Sunday, 18 January 2015

Dealing with Data

One of the joys of modelling the CVLR is the sheer amount of data available, the difficulty is how to collate all of that information so its easy to find what you want. I've been pondering over it for a while, looking for a simple solution to all of the multimedia sources available. In the end, I started from the perspective of what I was trying to achieve, what I needed to do that, and how I wanted to see the data that enabled me to make the right decision.
The key objective is to be able to work across the whole spectrum of the railway - changes to the line, types of traffic, rolling stock, engine types and infrastructure and to do so in a concurrent fashion. Part of choosing what to model is down to the versatility I can get from each diorama - some subjects are going to be able to represent a wide timescale and be suitable for a selection of locos, some others will not, and that is going to impose extra restrictions. It doesn't help that I have chosen the late 1962 onward period as that is where there was a lot of change in infrastructure - keeping tabs on what is suitable for what period, in what state of dereliction / abandonment is the tricky bit.

In the end, I have chosen to use MS Excel because it offers the flexibility and functionality I want. The primary sheet is shown below - its very much a work in progress so you'll have to forgive any spelling mistakes or format errors you observe.

The idea behind it is to document the line in terms of distance from Tiverton Junction towards Hemyock in rows, noting all the features of the line.  Heading from left to right are columns relating to years in order to capture the various changes.

There is a long way to go yet, the starting point has been to read through the description of the line chapter in The CVLR Book by Colin Maggs which has given me the basics in a chronological order (I have got as far as Hemyock, but I figured a sample of the sheet was enough, its almost illegible as it is). The next task is Appendix 1 from the same book where all the bridge numbers are listed, together with a distance from Tiverton and a brief description. Lots of the desired information is captured in the photograph captions, so that will be the following turn of duty, before starting all over again with the Messenger / Twelveheads Press book! Its going to be a pretty long task, but lets be fair - I'm reading about the thing I want to model so its not exactly testing :-)

Once the line features have been noted down, locomotives, rolling stock (passenger and goods) and finally goods traffic will be added to the bottom of the sheet. My theory is that one picks a subject from the line list, scrolls across to the right to see the changes over that objects life, picks a year of interest and then scrolls down to get an idea of the traffic, engines etc that would have been observed passing past, through etc.

Excel works nicely in that extra columns or rows can be added as a when new information becomes available, extra sheets can also be added to contain copies of photos or interesting features. There is a danger that collating the information becomes the hobby, but over the long term I need some way to help drive decisions and choices. Will it work, well there is only one way to find out...

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