29 March 2019
Today I reworked the Powder River section of benchwork a bit. It came off the wall at a 75 degree angle, but as I worked in the area I realized how much empty space there was between that peninsula and Casper. I like ample aisle space, but this was too much! So I changed the angle from 75 to 85 degrees.
Here's what the area looked like in the plan before I made the changes (the grid is one foot squares):
And here it is after:
The distance between Casper fascia and Shobon fascia (across the aisle) is about 6 1/2 feet. This would probably tend to invite folks to stand there and chat rather than go out into the lounge area. The distance after reworking is still a respectable nearly five feet - plenty of room for folks to move past each other while operating trains. Plus this small change allows a bit more room for the Boysen Reservoir and slightly longer Wind River Canyon run, just past Shobon (to the left of Shobon in the plan).
I also was not happy with the length of the sidings in Thermopolis and Worland. While I was adjusting the track plan for the Powder River area I also made some simple adjustments to the trackage through those two towns and increased the siding lengths significantly. Here's what it looked like before:
And here it is now:
This simple change (basically, eliminating the S-curves at each end of the turnaround blob between the two towns) worked wonders - Thermopolis went from 106 inches between turnouts (about 14 cars plus loco and caboose) to 148 inches (21 cars plus loco and caboose). Worland is similar, going from 106 inches to 132 inches (eighteen cars plus loco and caboose). Plus there's much more room for the towns and industries in this rearrangement.
It took about an hour to reset the Powder River peninsula into the new configuration. Here's how it looks now:
Before it followed the lines on the floor much more closely. I'm glad I figured this out before getting much further along in construction of this area!
26 March 2019
Some additional ceiling panels are now installed (that's my wife Juying in the shot):
I know the ceiling looks a bit wavy and rough in this photo, but that's because it is, to an extent. The purpose isn't to make the basement into a finished space, but to brighten the room with the white panels, and more importantly, to reduce dust on the layout that falls from the joists and subfloor above.
I've begun extending the line from Casper southeast into Orin Junction. The first bit of cork roadbed is down, with track to follow in a day or two:
I've switched from extruded foam back to plywood for subroadbed. No real problems with the foam, but my comfort zone is better with plywood.
22 March 2019
I've started laying the hidden track for the NP. This photo shows the cork roadbed in place. Track (three sections) quickly followed:
I added this bit so I could continue tracklaying for the Burlington mainline out of both ends of Casper. This track is located underneath the Burlington track, so it was necessary to add it before continuing on from Casper. The white plywood laying on the benchwork is a couple of newly painted ceiling panels waiting to go up.
9 March 2019
Yesterday my friend Walt came over and helped me pound out some new L-girder sub-benches for expansion of the layout out of Casper Yard.
Here's what we came up with after several hours of work in the basement:
These girder tops are 4 1/2 inches lower than the one under Casper because the lowest level of trackwork will be 5 1/2" lower than the Casper yard. That will be the NP staging tracks. Above that hidden trackage, at the current level of Casper yard, will be Powder River and, towards the camera (and actually on the next section of benchwork to be built) will be Shobon, where the CNW Lander Branch breaks off the Burlington trackage. In the background will be the Orin/Frannie interchange yard, which will tie to the raised track you can see in the far back right part of this photo.
I took the following shots of the roundhouse on March 3rd, for my monthly video update (here's the link to that: https://youtu.be/yhI3vbMHYWU):
27 February 2019
The Casper roundhouse is nearly complete.
I still have to paint the roof, plug a few light leaks, install some outside lights and final install the roof. Weathering will come later, when I weather the entire engine facility all at once.
Meanwhile, here's a few photos:
That looks like a lot of empty space, doesn't it? I wasn't planning on adding much, if any, interior detail, but I might have to from the looks of this picture!
I messed around with the brightness of the LED's a bit by changing the current-limiting resistor value. It's hard to tell because the phone's camera automatically adjusts the exposure, but the LEDs are pretty dim compared to most illuminated model structures I've seen. Usually model lighting is way too bright, in my opinion. With the room lights on you can't even tell the interior is lit, but with the room dark the lighting casts light through the windows onto the ground outside, without glaring, so I think it's about right.
24 February 2019
After a six-week odyssey to China, I'm back home and working on the layout!
