The Casper Layout

Modeling – The Present – The Casper Layout

The top part of this page is a blog of recent activity. Every six months or so I'll move everything in it into the appropriate links below. Enjoy!

3 July

I just posted my latest video update:

7 July

Minor work on the layout the last couple of days. On July 5 I started stringing and connecting a new 12 ga. DCC buss. I spent many hours on the 4th looking for my spade terminals, to no avail. I had some #8 stud ring terminals, but the diameter is too big to fit between the dividers on the barrier strips. Not being able to find anything that did fit that would accept a 12 ga. wire, I clipped off the edges of the ring terminals to make them fit. That's not easy to do, but I managed to do about a dozen, which gave me enough to connect up the buss at all the barrier strips.

Of course, today I found the spade terminals I needed.

Here's one of the barrier strip sets. The feeders are yet to be connected.

During transit from New Jersey, and while sitting in the basement here, the engine terminal section of Casper yard accumulated a lot of dust. After I put most of the removable roundhouse roof sections, which were in a box for moving, onto the roundhouse it showed just how much dust had accumulated. The grayish sections of roof are the ones that are permanently attached to the roundhouse, and were exposed to all the dust from the move:

So I dug out my little vacuum attachment with the soft brush and cleaned off the roundhouse roof - kinda. Still needs more cleaning, but now it looks a lot better (the dirtier looking sections are the ones from the box):I also vacuumed the entire yard from one end to another to prepare for track reinstallation. There was a LOT of dust!

And today I built a set of shelves for my DCC system, hung below one of the Casper L-Girders. The entire time I was building the layout in New Jersey I had the system sitting on a paint can, wired into the layout through a couple of alligator clips. I swore I wouldn't do that again.

I also spent four or five hours today looking for the two turnouts that spanned the separation between the engine terminal and classification yard sections of Casper. I thought I knew right where they were, and dug out the box marked "Fast Tracks switches" yesterday and went through that stack, expecting to find the two switches for those locations.

No luck.

So yesterday and today I went through every box of train supplies I have (and that's a lot!), and still didn't find the switches. I resigned myself to building new ones, but went back and looked at all the switches from the "Fast Tracks" box, which were lying on the layout. The two I needed were right there all the time! I don't know how I missed them yesterday.

10 July

Two days ago I put a loco on the mainline in Casper after I hooked the center section feeders to the power buss. Here's the loco sitting on the Mainline:

The last couple of days I've been reconnecting feeders to the buss and splicing across the yard sections split. Here's the mainline splice:

And behind the roll of solder is the first classification track splice:

19 July

I continued splicing tracks back together in Casper until I ran out of rail joiners. Since the nearest decent hobby shop is in Denver, almost 300 miles away, I'll have to get most of my supplies mail order. So I ordered plenty of rail joiners from Walthers, along with a couple of Bright Boy rail cleaners. There are still two classification tracks to splice, and the runaround track. I did get the engine terminal reconnected to the yard, so at least I can move locos back and forth, though there is no power on part of the yard ladder (Power comes from the classification tracks, so the still-isolated tracks interrupt the power to the ladder).

I got the turntable reactivated, and all the radial tracks off of it are now powered. Even after all these months, the turntable still had all the stops I'd programmed in 2018!

I didn't take pictures of all this because those kinds of photos are pretty boring.

On Tuesday the 14th, I took the morning and walked the western half of the Casper Rail Trail, the old Chicago & Northwestern line in Casper. The entire trail about six miles long; I walked the three miles that go through downtown Casper. The trail is very nice - the entire section I walked is concrete, with benches and maps periodically along the path. I've added a page about the trail to the Railfanning section of the website. You can click here to go see that. Here's one shot along the trail, at Veteran's Park in Casper:

I was using one of my 0-8-0's to test tracks as I repowered them. It ran just fine when I packed it up in New Jersey, but it was stuttering and stalling constantly when I put it back on the track. I cleaned the track and that didn't help very much, so I cleaned the wheels and tender pickup contacts, and the loco ran much better!

