Saturday, September 9, 2017

Modification to Showcase Express display cases

These display cases are a great way to enjoy the parts of your collection that won't fit on the layout.  I have several and have found them to be quite versatile but have been making one small modification to some of the end caps.

The end caps that come with the display case are wide enough that they stop the clear insert from sliding out, see red arrow in photo.  For my purposes I would like to be able to slide the insert out without having to remove the end cap.

The modification is to simply make the end caps on one side of the display case narrow enough for the clear insert to slide past.

The end caps for the N scale sized display are about 1.23 inches wide and I determined that removing about .1 inch was enough.  This is done on the edge of the end cap that would be facing outward.

I found that sliding the end cap back and forth against 100 grit sand paper laid on a flat surface did the trick in a couple minutes.

After the width was reduced the edge on both sides were de-burred with a hobby knife run back and forth.

The last step was to polish the new edge with some plastic scratch remover I use for control panels.

The end result is that I have easier access to the locomotives in the display case above the staging yard.  Because this particular display case has two 4 foot sections end to end I needed to do both sides.

For more information about Showcase Express display cases see their Web Site.

Saturday, September 2, 2017

Trying to get organized

For a little over a year now I have been doing data entry work in support of creating a comprehensive data base of all N scale items ever produced.  Recently I was introduced to another feature of the data base, a personal item inventory.

If you are not already familiar with this data base, please check it out by clicking HERE.  All you need is a Google account to sign up.

Like many of us in this hobby, I have many more locomotives and rail cars than I could ever run at one time and keeping them organized has been a challenge for me. Sometimes I acquire something that I already have because I forgot I have it, sound familiar ?  I have tried to use spreadsheets to keep track of things but the files ended up getting lost or corrupted.  So I thought I would try using the inventory function of the data base as it will be on a server somewhere and someone other than me is going to back it up, etc.

As I enter my collection into my inventory I am placing a color coded sticker on the box with the data base reference number on it.  Having the sticker will tell me that the item has been included in my inventory and the sticker color will indicate which era on my layout it belongs to.

In This Post from back in 2014 I explained how I was planning to have 3 different eras on the layout.

I purchased some adhesive stickers in different colors and write the inventory ID number on these while at the same time setting the era.

I decided to start with the locomotives.  The numbers on the stickers are the data base ID numbers.  When an item overlaps 2 of my layout eras I place a half of one color over the other.  As an example the Kodachrome GP35 in this photo could belong to the 83 to 88 era or the 89 to 96 era.
So far I have gone through most of the locomotives that have decoders.  As I do I am placing the engines that belong to the layout in the display case above the staging yard.  Each row is for a different era.  The empty plastic boxes are light and can be stored in an overhead cabinet.

There are also some yellow dots and I am using those to mark the inventory ID number on items that don't have anything to do with this layout.  I run these on the modular layout setups I attend.

The GP9's in this photo all have the same ID number on the sticker.  That's because I had bought them as non numbered models and put the numbers myself. 

It's nice not having that box of extra engines sitting on the floor.  Hopefully I can keep this going and have a more efficient railroad.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Bench work for the Battle Mountain section

Work is progressing well on the Battle Mountain section bench work.  The design is similar to the bench work used on the Carlin section and the upper return loop as it has removable LED lighting panels mounted to the bottom.  I plan to have a model building work bench under part of this section and the LED's will provide general lighting for that.

Here is this section of bench work as it is now.  In this view it is sitting right side up.  The front edge is about 1-1/8 inch lower than the main deck and will carry the Western Pacific line.  The deck for that still needs to be added.

Yes, I've already been penciling in some track layout idea on the deck.
Here is another view with it sitting on the back edge and one of the LED lighting panels removed.  The 4 notches along the bottom are for the shelf brackets which will be attached to the bottom of the main deck.
Here is a close up of one of those notches.  The frame along the back also has sections cut out.  This will allow the shelf bracket to be mounted to the wall.

This photo taken under the Carlin section better illustrates the use of the shelf brackets.

With this section I have now used up all the 1/4 inch plywood that I had picked up cheap at a garage sale in 2014.

