Sunday, November 27, 2011

Prepping the helix.. or the Trouble With Trammels..

I got an email from my friend Jim Fawcett earlier this evening and he was worried that I hadn't put an update on the blog yet, so "was the streak going to end tonight?"  When I got his email I was actually working out some thoughts on how I was going to tackle the helix and I actually came up with a game plan.  So I wrote to Jim and said not to worry, I was actually doing something on the layout...

First, I needed to get dead center on the helix.  As anyone halfway familiar with model railroad helixes know most have a large opening in the middle.  So I needed to put in a temporary beam down the middle and use that to find dead center.  I had a piece of gator foam just the right length (is there ANYTHING it can't be used for? LOL) so I used that. 

Screwing in the temporary beam.

I marked the halfway point on the beam, then I measured with a tape measure across the helix from 3 different angles, and figured out the center by finding the halfway point from where each crossed in the middle. I then positioned the center mark on the beam till that point became the center point of the helix.  I screwed down the beam.  I then fashioned a home made trammel out of yard stick.

A home made trammel was fashioned from a yardstick, thumb nail, and wood screw.

I drilled a very small hole at the 1" mark on the yard stick and another at the 33" mark.  I inserted a large thumb nail into the 1" mark and screwed a wood screw into the 33" mark.

Thumb nail at the 1" mark.

Wood screw at the 33" mark which gives me a 32" radius when I use the trammel.

I inserted the thumb nail part of the trammel into the helix center point and used the screw end to mark along each outer cross braces where the 32" radius will need to be.

Making the mark at 32 inches from center.

After I scratched in a line I went back over those lines with a pen so they'd be easier to see.  Now we know where the backbone braces have to be fastened so that the backbone will be at a 32" radius.

I also tried to find the best place to add the rolling legs onto the helix.  I positioned them in a few different areas and decided on where they will go.  I've toyed the the idea of bolting them to the frame, but I think I'll ultimately screw them on and use angle braces to stiffen them up.  I also came to the realization that if a move ever comes, the helix will need to be cut in half.  I tried to see if the frame would make it up the stairs in one piece... and it wouldn't.  So, most of the layout will be easy to take down and move, but the helix might not make it out alive, though I'm sure with some planning I might be able to get it out in two halves... maybe...

One other thing I did today was I finished off a 1'x4' section I started the other day.

Last of the 1'x4' sections needed.

So considering the day almost went bust layout wise (I spent most of the day putting up Christmas lights) I'm glad I still was able to do some planning and get a few things done.  I'd say it still counts and the Streak stays alive.

What do you think Jim?  ;)

Monday, November 21, 2011

Progress.. Even if it's a little bit at a time..

I don't know if it counts but I think the streak stays alive though I only managed two small projects yesterday.  First I tested laying out both radii helix curves and tried to see how they fit together and more importantly how will they overlap.

Here is what the helix test sections looked like layed out on the floor.

I'm pretty comfortable with how I think the whole helix will go together, so it's just a matter of getting the guys down here so I can put this sucker together.  Hopefully I won't hear "Don't worry, it's only Ted's Layout" too often when they are here.  It's always a little unnerving even though we say that at everyone's house joking around. :)  The helix will be the most critical component of the layout and it needs to be right.   

I also managed to get the other transition section built yesterday.  I mirrored the other one and all that needs to be done is to add the 1/4" luan piece on the wider end.  Then I just need the Styrofoam top and I'll be ready to bolt it to the other transition and hang them on the upper deck above the other section I hung last week on the lower deck.

The second transition section almost complete.
We had a lot family things to take care of yesterday.  I'm glad I was able to get something done. 

Saturday, November 19, 2011

On my way to information overload, and I'm happy about that!

5 weeks ago I ordered two books from the the Maryland And Pennsylvania Railroad Historical Society.  I paid my money and I waited, and waited... and finally they arrived yesterday.  And I am so glad I was patient because they are well worth it! 

The new additions to my Ma & Pa reference material.

