting the layout across the front edge of the desk with the extension off the right, I'll be able to try any layout surface height from 26" up to 52", and higher if I bring some 2x4 chunks up from the shop to space it up a little.  Being able to do an actual mini-op session switching out an industry at each height of interest will make it easier to be sure I'm picking the right one.

I want to try out low temp solder for track feeders from the October 2021 MRH Running Extra.

I want to try out the Zip Ballasting and track painting technique described in the July 2020 MRH.

And last but definitely not least, I want to try getting enough scenery down so at a quick glance a casual observer might mistake it for a finished layout.  I haven't gotten a layout to that state for years, I need practice!

The layout in it's current state, painted a pale muddy gray:

Next up is soldering some feeders on the bottom of rails and laying some track.  It's a tossup whether I'll set this aside to wait for the 70C low temp solder to arrive and get started on the benchwork experiment, or forge ahead with regular solder and do the low temp experiment later.  What will I feel like doing Saturday morning...?

Monday, December 14, 2020

The Eastborough Industrial

It's been a long slow process, but I've narrowed in on what I really want out of this layout and have finally worked out a plan which I think satisfies at least the top criteria.

(click to enlarge)

The layout represents the end of a freelanced industrial track - one of those tracks that branches off the main and winds a couple miles or so serving a few industries that seem to be more common than you might at first think.  I've selected the industries to give me a mix of car types, car flows, and switching.  The industries are all cribbed from real prototype industries in eastern Massachusetts, with varying degrees of modeler's license.


Eastborough is not a real town in Massachusetts, but it could be.  There is a cluster of -borough's that includes Marlborough, Northborough, Westborough, and Southborough, but no Eastborough.  So, the name Eastborough gives those familiar with the area and idea of where it's imagined to be - somewhere near where routes 495 and 95 cross.  The CSX mainline (formerly Boston & Albany) runs through Westborough, and the Fitchburg branch runs through Southborough, Marlborough, and Northborough.  The Grafton & Upton shortline is nearby.

What Railroad

You'll notice I haven't been specific about what railroad serves the industrial track.  I don't view that as particularly important, so I haven't decided yet.  I have a soft spot for switchers like MP15s, but a GP40-2 or GP38-2 is nice too.  If the industrial track is served by a shortline or terminal railroad any of those are possibilities.  If it's CSX that serves the industrial track, power will be a GP40-2 (CSX's power of choice on locals).  CSX sold all it's MP15s a few years ago - some of them ended up on the Grafton & Upton.


At the start of a session, a train is made up in staging with the engine on the front end, ready to pull the train onto the layout.  Train length can be anywhere from just a couple cars to a couple dozen cars, although somewhere around a dozen will probably be typical.  The runaround that should be mostly adequate, but which will require a couple runaround moves to deal with the largest sessions.

There are no tricks or switching puzzles, just some decent sized industries with a variety of needs.  I haven't decided on the mechanics of car routing and the form of "paperwork" to document it yet.  The mechanics may be software, or manual.  Whatever the mechanics, I'd like the resultant "paperwork" to be able to take one of several forms depending on who is going to be doing the actual switching and their skill level and preferences - any one of waybills, switch lists, PICL lists, or even tab on car.

Trans Plastics

The biggest industry in terms of car count is Trans Plastics, lifted straight off my N scale Palmer Industrial Park plan, in turn lifted pretty much straight from the prototype Palmer Industrial Park.  The prototype industry went out of business over 10 years ago unfortunately - smaller plastic transload operations seem to have difficulty.  But I like the big plastic pellet hoppers and the car flow pattern and switching that creates so I'm modeling it anyway.  Normally the industry will be mostly full, but like the prototype will only receive and release 1-4 cars a week.  Cars are emptied apparently randomly since they get emptied by demand for what grade of plastic they contain.  Spots are stuffed in wherever they fit, placement is not important.

National Lumber

National Lumber is cribbed from National Lumber on "The Chocolate" - an industrial park spur in Mansfield, MA.  I like the large warehouse with the track only along half of it, and the two door spots on the warehouse, and the fact that the centerbeam unloading area is past the warehouse.  I "improved" on reality to have 3 centerbeam spots instead of just one.  There will be times when centerbeams are cycled through at a good clip, and times when there's no center beams and only a single boxcar at the warehouse.  Cars will almost always be unloaded before the next switch, so there will rarely be respots.


