Tuesday, December 23, 2008

It's been five months since I posted. There's a good reason - I've had very little time or energy to work on the layout.

I've managed to put in fifteen or twenty hours since the last post, though, so I thought I'd go ahead and tell you what's been done.

I've continued the backdrop installation and painting. Here's a photo of the painted backdrop before I installed any scenery:

I also did some cheap-and-dirty scenery for some shots for my helix presentation, which I gave at the Mid-Eastern Region convention in Reston in late October. Here's an overall shot:

While the landforms are the final ones (except for cutouts for access to tracks behind the hill), the yellowish scenery and trees aren't - they were just for the presentation. There will be no trees in this area and the ground will be a somewhat darker tan/brown with sparse prarie grass and sagebrush sprinkled around.

I've continued adding to the backdrop, and the skyboard now continues uninterrupted past Thermopolis. The hill profiles only extend to the curve in the backdrop at the corner right now. I'm going to try to continue on with them during the Christmas break.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

I finally managed to get a bit of time - about three hours or so in the past three weeks - to work on the layout.

I've completed the lower level skyboard extension around the corner into Thermopolis, and I've completed the backdrop about halfway through the corner. I've also started painting the backdrop - about 16 feet of it behind Glenrock has received the base tan color. I would have gone farther, but the additional sheet that starts around the corner into Thermop. hasn't been prepped yet (sanded / washed). Next, as my very limited time permits, I'll add additional colors to the backdrop and bring at least part of it towards completion. Should be interesting to see if I can come up sith something that isn't too amatuerish / cartoonish / pathetic.

Pictures next time.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

It's been awhile since I posted, for a very good reason - I've had almost no time and energy to work on the layout. I've spent maybe two hours in the train room in the last two months. I'm hoping things will ease up and I'll have a chance to do some layout work soon. I'll post any significant progress when it happens.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Wow! How time flies! It's been nearly four weeks since my last update!

Work on the layout has been on and off. Tons of stuff happening at the borough - I often spend three or four nights a week on borough business. Add to that all the work on the house and I have little time left for the layout.

I've been continuing work on the scenery at Glenrock, experimenting with different lights under the upper deck. Incandescents work OK, but are a bit yellowish. I found a dimmable compact fluorescent, but they're eight bucks apiece! I have three, and they give a decent light. The CRI is around 82, so it isn't too bad, ajnd it's rated as 3200k light, so it might be workable. I'll have to install a dimmer and see how well they work that way.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Here are some of the photos I promised of progress on Glenrock scenery:

This is the stack of 1 1/2" foam that will go between Glenrock trackage and the backdrop before I started shaping it:

Here's the stack after I hust started smoothing the corners of the blocks:

And during the trimming process:

This past weekend was a very productive one for the layout. A friend (Walt) came over and helped me install the first section of benchwork for the upper deck! (this is a major milestone!)

Here's Walt drilling an anchor point for the threaded rod that will support the front of the second deck:

And here's the installed deck. Below it you can see the first sections of foam scenery set in place at Glenrock. The section between track and backdrop, shown above being built and carved, has rough carving completed. I still have to complete the shaping of that section to make the curves of the rolling hills more natural and accurate for the area:

And just to finish off the day's work, we started extending the backdrop past the opposite end of Glenrock and towards Thermopolis:

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Work on building the scenery base for Glenrock continues. The first big section behind the track is stacked and glued up, and last night I started shaping it. Running a surform tool over the surface is a much easier way to shape the foam than cutting it with a knife or even a hot wire foam cutter, so I'm creating mounds of pink foam shavings! I'm a bit more than third done with the basic rounding and blending of the stack, then I'll start shaping the final rolling hilss and adding any basic feature shapes (like a dirt road, maybe).

Photos in a few days.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

The radial tracks are all in at Laurel now, powered and ready to go. Here are the completed tracks:

And here the tracks are in use:

Sure is nice to have a spot to park locos besides the Laurel interchange tracks!

