Construction Progress

(click small images to view full-size images)


08/21/05 - OK, it's been over 4 months. Progress has been slow, but things have gotten done. There are a few pictures, but there are other things not shown - since the last update I purchased a DT400 throttle and some UP5 panels for my Digitrax system. The panels are just screwed to the edge of the benchwork for now, but will be located on the fascia when that gets done. I built a bunch more Tortoise assemblies for the yard, and made what seems to be an endless number of terminal joiners. The last track bus was run, and all remaining feeders soldered, at least until the yard is finished, and there will be another huge number of feeders to connect. I built a control panel for the front part of the layout, that too is temporarily fastened to the benchwork so it can be used - sure is a lot nicer than reaching under and moving the Tortoises by hand. All other track besides the yard is now in place and painted.

Row of cabooses, awaiting service.

The yard takes shape!

The yard, from the other direction.

Control panel for front of layout.


04/14/05 - No pictures this week, but I managed to get some more track and roadbed in place. In the last update pictures, where the Zephyr console is sitting, I have no placed those turnouts, and the roadbed and part of the track has been laid for the spur to the left in the top middle picture. That track will be both a siding and my programming track, isolated via a toggle switch. The yard lead is also installed, all the way around from the front side of the layout.

Another accomplishment since the last update is the control panels. The control panel for the front section of the layout, which has just two crossovers and one siding, is physically complete. I'm currently working on the wiring of it. These panels are made of two sheets of plexiglas, with the schematic printed on heavy cardstock sandwiched between. The back piece of plexi is painted flat black, the front piece is naturally left clear. LEDs for turnout position indication are pressed into plastic bezels from Radio Shack. Toggle switched for Tortoise control are screwed through both sheets of plexi, and help hold the panel together. I'm not anxious to finish the other panel, which is for the back section of the layout where I have been concentrating the work effort. Once the panel is ready, we can actually operate instead of just run trains around the loop.

03/20/05 - At last, the promised update. Three months have gone by and I have been VERY lazy about updating the web page. Since the last update, the first mainline loop has been completed, as well as the second. Some wiring has been done - I have pulled runs for the two mainline loop power busses, and connected all of the feeders. Some work has been started on the yard lead as well. In the meantime, other activities have been taking place. I started working up designs for control panels, and I have been busy installing DCC decoders and building a few of my backlog of kits. Most rolling stock has been sent through a massive repair program, replacing inferior couplers with Kadee, making sure the height is correct, and replacing plastic wheelsets with metal.

View of the back left section. You can see my Zephyr and a couple of turnouts being fitted

Another view of the back section. The turnouts being fitted are for the yard lead and sidings.

This is the left front section, as seen from inside the loop. The PRR switcher is sitting on the yard lead.

This is the right front section, seen from the inside. One train is on the East Main, the other on the West Main.

This is the temporary toggle I wired to control the switch motors for the rear crossover. There's one like it on the front too.



12/23/04 - Finally, some of the pictures I promised! Plus I moved the full-size images off site so they load faster (and don't kill my own network). The first 7 pictures are actually from the test section I built off the layout. The rest of the pictures are from the real thing.

Here is a hole cut in the foam ready to take the Tortoise.

Turnout installed, wire to be soldered to the frog for power.

Shot of the track glued down. Colored push pins hold it while the glue dries.

Looking down the track, you can see the N scale cork on the siding.

Overhead view of the siding with N scale cork to lower it.

Another view of the siding.

Here's the roadbed before the track was installed. Again, push pins hold it while the glue dries.

This picture shows the back section of the actual layout with roadbed and track laid.

A view down at track level towards the right rear corner.

The first test train over the completed part of the track.


12/19/04 - Wow, I can't believe it's been a month since I updated this last. Since last month, the complete track plan was put together, with the curves adjusted for proper clearance. It was all transferred to the foam, and the lines darkened. At that point you could get a pretty good idea at what the 'finished' layout will look like.

I then took some time out to built a 2x4 foot test section to try different methods of fastening the roadbed and track, as well as try out for real the 'top down' method of mounting the Tortoise switch motors. All in all, it came out great, just a short straight with a #6 turnout and siding. The siding was mounted on N scale cork to that it sits lower than the 'main line'. I intend to do all sidings and the yard like this.

Having the lines to indicate the track path, and now fairly sure of the process for cutting a hole in he foam to drop the Tortoise in, I tackled the actual layout. As of now, there are five Tortoises in place. The next step was roadbed for the outer oval. Here I used some cheap latex adhesive caulk, per an article in Model Railroader last year. All I can say is, WOW! This is the absolutely BEST way to go about putting down roadbed, it goes incredibly fast. The caulk allows you plenty of time to adjust things, yet is tacky enough that once you press the roadbed in place, it won't spring out on you.

Tonight I started on the track. The first thing i did was install one of the turnouts. Then i tried a straight section of flex track. Again using the caulk as the adhesive, it was incredibly easy. The next section required a curve. Last week I doubled up some sections of flex track with one of my sets of terminal joiners, and soldered the rail joiners as well, making 6 foot continuous pieces. This way I can avoid a kink when a joint falls in the middle of a curve. After spreading the caulk on the roadbed, it was easy to place the double section of flex track on the curve - again, the caulk is tacky enough to hold immediately, yet still allows you move things around for that final adjustment. We decided that a slight superelevation was desirable for appearance sake, so before the caulk dried I stuck short pieces of stripwood under the outside rail. The overall effect is about an inch and a half of superelevation. It's enough to notice, but not so much that there will be interference with proper operation of any rolling stock. I even hooked up one set of feeders and ran a short train back and forth. Smooth!

