Sunday, October 30, 2011

Hanging brackets, legs that roll, and isolated frogs..

I was supposed to go to Phil Monat's house today for an operating session on his Delaware Susquehanna layout (See The Layout Design Journal issue #43 for an article on his great layout) but as luck would have it (or in Phil's case bad luck) he lost power like the 2.3 million others in the northeast, do to a freak October snow storm that dumped up to 16 inches of snow in some areas around the greater NYC region.  So.. model trains need electricity to run, Phil had none, which means no operating session.  I hope he and some of my other friends further to the north of me, get their power back soon.  I hate to think of them without power, with the cold weather here now.

Living in the NJ shore area (NO, not anywhere close to where Snooky stays thank God) we had very little in the amount of snow that fell, so we are lucky that we haven't lost power.  I took advantage of my now freed up schedule and did some more work on the layout.

First up was to finish prepping the helix legs for installation.  I mounted locking casters on the bottoms of each leg. With the helix being in close proximity to the mechanical room doors (just a little over 3' away) I wanted to be able to unattach the helix and roll it out of the way easily if we ever need to do any major service on the water heater or on the HVAC system.  Both might need replacing within the next couple of years and I don't want to have to tear out the helix to get clearance to the mechanical room.  Unbolting the helix from from the layout, and disconnecting the wires and track, will be all that's needed before I can roll the whole thing out of the way.

Casters added to the legs will help with moving the helix if needed.
After finishing the helix legs I moved unto installing the rest of the brackets for the lower level bench work.

This picture shows the rest of the brackets installed for the lower level.  And yes.. the sombrero still hasn't been moved yet.  :)
 The last thing I worked on today was gapping the frogs in 7 of the Fast Tracks turnouts I built awhile back.  Once I have all the turnout frogs gapped, I will then solder the feeder wires onto them.  Then they will be ready for installation on the layout when I get to that point in construction. 

All in all not a bad way to turn my disapointment about the op-session being canceled into a productive day on my own layout. :)

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Backbone Helix design progress

I've been working out how the backbone helix will be put together.  I have the helix frame built with the help of my friends. The frame was built from 1x3 dimensional lumber.  This is the only place on the layout that will be built entirely of lumber because I feel the helix needs to be more sturdy because it is free standing.

Above is the blueprint I drew in Cadrail of the framework for the helix.
Above is the cutting pattern I drew up in Cadrail for the two different radius curves for the backbone helix.

I was able to draw cutting patterns in Cadrail and configured them to get the most cuts out of the 2 sheets of 4x8, 1/2" plywood I purchased. 

Here is an example drawing of how a backbone style of helix works.
The above drawing shows how a backbone helix works.  A train enters the helix on the lower level to the inside loop.  Each time the train loops around it passes from inner loop to outer loop then back to inner etc. till it reaches the upper level.  Each time the train reaches an outer loop it will be exposed so that the crew will see it.  Each outer loop will have scenery. 

Finalized track plans

I've been able to get my track plans to the point where I feel they are as close to the actual track arrangements in the real locations as possible.  Just like most modelers I have had to selectively compress the plan but I feel I've done a good job with capturing the look and feel of each portion of the line I've modeled.

Not much changed on the lower level, except for the addition of the staging cassette shelf and connection at the end of the removable peninsula where the York PA station is located.  The staging cassette represents the PRR interchange.

The upper level also has a staging cassette shelf and connections added just beyond the Red Lion station scene.  Also, the sections that are located just off the helix have been narrowed to 1' wide.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

I'm looking for advice on building a backbone style helix

I'm planning on using a backbone style helix on my layout.  A backbone style is a helix built by curving a Masonite board to a set radius (in my case it will be about 32") and running on alternating loops one loop on the outside of the backbone a larger radius then transitioning to the inside of the backbone to a smaller radius.  The transition takes place in an opening that will be in the back of the helix.  An example set of drawings of what this looks like can be seen on page 70 of the 2008 issue of Model Railroad Planning followed by a description of what a backbone helix is.  They also show a few examples of ones that were actually built. 