The first book is a plans book that has been available from the society since 2004.  It is Volume Two (The first volume covers the narrow gage years of the predecessor roads).  It's full of Ma & Pa RR structure plans, standard track plans, profile and grade plans, signal plans, bridge plans and more!  What a great resource!

The second book is a brand new book (The first in dept look at the history of the Ma & Pa since Hinton's book) self published by the authors, Henry C. Peden and Jack L. Shagena, Jr.  called "The Ma & Pa Remembered, A History of the Maryland & Pennsylvania Railroad". This new volume is full of nice information and never before published photos.  I'm looking forward to what I can learn from the book.  You can buy these books from the society.  The information is on their website at:

The plans book costs $25 and The Ma & Pa Remembered book costs $75.  Both well worth the price.

Getting close to do or die on the helix...

Well, I now have everything I need, less the Masonite backbone, to start building the helix.  I got some of the carpentry students at school to cut out the helix pieces according to my diagrams on the two, 4x8 sheets of 1/2" plywood I had gotten.  They spent the last week and a half studying the diagram, laying out a template, and finally cutting and sanding all the pieces for both radii plus some straight sections too.  They delivered the helix parts to my shop and I rewarded them with brownies. :)  The boys did a nice job and it was a good carpentry lesson for them.

All I need to do now is go to Home Depot and acquire a 4x8 sheet of 1/4" Masonite.  I'll have them rip that down the middle length wise, and this should be enough to make the backbone of the helix. Then it's time to call a work session and hopefully get a few of the guys over to help me with this.  I think this will definitely be a two to three person job to get the helix figured out and up.

Earlier in the week I got the first half of the helix parts delivered.  This was the larger radius curve, the straight sections for where the helix transitions from outer to inner loop, and some of the supports for the backbone.

Thursday I received the smaller radius curves which means I have all the parts except for the Masonite spline.  Here are all of the pieces stacked against the helix frame.

I laid out a test section of one radius just to see how well the carpentry students did.  They did a great job!

No excuses now.  We'll find out soon enough if we can get this backbone style helix figured out and up.  Stay tuned.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

A note on posting schedules..

I am thrilled with the amount of visits this blog has been getting lately and I'd like to say thank you to everyone who has visited and also to those who have joined up to follow!

I figure I should give you an idea on when most updates will happen.  Sunday nights and sometimes Wednesdays are the days I seem to have the time to write updates for the blog.  This is not to say I might not write something on other days, just that these two days are when you'll most likely see the updates posted.

Also, please let me know if you have had any issues posting comments.  You can contact me by clicking on the link to my profile and then clicking on the email link.  I have been having a problem posting to a couple of the blogs I follow and from what I've read on Google's Blogger message board, this seems to be an ongoing problem that hasn't been resolved yet.

Again, thanks for visiting the Ma & Pa RR 1943 bog.  I hope you have been enjoying it! :)

Second level... Going up

I wasn't sure if I was going to be able to keep my streak of productive Sundays going or not this week.  We had just got back from a trip to Providence, Rhode Island, to check out the Baking/Pastry program at Johnson and Wales University.  I have always wanted to get up to JWU, especially since a lot of my students who graduate from my program choose to go there if they decide to further their education in baking and pastry.  It was a good trip and culminated with me setting the groundwork to arrange an articulation agreement between JWU and our Vo-Tech which would provide students graduating from any of our culinary arts programs, JWU credits for culinary classes completed in our school.  Another reason to go was to see if Mel liked the school, since she has been weighing whether to transfer from where she is studying now to pursue a career in pastry and baking by going to JWU.  I'm excited she has taken an interest and I'd like to think it's maybe because of me.  She has a lot to think about because she is learning it's not as glamorous as it seems on the food network, but she is a very bright and artistic young lady, and I know, no matter what she decides to pursue, she will be successful. :)

We got an early start this morning and made it home in great time so I had a good portion of the day to get things done.  I started by hanging the upper level brackets.  I'm using a different style of bracket here.  These are the silver heavy duty style 12"x12" L-shaped ones that are used to hang heavier shelving.  I don't need them for strength obviously, but what I like about them are that they do not intrude as far into the bottom level as do the stamped style brackets I used on the bottom level.

