I hope everyone is having a great Holiday Season. While I have been busy with family and work, I have had a chance to continue on the helix. Just not as much as I had hoped. I guess that’s the way it goes.
I did get the second ring of the helix installed. Tracks in and wired and successfully tested. Which leads to some thoughts on the way helixes are monitored.
This has been and continues to be one of the great divides on using a helix. Many will tell you that they would never use one for a couple of reasons. First, they are a tremendous real estate suck. Yes, yes they are. I have devoted about 30 square feet to mine. That’s a lot of space, especially if you are working in tight quarters. Fortunately I have the space.
The second is, you can’t see what’s going on and have no idea if the train is even moving.
My solution to that one.
One could just leave the helix open so that you could see what’s happening. My sense of aesthetic won’t allow me to have this great big monster hanging out in the open. I don’t know, maybe we should chalk it up to OCD.
My plan is the following. First the progress.
You can see above that both tracks end in the same place. Not something that happens when laying track with two different diameters. They were cut off together because this is the end of the first detection block. There will be a three over three signal at the entrance to the helix top and bottom. The upper signal head will show occupancy for the first section as the train navigates up or down. The lower the second section. The operator will have the visual cue of the signals so that they know there is movement.
If this isn’t enough, I have a two camera monitor that the operator can watch.
You can choose between the two cameras or have a split screen of both. The cameras will be placed (I hope) so that one can see the entire helix as well as the upper and lower return loops. Will see how that works out. I had picked this up at Lowes years ago on clearance. When I got it home and played with it I really liked it. Went back to get another but they were gone. The newer security systems are way too expensive (my opinion) for what I need. Mainly because they all have DVR’s built in. Don’t need a replay of the train in the helix.
Any ways, my solution to the problem.
I did get the third ring assembled and set into place.
One thing that struck me was, with only two loops, it didn’t strike me as a helix. With the third in place it now “looks” like a helix.
Still have several family functions to attend through new years, so there won’t be much work done downstairs. After the 1st though I should be back at it.
One of the things I have been working on is planning the New Brighton Yard. You may have thought that I had it planned out. After all I had the main line in and running through. I also had a number of full industries as well as background buildings set in place. But there was never a full plan.
I knew what I would like to have, but the space just isn’t there. I could get close to what I want but it would mean removing the engine service facility. Which wouldn’t be a deal if I was running diesels and didn’t need to turn them. But I’m not, I’m running steam and you have to be able to turn them around.
Or I could wrap it around the other end but that would cut into the staging yard. Nope, it’s never going to be a full classification yard. With that realization I have been moving ahead with the space.
One of the first things I did was to pull the background buildings out. While they do present switching potential, they use up a lot of space. Both physically and the room you need for the trackage and turnouts to service them. The full industries, the dairy, stockyards, power plant and a as yet to be named industry, will stay.
With the background buildings:
And with them pulled:
As you can see in the above photo I have my photocopied turnouts set in place for the ladder. Below is a better picture.
You will also note that there is a double slip switch at either end of the yard. Now I don’t like to use them any more then the real railroads liked to, but they do make other aspects of the yard work. For example, by having the one closest to us in the picture, I am then also able to have a switching yard lead so as not to block the mainline.
As it sits now I believe this is the way the yard will be. Not totally happy with it, (and won’t be till I magically gain more space) but for now it will do. I will probably hold of ballasting the track until I have used the yard for a while, just to make sure it works. Or if some tweaks need to be made.
As far as background, I will be putting in some very shallow non rail served buildings in to serve as a backdrop.
Next is pick up some turnouts and lay some track and see if it will work.
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.
Hi, it’s been a bit, sorry about that. In this end of February update I’m going to cover a few things. So here goes…
First – Picture problem fixed.
Actually I’m not sure there was an actual problem, I’ll explain. I got a new camera as my old one was getting outdated. If only in terms of current technology. It’s an old Canon Rebel XTi with a 10 megapixel sensor. A great camera that’s still working perfectly. But because I use the camera for work too, it could be better. So I got a new Canon Rebel T6i that has a 25 megapixel sensor and a faster processor. Figured I could shoot better (more detailed) pictures of the layout, plus I can shoot video with it also. Turns out the website didn’t like the larger pictures, 10mb with the new camera as opposed to 3mb with the old. So for this post I shot the pictures with the old one. It was that or I had to “dumb” down the new camera. Any way, as I said, problem solved.
