Tuesday, December 10, 2019

Working my way around the corner

As the title of this post says, I am working my way around this corner of the layout setting and staining rock castings, building bridge abutments, and building all the hillsides.  This is the deepest part of the layout and that hill is at the limits of my reach.

To make this scenery work just a bit easier, I am not going to install the diagonal brace in the corner until that hillside is done so I can lean in just a bit further.  This photo shows this brace temporarily held in place with clamps.

Thursday, November 28, 2019

New additions to the locomotive roster

Lately I have been adding some additional motive power to the layout, filling in some gaps in the 3 different layout eras that I use.  In most cases I already had the locomotives but as this layout is DCC only I don't consider them on the active roster until they get a DCC decoder installed.

It all started when I found SP MP15DC 2696 on a sale table at a club open house for $40.00.  I already had the correct decoder for it so installed it right away.  It will join 2690 and will work in any of the 3 layout eras.
UP 910 and 912 are GP40-2's that came from WP in 1983 and were overhauled and repainted in UP colors.  They got TCS Z2 decoders installed in them and will work in the 83-88 and 89-96 eras.  910 still needs it's hand rails painted.

SP 7514 is an SD45 that came out of SP's GRIP program in 1984 as a SD45-2.  It got a TCS M4 decoder and will work in the 83-88 and 89-96 eras.

U30C SP 7912 got a Zimo decoder and will work in the 75-82 era.

GRIP (General Rehabilitation and Improvement Program) was a major locomotive rebuilding program undertaken by Southern Pacific at their Sacramento Shops during the late 1970's and through the 1980's.

Saturday, November 23, 2019

Keeping the track clean

Anyone who has had a layout knows keeping the track clean is important and it is an ongoing process.  Here are the methods I use to maintain the tracks on my layout.

I have a number of Aztec Manufacturing track cleaning cars and have found that when used regularly, hand cleaning of main lines can be avoided altogether.  Spur lines may still need some hand cleaning.

This type of motorized track cleaning car is made by Tomix and sold under both the Tomix and Atlas brands.  It can be configured to be a vacuum car or rotary wiper.  It does not move on its own and needs locomotives to pull or push it.

These work best running at a faster speed then being moved slowly over the tracks so they are great on DCC layouts as the speeds can be controlled separately.  These will even get into those spur tracks.

When I do have to clean the track by hand I have been using the Woodland Scenics Tidy Tracks products.  The long handle can reach into my longest thru truss bridges.

Most of the track on this layout is reasonably accessible.  For those times when it would be necessary to hand clean the track I have been making an effort to have any structures or bridges over the tracks removable.

One example is the loader at the Barite crushing facility in Battle Mountain.

Thursday, November 14, 2019

Slow progress through the canyon

After some quick progress the past couple months on bench work and bridge building things have slowed down a bit on the land forms and rock castings.  The canyon walls all the way around to the window have now been covered with plaster cloth and rock castings are beginning to appear along the top of the ridge.

Molds are crumpled up aluminum foil.  Rocks are set in place while the Hydrocal is still a bit soft.  A sheet of styrene is placed behind the hill to protect the sky board.  As each one hardens I try to blend it in with the previous one by filling any seams with Hydrocal and some carving.
In between rock castings I made bridge abutments from wood for the 200 ft BLMA bridge.  More 3D printed bridge feet have been ordered from Shapeways for the 4 additional Central Valley bridges including the skewed bridge.

Tuesday, October 29, 2019

Building a curved steel trestle - Part 1

Some time ago I had picked up a copy of the Model Railroader Bridges & Trestles book as a reference.  More recently I picked up a Micro Engineering steel trestle set which should have more than enough parts for this particular project.
While the prototype bridge that this model will represent is in a straight alignment, it will be necessary for it to be curved to fit in where it will be on my layout.  From the book and some photos on the web I studied how these type of steel trestles were curved.

Micro Engineering track holds it shape very well so after getting a section of track aligned over the path of the bridge I used that to make a cardboard template matching the needed curve of the bridge.