There are a three rail served Tighe warehouses in eastern Massachusetts - Mansfield, Winchester, and Woburn.  I plan on cribbing the building appearance from the Mansfield warehouse, which has 9 doors spaced on 77 foot centers.  I'll keep the spacing, but trim it to 8 spots.  There are rain diverters on the roof, which makes it easy to measure the spacing on a satellite photo, and which will make it easy to line the boxcar doors up with the warehouse doors on the model.  This warehouse will take more switching moves per car to get the job done than the other industries.  Each car will be billed to a specific door spot.  Not all cars will be unloaded by the next session, so there will be some re-spots.

Broco Oil

Broco oil is inspired by the prototype Broco Oil in Haverhill MA which just started receiving biodiesel heating oil about a year ago and has been ramping up considerably, adding track, a trackmobile, new storage tanks, etc.  My representation of it will need to make do with a single shorter track, but it's long enough to give a good feel of an active business.  Since they only receive only B99.9 biodiesel tank cars are simply unloaded sequentially.  The empties will always be at one end of the track, the respots (if any) at the other.  Broco Oil will be easy to switch, but should allow for moving nice long cuts of tank cars in the process.  Biodiesel tank cars are hazardous, with a 1202 placard.

Broco also advertises transloading services.  From what I can tell they've only had one customer for that so far, transloaded a few gondolas of rebar to flatbed trucks.  That will allow for a very occasional bit of variety from the usual.

Sunday, December 6, 2020

NYS&W New York Mills Industrial

I should say up front that this is not the model railroad I am going to build.  I'll explain why below.  But it was a strong contender and I came close to building it, so I think it's worth writing about.

When I discovered the New York, Susquehanna, and Western's Utica area industries earlier this year I became pretty interested.  A number of relatively small industries, mostly on a separate industrial track with a fairly interesting track arrangement.  I wrote up some information on the prototype on a separate page on this blog here.

There is a very photogenic crossing tender's tower, street running, and a brewery spur with a switch in the middle of the street on the Utica branch mainline.  But the part that intrigues me more is the New York Mills industrial track (technically it's actually two tracks - the New Hartford industrial track, and the New York Mills industrial track).  The prototype is a deceptively simple switching puzzle.  I decided to focus on the industrial tracks for their operating interest, and ignore the street running section.

Things that make the combination of the New Hartford and New York Mills industrial tracks an interesting switching problem:

  • A relatively short runaround at the very start of the industrial track.
  • A branch to a switchback leading to one of the industries (Oneida Warehouse).
  • An industry literally on the end of the line - no switch, that's it.
See the the prototype page for maps, more details on industries, and prototype vides.

The first attempt

Even though it's a relatively small industrial track, there is still a total of almost 6 miles of track.  So the question is, how to squeeze that into the available space.  Here's my first reasonable attempt.

(Click to enlarge)

The New Hartford switchback and Oneida Warehouse are left off entirely.  The remaining four industries are compressed and slide considerably closer together than on the prototype, but that's inevitable if you're trying to squeeze 3 to 4 miles of prototype track onto a shelf well under a scale mile long.  The industries are all in the right relative positions on the prototypical side of the track.  A staging area could be added on the other side of the bulkhead door at the bottom, or the train could just be sitting on French Rd runaround at the start of the session with the engine in the lead.  The Di Highway section would be a fold down section to allow freer use of the basement for other non-railroad purposes.

Things that bothered me about this plan was having an industry on a fold down section, a bit more industry compression than I was hoping for, and no chance of adding the New Hartford section.

The second attempt

The breakthrough came with the realization that if I mirror imaged the industries I could solve all those problems.

(Click to enlarge)

In this plan, the drop down section is just the lead off the Utica branch mainline.  The industries are a bit less compressed (although mirror imaged), and there's a bit more space between them.  And there is the option of tunneling through the wall to put the New Hartford section in the next room, with the switchback (which adds an element of intrigue when you're at the runaround out of sight of it trying to get the cars on the right end of the engine).  There is an additional drop down section across the bulkhead door to get to Di Highway, but that wouldn't need to be use much and it's only scenery, so no problem there.

So why not build it?

I spent a month or so wanting to build this track plan but feeling unconvinced that it was the right one for me.  Finally I took a step back and thought about what industrial switching I like watching on the prototype most.  Any prototype switching is interesting to watch, but what really ticks both the industrial interest and gut feel of railroading boxes for me is not one or two car industries, it's bigger industries.  Industries where a full spot is half a dozen cars or more.