Second – The “speed bump”.
As I had mentioned in an earlier post, before I wired the track I had down, I had run into a speed bump. It was quite literally a speed bump. As I was laying track from the turnouts from the reverse loop to the yard at New Brighton over the bridge in the berm scene, I failed to notice a bump in the tracks at the end of the bridge. It was only as I was pushing a string of cars over the tracks that I had laid that I found the problem. There was a 1/4″ rise in the tracks over a 6″ length of track. A 1/4″ rise means the cars uncouple, not good.
Turns out that I failed to screw down the plywood base that this end of the bridge was mounted to and the plywood had a slight warp to it. I know that I had looked at the plywood sticking up and had thought that I would have to do something about it, but my brain never made the connection. So I had to pull up the track, the roadbed and the subroadbed to fix the problem (that’s why I went ahead and wired the rest of the track and came back to this). Any ways I have fixed the problem.
Third – Track down and wired.
Just so you know, I haven’t been sitting on my behind. I have the return loop in and wired. Held my breath, as I have never used an auto reverser (the AR-1) before, ran a train through it and it worked perfectly.
Next, I laid the track from the switches to the staging yard and wired them up.
I only have the “main line” laid through the yard as I have yet to figure out the rest of the yard. The background buildings are temporary, as I have yet to figure out their placement. The stockyards/meat packing plant is important because if I had not talked about it before, New Brighton had the largest stockyards west of Chicago and needed to be included.
The last “industry” in the yard is the power plant. It hides the hole from the staging yard to the “real world”. I had planned on a single hidden track in the staging area for it, but found that I could put two tracks (switched) into the space.
So there you have it. I can now run a train from the area just before the staging area to the town of Brandon or from Brandon south through the return loop and back to Brandon.
What’s next? Wiring the staging yard. Only a deal because each track will have a switch to turn it off so as not to have a bunch of sound equipped engines idling away. Then, laying the track in the town of Brandon itself. After that? It’s on to the helix and the upper level.
Wow, for some reason the upper level never seemed to be on my radar. How cool is that.
Welcome to my mid January update. I realize that it’s a boring title, but a bunch has happened and I wasn’t sure which topic to title this post with. But before I get started with what I’ve accomplished since my last post, I would like to get several complaints off my chest.
Short of a home improvement store, do you know how hard it is to find basic Elmer’s white glue. It seems stores carry all types of glue but not basic white glue.
Solder-on wire connectors. Everything is now crimp-on, ask anywhere for solder-on connectors and you get a blank stare.
And solder. With Radio Shack going under and being reorganized there are far fewer around. They used to be everywhere, and now the closest is a bit of a drive from my house, so I called and the answer was…pause..I think we do.
On 2 and 3 above I asked the owner of my LHS (the hobby shop is his retirement career, his first was as an electrical engineer) as I figured he would now where to get them. His answer was on : #2: I have no idea, use crimp-on and solder them and #3: I’m not sure. So when wiring is started I’m using crimp-on connectors and soldering them. As far as solder, I ordered it online .
OK, got that off my chest, sorry.
First, I finished the cork roadbed up to where the cork sheets start in New Brighton yard and no, the cork sheets from Midwest Products have not shipped yet.
Not resting on my laurels, I started laying the track. Starting at the switches for the reverse loop (probably because that’s what I had said I going to do in my last post) I headed north through Jackson. Originally, I figured I would lay the mainline, get it wired and come back and do the sidings. I found it much easier (and fulfilling) to do all the trackwork as I went along.
The work moved along well, the only thing that really slowed me down was the crossovers. The diverging routes of the turnouts all had to be cut down to fit the spacing between mainlines and sidings. The track is a mix of weathered track (from the mainline of the old layout), non weathered (from the old staging yards) and a mix of weathered and new switches. The OCD in me can’t wait to get it all weathered.
