Casper Progress – 2022 – October through December

Casper Construction Progress Part 4 – 2022 – October through December

10 October 2022

I spent most of the past month working on Worland, but I spent a few hours on the prairie between Casper and Powder River as well. Here, in mid-September, I extended the grass further towards Powder River, out of frame to the right.

At the end of the month I had additional layers of scenery applied in the area, giving me this:

But as I said, most of the time was spent on Worland. Here, on 16 September, I was adding cork sheet to the benchwork.

The next day the cork was applied over the entire area.

Then I got started on trackwork. Here I'm laying the east end of the Worland passing siding. The turnout just beyond the beer can at the far end is the main turnout to Holly Sugar.

By the 22nd of September I had the Worland trackage complete except for Holly Sugar at the east end, and Crown Cork & Seal at the west end. Here's a shot of one of the barrier strips that provides power to the tracks at the west end of Worland.

Here's a view of Worland as of 24 September. At the very far end will go the Holly Sugar complex, and the turnout in the foreground on the rightmost track is where the spur to Crown Cork & Seal will go.

Crown Cork & Seal's spur will have very tight curves, in keeping with the prototype (Google Maps view):

By October 4th I started building the benchwork for Holly Sugar.

Holly Sugar benchwork was essentially complete by 6 October. I used foam for the base here instead of plywood, because some elements of the facility, specifically the beet flume, will be partially below grade.

After the sugar plant benchwork was finished, I turned my attention to completing a set of six hopper cars that will be the beginnings of my beet hopper fleet. Here's one of the six cars, now on the layout.

I started building the four turnouts I need for the Holly Sugar trackage today.

On the 3rd I posted my latest layout construction update video.

27 October 2022

Over the past couple of weeks I spent most of my time getting Holly Sugar trackage functional. On the 14th I was laying the turnouts and leads to the spurs:

By the 18th all the trackwork was complete. Wiring followed over the next few days.

Here I am testing the reach at the sugar plant. the spurs closer to the wall are for cuts of beet cars, so there won't be a need to reach way over to uncouple cars. When they're delivered, the couplers will be set to delayed mode in before the cars are pushed into the spurs.
Only the spur by my hand is tacked down at this point. The other tracks will be elevated a bit over the beet and coal bins, so they're just laid in place.

During this time I also was adding some amenities to the layout in preparation for an upcoming operating session. First I made location names for all the areas of the layout that have functional trackage:
I made the signs in PowerPoint, then pasted them onto .040 styrene sheet using Super 77 spray adhesive. After that was dry I cut them out, blackened the styrene edges using a black paint marker and finally gave them a coat of Dullcote to protect the letters.

I installed the signs using brass #4 screws. Here's the sign at Hudson:

I also added throttle pockets and cup holders to the fascia. Here's Casper:

I decided to play it safe before the ops session and added temporary fencing on all the functional track at the peninsula ends. Where the track will be visible it will be removed as scenery is added.

Here's the Wind River Canyon / Thermopolis tracks:
The upper track is the hidden CNW line to Lander, and the fences will remain there. The lower track will be in a tunnel for much of the curve, so I might leave the fencing there also.

Here's the track leading out of Worland towards Greybull. The lower, unprotected track is the not-yet-functional Cody Branch. It will get fencing later.

Here's the area looking west towards Powder River from Casper after I pulled the tape off the track. Still need to ballast this area and add details. I also want to try to do a few things to disguise the pool table flatness of the area.

Finally, a couple days before the ops session, I started cleaning the train room and, most importantly, all the track. I haven't run the layout (except for testing new track) since the last ops session in late June. I also put together the first trains that will leave Casper at the beginning of the session.

On October 25th it was operations time! Here Larry, near foreground, has taken on the task of running the Casper local switcher. Phil, behind him, is Casper yardmaster for this go around. In the distance Harry, farthest away from the camera (guy with the black hat) is at Shobon taking the CNW local up the hidden track to Riverton. Frank, in the camo shirt, is watching.

Homer, on the left, is sitting on a high stool watching the chaos (and thoroughly enjoying it too!), while Judy, Frank's significant other, is watching and learning. My good friend Dave, the retired BNSF engineer from Basin, is out of view of the camera behind the refrigerator wall working the new Holly Sugar plant.

