Transcontinental Layout Progress Pictures and Notes
The newest pictures are first, oldest at the end.
Updated 2018-03-17 Jeff Witt
- Pour the “water”
- start building the roundhouse framework
- Build more scenery along the east side backdrop
- Install the Daniel’s Outfitters building…need to come up
with a better name and signage.
- Finish building Mrs. O’Malley’s place
2017 through March 2018
A year since I last updated this? Where does the time go…
Progress has slowed, but continues:
- Finished Bulline office; added lighting, a base, signage,
details, and figures.
- Finished, made a base for, and installed the caboose
facility (still needs ground cover)
- Added lighting infrastructure for multiple structures
- Installed the handcar shed
- Installed the water tank and coal dump in the south-east
- Added a mirror at the end of the road to the coal dump.
- Finished the SE corner with foam hills and scotch-brite
- Installed the station and coaling platform, added ground
cover, rock castings, static grasses, lichen bushes
- Ballasted the SE corner track
- Installed track power switches for all the roundhouse
- Ballasted and detailed (frog bolt bars, rail joints) the
double-crossover for AP merit judging
- Added details to the west-side crossover
- Repaired/painted the switch rodding
- Repaired my four LaBelle cars: added lead weights
underneath, shortened truck screws, painted/polished wheels, repaired
- Repaired the watchman’s shanty, placed it near the grade
- Built the Woodland Scenics sanding tower; added an LED
light to the pole.
- Made a base for the sanding tower, added ground cover, ground
goop to the surrounding area
- Built Woodland Scenics “Daniel’s Outfitters”, installed
First, the finished
Bulline supply shed:
A night shot, showing the
lighting and some of the interior details:
The caboose maintenance
The handcar shed:
Some views of the
south-east corner. The module is installed, track ballasted, foliage, rock
castings, and grass added.
The wood strips cover
the electro-magnetic uncoupling ramp:
Rock castings along the
The station at
Allenton; figures and lighting added. Static grass at the right, various weed
A night shot:
The water tank and
An overview of the
The mirror on the road
to the coal dump:
The sanding facility,
at the base of the branch line grade:
And a night shot
showing the pole light:
The watchman’s shanty,
built many years ago and refurbished:
Added a log load to one
of my log cars; these are rhododendron branches:
A LaBelle box car,
repaired and weathered:
repaired with weight added:
And two LaBelle flat
observation with interior seating, passengers, and lighting:
2016 through March 2017
A variety of things were accomplished:
- Built the Durango Press QT&L water tank; replaced the
cardstock superstructure with styrene, used cedar shingles instead of the
corrugated iron, and built a base for it.
- Installed two electro-magnetic uncoupling ramps; one on
the south side branch line, just before the turnout and one on the
north-end outside main line.
- With Carrie’s help, installed/carved/painted some foam
landscape along the south-end branch line.
- Programmed an Arduino nano-computer board to run the new
un-couplers; it activates for ten seconds, and begins flashing a warning
three seconds before the end to allow you to re-activate if needed.
- Built the Blair-Line “truck dump”, which will be used on
the siding behind the branch line depot. Made a base with foam terrain for
- Upgraded the train room PC to Carrie’s old HP desktop,
running Windows 10, and re-loaded and tested the JMRI interface to the
Digitrax PR3. Re-read all the locos and updated the roster files.
- Modified one of the Athearn NMRA Bulline stock cars:
replaced the steel weight with styrene, added lead weight inside, painted
the interior floor, trucks, and wheels, replaced the e-z mate couplers
with Kadee #5s, did some additional chalk weathering.
- Re-Dullcoted the G&D box car to tone-down the previous
- Built a “Nick & Nora Designs” rooftop water tank for
the mill building; installed it, weathered the flour sacks, added figures
to the loading dock.
- Built the Campbell cattle pens for the south end spur on a
sandeply base; added some ground cover
- built up the “foundation” for the handcar shed and added
it to the layout.
- Started on the caboose maintenance facility: cleaned up
the castings, partially assembled it, primed it.
- Filled in terrain around the cattle pens, including
building a base for the Bulline office.
- Started a Gloor-Craft small freight depot, which will be
the Bulline office next to the cattle pens.
the re-worked Bulline stock car:
Some shots of the water
This shows the rooftop water tank, the figures on the loading dock, and the
re-work G&D box car:
Here’s the truck dump
(not where it will eventually be); needs weathering and lots of coal laying
The cattle pens,
The handcar shed in
2016 through November 2016
Not as much progress as I would like, but some:
- Wired the
roundhouse tracks, complete with connectors, trimmed the rails, and
added the final PC ties
- Built two electro-magnetic uncoupling ramp controllers
- Replaced the branch line ramp (bottom of the hill) with
one of the electro-magnetic ramps, and added “crossing” boards
- Finished the “Mt. Alexander” car; mounted the light board,
painted and added passengers, touched-up paint, etc.
