Cove Road I – Construction Progress – 2006

Cove Road I – 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.

The first level of the helix is complete in this late January view, except for the addition of feeder terminal blocks. There will be one on each straight section which feeds all tracks.

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.

This photo is just a detail of how we built the support stud walls. The bottom plate is a pressure-treated 2X4, used to resist the moisture inherent in contact with a cement floor. The studs were set into place and screwed to the bottom plate toe-nail fashion.


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.

We're looking at the Lander Branch from the opposite direction of the above photo, more or less. The roadbed still isn't attached to the risers in this shot - in fact, the risers behind the helix and above the NP mainline are yet to be installed.

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).


The helix as of March first. The first one and one-half tiers are laid, marking this as about 25% of the way up at end-of-track.

Two weeks later - March 15th. The next semi-circle has been lowered and connected, and trackwork can now progress.

In late February and early March I installed the lower deck portion of the Frannie Cutoff. The inner curve here is the cutoff in work. Around the top of the curves to the right of the photo is the double crossover at the west end of Laurel. Finally that last turnout tail has somewhere to go!

The curves out of the west end of Laurel, this time to the bottom left out of the frame, with the Frannie track now complete.

The roadbed and some track have been installed where the Cody branch leaves the helix for Cody. From this point in the helix upwards, the helix is four-track.

The installed section of the Cody branch leading from the helix towards Cody. The roadbed is left curving back to the helix for now just to support the free end. the curve will be cut off later so that the branch will parallel the helix. I'm standing in the middle of the someday Cody refinery.

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.

A few days later gives us this longer view, showing a substantial part of the helix-to-Thermopolis roadbed is now complete.


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.

A closer view of the helix-Thermopolis track, showing where it enters the helix at the right. The stub of subroadbed in front of the Thermopolis track will take the line into Glenrock siding.

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.

An overall view of most of the layout as of April 23rd. The elevated line to the left is the Frannie Cutoff, and in the extreme background you can see the Thermopolis-to-helix track (the one with the train on it).


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.

Meanwhile helix construction has progressed somewhat, though slowly due to all the other work going on. Track is now laid until the second tier is almost complete. The fourth track, the one coming in from the back to be the outermost helix track, is the connection from Cody.


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!

Glenrock roadbed, with the helix in the background, as of mid-August. The track coming off the helix to the left mid-way up is the branch to Cody.

The helix as of mid-August. Three loops are now complete - Three to go.

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.

A closeup of one of the power strips.


Early in the month. The helix is now 3 1/2 loops finished - 2 1/2 to go. Thanks to Walt's help, this half loop was done in only about two weeks. My goal is to complete the helix by Thanksgiving - one day shy of a year since it was started.

Test trains on the helix, parked one level below where trackwork is being done.

Here's an overall view of the helix as of September 4. It's starting to look kind of impressive! I added a shop light in the center of the helix in June or July - I got tired of constantly having to move around a little work light.


The night before Thanksgiving - the helix is complete! Construction started one day shy of one year ago.

That's a whole lotta track! The helix gobbled up 175-185 pieces (I'm not totally sure) of Atlas code 100 flex track.

Powering the monster - this is one of the two power distribution nodes for the helix. There's one just like it on the other side of the helix. Power comes in from the main bus, and is distributed through the smaller-diameter sub-feeders to the track feeder strips at each tier of the helix.


In late December I installed the turntable (a 90' Walthers) at Laurel, and ran enough track to actually turn an engine! The track leading to the turntable now will be the outbound track. The inbound track will come straight in from this view.