Sunday, December 27, 2009

Layout Progress as of 12/27/2009

Today marked the completion of the first week (out of eight total weeks) of the Second Annual International Winter Layout Party on TrainBoard. Progress continues on the Emerson, GA scene of the layout as shown in the series of photos below.

» Photos

I am using the cardboard web method to support the hardshell scenery. This is the first layout I have ever actually added scenery to, and I have found I really like this approach. It goes together very quickly, allows you to see what the final terrain contours will look like, and is easy to modify if needed. This first photo was posted last week and shows the initial section of cardboard web installed on the layout:

However, after looking at prototype photos of the area, I realized that the hills behind the track were a bit too high. So, I simply ripped out this section of cardboard web and redid it. This photo was taken from the same angle as the first one--notice how the hills behind the tracks have been lowered:

Here is another photo of the same area looking in the opposite direction. There will be a rock cut in the middle distance, adjacent to the turnout for the south end of the Emerson passing siding:

This final photo shows the extent of the cardboard web so far. The void in the foreground is where the I-75 underpass will be. I need to add some framing to support the highway and the overpass, then I need to cut the appropriate profile in the fascia:


Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Layout Progress as of 12/23/2009

This week I have continued working on my to-do list posted on the Second Annual International Winter Layout Party on TrainBoard. I have included a series of photos below to show the progress that has been completed since the last update. This is my first real model railroad layout (to go along with the dozens that I have completed inside my head over the years), and I am really starting to be amazed at how it is coming together, especially when I see it in photos. I owe a huge debt of gratitude to the numerous modelers who have helped out along the way. I will have to stop and give due credit at some point, but for now...thanks everyone!

» Photos

Painting the fascia the same color as the room walls really makes this part of the layout "pop." The old plastic drop cloth hanging down below the layout will soon be removed and black skirting will be installed in its place:

Here is a low angle shot of a northbound train entering the layout from south staging. You can see where I have begun to install the cardboard lattice that will support the hardshell scenery. You can also see one of the fascia mounted rocker switches used to control turnouts, in this case the one at the south end of the Emerson passing siding:

Here is a higher and wider angle of the same train shown in the previous photo. The scraps of blue foam have been glued in place protect the spring wire coming up from the Tortoise turnout motor to the throw bar in the turnout. I have also begun to build up the area around the throwbar with cork roadbed so it will no longer be suspended in midair:

This photo shows the current extent of the cardboard lattice. The lattice follows the background hill profile, which has been drawn onto the backdrop using blue chalk. This chalk line is very difficult to remove, as you can tell by the smudges left behind by an earlier failed attempt to draw the hill profile. I will need to paint over these smudges with the standard sky blue backdrop color:


Sunday, December 20, 2009

Layout Progress as of 12/20/2009

This past week, TrainBoard announced the Second Annual International Winter Layout Party. WLP 2009-10 is an eight week program where model railroaders get together and publish their goals for the eight weeks. Each week, members post updates and comment on other member's progress. It is a lot of fun and a good way to get motivated and get some stuff done on your layout. WLP 2009-10 is a follow-up to the very successful First Annual International Winter Layout Party. I have been a member of TrainBoard for a few years now and have found it to be one of the best online model railroad communities, especially for N-scalers such as myself.

For the new layout party, my goals are to complete an extreme transformation of the Emerson, GA scene:
  • Prime & paint fascia.
  • Replace temporary turnout controls with permanent ones mounted in the fascia.
  • Frame out the supports needed for the I-75 underpass.
  • Install hardshell terrain (cardboard web + plaster cloth + paint + texture) on the ENTIRE scene.
  • Extra Credit: Paint tree line and distant hills on the backdrop.
I have already started working on the task list above. Today, I primed the fascia that I installed last weekend. I have included some updated photos of the layout.

» Photos

In this photo, you can see how I prepped the fascia for priming by filling in any abandoned screw holes leftover from when I was experimenting with positioning the fascia. This photo also shows one of the three 3/4" holes that I bored into the fascia to accommodate the rocker switches that will control the turnout motors:

Before priming the fascia, I also installed vinyl panel molding along the cut edges of the fascia and in the seams where two sections of the fascia come together. This molding gives the fascia a nice finished look and does a good job of hiding any imperfections in the raw cut lines:

Here is the fascia after two coats of primer have been applied. Applying primer to the hardboard used to construct the fascia and backdrop results in a smooth, even top coat and vibrant colors when the top coat is applied:


Sunday, December 13, 2009

Layout Progress as of 12/13/2009

After an extended time away from the layout due to work, family, and a bout of temporary insanity while I considered switching locales, railroads and eras, construction has resumed on the N-scale CSX Dixie Line layout. I have decided to move forward with construction in the town of Emerson, GA even before the trackwork has been completed on the rest of the layout. This weekend, I completed all of the fascia in this section of the layout.