- Built the east-side branch line deck, painted it, mounted
and leveled it (had to adjust one riser and shim others)
- Built four #4 wyes, laid ties and track on the branch line
addition (pre-ballasted under the turnouts); painted the rail.
- Installed two uncoupling ramps (one fixed and one
electrical), four Tortoises, and wired everything to connectors
- Built bridge track using pc ties, installed it
- Built control panels for the turnout and uncoupler and
- Installed a TCS T1 DCC decoder in the Rivarossi Heisler –
it runs great
- Added wood to the tower main-line road crossing and
re-painted the roads a more realistic color
- Scenery work: painted “depth” in the pond, added
cat-tails, finished ground cover between the tower and the road
- Ballasted the rest of the west side branch line (on the
hill), ballasted the main line up to the end module
- Touched-up the paint in the turntable pit
- Performed coupler tune-up on some sticky couplers
the turntable and roundhouse tracks:
Next, some views of the
east-side branch line module (the white cardstock covers the uncoupling ramps):
The wiring and
The passenger yard is
The updated tower area:
The newly ballasted
2016 through Mid-July 2016
I thought I didn’t do much in the last few months, but it
adds up. Progress:
- Layed and wired all the remaining passenger yard tracks
- Cleaned, lubricated, and replaced the factory couplers
with Kadee on the Bachmann 0-6-0 #101
- Painted the 0-6-0 grimy black, lettered it for the
G&D, and weathered it.
- Stained ~500 branch line ties for the east side trackwork
- Cut/stained ties for two #4 wye turnouts
- Designed and built the control electronics/panel for the
- Re-worked an (already built) MDC G&D boxcar: changed
the # from 5600 to 5607, replaced the wheelsets, changed the steel weights
to lead, and weathered it
- Started re-working a set of G&D Overland passenger
cars: cleaned, painted the roofs, trucks, and underbody, added coupler
- Built interior lighting for one of the above; added pickup
wipers to the trucks, installed an interior. I have figures, but they need
paint as they are Chinese imports painted in garish colors.
- Ballasted the rest of the south-end turnouts
- Built all the rest of my dwarf signal heads (using Sculpy
bankable clay); installed two on the south-end yard lead off the main
- Installed the rails of the roundhouse tracks on the
plywood base, and painted it. Installed steps into the roundhouse track
pits, painted the pits/steps, than added guard rails to all the tracks.
Started wiring it.
- Installed a TCS T1 decoder in my new Bachmann modern 4-4-0
(the Bachmann factory decoders stink). Unfortunately, not enough room in
the tender for a keep-alive module. Programmed the decoder to have a
prototypical speed profile and mild momentum. It runs much better now.
First, just a nice
The passenger yard:
The turntable control
panel – the left knob is “fast” speed adjustment, the left switch is fast/slow
speed select, the middle knob
is the slow speed adjustment, the right switch is the direction, and the
push-button runs it. It is easy to nudge the turntable into
The unfinished Overland
cars, and the new 4-4-0:
The interior and
lighting underway on one car:
The roundhouse base:
The guard rails are
code 83 rail layed sideways inside the code 70 rail. This will allow me to pour
a plaster floor and
keep the flange-ways clear:
2016 through March 2016
- Built two more G&D ore cars, refurbished an S&S
- Ballasted most of the south and west end main line track
- “boxed” all the turnout throwbars in anticipation of
- Cut and stained ties for (2) #6 turnouts and (5) #4 wyes,
and some “profile” ties for use in tight places
- Layed out the east-side branch line trackwork full-size on
a piece of cardboard – will use four #4 wyes
- Cut and installed the remaining risers for the east-side
- Built cardboard mock-ups, for the brach line, of:
- Suydam Black Bart mine
- Campbell timber oil derrick
- Taurus Products branch-line oil facility
- Layed out the passenger yard tracks on the north end
- Built three #4 wyes for the passenger yard, installed and
wired them, complete with Tortoises.