Using the template as a guide I assembled the basic bridge structure with some of the girder sections from the kit.
The bents in this kit were much taller than needed for this project.   I cut them to the length needed to reach the edge of the shore on each side of the river and made some concrete footings from styrene tube and glued these on the bottoms of the legs.  For added strength I filed notches on the outer sides of the top on each side of the bents so they would lock into the under side of the small sections instead of the girders just resting on them.

This is the stage that the project is at right now.  The cardboard template is seen sitting on the top of the bridge.  Quite a bit of fitting and testing to get everything the way I want it but it's getting there.  The scenery in the back will need to get done before this bridge is permanently installed so I'll save that for a future post.

Sunday, October 20, 2019

5 years of working on the railroad

Yup, it's been 5 years since I started building the N scale Palisade Canyon Lines layout.  All of the goals set one year ago were completed.

During the next 12 months I plan to finish the Palisade Canyon section all the way around the end of the room to the door way.   This is about 15 linear feet and will include adding 7 more bridges and two tunnel portals.  The photo below shows the area I am working on now.  This view shows several of the steps of the canyon walls being created.  Hopefully this will eventually blend in with the finished part on the left which is on the Harney section. 

Monday, October 14, 2019

Mountain, River, and Sky

The depth of the layout in this corner will be at the limits of my reach so I am starting work on some of the scenery in that area now so I won't mess up things in the front reaching in to do it later.   Starting with the sub structures that will be needed to support the scenery.

Peg board is being installed to support of mountains that will be blended into the already finished mountains on the adjoining section shown on the right in this photo.  I have also been continuing with the sky painting above the mountains.

The bed of the river will be made from tempered hard board and that will need to be supported.  Once the path was determined additional 2 inch wide strips were glued into place.  The welders clamps were purchased to hold the modules of the Asian layout together but also come in quite useful around the shop.
Once the supports were all in place the river itself was glued in place and held with clamps while drying.

When all these sub structures are in place then the land forms can be started.

Wednesday, October 9, 2019

The route through the canyon

With the basic bench work for the Palisade Canyon section of the layout in place I have been working on the track alignments.   Lots of experimenting here to get the optimal track grades, curve radius's and clearances in the area where the lines cross one another.  So far everything looks good with grade on the upper line staying under 1.4% and curve radius's on both lines at over 24".

With sub roadbed held temporarily in place with screws and the tracks and skewed bridge being held with clamps the tallest and longest cars are run through to check for clearances.
The back or upper track has been gaining elevation since Weso to get to the height where it could pass over the front track.  Ends up that it still came up about 1/8" short so some of the track on the Harney section is being pulled up and adjusted.
Creating a mock up of the upper line after is crosses over the lower line I could see that a solid earth right of way would block the view of the brass bridge.  The gray in this photo was photo shopped to simulate the fascia.
So what I am considering is having the area in front of the 200 ft brass bridge being a lower area and carrying the line across it with a viaduct bridge. To simulate this I again used photo shop.

Wednesday, October 2, 2019

It's bench work season

It seems that I tend to make bench work during this time of year.  In the afternoons the sun is now low enough behind the redwood trees to shade the front of the garage but it is still warm outside.  I pull my table saw out into the driveway and get to work.  This gives me the winter to work on the track, wiring, and scenery inside the train room.

For this next section of the layout I elected to go with a more conventional type of bench work instead of building modules.  The reasons for this are that it needed to span the window and with very simple wiring not much effort would be saved building it as a module.

In the panorama photo below the new section can be seen.  This is about 15 linear feet of new layout around the end of the room and extends all the way to the door just off scene to the left where a lift out section will be. 

I had already cut 2 inch wide strips from 1/2 inch plywood to build this bench work section.  The pieces were cut to the length needed in the garage and brought into the train room to be assembled.  The shorter left over pieces are being used as connecting plates.

So what happened to the test track / return loop that was in this location ?  It is being recycled again, this time as sub roadbed for this new section of the layout.

And with the first couple of sub roadbed sections held temporarily in place so I can verify that I am leaving enough straight track on both ends of the new brass bridge for longest rolling stock to get through OK.