Shortly after that I put most of the locos back on the layout. Several of the were not performing up to par, running jerkily or just seeming to move reluctantly, as if it was taking a lot of power to get them to move. Finally, I turned the layout off and disgustedly headed upstairs for the night. I really wondered for a few hours why I was bothering to even try to build another layout.

The "railroad despair" didn't last long, though. Clearly all my locos are past due for some maintenance. A thorough mechanism cleaning and re-lubing is in order. Everything ran like a watch right out of the box - I only had to fiddle a little bit with one or two locos when I first purchased them. I was fortunate not to have to do much tuning-up on any of them. It's been about twelve years since I purchased the newer ones, and some are pushing 20 years old, so it's time for some rehabilitation, I think. I'll do that one at a time over the next six months or so. I've actually come around to the point that I'm looking forward to it!

On the 16th I unpacked all my road-ready freight cars and repopulated the Casper yard. Here's a shot from the 18th of the month:

That pile of wheel sets in front of the string of reefers is enough semi-scale (.088" tread width) wheels for about 13 cars. A friend bought them for his layout, then discovered that they don't play well with Atlas switches! They cause frequent derailments, he said. I'm guessing the drop into the gap at the frog. Anyway, since I build my own switches with a Fast Tracks jig, he offered them to me.

I tested them on a couple of tank cars, and they work fine in my yard throat. So I'm swapping out the standard .110" tread wheelsets in my Kadee trucks for these, which fit like a glove. Then I'll give my old wheelsets to my friend, who will swap them out with the cars he has that have plastic wheels. What a deal for me (and him, I'd like to think)!

I put a couple of tank cars on adjacent tracks to compare the appearance of the semi-scale wheels on the left, to the standard wheels on the right. I think the semi-scale wheels look pretty good! When they've been running awhile and the treads are polished, they'll look even better! On tank cars, where the wheel treads are very visible, this makes a BIG difference!

Looking at the wheels from this perspective, I think the flanges are also a bit finer than the RP-25 flanges on the Kadee wheels.

26 July

Progress on the layout has been slow this past week. I received both the rail joiners that were holding me up and the additional lights for the train room.

The panel face on the lights look identical to the older model, but the connection box and backside of the panel are completely different, so I've had to figure out a new mounting scheme. It's more complicated than what I was doing before, but it should put the panels even with the older ones above the floor.

I also replaced the standard wheelsets with the semi-scale ones in 13 cars before I ran out. The friend who gave me those gave me the rest of the package he bought (in trade for my standard wheelsets), so I'm rady to go for another 12 cars.

Armed with the new rail joiners, I was able to finish reconnecting all the Casper yard tracks:
Obviously I still have to replace the end ties and weather the track.

I also got the runaround track reconnected, so the yard is basically fully functional again. I still have to mess with a few ground throws that got cranky during the move, but beyond that I'm ready to start on the Casper industrial tracks.

29 July

I cleaned off the Casper Yard area a bit, in preparation for new construction. The bit of Frannie / Orin yard I had built in New Jersey had been sitting there, and I came up with a pretty snappy way (I think) to store it until I need it:

I also finally got my workbench located:

And set up:

31 July

As a final step in preparing for new construction I revised the Casper area a bit, sliding the Standard Oil racks further behind the roundhouse and adding several new industries. This was all made possible by the area that was freed up when the mainline loop behind Casper was removed in the new track plan. Here's the revised Casper track plan. New industries are highlighted by red lettering:

I also took the time to flesh out Riverton on the CNW branch, located above and to the right of Casper along the same wall. I had to do that so I would know the configuration of the benchwork above Casper, especially the far right end of the engine terminal (which will be under the Riverton Depot in the left side of this image).

With completion of track splices over the Casper section breaks, reconnection of a few remaining loose feeders, and replacement of a couple turnout ground throws that were boogered up during the move, Casper yard and engine terminal are fully functional again. To commemorate, I made a video of the first train built in the yard on this version of the layout.