- Layed ties for the tail track and two yard tracks (ran out
– have to stain more ties!), laid the tail track
- Added a Digitrax DCC panel at the yard, per Steve’s
- Finished the Campbell handcar shed
Steve’s Heisler and Emma:
Some shots of the
(partially finished) passenger car yard:
Some views of the
future branch line, on cardboard with cardboard structure mock-ups:
The (mostly) ballasted
west-side main line:
The handcar shed:
And now some shots of
the ore cars, S&S reefer, the tank-car Steve gave me:
2015 through Mid-January 2016
- Built a supply shed (Campbell kit) to go near the switch
tower, installed it on a removable base, installed lighting and details
- Built a loading crane for it (not yet installed)
- Prepped the area leading into the turntable, shimming it
so the tracks line up, with cuts for vertical easements
- Cut the sandply base for the coaling tower/ash pit for the
- Built a code-70 #4 wye for the engine facilities,
installed it and a Tortoise motor to control it
- Laid all the ties for the engine terminal tracks, and then
laid the rail; it includes code-83 to code-70 adapters and zone isolation
- Added an uncoupling magnet on the “service track”, the one
that dumps coal, removes ashes, and delivers sand
- Ran engines on/off the turntable, turning them around 180
degrees – success. Lining up the turntable by (old) eye can be tough,
- Installed a Digitrax auto-reverser for the turntable track
– works great!
- Installed stiffer actuation wires in a couple of “sticky”
turnouts (the Tortoises come with 0.025, changed to 0.039)
- Added some scotch-brite background foliage transitions on
the west side
- Cleaned all my locomotive wheels – running MUCH better now
Some shots of the supply
shed (note the interior details):
The wires to the
electric service are not in their final place yet. The windows are real glass.
Here it is “in
Here’s the loading
crane – I don’t like the way the cables are hanging, and will re-do them.
Otherwise, I like it and it will go on the supply shed platform.
Here’s the new engine
service facility tracks (the three to the left of the main line), looking east:
Here’s the track
looking west. Obviously, some ties are still missing and the track needs
The piece in the middle (with minimal ties) is removable, so I can build the
and ash pit (Both Scale Structures Ltd. Kits) on the bench. Notice the cutout
sections for the coal and ash dumps.
The spur on the left will
eventually service the Fine Scale Miniature “John Allen” icing platform.
A close-up of the
turntable tracks. PC board ties are wonderful things.That turntable pit needs
All those turnouts were
just “tied off”, but now needed real controls. So I built a new control panel
to handle all the
turnouts in this area. I know, some kind of diagram would help…but (for now, at
least) I know what they do.
2015 through November 2015
The PEX install/office remodeling project (plus general
summer activities) put a real drag on my progress – it’s been over six months
since the last update.
Here’s the progress:
- Painted the turntable pit
- Installed adjustable mounts for the turntable, installed,
and leveled it with Steve’s help
- Cut/installed sand-ply to fit around the turntable,
including aluminum bracing for the roundhouse section so it can be built
- installed a TCS M4 DCC decoder in the Bachmann 0-6-0 in
place of the horrible factory unit
- built metal handrails for the turntable bridge from
phosphor-bronze and brass wire (rather than build the wood ones that are
stock for the kit) – these will be much more forgiving of any fat-finger
events that are likely to occur
- installed the turntable bridge handrails and decking, and
added wipers to the bottom for improved electrical pick-up
- cut inspection/service pits into the sand-ply roundhouse
base, and “boxed” them with basswood sheet, then cut the foam base for
- added mounts to stabilize all the turntable “surrounds”,
and added foam and cork to vertically align the surrounds to the turntable
- spackled the area between the turntable pit wall and the
surrounds, two coats to get it leveled
- cut a sand-ply base for the coaling tower and ash pit
- glued in the south end tunnel portal, wing wall, and
- added rock castings and (real) coal outcroppings to the
south end branch-line scenery, then added ground cover
- planted trees, dead-fall, ground cover on the south branch
- ran switch rod housing between the mains to the tower
- mounted the tower to the foam-core base
- built the switch-rodding to go from the tracks to the
tower (90 degree linkage, all built on a styrene base), ballasted it
- added window shades to the tower, as well as the
rodding/cribbing to the base. Also built a fence around the tower on the
base, and more details, ground cover, weeds, and vegetation
- built a road-crossing over the rodding and the wood track
crossings, and built up the approaches with spackle
- built up six dwarf signals, this time using bake-able
modeling compound to fill the backs; bake at 180 degrees for 20 minutes
and hard as a rock!
- Installed the dwarfs on the west-side crossover and at the
- Added cribbing and switch rodding to the above
- Ballasted more of the south end branch line and the
south-west end main line
- Built and planted the Dyna-models “Thinker Privy” for the
- Built cardstock mock-ups of the Skull Valley station and the Campbell “supply shed”
- Made and installed a sand-ply base for the supply shed
- Stained the supply shed parts
Now for some pictures!