So that's why I'm not going to build this layout.  It would be a nice layout I would enjoy operating on, but it's not quite exactly what I want for a layout.

Sunday, December 30, 2018

Thoughts on a New Layout

Givens and Druthers

It's going to be an industrial switching layout geared toward a single operator.

It's going to be modern era (within the last ~10 years).

It's going to be set in eastern Massachusetts.

It's going to be freelance, but cribbed from specific prototype industries.

It's going to be HO scale.  HO scale is the path of least resistance for a lot of things.  There is a wider selection of rolling stock available, a wider selection of structure kits, a wider selection of appropriately sized scenery items.  It's easy to install sound decoders (in fact many engines come with sound decoders already installed).

I'd like to build the layout in separable chunks which can be easily moved into the shop or outside to do messy stuff (like spray painting rail).  But if that complicates things too much I won't bother.

The layout space

The space I've decided to use for the new layout is U shaped shelf around one end of a larger area in the basement.  One leg of the U is just under 15 feet long, the middle part is just over 12' long, and the other leg is about 17' 6".  The shelf will probably end up somewhere between 16" and 22" wide.  I'm keeping the middle of the U open for other purposes.  Allowing for rounded corners, that gives me about 40 feet of length.

If I get that much railroad built to a reasonable level of completion and want more, it's possible to extend the 17' leg another 13 feet or so, with a lift out section across a bulkhead door.

The plan so far

I don't want to crowd things in, I will be including some "negative space".  I am a fan of Lance Mindheim's approach.  Given that, I think I can expect to fit in between 3 and 5 industries, and a runaround.  The runaround will work best if it's nearer the middle of the length of the layout than at one end or the other.

I'd like to arrange things so that the layout can be operated in one of two ways.  First as an industrial branch off a class 1 or regional railroad, with the job working the branch staged on one end of the layout.  And second as a switching service serving an industrial park that interchanges with a class 1 or regional railroad, using the track at one end of the layout as the interchange track.

Industries on my wish list:

  • A glass factory.  The now closed Osram Sylvania factory in Wellsboro, PA is one possible prototype, also the Corelle factory in Corning, NY, and the Anchor Glass factory in Elmira Heights, NY are interesting prototypes still in business.
  • A small plastics transload.  The prototype I have in mind is RVJ Inc in Leominster, MA
  • A small plastics company.  Something like the now defunct Micron Plastics in Ayer, MA (had 3 car spots).
  • A lumber company with a spot or two for center beams and a spot or two for boxcars.  The prototype I have in mind is National Lumber in Mansfield, MA.
  • Ken's Foods in Marlboro, MA.  They receive vegetable oil tanks, corn syrup tanks, and the occasional plastics hopper.
  • A warehouse.  You can't get much denser operating interest than a warehouse with assigned door spots.  A possible prototype is Maple Lead Distribution in Palmer, MA (I had planned this on my Palmer Industrial N scale layout).  The prototype Maple Leaf has been expanded several times, but before the most recent expansion it had 9 door spots, the older 7 of which were on about 58 foot centers for 50 foot cars, and the 2 newer doors on a previous expansion are spaced for 60 foot plus cars.  Another interesting wrinkle on Maple Leaf is there are two tracks, so each door can have 2 cars spotted at it, one on each track.  For a small switching layout 9 door spots may be excessive, somewhere around 6 might be more reasonable.  There are other warehouses in the area such as Tighe in Mansfield I may also pattern mine after, if I decide not to go with 2 tracks.
  • A packaging company, based on Inland Container as documented on Jack Hill's blog here:
  • A reload operation.  One prototype that caught my eye is Wildwood Reload in South Barre, MA on the Mass Central RR.

Obviously not all of those will fit.  So, how to choose?  Operational interest is a big factor, the list above is already selected partly on operational interest.  Variety is also important.  A warehouse has specific door spots.  A plastics transload doesn't care where you spot new cars, but they release cars to pull as they empty so pulls can be pretty much anywhere.  A glass factory like the one in Wellsboro needs the cars lined up in a specific order for their track mobile to pull through the unloading shed.  I was having a hard time deciding on one or two industries to put on the first section of the layout.  While preparing to go to the recent NMRA Hub Division show in Marlboro, MA I realized the answer was obvious.  Given the difficulty in tracking down specific cars at any given time (backorders, etc), the first couple industries should be the ones I can actually get cars for now.