After this section of bench work is fully assembled, it will be given a quick test fit to the Gloconda section before getting painted.

Monday, August 14, 2017

Blending the scenery with the backdrop

This summer has been quite busy for me catching up on some projects around the house but when I have gotten out to the train room I've been going through and adding some scenery.  About 10 feet of the layout already had basic scenery done so it is mostly adding hundreds of small bits of Woodland Scenics clump foliage to give the layout a similar look to what is in the backdrop.

It is always a challenge to disguise the sharp horizontal line between the layout and the backdrop.  Buildings and fences are great in city areas but this layout is mostly open country with no large trees.  This line is quite noticeable in this photo.

Using the backdrop as a guide, I am placing bits of Woodland Scenics light green clump foliage along the edge in front of where brush in on the backdrop to help break up this line into shorter sections.

Here is another area near Winnemucca where the hills on the backdrop are closer and I used the same technique to help blend the hill on the layout to the hill on the backdrop.

Friday, July 28, 2017

Decisions about industries

While I think of this layout as more of a rail fans layout than an operations layout, I still want to represent a few of the industries that are scattered along both the WP and SP lines in northern Nevada.  Most of these are related to mining and many are just truck transfer points which is perfect for modeling if you don't have much layout real estate.

Here is an example of one such industry taken from Google Maps.  The biggest part of this industry is the area for the trucks to turn around or park.

It had long been my plan to include the Sierra Pacific coal burning power plant at Valmy, Nevada as the largest industry on this layout.

An interesting feature of this particular power plant is that it sits between the WP and SP lines which at that point are about a mile apart.   Rail access to the power plant is by a return loop that allows loads to be brought in from the east on the SP line and empties to go out to the east on the WP line.

Creating this return loop would require a good sized outward bulge in the bench work and creating a decent power plant in itself would be challenging.  Construction has progressed on the layout to the point where the power plant would be so it was time to make a decision about including the power plant.

While following both lines mile by mile through Google Maps it was noticeable to me that nearly all of the industries were served by trailing point spurs and few had any lead siding.   I did find one exception in Battle Mountain where there are several industries served from a long siding from the SP line.  So I have decided instead of the power plant, the next section of the layout will represent these industries.  This will allow the bench work to be kept narrow and give more variety of cars types that the local will handle.

Above is a quick drawing I did showing what this section might look like.  This section will be 8 feet long.  The WP line entering this section from the Gloconda section on the right is about 1-1/8 inch lower than the SP line and this difference can be used to separate the scenes.  It turns out that Sierra Pacific Power has a small maintenance yard in Battle Mountain and that can added as an off line industry.  Some interesting utility trucks, spools of wires, transformers, poles, etc.

There will still be some westbound loads and eastbound empties coal traffic on the layout as several cement kilns in California use coal that they receive by rail.  I have already started on the bench work for this next section which from now on will be referred to as the Battle Mountain section.

Monday, July 24, 2017

Catching up with some electrial projects

While finishing the helix, and the Wesso and Gloconda sections I had neglected to finish the controls for the lower or Southern Pacific staging yard.  Now with the ability to run trains around the layout that omission was really noticeable and I am  correcting it.

The yard is similar to the upper or Western Pacific staging yard but with 5 sidings instead of 4.  I am using another Digitrax DS-64 plus this little circuit I built to handle the turnout that makes the reverse loop.

This circuit uses a Set / Reset RS flip flop made from Nand logic gates to control a relay which controls the polarity of the voltage applied to the Tortoise motor.   One pole of the switches on the panel are wired a little differently so that in one direction the all send the thrown polarity and in the other they all send the aligned polarity.

Another electrical project I am working on is a power supply for the LED lighting over the Wesso section and the staging yard.  The laptop power supplies I have been using in other areas won't handle those and I have been using my bench power supply but that is needed on the bench.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Tempoary and movable return loop section

The two tracks that now end after crossing the bridges at Gloconda will eventually connect to one another and form a return loop.   But that return loop is still 50 actual feet away and who knows how long that will take to build and I want to run trains now.

So the solution I came up with was to build a temporary return loop on a section that can be connected to the end of the last completed section and then moved when a new section is added.