The advantages of this type of helix is that the outside loops can be seniced and thus you will see the train on alternating levels so it's not out of sight for to long.  Plus I'm thinking of placing the station in Yoe PA on one of these loops to add more operating interest.

I'm looking for anyone who has ever had some experience building one of these who can give some advice on how they built it.  I have in my mind how I think it will go together, but any advice would be much appreciated if you have ever had any experience with this type of helix.

Studs installed or: Finally! The layout is going up!

This past week I started to install the adjustable/portable studs along the two walls that the layout will occupy.  At first I thought I would need help getting them up, level and plum, but they worked out to be a lot easier to put in by myself then I thought they would be.  I basically just backed out the carriage bolt enough to make enough grip to keep the stud upright.  Once I had it set in place on the wall, I adjusted them with light taps from my hand till they were level, then plum.  Once I was satisfied I then I adjusted the carriage bolt on the bottom with an adjustable wrench till the stud was good and tight against the ceiling.  I set each stud 4 feet apart. 

The above pictures show the studs in place and tightened.  (The sombrero will be moved once the sections go up :)

I went back after a few days and checked each one, and all were still tight against the ceiling.  One other thing I might do as insurance is to use 3m Command Strips fastened to the ceiling just in front and to the sides each stud to ensure they wouldn't go over if they loosened enough to do so.  The 3m Command Strips would still keep with my not damaging finishes on the ceiling because they are removed by pulling the adhesive tab out, which releases the strip.  I'm pretty confident this probably wouldn't be needed, but I still might use this as alittle bit extra insurance.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Updated track plans

Wow!  It's either feast or famine with me when it comes to keeping up with posts to the blog.  I'm on a roll tonight...

I've been working on finalizing the track plans for my version of the MA&PA RR as it was in 1943 and I'm posting them here in this installment. 

The lower deck is pretty much done with the exceptions of the buildings and industries being drawn in.  Note the center peninsula:  That 8' section will be removable and will only be up during operating sessions.  It will be the York Station area and traffic will be fed on and off layout here by staging cassettes on another removable section added to the end of this peninsula.

This is the latest version of the top deck, which will represent Red Lion PA.  I'm still working out some ideas on this deck.  The upper left corner is the station area for Red Lion and around the corner is where staging cassettes will once again be used to bring trains on and off the layout at that end of the railroad.

Have portable stud, will travel...

So now that we worked out how the sections would be built it was time to work on the layout support system.  As I have stated earlier in this bog, I do not like to mess with finished walls.  I hate spackling and I do not want to have to repair walls if we ever sell our townhouse and move.  So I came up with an idea for adjustable wall studs that brackets would be attached to to hold up the layout.

The above pictures show how the studs work:  I position the stud with the carriage bolt partially extended and push into place.  After making sure the stud is level and plum, I tighten the bolt to secure the stud.  The felt pad (the self sticking kind, cut to the size and shape of the top of the 2x4) protects the ceiling from scratches.  I have since installed 4 of these along the back wall, 4 ' apart.  Shelf brackets will be screwed into these at the correct height for both decks of the layout.  They work great and it takes a lot of force to get them to move out of place once they have been fully tightened.

Building Gator Foam part 2

Sorry for the long delay in posting.  Here is the continuation of the Gator Foam Benchwork discussion.

My friend Ted Pamperin uses Gator Foam for all his sub-roadbed and I was able to play with a piece of it at his place and thought that it should work in sectional bench work built similarly to how Sam built his modules.