Friday, September 27, 2019

The skewed bridge

The first bridge I want to create for this new extension of the layout will be the skewed bridge which carries the Western Pacific / Westbound line over the Southern Pacific / Eastbound line.

For a reference, I took some photos of a similar type bridge on the HO layout at the South Bay Historical Railroad Society.  This looks as if it could have been kit bashed from a Central Valley Model Works HO kit.
So this is my version kit bashed from a Central Valley N Scale kit.  I made my own solid headers, cross bracing, and end plates from styrene strip and the skew is the other way to fit in how this bridge will be used on my layout.
And this is my bridge after an airbrush spray of Floquil old silver.  I still need to order some bridge feet and give the whole thing another coat of paint then some weathering.

Tuesday, September 24, 2019

The bridges of Palisade Canyon

This next expansion of the layout will include one of the most interesting railroad sections of the Palisade Canyon where the Western Pacific constructed a bridge over the earlier built Southern Pacific line.  Both lines cross the river on one side of their approach to the crossing so it is one of those places that modelers like to build but are not so common on the prototype.

Here is a Google satellite image of the area where the skewed bridge is.  I plan to model the 3 bridges noted in blue but not the one noted in yellow.
Here is a closer view of the skewed bridge.   This span has 4 full sections.  My bridge will be somewhat shorter with 2 full sections.  I plan to modify a Central Valley Model Works kit to model this one.
Here is a close up of the third bridge I want have in the scene.  It appears to be a thru girder type bridge about 100ft long with open deck with wood trestles on the approaches.  A dirt road passes under one of the trestle parts.
And last here is a close up of the curved top thru truss bridge.  Looks like it has 5 full sections and is about 150ft long.  For this one I am going to use one of the BLMA 200ft long brass bridges and not model the additional shorter span.

Thursday, September 12, 2019

Lighting the next layout expansion

Since last post the LED light bulbs have been installed under the new shelf and a valance put in along the edge of the shelf and painted.  This extends all the way around to the door.
The bulbs were spaced every 18 inches and connected to the existing circuit.  The brightness and color seem to match the existing just right.

I purchased enough bulbs and sockets to also light the area where Carlin will be in the future.

Saturday, August 24, 2019

Completing the layout room storage

It's been awhile since I posted anything on this blog.  Most of my hobby time this summer has been spent working on my Japanese modules getting them ready for a layout at the 39th Narrow Gauge convention in Sacramento in early September.  Been doing a lot of posting about that on my Tokyo in N Scale blog.

With everything just about ready for that trip, I recently turned my attention back to the home layout and to completing the storage above the layout.  I needed to do this before I could further expand the layout past were it is now.  Up to now I have been using basic white cabinets from Ikea.  To finish off the area at the end of the layout room I am just building open shelves.
This view shows the shelves holding oversized but lighter weight items such as small modules.  The posts hanging down from the shelve will be for mounting LED light bulbs same as under the cabinets.  The bottom of the shelves will be painted white and tempered hard board lighting valance installed.
This photo shows how I used steel brackets on the top to keep the area where the layout will be open.  On the left by the door is where the Palisade tunnels will be with a lift out bridge crossing the doorway.

Friday, June 28, 2019

A computer for the layout room

A couple years ago I replaced my computer.  There was nothing wrong with the old one it just would not run some of the new software.   In the past at work I had on a number of occasions re-purposed older computers to use in situations where the program applications being run were limited so I thought why not do the same with this old computer.  The computer and monitor had been collecting dust in a corner of the train room while I was waiting to decide where to set it up.

The space under the DCC drawer was the perfect spot to set up the computer as it was right next to the work bench.

I made a shelf supported by a pair of steel brackets for the computer and monitor and added one of those pull out keyboard trays.

This train room computer will be primarily used for running JMRI Decoder Pro to program locomotive decoders and possibly experiment with some layout control in the future.   I will also use it to program Arduino micro controllers. Up to now I have been doing the Arduino programming in the house and then bringing the Arduino back to the train room to try it out.  This was rather inconvenient so this will be a big improvement.