I used Kato Unitrack and spliced the Micro Engineering track to it with the same method presented in this post from last January.  The rail in the Kato Unitrack seems identical to the Atlas rail.

The other end of the adapter track was connected the end of the code 55 track on the finished part of the layout with tight Micro Engineering rail joiners and no solder.
Here is a simplified AnyRail track diagram of the layout as it is now.  This new section is at the far left and is the highest elevation.
Connecting those two tracks created a new return loop.  A DCC Specialities PSX-AR was mounted under the section and isolation gaps included in the track at both ends.

It's great to finally be able to run full trains over the entire layout such as it is right now.

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Creating railroad service roads

The railroads maintain signals and other track side infrastructure with trucks and those trucks often use crude dirt roads.

I show this reference photo again, this time drawing attention to the dirt service roads.  I had always planned to include this in the layout and seeing this photo I thought my modeled scene of this area would be a good place to start.

Remember that as a first layer of base scenery I had used sanded grout then added layers of Arizona Rock & Mineral, and Woodland Scenics scenery materials.  Using a scrap of styrene about 1/2 inch wide, I scraped off these upper layers to expose the finer and lighter bottom layers

Then I sprinkled a thin line of the sanded grout and spread it along the path of the road with a brush but a finger also works.   The area was then given a coating of scenic cement or mat medium.
Besides using the contrast in texture to define the roads, adding some scrub brush in the areas where the road isn't also adds to the suggestion of a beaten path.  I have been using a combination of Woodland Scenics foliage clusters and Scenic Express prairie grass tufts.
There will be those places where ruts have formed when the ground was wet and remain long after the rain is gone and the soil hardened.   I wanted to represent some of that in a few locations.

Where I wanted to create ruts in my service roads I had applied a thicker than normal layer of basic landscape material (sanded grout).  After that dried I dragged a scrap of Kato Unitrack over the path of the road as shown here.

The roads done so far cross the tracks in 2 places.  I used angled wood grade crossings from Blair Line at these locations and added some RR crossing signs left over from the old layout and used those. My experience has been that these are the most vulnerable details so I had better make up some more for spares.

Monday, July 3, 2017

The Melarkey Street Overpass

The Western Pacific track will exit the west end of the layout at the US 95 / Melarkey Street overpass in Winneumcca and then enter the helix.  This overpass is a two lane road.

On the prototype this bridge is about half a mile away from the I-80 overpass that the Southern Pacific track passes under but with the compression necessary in the model world it is only about 700 scale feet away.  Also I am representing the line as a single track where as in the real location it has become 2 tracks plus a siding.


The overpass was made from leftover parts from a Rix Products kit.  I have used and re-used several of these kits on other layouts.  The clever design of these kits make them easy to modify to fit almost any situation.  While primarily an HO manufacturer, Rix Products does make several other N scale injection molded kits.

To see more of their N Scale kit products visit the Rix Products Inc. website.

This company also makes modern concrete barriers as a separate set and I have ordered some of those for the Interstate highway.

Here is the small bridge assembly I put together to represent the Melarkey street overpass.  I used extra roadway sections to extend the road onto the top of the hill.

One pier was assembled and it's height adjusted to match the retaining wall on the hill.

Here is the bridge temporarily set in place.  The short lengths of round column seen the the prior photo fit into holes drilled in the bench work.

There is still much left to be done on this scene, the biggest part being the creation of a back drop.

Friday, June 30, 2017

Striping for the Interstate highway

Many of our model roads end up being narrow lanes without any striping.  In this project I have a relatively modern divided 4 lane highway and overhead photos show the types of striping so that is what I am trying to re-produce.

I have been using an HO scale product from Builders in Scale with good results on my Japanese prototype modules so I decided to use them on this project as well.

These are 4-1/2 inches wide in HO scale which would be about 8 inches wide in N scale.
Here is a view of the highway overpass as it is now.  Besides painting the highway section and applying the stripes, I have painted and weathered the retaining wall.  Still need to add some guard rails.

I have also started to add ballast to the tracks in this area starting with the black cinder layer.  In the photo I had just applied the glue solution and it is still wet.