I WILL get some pictures posted soon so you can actually SEE this stuff, not just read about it!

11/18/04 - Been a while since the last update. But construction proceeds, albeit at a slow pace. At the local train show this past weekend, we were able to build up a supply of Code 83 track, turnouts, and roadbed which will allow us to finally move forward with track laying. I have been working on finding a better way to finish off the backdrop, and hit upon using heavy gauge poster board. There will be more gaps to fill, but none as large as the gaps between the foam panels. Plus the corner will be coved instead of a right-angle joint. The smooth finish to the poster board will also make for a smoother paint finish.

Since the last update, we also installed two more shop lights. It turns out with just two double bulb fixtures, there wasn't enough light falling ont he side sections. Two more lights hung over the side parts now provide completely even illumination around the entire layout.

Another task that was completed is the sanding of the joints between each section. Due to manufacturing tolerances, the edges of each foam piece were not always even. A few passes with sanding block and keeping the shop-vac hose close by to contain the dust and everything was even.

We also picked up a couple of spools of #12 wire in red and white to be the main DCC bus. I WAS going to go with red and black, but in the sometimes dark recesses under the layout, red and black tend to look very similar. No way to we need 500 feet each at this stage, but the 500ft spool was less than double the cost of the 100ft spool. It'll get used eventually. I also picked up a spool of #20 wire to make power feeders, conveniently also in red and white. A short time at the workbench and I had 8 pairs of terminal joiners made up and ready to go.

The final project in progress is getting a full-size track diagram printed and laid out, and then traced onto the foam. About half is completed at this point, and you can start to see what the layout itself will look like. One problem cropped up, the track spacing on the curves is a little tight for full-length passenger equipment, so it will be modified during construction. 30" and 32.5" radius curves parallel to each other result in a bit too close an arrangement. 70 foot and shorter cars work fine, but not the full-length 85 footers. Once each page is taped into place, a pounce wheel will transfer the edges of the roadbed on the printed plan to the foam. The marks left by the pounce wheel will be darkened with pencil and it will be time to actually lay some roadbed.

10/15/04 - All the sections are now in place. Hopefully we will have help this weekend to move the whole thing back into the corner where it belongs. The next step is to sand off the edges where the foam panels join. Owens-Corning extruded foam is not perfectly flat all the way across and so there are little humps at each of the section joins. This would cause a vertical kink in the track work and so must be sanded down prior to installing roadbed.

10/10/04 - Saturday, didn't get much work done. We were at the huge train show at the Maryland State Fairgrounds in Timonium. Today was a lot more productive, as far as progress on the layout is concerned. The backdrop is now all in place (we are only putting a backdrop up on the two sides that will go against walls. The other two sides will have access from both sides. I'm still debating a view block on one or both of these sides). The backdrop pieces are held on by using scrap pieces of 1x4 bolted through the layout sides like a clamp. It seems sturdy enough for the purpose, as it will support no weight, but next time I might use 1" foam instead of 3/4".



10/07/04 - All the benchwork is now done. Most of the cross braces have been painted and it is almost time to install the backdrop.

Here is the left side of the completed benchwork.

This view is of the right side of the benchwork

10/03/04 - I was productive each evening this week and a good bit of the weekend, and now all 4 sections are up in place. Still have some legs to install on the 4th section, and some cross braces to install, but it's all there large as life. Next comes the backdrop, and then the foam panels. Backdrops will be installed along the 12' side against the existing stud wall, and from the corner out to the window. I decided to try something different and use a 3/4" piece of foam as the backdrop. The plan is to use some of the scrap 1x2 as stiffeners, and glue the foam to the back edge of the benchwork with Liquid Nails. The 1x2's will run vertically every 16 inches or so, and be fastened to the foam with Liquid Nails, and bolted through the benchwork

09/29/04 - All the pieces moved to the basement and the process of leveling and attaching legs has begun!

Here's the basic benchwork section getting the legs installed

An additional view of the leg installation

Here is the complete section with the foam set on top for testing.

I set a piece of Tru-Scale track and one of my cars on top of the foam to see what it would look like


09/27/04 - Benchwork constructed!

The 4x8 idea was scrapped in favor of an 8x12 concept. See the track plans page for plan details.This weekend we purchased the required lumber and assembled 4 frames, each 2x8. Some leftover black paint was used to paint each unit to seal the wood against expansion and contraction. Everything is currently sitting in the garage space normally occupied by my car until the paint is dry, at which point it will all be moved to its new home in the basement and the legs installed and leveled. Construction went VERY quickly, considering all lumber was cut using a hand saw. The best tool ever was a special 90 degree dual clamp which my Dad bought many many years ago. I looked while in Home Depot and did not see a new version of this. Basically, you clamp up both pieces at a corner and it holds them in perfect 90 degree alignment. All corners came out nice and square and it was easy to do.

Pictures to follow. For now, here's a 3D rendered view of the overall layout.

07/20/2004 - Progress at last!

In order to experiment with new techniques in construction using foam, caulk for track laying, and other newer concepts, we have decided to build a 4x8 test layout to practice on before starting work on the full-size layout. Plus it gives me some time to rethink the track plan, and have something to do to avoid losing interest. To that end, in the area seen in the photo above, we have hung two shop lights and put together a simple flat 4x8 layout using two pieces of 2x8 2-inch extruded foam insulation. This is sitting on a table that we had, that I was going to use as a workbench, but it serves nicely to support the 4x8 'sheet'. (pictures to follow)


05/07/2004 - Track planning still underway. Part of the basement has been cleared out to make room for wall and ceiling construction.

Here is a view of the first section of the basement, prior to moving in. If only it were this cleaned out again...