Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Upper Level Track and Bridge In

Finished laying most of the track for the upper level. Also, the wooden bridge has been fully assembled and installed, and just needs a little touch-up painting. In time it will get some foliage, especially around its base, but for now it's supported at the right height and the track has been glued down.

Here's an overview of the layout, just missing the rest of the spur track and the final bit on the upper left of this picture, where the other bridge will connect to a small sliver of hillside.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Building with Cardboard

Since using cut foam was out, I went with a cardboard structure to support my upper level. I still don't know if using so much cardboard is normal. As long as I seal everything down the road, I can't see any downside to it.

I cut a section of cork board, the same material I used for the ramp, to support the 2" high portion; later I'll build natural-looking slopes from plaster cloth. Since the cork board I have is 1/4" thick, I cut out reasonably level strips of 1 3/4 tall cardboard to support it and glued them to the bottom of the base.

I laid out the strips of board without any specific plan, just wanting to support the board evenly. Having them folded seemed like a good way to add stability. The corrugated bits are running vertically. I weighed down everything with some heavy textbooks, which also flattened the board on the table.

After this dried I placed it on the baseboard and glued and weighed that. Once everything was dry, it certainly felt like a strong surface. I wouldn't start swinging around the layout while holding it, but it doesn't budge when pushed on. Also I can easily pierce it to run more feeder line, or trim off sections to better shape the hillsides.

Overhead view without the upper portion of the track in place. Lots of room for the small, rural passenger station that will be going on the spur to the right of the image.

Our cat seems pleased with the whole thing. You can see the wooden bridge, still unfinished, in the spot where it will eventually be fixed. Next comes laying the rest of the track, then fitting the bridges. Soon I'll be receiving shipment of new structures: the station, a signal box, and a small office.

Bridges in Progress

I'm in the process of assembling and painting both of the bridges. The deck girder bridge went together without any trouble. The instructions confusingly try to cover the steps for HO and N scale, 40' and 80' bridges, so I had to figure out for myself that the included deck plate was 80' and had to be spanned in half for my 40' model. Right now it's painted a flat black but will receive some grey and rust details. The Stoney Brook Bridge is fantastic. I do regret the time I spent putting the scale rivets into the sides of the supports (I only did so on the outside too) but so far it is looking great. The picture above is only missing the walkways and side barriers.

I finally hooked up my wire foam cutter to the 4.5 battery it requires, only to find that it doesn't heat up for some reason. I had hoped to build the upper level yesterday, but since I can't cut the foam effectively it looks like I will have to build a strong but light base from cardboard sections to support it.

Monday, August 15, 2011

The Bridges of Taihoku County

The two new bridges have arrived: the N scale 75-153 Deck Girder Bridge by Micro Engineering Company, and the #874 N Scale Stoney Brook Bridge by Branchline Trains. Both are interesting in their own way. The deck girder bridge is simple but detailed for a plastic model, although the instructions could have been a little clearer on how one should prepare the 40' model from the 80' deck provided. The Stoney Brook Bridge is just incredible in its detail, but unfortunately one sprue of plastic bolts got a little warped. I'm looking forward to assembling both of them.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Building the Ramp

Working on the ramp that connects the upper and lower levels of the layout. Since I'm not able to get the foam ramps cheaply (nowhere in the UK seems to stock them) I am going with a completely home-brew system. The roadbed for the ramp is 1/2"-thick cardboard with a very thin layer of cork, originally sold as a cork-board for messages and the like. I traced the ramp from a 1:1 printout to the board as a 1"-wide winding path, and cut it out. Next I cut the thin supports based on the 1/4" thickness of the roadbed and the elevations calculated by XTrackCAD. Once they were fixed to the bottom of the ramp, I pinned the track to the top, just to make sure everything could line up, and started gluing the bases of the supports to the baseboard.

In this picture the highest two supports are not yet glued, since there was a twist in the ramp and I wanted to fix the main part before tackling the wonky bit.

As always our cat is very interested in the progress. Here you see some small weights being used to hold down the last two supports. The end is not yet supported because the wooden bridge will connect it to the 2"-high area in the centre of the layout. Once this is dry I will add some additional, stronger supports now that the grade is pretty much established by the initial ones. After the ramp is good and sturdy I'll glue down the track, adding a feeder line near the top, since I figured that locos climbing the grade will need all the juice they can get!