Saturday, December 29, 2007

I've done quite a bit of work on the layout over the long Christmas break, most of it in the last couple of days.

I cleaned up and painted the sections of backdrop installed behind Glenrock--

After (the paint isn't quite dry yet):

I also started fabricating and installing the fascia for Glenrock --

The semi-rectangular holes will provide access to trains in Minneapolis Staging underneath Glenrock, once scenery is begun.

Obviously the fascia is still under construction. The edges of the access holes will be cleaned up, and the whole thing painted. I'm thinking wither black, sagebrush green/silver, or Wyoming earth tones.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Minneapolis Staging Yard Finished!

The last finishing touches - the east throat occupancy detectors - on the Minneapolis staging yard are finally done! Now it's on to installing the base for Thermopolis, finishing the backdrop for Glenrock, and adding fascia to the Glenrock benchwork (in front of the west part of Minneapolis staging). After that will come some real scenery!

Monday, December 10, 2007

Well, I've made progress on the last set of detectors for Minneapolis staging, but they're not done yet. They're mounted and the main cable, which arrived last Wednesday, is strung between the panel and the detector area. The cable is tied in to the control panel itself, but LEDs are not installed yet.

I'm hoping I'll have the installation finished by the end of this weekend, but with the holidays and borough business meetings and such, I'm not sure it'll happen that fast.

I just realized I never posted results of the election. I won, by three votes. I'll be sworn in on January 3rd.

Friday, November 30, 2007

Well, CRAP!
With two of the three sets of occupancy detectors in Minneapolis staging yard now working, I went to start installation of the last set, at the far end of the yard, last night. I cut the oblong holes between the tracks for the transmitter / detector set (very easy with a Roto-zip), then went to string the 12-conductor cable between the control panel and the point I'll mount the terminal strips near the detector set. Turns out the cable is about five feet too short! End of progress last night.
This morning I ordered another 100' spool of the cable, as well as a hundred-foot spool of 8-conductor cable for Seattle staging detectors.
So for the next several days I'll mount the terminal strips for the last set of Minneapolis detectors, add pigtails to the detectors, then mount them and tie them into the terminal strips. By the time that's done I'll have the new cable, most likey, and I can install that. I hope to have Minneapolis yard totally finished by the end of next weekend.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

I was able to spend some time on the layout over the Thanksgiving weekend (in between working on the house and sitting on my butt), and I managed to get the IRDOTs installed for the center section of the Milwaukee staging yard. I'll get the final set of detectors installed at the other end over the next few weeks, then I can start installing the base for Thermopolis.

Monday, November 19, 2007

I've managed to start doing some work on the layout this past week. I'm in the process of installing occupancy detectors in the center of the Minneapolis staging yard. All the detectors are mounted and connecting wires attached - now I just have to connect the wires to the cabling, the cabling to the panel, and install the LEDs in the panel. In all, probably seven or eight hours of work to go to get this batch functional.
Then it's on to the set of detectors at the far end of Minneapolis. Total that will take about ten hours, then I can install the Thermopolis base support, run track into Thermopolis, add fascia board to the Glenrock area, then FINALLY start installing basic scenery at Glenrock. Hopefully I'll have some time over the Christmas break to do some of that.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Back to the Layout!

Well, the election is over. It was too close to call, so for another few days I still won't know if I've won or not. Meanwhile, life gets back to normal, with working on the house and, finally, the trains again! So watch here for periodic updates!!

Thursday, October 04, 2007

I know it's been awhile since I last posted, but vacation, work and a run for borough concil have me so busy right now I haven't had time for the trains since my last post!
Hopefully I'll have time again after the election on November 6th - win or lose!

Thursday, August 23, 2007

The new control panel was completed last Friday evening (17 August). Here it is:

Sunday I ran my John ALlen track cleaner car around the layout to clean all the tracks - I haven't run anything since mid-July.
Monday I did something I haven't done in ages - I actually spent a couple of hours just running trains! Tuesday I did just the least little amount of work on the roundhouse floor, cleaning up flash off the castings and fitting them together, then locating it properly relative to the turntable.

Friday, August 17, 2007

It's been a couple of weeks since I last posted - anyone notice?

