I have finally taken the first steps towards starting the helix. It is long overdue. This past weekend I had a large block of time. And since it was still warm enough in the garage without heating it I picked up the plywood and started cutting.
As I had mentioned before (it’s been awhile, May 2015) I have a aluminum pattern that I had made for the curves. Using the pattern I trace out the curve section on the plywood (I can get 16 curved sections on a 4 x 8 piece of plywood). I then rough cut out the pieces. Then again using the metal pattern screwed to the rough cut pieces I run them threw the router using a pattern bit. I had detailed this along with pictures in the May 2015 post if you want a better idea of how it works.
I need 12 curved sections per loop. Six would complete one loop if I were using 3/4″ plywood. However than you would have to join the pieces together without creating a clearance problem. My solution was to use 3/8″ plywood and laminate the pieces together offsetting the joints to crate a 3/4″ thick ring that would have nothing below to cause clearance issues.
The stack ready to go.
As noted there are also four pieces (bottom of stack) that I cut with straight sections leading into and out of the helix.
My plan is to assemble them away from the layout one loop at a time. I will glue, clamp and screw them together. Then I will add that loop to the layout, lay and wire the track. I will then run a test train through it before going on to the next loop. After the first loop works I will repeat the process.
The thought of trying to mark the locations for screws and the center line of the track kind of boggled my mind. A little thought and my next great idea. Back out to the garage and in no time I made a couple of marking gauges.
They ride along the edge of the roadbed and have holes in them for a pencil to mark screw and track locations. One is for the inside of the curve and the other for the outside.
Tried one out and this is what it looks like.
I should have the first loop completed and installed this week. Will keep you updated. I will also have an update on the grain complex for you on Wednesday.
As I had said the next part of the scenery had a river that runs through it. I had penciled in where I had wanted the river but never cut it out. Part of the reason was that I was unsure of what type of bridge. The track here in on an incline (slight) and a curve. And I didn’t want just a culvert.
I finally decided to use the sides of an Atlas (atlasrr.com) plate girder bridge. That way I could cut the sides of the plywood subroadbed flat on the side and add bridge abutments and presto, a bridge.
First up was to cut out the river. Not an easy task considering that everything else was in place and I had to be careful not to wreck what was there. Mainly I had to be careful of the wiring that ran underneath the area. This is where one of my favorite tools came into play. It’ my Dremel Max (dremel.com) oscillating cutter. With the wood cutting head in It, you can come in real tight and have excellent control. So I got the river cut out.
And then the next problem. Seems the feeder wires for these two tracks are right in the middle of the bridge.
So these had to be moved. No big deal, but it seems it is always something.
With the wires moved it was on to the riverbed. I used 1/4″ plywood but wanted to add stiffeners so I could staple the screen to it. Problem here is there is little access. Because the cabinets are set back 6″ from the edge of the benchwork and wiring running underneath, you can’t come in from the bottom. the piece is too wide to come in from the top. And there is only a 3/4″ wide slot at the front. So I prepped the panel with all screw holes in place, slid the panel in and then added bracing.
Next up was the abutment. My first version was the bridge support with the wings attached. Once done I slid them in place and decided that the wings where way to low.
The bridge abutments were built out of .040 styrene sheet and .100 styrene strip with some trim work to look like poured concrete. I cut the wings off so I had just a support. Then I built new wings that came up to the full height of the river bank.
Then I needed my plate girder sides. As I recall you used to be able to buy them separately as a flat car load. No joy there. I ended up buying a full bridge and cutting the sides off from it. Next thing was Atlas built there bridge around a 9″ piece of straight track, which scales out around 65 feet. My span was only 28 1/2 feet.
A little too long. So working from the center I cut it apart. I used the short double reinforced sections from the ends and grafted them on to a cut down center section. The end results are near perfect.
Then brought the screen down to the river and added the plaster cloth.
It just needs a top coat of plaster and it will be ready for some earth paint and then scenic materials.
That’s what I’ve got for now, until next time. Happy Modelling…
I also got the staging yard wired up. I know that I may have led you to believe that I had wired this up before when you saw the photo of a switch and LED lit in a previous post. What I had done was a quick hook up with jumper wires in that shot to see if things would work.
The staging yard is eight tracks wide with three to four 3ft sections of flex track per yard track. I wired each section of flex track individually to make sure there would be no dead sections because of a loose rail joiner. In another word there are a lot of wires pulled to the switches. I have a picture of all the wires pulled to a hole in the fascia, but it’s one of those that is sideways and for whatever reason can’t be corrected.
