Saturday, October 24, 2009

All Seems Quiet and Slow Going

It might have seemed and looked on the surface as not much was going on through May, June, July and August of 2008. But underneath the layout I was getting mighty dirty and sometimes very frustrated, while up top some more track layout and cork laying was in progress.

Yep, I was doing wiring. I had three mainlines to put wiring in for and it had to cater for DC and DCC operations on any/all of the lines. So there was a lot of drilling holes through all the timber to draw the cables through and keeping it as tidy and logical as I could. I looked like I worked at a saw mill with all the sawdust over me every day.

Don't you just hate it when you get a section done and then realise you missed something? Hate it at times, but you keep going and it's all for a good purpose in the end.

We used some black and red coloured speaker wire the club had lying around. The HO'ers had purchased a hugh pile of the stuff and were not using it, so we N'ers appropriated it for our layout. I was wiring up the layout primarily so the outside mainline could be used as we'd gotten it's track down and wanted to be able to run a train while we continued working on the other two mainlines. But it took longer to wire as it was best to do the wiring for everything at the same time.

All our drop feeds were done using solid core bell wire which we bought by the roll from Bunnings. We decided to isolate all passing loops and station stops so that the DC operations would allow a lot of locos to be stored on the layout as well as the sections could be used as very simple speed controls so more than one train on a mainline could run at a time.

We have not setup block control on the layout as that would have confused us a bit too much in the wiring department. We figured that since we have three mainlines and can at least turn off sidings that that would be good enough for the DC operations.

For the DCC operations it is so simple. On each mainline there is a master switch that dictates either DC or DCC operation for that mainline. When in the DCC position, it connects the mainline to the DCC system the club was going to buy.

To get the river crossing ready, we made up some temporary bridges out of MDF and painted them grey. They will do as fillers until we get into making some real bridges.

So by the end of August we were able to run some trains on the outer mainline.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Getting Closer to Running a Train

By the middle of April 2008, we were into casting some of the bridge supports around the river. Our aim was to try getting the outside mainline operational so trains could once again begin to roll on the layout.

I cut through the chux/plaster shell and then made up some in-place balsa boxing for the bridge abutments. Next was to spray the balsa with water and make it nice and wet so it wouldn't suck the water out of the plaster once poured. I then mixed up a mix of about 50% plaster of paris and 50% cornice cement (about the consistancy of honey on a warm day) and poured it into the moulds. A lot of tapping of the balsa sides to release any bubbles and then time for it to dry and set. After about two hours, but whilst it was still moist, but set, I removed the balsa.

If you leave it to be totally dry, I've found that the balsa sticks too well and you can't get it off! If you take the balsa off too early, then you get "concrete cancer" like I did on one of the abutments. So it's a balancing act of letting it all set well, but not dried out too muxh before removing the balsa. The "cancer" actually added some nice aging to the concrete in the end.

Here are two abutments on the right hand side of the river. These will cater for the outside and middle mainlines. The lower of the two will get some patching done on it since there is a chunk missing.

And here is the abutment on the left side of the river for the middle mainline. Notice we'd already just done a quick wash of ochre on the rock moulds so they stood out a bit better for the time being.

The reason we used 50% plaster of paris and 50% cornice cement is that I've found that the cornice cement is a very fine and smooth one and adds a lot of strength to the whole thing when dry. I don't use all cornice cement as it does take a lot longer to dry than plain old plaster of paris.

Then You get Stuck into It

The end of the first week in April of 2008 saw us start getting into scaping down the plaster track bed to make it level and then gluing on some cork roadbed. Even these track beds were done with chux and plaster and they turned out relatively strong considering it was just plain styrofoam under them.

For filing down, we used those Stanley Surform tools - a 6" one and a 12" one. These are the greatest for taking the plaster down and making it nice and level. They also work on the cork very nicely as well to get the rough spots out after we'd glued it down. They also worked well as a bastard file for taking some bad spots out of our timberwork.