The control panel is just a few connections from finished - for now. Only five of the 24 total IRDOTs are wired into the panel, because I only have five installed. The others will come over the next six to eight months (these things are about $25 apiece, so I have to break the purchase into small numbers at a time).

Everything works - I just have to wire the IRDOT power supply through the panel off switch.

I'll be posting pics of the finished panel in a day or so.

Monday, August 06, 2007

Work on the new control panel progresses. I have one more set of track selection indicators to wire, then the power LEDs. After that, I have to add new terminal strips in the case, slip the panel into the case and attach all the wires to the terminal strips, and add resistors to balance the LED lighting. Probably another week worth of effort, all told (it will probably take me three weeks!).

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

The new control panel is coming along slowly, but it IS progressing. I managed to get one bank of track selected indicators wired, and all the Tortoise switch wiring is complete. Here's a couple of shots of the panel as of Sunday night:

And here's a view of the face of the panel with one occupancy indicator temporarily powered:

Monday, July 23, 2007

Well, I decided to forgo the panel mounts for the LEDs. I'll secure them in place with a dab of rubber cement or something on the bottom lip.

Here's the new panel graphic:

I finished cutting and drilling the panel's plastic sheets, and installed the switches. A closeup of one section looks like this:

The holes which are NOT punched in the graphic yet are for the LEDs. Each track except the main gets two LEDS near the switches - a blue one to give an at-a-glance indication of which route is selected, and a bi-color (red/green) one to indicate whether that section is occupied (red) or clear (green). The main will not store trains, so it doesn't have occupancy detectors.

Wiring is just barely started:

I plan to work on this each night for the next week or two until it's done.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

I guess I need to plan ahead a little better.

I ordered the LED panel mounts yesterday morning, then at home tonight I worked on the panel. I got all the switch holes drilled and the switches temporarily installed. Getting the panel mounts for the LEDs installed would be challenging, because the smallest require a 1/4" mounting hole, and is about 3/8" diameter over the bezel. So - a choice.

Do I redesign the panel graphics once again, leaving more distance between the yard track lines and then buying new plastic and starting over again, or do I forego the panel mounts, and install the LEDs directly in the panel (using rubber cement or something else that will allow me to remove the LEDs if I damage one)?

I chose the latter - we'll see how that works. So a whole batch of panel mounts I don't think I'll need will show up in a few days. Oh, well.

No work on the layout tonight, and probably not tomorrow, either - I'm attending an operating session on a nearby layout tonight, and I have a political meeting tomorrow evening.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Well, I did NO work on the layout last night. My back is still bothering me, so I'm not sleeping real well. After a full day of work, an hour spent stripping paint on a window and a few minutes installing a piece of baseboard, I was absolutely pooped! I plopped down in front of the TV at 8:30 and promptly dozed off. I slept pretty well last night (in a recliner - easier on the back), so I hope to get some work on the control panel done tonight.

Yesterday I did order some panel mountings for the LEDs - something I forgot to do when I ordered the switches a few weeks ago. Hmph! Here's a schematic of the wiring for one end of the Seattle staging yard (the other end will require an identical arrangement):

Two more middle switches and LEDs, wired the same as this middle switch and LED, will be needed for each end of the Minneapolis yard. Note that the LEDs indicate which track is SELECTED, and not the actual position of the turnouts. That's all I wanted - an indication of what track off the yard ladder I've selected.

Not shown here, since they're separate circuits, are the IRDOT LEDs and wiring.

Depending on how much time I have after paint stripping tonight, I may actually start wiring the switches.

Monday, July 16, 2007

I got the second sheet of the Glenrock backdrop mounted a couple of days ago. I just need to get some plastic putty to fill the gap, then about fourteen feet of the backdrop will be ready to paint!

Last night I cut the new plastic face of the panel to size and sandwiched the graphic in between two sheets of the stuff. I slipped the sandwich into the grooves on the panel frame and began drilling it for the new switches. I got about ten switches in, leaving ten to go. I'll finish drilling those switch locations tonight or tomorrow.

I realized that I forgot one very inportant thing - panel mountings for the LEDs. I'll need about 36 of those. I guess I'll order a batch from Digikey.