An overview of the
turntable area, with future roundhouse tracks in the background.
The lights on the turntable bridge work:
Close-up of the
From the other side:
Signal Tower installation and scenery, switch rodding, track ballasted, and privy:
A close up of the privy:
Now, showing the
Where the road crosses,
and the supply shed mock-up in place (final coloring/grading here is NOT
branch-line rodding and dwarf signals:
Looking down the mains
at the tower area:
Finally, some of the
south-end scenery and track ballasting (the rocks need more stain, still too
January 2015 to Mid-May 2015
Here’s the progress:
- finished the “Fireproof Storage” background building,
including lighting (except signage, haven’t decided what it is yet)
- added more trees near the branch line bridge
- tuned/installed the double crossover, including Tortoises
- built and installed four three-aspect dwarf signals for
- laid-out the engine facility trackwork and facility locations,
including the basic outlines of the roundhouse.
- purchased a #4 wye FastTracks jig for the engine
facilities and branch line, but haven’t built one yet.
Note that this is like two #2 turnouts back/back, so it is even “easier”
than a #6 turnout.
- cut and stained 4 sets of turnout ties
- built one left-hand and two right hand #6 turnouts for the
engine facility leads, and installed them, with Tortoises
The left hand goes in the main line curve to get a longer terminal lead.
- Laid/painted roadbed from the main line to where the
structures will be placed.
Much of my time has been turntable
work (yes, I finally started it! The pictures will prove it.)
installed the pit rail, painted the pit and the base
installed and aligned the shaft bushings
built most of the bridge (handrails and control cab to be
cut the foam out where the turntable will go, installed
adjustable risers to adjust and level it
built the bridge arch (still needs paint and lights installed)
Fireproof Storage (to
be re-named later):
The crossover and dwarf
Lots of cutting,
drilling, filing, and soldering are involved in this kit. It will be motorized.
The bridge with
unpainted arch temporarily in place. The wires will power the rails,
one rail from the pit rail wires and one from the arch wire.
Also, the control cab and walkways/railing is yet to be installed.
Another view (I
straightened the arch after this picture was taken, it bends easily).
I have two tiny lights made with surface-mount LEDs that I plan to install at
the top of the arch:
Here it is in the pit.
It is cast plaster (Hydrocal, I think) on a piece of MDF.
I sealed the whole base with latex paint. Lots of weathering and detailing to
come, once it is functional:
November 2014 to Mid-January 2015
Got a good amount done:
- Finished the signal tower (except for the installation of
downspouts), including full interior and lighting.
Built the removable base and added ground goop around it; wired the
lighting into the power system.
- Installed dwarf signals for the south-end main line
- Installed mechanical point-control rodding for the same
crossover and yard entry turnout (this was a lot of tedious work).
- Built and primed/painted (with spray bombs) the four
background building shells; also painted all windows and accessories.
- Completed the flour mill background building, including
lighting and weathering, and an expanded loading dock.
- Painted and flock trees brother Steve gave me; some
Chinese, some he made by dipping ragweed in oil-based paint (they look
- Finished the scenery on the “removable” south-end section
and the area below it.
- Finished scenery on the west side down to the flour mill.
- Painted the “Fireproof Storage” background building,
- Installed backgrounds on the south end, around the
east-side corner, and a little on the east side.
Signal Tower Pix:
Here’s where it sits on
Here’s the flour mill
and the completed scenery along the west side backdrop:
From the other
The south end
“removable” section (with the wood retaining wall) – I need to hide the seam a
The south end, looking
west; you can see the switch rodding between the mainline tracks,
and one of the dwarf signals in the lower left corner. Ballast and weeds have
not yet been added.
A close-up of the
The south-east corner,
with the additional backgrounds in place. Note the new dwarf signals in the
An overview of the
south-west corner; it’s starting to look like a model railroad!
to Mid-November 2014
I though I wasn’t getting much done, but after updating this
blog I guess I got a good amount done in the last two months after all.
- Bought/Made/improved a bunch of trees, added them to the
- Added lots of shrubs, weeds, foliage, and ground cover in
- Started building the signal tower for the lower level near
the bridge; it’s a craftsman kit by CH&R Structures, based on a NYC
More details with the pictures to follow. It is mostly complete, and
consumed much of my time since the last update.
- Built and installed infra-red detectors for the tunnels.
It lights a panel to indicate if trains are in the tunnel, and also
controls dwarf signals at the tunnel entrances.
