Monday, February 17, 2014

2013 - Working with the AnyRail drawing program

I'm not particularly good at learning to use various computer programs.  I learned to use Microsoft Visio quite a few years ago and got good at it so I have tended to rely on it for all types of drawings.  While it is great for many types of drawings, to draw a layout plan there are several programs available that are especially designed for this type of work.

In the past I had tried XTrakCAD and CAD rail but had trouble of getting the hang of either of them.  Then one of my local N scale modeler friends suggested AnyRail and I found it to be much easier to learn to use.

This is a drawing I did showing the 10 foot section of the layout that will represent the east end of the modeled area.  The program allows the user to set up what the minimum allowed track radius will be and then as the track is placed in the drawing it will show if  and where the track is tighter than that minimum.  I'm still just getting started with this but already I would recommend it for anyone looking for layout design software.  It can be downloaded at  The free trail version can do small drawings and does not have any time limit.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

2011 to 2013 - Trying out Fast Tracks

For some time I had been admiring the code 55 Micro Engineering track and turnouts that I would see at local train shows on the Silicon Valley Freemo N layouts.  The profile of the ties seemed to much more closely match the North American prototype and I really liked how wheels went through the turnouts so smoothly without the bumps that I normally associated with the Peco turnouts that I had been using.

In 2011 when I was laying track on my AsiaNrail modules I needed a couple of cross overs in code 55 rail. I thought that this would be a good opportunity to try out some Micro Engineering turnouts for myself so I ordered some custom made cross overs from an ebay seller who uses the Fast Tracks system to build them.  The track standard for AsiaNrail is Peco code 55 but I was able to adapt the Mico Engineering rail to the Peco rail.

This photo from the Tokyo In N Scale post 3 Types of Track shows the blending of the Micro Engineering / Fast Tracks turnouts with the Peco track on the AsiaNrail modules.

The AsiaNrail modules have been to a couple of shows now I am happy with the way the turnouts have work out.  The only issue that has come up was that one of the points came loose from the throw bar tie and I had to re-solder it.  Also the throw bard tie is rather delicate near where the hole is to connect it to the turnout machine linkage.  Looking closely at the photo above it can be seen where I had to re-enforce this spot.

Then In early 2013 I finally purchased a #6 turnout building set from Fast Tracks.  So far I have built just a few turnouts but they seem real nice. I learned that code 80 rail can be used in the same fixtures as the code 55 and have also built a couple of code 80 turnouts that way.  I plan to use code Atlas code 80 track in the staging yards and and code 55 in the visible areas of the layout.

The next thing I want to do is to set up a sort of test fixture where each turnout can be temporarily connected to sections of track and manual turnout control for testing prior to installation.

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Layout version 3 - loose the peninsula

Sometimes what looks good on paper does not work out in 3D.  As I started in May of 2013 to lay out the new room within the garage and allocate space between the train room space and the garage space I realized that I would not be able to give up as much garage space as I had hoped.  Originally I was going to take the back 13 feet of the garage but discovered that having only 7 feet left for all of the other uses would just not be enough.

I also discovered after making a full sized mock up with cardboard boxes that the space I was allowing for a module work area in the train room was going to get rather cramped.  So I decided to go with a 50% use of the garage which would result in a 10 ft x 21 ft train room and no Peninsula.

I was counting on using the 3 ft width at the end of the peninsula for the helix and did not like the idea of filling up one corner of this narrow room with the helix.  I came up with the idea that I could have the helix inside a 4 ft x 4 ft bump out which would free up the full perimeter of the room for scenicked parts of the layout.  The part that sticks out into the garage would be in a blind corner anyway.

Here is the drawing for version 3.  It's a simpler around the walls type of layout with a two stacked helix's for each end of the layout to access it's own staging yard.  This drawing does not show the staging yards which would be above the top section and below the right section.

Another issue that came up as I was laying out the area for this room was that the concrete floor of the garage was too cracked, tilted, and uneven to be able to easily roll the items I wanted to have on wheels.  To have the garage floor demolished and replaced was cost prohibitive so my only other option was going to be to build a raised sub floor for the room.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

2009 to present - Building a WP locomotive roster

In the summer of 1970 I was lucky enough to visit the Feather River Canyon for the first time and see some silver and orange GE diesels of the Western Pacific Railroad. Because of that memory I have always liked the WP but had not really collected any WP engines except for a pair of Atlas GP7's.  Building this new layout of the paired WP / SP line in Nevada gives me the the opportunity to model another railroad that I liked.

So starting in about 2009 I began to find the occasional deal on WP engines on ebay.  All of these were Atlas models as WP had only 4 axle road diesels and all of Atlas's offerings are 4 axle while Kato's are mostly 6 axle, wonder why that is ?

So here's what I have so far:

I'm really proud of the fact that I've got decoders in all of my WP locomotives.  The ones with Lenz decoders came with those but all the others I installed.  While it's always tempting to buy more locomotives, this should be a good fleet for this layout and I believe is a good representation of what they had running by the time of the merger with Union Pacific.  One locomotive model I would like to add is the U30B as WP had 19 of these.