First upper level bracket goes in.

Notice how the upper level brackets sit more flush to the stud compared to the lower level bracket.

Now before anyone tries to read anything too much into my choice of brackets for each level.. both styles were leftovers I already had on hand from home projects.  I just noticed that the upper level style would work better because they sit more flush on the stud and wouldn't bulge out the vinyl backdrop as much as the stamped kind. 

The next step was to test out the deck spacing I decided on and see if it looked OK.  After a discussion with my friend Dave Ramos one night we figured 14" would be the minimum that would look good.  Originally I was thinking about using 10".  A lot of the upper level is 1' wide but a couple of sections will have 2' wide bench work hanging over each other.

This picture shows the 14" separation of the upper and lower level.

I put up a 1' section just to test out how the two levels will look with the 14" separation.

I think the space between levels are acceptable and I'm satisfied how it looks.

Since I mentioned the backdrop being vinyl flashing I thought I'd show you what I picked up at Home Depot to use.

14"x 30' roll of vinyl flashing.

The vinyl makes it lighter, and safer to use, than aluminum flashing, which I have seen some other modelers use, and comes in 30' lengths.  30' works out perfect since both walls the layout occupies equal just under 30' in length.  2 rolls gives me 60' of seamless backdrops.

I was doing well and decided to move onto another project after finishing the brackets.  There are two specialized sections that transition from 2' wide to 1' wide and are located just off the helix on the upper level.

Transition sections on upper level.

Originally this section of the layout was going to be 2' wide also.  I didn't like the thought of both levels being that deep in the same spot so I designed these two sections to narrow down to 1' wide.  When they are joined together they give 4' of 1' wide bench work and opens up the viewing area of the lower level.  I built one section today. 

Here is the transition section almost finished.  I just need to cut the Styrofoam top and glue it to the section.

For this one I just modified a 2'x4' section by cutting in half length wise, replacing an end and a middle cross brace with 2' ones and finally cutting and gluing on an angled piece at the transition.  All that's left to do is to cut a Styrofoam top to fit, and glue it on.

I managed to accomplish quite a bit today despite driving 4 hours to get home from Rhode Island.  So the streak stays alive for yet another week. :)

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Now we join together.. or.. First section is up!

It looks like Sundays are my day to get big things done on the layout.  Not that I don't work on anything during the week.  Usually I will build kits, weather cars, work on turnouts etc. small projects that can be done in an hour or so at night.  Today I had time to get some big projects done on the layout. 

Today I joined together two 4' sections with 3/8th" bolts.  If you remember from past posts, I have holes drilled 6" in from each side of the 2'x4' sections where the bolts go though and are tightened with washers and nuts.  Once the two sections where joined and tightened, I hung them on the brackets on the adjustable studs that were setup against wall.  This section is located next to where the helix will be located.

Section of the layout that was hung first.

Using two adjustable wrenches I tightened the nuts onto the bolts joining the two 4' sections.

The two joined sections now hung onto the brackets and secured from the bottom with 1 5/8ths drywall screws.

Brackets under the section.

The front screw is screwed up into the end of the section while the back screws were screwed in on an angle to both secure the section to the bracket and also catching a little of the wood stud for extra security.

While I was at it I decided to start on the sections that make up York Yard.  I had to modify two sections by putting them side by side length wise and joining them with bolts to make the 4'x4' section where the engine house sits.

The York Yard section on the plan.

Joining together the two 2'x4' sections along their length to make the 4'x4' section in the middle of the York Yard part of the layout.

The finished 4'x4' section.

I laid out two more 4' sections on each end of the 4'x4' section and made sure they would go together properly.  I then glued the foam to the top of the 4'x4' section and also one more 2'x4' section that needs to go with these sections.  I also built one more 1'x4' section.  Another productive day! 

Test fitting the York Yard sections.