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.

 

 

 

Benchwork continues…

2nd wall completed as far as available cut lumber would take it.
2nd wall completed as far as available cut lumber would take it.

As you can see I finished the second wall as far as I could go with available cut plywood. My daughters car broke down and showed up in my garage (wood working space ) and she is using my truck ( wood hauling vehicle ) until I get hers back on the road. As far as the wall system goes all I have left is 8 feet on the third wall.

My plan was to keeping working around the room on the bench work, because for continuity reasons it just seemed like the right way to do it. However since I had the supports leftover for the peninsula from the old layout I decided to push ahead with that part of the project.

Measuring and marking the floor for the peninsula.
Measuring and marking the floor for the peninsula.
Longer view of the space for the peninsula measured out.
Longer view of the space for the peninsula measured out.

 

The wooden case set to where the edge of the layout will be, checking aisle width.
The wooden case set to where the edge of the layout will be, checking aisle width.

The three pictures above are the wall spacing being measured out, the wooden case in the third was set at the layout edge to get a feel for the aisle width which is set at 42″.  Once I was sure of all the measurements I got together all the pieces for the wall.

Assembled parts for the peninsula wall.
Assembled parts for the peninsula wall.

The center wall goes together much the same as the outer wall pieces using the spacers and although it is free standing will be tied into the two support columns. The real stability for the wall will come from the base cabinets which will be screwed to it on both sides. The uprights are 6″ wide with the same 12′ on center spacing. Again with the aid of the spacers work went very quickly and I had the wall together in a couple of nights.

Assembling the peninsula wall using the spacers>
Assembling the peninsula wall using the spacers>
Construction goes very quickly using this method.
Construction goes very quickly using this method.
First section up and ready.
First section up and ready.
Adding uprights to the second section, the peninsula will be anchored to the support column.
Adding uprights to the second section, the peninsula will be anchored to the support column.
Another view of long section, the wall will continue at a slight angle to the right.
Another view of long section, the wall will continue at a slight angle to the right.
Short leg of peninsula wall, the space beyond is where the Helix will be.
Short leg of peninsula wall, the space beyond is where the Helix will be.

 

 

 

Structures and models for the harbor scene.

Since they’ve shown up in previous posts I thought I talk about the ship models and structures for the harbor scene.

I scratch built both ships, the ore boat initially from the photo on the Sylvan website. Drawing it out was rather simple as the picture was from the front with the plimsoll marks visible on the bow. From there I made a ruler and could measure the rest of the ship. Using various images for deck structures I came up with a generic steam powered ore boat. I then drew it out full size and basically made a kit from .040 sheet styrene. The deck fittings are from Sea Port Models.

Ore boat ( scratch Built ) and Hullett unloader.
Ore boat ( scratch Built ) and Hullett unloader.

For the freighter, I Googled “Lakes Freighters” and found a Great Lakes museum website with photos of a wide variety of different ships. Working from general dimensions, I again drew plans and cut a kit. Again working with .040 styrene and Sea Port fittings I built the ship. The pulley blocks came from an old Revell sailing ship kit. Looking at the ship in the scene I think it sits high and will probably cut the hull down it get it riding a little lower in the water

View of future harbor scene.
View of future harbor scene.
Yet to be named freighter, scratch built.
Yet to be named freighter, scratch built.

The warehouse is a Walther’s kit (Walthers.com) from their Water Front series. I opened the dock doors and built an interior for the warehouse. I also added an office to the upper corner complete with a dock Foreman and assistant. The warehouse is also lit. I felt it was important as these structures are at eye level.

Pier warehouse finished and ready to place.
Pier warehouse finished and ready to place.

The Hullett unloader is also from Walthers. I am in the process of shortening it as it a little wide for the scene. Once that is done I will try and do it justice by weathering it. Once the scenery is finished and all the models are installed I have a variety of deck hands and dock workers that will complete the scenes.

Ore boat and Hullett set up for to see if spacing will work
Ore boat and Hullett set up for to see if spacing will work

I am still working on more backround buildings for the scene, but since I have not finalized the track plan for this area I am unsure as to what I’ll need.

 

Layout lighting

This post goes hand in hand with the last post as lighting is being installed as the bench work is being built. The reason I didn’t talk about it then was because it would have been to much information for one post.

On the last layout I had experimented with several different types of lights for the lower deck. To answer the question, yes I played around with a variety of Christmas lights that everyone said would not work. I just figured they hadn’t done it right and I would be able to make it work. Yes, I know I’m an idiot.

