Sunday, December 11, 2011

Helix's day of reckoning..

The dust has finally settled after Friday nights work session.  I'd like to give you a detailed description on how exactly we got the helix built to its present state.. BUT.. How do I describe the indescribable?

  • indescribable - defying expression or description; "indefinable yearnings"; "indescribable beauty";    "ineffable ecstasy"; "inexpressible anguish"; "unspeakable happiness"; "unutterable contempt"; "a thing of untellable splendor"

As we wrestled with how to go about building something none of us ever built before, let alone even having any guidelines or instructions on how to build it, the crews thoughts throughout the night probably encompassed just about every one of those definitions stated above. 

We talked about and debated over what our plan of attack would be for about 25 minutes.  We finally chose how we would start and went on from there.

First, let me introduce the cast of characters who braved the Parkway South traffic to venture down below New Jersey's version of the Mason Dixon Line (The other side of the Driscoll Bridge which crosses the Raritan River).  Craig Bisgeier (of Housatonic RR fame), Tom (we call him lovable Tom) Callan, Jim Fawcett (No relation to Farah), and Ted Pamperin, who has a beautiful layout based on the C&O New River and Alleghany Subdivision, set in the winter of 1943.  There is no way I could have gotten this helix started and built to its present state if it hadn't been for their help.  This hobby is always at its funnest when I'm around these guys.  And, as I said would happen, I heard the phrase, "who cares, it's only Ted's layout", plenty of times.  Paybacks a bitch..

So.. I think I'll try to show what we did Friday through the pictures I took, and I will do my best to describe how we did what we did..

First we laid out the inner and outer helix loops on the frame.  I was trying to give the guys an idea on how the backbone helix concept worked.  In this picture, Tom Callan and Ted Pamperin.

There was quite a bit of discussion on how to start. In this picture: Craig Bisgeier and Tom Callan. 

It was decided that we'd screw together two full loops, one inside, one outside, then set the elevations by temporarily adding risers to get the first two loops at the proper height and grade.

Jim Fawcett was the first one cast into.. uh I mean.. to crawl into the pit.  Here Jim starts to set the first elevations for the loops.

While the backbone style helix's design advantage is that you have double the space between loops that are on the same side of the backbone (in the case of this helix 8"), you still have one very short section that you have to worry about having adequate clearance.  It was important we made sure there was proper clearance (4" minimum) at the point where the outer loop crosses over the inner loop. 

Ted Pamperin carefully set the height of the first inner loop.  He and Tom checked both the height and the grade (Tom brought along a grade measuring level).

Tom secures the temporary riser under the inner loop as Craig starts to set the height on the first outer loop.  Though both loops will be separated by the masonite backbone eventually, we still want to have each 4" higher than each other.

Once we were happy with the height and grade of the first two loops we inserted the masonite backbone between them.  Small blocks were glued and screwed onto the bottom of the loops in short intervals, and then screws were driven from the opposite side of the backbone, into the blocks.  These are what holds each loop up.

Tom is double checking the grade on the first outer loop.  We decided to leave the riser in on the bottom outside loop.

Tom is thinking "Is this thing actually gonna work?  Why did I agree to come here anyway? Will the Johnnie Walker Black run out before we finish?" :)

And this is why you ALWAYS wear safety goggles. Don't worry.  Craig didn't get hurt. :)

With the helix being half way to completion, here is a look at the back half.  You get a good feel for how each loop crosses over the other.

The end result of Friday night's work.  The helix is halfway to completion and you can see how it's going to look.  By the way, the casters really helped out with the construction.  We were able to roll the whole helix into the middle of the room so we could have access all the way around it.

I have to say we started this not knowing if first:
  • We can come up with a way to build this helix,
And second:
  • If we'd be able to pull it off even if we had an idea on how to get started. 
We were all amazed when we finished for the night, and we congratulated each other on our accomplishment.  I was joking around that I must be a genius, but then again, so was Wiley Coyote.. and we all know how that always turned out. ;)

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