Friday, August 31, 2012

Taking Shape

Fixed a few pieces of track, including a switch in the approach to the yard that I realized was facing the wrong way. Here little Ness helps me test for track alignment before adding a few more pins to the track.
Roughing out the terrain around the ramp. Definitely going to put in a tunnel in the back corner, just need to prime and paint the stone portal openings before proceeding.

A view of the new upper level. Didn't really need a run-around up here, so I made it into another siding. This can be where cars destined for points abroad are left for pickup, and where consists coming in from the real main line are left for the local.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Basic Trackwork Complete!

All the major trackwork for the layout is in place! Finally pinned down the final siding today. I have a temporary mockup of a tunnel set up in the upper left corner, but I think I'm going to pick up some plastic tunnel portals and set them up before I decide how long the tunnel is going to be.

I'm thinking more and more that I should plan this layout with a mind to sell it before I have to move again next year. That said, most prospective buyers will not be a fan of an East Asian setting, so my plan is to have the buildings set up temporarily so they can be switched out by a new owner. This entails building them as modules and leaving flat areas for them to fit into. We'll see how well this plan works!

The platforms for the main station area and the sidings will be pretty generic, though, so I'm going to turn my attention to those next, and set them up attached to the layout.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Trimming and Reinforcing

Today I pulled out the layout from its dark corner into the middle of the living room. My plan was to add some crossties to the legs to improve frame stability, and to add some more nails fixing the baseboard to the frame.
The layout from a very different angle, and in sunlight!

One of the current distributors I used to wire up the feeder lines. Red feeds the inside track, black the outer. The two large wires heading off into the sunlight connect to the control box.

Reverse angle shot of the layout. I added the crosspieces, hammered in a bunch more nails, and trimmed off a bit of the baseboard from the back corner of the layout. Also started gluing together the platform for the last siding. Am also seriously considering a tunnel for the straight section of track in the lower right of the image above. The hill containing would rise up into the corner of the layout, the one which is now in the corner of the room.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Building Basecoating and Finishing the Mainline Connection

Continued working on some of the buildings, assembling them and giving them a basecoat of colour.

This small station building (the Greenmax Trainman Office) went together pretty easily. At this point I was still using a sharp knife to cut a hole in the base (which is quite thick compared to the walls) for eventual illumination. Took me a very long time and was far too dangerous.

With the main station (the Greenmax Rural Station House) I realized I could just try my drill for the floor hole, and it went through with no problem. The interior of this station is divided into three areas, from left to right: waiting area for passengers, office and ticketing desk, and finally some kind of workroom or station manager's office, which is separated by a solid wall. I decided to drill a hole in the floor of this room, since it didn't have any interior details anyway, and put paper on the windows. My plan it to have the wires come up through the baseboard into this room and power three lights, one for each section, the wires for which run along the underside of the roof. It would be possible to have each light on a separate switch, although if I don't build blocks for the roof space the light would spill through.

Overall the station is a great little structure, with lots of detail.

Finally finished the bridge to nowhere, gluing it to the supports with PVA glue and  pinning the track in place. I added a little filling compound to the supports so that eventually I can sand it flat, paint it grey, and weather it to look like concrete. Lots of clearance under the bridge as constructed.

So this area is finished, and the only section of the layout trackwork that still needs to be built is the siding on the upper level. There's a problem, however, in that the siding is much longer than the track available for a loco that is pulling out of it. I guess this will just mean some extra complexity to pulling cars out of the siding and getting them onto the mainline, which in a small layout is not a bad thing.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Finishing the Connection to the Outside World

Progress continues on trackwork and setting up the supported platforms for the upper level. If you're interested, here is an image of the original plan from which this one was adapted. It's from the excellent Mike's Small Trackplans Page.

As you can see I changed it from a mainly two-track layout since the Peco SetTrack doesn't allow for this much track to be packed into a small space. I also enlarged the yard area and never incorporated the crossover.

Yesterday I cut and glued a small corner platform on the extreme upper right of the layout where the track to nowhere will end. Also started painting the smaller bridge, which hasn't fallen apart yet, and set it up for a test run as shown in the video below:

Note that none of the rolling stock has been painted yet.

I've been having a strange problem with some of the turnouts where they've started to bow upward, making a substantial bump in the track at several places. Not sure what is causing this. I've had to shim up part of the track on the upper level to try and smooth out the changes in elevation.

In the meantime I'm running the train around to make sure none of the track needs to be adjusted. It's been mostly smooth so far, but the ramp leading up to the second level is not completely smooth. I might have to add a few supports to make it less of a wild ride.

Here's another short video of the train passing along the mainline past the main yard:

Have to work on the focus and level for these videos! In the meantime, a short layout tour:

Overall view, with a very non-scale worklamp in the corner. I think I might put a tunnel there where the straight piece of track is and build it up into a hill. The black building in the bottom right is the base and roof of my passenger station, and the smaller one is an assembled but unpainted station building.

The little siding that could! Added this one when I realized I needed more turnouts anyway. Will be a small local industry.

The central sidings. It's in a great place to make it serve a coal mining operation, if I can fit the buildings around the track.