Monday, June 19, 2017

Modeling an Interstate highway

As mentioned in the very first post on this blog, I had first gotten the idea for this layout while driving along Interstate highway 80 parallel to the rail lines.  In fact 80 closely follows the path of Southern Pacific line much of the way across Nevada and crosses over the tracks a few times along the way so I plan to represent the highway at some of those locations.

The first such area to be modeled will be at the west end of the layout where the Southern Pacific and Western Pacific lines diverge just west of the junction at Wesso.  This will a convenient way to have the tracks exit the layout.

Here is an overhead view from Bing maps of the area I am speaking of.  The orientation is about the same as it would be on the layout.  That is the SP tracks that are going under the freeway.  To simplify the scene I am going to leave out the 2nd street off ramp overpass.

The dirt roads are no doubt used by the railroad for access of MOW trucks.

I started with laminating 2 layers of 1/4 inch hard board together, one layer for the roads with a gap in the middle and the other to hold them together. Plastic strip was added along the edges where the bridge will be.

Then I built up the hillside / embankments that support the the highway assembly along the front edge.

As seen in this photo I have started to add base scenery to the area.  The .010 sheet of plastic protects the back drop.

A wood support was installed to support the highway on the rear side.  With built up edges on both supports the highway assembly will snugly fit into place but can be removed to access the track.

Here is an over all view of the area as it is now.  Still lots to do on the highway assembly, retaining walls, etc.

The base scenery on the hillside is still a bit damp but as it dries will blend in nicely with the existing scenery.  It's drying fast as it is really hot today.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

New cover photo

With about 10 feet of the layout having most of it's scenery finished I thought it would be nice to get some good photos and pick one to replace the prototype photo I have been using for about 3-1/2 years now.  Here is the one I choose.

The fascia is not finished yet in this location so I put in a Photoshop fascia and used the space for titles.  As I finish more scenes on the layout I plan to add a gallery of some sort to the blog, fun stuff !

Sunday, April 30, 2017

The white hills of Winnemucca

After taking some time off from working on the home layout to work on my Japanese prototype modules and take part in a 1 week long layout exhibition I am now back to working on some scenery in the Winnemucca area.

Winnemucca is the western end of the scenery on this layout.  On the prototype both the Southern Pacific and Western Pacific rail lines pass under bridges so I am using this feature to exit the tracks from the layout.   First step was to build up some low hills from building foam and some wadded packing paper then drape on the plaster cloth.

In the photo above the SP line is on the left and will pass under the Interstate 80 overpass.  The WP line curves off to the right and will pass under the Melarkey Street / US 95 overpass.  In reality these two spots are almost a mile apart and a couple miles from Wesso but as we often do on our layouts I am compressing the scene into a smaller space.

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Line side poles

Look at a photo of any 20th century railroad line and you will see line side poles of some kind. These have been used to carry the wires that have done many things for the railroad including telegraph, telephone, signal control, remote turnout control, etc.  As the railroads adopted newer technology many of these overhead wires were no longer needed.  Often the poles have remained.

After working with a few different types of poles I over the years on various layouts I have decided to used the Atlas 2801 Telephone pole sets as line side poles on this layout. 

 As I have known I would need quite a few of these poles on this layout, I always have my eye out for any deals on ebay or at train shows for the Atlas 2801 telephone pole set.

Recently I found a stash of Atlas poles at a train show which I ended up paying $1.25 per box.  The boxes were quite beat up but the poles were just fine.

The Atlas set has 12 poles.  Some have transformers and trolley wire supports which I don't need.  The trolley wire supports are easy to cut off but I have not been able to remove the transformers without damaging the two top cross arms.
I normally combine multiple sets in a single box to save space.  The color of the stock poles vary from set to set which can be seen in this photo so I paint them Testors roof brown.

Before painting I cut off the trolley wire supports on the poles that have them and clean up any mold lines for flash.  Then I run my razor saw down the length of pole to give it a more wood look.

Here are three poles at different stages of work.  First I paint the top half brown, then after that has dried overnight hold it by the cross arms and paint the bottom half.  The after that dries I paint the insulators and cross arm braces. As a last step I then apply some high gloss to the insulators.