I searched the booths at the show looking for cars that were appropriate for present day service at any of the above list of industries.  The first pass (during which I bought nothing) seemed to indicate plastics transload and lumber company were the best bets, so on the second pass I bought plastics hoppers, centerbeams, and boxcars.  Specifically, 4 Atlas ACT 5800 cu ft hoppers, 3 Athern 60 foot Gunderson boxcars, and 3 Atlas 73' center beams.  I also picked up some track and switches - Micro Engineering code 70 as recommended by Lance Mindheim in his No Skills, No Problem blog post.  I got 3 left and 3 right #6 switches, and 3 bundles of flextrack (total of 18 pieces).  That, plus an Athern MP-15 I had picked up at the Amherst Railway Society's Springfield MA show at the beginning of the year should be enough to get me started.

The entirety of my HO empire (so far)

Track planning

For my previous layouts I used Ashlar Vellum's Graphite to draw up track plans.  I got a really good deal on it by way of upgrading from their canceled entry level product.  It has enough well thought out shortcuts that once you learn them you can just think about the plan and the mechanics of drawing it just sort of happens.  It is also very expensive to upgrade to a current version.  So I spent a couple weeks trying to track plan with 3rd Planit.  There are a lot of nice things about 3rd planit, but for me at least it just won't get out of the way of my thought process.  I'm too cheap to upgrade the good CAD, and I'm too picky to use the cheaper CAD.

So, I'm proceeding with PAD - Paper Aided Design.  Specifically a pad of large graph paper with 1/4" grids I'm using to draw on 1" to the foot scale plans, with the help of a couple curve templates and some cheat sheet notes on easement offsets and lengths.  I think this approach is going to work, but if it becomes too frustrating I may just spring for that Graphite upgrade after all.

Saturday, August 18, 2018

The Great Sawzall Massacre of 2018

For a variety of reasons, most importantly to shorten my commute and get some free time back, I recently moved.  I have a nice new space designated for an industrial switching shelf style layout.  I'm still in the toying with ideas stage, serious planning will probably start in a month or so and, with luck, a bit of construction before the end of the year.  More on that in a coming post.

Selling the old house is of course a rather critical part of the proceedings, and having a train layout screwed to the basement walls is not a good way to try to sell a house.  So it had to go.  My weapon of choice was a sawzall type saw (porter cable tiger saw).  With that and a crowbar, pry bar. cordless screwdriver, and some coffee it took me most of a weekend to separate the layout from the house and reduce it to small enough pieces for a junk removal service to remove.

When I built the layout I had the attitude that it was going to be a lifetime layout, or at the very least not reusable.  So I built it from the walls in - I started by screwing the back frame member to the wall, then added the cross pieces, front frame, and braces.  Some sections were built during my massive overkill lag screw phase, some in my drywall screw phase, and some in my pocket screw phase.  Due to both the build in from the walls construction and the number of changes over time, there were screws that were buried under other framing pieces, fascia, etc.  In retrospect, that wasn't the best idea.  The sawzall and crowbar were required.

First step, remove the Palmer Industrial peninsula to free up floor space.  The trickiest part was excavating the head of one screw that held the frame to the door frame.  The fascia was vigorously glued over it, and I needed to leave the door frame in good shape.  I couldn't just pull it out, or try to cut the screw between the layout and the door frame because that would mess up the door frame.  A bit of prying and chiseling eventually revealed the screw.  Here's the Palmer Industrial after being separated from walls and floor.

I used the sawzall to cut it up into manageable pieces and stacked them in the corner.

By the time I got to this dismantling operation I had already started thinking about a new layout, so oddly enough one of the biggest moments of regret was seeing those nicely curved MDF fascia corners in the junk pile.  I had fun making those.

So, with the Palmer Industrial out of the way it was on to the O scale No-Name Industrial.  As I mentioned it was screwed to the walls.  The walls it was screwed to have a 10" or so ledge just under the layout height at the top of the foundation.  It would have been excruciating to try to unscrew the layout as is from the wall.  Cutting off everything except the back few inches seemed like the best approach, so I fired up the sawzall again.  In this photo the corner with the interchange has already been removed except for the back edge screwed to the wall, and I've sliced through the layout for the whole length a few inches from the wall.  All that's holding up in this photo is habit.

One tap on the front edge while standing out of the way in the corner, and the habit is broken.

The remaining bit attached to the wall.  What kind of idiot uses this many lag screws for a train layout!