Monday, March 31, 2008

I spent a few hours over the last couple of days installing radial tracks from the Laurel turntable to the Roundhouse floor (I'll build up the rest of the roundhouse after the backdrop and such are in place). Photos in a few days.
I still have to spike down a couple of the tracks near the turntable pit and attach feeder wires. Should be done late this week. Then it's on to add the first section of the upper deck over Glenrock, so I can add lighting to Glenrock and paint the backdrop there.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Boy, almost three weeks since my last update!
I've continued working in the Glenrock siding area, and have finally carved up the first sheet of foam for the area between the track and the fascia.
Here's one end of the Glenrock area with the foam in place but not carved:

And here's the same spot from a different perspective after the rough carving was done:
The flat spots at either end are for additional foam stacks. Before I extend the foreground foam at the fascia, I'm going to paint the backdrop hills and try my hand at building the first section of scenery base behind the Glenrock tracks.

I've left the Glenrock area alone for the past week or so and am focused instead on getting the roundhouse floor and radial tracks installed at Laurel. That will give me a place to store locomotives - they've been parked out on the NP mainline and Laurel yard forever!

Friday, March 07, 2008

I got a second, shorter radial track installed off the Laurel turntable Wednesday evening. It's just long enough to hold an 0-8-0. The tender is close enough to the turntable that a loco on the adjacent track just clears, so I may lengthen the track slightly - an inch or so would do fine.

Tonight or tomorrow I plan to cut out the roundhouse inspection pit clearance holes in the baseboard. I have to extend the baseboard slightly, so I'll probably do that, too.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Well, another couple of weeks gone by.

As the final precursor to starting the 3-D scenery in the Glenrock siding area, I started wiring the auxilliary contacts on the Tortoise switch machines under Minneapolis West yard throat to route power to the turnout closure and point rails. Those turnouts (Walthers) route power via the stock rails and points, which over time can become a bit unreliable due to a build-up of grime at the contact points. Once or twice I've had a loco stall when good contact was not made. Using the Tortoise to route power to the closure / point rails eliminates that problem, so several weeks ago I began adding the necessary wires.

I did the first turnout, then found that for some reason the turnout shorted when set for one direction, but routed power fine when in the other! I reviewed the Tortoise wiring schematic and could see nothing wrong, so I cut the wire that was causing the short and everything operated fine again.

Friday the 29th of Feb. I started wiring the other four switches. Again I reviewed the Tortoise schematic to make sure I was wiring everything right, and got started. After wiring in two of the remaining four turnouts, I found that the turnouts were shorting when set to one route, and were fine when set to the other! I reviewed the location of all my feeders in the area and the positions of the insulated rail joiners and even pulled out the multimeter to show me what had power when. I made a sketch of the yard throat and tried to figure out where the shorts were happening. Since the throat worked fine when the points were routing power, I knew something really weird had to be going on! Having no luck analyzing the problem, I finally gave up in disgust for the night and went upstairs.

Saturday morning (March 1) I went back into the basement to see if I could figure out what the problem was. I pulled out the Tortoise schematic for the fourth or fifth time and looked at it again. The problem hit me square in the face as I was looking at the wiring diagram. I had been reading it wrong! Every time I had looked at the diagram, I had seen what I thought I would see, and not what was really there! I couldn't believe it!

I crawled back under the layout and rewired all the Tortoises to match what I'd finally seen in the schematic. When I got back out from under the layout to try everything out, they all worked perfectly. I'd wasted several hours mis-wiring the machines and then analyzing and re-wiring them. I had read and re-read the Tortoise schematic several times, and read it wrong every single time (except fo the last time)! Oy vey!!

Next I installed some foam supports off the Glenrock subroadbed, to hold the foam for the scenery in place above Minneapolis.

