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.
I know “Early May update” is a little ambiguous, but I was unsure as how to title this post as I have accomplished two different things.
First, when I was planning the layout I knew I would be building a helix to connect the decks. It was the how that I wasn’t sure of. There are about as many ways to build one as there are people who build them, probably no single one is any more “right ” then any other. I just wasn’t sure how I was going to tackle it. Because you can’t obviously cut a whole helix out of a single piece of plywood, you are going to have to join the individual pieces together. Which in turn means that you are going to have to allow for clearance for splice plates if used on the bottom of individual pieces or come up with a creative way to join the pieces together where you don’t have to worry about clearance issues.
I decided to go with the latter. First was to try and figure the most efficient use of a piece of plywood. You can’t get a full turn out of a 4′ x 8′ sheet, but you can get two half circles out of one but with a tremendous amount of waste. Same goes for 1/4 turns. But I did figure that if I broke the circle into sixths ( a 60 degree arc ) I might be able to efficiently use a full sheet of plywood. Second was how to join the pieces together. What I came up with was to use 3/8″ plywood. I would take the 6 pieces and lay them out in a circle and then laminate them to 6 more pieces offset by half( a joint every 30 degrees ).
Then the problem was cutting all the pieces out and getting them to align right. I figures I could cut a master out and then use it to make the pieces using it and a pattern bit in my router table, but the thought of trying to get a ” perfect” master was a bit beyond my abilities. Turns out I didn’t have to . It occurred to me that my brother owns a metal cutting shop that uses high pressure water, computer controlled cutting machines. I asked if he could do this for me and gave him the dimension that I needed, he plugged them into the computer and in no time I had a the master I wanted cut out of 1/4″ aluminum.
Now I wish that I could tell you that I was cutting the pieces for the helix, but I still have that issue of the train room being used for storage while we wait for the carpet install. What I am doing though is working on the subroadbed leading up to the helix as I need to set the entry height of the helix loops.
I bought a half sheet ( 4’x 4′ ) of 3/4″ plywood for the curves around the end of the peninsula and using the master, traced a bunch of curved section on it to try and see how many I could expect to get out of a full sheet. I was hoping to get 12 pieces as this would be enough for a full circle ( when using the 3/8″ plywood ), as it turned out I got 7 pieces out of the half sheet which means I can comfortably get 14 and possibly 15 out of a full sheet. YAY! Below are a series of photos that shows how it was done.
Since I already had the plywood base in for the town of Jackson, I worked up and down from there. Jackson is 3/4″ above 0, so I worked down from there to my 0 height. Coming out of Jackson is the end of the peninsula. The half curve there is a 2″ rise which matches the rise in the helix. If a train has a problem here, it won’t make it up the helix, better to know where you can see the train then when it’s in the helix and you can’t see it. Below are photos of the curves installed, you will also see that I got the backdrops painted.
As you can see I also started planning the track arrangement for Jackson, but as it turns out it is it’s own special hell and worthy of it’s own post.
Since my last post ( well not actually my last post which was about my 1 year anniversary, but the one before that ) I spent time getting ready for a business trip and then was in New York for 7 days. Once we got back it was catching up on work around the house, both business and personal. When I had a chance to get downstairs I sat there and lamented the fact that I couldn’t move ahead on the layout until our little remodeling project was finished.
Let me explain, the “remodel” isn’t anything more then paint ( finished ) and new carpet on the lower level. The reason I can’t move forward is that when this happens all the furniture from the lower level ( family room and bedroom ) has to go somewhere. And that somewhere is the “basement”, also know as the train room.
When we finally got around to ordering carpet I found out that the install wouldn’t be until mid May. Not wanting to sit around and stare at the layout without making progress, I decided that I had to do something. So… I decided to break my rule of working in a linear fashion ( ie. completing the bench work before moving ahead with other things ) and move ahead. Technically anyone who has been following this site will note that I had already broken this rule because I had laid track in both the staging yard and part of the Duluth harbor area.
My first thought was to wire in the feeder wires for the staging yard, but this seemed a little to tedious. Also I haven’t had the chance to get over to the storage locker to retrieve the throttles.
I then turned towards putting the subroadbed in place leading to the helix. This will have to be done before I can start the actual helix as it will set the height for the entry into the helix’s first turn. This also meant that I should put the backdrop panels into place on the lower level. And thus I had a plan. So starting from 0 ( the level of the staging yard and New Brighton Yard ) I worked around the peninsula counter clockwise. First stop the town of Jackson.
There will be a 3/4″ rise at Jackson, so I installed risers along this section of the peninsula for the towns base. Fairly simple, a ripped 1″ wide strips of plywood and screwed them to the joists.
After the risers were in place I added in the backdrop along this section.
And then I couldn’t help myself I had to put the subroadbed in place for Jackson so that I could get a sense of the space I had for the town.
And now because I had the base for the town in place, I wanted to start laying out the town, but I stopped myself, because then I would want to layout the track plan for the town and then start laying track and then… You know – if you give a mouse a cookie.
So I continued and finished the backdrop around the lower level. The only areas that I didn’t do are those that will be next to the helix. Until it’s in place I not sure of the backdrops final location.
After finishing the backdrop I was able to start planning the town of Jackson. However this does mean a trip to the storage locker because some of the buildings that will populate Jackson are packed away in boxes there. Well I suppose I can pickup the throttles at the same time.
It’s been a month since my last post and I’m sure you would be expecting a report on progress on the layout. Though there has been no progress I can now ( happily ) tell you that there will be progress soon. Let me explain.
