Friday, December 3, 2010

First train up the main line

Well, today was a big day on the Northern Central. I built the frame of the first control panel on the main line and then mounted it to the side of the substructure at the town of Herndon. This panel will essentially be for the tower operator who will control the moves through Herdon, including the crossovers. Picture one shows it clamped to the frame of the table as I drilled the holes and placed screws from the rear. The torpedo level ensured we were level and square. The I mounted a terminal strip as seen in the second shot and began to hook up the block power wires to the strip. As I hooked up each block, I ran a diesel powered test train up and down to be sure it was wired correctly. You can see this in the third shot. After it was all done, I put together an I1sa powered freight train and ran the first freight over the main from one end of the completed track to the other. It really looked good snaking out of the storage yard in the distance as seen in the last shot.
I was seated at eye level to the train as it rumbled up the main right by me. I felt like I was along a the main line - oh, the wonders of O scale. This makes all the effort worth it.
Tomorrow we host about 24 men coming down from Baltimore and DC so I hope it rus as well as it did today!

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Bridges over the Susquahanna

I just wanted to show you where the main line will cross the Susquahanna on twin bridges and then bear right around the wall, going past the engine terminal. You can see the turntable pit off in the distance in the second shot.
Construction will have to stop for a while as I go back to wiring and a control panel or two so I can test what is already down.

Just about done

Well, after a long struggle, the framing is in place and the legs are added to the structure. You can see it took quite a few legs to hold up such a large expanse. In the second shot, you can see the framing for the turntable. The third shot shows where the main will enter from the right, crossing the double tracks below and then curve off towards the pole. The engine storage will then fill the expanse to the left.
I have not cut and secured the top as I have a large group coming this Saturday and do not have time to complete that. I have to move into a major clean up to make it all presentable.

Adding the cross members to the yard

Well, after the help had gone, I had a lot of cross members to put up. They were quite long so I needed some way to support them while I attached them to the perimeter. You can see in the third photo that I got a roller support for my table saw and used it with a long box as the middle support. This came after a lot of pieces fell to the floor as I tried different approaches.
First I put the short leg onto the perimeter as seen in the first two shots. While this torqued the side rail, I was able to take that out once I had he support in place.
After all the long members were done, I added blocking because I needed to tie everything together due to the expanses. Later I added legs in the center as well. It came out pretty strong as I was able to use the cross members as parallel bars with no flexing.
You can see I had to use a lot of clamps in the process as I had to put a long straight member above the member I was joining together to be sure that it was straight as well. You can see that set up in the third photo. The legs went on last, once I had all the cross members and the bridging in place..

Outling the area

As we are looking at a very large area, I thought I could put the exterior framing together and then raise it up to make putting the interior in easier. Well, it turned out to not be easy at all but I found that out after I was underway. The kids were here for Thanksgiving so I used my three son-in-laws to help me get it up on temporary legs . My wife only allowed me to have the guys in the basement for an hour so that was all I could get done.
You can see the framing is in place and the special corner work has been attached. All the other cut pieces are on the floor. We did mark the rails where those cross sections were to go but I had a lot of splices to make as I am working with 8 foot pieces. You do get a better sense of the size once it was in the air.

Making curved corners

Well, now for some fancy footwork! I did not want right angle corners around the engine terminal area as I think we might see a lot of traffic there as everyone comes over to see those I1's and M1's that will be stored in the area. We will also have some Alco PA's burbling away in the diesel area.
So, just like building a wooden model airplane, we have to make some formers. The first shot shows two cut out of 3/4 inch plywood. They will form the top and bottom of the corner. I also had to cut an inset for the bendable plywood so it would be flush with the side rails.
In the second shot, you can see the two plates in place, along with the special cuts I had to make in the side rails to tie them in. I made tongues to mate up with the bendable plywood and match the depth of the inset cuts in the 3/4 inch plywoood. I also backed the side rail up with 1 inch by 1 inch reinforcing to strengthen the joint.
The third shot shows how they looked after they were in place and then covered with the bendable plywood. In the last shot, you can clearly see how the 3/4 plywood ties into the side rail and the bendable plywood then makes the corners. I am pleased how they came out.

