Dec 11, 2007
In other news, I finally decided to attempt - or at least explore - what it would take to join code 55 rail to my existing Peco code 75. I found that the code 75 rail joiners will work for horizontal alignment, but of course the code 55 rail height will be too low. I'm trying now to figure out how to hold the two rails in alignment until I can solder them.
I don't have a solution yet, but have been thinking of using a cutoff tool to remove the upper part of a rail joiner in the middle (so that portion has only the metal plate on the bottom). Then, I'd insert both size rails, and bend the joiner at the point where it's just the bottom part - should bend easily right? Get the height right w/some fiddling and bending, then solder it. Perhaps I'll be able to try that in a few days.
Dec 5, 2007
A short recap - I had created this section to pull out, using drawer slides. The first attempt, when I laid the roadbed, shows that the drawer slides were somewhat sloppy, and also that if you pulled too far, the entire module dropped out (on my wife's foot - thus the requirement to redesign it!).
So - I replaced the slides with heavy-duty extending slides rated for 100 lbs; the module now slides out much further, and won't fall out w/o releasing latches on each slide. Plus, the module pulls out so far that it should (usually) not be necessary to remove the module.
So last week I laid track over one section, cut the rails, and realized a very tight locking mechanism was needed. I installed a couple of sliding dead-bolt type thingies (that's a technical term, you know - thingies). But, even with those there was a little bit of play that caused track alignment problems.
Finally, just last night, I reworked the benchwork and found a way to attach a suitcase latch (the kind where a tab flips up, then a ring of metal loops around a catch, then the tab is pushed back down). With a bit of fiddling, I now have this attached such that the latch actually squeezes the benchwork slightly, and makes a very solid lock, with no movement at all.
Hopefully, this will solve the problem. It's winter here, and the humidity has been dropping and benchwork wood is starting its seasonally drying and shrinking. During the spring, this process reverses, and it's then I'll find out if the wood changes enough to affect this or not.
Now let's see - with that task finished, what should I tackle next?
Nov 26, 2007
Nov 5, 2007
There' s a pull-out section of benchwork just past 44-A, and I laid the first bit of track onto the pull-out and make the rail cuts. No testing yet, so I'm not sure how good it is yet. I've always been nervous about the junction of the rails across those joints, but so far it has seemed easy enough.
My kids were able to back the test train into Vance for the first time Sunday night, and that was a pretty nice milestone to meet.
Oct 29, 2007
Here's a shot of the entire Durango panel. It's mostly empty, since all that's wired so far are the power busses and some of the blocks. Each area of the layout has its own panel, feeding blocks in that area. Each panel is feed from a 4-circuit power bus that runs around the layout. One of those circuits is the main feed from the command-control system, the others (yet to be used) are for 12v and maybe 5v power.
I use the area under the layout for household storage (and cave-exploration by my younger kids!). So, to keep that space accessible all of the panels are hinged, and fold up when I'm not working on them. Here's the Durango panel in its UP position.
And the last show - here's the end of the Ridgway staging tracks, where they terminate in the laundry / furnace room. There's a laundry sorting table (and old counter top) along the wall, and both the lower main and upper main / staging tracks run right along the edge of this sorting table. Because it's often filled with clothes (we do have 3 kids!), I enclosed the tracks. There's plexiglass on the sides, and the top of the staging level is a lift-off piece of bookcase shelving. So - trains are protected, and the shelf is handy for more clothes sorting. Eventually I'll paint and finish this, but for now it's at least protected and the tracks are functional.
I had a good weekend, thanks to my wife who wouldn't let me work around the house and made me just relax. I finished cork roadbed for Vance Jct and the beginning of the wye into Telluride, extended cork roadbed about halfway to Ophir, and rebuilt a moveable section of layout where bridge 46-E will (hopefully) one day reside. This is a pull-out section I needed for access, and getting the drawer slides and alignment issues worked out was a highlight of the weekend's work.