This was also a big time consumer, as the Chinese detectors I bought had
to be re-engineered to actually work (at least I got the parts cheap).
- Replaced the fixed uncoupling magnet at the yard throat
with an electromagnetic version, with my delayed release circuit.
- Replaced a defective Tortoise switch motor in the yard; it
had intermittent contacts for the frog power, causing the 0-6-0 switchers
- Painted lots of rail. Lots more to go, but this was a big
step in the right direction.
- Re-painted the tunnel portal and wing wall to a consistent
- Also attended two NMRA meets, one in Quakertown and one in
A shot of the branch
line with Steve’s #23, showing the addition of many trees:
Another shot, showing
the grass tufts and static grass to good effect:
An overview of the area
(almost ready to commit to pouring the “water”!!):
Here’s the IR detectors
and panel. I wanted to get these in before I did any more scenery work in this
Even so, the whole detector can be unplugged and easily slid out if maintenance
The top two LEDs are for the back track, the bottom two for the front track.
The IR transmitter LEDs are to the far left and right, they basically aim right
down the track from the ground to up over the trains:
Here are a couple shots
of the tunnel entrance with the dwarf signals installed.
These are very inexpensive Chinese items I got on EBay. I had to “build them
up” with matte medium to hide the nasty wiring job.
The first shot has “all clear”:
Now, the left train is
exiting the tunnel (and still triggering the detector), the right is entering
and hasn’t been detected yet:
Here’s what they look
like up close (they still need some weathering):
Now for the signal
tower. First, a couple of overview shots. Resin 1st floor, laser cut
second floor and shingles:
I used real glass for
the second floor windows. The second floor has a full interior and is lighted.
Here’s the interior.
The figures are Revell, Weston, and Atlas. The furniture is Scale Structures
The levers are from American Model Builders. The bulletin boards are printed
from internet pictures.
This is it lit up.
Since it will be close to the front of the layout, I figured I better do it up
– Mid-September 2014
- Lots more scenery work done.
- Foamed and ground-gooped the branch line down to the start
of the grade
- Added two retaining walls
- Added “filler” backdrops for distant hills
- Built and installed the north-end main line
electromagnetic uncoupler delay control
- Ballasted much of the branch line
- Added dirt ground cover between the south-end main line
and rock castings
- Added static grass, underbrush, and weeds
- Worked on the interlocking tower
- Worked on a bunch of cheap-o Chinese trees, soon to be
- Ran trains with Steve and took these some pictures:
A shot of the branch
line with Steve’s Heisler climbing the grade.
Steve’s 0-6-0 coming
down the branch line. Note the static grass next to the track. Lots of foliage
added (next, more trees!).
An overview of the
A view of the retaining
wall and weeds. More static grass.
A view of the
south-end, ground goop added. The section with the retaining walls is removable
at the arrows to access the window.
Steve’s Climax logging
train on the east-side branch line.
– Early August 2014
- Mostly scenery work, installing photographic backdrops.
- Scenery in place on the branch line up to the girder
- Painted and prepped the pond, almost ready to pour “water”
- Installed the south end rock castings and stone retaining
- Built a static grass wand using a Harbor Freight hand-held
“bug zapper” and a dollar store strainer.
A panoramic shot of the
installed backgrounds (the string hanging down is the ceiling fan control, I
need to shorten it):
A view of the west side
branch line. Note the green “pond” area:
A view of the southwest
corner. The girder bridge is still wrapped in protective plastic wrap:
A wider shot of the
south side branch line:
My home-made static
grass applicator. The wire has a pin on the end to stick in the “ground”.
Press the button and about 14KV is generated on the strainer. Now I just need
some static grass!!
– Mid-July 2014
- Stained a bunch of ties
- Finished the branch line up to the trestle bridge
- Built the SE corner tunnel portal infrastructure
- Cut and fitted the SW corner “mountain” from the old
- Airbrushed and hand-painted lots of the rail, especially
in the tunnel and branch line areas
- Ballasted the tunnel area and the girder bridge
- Re-painted the girder bridge abutments and wing walls, and
fitted them with foam supports under the bridge. Added bridge shoes and
- Wired in 16v regulated DC supply for the Kadee
Electro-magnetic uncoupling ramps
- Designed and built a electromagnetic coupler “hold” circuit,
gives about 10 seconds of time after button press; one is installed for
the South end uncoupler.
