Solar panel installation on my southwestern roof generates all the power for my home and layout
July 8 2008 - Solar Powered Trains and Scale Profits
All the electricity my home uses in a year is generated by 36 solar panels installed on my southwest facing roof. Thus, my layout is 100% solar powered and its carbon footprint is 0. I know that several of you are now thinking "What! another granola-crunching tree-hugging greenie!". Actually the solar installation is a great investment - my electricity bill is non-existent and over the life of the system I will make double my investment back. Sure beats the stock market these days! Watching my meter run backwards gives me great pleasure and of course I love gadgets and this is one great big gadget. And, actually, I am a granola-eating tree-huggung greenie. The solar power neatly solved the issue of my always wanting to buy more power hungry gadgets for my home. You can read more about my solar installation at my personal website.
3 year stock price chart for Union Pacific (UNP)
Railroads are Coming Back
Talking about solar power and economics, railroads are enjoying a big
comeback as the cost of oil goes up. While it is true that our beloved
trains all run on diesel these days, because of the low rolling
resistance of steel wheels on steel tracks, they are the most energy
efficient means of transporting large amounts of goods. The other
factor in the increasing railroad profits is the big increase in coal
traffic as generating elctricity with coal becomes more favorable to
using oil. As you can see on the 3 year chart of the stock price of Union Pacific (ticker symbol UNP) to the left, the profits of UNP have been going up nicely. Unlike dot-bomb stocks, the price of railroad stocks are closely tied to their price-per-earning ratio (P/E).
HO scale UP diesels making scale model revenue (smollars) by the scale mile (smile).
Scale Model Dollars - Smollars
There is an ongoing debate as to whether model railroads are meant to make money or not. To gauge the profitability of a layout we need an approriate measure. Scale miles are measured in "smiles" and we use a fast clock to time our operations with scale hours "shours". I propose that we measure our model railroad profits in scale model dollars or "smollars". The value of these scale dollars will need to be appropriately scaled. In HO the length and height of each dollar will be reduced by a factor 87 so the value of an HO smollar should be $1/872 or $1,000,000 prototype dollars = $132 smollars. The 1/87*1/87 reduction in revenue also makes sense as the area that a model railroad will be able to serve is reduced by length by width and thus the amount of traffic generated will be down by this factor. A bigger layout will generate more traffic and thus more smollars. To determine if a layout is profitable you will need to divide its area by the total amount of smollars generated. Bigger layouts generate more smollars but they will also have have higher operating smollars. I will leave it to a later column to go into the proper smollar accounting practices needed to determine if our layouts are profitable or not. Anybody have an HO CFO I can hire?