Before installing the fascia, I had to add some supports along the front of the layout where the scenery will extend a bit into the aisle. While the construction worked out just fine, I discovered that extending the layout in this manner really encroaches on aisle space. Even though I only extended a mere 3" into the aisle at two points, I found that my aisle that was comfortably wide at 30" is not so comfortable at 27". While I never had a problem with aisle width before, now I find myself brushing against the new fascia from time to time in the two spots where it bows out into the aisle. All of my controls will be recessed so I do not anticipate any problems, but I have learned my lesson well and from now on the aisle boundaries are off limits for expansion.

» Photos

In this picture, you can see how I used 8" wide strips of hardboard screwed to the front boards of the benchwork. The hardboard extends 1" below the front boards. You can also see where I have drawn the profile of the hills using blue chalk:

These two views show how the fascia bows away from the benchwork in two locations where the layout was extended into the aisle. Note the special brackets used to support the fascia in these areas:

Finally, I used a sabre saw fitted with a metal cutting blade to cut the hill profiles on the fascia:

The gaps in the fascia where two pieces of hardboard meet will be filled by panel molding strips and will blend in nicely once everything gets primed and painted. I also need to go back and redo some of the screws holding the fascia on to the benchwork. A few of these are not in a straight line as you can see in one of the above photos.

The cutting activity caused a lot of vibration in the layout, as I rattled an autorack right off a staging track a good 8 feet away from where I was cutting. I also found a few sections of track that separated from the caulk holding it to the roadbed. Also, the fine sawdust managed to gunk up the track and fouled a Kato locomotive, even after I thought I had removed all of the dust with a Shop Vac. For future cuts, I will remove the fascia boards after drawing the hill profile in chalk and make the cuts in the workshop.


Sunday, July 26, 2009

Layout Progress as of 7/26/2009

This week I completed laying the mainline track from the North End Emerson switch across the dropdown gate across the entrance to the layout room. With the installation of one Tortoise turnout motor and a bit more wiring, all of the trackwork in the Emerson area will be completed. This will allow scenery construction to begin in Emerson while track planning and construction progresses northward.

Before laying any additional track between North End Emerson and the dropdown gate, I had to superelevate the curve using strips of masking tape:

The first piece of Micro Engineering concrete tie flex track is affixed using latex caulk and held in place with several clamps carefully screwed down as to not damage the track:

While laying track on the gate, I temporarily screwed this scrap piece of 1x2" in place to make sure the gate could not be opened until the appropriate gaps had been cut in the rails:

The second section of flex track reached just a few inches short of the end of the gate roadbed for a near perfect fit:

This closeup view shows how both rails were gapped using a cutoff disc in a motor tool to allow the gate to be opened. The two sections of flex track have been soldered together (crudely since it was hard navigating the soldering iron around the gate rails!) so only one set of electrical feeders are needed along the span of the gate:

Here is the gate in the open position with the track in place:

I also applied Velcro patches to hold the removable end panels in place:

The lower level benchwork at the end of the aisle was modified to make the shelf 8" deeper. This will allow room for additional scenery to be built to disguise the non-prototypical horseshoe curve along the Emerson passing siding. The following two pictures show a before and after view of the benchwork addition:


Sunday, July 19, 2009

Layout Progress as of 7/19/2009

After a long layoff, I have continued construction on the N-scale CSX Dixie Line layout. First off, just for fun I photographed some new purchases that I recently made:

The locomotive is the brand new Atlas Dash 8-40CW lettered and numbered for Conrail #6150. I'll eventually patch this out for CSX when I get some spare time over the next decade or so. The N-scale community has been grumbling about poor quality control and the high price of this model, but I think it looks and runs great even though I have a few tweaks to make. This locomotive is very expensive (street price of about $120 for the DCC version I purchased), but I wanted to try out the new NCE decoder equipped loco with operating ditch lights. Like I said this is a great model, but at this price, I won't be stocking up anytime soon. The two Union Pacific autoracks were picked up to beef up my vehicle train roster, along with a set of Kato BNSF doublestack cars & containers (not shown).

