Nov 13, 2006

The first wiring panel

A few sore muscles and scrapes later, the first wiring panel is installed, under Ridgway. I spent a good portion of this weekend planning and working on wiring, mostly trying to figure out how to organize things. I finally decided on 6 sub-busses, Ridgway, Durango, Ophir loop, Telluride, Dolores and Rico. Wiring for all those areas will terminate at panels in those 6 locations. All 6 panels will initially be powered from power supplies under Rico, but I could add booster supplies for any of the 6 panels at some later date.

Even though I'm using an older form of command-control, I'm still dividing each area into blocks, and wiring each block individually from the area's panel. This way, if I want to add detection or control-panel signalling later, it (should) be easier. I've decided to protect groups of blocks with 1156 automotive lamps, as several have suggested, so the panels and blocks let me lay that wiring out as well.

The panels themselves are sheets of plywood hanging under the benchwork, but hinged so that when I'm not working on wiring they can fold up under the layout. I really need the storage area under the layout, and this will keep the area under the panels more open, so I can get at stuff stored there w/o having to reach around behind the panels.

Nov 6, 2006

No work at all during October (busy month), but yesterday I got a bit more done and reached a major milestone - the first locomotive operated over a section of track! Here's one of my kids w/ the first train

It was just on the short section of track running between Dolores, thru the laundry room, and into the bathroom. Because that wiring had to be done as the track / bridge was created, it's wiring is done and I was able to hook up a power pack and test-run a locomotive.

My kids were so thrilled they immediately put a Lego guy or two atop the locomotive and shuttled him back and forth between the laundry room and bathroom for nearly an hour! The immediate focus for now is to start building the sub-bus networks of wiring, and tying in the rest of the existing trackwork...

Oct 2, 2006

Ophir loop proper was finished. Here's a photo - note that it was quickly taken over by more kid trains, this time my old O27 Lionel stuff, which is now laid from Vance Jct, around Ophir, and all the way to bridge 46-E. So after Thomas trains, we now have Lionel trains running on the layout. Eventually some HO trains might even run! It's great to have the kids involved, though, whatever scale they're using.

Wow, guess it's been a while since I've posted an updated here... track laying is progressing well; there's about 200' of track laid, clear thru on the lower line from Dolores thru the laundry room & bathroom, under Ridgway, thru Mancos and Hesperus, around under Ophir, and back up to the Durango cutoff.

There's also track laid from the other end of Dolores, under Rico, and into the curving grade into Rico proper. My focus is getting all the hidden track laid and operational, make sure it's solid trackwork, then continue w/the trackwork above. There's just a little wiring done so far, so nothing actually runs yet, but my kids have been 'test running' old Tyco cars around the track for some time now.

Here's a (very messy) picture of the Hesperus / Wildcat canyon area (on the lower level; that's the switching lead and run to staging for Durango above).

And here's the lower main running thru the bathroom, w/ the closet on the right and the toilet on the left. There will eventually be another level about 4" above this line, with the yard lead, main, and 3 staging tracks.

Here's a closeup of the lower line thru the bathroom closet (the tunnel leads to the line under the Ridgway yard). You can see the wall opening cut for the 5 tracks from the Ridgway yard above.

Probably the most difficult hidden track has been sneaking the mainline behind the furnace, in the laundry room. Here's the completed lower main, with the furnace on the left in this picture.

And here's Eli and Brendan, who were very helpful in squeezing behind the furnace to help feed the wiring from the new mainline here out to me for connections.

Aug 7, 2006

Lots more cork roadbed laid - probably about 200' now. I found an error in the plywood subroadbed yesterday, at the turn between Ophir's bridge 46-F and Lizard Branch; it was an earlier section and it turns out I cheated the radius where two modules join in that area. Once I started laying the curve and easements out with the cork, I found I'd cut a portion of the curve completely off! I'll have to rebuild that section before laying the cork there, unless I want a tiny segment of too-sharp radius in my mainline!

But, the rest is coming along. Cork now runs over all the hidden main (except behind the furnace - still avoiding that for the moment), from Dolores to Lizard Head, and Mancos to Durango on the visible main.