I then installed all the switches and LED indicators in the fascia and wired those up before mating the fascia to the yard wires.
I should also note that before installing the switches and LED’s that I painted all the fascia panels and used RC striping tape to indicate the track.
I then joined the two and screwed the fascia in place.
Side note: The reason for the oddness in the way the tracks are laid out in the diagram on the fascia is – I had six switches controlling six turnouts, thus when I laid out the track diagram I did it for six tracks. I didn’t figure out till after I drilled the first six holes for switches and LED’s that six turnouts feed into eight tracks. So the above layout is an effort to save the work I had into the fascia.
Along with the track numbers I also added the capacity of each track as measured in forty foot cars as they were most prevalent at the time.
I took the track diagram as far as the New Brighton yard as I have not completely figured it out yet. More on that at a later date. But the track diagram up to that point does include the hidden siding for the power plant. You’ll notice that the tracks for this siding are in yellow. My plan is to have the main in white and the sidings in a different color. At this time most likely in all yellow.
It is the and of January and I have some actual progress to report on the railroad. First of all, for those wondering about the roundhouse, progress on it is as far as it can go until it is set in place. And when that will happen is a whole post on it’s own.
So what have I gotten done. Well, as I mentioned at the beginning of the month, I had cut a whole bunch of wood so that things could get done. First the “power box” that I touched on in that post.
I have been reading in multiple blogs and forums that one should be able to kill the power to the whole railroad should something happen. Add to that all the extension cords and power strips I had everything hooked up to, I figured I should do something. My answer was a box that would control power to the deck lights, aisle lights, blue rope lights for night lighting and all the power to the DCC system and related equipment.
It is simply a box tucked into the one of the electronic cabinets that has power to it, with switches on the front for the different functions and outlets on the back for the related items. Here is a photo of the finished box in place.
It wasn’t hard to do, just a little time consuming, but I already feel it has been worth it as I used to have to plug in two cords to get the deck lights on in order to work on things on the lower deck. Now, I just flip a switch.
Next was the missing backdrop sections. Those installed were: The short section near the power station between the staging yard and the power station, behind the roundhouse and behind the berm scene.
I have one section left on the lower level which is on the backside of the berm scene. I have the piece cut but have not installed it yet. The gaping hole between the piece behind the roundhouse and the berm scene is where the helix will be. Its backdrop won’t be installed until it’s installed.
The next thing I have been working on has been the fascia around the lower level. I had started with the piece under the staging yard and have been working my way around. I have it in place all the way up to the town of Jackson. However, I stopped just outside of town as I’m trying to figure out some of the scenery contours and need to figure out how wide to cut the next piece to accommodate a hill that acts as a scenic block.
I also have mounting the UP5 panels for the DCC system to the fascia. I made a mounting template out of styrene to mark screw hole location and the hole for the circuit board. Fun to make and it makes it easier to mark the holes and keeps things consistent.
Lastly, the first set of doors are done and installed. These are on the side that faces the stairway up to the family room. Since there is no door that would block the view of the unfinished layout, it has been my wife’s biggest bug-a-boo and why she wanted them in.
As I said this is the first set, only 25 more doors to make. But the heat is off to get them done.
So looking back at January what have I learned. Probably the same thing you had noticed, that after several months of not being able to work on anything major downstairs, I was all over the board trying to get everything done. Time to sit back and take stock of where I’m at and organize where I’m heading.
I would like to wish everyone a Happy Memorial Day and offer my heartfelt thanks and appreciation to all those who served and especially those who have sacrificed all for our freedom and country.
I have finished and started several things this past week. Pretty good considering the work load right now with my job.
First: I have the track in up to the helix transition. Yup, check that off the list.
While I was installing it and constantly bumping my head, I realized that a bunch of the “stuff” that I had put off till later should probably get done before I get much farther. First and foremost is the backdrop in this area. That way I can also install the base and track for the gravel company.
And then I figured that if I was going to cut the hardboard for the backdrop here, I might as well cut all the backdrops. Upper level included. Which means first I had to install all of the half inch base boards for the backdrops on the upper level.
So second: I did just that. all of the baseboards installed.
Then I remembered that before I could install the backdrops on the upper level I would have to get all of the upper level valance supports into place as the backdrops will be notched around these.
So… third: I started to install the valance supports.
I have all of these cut, the problem was that I only had enough pocket hole screws to get just this corner in place. Late on Memorial Day is not the time that you are going to be able to run out and buy more.
This whole episode is very much like the story – If you give a mouse a cookie.