Monday, July 09, 2007

Well, the new switches for my control panel came in Friday. Bad news - the case is so much larger that I'll have to basically rebuild the panel from scratch! The switches won't fit where the others are now. That will be a chunk of work! I bought new lexan for the panel face, and re-worked my graphic for the new switch spacing. I went to print it out and discovered I don't have any 11X17 paper! Maybe I'll get it printed by tomorrow... then I can start populating it (again).

Thursday, July 05, 2007

We (my wife and I) mounted the first sheet of the Glenrock backdrop on the 3rd. The second sheet also would have been done, but we ran out of 1X2 wood we're using for the mounting framing. Once that second piece of backdrop goes in, we'll paint it.

Monday, July 02, 2007

I started preparing to install the backdrop behind Glenrock, and did some "fit checks" of the second deck benchwork over that area. The second deck looks like it will work well. There's plenty of room between the tracks on the lower deck and the bottom of the fascia board on the second deck.
I'm using white styrene for the backdrop, and mounting it with 1X2s. I got the 1X2s installed for Glenrock, and half-installed a curved piece of plywood that will carry the backdrop over to the helix.

Friday, June 29, 2007

I had a few extra minutes before my meeting last night, so I was able to test the IRDOTs. They all work fine. All I need to do now is install the bi-color LEDs in the panel and wire them. But that brings up another problem...

When I first built the panel, I didn't plan on having much in the way of indicator lights, except for occupancy indicators for the hidden yards. But it turns out that it's easy to get confused about which track is selected for Minneapolis staging! Since the ladders for that yard are not mirror images, making sure the same track is selected for both ladders is not completely straight forward. In fact, even though I built both the yard and the panel, I have to look twice and think for a second or two to make sure I have the right track selected at both ends! So I want to put in an indicator for which track is selected for each ladder, with the simple premise that only the indicator for the selected track will light (for each ladder), with other indicators dark. An easy, at-a-glance way to be sure that the right tracks are selected at each end of the yards.

Note that I'm not looking for an indication of how the turnouts are actually aligned, only of which way the panel switches indicate the turnouts should be aligned. Simple to do, except...

The tortioses are thrown using DPDT switches. For my "selected track" indication, I need 3PDT switches - two sets of poles for the Tortoises, and one for the indicators. So I need to disassemble the panel, remove the DPDT switches, and install the 3PDT switches in their place. OY!

Meanwhile, I'm just a bit leery of installing the bi-color (red/green) LEDs for the IRDOTs, just in case I need a bit more room for the track selection (blue) LEDs. But maybe I'll just bite the bullet and put in the occupancy LEDs anyway.

Here's how the panel looks now:

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Been so busy with borough meetings and so on (plus stripping the porch in preparation for painting) that I haven't been able to work on the layout for several days.
Last night, though, I did have some time (no meetings!), so I got back aboard the creeper and spent two hours underneath the layout wiring the IRDOTs. Other than adding a couple of cable clamps, the under-layout work is done for now. I'm going to try to test the IRDOTs this afternoon, but that's doubtful - I have another meeting tonight! But if they work, then all I have to do is install the LEDs in the panel and wire them up - probably three to six more hours of work. Maybe by Sunday night...

Saturday, June 23, 2007

I managed to finish mounting the first group of IRDOTs last night. My back is still a bit sore, so getting on and off the creeper was not a lot of fun! Now comes wiring. I'm using bi-color LEDs, so each IRDOT gets four wires run to it - two for power and one for each color of the LED. Power is common on all units (wired in parallel), so I need 12 wire cable - two to each IRDOT, for ten wires, and two to all IRDOTs for power, making two more for a total of twelve. And gee, I'm just lucky enough to have bought a spool of twelve-conductor cable from Digi-Key when I was wiring Tortoises. Sometimes things DO work out. I'll be starting the wiring tonight. That should take several days.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

It's been a few weeks since I last posted any activity - because there's been very little activity.
Since the end of May I've been too busy with other things (the local primary elections, some irritating back problems that's made me less than completely comfortable working around the train, etc.) to spend time on the layout. But the last few days I've managed to start again - slowly.
I got the feeders installed on the track west of Genrock, and extended my layout power circuit (I have a 120V line running along the front L-girder of the benchwork, with outlets spaced conveniently every 8 feet or so). I hope later this week to start installing the rest of the IRDOTs on the west end of Milwaukee staging, but that kinda depends on how my back is feeling.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