Jul 24, 2006

A milestone was reached this past weekend, when I finally started laying the cork roadbed.
Here's a shot of the Dolores townsite, with the newly laid cork sheet. This is (I think) 1/4" cork underlayment (normally used for flooring) that I picked up on clearance, online at Cork Direct. I purchased a 50' x 4' roll for a very reasonable price.

Sheet cork was laid on the Telluride and Dolores town sites, and cork roadbed laid from the laundry room's lower line all the way to Wildcat canyon.

And here is the Telluride peninsula. This photo also shows some of the floor anchors and bracing used. I was pleasantly surprised at how solid this very narrow peninsula became after adding the X bracing. It's only 1' to 2' wide in most places, and about 54" high, yet it's very strong and doesn't move even if you walk into it.

Jun 29, 2006

Still very busy w/baseball (little league) this spring, but I found enough time to finish the framing for the Telluride peninsula. It was kinda tricky figuring the final dimensions as that benchwork sneaks between the Dolores and Ophir areas, especially as it moves into the aisle toward Wildcat Canyon. But it's done now, and aisle widths were kept between 27" and 30" in the area, which is workable.

A long-standing concern of mine has been how to ensure that section is rigid, as it's really narrow and can't be attached to the ceiling. I ended up using some bits of AC2-treated 2x4s screwed into the floor (with Tapcon anchors), then attaching the 2x2 legs to those. At first I used scrap plywood bits to add diagonal bracing to the legs at pretty steep angles (maybe 60-70 degrees). That helps stablize the side-to-side swaying, but on the last few legs (some only 16" wide or so), I used a lot more diagonal braces, and kept the angles to 45 degrees. Wow - what a difference! Rock solid, if you can believe it. I'm removing the other bracing now and replacing it w/45 deg braces, adding 2 or 3 levels depending on the leg pairs. And yes, I'll post pictures of all this someday.

May 15, 2006

Tracks on the wall, and under the stairs

Finally got back to the layout, and have made great progress getting the final link between Ridgway and Durango built. This is a double-level shelf running along the wall and thru the basement stairs, and because it's one of most difficult piece of benchwork, I've left until nearly the end.

Here's the Ridgway yard area; the underside of the stairs is to the right. That board-thingie sitting on the yard is the upper-level main that installs inside the bathroom - through the closet and bathroom and into the laundry area. It's one long piece, and the fewer joints the fewer problems w/ trackwork, I reckon.

Here's the two levels of mainline approaching the stairs from the other side. It's a very narrow stack of two shelves, the lower one 4" wide, the upper 4.75", and part of the trickiness was figuring out how to support it. After building a mock-up, I finally settled on a 1x2s screwed into the wall, with more 1x2s on the outer edge under each shelf, which is 1/2" 4-ply plywood. This forms a bridge, basically.

There's a little 7" lip in the wall (where it changes from drywall on concrete to a normal stud wall), and I was able to have a 1x2 stick out from this lip to form a brace perpendicular to the shelf. I think a single angled bracket under another part will complete the supports for this.

Part of the mock-up was figuring out how high I needed my guardrails to be; the track is right against the edge of this little shelf, along a major aisle into the layout, and I've got to protect against trains falling off. I found that a wall only 3/4" high (measured from the plywood base) will work, even with the track elevated on cork roadbed. This wall is low enough to reach over easily for track cleaning, but high enough to keep equipment off the floor, or so I think.

After briefly losing a test car INSIDE the stairs (the back is closed & drywalled), I put this guardrail on the portion that's actually inside the stairs as well.

Once this is finished up, it's on to Telluride. The benchwork there is completed up to Keystone Hill to the edge of town, but I haven't built further because I need the floorspace for cutting large plywood sections. Now that most of those are complete, I can more the tools and finish up Telluride. And then, finally, on to track laying.

Track laying has been delayed, because (1) I didn't want delicate track in an area of such heavy construction, and (2) because I couldn't afford the track yet anyway. I think both of those issues are ending, enough to begin trackwork anyway.

Apr 24, 2006

No progress at all the last couple of months... I'm involved in a large project w/our church and work got busy as well. Hopefully that'll change soon!