Here's a still at the yard lead of some switching going on:

4 August

I bought a Roku attachment so I could stream videos to my old Toshiba TV. I set it up next to the workbench so I can follow along how-to videos while I'm at the workbench.

I started making turnouts for the new industries in Casper:

And I posted my latest update video to YouTube yesterday.

12 August

Late last week I installed the final overhead light in the train room. All the junk will be moved once the other half of the basement is finished.

About two weeks ago I ordered a roll of 3mm thick cork to make roadbed for sidings, and as an underlayment in industrial areas. It came in yesterday.

Turnout construction is proceeding. I needed five new ones for Casper industries; I'be built three and am working on the fourth. Here are two of them set roughly in place on the layout:

Last night I walked around some of the old Standard Refinery in Casper. It's laced with trails and roadways now. The old Chicago & Northwestern bridge across the Platte River at the east end of the refinery site is now part of one of the trails. I took a couple shots of it:

I also walked past the old refinery headquarters building. Sometime around 2012 the Casper Business Innovation Center took over the building and proceeded to build onto it a much larger and much uglier structure. Why does this happen? Would it have been that much more expensive to have tried to match the architectural style of the building? That was a classic early 20th century industrial office building.

What the short-sighted idiots at the Innovation Center did is akin to grafting Frankenstein's monster onto Reese Witherspoon. You may be able to do it, but it sure does destroy the aesthetics.

Here's the building now:

17 August

A couple days ago I set up my "roadbed factory."

And began cutting cork sheets to put the Casper icing facility on.

Yesterday I picked up a sheet of 3/4" oak plywood. This is raw material for benchwork. I just started cutting it into 3" strips.

And here it is all cut. There are 15 3" X 8' strips. Even at $54 a sheet, this is much cheaper (and straighter and more stable) than dimensional lumber.

Sure did leave a pile of sawdust!

And today I put it to use! I began building the benchwork for the Chicago & North Western line between Riverton and Hudson, which will run above Casper. Here are the raw materials for beginning this project.

Here's the working plan for the left end of the line over Casper.

So it begins. I clamped two 8' strips to my 6-foot level before splicing them, to make sure the top of the benchwork will be straight.

Here are three strips all spliced together. Looks pretty straight to me!

Here's the first big section laying on its top. This benchwork is just wide enough for one track - 5 1/2 inches wide.

I mounted the section on temporary legs behind Casper to get an idea of how it would look.

After staring at it and mulling it over a bit, I decided it was fine and went ahead with mounting it permanently to the wall.

And here it is from a bit of an angle.

18 August

Today I installed the second section of the CNW line over Casper. Here it is in the middle of installation:

And a couple hours later this section is finished. About a foot before the end of the stringer away from the wall (back into the picture), the shelf will taper out to about 20" wide for the town of Riverton. That benchwork will run all the way to the wall behind me. The Forward edge will need supported someway. I'm thinking of using a threaded rod to suspend it from the ceiling.

Here's a view looking almost all the way down the Casper wall.

22 August

Still working on the CNW over Casper. Doing backdrop height tests. These two pictures are a 10" backdrop (unpainted as of yet):

Slightly closer view:

And here's a 6" high backdrop:

A little bit closer:

24 August

With the input of some folks over on the Model Railroader forums (trains.com), I decided on the 10" backdrop.Here's a few shots of the installation to this point. In this one the first supports - garbage-quality 1X2's - have been installed:

And the next sections:

The first two sections of backdrop in place. The seam will be filled with plastic putty and sanded down for a seamless skyboard.

27 August

This has been a really busy month on the layout!

A few days ago I spliced in the third section of backdrop. Here I'm adding the splice plate to the end of the second section. I use Testors plastic cement - the viscous kind from a tube - to glue the sections of backdrop together.

After splicing the new section in, I attached it to the supports (I use panel nails spaced along the top and bottom). Then I went back and, using Squadron White Putty, filled the seams at the two completed splices. After that I sanded the entire backdrop, wiped it down with a very damp rag, then painted it.