I managed to get a bit work done on the layout over the Memorial Day weekend, but house work and special activities (family barbecue, Memorial Day ceremonies, upcoming election primary) took most of my time. I installed four pieces of flextrack from the west Glenrock switch west towards Casper. That puts me at the end of the installed roadbed, although I could install another four feet or so of roadbed and track before reaching the end of the subroadbed (the plywood base). Before I can go further with track I need to build more benchwork. I still have to install feeders on west end of Glenrock and the extention west.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

I installed the ground throw for the Glenrock west switch last night. Didn't have much time to work on the layout, so that's all I got done. I have a meeting tonight, but I'd like to extend track west from Glenrock a bit. As the additional track will be hidden, it should go down pretty quick once I get started. Then it's feeders, and back to the IRDOTs on the Minneapolis staging below. Hopefully I'll manage some good progress over the long weekend, in between house projects.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

I finished installing the individual ties in the Glenrock area last night. Looks kinda different without the end-of-track-section gaps. Tonight (if I have a chance) I'll install the west switch groundthrow and start extending track from there towards Casper.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Glenrock Trackage Finished!

I finished laying track in Glenrock (the siding) yesterday. I ran the 2-10-2 through it and through both switches and it ran without a hiccup. This is a major step towards beginning scenery in this area, whihc will be the first on the layout.
I have several more things to finish before starting scenery, though. First thing is to install missing ties at all the flextrack joints in Glenrock. This is about half done, and won't take more than another hour or so to complete. I also have to install the west switch ground throw, and connect some additional feeders tro the track at the west end. All total, probably 2 1/2-3 hours of work.
I need to add additional track off the west end of Glenrock also. Right now there is one three-foot section of flextrack in place. I need to go on around the curve there and move on down the Thermopolis wall towards Casper. This is necessary since after Thermopolis is started, access to install the Glenrock-Casper track would be tough.
The other, most major task, will be to get the IRDOT units in place in the Milwaukee staging yard below Glenrock. While I could wait to do this, it's much easier to cut the holes between the ties for the sensor from above, where I can SEE the ties. This will be a ten to twenty hour job, most likely, and I'll have to wire the detectors and test them as well. I also don't have enough on hand, so I'll have to order another ten or so.
So it will still be several months before scenery is started, but I can see the light at the end of the tunnel at least!

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Coaling Tower is Finished!

The presentation to the local NMRA chapter on Saturday went well, based on audience comments. It was a lot of fun to do, too!

I finished the coaling tower and put it in place on the layout Sunday. I think it came out OK, overall. I received several very nice comments on the forum. Here's a few photos of the finished product on the layout:

I still need to add the rest of the tracks and begin scenery, but it's a start. Before adding the track under the inside chutes and the coal delivery track, I need to build the ashpit between the tower and the turntable. That probably WON'T happen within the next couple of weeks - I'm very busy with local politics, gardening and house renovation right now, but I'll try and eke out a few hours here and there on the layout.

Saturday, May 05, 2007

The coaling tower is coming along well. Should be done in a few more days. Here's the latest progress photo:

The humidity in the basement is fine again. Just a few more spots on the floor to clean, and I'm back in business down there!

Thursday, May 03, 2007

The humidity in the basement (train room) continues to drop - like a feather. Another five percent or so will put it below 60%, and I can start working again.
Meanwhile, the coaling tower continues to progress. The instructions are a bit inadequate in places, and the rigging thread is larger in diameter than the holes through which it's supposed to pass (!), but other than that it's progressing well.

Saturday, April 28, 2007

I'm continuing to work on the coaling tower while the basement dries out and the benchwork stabilizes. Here's a shot of the tower in work:

Friday, April 27, 2007

Great news! My wonderful wife has been busy cleaning the train room all day! Just a few spots left to clean up and it'll be ready for us to work in there again. I will have to wait another week or so, though, because the humidity is just starting to come down to normal, and I want the benchwork to re-acclimate before I lay more track.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

The water is nearly dry in the train room - just a few small puddles. By the weekend I'll be able to start cleaning up (sweeping and mopping). Not a bad thing - it was overdue anyway.
The coaling tower I've been building is progressing slowly, but it IS progressing. Should be finished next week.