So I figured on the new layout I was going to have to suck it up and spend the money on fluorescent strip lights. I planned on using T5 lights at about $10 a foot. This was going to get expensive as I figured to get around the layout was about 85 feet times 2, as I would need to light both decks. Then I “discovered” commercial string lights on Partylights.com, the type restaurants use over there patios. They are 50 foot strings that take standard light bulbs up to 25 watts. Not enough light if you’re using incandescent bulbs, but more then enough if using CFLs. I have since learned that the model railroad world knew about these, but no one told me about them.

But what to do with all the Christmas lights I had bought. Well the strings of C7 are strung over my deck for lighting, like the restaurants. And the ropes lights? I’m using those to light the aisles.

Lower deck frame work in place with walkway lights in place.
Lower deck frame work in place with walkway lights in place.

Once I installed the sub roadbed they give off enough light to light the aisles rather nicely. I will get a picture posted at a later date. I will be running a blue rope lights through the upper deck joists for night lighting.

As I had mentioned when assembling the upper deck I had to run the light string as I was assembling the bench work. One thing I failed to mention was that I originally spaced the studs on a 16″ center, but after buying the string lights I moved these to a 12″ on center spacing as the sockets are set every 24 inches. Fortunately this happened early enough in the process that it was easy to do.

Lighting string and CFL mounted to upper deck.
Lighting string and CFL mounted to upper deck.
First trial of lower deck lighting.
First trial of lower deck lighting

I was pretty sure since CFL’s diffuse light rather well that even though they were set in every other bay there wouldn’t be very much light pooling. The moment of truth came when I had finished the bench work and installed all the bulbs. The result was perfect as the lighting is very even you as can see below.

Lower deck lighting.
Lower deck lighting.
View of lower deck lighting.
View of lower deck lighting.

After I finish all the bench work I be installing a valance around the layout and will be installing both the CFL’s and a string of blue rope lights, again for night lighting.

 

 

Cabinets in, bench work started.

I finished the first set of cabinets, installed and painted them. I won’t bore you with the details of construction as they follow standard base cabinetry construction. I painted them white as all the woodwork in the house is painted white. Also I had painted the cabinets in the work area white and wanted continuity between the two areas.

Base cabinets in place, painted and ready to go.
Base cabinets in place, painted and ready to go.

The space above them is the main staging yard, so I will be using these for storage of the engines and train cars. Shelves will be added soon, but the doors will be made after the rest of the cabinets are done as it is easier to do them all at the same time.

As the paint was drying I went back out to the garage ( also known as the woodworking shop ) and cut the “joists” for the upper and lower decks. I then made three drilling jigs for the three different size holes that I’m using for wire runs. Each joist has two 1″ holes, four – six 5/8′ holes and four 1/8′” holes. It may seem like a lot, but I figured it would be easier to keep like wires grouped together but separate. I also notched the upper deck joists for lower deck lighting.

View of lower deck joists set in place, note holes drilled for wire runs.
View of lower deck joists set in place, note holes drilled for wire runs.

The picture above shows the joists set in place. The first step was too screw the end of joist to the stud and the outer edge to the cabinet. Again I started with the end joist to the left in the picture, mounted it, then using a spacing jig ( like the one used for the stud spacing ) moved down the line. I can’t stress, at least for me, how much of a time saver the spacing jig is. You’re not trying to measure the spacing for every joist. I then added a ” rim joist ” to the outer edge of the joists. I will then add a fascia to this after I start the scenery.

Lower deck joists mounted and installing rim joist.
Lower deck joists mounted and installing rim joist.
Lower deck frame work done.
Lower deck frame work done.

Once I finished the lower deck I painted the upper deck joists white for better light reflection, when dry I then installed them same as the lowers except instead of screwing them to the cabinet, I screwed them to the 3/4″ lip on the horizontal.

Upper deck Joists painted for light reflections.
Upper deck Joists painted for light reflections.
Upper and lower deck framing done.
Upper and lower deck framing done.

The plan was to keep moving around the room with bench work, but everything was working out as I had hoped so I wanted to add the sub roadbed to this area to see if there would be any sag or deflection. I cut the plywood for both decks and mounted it. The lower deck was solid, although with it sitting on the cabinets that was really no surprise. What brought about a sigh of relief was that the upper deck was also rock solid. No sagging and no deflection, even when I pounded on it.

 

 

 

 

 

The bench work construction has started!

My normal process when faced with a large project is mentally “build” the project, looking for problems that I could run to, possible better ways to do it and so forth. A model railroad is a undertaking that will take years ( unless it’s a project layout with a deadline, like a model publication project ).  Realizing this, I had to override my natural inclinations and press forward.

Wow, I’m glad I did.

The method I’m using is one of my own design, at least I haven’t seen it used any where else. I “developed” it on my last layout- some good did come out of it. I am building a mini stud wall with horizontal braces on the front and back of the vertical “studs”. For the horizontals against the wall I’m using 1×4’s cut from 3/4″ plywood. The studs are 2×2’s and the outer horizontals are 1×4’s cut from 1/2″ plywood.