Feb 13, 2006

Ophir is coming along. The loop and road thru town are complete (in plywood only), and bridges on the line are complete from 44-A near Vance Jct all the way thru 46-D on the high line. Of course, I'm having to compress the lengths of the bridges, as I've only got about 29' to work with. I'm also trying to keep some kind of relative separation between the the bridges - ie 46-B and 46-C are right next to each other, 46-A is a little before them, and 46-D is a bit further away in the other direction.

But all this fiddling means the compression is all over the board - 45-B is about 62% of it's prototype length, while 46-D is only 37%. And the entire high line is pretty straight - there just isn't room for any twists or curves. I did manage to curve the lower line a bit. So - it's not an exact model, but I knew that starting out. At least there'll be lots of trestles to build and (eventually) look at. Maybe I can mass-produce these critters when I get to that point - I'm up to 11 already!

Feb 6, 2006

The climb to Ophir

Well, last weekend saw more work on the Ophir loop area. The track is so high here, I feel like I'm working on an 'airline route'! The big bridge 45-A has it's form roughed in, and I'm working around the depot area now, toward the back of the loop. In this area, there are 3 levels of track - the hidden return loop, the hidden Durango staging, then the Ophir area. I hadn't planned on going over the staging, but the grades worked out and pushing that loop back to the wall gave me a little more room for 45-A.

Here's a shot of trestle 45-A's opening, showing most of the loop area and the hidden return track under the loop. The grade up from the Ophir lowline lessens to 1% over 45-A, then flattens to zero thru the depot grounds, then back to 2% entering 45-B. It'll be flat again on the passing siding (just to make switching easier), but by having some grade in the loop itself, I think I can get a little grade separation between the siding and 45-A below it.

Here's another shot, showing the area where the siding at the Ophir depot will begin, and the opening in the rear for trestle 45-B.

Here's the grade coming up from Vance Jct. I roughed in the location for trestle 44-A at the beginning (not really visible in this shot). The Ophir low line, on my layout, is a constant 2.5% grade, and as curvy as I could make it, given the long narrow benchwork in this section.

The grades came out so high that the high line bridges will be nearly level I think - I'm already nearly at the Lizard Head elevation and pushing eye-level for viewing. I would've liked a little more vertical distance between the lower and upper lines, but I think this'll work ok. I had to maintain the steep grade on the lower line, just because Ophir depot had to be high enough to clear the Durango staging tracks.

Jan 16, 2006

Keystone hill's subroadbed and benchwork is complete, and the grade is in place all the way through the wye and up to the edge of Telluride proper. Roadbed has been progressing up the lower portion of Ophir loop, about a 1/4 of the way to Ophir so far. And - the first three bridges have been roughed in - two on the Telluride branch (39-A and 42-A) and one at the base of Ophir loop (44-A, the Butterfly trestle). These are really just framed openings in the roadbed, with support below for eventual trestle bents, but it's a tremendous boost to me to be able to see them. For now, I've got very narrow sections of plywood tack-glued over the openings, wide enough to just support the flex track that'll be laid there initially. Later, I'll pop the plywood and flex track tie sections out and build real bridges under the rails. But that's probably a long way off. At least the narrow plywood kinda looks like a bridge, and it makes imagining the final scene much easier.

All sections in this area have been immediately covered with wooden track and Thomas trains, and that's ok with me. In fact, sometimes they get covered before I've even anchored the new roadbed to the risers! This is all Eli's work (he's 7). The opening for bridge 39-A had a beautiful plastic suspension bridge running across it before I had a chance to add my temporary plywood support. My 10-year-old, Josh, has also been 'testing' the roadbed by manually running one of my old Lionel O-27 steam engines over the roadbed, around the entire layout. It's surprising that this locomotive actually fits through most of the HO-gauge-sized openings in the walls and hidden trackage. So - no 'real' track yet but at least something's moving on the layout! I love having the kids involved like this; it's great to see them interested in it.

Jan 3, 2006

Work has begun on Telluride's benchwork! The main decking for Vance Jct was completed, and basic benchwork built for Keystone hill - the first part of the Telluride pennisula.