- Cast six rock castings from my own rubber molds (made 15
- Tuned several turnouts that had tight gauge in the point
and frog areas after some of Steve’s cars mis-behaved and highlighted the
- Painted the SW corner mountain a couple of times to “dial
in” the color of PA red shale.
- Stained/painted the rock castings, then fitted and
installed some of them.
- Cut, painted, and installed the tunnel liner.
- Added “ground goop” around the SW corner bridge abutments
- Added Sculptamold around the rock castings near the tunnel
- Added a Chooch culvert in the swamp/pond basin of the SW
- Steve added Sculptamold to the SW corner connecting to the
mountain, creating the path up the hill, and carving rock strata – nice
job! I then stained/painted it the next week.
- Added initial scenery on a short section of
the west side, between the branch line and the backdrop – ground cover,
weeds, bushes, and small trees. It still needs dead-fall, talus, etc. but
is a good start.
The small section that
has been “scenicked”:
The SW corner
“mountain”. Steve’s Sculptamold hillside with path is to the left. This area
will get lots of ground cover and vegetation.
The area under the girder bridge will have “water” in it.
Moving east, the
eventual rock castings are temporarily placed in their approximate locations.
They need more stain/paint, of course.
The green foam hill section to the left, behind the branch line, is removable
for access to the window latch behind it.
The SE corner rock
castings, with Sculptamold blending into each other and the tunnel portal.
The “roof” of the tunnel area is removable for access to the tracks in the
tunnel. The stone retaining wall to the right is mounted on foam-core.
A close-up of the
tunnel portal. It is not fastened in place yet, but the fit is evident. Note
the painted rail. The ballast will be weathered once the ground cover is in
The initial east-side
hill between the yard and the branch line; this whole section is removable for
tunnel track access.
Made from foam, it (currently) weighs only a couple of ounces. It will be
covered with “ground goop” and/or Sculptamold and/or latex paint.
The overall view
looking south-west. The icing platform mock-up is in the foreground.
The overall view
looking south-east. The little station will eventually go on the branch line
(almost directly above it in the back corner).
It is, believe it or not, made of white metal (from Woodland Scenics).
– Mid-March 2014
- Built turnouts for, and added a yard feeder to the north
end inner main line.
- Finished laying and wiring all the yard tracks
- Built the double scissors crossover for the north end
mains and it’s control panel
- Built mock-ups of the engine facilities structures
(coaling tower, ash pit, and sanding tower)
- Planned the engine facility layout on a large piece of
cardboard, refining and reworking many times
- Cut and stained six sets of turnout ties
- Finished the north end foam base installation and many additional
support cleats to firm everything up
- Built roadbed for the scissors crossover
- Cut and installed the sandply base for the engine
- Rolled the backdrop with a final coat of blue
- Added roadbed supports for the branch line, where the
small trestle will go
- Added the branch to the icing platform track (where my
Fine Miniatures John Allen Icing Platform will eventually go, there is a
cardboard mockup there now).
- Installed an electro-magnetic uncoupler in the north end
inner-main track near the yard feeder
- Did demolition on the “old” layout in the garage, pulling
rock castings, tunnel portals, and the tall trestle
- Glued in scenery backers behind all the existing branch
- Painted all the un-finish PC ties
- Built branch line roadbed up to the short trestle
The scissors crossover
(needs a few adjustments still). This took ~two weekends of hobby time to build:
The scissors crossover
control panel – selects one of three routings (frog power NOT included yet):
South-east corner of
the room, showing the new branch line extension and short trestle bridge:
The north end, with the
Mantua Mikado pulling a freight of mostly Gorre & Daphetid cars
Scenery here will need
cliffs and/or retaining walls, and a tunnel portal at the left:
The icing platform
siding (with a cardboard mockup standing in).
It is removable to
allow the kit to be built/attached on the bench:
The yard feeder and
icing platform siding turnouts:
Steve’s G&D 0-6-0
on the branch line with two LaBelle flats and a scratch-built G&D bobber
Steve gifted me:
Overview of the east
Overview of the west
side. Note the scenery forms behind the branch line.
Final contours will be
made with florist’s foam, which is easier to carve and will take and hold trees
The tall trestle,
removed from the old layout. Hopefully Steve can use it, I probably can’t:
2013 – Mid-January 2014
- Finished the south end caboose track and spur (to eventually
service a livestock pen)
- Stained a batch of 100 ties “special walnut” for the yard
- Re-motored (Helix Humper) and added a DCC decoder to the
Mantua Mikado Tom Adams gave me (was his Dad’s)
It needs lighting wired in and a decent connector between the loco and
- Built three turnouts for the yard
- Decided to make one yard track a “through” track to the
north end main line
- Painted the girder bridge, bridge piers; weathered the
bridge and added a GD logo
- Tweeked/leveled some of the south end roadbed
- Cut/painted the yard sandply
- Installed the three turnouts, wired them, built the
control panel and wired it
- Layed ties and rail for the three stub-end yard tracks
Here is the completed
south-end trackwork, with the Mantua Mikado parked in the caboose track:
Here is a close-up.