I had a couple of narrow strips of backdrop - .080 styrene - left over after trimming the sheets to the correct height. What to do with those?

Hey I know! I'll use them to add the height variations in the rail line that's seen so often on the real thing. Height variations like this on on the BNSF line west of Casper (look just beyond the bridge):

.080 inches in HO is about 7 scale inches. That should be about right for a subtle and not operationally disruptive effect. But I needed some thinner styrene "steps" to climb onto and off of the .080 strips. So I found some sheets of Evergreen styrene in .060 and .030 thicknesses in my workbench drawer and busied myself cutting them to size. I needed six of each thickness in all.

I attached the .080 strips using a construction adhesive since I didn't have any caulk, then this morning I picked up some Dap 230 caulk and attached the steps. Here's one all buttered up and ready to install:

The end result is this set of steps leading up on to (and down off of) the .080 strips:

After the styrene had a couple hours to start setting, I began installing cork roadbed. I could have just used caulk, I suppose, but I always use wood glue to attach the cork to the plywood (I'm nothing if not dogmatic), so I used caulk where the roadbed would be on styrene, and glue where it would be on plywood. Here's one of the first pieces ready to install:

After the first few pieces of roadbed were down, it looked like this:

So I continued with roadbed installation down the entire length of the benchwork. When I was finished it looked like this:

It looked like this from a "down the track" perspective:
Hard to tell where the roadbed bumps up and down, isn't it? I said it would be subtle. Maybe it will be a bit more apparent when the track is in place. At any rate, this is probably the only place I'll take the time to add the vertical "waviness" into the track.

And here it is from across the Casper benchwork. Almost can't see the variations at all, can you?

28 August

I got the first nine feet of track laid on the CNW above Casper. The soda can train will stay in place overnight, until the caulk dries thoroughly.

30 August

Yesterday I added another six feet of track, for a total of fifteen. I can't add anymore until I get either the Hudson or Riverton ends benchwork and subroadbed installed. I set a short train on the line over Casper just to see how it looked:

Today I installed the wiring for the new line, including separate buss wires so I can power the CNW from a booster in the future. I ran the buss wires so that they would be hidden.

It was kind of tight quarters installing the terminal strip in the center of the line, but I managed it.

I ran a test train back and forth a few times to make sure it worked.

Pretty rickety looking, isn't it? It's supposed to be - the prototype line for this was never a high-speed line.

21 September

I had to leave town suddenly in early September for a medical emergency with an old friend. He's recovering, and I'm now back at home, having arrived late Friday night (18 September). After recharging for a couple of days (it was a l-o-n-g drive!) I'm back into working on the layout.

The first thing I needed to do was design the benchwork leading from the trackage over the back of Casper to the Hudson area. Here's what I came up with:

It looks more complicated than it really is. I had to design this in detail because the outside edges of the gridwork is attached to the wall studs, so I won't have access to install the joist mounting blocks once the edges are attached to the wall. I should be able to get this up over the next several days.

Just before I left, I uploaded my latest construction update to my YouTube channel:

On 4 November, 2019, my wife and I moved into our new house in Casper Wyoming. I was back home!

I had an unfinished basement comparable in size to the one I left behind in Merchantville. Here are a couple shots from out house hunting trip in October:

Even before we moved, I was fiddling around with ideas for track plans (or course). But I didn't do very much except daydream, because we had a lot to do on our house in Merchantville to get it ready to sell.

Once we moved to Casper and settled in a bit, I did have time to start messing around with track plans. Lots of time, because I needed to finish the train room before I started building this fifth version of the CB&Q in Wyoming.

I did produce an update video in December, chronicling the track planning process to that point, introducing the new layout space, and giving a brief recap of the previous four versions of the layout:

The basement was pretty cluttered. We put nearly all the stuff we brought with us that didn't have a specific home right in - you guess it - the train room:

Click the buttons below to look at the construction of the second Cove Road layout, or to go on to the last version the layout, in Casper Wyoming.