Now to the layout progress...

I lowered a section of front board near the south end of the Emerson siding to accommodate the I-75 underpass. The scenery will drop down here to accommodate the interstate and the bridge will be built in place around the existing roadbed:

Next, I cut some end panels out of some leftover 1/8" hardboard and painted them the same shade of light sky blue used on the backdrop:

These end panels serve as scene dividers that separate the visible areas from the hidden areas of the layout. They will eventually be secured to the benchwork using Velcro so that they can easily be removed to allow for photography. The following three photos show the southernmost visible area of the layout before and after the end panels have been installed, along with a clearance check for high and wide equipment:

Here are the same three photos, but this time showing where the Emerson area of the layout adjoins the dropdown gate:

Finally, a wide view of the Emerson area showing both end panels in place:


Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Layout Progress as of 5/13/2009

I have been making slow but steady progress on the trackwork on the N-Scale CSX Dixie Line layout. I recently completed laying the passing siding and the turnout at North End Emerson. With both tracks in place, I shot the following video of the first actual meet ever to take place on the layout:

I also snapped a few photos showing an overall view of the Emerson area and a closeup of the newest track leading up to the current end-of-track at North End Emerson:


Sunday, April 26, 2009

Layout Progress as of 4/26/2009

On Wednesday, I received an order of Micro Engineering code 55 wood tie flex track to use for the Emerson passing siding. In this picture, a southbound coal train is holed up in the siding waiting for a northbound mixed freight to pass:

In the above picture, you can clearly see the difference between the concrete tie mainline and the wood tie siding. You can also see how the siding is at a considerably lower elevation than the mainline. Both of these traits are based on the prototype practice of the CSX in Emerson, GA.

The following picture shows the same area from a wider angle. You can see the turnout at South End Emerson and the temporary slide switch used to control the Tortoise turnout motor:

This shows the current end of track for the Emerson passing siding. The turnout for the Emerson house track spur will attach to the ends of the rails in this location:

This shows the current end of track for the mainline through Emerson. The turnout at North End Emerson will attach to the ends of the rails in this location. You can see the current end of the siding track in the distance:


Friday, April 24, 2009

Layout Progress as of 4/24/2009

Over the last few days I installed the first Tortoise turnout motor on the N-scale CSX Dixie Line layout:

This is also the first Tortoise that I have ever installed, although this particular one has a bit of history. When my wife and I first moved to Atlanta in 1993, I immediately began building a layout in a spare room of our apartment. Although the layout never got farther than some L-girder benchwork, I actually purchased a Tortoise from a one of my favorite all-time hobby shops, Gandy Dancer's in Chamblee, GA. Well, fast forward 16 years to 2009--Gandy Dancers has been closed for almost a decade and the Tortoise finally comes out of its shell! Yes, as strange as it sounds, I just installed a brand new 16-year old turnout motor. Eventually, the computerized CTC system will be controlling all of the mainline turnouts via DCC, but for now the first one is controlled using a plug in 12-volt DC power supply and a simple DPDT slide switch.


The spline roadbed is not wide enough to mount a Tortoise, so I used a 3" x 3" piece of hardboard as a mounting surface. Here are all of the parts, including the hardboard showing the holes that were pre-drilled according to the template that came with the Tortoise. The two beveled holes are for the pair of #8 wood screws that will hold the mounting plate to the bottom of the spline roadbed:

The next two photos show the mounting plate attached to the bottom of the spline roadbed:

This photo shows the details of how the Tortoise is wired. I am using one set of contacts inside the Tortoise to power the frog of the Atlas #10 turnout. I used green 20-gauge solid wire for all of the Tortoise wiring. You can also see the bottom of the DPDT slide switch that is being used to control the turnout until a permanent DCC solution is installed. The heavy red & black wires are the track bus; the white wires running off to the right are the leads from the plug in 12-volt DC power supply:

Overview of the Tortoise installation from above:

Closeup showing the .025 wire coming up from the Tortoise fulcrum, through the pivot and the hardboard mounting plate, and through the end of the throwbar on the turnout. I had to bend the wire a bit at the top to keep the throwbar from rubbing against the adjacent ties. Before scenery begins, I will protect the throw wire with a piece of blue foam that will wrap around the wire: