Jan 28, 2008

1156 done at last

This weekend I finally finished installing the last of the 1156 lamps, covering all the blocks and other track sections on the layout. It's always a bit fussy soldering these lamps in place, so I'm glad to move on to something else now.

I've been running the layout's mainline a lot, now that it's complete. I've had the test train running forwards and backwards around the entire layout, at speed, and so far all looks good. I even reversed the loco / caboose so the engine was pushing the train from the other end, then ran that both forwards and backwards... still running ok.

Probably the next step is to begin working on the 'real' control system - my old Keller OnBoard. I've decided that I really need two 'mixers' (like DCC boosters), so I'll have to modify the main power bus a little to split it, and then build transition track sections (some gaps and a couple more 1156 lamps), as using multiple Keller mixers is a little different than using multiple DCC boosters.

Jan 14, 2008

More wiring at Ophir, and two accidents

A friend came over to see the layout this weekend, and ended up spending the entire day helping me wire the Ophir loop area. He spent most of his time working on a pair of 4-wire disconnects for the removable section, and wiring by safety rocker switch (which cuts power to both lines about 10' either side of the removable section). All that went very well, and most of the loop wiring is now complete. The panels at Vance Jct and Ophir still need the 1156 lamps installed, but then the basic wiring should be complete.

However, the weekend was marred by a minor derailment that dumped my two Bachmann Spectrum 2-8-0s on their sides. No damage - it was trivial derailment - but because I foolishly re-railed the double-header w/o turning off the power, the locos took off before I had the drawbar connected, and this stretched the loco / tender connector wiring. Now, one of those connectors is loose, and won't lock into position securely. It looks ok, but the loco stalls on turnouts where it never did before. I'm not sure how to fix it - perhaps just permanently wire the cab / tender together and bypass the little connectors?

And then - far worse - one of these same locos got knocked clean off the layout the following day; it landed on its side about 2' down on top of a plastic storage bin, which I guess cushioned the fall somewhat (certainly better than hitting the floor!). The tender's drawbar post snapped off, and the fitting on the drawbar screw under the cab also broke, let the cab / boiler pop up easily. I'm guessing I can install a new drawbar post on the tender, but I'm not sure what to do w/ the cab screw. It looks ok, but if you touch the cab it lifts off very easily.

Surprisingly, this appears to be the only damage! All the delicate pipes, steps, etc all seem fine.

Jan 7, 2008

Mainline is complete!

I reached a milestone yesterday - the mainline is now complete (well, except for the cutoff into Durango). It's not operational yet, as I've got some fine-tuning to do I suspect, and the wiring. But basically the rails over the entire Ophir loop, and both high-line and low-line, are complete.

I ended up using a #7.5 curved turnout for the Ophir spur, and the only one available was code 83. But, I found that using code 100 rail joiners worked very nicely to join the code 75 and code 83 rails. The oversize joiners are just sloppy enough to let the rails float a bit vertically, and it was trival to hold them in vertical position and solder them. I was actually kinda worried about this junction, but it turned out to be really simple and easy.

Jan 3, 2008

Progress over Christmas break

I had a few days off, and was able to (finally) push ahead with laying track up the Ophir high- and low-lines. That section is the last remaining portion of the mainline to lay, and it's now about half completed. Part of the delay was a lack of funds when I ran out of track, but I finally gathered up and sold a bunch of other stuff on eBay, and freed up some funds to continue.

I ran into another problem though, as I planned the spur at Ophir. The spur comes off the curving mainline just after the high bridge 45-A. I was planning to use a Peco code 75 turnout (as all my other turnouts are), but their only curved turnout has a very side outside radius (60" !!), and I just couldn't make that fit. So, plans now are to use a Walthers #7.5 curved turnout, which has radii of 32" and 28", and should be much more workable. It is code 83, so I'll have to figure out a conversion between the code 75 and 83 at this point; hopefully it won't be too bad.

For the code 75 to 55 transition (I want to use code 55 for sidings and spurs), I discovered that Micro Engineering actually makes a code 70 to 55 transition rail joiner, and I picked up a few. I haven't used them yet, but it looks like they'll work well.

Finally, a friend from an operating group south of Chicago dropped by for a visit, and we chatted about the operational possibilities fo the layout, once the trackwork is further along. I planned for operation from the beginning, but it was great to have someone else look at the layout and confirm that group operations would probably work well. I'm looking forward to that day!