A couple of other things that I have been working on. First is a background building for Jackson. It started out life as a Walther’s Water Street Freight Terminal. I am making it into a light manufacturing building. Because the space is only 4 1/4 inches deep here, I had to narrow the depth. I used the backside of the main building that I cut off to lengthen the building. Right now I’m working on the mortar lines in the brick. After that I’ll add the windows and such. To make it look more like a manufacturing plant than a warehouse, I’ll add venting ducts, piping and perhaps some tanks to the outside.
Here’s what I started with:
And here’s where I’m at so far:
One last thing, I installed a concrete retaining wall behind the buildings along the berm in New Brighton. I was out of the mix of paint that I use for old concrete and used Floquil “aged concrete” paint that I had on hand. The color looks nothing like old concrete. So I bought some paint and mixed my color and started to repaint it. Below is a picture of the wall and the two colors as well as a couple of what the scene will look like when finished.
That’s it for this week, till next time – Happy Railroading…
I have finished laying the roadbed for the town of Brandon. As I have mentioned before, Brandon is a agricultural based town smaller than Jackson. As it is just ahead of the helix the mainline cuts across the benchwork at an angle. This actually works out well as the town is then laid out at a right angle to the mainline adding visual interest to the scene.
In my last post I had talked about the over planning that had taken place with this town. Way too much ( and complicated ) track work. I slimmed down the plan to:
The mainline, a team track, a siding for a lumber company and a siding that will serve a grain elevator, an oil dealership and as the lead for the gravel company siding.
And while I had said before that I was using bits and pieces of other layouts as Layout Design Elements ( a term coined by TonyKoester ) the layout for Brandon came from an old photograph of a small Midwestern town. If it worked for the real thing it should work for a model railroad. The cool part is that there is almost no compression to get it to fit.
The thing I liked best about the design of the town is the variety of cars that will be needed to serve the few industries in town. Boxcars for the grain elevator, team track, oil dealership, lumber company, and supplies for the gravel company. Hoppers for the gravel company. Tank cars for the oil dealership. And last but least, flatcars for the team track and lumber company.
Should be a lot of action in a small space.
Anyways, got the plan drawn out and the cork down for the roadbed. I also put in the cork for the road crossing the tracks. There will be a few commercial buildings to suggest a town. They will be in between the road that crosses the tracks and the lumber company.
In the above photo you can see the two sidings, one for the gravel company and the other for the lumber company. They don’t continue because: for the gravel company I am waiting to get the backdrop in place, which won’t happen until the helix is in place and for the lumber yard I don’t actually have one yet and I won’t lay the cork until a know exactly what I’m dealing with.
One last photo;
You can see in the picture above that I have started to decal the home road boxcars. I am currently working on a logo for the railroad that will go into the empty space on the left end of the car.
Next up is finishing the planning of the New Brighton yard.
First and foremost, to all my US friends… Happy Thanksgiving. I hope you had a good day filled with family, friends, food and football.
I have read and reread my last post and I found it rather long and wordy. What I was trying to say in a nutshell was that until I got the lower level mainline in, the helix made no sense.
So with that in mind I installed the last couple of pieces of plywood for the New Brighton yard. This will tie together the staging area with the rest of the layout. Once installed, I realized a couple of things that probably weren’t going to happen.
In the first picture the mainline is going to loop around near the backdrop. I had hoped to fit a turntable and roundhouse inside the loop. The turntable is a must as I need to turn the steam engines, however the roundhouse will not fit. I am looking at several options to give the impression that there is a roundhouse here without actually having one. Also the back of the tall red building to the right will be up against the backdrop hiding the helix.
In the second picture near the bottom edge, you can see a couple of brick walkways. Again, I had hoped to have the station for New Brighton here. But a station would take up a lot of real estate that I need for a yard that already is a bit on the small side. I have the strips in place near the edge, again trying to create the impression of a station with out the station.
I have already started drawing out the track center lines for the yard and mainline. Once I have that more or less finalized I will see what I will be able to fit into the rest of the space.
Any work on the actual layout will be a bit slow between now and Christmas. My wife would like the cabinet doors done before Christmas, as there will be extended family over for the holidays and the layout is in plain view from the family room. I actually would like them done too, as this will remove the distraction of what’s below the layout.
I will keep you updated, till then – Happy Railroading…
So I FINALLY got the base for the helix in place ( more on the helix later… ) and I thought that after all this time it would be kind of an epic moment. Actually it was more anticlimactic. It wasn’t all that hard, once I had the time and materials it went rather quickly and dropped into place.
