Category Archives: Trackwork

Odds And Ends…

Well, we are into the last half of March which means it’s been way to long since I last sat down here. It’s not that I haven’t wanted to, I just have not had the time. Also, except for a couple of specific projects, I would have said that I really hadn’t gotten anything done. But looking around the other night I realized that I have accomplished a few things. So, without further ado, lets get you caught up.

First up is a craftsman kit that I picked up 30+ years ago. It is a Quality Craft Models Kit. Quick history, Quality Craft made kits in HO until about 1980. I had picked this up at a LHS off of their consignment shelf. I had finally got around to finishing up the assembly about 2 years ago. It then went to the paint area where it got pushed to the back. Well, looking for something to do I finally painted it.

GATX #96500 tank car.

It is a model of GATX #96500. This is a 63000 gallon tank car, commonly referred to as a Whale Belly car. It was 98ft long over the couplers. The only commercial plastic kit was made by Atlas in N scale. All that’s left is to decal it. Small problem, I can’t find it’s box or the decals. That is the real problem with a long term project. I’ll keep looking, however if I can’t find them the instructions are full sized. I can scan them and make new decals on my printer.

Next up is New Brighton Yard. I Know! Talked about this for a long time.

The meat packing plant.

The yard in New Brighton.

As you can see it isn’t and never will be a classification yard. There is the meat packing plant, the dairy, power station and a yet as unidentified business. Plus some trackage to store cars on for these businesses.

I also finally got the programming track in and wired. It’s next to the staging track lead.

The new programming track in the fore ground.

Last but not least I continued on with the basic ground cover in Jackson. I am now up to Main Street.

Basic scenery continued.

Basic scenery done up to Main Street in Jackson.

I wasn’t sure what to do with the space up front that is bordered by the front grain elevator and the switching spur. It is a crescent shaped space. Thought about throwing in a crop field of some sort. But looking at it the shape made me think of the outfield of a ball park. Thus, the city of Jackson got their “Town” ball field. If you are unfamiliar with small town baseball, you should find one and go sometime. They are usually very nice ball parks. The games do start later as all the players have to finish work, go home and eat. Then they head down to the park for the game. They are a lot of fun.

The new ball field is in.

That’s what I have for now. Next time I will cover one of the “specific” projects I had mentioned. The other was an Epic Fail and right now we are not talking about it.

Till then…

Back On Track…

Yup, I’m back on track. OK, enough with the stupid puns, I promise. I was able to get back out to the garage and get the plywood cut for the subroadbed  curve around the end of the peninsula. How was this possible? I was finally able to get  rid of the Candy Cart. Insert happy dance here. With it out of the way I have room to get things done now.

The cart went away around the end of October. With it gone I shifted into high gear. My goal was to have track in and wired on the upper deck up to and including the upper reverse loop by Thanksgiving. That way I could orbit a couple of trains. My family loves to see the layout and to see the trains run. However, watching a train run to the end of the finished track and stop just doesn’t cut it. I have learned that unless you’re into model railroading  you want to see trains running. Even if it’s a big circle.

With that in mind I got to work. I installed the curve around the end of the peninsula and the plywood for what will be “Interstate Junction”. Side note, I will have a post in the near future explaining the “Junction”.

Upper mainline around peninsula end in place.

Laying out the “Junction” required working out the return loop first. How the return loop lies determines where the track cuts off the mainline.

As I had mentioned before, the return loop crosses the mainline as it comes out of the helix. So that is where I started.

Upper helix lead. Return will crossover here and hide entrance to helix.
Laying out return loop.

With this laid out I added the support structure for the return loop subroadbed.

Planned bridge scene that will hide helix entrance.
Return loop over helix started.
Longer view of return loop entrance over helix.

The plan was for the loop to meet back up just past the bridge to head back out to the mainline. However I had clearance problems. The return loop ended up climbing a bit over the end of the helix. I had to run the loop down the other side of the divider before meeting back up.

Working on the return loop exit from over helix.
Laminating the subroadbed for the return loop exit.

Once I had this part laid out I went back and laid out the mainline track work and where the loop branched off.

Working from the junction to the return loop.
Approach track from junction to bridge scene.

And then it was just a matter of piecing everything together. Once done I started adding the cork roadbed.

Working on the track placement for Interstate Junction.
Cork in place and ready for track.

After the cork was in place it was on to the track and wiring.

Track in place for Interstate Yard.
Alternate view of junction.
Closer view of “The Junction”.
Track work in place for return loop.

I have kept all grades (the amount of rise or fall of the track) to 2% or less. Because of the climb over the end of the helix, the return loop drop is closer to 3%. I don’t see this as a problem because trains are traveling counter clockwise and the 3% is downhill.

Anyways… once the track was in and wired it was time.

First train headed into upper return loop.
Around and over upper helix lead.
And back out of the loop.

I was thrilled to have gotten this done. It has been a long time goal and now I’m there. Of coarse it was not problem free. When I wired in the lower return loop with the Digitrax (digitrax.com) AR-1, the return loop worked flawlessly. With the second wired into the upper loop I now have a problem. The first train entering each return loop (upper and lower) trips a breaker, pauses and then goes on. After that no more problems. Only thing at this time I can think of is to tweak the trip current on the AR-1’s.

AND this was all done Thanksgiving Eve. Trains ran beautifully on the big day.

With this done, I’m now able to let the trains run. Where this is important is getting all the engines out and running. They’ve been in storage for way to long. I’ll be able to see which are fine and which will need some TLC.

And that’s it for now. Till later…

 

 

 

October Update…

Hello and welcome to this, my October Update. Life has been pretty crazy since I last caught you up as to what I had accomplished on the layout. I’ve been really busy with a variety of things, but still have had time here and there to work on things downstairs.

