Construction Progress – 2006
Adding roadbed to the helix, which has been under construction since just after Thanksgiving 2005. I was using standard straight pins to hold down the curved cork, but the colored-head pins are easier because I can push them in with my fingers and can see them easier for removal. But I have to use pliers to remove them, since the plastic heads tend to pop off if you pull too hard. Lots of progress on the helix in January, but not many photos, I'm afraid. See the Helix Construction page for more.
In late January Walt helped me add the second deck support stud walls for the Glenrock side of the layout (in the background) and for the Laurel peninsula. These walls are also support the framing for the backdrops. Here we clamped a half-sheet of plywood to the Laurel studs to get an idea of how the backdrop will divide the room.
With the addition of the support stud wall, it became possible to start adding track that is dependent on exactly where those walls went. Here we see the Lander Branch track being installed behind the helix. Helix construction temporarily stopped so that I could reach over it to work on the Lander track installation, if necessary. Turns out I didn't have to do that - I laid the track on the roadbed prior to attaching the roadbed to the risers, and just slid the whole assembly around as needed to gain access to lay the track.
The helix as it stands on 8 February. You can see the test train with the loco's nose (a BLI Heavy Mike) at the current end of track. The loco seems to perform very well on the helix grade - it pulls 14 cars (counting the caboose) up the grade, and will start on the grade, without slipping. And this loco doesn't have a traction-tired driver yet. With the traction tire installed, I'm anticipating 20-22 car trains to move up the helix with no difficulty (I was a little apprehensive about the pulling power of steamers on the grade).
In late March the Glenrock benchwork near the helix looked like this. The under-construction roadbed crossing over the NP Minneapolis yard throat is part of the Wyoming Mainline that runs from the helix to Thermopolis well behind the camera. The upper track on the left is the Cody branch shown above.
It's now mid-April, and I'm re-grading the helix-to-Thermopolis line. You can see that some of the track on the line is installed, but it turns out the level isn't sensitive enough to provide an accurate grade indication with just the bubble. So I set up a laser level to check and adjust the grade. It took quite a bit of adjusting. I knew what the rise should be over a four-foot distance, so I set a block of that height under the lower end of a four-foot level and adjusted the self-leveling laser to catch the top edge of the level. I adjusted the risers until the laser beam caught the entire top of the level, screwed the riser in place, then moved on to the next section. It worked great! The white background is .080 inch thick sheet styrene. Backdrops for the layout will be made of this stuff.
In this late April shot towards the helix, track has been laid on the helix-Thermopolis roadbed, most of the way down the Glenrock benchwork. That's the track with the tanker train on it. As it leaves the picture to the right, that train enters the helix at the lowest level and starts it's climb to the top deck.
The upper train is on the completed lower level of the Frannie Cutoff. It's on the temporary track that will connect it to Glenrock and allow trains to run from the NP Mainline onto the lower deck Wyoming Mainline trackage. Once the upper deck has been completed to Orin, this connection will be removed and the track connected to the helix for the trip to the top deck.
Glenrock siding subroadbed installation has begun in this May 3rd photo! Just behind me as I'm taking this picture will be Thermopolis.
Because Glenrock siding sits above Minneapolis staging yard I couldn't just plant risers to support it, so I wound up building three-piece framing to act as risers.
Here's a view from the opposite direction, from behind the helix. This view won't be seen when the layout is a little farther along.
When the Lander branch and Thermopolis-to-helix tracks have progressed around the corner and onto the Thermopolis benchwork, the backdrop will be mounted in its permanent position, to the left of the Thermopolis track in this photo.
In early July I attended the National Train Show in Philadelphia. While there I stopped by the FastTracks booth and was so impressed by what I saw that I bought a turnout fabrication kit from them. This is the first turnout I built using it - a #6 code 83 left-hand turnout. This will go at the east end of Glenrock siding when I get the track there. I thought my turnout building days were over!
Power strips feeding the helix. Each tier has two strips feeding each track - one on each straight section. Although the strips are installed, the power isn't being fed by these right now. It's coming from the alligator clips you see on the bottom terminal strip. One all the helix track is laid, the power will be hooked up completely.