 

1. The horizontal braces in place. Top and Bottom are spacers, the bottom edge of the middle two set the deck heights.
1. The horizontal braces in place. Top and Bottom are spacers, the bottom edge of the middle two set the deck heights.

The first step was the horizontal rails. The top and bottom rails are mounting point/ spacers for the studs. The bottom edge of the middle two set the height for the layout deck. I took great care in keeping these as perfectly level as possible, using both a 4 foot level and a laser level. They are screwed to the actual stud wall.

2. making sure the first 2x2 is perfectly vertical as this affects the rest.
2. making sure the first 2×2 is perfectly vertical as this affects the rest.

Then I added the first stud, again making sure that it was as perfectly vertical as I could get it because it’s alignment affects the rest of the studs. After it was screwed in place I used a pair of spacers made out of plywood and cut to the same length to mount the next. Once I got a rhythm down this went very fast.

4. Jig in place with the next 2x2 in place.
4. Jig in place with the next 2×2 in place.
5. Work moves pretty quickly not having to measure individual uprights.
5. Work moves pretty quickly not having to measure individual uprights.
6. First wall done.
6. First wall done.

 

With the studs in place I moved on to the outside rails. again top and bottom are spacers. The middle  two are mounted 3 1/2″ below the bottom of the inside rails, with the idea that the bench work deck pieces will slide in place. The outer edge of the bottom deck will be supported by base cabinets. For the top deck I added a 3/4″ piece to the rail to give added support and add a screw surface.

7. Outside horizontals going in place, again the top and bottom are spacers, while the top edge of the middle two support the bottom edge of the bench work.
7. Outside horizontals going in place, again the top and bottom are spacers, while the top edge of the middle two support the bottom edge of the bench work.

The last picture shows the bench work pieces set in place. Once actually mounted they will be screwed to the stud and the top ones screwed to the rail, while the lower to the cabinets. Out of curiosity I didn’t fully hang on one, but did give it a large tug to test it’s strength. I was thrilled when there was virtually no vertical movement even though it was not screwed in place.

The next step is to build the base cabinets. This shouldn’t take to long and then on to actually building the bench work decks.

8. Test fitting the bench work.
8. Test fitting the bench work.

Planning the layout – Realizations and Revalations

Even as I tearing down the old layout I was measuring the total space for the new layout. So as not to run into the same problems I ran into with the old one, I measured everything twice and started to draw it to a scale of 1″=1′. If I ran into anything that didn’t seem right I would go back and double check it again. Once I had it right, I took it to a copy shop that could do a large format copy and had a half dozen copies made.

I then marked off the space that was off limits, the stairway, access to the utility room and access to a storage closet. I also marked off space around what be the end of the peninsula and workbench area. I know, this would seem to be common sense, but it’s an area I “cheated” on before. I then started to sketch various ideas and when nothing worked out, that’s when I came to the realization that no matter how many track planning books, model railroad operations books or software apps, for some reason planning a railroad was beyond me. That’s not to say I don’t understand how they work, I can look at other drawn track plans and I get how the flow on those work. What goes where and why. I just couldn’t do it.

So now I had this beautiful drawing of my basement, but no idea on how to plan a model railroad for it. But as I was looking at the drawing of the space I realized that I had seen this space before with a very successful railroad in it. The answer was Jim Hediger’s Ohio Southern Railroad ( version two ). I found the article in MR and started comparing his space and mine, I found that they were very close. Now, I’m not copying the Ohio Southern, rather I’m using it as a template. I drew the footprint with just the mainline drawn in to make sure that things would work like I wanted it too.  I had a layout plan with mainline but without the individual towns, I figured I would work those out as I went along.

Then I had revelation number two. While looking through a back issue of MR, I came across an article about the Kirkland and DeKalb. The author had drawn an actual town and scaled it for a layout. It was an island layout with a staging yard on side and the town of Kirkland on the other. Looking at the town side of the layout I realized it would drop right into one side of the peninsula ( almost dimensionally perfect ). Tony Koester calls this a Layout Design Element. It’s then I realized that I could design the rest of the smaller towns in the same way, by finding pieces of other layout plans that could be adapted to my footprint

Now I had a working plan, now I could start construction.CN construction 4 024                                                          Drawing of the basement

The basement with the off limits area drawn in.
The basement with the off limits area drawn in.
The basic layout drawn in
The basic layout drawn in
The peninsula with the Kirkland and DeKalb plan next to it
The peninsula with the Kirkland and DeKalb plan next to it

 

First I finished the train room

“First I finished the train room” or some variation of this always seems to lead an article in the model railroad press. Other times there might be a short paragraph of what was done. It makes it sound like the guy was sitting around on Saturday afternoon and thought “gee, I have my layout sketched out and I would like to start the bench work tomorrow . I guess I’ll go down and finish the train room.” Now before you say something, I realize that yes, it is a model railroad magazine article and not a home improvement article, but they make it sound like it’s nothing to get this done. It wasn’t till I started reading blogs that I found others were going through the same lengthy process it takes to make an environment that makes it a pleasure to build and operate a layout in.