Lighter ties, wider spaced, code 70 rail on the siding.
Here’s the yard ladder.
The back track will pass through to the north-end main.
The PC ties have not yet been painted, and the uncoupler needs to be
centered/glued and ties added.
Note the plywood stiffeners under the sandply.
Here are the yard
tracks looking south. With the code 70, you can get some wobbles (vertical and
but I think it is appropriate for the yard, where slow speeds and spotty maintenance
prevail. Perfect track here would look unrealistic.
September – Early October 2013
- Finished south-end mainline track
- Installed Kadee electro-magnetic uncoupler and controls
- Installed DCC decoders in Bachmann Baldwin 2-8-0 and
Mantua Classics 2-6-6-2
- Installed a Digitrax PR3 and loaded JMRI software to
program the decoders
- Adjusted the speed curves of the locos; they now run super
smooth with prototypical speed
- Installed DCC supply, controller, and throttle jacks in
- Tweeked the branch line grade to even it out
- Laid south-east end stub track with uncoupler
- Laid roadbed for south-west end sidings
- Filled in wood ties and painted and touched up PC ties
- Sanded and painted the backdrop sky blue (what a contrast
to the pink foam!!)
Loconet jack plate in
Loconet jack plate and
uncoupler push-button under south end fascia
West side backdrop
South side backdrop
East side backdrop
Stub track (feeds a
siding), with uncoupler
Here is the roadbed for
the south end sidings – may be a good place for cattle pens…
I had to throw in a
picture of a train running…
- Finished the south end switch installation
- Wired all the turnout feeders to the DCC bus
- Installed Tortoise switch motors, wired connectors to them
- Wired the frogs to the proper Tortoise contacts
- Secured the sandply to the benchwork, leveled it
- Connected the outer main line (both ends) and the inner
main line (one end) to the existing trackwork
- Ran a 10-car train through both cross-overs, forward
and reverse, with no derailments or problems!!!
South End trackwork,
South end trackwork,
- Worked on the south end trackwork – six #6 turnouts to add
yard access, industrial spurs, and a main line crossover
- Laid cork roadbed, finished the turnouts, painted, and now
in the process of installing ties and turnouts
- Had an operating session over the labor day weekend, and
was able to test the district short protection – it worked perfectly, even
with brother Steve’s 3-amp DCC supply.
Here’s the SE corner
branch line trackwork; code 70, siding with hidden uncoupling magnet (the cove
spackle needs another coat).
All the wiring has
connectors so this section can be lifted out for maintenance and detailing.
The south end roadbed
is being laid in here (yard lead sandply roadbed has yet to be trimmed).
Gluing ties down (the
gallon paint can makes a great weight). Turnouts are all fitted and ready to
place after the ties are down.
This will take some time. Then the Tortoise switch machines will need to be
added, and the foam cut to fit them.
- Brother Steve did 1st coat of spackle over
backdrop joints and coves, I did initial sanding.
- Re-built branch line SE corner turnout with code 70 rail
(works fine in the Fast-tracks code 83 jig)
- added SE branch rails and feeders, using removable
- installed an uncoupling ramp on the branch line siding
- ran remaining romex for more districts with Molex
connectors (7 total, 8 once the programming track is defined)
- ran remaining switch machine power feeders
- built and installed the distict power control module
The bulbs (automotive
12v 1156 type) are effectively 0 ohms until they heat up, like when a track
Then they light up, and
the resistance increases and limits the current to prevent the DCC supply from
auto-tripping. We’ll see how well it works.
The point-point wiring
includes resistors (current limiting for the red indicator LEDs) and reverse
polarity clamping diodes (to prevent high LED reverse voltages).
Here’s the panel, wired
with DPDT/center off switches to allow DCC, off, and DCC programming or DC
operation in each district.
The red LEDS will light when there is voltage across the 1156 lamps (when there
is a track short).
Here’s the whole thing
wired up. The terminal strip will be used to connect the male Molex connectors
that will connect to the track busses.
The connector at the
left goes to the DCC supply.
Finally, here it is
installed on the layout. It’s easily remover with four screws if maintenance is
needed. When operations begin, a schematic will be kept nearby.
