Category Archives: Trackwork

Early July update…

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.

Head on view of the bridge/berm scene.
Head on view of the bridge/berm scene.

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.

where the splices in the base plate were made. In addition to joining for the third bridge deck, I had to shorten by half an inch.
where the splices in the base plate were made. In addition to joining for the third bridge deck, I had to shorten by half an inch.

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 placement of the splice cuts for the bridge abutment.
The placement of the splice cuts for the bridge abutment.

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.

Base cut and glued together and the abutment ready to be glued.
Base cut and glued together and the abutment ready to be glued.

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.

The joints for the rear of the abutment, cuts are offset to add strength to the front of the abutment.
The joints for the rear of the abutment, cuts are offset to add strength to the front of the abutment.

Once the pillar section was done I glued the works together, filled and sanded the joints.

The bridge abutment glued together and joints filled.
The bridge abutment glued together and joints filled.

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.

Bridge deck fitted to the bridge abutment.
Bridge deck fitted to the bridge abutment.
Bridge abutment primed and waiting for the finish color.
Bridge abutment primed and waiting for the finish color.

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.

Roadbed laid up to the bridge.
Roadbed laid up to the bridge.

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.

Low angle concept shot of what I want the finished scene to look like. Obviously there will have to be some modification of the bench work that is in the way.
Low angle concept shot of what I want the finished scene to look like. Obviously there will have to be some modification of the bench work that is in the way.
Birds eye view of where this scene is headed.
Birds eye view of where this scene is headed.

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.

Stay tuned, and Happy Railroading…

 

 

 

Early May update…

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.

Curved subroadbed laid out for cutting.
Curved subroadbed laid out for cutting.
The 1/4" aluminum pattern.
The 1/4″ aluminum pattern.
The blanks cut and ready for the router table.
The blanks cut and ready for the router table.
The first blank ready to go through the router.
The first blank ready to go through the router.
The first curved section cut and routed.
The first curved section cut and routed.
The set, though not lined up, all are perfect duplicates of the pattern.
The set, though not lined up, all are perfect duplicates of the pattern.

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.

the first curve in place. The incline matches that of what the helix will be.
the first curve in place. The incline matches that of what the helix will be.
View down the inside leg of the peninsula.
View down the inside leg of the peninsula.
View down the outside leg of peninsula. The town of Jackson is in the planning stages.
View down the outside leg of peninsula. The town of Jackson is in the planning stages.
View at the end of the peninsula.
View at the end of the peninsula.
The bottom leg of the peninsula, this is where the climb to the helix starts.
The bottom leg of the peninsula, this is where the climb to the helix starts.

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.

Until them, Happy railroading…

 

 

 

 

Track cleaning… not what you think.

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.

Track from the old layout needing to be cleaned.
Track from the old layout needing to be cleaned.
The track soaking in warm water.
The track soaking in warm water.

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.

Scrubbed clean of ballast and drying.
Scrubbed clean of ballast and drying.
Clean and dry, ready for installation when I get to that point.
Clean and dry, ready for installation when I get to that point.

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.

Trackwork started.

Since I’m unable to continue on the bench work due to the “car in the garage” , I thought that I would start laying track since I had already put down the plywood sub roadbed. No great revelations here folks, I’m pretty much old school when it comes to laying track. The roadbed is Midwest cork roadbed, nailed down. The track is then spiked to the roadbed, after the ballast is glued down I go back and pull the spikes on the track so the heads don’t show. This has worked very well for me in the past as when I tore down the old layout I was able to save about 90% of the track and switches by simply soaking the track with water and use a putty knife to lift it up.

I started with the staging yard as this really doesn’t take much planning if you know the length of it.

Laying the roadbed for the staging yard.
Laying the roadbed for the staging yard.

I drew the centerlines for the yard tracks and then laid the switches in place and marked their location. I began laying the cork from the switch locations and moved down the yard tracks. I like putting  down the cork and laying track, for me it is relaxing and rewarding. It also tends to move very fast and I had the yard done in a relatively short time.

Roadbed for staging yard complete.
Roadbed for staging yard complete.
Long view of staging yard from yard throat.
Long view of staging yard from yard throat.

Again starting with the turnouts I put down the track.

Another view down the yard throat.
Another view down the yard throat.
The start of track laying, the cars are for checking the switches and track.
The start of track laying, the cars are for checking the switches and track.

I used the boxcar and the two passenger cars to check the trackwork as I progressed down the yard. By lightly putting your hand on the car and rolling down the track you can feel irregularities in the track and correct the problem. The same with the passenger cars, plus check the switch points as these will tend to pick the switch points if there is a problem.

Staging yard complete.
Staging yard complete.

I then moved to the upper deck, but first had to correct a problem with the level of the harbor. You know that old saying ” measure twice and cut once “, yeah, well I measured and did the math several times and it was still wrong. I cut spacers and raised the level and then moved on to figure out track location.

Raising the water level in the harbor.
Raising the water level in the harbor.
Another view of the strips to raise the harbor.
Another view of the strips to raise the harbor.

I had basically two industries planned for this leg of the benchwork, the Hullett unloader and the warehouse / dock scene. So it was just a matter of setting those to things in place and planning the track work from there. Not being a great railroad planner what I did was lay out the tracks that were necessary, the tracks for loading bay and under the unloader, and then adding the track and switches that made them work. I rearranged things several times until I had a layout that made sense, mentally doing switching moves and such. I may have to change 1 or 2 things after I power the section and can actually use the area, but I think it all makes sense.

Track centerlines laid out for warehouse scene.
Track centerlines laid out for warehouse scene.
Roadbed in for the warehouses and dock.
Roadbed in for the warehouses and dock.
Overview of unloader yard and warehouse scene.
Overview of unloader yard and warehouse scene.
Track work in for warehouses, dock track to be added when dock is permanently installed.
Track work in for warehouses, dock track to be added when dock is permanently installed.
View of track work for the unloader.
View of track work for the unloader.