Wednesday, April 24, 2013

New York Subway Inspection

One of the design blogs I follow is called Bldg Blog, which covers the poetics of the built environment. The latest post shows the track geometry car used by the NY subway to test track in the middle of the night. I like the imagery of the last paragraph that suggests the brightly lit vehicle is "like the subway dreaming of itself."

We modelers spend a lot of time trying to bring life to our railroads - what would your layout dream about?

Friday, April 12, 2013

Voice modeling

"Morning, Bud. This is Hank down at the Maxwell plant..."
Trevor Marshall just posted a nice entry on his blog about operations. In particular he discusses the possibilities of modeling the time it takes to do brake tests per car and how that helps to slow down operations. The key, in my opinion, is to provide interactions to simulate activities. 

These provide the operator continuous 'doing' activities and should entail some sort of feedback component to 'reward' the behavior. I would love to see a throttle that had a button labeled 'brake test' that could account for number of cars, etc., and provide feedback sounds of compressor, and an "air test OK" voice reply when done. The possibilities are numerous. This could be easily modeled if one used a mobile computing device as a throttle through JMRI interface, but I would prefer a physical throttle that had such things programmed into it. 

Along the same lines, Tom and I have started brainstorming something like this for customer interactions with the railway agent/dispatcher on my layout. In particular, the idea that a customer calls the agent when a car is loaded or unloaded and ready to be moved.This would be triggered by a timer started when the car gets spotted, or via a random call generator during a session.

A pre-recorded voice of an 'actor' (probably not officially affiliated with Screen Actors Guild or any other professional organization - in other words, me) would say something like, "Morning, Bud. This is Hank down at the Maxwell plant, and we need an extra box car today for a special order." The agent then writes up a waybill and/switch list for the locomotive crew combined with previous calls before the call time and off they go. At the plant, a crew might also get an earful from Hank telling the story of the fish that got away while they are trying to secure the brake lines for that special delivery box car, and they can't leave until he is finished.  

On a very short line (1.9 miles) like my Hoboken Shore RR, customer interaction was an arguably more direct personal component of everyday operations. Having the voice of a particular customer letting you know what needs to done provides prototypical modeling and operational interest. What you model all depends on what you think is interesting about railroading.