For the last 13 years both my wife and I have worked for the same company and quite honestly saw our futures there. Unfortunately that was not to be. The company has had some financial difficulties and everything was on the table, pay cuts from top to bottom, possible layoffs and terminations.
During this time everything was uncertain and my wife and I talked over all scenarios. Included in these were ” the worst case scenario”. That being that if we had to we might have to sell the house and move into a rental until things got better. Let me tell you that is a very sobering thought and it wasn’t till later that when I went downstairs to my ” happy place ” that I realized that meant tearing down the layout. And while I thought about that, I started to wonder if that happened would I ever be in a position again to again build a large layout or any layout.
After discussions with the owners, we took a severance package, and then started to make calls. I can now happily tell you that we have found employment with another company with a tremendous amount of growth potential. Though it is not the future that we envisioned originally, it is a future that is exciting, with a little bit of the unknown thrown in. Kind of like building a large layout. It’s not exactly like you planned, it changes, but it all works all for the best.
I did keep busy during this time and will post very soon on this.
I have benchwork progress to report on. Unfortunately the keen of eye will catch that I used the word progress and not completion. I ran out of plywood 1×4’s and with a business trip to New York didn’t have time to cut more. And instead of waiting till I got them cut and installed them, I decided to post an update of my progress so far.
The peninsula end has turned out to be something of a monster to build. There has been a lot of tedious work involved, cutting the semicircle plywood pieces, the kerfed wood trim pieces, plus the filling of the kerfed pieces for painting and then there was working out how to support the upper deck around the peninsula perimeter.
All of the former was not a major problem, but rather just time consuming. The latter was the part that a lot of thought and engineering went into. The decks are 3 feet deep at this point and trying to support the upper deck was of major concern. The “aha” moment was when I realized that I did not need them to be 3 feet deep and it was actually better to keep them 2 feet deep like most of the rest of the layout. This meant that I could attach the joist to a central point and put a vertical support a foot out from that point to support them. The end result was very acceptable as the upper deck seems to very stable.
This is all rather good, as I had dreamed up some really elaborate engineering solutions to solve the problem. This actually is a rather simple solution. The hardest part was cutting the angled vertical pieces to support what I call the spokes ( the joists radiating out from the end of the peninsula support wall ). They are 3 sided, a 22 1/2 degree, a 45 degree and another 22 1/2 degree cut. Once I got them cut everything else fell into place and went together quickly. The added benefit to all of this is that once the backdrop panels are in place, they will cut down how much of the layout you can view from the end of the peninsula, making the layout seem bigger as you won’t be able to see the towns on either side of the layout at the same time.
Additionally as you look at the pictures below you will also notice that I started to install the top most joists to support the valance that will run around the layout. Though a valance was always in the plan, when I had first started the first wall I had no idea on how I was going to install it. When I started the second wall I figured that I could support it the same way that I did the upper deck. I just would not need a joist every foot but could go every to 2 feet ( I could probably go three feet but you have to remember that the light bulbs are on two foot spacing ). So if you look back at the early posts you will notice that I dropped the upper most 1/2 horizontal down 3 1/2 inches to support the valance joists on the second wall and going forward. Because of the way the peninsula end construction is I had to install these at the time I was building it, the rest will have to installed before any work is done on the upper deck.
Anyways, below is a progression of the peninsula end construction to date.
I will be cutting and installing additional 1×4’s in the next week or two as there is always work that piles up while I am gone and needs to be caught up first.
Work progresses, yes that’s right, I finally got some time and made a little progress on the benchwork. After my last post we headed out to Los Angeles on a business trip for a week. While it was a week lost, again that pesky need to pay the bills, the upside was when we left, it was 14 degrees BELOW zero here and was 80 degrees above in LA.
Anyways, once we got back the weather ( meaning temperature ) improved and I heated the garage and got some plywood cut. I got the basic cabinet bases done for the peninsula end.
Since I took the picture I was able to cut and install the other upper quarter round brace on the end cabinet. The last thing I need to cut is the finish frame pieces for the half round end. These will be finished with pieces that are kerfed so they bend around the curve. Unfortunately while I can kerf short pieces on my table saw, I cannot not do long pieces. It just isn’t practical as they become rather unwieldy. I will have to head over to my brothers and use his radial arm saw, hopefully this week still.
While all of the other cabinets will have doors on them, the half round is designed as a open display shelf. After the frames are on I will then add the framework for upper and lower decks.
On a different note, Santa ( my wife ) was very good to me this year. I had refrained from putting anything model railroady on my Christmas wish lists for the last several years. In the past while I was between layouts I would continue to add to my stash, figuring that whatever I got, I was sure I could use it on any future layout. I now have more then I could ever hope to use. This year with a very clear picture of where I was going, I finally put a few things on the list.
First, a couple of structures.
The Merchants Row building is for the berm/bridge scene that I had talked about before. It will fill in nicely on the other side of the corner as I have another building for the opposite corner. The Power Station and accessories will hide where the track comes through the backdrop from the staging yard. I will “review” these as I build them and give my impressions and techniques that I use to build them.
Lastly is something that I’m pretty excited about. My wife thought it was a little weird until I explained what I wanted it for.
It’s a camera crane from ProAm USA ( www.proamusa.com ). It will help when I start photographing the layout as scenes are finished. I have ordered an underslung camera mount for it so I will be able to move the camera into a scene to get realistic ground level shots. It may seem a bit much, but I won’t have to try and hold the camera while lining up a shot and not knock everything over as I do it. At least that’s the theory. Also I may add a video camera to it and with the casters be able to follow a train along the layout. Again, theory.