- added wire supports to back of all lighting support
- installed backdrop corner coves
- added ties to the SE corner branch line
- installed turnout, feeders, and Tortoise on SE corner
- ran 12-gauge Romex for track feeders, using Molex
- defined 6 power districts, connected existing feeders into
first two district busses
These will be isolated by 1156 automotive bulbs for short circuit
- installed/connected some missing feeders
- added 0.100 pin connectors for the SE corner branch line
module feeders so it can be removed for maintenance work
- painted (most) PC ties with acrylic paint
- adding caulk to backdrop coves, beginning to fill/smooth
- laid rail connecting branch line to SE corner module
- installed the East branch line risers over the main
SE Corner backdrop
coving and branch line ties
Branch Line SE switch,
future Kadee uncoupling ramp, backdrop seam caulked/taped
Branch Line rail (code
70), SW corner coving (note temporary trackwork on main line)
East side branch line
risers (main line will be in tunnel)
PC ties painted with
acrylic paint, now virtually invisible
SW corner backdrop cove
- Completed NE corner track and East side track
- Completed temporary track-work (north and south) to get a
full running loop
- Put up masonite backdrop panels (the kind with one side
finished white – for a couple of bucks a sheet extra I don’t have to prime
The corners will be “coved” with aluminum, joints spackled, then sky blue
This masonite will also be used to build the valence panels later, so that
you don’t see the light bulbs from normal viewing angles.
- Built two turnouts; four more to go, then I can assemble
the south end track-work permanently
- Built and painted the girder bridge for the SW corner
branch line (from Central Valley parts)
The west side:
The north side (and my thumb):
The east side, with a running train (this will
eventually be a tunnel, hence the backdrop up 6 inches):
- Layed NW corner main line tracks
- Layed SW corner mainlines tracks
- Layed/painted NE corner cork/roadbed
- Brother Steve brought three DCC-equipped engines, and we ran
them through all the trackage with no issues;
we did some switching on the branch line stub and backed a long train,
pushed by a 2-6-6-2, through the crossover and into the branch line with
NW corner main line (SW corner ties being glued):
NW corner main line:
NE Corner roadbed:
and Early April 2013
- Installed the branch line turnout and tail track
previously built at the bench
- Layed first section of branch line with code 70 rail and
“light” stained ties
- Finished west side crossover and branch-line connector at
bench, including two new turnouts and Tortoise mounting
- Installed the above on the layout
- Wired and connected feeders from track/turnouts
- Wired frogs to Tortoise contacts for polarity switching
- Layed cork, ties, and rail on the south-east main line
- Wired +/- 12v Tortoise power supplies and a power strip
- Drilled 1 inch holes through joists for running wiring on
north and north-west sides
- Ran Tortoise feeder bus, using 3-pin connectors, through
joist holes from supplies to south end
- Wired turnout control switches to the Tortoise harnesses
(for 4 turnouts)
- Mounted the switches, along with LED indicators, on small
panels along the bottom edge of the fascia
- Had a successful test run of an engine (Bachmann 2-8-0)
and cars through all turnouts
West side main line and temporary branch line
connector (note that the final track will be curved to match the roadbed):
Branch line with “test train”:
Turnout control switches with LED indicators below
South-east corner main line tracks:
East side main line, will be in a tunnel, so only a
few ties are used:
North-west main line curves:
and March 2013
- Started building turnouts at the bench with “FastTracks”
jig, all #6
- Added risers for the branch grade, and the corner upper
- Finalized the branch and yard track arrangement
- Staining batches of Kappler ties with Minwax Dark walnut
(main) and special walnut (branch)
- Built a tie “piano jig” with sections of flex track spaced
apart (ME code 83 for ~21.75 “ space on main, Atlas code 100 flex for
~25.5 space on branch)
- Main line is handlaid code 83, branch is handlaid code 70
- Layed cork roadbed, ties, and track on branch line
switch-back (at the bench), including a Kadee under-track uncoupler
- Cork is glued down with yellow carpenters glue
- Cork roadbed is painted with flat black latex paint before
gluing ties down with white glue
- Cut mounting pads for Tortoise switch machines from ¼”
– February 2013
- Finished frame sections
- Mounted, bolted together, and leveled the frame
- Added 2 inch foam base
- Made preliminary track layout with corrugated cardboard
- Installed eight dual-bulb T8 fluorescent fixtures with
3800K bulbs, hung from wire shelving units
- Cut roadbed from ¼” “sandply” plywood
- Installed wall brackets
- Built frame sections