Everyone reported that they had great time. I'll try to do this again in about four more months.

23 November 2022

Ater the operating session on 25 October I began adding a few low hills to the background of the Powder River area. This area was just too "billiard table" flat to look good. First I hot glued some trimmed pieces of pink foam into place.

Then I painted and grouted the new hills:

And finally I added static grass and a bit of texture between the siding and the mainline. This was on 7 November, and I haven't done anything else in this area since then.

On November 3rd I posted my latest layout update video.

Also early in the month I began laying out Himes Curve. This is the tightest mainline curve on the layout, at 28 inch radius. I would have preferred to stay with my typical 30 inch radius, but a solid wall left me no choice.

This curve represents the real Himes Curve, though on the layout it curves the opposite direction of the real one:
The longest wheelbase steamer that could navigate this 10-degree curve (one degree sharper than Horseshoe Curve in Pennsylvania) was a Mikado. Northerns could not make the curve. Even today, trains are limited to 10 mph on the curve. Dave told me he could feel the trucks on the six axle SD's he used to run through here buck and jump on the curve, though he never did have a derailment.

At this point work on the layout came to an unexpected screeching halt for about two weeks. I learned that my operating concept, which I thought I had based solidly on prototype operations on the line, was seriously flawed! 🙁

I thought all local trains came out of Casper on the division, and I was very chagrined to learn that all of them came out of Greybull for the entire Big Horn Basin, including the Cody branch! I spent a lot of time for nearly two weeks looking at how I could incorporate the changes in my scheme, and how that would impact the track plan. Dave (who had been the bearer of this bad news) and I spent hours on the phone and in emails going back and forth about what might be possible to do without major revision to already-built parts of the layout.

Greybull had been envisioned as just another switching location on the layout. I knew there's been an engine facility in Greybull during my modeling era, but I had left that out of the master layout plan. Greybull also had a yard, and that was left out as well. I hadn't yet detailed out the track arrangement for Greybull; I've been doing that for each town as I approached it during construction. But it would be similar to what I came up with for Thermopolis, here:

Now I would need to include the yard and engine facilities at Greybull if I was to model operations as they were really done, so I spent the next several days working out how to fit everything in the spot allocated for Greybull. With Dave's input I came up a few variations on Greybull:

None of these or several other arrangements were satisfactory. There just wasn't enough room to build the trains I needed! Then I began thinking about train routing and traffic flows. I wondered if I might be able to combine Greybull with the Frannie and Orin interchange yards. The Frannie-Orin combined yard had a lot more length along one wall than Greybull did on the peninsula. So I did a schematic of train movements along the entire line. Here's the first one, with all trains originating from Casper in my original concept:

Here's the second one, with local trains originating in Greybull in its original location:

And here's the final one, showing train routing from a combined Orin / Greybull / Frannie yard:
Three major things to note:

  1. Moving Greybull opened up another spot for a town I had omitted in the original plan - Basin. This makes the eastbound local out of Greybull much better;
  2. Greybull has the length to allow trains to be built on one track (see the following layout of the new Greybull), rather than breaking them up onto two separate tracks. Also, the stub-end tracks have much greater capacity; and
  3. This is maybe the most important. On all the other concepts, trains to Cody had to make an unprotypical turn-around move at Frannie to go down the Cody branch. Now the train will leave Greybull headed in the right direction. No more turning around mid-route.

Here's the new (and semi-final) Greybull arrangement:
While I was reworking the track plan anyway, I took the time to revise the Cody branch design to move Powell under Worland and eliminate a bunch of hidden trackage. I also completely redesigned the west and east staging to straighten out traffic flow into staging and eliminate a bunch of hidden track.

With all the redesign work behind me, I got started on construction again. On the 17th of November I installed the benchwork supporting Himes Curve (leg on the left is temporary):

On the 20th Himes Curve subroadbed was in, and on the 21st I began installing the subroadbed for the Cody branch and East staging as well.

The last few days I've been experiencing some atrial fibrillation so work has slowed a bit, but I am spending some time assembling a large group of hoppers (in Burlington and Northwestern liveries) to be used as beet hoppers for Holly Sugar. Here's the first batch in process:

16 December 2022

I finished the first three of the new hoppers - the CNW ones.