After finishing the switch project and not having had a chance to cut the curved sub roadbed pieces, I looked around at “what’s next”. What I came up with was… back to scenery.

As you may recall, possibly not as it was a year ago, I had started some plaster work between the berm scene and Jackson. I had put in the landform and one coat of plaster cloth. So the first thing was to put a finishing layer of plaster down. Like I said, I’m pretty old school.

The start of scenery, first coat of plaster.
Plaster coat around the corner.
And the river scene is plastered.

As you can see in the first photo, I had put in foundations for the houses before the plaster.

Next step was to paint the track. On one of the forums a guy had pictures of switch point masks that he had 3D printed. Looking at the picture, they were pretty straight forward. So I made a set out of styrene strip and tubing.

Track painting switch point masks.

And yes, I have a left and right for the closure rails. It’s because of the outside rail divergence. Anyways the masks in place:

Switch point masks in place before track painting.

And after the coat of paint:

The track painted, masks still in place.

The finished product with the masks removed:

Painting masks pulled, will need to come in with a paint brush and touch up.

After this I just come in with a paint brush and touch up the places that need it. All in all they work great, paint one area, pull them and use them again. The color I’m using is Model Master (testors.com)acrylic – Railroad Tie Brown #4885. I then hit the rails with Woodland Scenics (woodlandscenics.com) Tidy Track paint marker “rusty rails”, part # TT4581. I had tried Testors CreateFX Rail Brown paint marker and though it’s a great rail color, it is too close to the tie color.

And for now this is where I’ll leave you. Back soon with a further update.

Till then, thanks for following along…

The Helix Continued…

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.

Second loop of helix in.

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.

Monitor and cameras for the helix.

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.

Third loop set in 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.

Till then, Happy New Year…

 

Planning New Brighton Yard…

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:

Another view of New Brighton Yard.

And with them pulled:

South end of the yard.

As you can see in the above photo I have my photocopied turnouts set in place for the ladder. Below is a better picture.

Overall view off New Brighton yard with turnouts set in place.

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.

Till next time, Happy Rairoading…

 

 

Staging Yard wired…

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.

Back of the yard panel – wired and ready to hooked to the yard.

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.

Track power switches and indicator LED’s.

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.

UP-5 panel for the yard and the yard track numbers with track capacity in 40 ft car lengths.

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.

Track diagram of the staging yard on the fascia.
Staging yard lead is in white, the storage tracks for the power plant are in yellow.

Well that’s what I’ve got for now, Till later…

 

 

End of February update…

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.

The evil "speed bump".
The evil “speed bump”.

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.

The arrow shows the joint that had to be leveled in order to level the tracks.
The arrow shows the joint that had to be leveled in order to level the tracks.
The area that had the "speed bump", now repaired.
The area that had the “speed bump”, now repaired.

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.

View of the berm scene with the return loop in the background.
View of the berm scene with the return loop in the background.

Next, I laid the track from the switches to the staging yard and wired them up.

The Loop around the engine facility into the yard.
The Loop around the engine facility into the yard.
Beginnings of the yard at New Brighton.
Beginnings of the yard at New Brighton.
The small stock yards and meat packing plant.
The small stock yards and meat packing plant.

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.

The power plant that will hide the hole to the staging yards.
The power plant that will hide the hole to the staging yards.
The throat for the staging yards and the hidden track for the power plant.
The throat for the staging yards and the hidden track for the power plant.

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.

Till next time, Happy Railroading…

 

 

 

 

Mid January Update…

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.

  1. 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.
  2. Solder-on wire connectors. Everything is now crimp-on, ask anywhere for solder-on connectors and you get a blank stare.
  3. 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.

Cork roadbed in place up to the New Brighton yard.
Cork roadbed in place up to the New Brighton yard

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.

Track work continues.
Track work continues.
Proceeding through the north end of town.
Proceeding through the north end of town.

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.

The track work complete for the town of Jackson.
The track work complete for the town of Jackson.
Some of the buildings in place with the track work complete in Jackson.
Some of the buildings in place with the track work complete in Jackson.
Jackson, south looking north with the track work on place.
Jackson, south looking north with the track work in place.
Track work proceeding along the berm scene heading towards New Brighton yard.
Track work proceeding along the berm scene heading towards New Brighton yard.
Track work being installed over the bridge in New Brighton.
Track work being installed over the bridge in New Brighton.

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.

Gaps in the ties from track laying.
Gaps in the ties from track laying.
Gaps filled with BK Enterprises ties.
Gaps filled with BK Enterprises ties.
BK Enterprises railroad ties. Can't even tell you how long ago I bought these.
BK Enterprises railroad ties. Can’t even tell you how long ago I bought these.

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.

Until next time, Happy Railroading…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Town of Brandon…

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 Tony Koester ) 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.

The town of Brandon, south looking north.
The town of Brandon, south looking north.
North end of town with the sidings for the lumber yard (right side) and the gravel company ( left side ).
North end of town with the sidings for the lumber yard (right side) and the gravel company ( left side ).

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.

Brandon, looking south.
Brandon, looking south.

One last photo;

The elevator with a home road boxcar.
The elevator with a home road boxcar.

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.

Stay tuned.

Until then, Happy Railroading…

 

 

Early December update…

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.

First attempt, first view.
First attempt, first view.

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.

Second attempt, from the south.
Second attempt, from the south.
Second attempt, north end of town.
Second attempt, north end of town.
Second attempt, north looking south.
Second attempt, north looking south.

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.

It’s going to happen, so stay tuned.

Until then, Happy Railroading…