I laid the mainline through Jackson and about half ways around the peninsula. Then I went back and started working from the reverse loop switches towards New Brighton yard. I got as far as fitting the tracks over the bridge in New Brighton. And then ran out of weekend.
But before I could leave it for the night, the OCD kicked in again. I understand the gaps between sections of flex track where the ties are removed is part of track laying, but again it bothers my sense of order. So I hauled out my old bag of ties. These are from BK Enterprises. I’ve had these for longer then I can remember and I’m not even sure the company is still around. I’m sure they are sold for those who have the time and patience to hand lay their own track, but they work great for replacing the missing ties. The great thing about them is that they are slightly thinner then the ties on the flex track and slide right under the rail joiners.
I should have the rest of the track laid for the reverse loop (need to remember to finally pick up that AR-1) and the track up to New Brighton yard in short order. Then I will start running the buss and feeder wires and we’ll see about getting this to the stage of an operating model railroad. With the track work done in Jackson, I will have at the very least, a nice switching layout.
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.
As I may have mentioned earlier, track planning is not my strong suit. With that in mind I have been working on the yard in New Brighton with some success. However, what I want and what will fit, although close, hasn’t been quite working out.
So I decided to switch gears and work on what I thought would be something a lot easier. That would be the town of Brandon which is in between Jackson and the helix. As I said before, I envisioned it as a smaller town than Jackson, but still big enough to generate enough traffic to make it important to the railroad.
My first attempt at a plan for this town was, although not a disaster, far more complicated than I wanted. I added in a lot more sidings than was needed, almost a small yard.
As you can see in the picture above or maybe not, as things are only penciled in, the switching was quite extensive and include a two track yard. Also there were two tracks for the grain elevator which was totally unnecessary. Not shown are the siding for the team track next to the depot as well the lead off to the gravel company. Like I said, track planning is not my thing and I tend to overdue it.
So I pulled back and somewhat simplified it.
First I removed one of the tracks next to the elevator, as well as the one of the “yard” tracks. There is still one siding track that connects between the elevator track and the track that leads off to the gravel company on the north end of town. The team track next to the depot remains and there is a track on the north end that will serve a lumber yard. That track can be seen in the middle picture. I am considering a fuel oil dealer served by the “yard ” track, but not sure, we’ll see.
I should have the final for Brandon done soon. Then I’ll get the cork roadbed in place. Once I have the New Brighton yard finalized I will start laying track from the staging yard to the helix. Then will come the wiring, and then…GASP!… I will actually be able to run a train.
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.
When a model railroader talks about “track cleaning” your first thought would be either a bright boy, cleaning solution or a tracking cleaning car being pushed around the layout.
I had mentioned earlier that when the old layout came down I was happy that I had used diluted white glue to hold the ballast in place. Because when it came time to lift the track off all I had to do was wet the track work and slide a putty knife underneath to lift it off the roadbed. The problem is that all the ballast is still glued to the track work.
I had planned to pick a nice summer day and spend a few hours cleaning it outside on the deck, as I didn’t want to do this in the basement because of the water. Best intentions and all, I found myself quickly running out of summer. Faced with the fact that I will be done with the basic benchwork soon and will want to start laying track as soon as it’s done and the weather will getting colder outside, I carved out an afternoon to get it cleaned off.
Not that it’s difficult to do. I set up a pair of saw horses and put a plastic storage box with the track in it on them. Next I filled it with warm water and let it soak for awhile.
Then I spent the next 3 hours with a small brush scrubbing ballast off the track. At first I had doubts that I would be able to finish it in one day as the pile of track in the storage container never seemed to dwindle. But you tend to find a rhythm and the work went pretty fast.
My question is this: How come you never hear about anybody having to do this? There have been plenty of people who have torn down major layouts in the railroad publications so that they can build a new major layout. But they never talk about saving the old track and prepping it for the new layout. Do they not save it? I can’t imagine scrapping it all and buying new. I will admit that the thought of starting over again with all new track is extremely appealing, I just can’t even wrap my head around the cost of replacing it all.