Monday, February 1, 2016

First turnout takes shape

I pulled out my Proto87 Stores turnout (or is it switch?) kits this evening, anxious to get more than printed out template placeholders on the layout.  Two and a half hours later I've got my first two rails and the frog glued down.  It would have gone much faster except I made an incorrect bend in the diverging rail and had to pull it up just as everything seemed finished. That's what I get when I sit down and start a project right about when I should be heading off to bed.

After having struggled on the Waterloo Spur modules with using ACC glue to bond the rails to the tie strips, I decided to try Pliobond this time.  I had ordered some previously from Tim Warris' Fast Tracks.  After watching the video on his website on how to work with this glue I felt pretty confident that it would be an enjoyable rather than a frustrating process. 

And that's how it has turned out so far, aside from my own human error.  Following the instructions on the Proto87 Stores was straightforward, especially having built a few turnouts previously.  What a great feeling of accomplishment to look at an evening's handiwork that turned out in gauge and nicely detailed.  

Looking forward to getting the remaining rails glued down in the next day or two and testing out these hand-built turnouts with my switch mechanisms. 

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Pine Street progress - Benchwork and Switch Machines

I've been working diligently on the railroad almost every day, sometimes for 15 minutes, often for hours.  The effort has paid off in that the benchwork sections are all mounted on the walls and the fascia has been installed.  I've also had a very successful trial installation of my manual switch machine method.

My office is roughly 11' x 14', and I was able to fit the original 12' long, scale length model of the mill trackage along one long wall.  The street trackage coming down Pine Street will be represented by a short stretch including tracks in the road and a hopefully noticeable grade replicating what I've experienced driving down the street myself.

There will be a lift-out section across the doorway, followed by the small yard and track feeding the spur from the  CN line along the Welland Canal.  Past the yard and across the other end wall will be a scale length representation of the railway bridge across Hwy 406, a chemical plant, and finally a connection to the mill trackage for when I just want to see trains run.

The fascia is made from black plastic, a method that I saw Trevor Marshall demonstrate on his modules on a series.  I cut roughly 8" wide strips from a 4'x8' sheet and glued them to the benchwork with No More Nails.  It went on easy, allowed for adjustment of level, and dried quickly.  There is an overhang along the top edge that will be trimmed to follow the terrain contours once the scenery has progressed.  I'm very pleased with how the fascia came out.

The switch machines are going to be a combination of Southco's ( small E3 compression latches driving Bill Brillinger's ( Simple Switch Machine.  I've always wanted something simple to install, mechanically rather than electrically driven, and slow-motion.  Because the latches move axially as the key is turned, that movement can throw the switch machine, with the rod connecting up through the benchwork to the throw bar having some flex to hold the points tight against the rails.

Here are some videos and photos illustrating the concept:



In the photo above one can see both winghead and keyed installations of the latches; I will be proceeding with the keyed version as I feel it better replicates what happens on the prototype.  The operator playing the role of brakeman/conductor will have the key and be responsible for throwing the switches and "locking" them after each move.

My next step is to order the remaining switch kits that I need from Proto87 stores, assemble and install them with the key-driven latch/switch machine combos.  Then I will build the liftout, lay all the connecting track, and hopefully start running trains!

Monday, November 2, 2015

And so it begins

I put up a 2x6 rail along the long wall in my office today that will support the shelf brackets holding up the Pine Street Spur.  First mock-up of one of the three current sections:

I'll need to make some progress on adding buildings and scenery, but first impression is that the Behr Evening White is a good, neutral sky background shade.

Monday, October 26, 2015

Ready to move forward

Working on the railroad has had to take a back seat for most of this year to finishing the basement room that will become my office/train room.  After many months of working on the drywall, ceiling, and flooring as time allowed, the room was finally completed and moved into this past weekend.  Here's what it looked like prior to moving my office furniture in (and a whole lot of Ikea Lack shelves to hold my railway book collection):

What I've got is a relatively spacious 14.5' x 11.5' room with the walls painted a sky grey.  The room adjoins my furnace/workshop on one side and a roughed-in bathroom on the other.   The workshop is ready-made for staging, and I plan on leaving a connection through the bathroom to the main living area available for future expansion.

With this wonderful space now available, the question becomes what to do with it.  When we moved in a year ago plans were soon drawn up for the room to contain the terminus of the Waterloo Spur in HO, specifically the town of Elmira, ON.  In the meantime a 12' long set of modules recreating CN's Pine Street Spur in St. Catharines have been started, also in HO, as well as a good amount of O scale rolling stock collected for a P48 rendition of the current industrial spurs on the north side of Guelph, ON (joint operation between GEXR and OSR's Guelph Junction Railway).  Focus is not one of my strengths, obviously.

So which railroad will end up in the room?  I spent some considerable time trying to bend one of the industrial leads in Guelph (See link to Google maps below) into the room.  The desire for large radii, even in P48, and having come up with a track plan I like that fits the O scale rendition into my workshop, has opened up the office for HO scale trains.  The dilemma is that I have modules for both the Waterloo and Pine Street spurs already started.  Which one to go with?  Or is there a third alternative?

Having had the pleasure of operating on Bob Fallowfield's rendition of CP Rail's operations around Woodstock, ON, I've come to a better understanding of what I find enjoyable in operating, namely something featuring a small yard with mainline power moving through, but also plenty of realistically-scaled industries.  Throw in some late-80's mainline & branch motive power, and a relatively low train frequency that would support operation by 1-4 operators, and I find I'm drawn back to thinking seriously of modelling CN's Guelph sub in & around Kitchener, ON.