Starting to make the engine facility framing

Okay, we have the diagram on the floor and now we begin to cut the framing to match the drawing. I also decided to make curved corners using a technique that Pat Mitchell showed me on my previous layout. In the first picture we are looking back to the east and you can see how the engine area comes off the main line which is curving to the left. This is why we have the diagonal edge to the benchwork. We will also have an open pit that an operator will be able to access to reach the yard throat should we have a problem in the future. Thanks to John Roberts and Ed Rappe for that suggestion. My problem is that this is a very large expanse and given it will be high at 51 inches off the floor, an individual's reach will be limited. As the runs are about 16 feet, I had to change the direction of the framing in the area under the diesel storage. You can see this in the second shot as you look above the turntable. The diesel house will be running left to right over that framing. We have to stop here as I need to do some testing of the lower track to be sure it is safe to cover it up with the yard.
The next step will be to make the special framing for the curved corners.

Starting to layout the yard

So, now that we can see clearly, we start to layout the engine terminal area as the main comes into the yard. First we cover the floor with our brown paper so we can transfer the information from the computer design onto it. This gives us our actual dimensions. You can see the straight edges and the bendable wood stringers that I use to get easement curves. The tracks will come around the corner from the beige wall in the distance and then curve to the left. the steam engine terminal will be the first thing we pass on the right. You can see the approximate location of the turntable on the floor. The roundhouse will be to its left. The dimensions of the 6 stall roundhouse are drawn on that roll of brown paper you see. I am surprised by how large it is. The benchwork will actually come all the way to the shop vacuum as the diesel house will be right above that point.
I have also erected a beam over Herndon the get the angle that I will need to allow the yard to cover the 8 storage tracks below. You can see that clearly in the first photo. I was a bit disappointed that the angle was so shallow that I lost a whole corner of Herndon so I have to rethink the layout of that town. I believe I will have a road bridge cross the tracks at that same angle so the tracks disappear into a tunnel under the bridge. More on that later.

Adding light to the subject

Well, it has been some time since I have posted - mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa! I have been very busy with several issues but I have not neglected the layout.
I was able to buy a large number of commercial lighting fixtures at a very low price ($5 per) so I went around and put over 35 up in the place of the twin bulb shop fixtures I originally installed. This took a little time as I had to rewire some of the ceiling to rebalance the bulb count by light circuit as I was adding so many bulbs ( going from 2 to 3 and 4 bulb fixtures). I actually melted a light switch due to a slight overload. Fortunately, I was right there and no damage other than to the switch occurred. You can see in the photos that the light fixtures have full reflectors which made a terrific difference. I feel like I am in an operating theater now. It makes it so much better to work on the layout. So, all construction stopped as I was in the ceiling above. I located the higher intensity lights over the aisles and left the twin bulb units over the areas where the scenic dividers will go later. In the first picture, the light in the right foreground is a twin. The lights in the right distance are the new ones. They look like spot lights in comparison.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Preparing the town of Herndon

As we finished the hidden siding, I also wanted to finish the entrance to Herndon. Ed Rappe constructed the ramp down off the main line into the town. I also nailed down the Celotex material to form the roadbed and base for the buildings. I think we will have a fuel oil dealer here along with a team track and the station. It will give a way freight some work to do going east to Harrisburg.
You can see all the tools required, including an air operated brad nailer to nail down the base.
In the third photo you will note that I had to cover the track with tape to allow me to form the roadbed shoulder with plaster. In the last shot, it is all painted flat black to represent the cinder subroadbed. Now I have to build a couple of turnouts and lay the siding tracks in the town. I am pleased with the long curve through town.