Once in place, I laid out the outline for the helix itself. With that established, I laid out the return loop because I needed to get that in place and running before I could build up from there. As I had mentioned before the entrance track swings off the main and cuts through the backdrop, it then swings around and comes back across the bridge that is part of the berm scene ( more on that in a minute also ).
In order to get from the main to the helix base required a piece of plywood subroadbed, so first I made a cardboard template.
As you will notice I also had to cut a piece of the upright support in order to get the track through the backdrop. With the template in hand I went out to the garage to cut the piece out of plywood. Took no time at all and the piece dropped right into place.
As you can see, everything was moving along so well that I had the cork roadbed in place before I realized that I had not taken a picture of just the plywood piece in place. You can see towards the top of the picture that the cork roadbed is laid all the way around and comes up just short of the bridge.
It’s at this point that I realized that I was moving way to fast. First of all, if I had not stopped and laid the cork up to the bridge, I then would have started to lay the track and if I had done that I would have then had to tear some of it up. See the picture below and I will explain.
As you can see in the picture above, the street is not finished or mounted to the plywood base. In order to do that I have to pull out the bridge abutments ( which also needs to be mounted ). So I stopped and I will have to get the street painted and permanently mount both the abutments and street.
More importantly I realized that even if I get the return loop in and running, building the helix is kind of stupid.
I think I have been fixated on the helix because I have never built one. I have built layouts before, built benchwork, laid track and wired it. I have built scenery and backdrops, but I have never built a helix and it is one of the untried challenges that I have been looking forward too. If I started it now, it be a helix to no where. If you can’t run a train to the helix, then what use is the helix.
I mentioned early on that my plan was to work linearly and building the helix now would be jumping ahead. Besides, if I don’t get the rest of the subroadbed in place then the starting height of the helix is just a guess.
So the plan now is to get the rest of the subroadbed in place on the lower level. I started with the next town in line between Jackson and the helix. This will be the town of Brandon, a smaller agricultural based town. I installed the base for this town and was able to figure out where the tracks will enter the helix, although the exact height has yet to be established.
With the starting point for the helix established I worked around the outline of the helix and marked where all the support risers will go. It probably isn’t all that important, but it gave me an idea if there will be any conflicts with anything else that would make installation a problem.
The only other base plywood to install is for New Brighton, I have it cut and just have to install it. After it is in I will begin laying out the mainline and then the sidings. Then the track, wiring etc… Get the mainline running to the helix and then the helix.
Yes I know, this post is long overdue for a couple of reasons. First, I appreciate everyone who has stopped by even though there wasn’t anything new for the last month. It’s not for lack of trying, and I hate to keep using the excuse that life happens ( even though it does ). On my last post I said that I should have something to report on within a week or so, and I truly thought I would, but things didn’t go as planned. So here it is, but life happens.
I could have also titled this post ( and happily so ) ” Benchwork completed “. Yes that’s right I finally finished the base for the helix, which technically means all basic benchwork is in place.
Other than everything that has been going on, I think the biggest hang up for me has been the fact that I had to cut open the wall to the utility room in order to get enough room for the helix to fit. I realized this as I stared at the wall and had a hard time imaging chopping into it. I did finally overcome the reluctance and pushed forward.
When we built the house in ’97 I noticed a trend in higher end homes and decided that I wanted a “wired” home. Unfortunately the builder didn’t have a clue what I was talking about. He was however willing to let me do the work myself after his crew left for the day. So I drilled holes, installed the boxes and pulled cables with the help of the kids. Multiple coax cables for antenna and cable, multiple phone lines, data cable for the LAN and whole house stereo. Even the building inspector kind of looked at me funny, but since it was all low voltage lines he just shook his head and gave it a pass. What has this got to do with opening up the wall you might ask. Well as it turns out some of this terminated on the wall in the utility room I was about to tear out. So first up was to relocate this to a different wall, and after a couple of days I was ready.
And then it was time. I marked the section of wall that had to come out for the helix to tuck into the utility space. After it was marked and I re-measured to make sure that there would there was enough clearance to get the beast into place, I cut out the sheetrock and wall studs that needed to go. After that I installed blocking between the studs to protect the sheetrock from breaking and to give me a base for that day when I would have to repair the wall.
Before building the helix base I had to disassemble some of the adjoining benchwork. I had mentioned this before as I was moving the berm scene over slightly and had to recut some of the joists for that benchwork before I could complete the helix base. Once done the benchwork for the helix went together rather quickly. I wish I had not put this off as I would be much farther ahead today. Oh well. Below is a photo of the benchwork with a cardboard template laid in place. Even though I tend to be able to visualize things in 3D that I have drawn out, the size of the thing still took me a little by surprise.