The roundhouse is progressing, but slowly:
According to the kit instructions, the roundhouse doors should be able to open and close when installed. The two sets on the right do swing, but with it being erected in place, it's extremely difficult to glue the hinge frames to the vertical posts without getting glue onto the hinges, freezing the doors into place. After struggling for several hours to get the two end sets in place, and watching the door that's partially closed free swing from open to its current position, I decided to drop the close-able doors, and cement them into the open position. MUCH easier to install that way! I'll be going back and gluing the two sets that actually swing into the open position as well.
I anticipate another week or two to complete the basic roundhouse build (that does not include light-sealing all the cracks).
2 January 2019
Happy New Year, everyone!
I finally started erecting the roundhouse. All the back walls are in, and the side walls are about ready to go:
Those LED's I showed in the last update look like they'll work out pretty good. I strung them through the roof support frames in the roundhouse, and they look pretty ok when they're on:
Of course, they'll look much better when the roundhouse is finished. I still need to convert them from batteries to a DC power supply.
I also started adding a throttle buss to the layout. NCE calls these "UTPs," and there are two of them installed now. As the benchwork expands, I'll add more:
27 December 2018
Making progress on the roundhouse.
Here the walls are drying after being painted with a Rustoleum flat red:
I want to light the interior, but don't want to spend a fortune on LED's or tiny incandescents. Hmmm. What to do?
Maybe these will work?
At 75% off after Christmas, they were $5.00. At that price, certainly worth a shot, anyway! Out of the box:
And after a few minutes of unwinding the red & white yarn and unthreading the snowflakes, I got this:
Yes, I can certainly do something with these. I need to figure out how to replace the 3-AA-batteries power box with a connection to my 12 volt power supply and I'm off to the races. Shouldn't be too hard...
22 December 2018
Finally finished installing the roundhouse tracks. All tracks are powered, and the turntable aligns with each one on both ends of the bridge. This photo shows all my Burlington locos "in" the roundhouse:
Roundhouse exterior wall construction has also started - barely (note the two end walls lying behind a couple of the stall tracks).
Progress has been somewhat slow because of another big project - a set of built-in bookcases I'm building out of oak plywood.
26 November 2018
Work on the layout has slowed because I've been splitting my time between the layout and constructing a large set of built-in bookcases in the library.
I think the yard is going to work out OK, though. I've continued to work on the small area that looked really bad, and it seems to be looking a bit better:
The four tracks I've been focusing on (you can figure out which ones, I'm sure) are not completely finished, but I think they'll be passable by the time I'm finished.
I've also been spending a bit of time on the roundhouse, and started painting the pink foam in the engine facilities area:
The tan color is more in keeping with the dirt color in the Casper Wyoming area. I'm going to go back and cover most of the yard area with it, where I used the way-too-dark brown color earlier. Live and learn.
7 November 2018
I've started scenicking Casper yard.
It may not be working out very well...
After getting all the track laid in the classification area, I painted the track. That seemed to go ok for the most part:
So now it's time to work on the spaces between the tracks.
I started out by mixing up and applying a small batch of plaster of paris. As I was applying it I realized it might have been a bit too stiff, but before it started hardening I got this:
Hmmm. Maybe not so good. But, undaunted, I press on.
So today I mixed up another small batch, much thinner this time - kind of like a medium-thin pancake batter - and poured it between the tracks. I got this (new part still wet):
Not looking promising. I'm hoping that after it dries, and I apply some ballast to the track and weathering to the plaster, that it will look better. I'm not really feeling very confident right now, though.
Maybe I should throw in the towel and take up bar hopping as a hobby...
28 October 2018
I've taken a bit of a detour for a few days to begin construction of a set of bookcases for my library. Still, I have been able to do a few things around the layout...
The caboose and A/D tracks are now laid:
I also started painting the yard. First is a general coat of brown rattle-can paint. It turns out the paint, a Rustoleum flat paint, mildly attacks the pink foam baseboard. It's not too severe, but I think I'll probably brush a coat of latex brown paint on the foam before using the Rustoleum again.
Yesterday my friend Walt and I went to the Timonium Maryland train show. I was able to acquire another of the small Walthers roundhouse kits, so I have enough stalls now to build the entire structure.
14 October 2018
My friend Walt came over yesterday and helped me prepare the bench top for the roundhouse floor in Casper. He's using my hot wire cutter to cut grooves in the foam for the roundhouse inspection pits. I took an old yogurt cup, cut a hole in the bottom and trimmed the height until the cutter stuck out just enough to cut the groove to an ample depth.