Oct 22, 2007
The test train is pretty long - 9 or 10 cars - with a variety of car types (72' Athearn heavyweight passenger cars, 40' and 50' frieght cars, etc). The grade to Lizard Head is 3%, and this train does need double-heading to make the hill. The grade coming into Rico from the north is also pretty steep (2.5%). Both need the pair of 2-8-0s on this train, but that's pretty much as intended; after all the real RGS needed to double-head as well with longer trains.
So - I've begun installing the base for Vance Jct (which sits above the McPhee staging). It's going well, but there are several transitions to other modules (my benchwork is built in sections that can be disassembled if we have to move). Getting exact height matches between these modules is always a bit of a problem, and the Vance module has three - the line to Butterfly trestle and the Ophir low line, and the two legs of the wye leading to Telluride. All three need work at the moment, so that's the next focus.
Oct 14, 2007
But - with that done I realized I had to finish wiring and testing the staging track before starting any work on Vance Jct (which will be above it). So - a bunch of work yesterday on wiring this area. At least the wiring is getting done!
Oct 9, 2007
So - I spent a good deal of my day off on Monday laying more turnouts and tying those tracks into the main. It ended up being rather frustrating and messy, as the turn into the staging tracks is sharper than probably anything else on the layout, and I really wanted to avoid that. Yes, it'll be hidden mostly, but I like to maintain the 30" minimum radius, and I'm sure I'm under that here. Oh well - there's just not enough room there to fit everything in. If it's really bad, I suppose I could replace one of the turnouts with a sharper turnout, or even a curved turnout. I'll try some test trains on it later and see.
Once this is done and reliable, I can continue working on the mainline into Vance Jct, which will involve covering this staging track.
Oct 5, 2007
So... I've been thinking about how I format the construction journal, and have decided that a real blog might be easier, and more fun, especially if folks want to comment on the layout. Also, I want to publish pictures more easily, so hopefully this will help there as well.
Oh yeah - I got the 1156 bulbs that were giving me trouble replaced, and everything's fine now. I think the order I received actually had some bulbs that were similar, but not exactly, 1156s. Oh well - one more 'lesson' learned. And more soldering practice, which can't ever hurt (well, unless one drops hot solder on one's self, but let's not talk about that. Actually, I avoided that this time).
Sep 30, 2007
Sep 24, 2007
Aug 27, 2007
In other news, we had a really bad storm here in the Midwest, and we lost power for 4 days. The basement had some minor flooding, and we spent most of the last week cleaning and mopping. No layout work this past week as a result! Thankfully, there was no damage to the layout or drywall, and our backup sump worked long enough to protect us from the worst of it. Some of our neighbors, w/o backup battery-powered sumps, didn't do so well.
Aug 6, 2007
Jul 30, 2007
Jul 25, 2007
May 21, 2007
Apr 29, 2007
Currently, the mainline is operating from the Durango cutoff (approx) to just below Rico. There's no sidings yet, so I just have a test train that runs forwards and backwards over the line. This section includes nearly all of the hidden track, and I've wanted to make sure that was operating well before covering it. I had a little trouble over the winter with wood contracting, and despite my expansion joints the track did pop out in a couple of areas. Those were reworked (more gaps were cut), and they seem to be ok now.
Here's a few pictures of the real use of the Durango yard area (the upper level is raised while I complete work on the lower level). Sometimes I think the layout just provides a roof for all the forts and tunnels being created below it!
Apr 2, 2007
I used 3/4" plywood here, instead of the usual 1/2", to ensure everything is solid. I don't know how long it'll be until I actually purchase and build the turntable, but I needed to cut the opening now, which forced the decision. I plan an identical 105' table at Durango (also very different than the prototype 65' table that's really there, but oh well).