I'll be giving a clinic on how I built my helix at the Garden State Division, NMRA meet on May 12th. I've been spending quite a bit of time putting that together:

Monday, April 23, 2007

The water is finally almost gone from the train room - just a few small standing puddles remain. They may stillt ake a couple of days to dry because the water is seeping up into them from below.
Meanwhile I've started construction on the Laurel coaling tower (the Walthers wood tower kit). I've been sitting at the kitchen table in the evenings assemblint it in front of the TV.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Work on the layout is postponed for a week or two. Like a lot of folks in the northeast, the big storm that rolled through Sunday and Monday left some water in our basement. We fared better than most with only a couple of inches in a depressed area of the train room, which is the basement under the original part of the house (I don't know why, but in one area the floor was poured two inches lower than in most of the rest of the old basement. Used to be a room there, I guess). There's also some shallower standing water on other parts of the floor. When I clean up the water, it seeps back up through the floor, so apparently it will take a few days for all that rain to percolate through the soil enough so that the water table is back below the basement floor level. No damage to the layout (except a couple of legs are wet on the bottom), but I'll need to wait a couple of weeks for the humidity in the basement (and in the benchwork) to drop back down to normal before I can start work again. Meanwhile I may start working on a structure or two at the kitchen table.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Had a grand-nephew stay over Friday night and into Saturday - a great little five-year-old fella known as "AJ." After breakfast Saturday, he was chompin' at the bit to run the trains. So at 8:30 in the morning, he, my wife and I all traipsed down to the train room and fired things up. I'd cleaned off the layout and done a bit of testing about a week earlier, so I know it was ready to run.
And run we did! For about an hour and a half, AJ, my wife and I all ran trains. Mostly I acted as dispatcher, switching tracks, giving running directions, and making a couple of little mistakes in routing (no major incidents, though!). We had a great time!!

Sunday it was back to construction. I installed one of the two turnouts I built last week (except for the ground throw), completing the mainline through the Glenrock siding (I still have to finish the siding track) and added a bit more track beyond the siding. I also laid more cork roadbed so I could continue the rails onward. I've about run out of benchwork for continuing the line - soon I'll have to clear out that end of the train room and add the additional tables. I also changed out the poor-rolling trucks on about a half-dozen cars for better-rolling sprung Kadees. I hauled forty-eight cars around the staging loop behind the 2-10-2, with no slipping!

All in all, a very productive and fun weekend!

Friday, April 13, 2007

No construction at all last night - just cleaned up the table where I was building turnouts for company arriving today. I went down to the basement, thinking I might do a bit of work on the layout, and instead just ran some trains. A couple of months ago I bought a P2K 2-10-2, and decided to test its pulling capacity. With the traction tire driver installed, it hauled 45 cars around the NP staging loop on the layout (no grades on that line), including my John Allen-style track cleaning car and half a dozen tank cars that roll like they have flat tires (those trucks are slated for replacement some day). Forty-four forty-foot cars plus loco and caboose is the maximum train size my staging yards will handle, so the hauling capacity of the 2-10-2 is just about right. Up the grade on the Frannie cutoff it hauls twenty-plus cars with no problem, which is the appproximate train length for that branch. On the milder grades of the Wyoming Mainline, it should handle around 25-30 cars. The BLI 2-8-2s will haul about five cars less.

Gee, rather than work on the layout I actually stopped and ran some trains! What's wrong with me?!

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Cleaned up around the points on the two new turnouts. They now "throw" easily - or at least they did. I also painted them last night, so now I'll have to go back and clean up the points again! That's about all I did - after painting the fumes drove me out of the train room for the night (too cold to paint outside).

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Again, not much time to work last night - borough Planning Board meeting. I did remove the support frame from the turnout ties and clean up the points area a bit to improve freedom of movement of the points. All that's left is to paint the turnouts, then install them! I may opt to build two more turnouts first, though - that will use up all my quick-sticks wood tie sets, and I can put the turnout building stuff away for awhile.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Last night I managed to get the wood ties attached to my second turnout, but that was it - had a borough council meeting in the evening. Not a whole lot of time to railroad!

Monday, April 09, 2007

After a break of about a week, I spent a good part of yesterday building a couple of #6 turnouts. The second one is nearly complete - I only have to add the wood ties to it, then paint them both.