Ted had leftover Gator Foam and he graciously let me have it to use and experiment with.  We cut down the Gator Foam into 2’X4’ pieces so I can fit them into my car.  (Four 2’X4’ sections would equal a 4’X8’ sheet)  When I got home I divided each 2’X4’ section into 1X3 stripes with a ruler and T-square and then brought them to my friend Dave Ramos’s house where we ripped the sheets down into the marked 1X3’s.  Out of one 2’X4’ sheet of Gator Foam I was able to get eight 1”X3” pieces of Gator Foam which were enough to build two 2’X4’ sections of the layout or in other words, 8’ of layout.  Translate this into a 4’X8’ sheet, and you get enough sections to build 32’ of layout, if you’re building 2’X4’ sections.  If you build your bench work narrower in spots you can maybe get a little more layout out of the sheet.  This works for plywood too if you decide to use that instead.  With all the Gator Foam Ted gave me I was able to have enough to build 56’ of layout which was more than enough to build Phase 1 of my plan, the York PA yard and surrounding industries on the Ma&Pa RR, with sections left over to start the top deck. 
Putting together Gator Foam bench work is a little different than wood  bench work.  The ends and cross bracing are glued with Liquid Nails for projects (make sure you use the foam safe kind.  The other kind will melt the foam if it touches it).  I was using nails and screws to temporarily pin everything together while the glue dries, but have since adopted a suggestion that Craig Bisgeier made and now use bamboo skewers driven into the joints and cut flush. I also adopted using some inexpensive corner braces to clamp all 4 corners together which helps speed up construction of each of the sections.  When I was using the the nail or screw methods I could only put together the 2 separate halves of each section, one end and one cross section glued together on each side and then only after the glue cured (about a day) I glued the two separate halves together.
The finished sections turned out extremely light weight and surprisingly strong.  Each section weighs, including the extruded foam, around 2 lbs. 10 oz.!  If you had a chance to stop by the LDSIG display in the SIG room at the Hartford CT. NMRA convention you probably saw one of my test sections there.  I had it attached to a stand with only to small Quick Grip clamps.  Being that each section weighs very little I feel confident that I can attach them to what I call adjustable wall studs without straining them with a lot of weight.  The adjustable wall studs will be comprised of 88” long 2X4 with a felt pad on top, and T-nut on the bottom.  A carriage bolt attached to a wood block will be screwed into the T-nut to adjust the stud and make snug tight in place.  The ceiling is 92” from the floor.  L brackets from the stud will hold up the layout sections.  Remember, I’m using these adjustable wall studs because I do not want to screw into the finished walls of our basement.
The following pictures will show you how we put Gator Foam bench work together:

This picture shows one 2’X4’ section worth of Gator Foam cut to 1”X3” strips, along with 2 pieces of 1/4" luan cut 2' long and plywood triangle braces. 
You can build 8 sections out of one 4’X8’ sheet of Gator Foam.

Using Liquid Nails for projects (the foam safe kind) glue the ends and sides together.  Make sure ends are square using some kind of square (Machinist square, carpenter’s square etc.) Using corner clamps, clamp the sides together and poke pilot holes into the corners then insert the bamboo skewers to pin everything together and let the whole assembly dry for a least 4 hours.
Also, Two triangle braces were glued to one on each cross of the braces at this time..  This will help keep everything square and makes the whole section stronger and resistant to racking.

Here is the finished section.  In order to be able to attach each section to one another, cut out 2 pieces of either 1/4” plywood or luan plywood which are 3” wide by 2’ long to fit inside the frame attached to the ends.  This will give you a solid base in which to use carriage bolts with washers and nuts to connect each section together.  I drilled holes 6” in from each end of the 1/4” plywood and after gluing on the plywood to the inside of the ends of the sections, drill holes using the holes in the plywood as a guide to accept the carriage bolts.

These pictures show the luan being secured with Liquid Nails to the inside of each section.  Notice the carriage bolt holes.  These are drilled 6" in from each side of the section.
This pictures shows a finished section of Gator Foam bench work.  Each section weighs about 2 lbs 10ozs!
In the next installment I'll talk about my removable/portable/adjustable wall studs used to hold the layout sections up without drilling fasteners into the finished walls of my basement.