What to do, what to do?  Do I finish what I have started, or start on something new?  Seeing these words on the screen leads me to think that in consideration of my pocket book, limited modelling time, and overall enjoyment level, I would be better served by getting trains running sooner rather than later.  The quickest route would be to bring the three modules comprising the Pine Street spur to a level of scenicked and operational completion that would allow for operations, and give myself time to decide whether a larger HO scale railroad scratches my itch.

Perhaps I can gain sufficient satisfaction from operating on friends' layouts to allow myself the luxury of multiple, smaller layouts of my own.  I could with relatively little further outlay construct a one- or two-switch P48 layout in the workshop that will allow me the pleasure of working in the larger scale as a change of pace to the HO models.  Who knows what the future brings?


Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Hmmm, Proto:48

I've been bitten by the urge to go bigger.  Without having seen any P48 models in person, and with only the memory of the impressive physical heft and aural magnificence of an O scale modular layout at the Springfield train show a couple of years ago, I think I'm going to give P48 a try.  Dip my toes in the water, so to speak.

First order of business is of course obtaining a locomotive.  Browsing the web, in particular the P48 Yahoo group, I quickly settled on a Red Caboose GP9 model.  It's seems to be the perfect candidate for a kitbash/detail upgrade into either a CN or CP rebuild.  After some research the angled face of the CN GP9rm is perhaps more than I'm willing to bite off for a first try, so something along the lines of Ontario Southland's ex-Chessie GP9 #175 or ex-CP 8235 look more feasible.

The Red Caboose model as sold by Des Plaines Hobbies is the plastic body only, lacking trucks or a drive train.  That will be taken care of with Des Plaines' brass trucks and can motor drive kit.  My first goal is to complete the locomotive in standard O scale, testing it on a few lengths of flex track.  If the bug takes, I'll upgrade it to P48 with the kit from Protocraft and build a switching layout.

In fact, I've already determined that a good representation of Elmira, ON in P48 could fit along the side wall of my basement.  It's so hard to pick something and stick to it, there are temptations all over in model railroading!

Well, this summer will be about collecting those parts, building some models of the Fraser mill on my HO scale Pine Street Spur modules, and perhaps even getting out to watch some trains during our roadtrip vacation to Florida.

Monday, March 30, 2015

Mobile storage

I've been reading a number of blog posts recently, primarily on, where people have detailed the various solutions they have come up with for carting around the flotsam & jetsam associated with building a layout.  There's electrical, tracklaying, scenery, and layout construction equipment that is useful at this end of the layout one minute, and down at the other end of the room the next.  There are some very creative ideas out there, and it spurred some thought as to how I might want to tackle this in my own basement.

So it was no surprise that as I found myself wandering the lower levels of our closest Target store a few weeks ago, I viewed the store shelving and racking that was up for disposal (Target is closing their Canadian stores) with my model railroading eye.  And I liked what I saw.  Here were some heavy-duty, mobile units with adjustable shelves fairly screaming out to me regarding their usefulness for my modelling needs.  After a quick internal debate, I rolled out the front doors of the Target with a 2 foot wide, double-sided mobile unit sporting six height-adjustable shelves.  The price was right at the time, and with the closing dates fast approaching my wife tells me the units are now going for half of what I paid.

Once the shelf unit was in my basement, the question became one of how do I best utilize what it had to offer.  Drawing on some of what I'd read and seen others doing, I purchased some pegboard and slid that down the middle in order to have a place to hang tools. I also cut a piece of plywood to fit on the base, upon which were placed several plastic drawer units that have been occupying various spots in my workshop, but never all in the same, handy spot.  Now I could have them all next to my workbench or roll them out to whichever portion of the layout I would be working on.


This is about as far as I've gotten so far.  How to best utilize the shelves, especially with respect to not having things slide off of them as I roll through the basement, is one item still to be addressed.  I should note that the rolling qualities of the shelf unit are not the best on the varying carpet surfaces I have loosely laid down in the basement until the walls are finished, and the unit is quite heavy without a good fixed handle to maneuver by.  A smooth, hard floor would work best.

Having said that, I now am one step closer to having the model-building tools I need at hand without having to search throughout the basement for where I last put them down.  A place for everything, and everything in its place, as they say!

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Getting it going again

Reading blogs is addictive, don't you find?  Find a good blog and you go back just about every day hoping that there will be new content for consumption.  Read it, then go on to the next one.  How often does the content make you stop and think before going into your favourites tab and click on the next destination?

I surf for new blogs, mostly model railroad related, all the time.  There are relatively few thoughtful, interesting pages out there.  I think I know why.  It's quite difficult to write something new and refreshing on a regular basis.  This must be what journalists go through, having to come up with tomorrow's story today, day after day.

There are actually many things that pop into my head to write about all the time, but how many are worth keeping for posterity?  And if I took the time to document them all, well, I wouldn't end up doing much modelling, would I?

Actually, keeping my phone handy may just be the right thing to do.  You see, if I'm trying something out, perhaps writing about it will keep me focused enough to see the job to completion.  To meet my editor's deadline, so to speak.

And I say phone because the iPhone 6 Plus I picked up today is practically a tablet, and with built in HD video and camera, I have everything I need to out a blog out regularly.  Isn't that the idea of technology, to enable us to do more?

So tomorrow, when I put together a battery slug locomotive and switch some cars on Pine Street, perhaps I'll see it through to completion and there will be some documentation of it on my blog that just might be useful or interesting to someone else out there.  And that little act will help me to get the modelling going again.