How to avoid kinks

Well, we have had to build this extensive hidden yard out of many pieces of 3 foot long track sections on a curve. So, how do we avoid getting kinks in the numerous joints?
Here is the process I followed. Frst, I lay the new section on the end of the track. In the first picture, you can see the pencil line drawn on the roadbbed that the bottom section of track is following. I do not spike down the last 6 inches so it can form a tangent to the curve. I can then see how much rail has to be pulled out of the tie strip to match the track ending.
Next, I place the new section into a fixture that I made out of homasote and strip wood that hold the tie strip in place as I draw out the rail. In the third picture you can see how much rail I had to pull out.
I then thread the tie strip onto the existing track to get the rail in place to put on the joiners. I cut away the tie plates so the joiner sits flat under the two rail sections. The new piece of track is left in a straight alignment when I put the joiner on so there is no lateral force on the rail. You can see this in the fourth picture.
I flux the rails and the joiner and then solder the pieces together. Once it cools I pull the rail to be sure I have a good joint. If all is okay, I then bend the new section along the pencil line as you can see in the last picture. The soldered joint is strong enough to ensure there is no kink and good conductivity.
I will leave a slip joint at the end of each siding to allow for expansion and contraction.

Completing the hidden yard track - part 2

Well, we undertook the tedious task of laying many sections of flex track to put in the hidden yard. My fingers are sore from all the joiners.
There are about 300 feet of track in the yard with the eight tracks. I have been able to lay about 90% of the track but I have had to stop as the other end sub roadbed is not in place yet.
I have used up all my joiners and a ton of track nails to get this all down. It took a week of effort but it looks good with the concentric circles. The radii grow from 62 inches to 90 inches. The is about a 6 foot difference in length from the interior track to the exterior track.
I used older Atlas track as this will be hidden and no one will notice the difference in color.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Continuing the Branch - up to Shamokin

Even as we work on Herndon, we have to get that branch to climb up to the overhead storage loop. In the second photo you can see the existing end of the line coming around the corner at an elevation of about 67 inches. That is just about even with Rich's head as seen in the first photo. He is placing the verticals on the wall that we will use to hang the 2 foot wide benchwork off the wall. I have set them even with the existing roadbed as that will rise significantly over its length. The line will climb up from 67 inches off the floor to about 73 inches along the wall (about 2.5% grade requiring the helpers) and then turn to the right and come over the
top of the aisle and then turn back to return , climbing up the center of the room until it reaches the overhead loop at 80 inches of elevation.
We will feature the Glenburne Colliery along this section of the wall. I plan about 3 siding tracks with the building along the wall. The conveyers passed over the main line so we will try to represent that as well. This mine was just before you came into Shamokin, PA. We will just have a representation of Shamokin on the right side of the room where the line turns back. The turn to the right will begin at the end of the supports that are on the wall in the third photo. Another engineering challenge is to get this supported without interfering with the aisle and the mainline that will go below it in the area of the saw horses.
It will also be a challenge to operate on this section as the track is at eye level for me and over the head of some (Rich and others). So, I need to build some sort of scaffolding that he can walk on yet I can push it out of the way when walking through there.
I cannot complete this though, until I build the main yard of Northumberland as I need the space in the center of the room to use my saw in building the main yard. So, that will be the focus of our next major construction phase when I return from a family gathering. Thus, the engineering will be given time for reflection.

Starting the hidden yard

Later that day, we were able to build the throat and lay one section on each of the eight yard tracks. This gives you a view of how the yard opens up. In the first photo, you see that the yard will go into a curve right after the throat. We are just squeezing everything in, with a minimum radius of 62 inches on the interior track and maximum radius of 90 inches on the outer most track.
The track will come out of a tunnel where the roadbed changes from grey to black. We are using Atlas number 7.5 turnouts as large engines will have to go into the various tracks. They certainly take a lot of room but that is the price you pay. Each holding track will hold about 35 cars plus an engine. This should give us some operating flexibility.