Also, below are a couple of photos of the reworked berm scene. As you can see from the picture looking down the tracks towards the helix the mains are going to have to curve slightly to the left to avoid the helix, but the third track that is the staging/return loop will run right in to place. It’s going to take some creative scenery/building placement to hide the track leaving the main and going under the helix. Again, oh well, no said it all was going to be simple.
You will also note the diverging route that will cut through the backdrop, again something that is going to need a little creativity to hide.
Next up is laying the plywood base for the helix. I plan on covering the whole base with 3/4″ plywood, probably not necessary, but it will make a more secure base. After that will be running the return loop and getting it operational and after that… the helix itself. I hope things will progress more quickly then they have, but I can’t promise anything. We are quickly running out of summer and there are things that have to be done before the weather turns. I will make a point of not letting some much time elapse between posts though.
Just got back from another week long business trip, but during the week I was home before this trip I was able to get a couple of things done. I just didn’t have time to post anything.
Heading south from Jackson you come around the bottom leg of the peninsula into the city berm scene I had talked about before. Below is a photo that I posted before, it’s of the scene as originally conceived.
It’s kind of hard to see from this angle but I had intended to have a double track bridge with a single track bridge right behind it. As I actually started working towards this scene I found out that I didn’t have enough room to get the rear track switched off the main and head onto the rear bridge. Looking over the situation I found I could get the track separated far enough if I – A: moved the whole scene over about 8″ and – B: changed the double and single bridges into a single triple track bridge. I was able to modify the girder portion of the bridge into a triple track bridge as the Walthers kit is made for this modification. However, having already built the abutments, modifying them wasn’t as easy. In fact, to say I butchered them would be extremely kind.
So off to the LHS to get a couple of new bridges. For those who care, my hobby shop of choice in the Minneapolis/St. Paul area is Becker’s Model Railroad supply in New Brighton. He had one kit in stock and ordered the second which I had in a couple of days. In case you’re wondering I needed two kits because they build into a double track bridge, if you want three tracks you need two kits.
One of the things I found is that when you build this kit as instructed for a triple track bridge you will end up with about a 1/2″ gap between the girder portion of the bridge and the actual bridge abutment, which works out to about 4 scale feet. The gap is extremely noticeable and looks like crap. So I took some time and studied the model to figure out how to modify it to eliminate the gap and have the abutment look symmetrical. I should note that I had to build the abutment first as it sets the width of the subroadbed.
Below is how I modified and built the abutments.
First I modified the base of the abutment which is also the sidewalk. I marked where I would cut the sidewalk section. In the photos below I highlighted these with arrows.
After I cut and joined these I began the modification of the actual abutment section. I started with the pillar section of the bridge.
The photo above shows where I cut the pillar section. One of the things that the instruction wants you to do is to cut the double pillar( the center one on the lower pillar section ) but I figured if I cut through smaller cross section next to the double pillar I would have a less noticeable seam to fill and hide. Below is a photo with the cuts made, but before assembly.
Once I started to glue the pillars together, I also started to glue the backings on to add strength but I made sure that I staggered the joints so that no two joints were on top of each other.
Once the pillar section was done I glued the works together, filled and sanded the joints.
Though I kept checking as I was assembling the abutment, once I finished I put the girder section in place and was happy with the result as there was very little gap when in place.
After I finished the bridge abutment I was able to cut the subroadbed and put the works in place. I was then able to lay the cork roadbed in place.
In the photo above you can see a track that is heading to nowhere. The track to nowhere and the rear track on the bridge are for a return loop that will be underneath the helix and needs to be in place and operating before the helix goes up. In the original plan the area I’m using as a return loop is actually a set of staging tracks that feed into the yard. I reversed the direction so that I can set up a portion of the layout with continuous running. Trains can reverse here, run around the peninsula, up the helix and again around the upper portion of the peninsula and then into a reverse loop on the upper level. When I picked this plan, continuous running was the one thing I felt it lacked. I was happy when I figured out how to do this as I like to sometimes watch trains just run. Also I can orbit a train as I switch towns and have to clear the mainline as the other train comes through.
Below is a photo of how the scene will look when finished.
As you can see in the photos I will now have to do some modification of the bench work structure as it is the way of everything. The up side is that I now have more room for structures in the background which will greatly add to the depth of the scene.
I know that I have been putting it off for what seems like forever, but I have some open time coming up. Which means that I will have the base of the helix done probably within the next week or two. This is truly important as it is not only the base for the helix but also the tracks leading into the yard at New Brighton.