Here we see the Coal Mine Loading area. In the upper left you can see a Peco point packet - this is to run off to the left allowing us to add a loading and unloading area or fiddle yard at a later date.

This next shot shows the river area after the plaster and chux have been thrown around a bit. It's still nice and wet as can be seen by the grey colour - it will dry white though.

We threw a few plaster rocks around as well - made from the Woodland Scenics rubber molds which are nice to use.

On the main yard we'd started laying down the cork, points and track for the large 9 track yard - 3 tracks for each mainline. That way each mainline has a through road and 2 staging tracks. On the whole layout we are also going for large radius Peco Points for all mainline work and hopefully even all the branchline ones as well.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

It Starts with a Few Minor Changes

Yep, it all started with a few minor changes. First it was just to add a mountain at the far left and also one at the far right of the back of the layout. This was to do two things - (1) fill in the corners which are hard to reach and (2) add a decent sized piece of scenery to the layout.

We used the normal density polystyrene foam to build up the mountains and then carved them to look like mountains with gullies and such. Once that was done we used a sloppy plaster mix and dipped "Chux" cloth pieces into it and then dropped these all over to build up a nice hard shell.

As we were doing this we decided that the outside mainline across the back of the layout, which was only at about 50 mm above the ground level on the layout, should be raised higher to give better 3 dimensional viewing and variety. So out came the hot wire cutter and pile of 50 mm polystyrene foam we had. So began the making of our own zig zag shaped risers. It worked out quite easy once we made a guide or jig to ensure that we ended up with straight cuts to make the risers and flats pieces. Once cut, you just sit down and cut all the zips and zags into the riser with the hot wire cutter so it can bend around corners (quite relaxing job in fact). All our foam work is glued down using "Selleys Liquid Nails Fast" which is the water based one and hence safe of the foam.

So the track at the back was lifted and then more of it as the plan changed slightly to allow for a more easier incline of no more than 3½ percent in a couple of places. By now it was the Christmas holiday period of 2007 and I decided to put a big effort in and we then decided the second mainline was to be lifted so it too could be raised above its then ground level to run at about 50 mm above ground and then the third mainline was lifted so it also could get some height and all three also not run parallel everywhere (was looking like a toy trainset at times) - we needed variety. So more risers were cut and zig zags cut out. As more and more track got looked at, it got lifted. I think in the end there might have been maybe a 2 metre section of one track that was left of the whole lot.

Luckily the club still had the older exhibition layout setup and able to be used for running our trains on whilst this "minor" work went ahead on the main layout.

Come March of 2008, the return at the left end of the layout had the plastering done on top of the foam risers. We used the same "Chux" and plaster method over the risers to strengthen them. Later we'd cork over the top of them. This are was designated as needing a small industry to be added at a later date and hence a siding or yard to also be added.

The left hand mountain had also grown and was showing great potential for a good scene when completed.

The wooden framework for the river had been completed by the end of March and the rough foam blocks carved and glued down.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Three Mainlines in 2007

Come August 2007, we were pretty much at a stand still, more enjoying running a few trains than continuing with the build. We were only DC operation at this stage and no blocks in place - just three DC controllers. Here we see a montage of pictures to show the overall setup at that time.

The whole layout was all flat except for the outside mainline near the red line - it was raised by two inches above the rest.

The pointwork and trackage heading into the yard was also not working for us - too many crossovers and such, that we just could not get trains in or out at all (we might have been a bit too quick when laying it and therefore got a poor result). Also, by trying to keep the overall costs way down we had used a lot of second hand points - never, ever again.

So when you added the non-ability to use our yard, the fact it was all very flat, and with enthusiasm almost not to be found, we decided that it was time. Time to do a few minor changes. Since I had recently decided to spend more time down at the club and "get a life", I got the fun of beginning the work. It all started innocently with just adding a mountain....