With those tasks done, I turned to the Laurel engine terminal and starting gluing together the floor of the roundhouse that will be installed there. I also laid out one of the radial tracks off the turntable that will be adjacent to the roundhouse. Since my hip was causing me some pain (I bruised the joint somehow, though I don't know how), I stopped for the day at that point and retired to the recliner for few hours of really bad television.

Sunday, March 2nd I was back in the train room, this time carving a piece of 1" pink foam as a base for the first scenery on the layout. I got the edges trimmed to fit between the track and fascia, then stopped for the day - hip was really giving me fits! I spent the remainder of Sunday not moving around very much.

Last night I completed the radial track I'd started Sunday. I now have a spot to park a loco that isn't in the middle of a yard track! Tonight I'll install a second, shorter one.

I did take photos, but they're still in the camera. I'll post in a few days. Sorry about the long-winded post!

Monday, February 18, 2008

It's been a couple of weeks since I posted, but that's because not much has been happening on the layout.
This weekend I found some time to work on the layout, finally. I added power switching through the Tortoise switch machine for one turnout that was no longer routing power through the points, and generally cleaned up the layout. I vacuumed the tracks and got everything back into running order. I also cut one section of foam for scenery at Glenrock, but I'm thinking I'm might use cardboard and plaster instead, at least in that area.

Friday, February 01, 2008

I finally have a few shots of the work of the past several weeks.

Here's the backdrop and fascia as of the end of December:

And here it as of tonight:

The fascia is painted and the hill profiles are in place in front of the sky. The vertical grey line in the white hills is the puttied splice between two sheets of plastic.

Just for fun, here's an engine-eye view of Minneapolis staging:

Thursday, January 31, 2008

Monday evening I cut the second profile board for the backdrop at Glenrock. I sanded the plastic to give it some "tooth" so paint woulds adhere, then cleaned it (I wiped it with a damp towel a couple of times to remove the sanding dust). Tuesday my wife helped me install it on the layout.

Wednesday was, and Thursday will be, too busy with borough activities to work on the layout. Friday I hope to have time to add plastic putty at the joint between sections. Saturday is a Timonium day at the GSMTS. By Sunday evening, I hope to be ready to paint the profile board with the background hills that surround Glenrock.

Monday, January 28, 2008

The slow work continues. With the help of my wife, I got the two fascia sheets I'd started for Glenrock finish painted and installed. They look good! A photo will follow soon.

A friend came over to help work on the trains yesterday afternoon, and I'd planned to install the missing bit of subroadbed into Thermopolis from the helix, and install the plywood sheet for Thermopolis, but he ended up helping me install a new window instead.

Monday, January 21, 2008

I managed to find a few hours to work on the railroad the last few days. Last week was a bust - meetings every night except Wednesday, and that was filled with an operation session at someone else's house.

I managed to get two sections of fascia for Glenrock sanded over the weekend, and primed them tonight. I also cut one section of backdrop profile board for behind Glenrock. I may have an hour or two tomorrow night also. If so, I'll paint the fascia sections I primed, and maybe cut the second backdrop profile section.

Friday, January 11, 2008

I picked up my four sheets of polystyrene last night. I should be well set with backdrop material for some time to come!

I also received QSI upgrade chips for my BLI heavy Mikes. Those came out over a year ago, I think, but I only just now got around to buying them. Hopefully I'll be able to get them installed soon.

We've got a full weekend of working on the house planned, but maybe I can steal an hour or two and get to the basement to work on the trains.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Happy New Year, everyone!

I've been sworn in on Borough Council, and that is, as expected, taking quite a bit of time.

I have been able to do a little bit of work on the layout, though. I ordered four sheets of polystyrene for the backdrops. I'll be picking that up this evening. Four sheets should last for awhile. Last night I cut the next section of masonite for the fascia. All I need to do is trim the top edge to a decent ground contour and it will be ready for mounting. Following that I'll mount another eight feet of backdrop, then install the backdrop profile sheets behind Glenrock.