Sunday, February 26, 2012

Sanity is vastly overated...

OK I have a few days till the guys come over to help me straighten out the issues with the helix, so I'm trying to keep my sanity, and I decided to work on something else before I take a sledge hammer to the monster..

I have only finished off a few of the turnouts I've built for the layout, so I spent the day working on the rest.  About 20 or more needed to be gapped (the frog and PC ties) and they all need to have the Fast Tracks Quick Sticks glued on so they can be ready for installation.  Working on the turnouts was a welcome change and I really want to start on some of the other sections of the layout so I can progress towards getting something running.

Cutting the gaps in the frog and the ties.

Gluing the turnout to the Quick Sticks.  "There is nothing like the smell of Pliobond in the morning..."

One down many more to go..

As I cut the gaps today, I thought about some of the developments that are coming down the pike in our hobby in the very near future.  A couple of different sources are coming out with battery powered DCC control for locomotives and I'm hesitating jumping into wiring the layout.  The Stanton Cab by Northwest Shortlines is out there now (See Bernie Kempinski's post on it in his blog at but I'm leaning towards something being developed by my friend Duncan McRee from Tam Valley Depot which utilizes the DCC system I already own.  You may have seen this video already but if you haven't, take a look. 

One certainty is that Model Railroading is advancing fast.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Ignorance is bliss... There's an app for that...

"To succeed in life, you need two things: ignorance and confidence." Mark Twain

There I was.. all smug and confident that I had this whole helix grade thing figured out.  I measured and divided and was careful (so I thought) the second time setting the grade.  I got all the sub-roadbed installed, the cork roadbed laid down, started laying track and I even ran an engine a short distance on the top loop.  All was well and right with the world.. until I got my new iPhone..

I've been exploring all the features and apps available and I downloaded a bunch of model railroad related apps.  One of which was a gradient level developed by Kevin Snow at

I knew I had some slight variations in the grade but I figured they were minor.  I started checking the spots that looked a little steeper than the others and I found short sections of 4% or more (by short I mean about one foot in length).  Most of the grade coming up the helix were within 2% with a few spots less than 1%.  I was devastated and even now I'm not totally sure where to go from here.  If I hadn't upgraded my phone, and picked up this app, I wouldn't have known.   I'm thinking of laying the rest of the track and testing a full 12 car train with the heavy 2-8-0 to see if it has a problem with the short steep sections.  After these sections the grade levels out considerably so maybe it will be OK.  If not then I'll have to loosen up the loops and try to even them out, AGAIN.

Friday, February 10, 2012

First run.. sort of...

Maryland & Pennsylvania number 28 makes the first ever run on the layout.  So what if there is only 10' of track. :p

Slow sledding...

I have been working on the layout, the helix in particular, but progress has been slow.  I've started laying track on the helix but I have 3 turnouts to cut in and the whole process is slow and a bit tedious.  I'm trying to take my time to get the curves flowing nicely, and to get the track work down right the first time.  This is my first time working with Micro Engineering flex-track so I'm trying to get the hang of "flexing" it using a stick rubbed along the outer edges to coax it to the curvature I'm trying to get.  If you have ever worked with it you know it's not truly flexible like Atlas flex.  I'm working on getting it to the right curvature before I go back and glue it down with caulk. 

Working on curving the flex track and placement of the turnout for the passing siding.

Getting the curves smooth and flowing is a slow process, but I really want to get it right the first time.

I've also started gluing the Fast Tracks Quick Sticks to the turnouts I have built.  I'm not liking working with the Pliobond contact cement recommended by Fast Tracks, which they supplied when I bought the turnout building kit.  It's taken a couple of tries before I got the hang of how to use it and the fumes are awful.  The ingredients list shows Pliobond contains MEK, which is nasty stuff, and I'd much prefer to use another alternative if someone knows of something better, less toxic to use.  For now I'll keep using it, but with a respirator for safety.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Feed me Theodore.. FEED MEEE!


Sorry it's taken a little longer to post than I usually take.  I came down with a nasty sinus infection earlier in the week, and I was laid up for half the week.  So needless to say I've got nothing done on the layout till today.

Today I started working on laying roadbed in preparation of installing track on the helix, and hopefully testing it out by running some engines up and down it to make sure it works as planned.  What I've come to realize is a helix will eat up large amounts of track and roadbed.  I feel like Seymour in Little Shop of Horrors: the more I lay roadbed and track, the more roadbed and track I need to finish it!  I will use up one whole box of cork and all the flex I have purchased to date on this helix alone. 

Roadbed progresses on... and on...
I'm hoping by the end of this weekend I will have some trains running up and down the helix to test it out.