Sunday, June 2, 2019

Starting some car cards and waybills

Since having finished a few on line industries in Battle Mountain,  I have been looking into way of having a more structured operations scheme.   After looking at different operating schemes from many different sources on the Internet, I decided to go with a type of car card and waybill system.  I drew upon several things I saw and adapted them to my own needs.

I did my car cards and waybills on Microsoft Visio.  Here is a JPEG of my car card template.  The dashed line is where it is folded over to form the pocket for the waybill.   This is printed on a medium quality paper but I laminate it with clear packaging tape to make it sturdier.

My car cars have color coded dots corresponding to the 3 different eras on my layout.  Most of my cars overlap into 2 different eras so have 2 dots.

In the September 2017 post Trying to get organized I give an explanation of the 3 eras on my layout.

For the waybill, I use one side as the "loaded to be delivered" part and the other side is a "empty to be delivered" part.  This is printed out as one part then folded and glued back to back with stick glue.  Once this is folded over it is sturdy enough without lamination.
Micro-Mark offers some nice car card boxes which are widely used but because my bench work is thin they would stick up above the bench work so for now I am going to clip the card cars to the light valance right above the location of the car it represents.
At this point I have limited my car cards and waybills to the cars needed to support the 4 industries in Battle Mountain without regard to any through traffic.

After running a couple of test locals using this system I already get the sense of a "bigger" layout with the references to some of the far away locations suggested on the waybills.  Over the summer I hope to get a couple of my train buddies over for a sort of operating session so they can critique this system and make some suggestions for improvement.  This will be an on going process.

Thursday, May 23, 2019

Train watching at Weso in 1984

With the new DCC components and upgrades installed I have been actually enjoying running the layout quite a bit over the past week or two.  Operationally one of the focal points on this layout is Weso at the western end of the paired track where the Southern Pacific and Western Pacific lines diverge.  When you think about it this is actually like a junction and a great place to watch trains.

I operate this layout in 3 different eras and will switch equipment around to try to match each era.  So here we are one day in my 1983-1988 era checking out the action.  Always on the lookout for any interesting or unusual locomotives, rolling stock, loads, or paint jobs.

The first train we spot is an eastbound freight coming off the SP line from Sparks and crossing over to the eastbound paired track.  The power on this train included an SP GP40-2 and a SSW B30-7.

Spotted this Great Northern box car in this train that was still not re-painted or even re-numbered 14 years after the creation of the Burlington Northern.  The only evidence that the car belonged to the BN was a door that was replaced or re-painted in the BN green.

This train also had one of those 89 foot auto parts box cars.  These are one of my favorites and I don't see them very often.

Not long after the SP train had passed this eastbound UP train approached from the old WP line.  Soon after the UP acquired the WP a few years ago they pulled almost all of the WP power off the line as it was in such bad condition.  Power on this train was a SD45 and a SD50 painted in UP colors but lettered for Missouri Pacific which is another railroad UP recently acquired.
Nothing much else noteworthy on this train until it got to the end and a caboose.  This one was a bay window type painted and lettered for UP but with a road number for the WP.  Looks like they are having some fun at the UP paint shop with all this equipment they are acquiring.

After about 30 minutes another SP train approached from the east and passed through on the straight alignment to enter the SP line.  This was a solid train of covered hoppers and was being pulled by a B23-7 and an SD40.
At the end of this train was one of the new end of train devices or FRED.  Seeing more of these and fewer cabooses all the time.  Guess we better appreciate the caboose while it is still around.
After waiting awhile this Burlington Northern freight approached from the east.  Occasionally a BN train is routed over the UP line between Denver and the connection to the inside passage at Bieber, CA.  Power on this one was a C30-7 and an SD45.
This train took the cross over from westbound paired track to the old WP line.  The train was mostly lumber empties but again found the caboose interesting.  It was a wide vision type with a road number for the Denver and Fort Worth which had been a subsidiary of the Burlington.

Well, this was fun but it's time to call it a day.  We'll do this again sometime, perhaps in a different era.