Friday, December 3, 2010

Layout Construction–November 2010

Helix Construction
The next step in construction was to complete the helix to the top level. After cutting the circle for each level, construction continued with drilling holes for 1/4” threaded rods. These rods will allow the adjustment of each level to gain the proper height in each turn of the helix. The 1/4” particle board turn is held in place with a washer and nut from both the top and bottom.

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To make the transition from the helix to the upper level easier, I applied roadbed to the last piece. This piece was lowered to the level of the previous curve. By adjusting the nuts this allowed a smooth continuation of the track surface.

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Here is a video of the test run of the helix.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Layout Construction – September 2010

New Scenery
Now it is starting to look a real railroad. This corner will my experimental area. It has been a long since I did any scenery work. This area will probably change over time as my skills increase and new techniques are tried. I used various sizes and colors of ground foam for grass and weeds.

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The road was created using sheets of black craft foam about 1/8” thick. I tried several ways of covering the foam to simulate blacktop. The first method I read about on a website. You coat the foam with a coat of colored plaster. After the plaster has dried, you use a small object to press down on the foam and create realistic cracks in the pavement. This method did not work for me. The plaster was scraped up and coats of chalk were used to color the foam. Cracks and pot holes will be added over time.
A small dry creek bed was added to vary the terrain and add some interesting scenic possibilities.

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Back Drop Painting
After thinking about it for quite awhile, I decided it was time to try some background painting. I originally wanted a detailed background, but decided on doing something simple. I wanted to avoid the background becoming a distraction to the main thing I want the viewer to see, the trains. This kind of the same principal as a stage play. The background sets the mood or helps to define what, where and why the actors are there. I will probably continue to refine the background as the foreground comes more into focus.

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The wheat field will become an area of interest as it develops. In these photos you can see the one row of wheat stocks. It will take quite a few rows to fill this scene. The harvester will be in the process of cutting the wheat. It will be fun to create a convincing harvest scene.

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New Acquisitions
New cars that were added to my collection over the past few months. Some were from eBay, one purchased at a local hobby shop and the others were acquired at a recent auction held at the Union station in Ogden.

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Sunday, October 3, 2010

Layout Construction – July - August 2010

New Scenery
After getting the itch to start some scenery work, I reworked the the track going into the first tunnel. I did not do a very good job of laying the track correctly the first time. So before any scenery could be started the track had to be redone properly.
With that done, it was now time for a new aspect of the layout to begin. I found some tunnel portals that I liked. There are not an exact replica for the tunnels used by the Milwaukee Road, but are close enough for my tastes. The portal entrance side walls also help to give the feel of the real thing. Now it was time to shape the hillside and begin sculpting the earth. Wow, sounds like I’m playing God.

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Lewistown Yard Tracks
With the basic land forms in place, I turned my attention to finishing the yard tracks and industrial siding in Lewistown. This completes all the track laying for the lower level. Time to run trains!

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Grain Terminal Association’s Elevator
Now that the industrial track for Lewistown is in I needed to start working on some the industries. I had built the Walthers ADM Grain Elevator kit 4 or 5 years ago. It sat on the shelf waiting for the day it would be placed on a layout. The only problem was the fact the building was to tall and to wide for the lower level. After cutting done the main building and splitting the silos in half it fit just fine. The only left to do is add the roof and pipe housing to the top of the silos. Add some other small details and paint.

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New Furnace
All layout work came to a sudden halt. It was time to replace the furnace. The furnace was the original equipment with the house. After serving faithfully for almost 25 years it was time to retire it. This allowed us to replace it with a modern energy efficient furnace with central air. The lower level of the house had never been cooled during the summer months. Plus, I was tired of fighting the swamp cooler every year.
The base work for the helix had to be removed and all the clutter in the corner had to find a new home. The ceiling tiles had to be removed for the addition of new cooling pipes and electrical work. So the layout was tidied up and a layer of protective plastic was used to cover everything for construction dust. Everything went well. As you can see in the last photo the installer did a great job of keeping everything inside the equipment closet.

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Additional Scenery Work
Now that the major house maintenance was complete it was time to get back to work. I finished sculpting the landforms in the corner of the layout. A quick coat of paint to blend everything and then sometime to view the results before continuing on.

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Monday, July 12, 2010

Layout Construction – June 2010

Helix Construction
I finally got a start on the helix to connect the upper and lower decks. Step one was to build the bridge that spans the doorway. A stable structure needed to be secured to the walls to support both the swing bridges for the upper and lower decks. Once that was completed, the next step was constructing the the first bridge. This bridge needed to support itself when it is swung out of the way of the entrance door. Large door hinges were used to support the bridge on one end and a small shelf attached to the layout on the other end. I added a drop down pin latch to secure the bridge when trains are running. The electrical cord in the last photo is use to connect power from the layout to the bridge.

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Now that the bridge was completed work on the helix could begin. This was quite a challenge while trying to meet certain criteria. The support structure can not have legs to hold it up. We needed to be able to access the area behind the helix for storage and also storage shelves underneath. Once that was completed, I attached a temporary circle of track to test my design. THIS JUST IN: Management has decided that any further work on the helix will be suspended until a new furnace can be installed. We have had the same furnace since we purchased the house. We have also been using a swamp cooler to cool the house in the summer. The swamp cooler will be lucky to survive this season. So, we will be purchasing a new central air and furnace in the near future. It will be easier for the installers if the helix is out of the way. Stay tuned for further announcements.

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Back Drop Construction
I have been anxious to begin creating scenery for the layout. The shelf stanchions for the the upper deck create a problem for making good looking scenery. To cover these up, I will install thin hard baord to create a smooth surface for the background painting.

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Experiments with the “Bullfrog”
I have been looking for a reliable and cheap method to control the turnouts. After experimenting with various homemade controls, nothing worked reliably. The Fast Tracks company (Click here to visit their website) from Canada have created a turnout control call the “Bullfrog”. It is made from laser cut model aircraft plywood. You can purchase them assembled or unassembled. These units are easy to construct and are easy to install. For the control knob, I used a large wood bead and a short length of coat hanger.

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Rolling Stock Storage
I’ve needed a way to store the freight and passenger cars for the various trains I’ll run. While visiting the local Wal-mart I found these inexpensive storage boxes with drawers. They were the right height to hold cars and had room for about 8-14 cars in each drawer. The drawers were then mounted on a board with casters to make it easier to move around. I lined the drawers with Sill Foam Gasket material to protect the cars from damage.

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