The junction with the ramp track. Switch house has been assembled and painted for some time now, just waiting for a junction to oversee.

The ramp. Most of the time the locomotive and handle it alright, but once in a while the leading two wheels jump off the track. There are some dips and bumps as it is, but hopefully I can smooth these out with a little work.

The wooden bridge. Almost put those tracks too close to the left side to leave enough clearance for a loco passing underneath. Managed to finagle it but it's still pretty close. Very happy with this bridge, it actually has a lot of tensile strength and doesn't move at all when the loco passes over top.

Main yard. I'm thinking of positioning the station building to the left of the straight section of siding, and having a small "in front of the station" scene in the corner.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Bridges and Upper Level

Progress continues! Yesterday I added the wooden bridge and tacked down much of the track on the upper level. The track on the wooden bridge proved to be a bit of a problem since it was bowing up and there wasn't enough structure to pin it down. So I grabbed a 1" square piece of hardboard, held it underneath the bridge deck, and pinned the track into that. So far it's held really well, and you can't see that piece at all unless you were somehow standing underneath the 2" high bridge.

I wired in a feeder on the upper level so that it would have sufficient juice, and to give power to the siding which I'm leaving unbuilt for now while I think about that area of the layout. I then started looking at the bridge on the right side of the layout, where the connection to the imagined rest of the world leads off to the edge of the baseboard, and discovered that my bridge as assembled would not give nearly enough clearance to trains below. So I got out my clippers and took off the sides, gluing them on to a spare piece of roadbed that came with the kit. Once it's painted up I think it will look good enough, although I had to lose the detail of the bracing under the bridge. Well you couldn't see that anyway.

Also wired up all three feeders under the layout and connected it to the control box. Ran a train around and no problems so far! I also added a new siding on the left edge of the layout and started to put together some of the Japanese railroad buildings I've had primed but sitting around for some time now.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Progress and New Track Layout

After laying down most of the ground-level track, I realized that the yard area did not resemble a prototypical mainline, in that trains passing through were forced to go through a tight curve and had to pass by a spur. So I pulled up a lot of track, rearranged it, and put together a new layout. I had to custom cut one length of track, something I've never done before and which took a lot of tool work to get right. Everything is tacked again and it runs well enough. Trains can now run the main line loop without any tight corners, there is a storage siding and/or alternate route, and the yard is still there. I lost the extra feeder line but since I will have one at the junction to the ramp, it wasn't really needed.

Also put together the ramp leading up to the upper level, and the first platform of that level. I traced the ramp track plan on to a new sheet of hardboard and cut it with a hand jigsaw. Blocks of wood are supporting it at intervals, which I cut to size then sanded down and glued into place, checking the height of the board against what my XTrkCAD plan said it ought to be. So far, so good. Now to pick up three right-hand turnouts to finish the upper level track and add a new siding on the far left.

Oh I also trimmed back the hardboard on the front of the layout, leaving a curve to accommodate where the track protrudes out past the size of the frame. I'll see about facing this with some hardboard in the future to give the front of the layout a finished look.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Pinning Track and Cat Attack

Started pinning down the track. First I wired up the feeder locations; one at the lower left to feed the yard and mainline, one on the right to help the mainline and feed the siding that extends into the middle, and an extra one on the turnout that will lead to the ramp. That last one is not really required but I wanted to make sure that trains heading up the grade will have enough juice to make it. I bought a small bag of pins for £1.50 but the hobby store clerk recommended that I use a soft board to pin them in to. I looked online but could not find a good nearby supplier of what they recommend: Sundela, which looks like a great product but not one I could get a hold of.

So I went ahead and tried hammering the pins, and by holding the shaft with a pair of very small pliers I was usually able to hammer them in to the hardboard. They do protrude out the underside of the baseboard but I will bend back the points once I'm sure I'm not going to pull them up to fix them. I went and did the main loop, and managed to get all the pieces more or less in line with one another. There are a few small gaps near the back but nothing that should cause trouble. The far curve ends up perilously close to the edge of the board; if I didn't have to leave a gap there because of the molding on the wall I think trains would be hitting it.

I hooked up the main feeder only and ran the train around a few times. No problems except that while stopped on the far straightaway the couplers seem to have come detached. There might be a bit of a grade there, although I propped up the table legs and checked the surface with a level. Otherwise I think I am good to go to pin down the yard and the central siding. After that is done, next is putting together the ramp and the upper level.

Our younger cat, Ness, is really interested in yet terrified by the train. This is the first time she's seen it move. She attacked one of the cars while the train was stopped, and I think the baseboard acted like a drumhead, because it flew into the air and ended up behind a couch. I think I'll have to keep my eye on this one during future running sessions.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

New Start

After finally getting a visa to the UK, I am back and ready to get down to work on the layout. I ended up going with a modified version of the layout plan. The point-to-point was just too much vertical work for a novice like me. So we have a loop and an elevated mainline connection. I've tried as much as possible to break up the oval shape of the loop, and I think it looks quite dynamic for the space I can work with.

Hardboard base is nailed down, total size is about 4' by 3'.