The benchwork for the roundhouse itself should prove very, er, interesting. It's going to have to a hinged section of benchwork that can swing into place over the basement sink. My wife is VERY gracious with the basement, but she rightly insisted that the sink be fully accessible, and actually I agree. The benchwork will sit about 2' above the sink, but when you have to wash paint brushes or fill large 5 gal buckets, we'll need more than 2' of space. So - the plan is to hinge the roundhouse section itself and let it swing off the sink area, folding back along the Ridgway yard's edge when not in use. This is going to be rather trick, what w/all the alignment issues and mechanical stuff. But - I don't need to build that until I actually want a roundhouse, probably a year or two into the future, at least.
Mar 17, 2007
I've also been installing guardrails on the hidden mainline portions. For some of this, I'm using the plastic cloth-like stuff used for weaving yard furniture chairs and such; it's bright yellow and pretty easy & cheap to run. I used this mainly along the back sides of the hidden runs. The front sides need to be accessible from below for cleaning and rerailing, so I needed something just high enough to catch derailed rolling stock, but not so high it'd block my hand coming up from below to clean the track.
Under Rico, I experimented with more of the chair stuff, screwed into the 1/2" plywood subroadbed - it actually seems to work ok. It's flexible, but should be plenty strong to prevent derailed stock from hitting the floor. In other areas, I ended up using very thin strips of masonite, again just screwed into the plywood subroaded. I found that as a little as 1/2" edge above the top of the plywood seems enough to prevent crashes - it just has to catch the trucks of derailed stock. At this low height, it's pretty easy to reach over it (from below) to clean the track.
And then, finally, I've started on the areas above the hidden track. The first is the upper-level connection between Ridgway and Durango, going thru the stairs. I got part of the subroadbed for this stretch installed. Below are some photos of the lower and upper tracks going thru the stairs, during install of the upper track. I created the upper track roadbed and laid cork on that, then installed it.
These two photos so the upper level track emerging from the stairs and entering Ridgway. Anchoring the upper level roadbed as it emerged proved a little tricky, as the lower-level track is right below it.
Mar 4, 2007
Anyway, the issue is how exactly to install these buggers. I'm just soldering directly to the lamps since they should last pretty much indefinitely, but that's a little tricky. The final plan I came up with was to feed one side of the main track feed to a terminal block, then to a wire soldered across the tips of a line of 1156 lamps anchored to the benchwork. Then, wires soldered to each brass base of the lamps is fed back down to the terminal blocks feeding each section of track. Yeah, I know - I really need a picture of this... eventually I'll try to add one.
There's one lamp for each section of track, basically each block, or each group of service or yard tracks; I'm trying to minimize the number of these lamps I need to solder and install. Actually, I'm trying to arrange it so each locomotive would always be protected by its own lamp, so tracks are divided based on how many locos I think will be active at any one moment. BTW, I've been buying these lamps at Walmart - they're only about 98 cents each there, in the automotive section.
Feb 6, 2007
Jan 22, 2007
Jan 3, 2007
I also wired the existing track from Durango to Mancos, so trains can now run between the laundry-room hidden track all the way thru to Durango! There's nothing visible to see after all this work, but it's critical infrastructure and it's good to have gotten the main bus runs completed. Although it feels a little like I'm using too much wire, I've decided to run the main track bus to each local panel, then individual wiring to each block. Although I'm running command-control, I want to wire each block individually so that I can add block detection later if I want, and also so I can run of sections (say, staging tracks or enginehouse spurs) if they're just storing trains. I've got a good deal of hidden track, so all that will need detection, at least.
From each local panel, I'm running #14 or #12 to each block. The track is being laid with every other length of flex track soldered, so I'm running short #20 jumpers to every other section of track - thus feeders approx every 6' and every rail is either soldered to a jumper or to another piece of track. I'm using mostly electro-frog Peco turnouts, and with these newer ones you can easily wiring the frogs directly, which is what I'm doing. This does mean that each turnout will need it's frog powered, and I'm still trying to decide how to best accomplish that. At the moment, I'm leaning toward manual push-pull knobs connected to slide switches for local turnouts, and Tortise moters for turnouts further away.