Two people who have done a great job at chronicling this are Jason Shron, owner of Rapido trains ( kingstonsub.com ) and Alan who blogs about his LK&O Railroad ( lkorailroad.com ). Alan has done a beautiful job of writing about and recording in pictures what it takes to finish a basement. If your just starting out, I would recommend reading through his blog to see what to expect.

As I said in a previous post, I finished my layout room and then partially gutted it to rebuild it. When I first finished the basement I had wanted a dedicated shop as well as the train room. The support columns more or less divided the basement into thirds, so using those as a guide I ended up with a shop that was approximately 10 x 16 and a train room that was 19 x 21. I finished the shop with a dropped ceiling, second hand fluorescent lighting, sheet rock walls and berber carpeting. The train room got sheet rock, a stapled tile ceiling and what I thought were enough light fixtures. No flooring. While the shop was to roomy,  well lit and a pleasure to be in, the train room with the layout in it was dark, cramped and kind of sucked.

So I tore the layout down (  to the horror of my nephew ) and then took out the wall to the shop opening up a space that now measures out to approximately 19 x 31. I put in a dropped ceiling  throughout , added new drop in fluorescent lighting and put in a laminate wood flooring. I know the conventional wisdom is to go with carpeting as it easier on the feet, but my reasoning was that I’m pretty sloppy and it’s easier to clean up a hard surface than carpeting  ( plaster, paint, saw dust, etc. )

Side note: if your building a home, as we did, and you have the option of truss flooring or a joist flooring, go with the trusses, I wish I had . No support posts, no framing around pipes and duct work, just a nice flat ceiling and wide open space.

The remodel took about a 12 months, those bothersome work and family commitments getting in the way. When I finished, I stepped back and was amazed at the difference.

So now it’s finished, on to planning and construction.002001

 

What is the Continental Northern Ry

blog photos 007                                                          The Continental Northern Railroad as envisioned is a class 1 railroad set in the early 1950’s running from the upper Midwest to the Pacific Northwest ( picture the Great Northern or the Northern Pacific ) . My original plan, when I had the space, was to do a large layout with a series of separate scenes depicting different areas of the country to give a sense of moving across the country. Why? Because I had wanted to model the Midwest -you model what you know.   I also wanted to model a harbor scene. I love ships and ship modeling and had seen some great railroad/harbor scenes modeled in magazines. When we built our present home I finally had the space to attempt to model this. Unfortunately, the layout went horribly wrong. I tried to cram too much into too small of a space. I also ignored everything I had read about layout planning, too tight of radius, bench work that was way too deep, inclines that were too steep ( I should have mentioned I was trying to build it as double deck layout ) and on and on. After not looking at the layout for about six months I went downstairs, took a good look at it, had a heart to heart with myself and decided there was no saving it.  I had to tear it down and start over. I also took out a wall between the layout room and my shop increasing the space by about 50%. I now had the space to build a layout where I could hope to accomplish what I envisioned. The true turning point came when I realized that I could model just the eastern end of the railroad. I had overlooked the fact that just 120 miles north of Minneapolis ( my starting point of the railroad ) is the port of Duluth. I could have my Midwest railroad and a harbor scene without overreaching.  So, that is what I am modeling- an eastern subdivision of the Continental Northern from the Twin Cities to Duluth.

Hello and welcome

Hello and welcome.                                                                                                            I would like to thank you for visiting this site and hope you continue to stop by as I embark on my journey to build and model the Continental Northern railroad. If you had visited this site in the past (one of very few I suspect) and then found the site gone, I apologize. Life happens, work, family and other time commitments made it impossible to continue what I started at that time. I’m now on the other side of the things that would keep me from maintaining this site and progress on the railroad. Granted there will be times when other projects around the house or work will take precedence over the model railroad, there always is as everyone knows, I feel that I will always be able to offer a little insight about the railroad, progress or the modeling world whether I’m at home with no progress to report on or on the road for work with no ability to make progress on the railroad to report on.

As I become more adept at this I will be adding more content to the site, mainly my thoughts on the modeling world in general, pictures of my progress, the techniques which I am using for construction ( which I am very excited about ) , thoughts on planning a layout and projects on the workbench and the techniques used for these projects.

So again, hello and thank you for joining me.

Michael Bromander

Michael Bromander's Personal Website