Today I finally finished up the roadbed for the rest of the A/D track and caboose spur in Casper. I cleared the yard by pulling all the cars up onto the grade.
Once I finish laying the A/D and caboose tracks I plan to finish installing ties under all the rail joiners (ugh!), followed with painting all the yard tracks. Weathering them will probably come somewhat later.
29 September 2018
Classification area of the Casper yard is nearly complete, with the runaround track now operational:
The switch the loco is sitting on will lead to the engine servicing facilities, with the one behind it leading to the Standard Oil Refinery tank car loading racks. The far one will lead to the reefer icing facility behind the classification tracks.
I still need to install switchstands on the three switches off the runaround, and Hayes bumpers at the ends of all the tracks.
Once the turntable and roundhouse are installed, I'll be able to get those locos off the classification tracks!
17 September 2018
I spent most of the past week sorting out all my parts, tools, etc. and finally setting up my model building space. It looked like this when I started:
Now it's organized. Tools, kits and parts are out of the boxes and on shelves placed between the workbench and the wall. Sorry, I didn't take a photo of the cleaned-up workbench.
Once the workbench was ready to use, I started building new turnouts in order to complete the Casper yard engine facility. It's been four years since I've built any turnouts, so I'm having to re-learn how. Here's a completed-except-for-crossties one. I need to build about five more left-hand and a couple of right-hand to complete all yard trackage.
10 September 2018
Roadbed and track have been placed on most of the incline heading east out of Casper (while not arrow straight, the track isn't as curvy as it looks. The low perspective exaggerates lateral variations):
Here's a train on the grade, in a shot taken from the other end of the incline. The Proto 2000 NP Z-4 Mallet is straight out of the box, unweathered as of yet. It pulled 24 cars plus caboose onto the 2% incline, wheels slipping after about car 20 hit the grade. This is more than sufficient pulling power, as the NP locos will be relegated to the as-yet-unbuilt NP trackage on the layout. There will be no grade on the NP section of the layout.
6 September 2018
I've started the incline behind Casper that goes to Frannie / Orin Junction. I start out with the same pink foam I used for the Casper subroadbed, cut to an angle to produce a 2% grade (basically cut at a 2 degree angle):
The roadbed on the grade is green extruded styrofoam from Lowes, as are the risers and splice plates between sections. Parts are glued together using hot glue (the soda cans are there just to hold the subroadbed down on the risers while the hot glue sets. I just left them while I proceed to the next riser up the grade). Risers are spaced every 12.5 inches, making each riser 1/4" taller than the preceding one. I'm still a bit out of my comfort zone using foam instead of plywood, but I'm learning fast, and it sure is easier to work with than plywood!
1 September 2018
The Casper classification tracks are all installed and the ladder ladder switches all work properly. Feeders and ground throws are all installed. The runaround track isn't complete yet - I have to build a couple of left hand switches before I can complete it.
I scratchbuilt that station 25 years ago. It isn't the one for Casper - I just placed it there temporarily.
Today I spent several hours laying out the Casper turntable area. This photo doesn't show the layout too clearly, but if you look close you can see the tracks, turntable and roundhouse locations. You can also see a few crossed out lines where I mislocated a few tracks and had to move them.
And finally, Thursday while out for a walk downtown, we wandered past the local candy factory (Aunt Charlotte's, a local icon) and saw that they had a huge stack of beadboard styrofoam rectangles out for trash pickup Friday. After checking with them, that stack, in very short order, found itself in my basement! It's pretty crappy foam, used as packaging in some order they received a few days ago. But it should make really great landforms for my layout, and once glued together, shaped and sporting ground cover, it won't matter what it looks like underneath. Best of all, it was completely free!
11 August 2018
Progress continues in the Casper area, with the beginnings of yard ladder construction:
I had to change the switch lead a bit (that's the cork in the foreground with no track on it yet), because I forgot to include the switch for the runaround track (DOH!).
Here's what the area looked like after I removed the incorrectly located cork:
The cork came up pretty easy using a putty knife. You can see where the foam surface was abraded a bit...
And here's what it looked like after the cork was relaid to include room for the switch:
It looks almost identical to the original alignment, but the lead is shifted about 1/4 inch to the left of the mainline. That was all that was necessary to allow the straight area for the switch, which will go in the foreground at the bottom left of the photo.