A bit of backdrop removal, not too hard in spite of painted over screw heads.

Then it was relatively easy to remove the pieces from the wall and the lower end of the brace supports.  Chopping the remains into easily carry-able pieces and stacking them in the corners finished up the front wall portion of the layout.

The side wall portion of the layout was not quite as straightforward to remove.  The portion closest to the corner was built to allow scenery and track extending below the baseline elevation of the rest of the layout.  A sheet of plywood was screwed directly to the ledge in the wall, and then track/scenery was built up from there - in other words lots of buried screw heads.  The remainder of the wall was more normal construction.  My approach was to cut out the normally built portion and then nibble away at the remainder.

Hm, what's holding it up?
Maybe a couple more whacks?
That did it!
Next problem was the oddly built section.  I had built it up by screwing joists of the right height to the plywood underpinnings, then screwing the plywood roadbed to the joists, and then gluing homabed on top.  Lots of screws covered up by other layers.  I ended up just brute force crowbaring off the plywood subroadbed for the main and runaround behind Catania-Spagna - you can see some of the supports split across the middle.

Then I was able to cut it off just inside the ledge.

The weapon of choice.  That's the third or fourth blade - I kept bending the tips hitting things I couldn't see under the layout.

Eventually I managed to find all the screws and get the remaining plywood off the ledge.

The second pile of layout remains when it was all over.

And a few days later it's all gone.

That last bit of "backdrop" is where I "cleverly" painted the back drop right on the door for the bulkhead.

So, what did I learn from all this?

  • Even if you don't want to build a layout that can be moved to a new home, at least build it so it's not too difficult to remove.  Even if you don't have to move, you may want fewer obstacles to re-arranging portions of the layout.
  • Layouts do not need to be lag screwed to the wall!  The section just drywall screwed to the wall held up just as well with me crawling on it as the section lag screwed to the wall.
  • Pocket screws are cool.  But they can be harder to find when you're taking something apart.
  • Sawzall style saws are fun!

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Temporary (?) car routing for the Palmer Industrial

Despite my intention to ignore the problem of car routing and paper work for the time being, it has been hard to avoid getting distracted by it as I continue to experiment with operating on the track that's laid so far.  Today I decided to put a good temporary solution in place to stop the distractions.

For car routing, to start with I'll just make it up as I stage a new session.  I expect once all the track is down and I do some serious test operations I'll begin to get a feel for exactly what works well in terms of number of inbound cars, number of respots, etc.  At that point the next step in car routing will be a some dice to select random entries from a table of reasonable possibilities for each industry.  Perhaps several different sets of tables - one set for short/easy sessions, one set for long/challenging sessions, etc.  I'll work out the details when I get to that point.

For the paper work, the possibilities seemed to be hand writing a switchlist or PICL list (seems like a lot of tedium every session), rig up a spreadsheet of some sort to manually enter the list into and then print (possibly even more tedious), or resort to the tab on car approach.  The tab on car approach seemed like the easiest option, so that's what I went with.

Since all cars on the Palmer Industrial Park are either headed to a particular industry, or back to Palmer (off layout), I can use very simple labels on the tabs.  Maple Leaf, for example, gets tabs labels like "M1-5" for Maple Leaf track 1 door 5.  Plus a few extra tabs just labelled "M" for off spots.  Quaboag has three locations "Q - Dock" (one of the three spots on the loading dock), "Q - Lot A" (the first half of the rest of the track after the dock), and "Q - Lot B" (the second half of the track after the dock).  Cains and Trans Plastics are not spot specific at all, so they just have the appropriate number of tabs labelled "Cains" and "TransPlastics".  Any car without a tab is headed back to Palmer.

I made the tabs by setting up a table with entries for all the tabs in my word processor.   I printed them out on card stock, used a paper cutter with a roller blade to score for folds, perforate between tabs in one direction, and cut in the other direction.  I think it might have been easier overall to perforate in both directions.  Each tab is 1/4" x 1", with the last 1/8" on each end folded down.  The result just sits on top of a flat topped car very nicely.  For the Cains tank car tabs I'm going to see how well they stay on when curved to more or less match the tank curve.

Tabs on cars

A fan or direct sneeze would probably be bad

What it looks like from a normal viewing position
You can see it looks a little odd, but certainly no worse than the complete lack of scenery and weathering.  It should be easy for guest operators to understand too.  It's good enough for now.  It might be good enough for a long time, which is why the title of this blog entry has a question mark in it.