The afib has settled down, so I was back to working at full speed.

On December 2nd I had the subroadbed and roadbed installed for the Cody branch.

The next couple days had the track installed nearly all the way up to the turnout where East staging and the Cody Branch diverge, just this side of the liftout that leads into Greybull.

I also spent a little bit of time on the prairie grasses at Powder River, adding various scrub and sage brush and what-not.

On December 3rd I posted my latest layout update video.

I got my Christmas gift a bit early this year - an Anycubic Photon Mono X 3D printer and matching wash / cure station.

My first attempt to print switch ties was not overly successful.

Neither was the second.

The third try was better - this one is usable.

Encouraged, I tried to print one vertically with the idea of stacking several of them into one print operation. This didn't work out so well. The red areas are missing, and the whole thing is racked a bit. I've ordered some different resins and will try again.

I went back to working on the layout. On December 8th I was well on my way to disassembling the old turnback curve for the Cody branch at the end of the Worland peninsula, to make way for the new helix.

I bought a new sheet of 1/2" plywood and cut all the subroadbed for the helix from it. Here's part of it.

December 9th I was laying out the support level of the helix on the the benchwork.

December 11th I was stacking all the helix sections together and drilling pilot holes for the threaded rods that will support everything. I used the skewers to make sure everything stayed lined up while I worked.

By the end of the 12th I had the base permanently attached to the benchwork and the holes for the threaded rods drilled full-size.

Over the next couple days I cut the threaded rods to length and cleaned up the threads on the ends so the nuts would go on freely. These are the same threaded rods I used years ago on my Behemoth Helix in the early 2000's back in New Jersey. Several times I thought about tossing that bundle of rod. Now I'm glad I didn't.

After installing enough of the rods to hold the first tier of the helix, I installed it. I'll set the height and grade later, from the top down. That track on the left running away from the camera is where the helix will attach, and it's at the right elevation.

On the 15th I also posted the latest episode of Building Casper, going over wiring and how I moved the yard from New Jersey to Casper.

Back on the helix, I added the ramp off the bottom of the helix that leads into Powell, located under Worland. Here I'm lining up the ramp with the end of the curve.

Today I began installing roadbed and track onto the lower level of the helix.

I added the second half of the first tier and added track and more roadbed. Work will continue tomorrow. I should have the helix tied in and the grade set within about a week.

31 December 2022

Shortly after my last update I finished weathering and adding sprung trucks to five reefers and boxcars Dave gave me. Some of these he first built 40+ years ago. They make fine additions to my layout. Thanks Dave!

I spent a couple of days putting together a Christmas Day layout tour:

Beyond that I spent the remainder of my modeling time working on Basin. By the day after Christmas, I finished all the measuring and head scratching and began installing the subroadbed. By the 28th I had the townsite subroadbed installed and a few risers in place. The level is clamped to the plywood to take out waviness in the plywood for installation of risers.

On the 29th I finished installing all the risers.

Also on the 29th I unpacked my most recent locomotive acquisition. It's a Spectrum ten-wheeler in CNW livery. These were made about 20 years ago for only a short time. I bought one back then, and ever since wished I'd bought one or two more, but generally haven't been able to find one. I got this one on Ebay at a pretty reasonable price. I put it on the workbench and hooked it up to an old Backmann trainset powerpack to make sure it runs.

I'll be adding a TCS Wowsound kit to it before it goes on the layout. I also need to renumber it - the only road number Spectrum made for the CNW is 236.

These 10-wheelers were the usual motive power for the CNW between Casper and Lander, and as far as I can learn, was the only steam motive power after the last of the small Class L Pacifics were retired in 1935.

The 10-wheelers will be the mainstay of the motive power to Lander on the layout, though a Consolidation will also be found on those tracks on occasion, even if they weren't strictly prototypical.

As of tonight I have the cork sheets down in Basin, and the subroadbed is connected from Basin to Himes Curve near the far wall. By 9:30 New Year's Eve I've marked the track centerlines on the cork.

This is how model railroaders bring in the new year!

And looking from the opposite direction: