Category Archives: Frost River Sub

Bursts of Progress

I was going to title this post “Slow Progress”, but then I realized it is more like bursts of progress with long periods of idleness in between — or more precisely, long periods of everything else in life taking priority.

But, there are in fact some bursts of progress. This past week I have been working on laying out the staging tracks. Here you can see that work in process:

Slow progress

In this photo I am laying the roadbed for the outermost two tracks of the 5-track staging.  I don’t have a photo, but at the moment I have the roadbed laid, two turnouts and all the track on both ends prepared (except for attaching wires) for installation, but I’ve hit a snag.

The staging yard will have infrared detectors placed at both ends and in the center, for queuing up trains on the hidden tracks, but I have to determine the clearance points between all of the tracks in order to figure where to place the sensors.  And the sensors must be placed before the track is permanently installed.  So until the next budgeting round, when I can purchase the rest of the turnouts for the yard (and some more flex track!), the staging must go on hold.

In the meantime, I did acquire some Code 40 flex for the industrial tracks, and so I began installing those, at least where I knew for sure what the final placement should be.

First, we have the 84 Lumber site, between the yard and the peninsula.  84 Lumber is a single track which will be in the middle of a lumber yard (obviously) and be mainly for centerbeam flats.

This track will be served by the Branch Line turn.

Second up, we have Standlee Forage, which is on the North wall of the room between the yard and the lift-out bridge.  This too is a single track, and will be one of the “signature” scenes anchoring the layout to a real place in space/time.

You can see the real site in the photo behind the tracks.

Third we have the two tracks for the Georgia Pacific “Dixie Cup” plant.

Dixie Cup is accessed from the main line just off the yard, and its spur crosses over the Branch Line as it curves around toward the closet.  The straight track will be inside the plant building, which will feature a cut-away scene of the interior loading dock.  The curved track will be outside the building and is an unloading dock for a single tank car of chemicals used in the manufacturing process.

In a stroke of luck, I have made an acquaintance of one of the engineers at the real plant, so I am hoping to gather some “intelligence” on the actual operations and materials involved, to enhance the realism of this scene.

One issue I have come across is that Code 40 rail is short enough that my locomotives are rather noisily riding along the molded-in spike detail on the ties.  They still make good contact with the rails, so I think a bit of careful work with a file on the spike heads should solve that problem.  I will also have to make sure that all of my rolling stock is retrofitted with low-profile wheels.  Some of my boxcars with Micro-Trains “pizza cutter” wheels won’t run at all on this track.

We shall see when scenery is in place, but TBH at the moment I’m not sure the difference between Code 40 and Code 55 is all that visible, except perhaps in photographs.

That is all I have for now.  Upcoming tasks include (in no particular order):

  • Saving up for the rest of the staging yard trackage and turnouts
  • Pondering how to re-build the lift-out across the closet, and how to improve vertical alignment on the main lift-out.  This may involve Neodymium super-magnets in some fashion.
  • Studying the “pit” side of the peninsula and making final decisions about the industry/industries on that space.
  • Starting final design work on Standlee and Dixie Cup structures, now that track is in place and footprint dimensions can be finalized.
  • Creating the video update Part 6, which is long overdue.

 

Frost River Update Part 4

Here’s video update part 4. No narration this time, just a short video of trains running the now-completed main line loop, including crossing the lift-out bridge across the aisle.

I’m planning to provide update part 5 soon, in which I will describe some of the work that went into reaching this milestone, including tracklaying, hooking up the DCC track bus, setting up my Raspberry Pi / JMRI train computer, setting up servo turnout controls, and constructing the bridge.

Thanks for watching, and stay tuned!!

March Progress!

How about another video?

I’ve laid the main line track all the way from one lift bridge approach to the other. The only thing stopping me from having a complete loop is the lift bridge itself.

I’ve used ME concrete tie track for the main, partly because it is prototypical for this area and partly so it is easy to distinguish the main from the sidings and yard tracks. Fortunately one pack of 6 “sticks” was just enough to make the full loop. The sidings and yard tracks will be regular C55 wooden-tie flex, and I may get some Code 40 for the industry spurs.

In other news, I’ve started learning how to hand lay turnouts… I need a BUNCH of #7 turnouts to finish the layout, so why not make some of them from scratch?

First hand laid turnout

I’m using ME code 55 track, and PCB ties and gear from Fast Tracks, but I’m at least attempting to build this first one without a jig and without any of the other specialty tools. Now that I’ve reached the “end of the line” (for now) on track laying, I’ll have a bit more time to focus on finishing it up. We’ll see how it goes…

February Progress Update

I’m a little surprised that it’s been over a month since the update video! Looks like I should be getting the camera out again. Progress has been slow, and not always photogenic, but there have been a few changes worth reporting on in the last six weeks. Lots of “real life” things going on right now that are keeping me from moving forward, but even slow progress is progress!

This post will be something of a mixed bag of content, since there are several different work items going on, and I feel I need to get the blog caught up quickly.

Structure Mock-Up

First up, this is a construction paper mockup of the Commonwealth Paper Products structure that will be on the narrow shelf behind the entry door.
Commonwealth Paper

I drew the building structure in SketchUp, and then printed 2D views of the model to glue onto a core that I built from cereal boxes. I think it’s a pretty convincing stand-in, and I plan to do these for many of the structures on the layout.

Custom Electronics

Next we have a couple of different electronics projects… a trio of CDU-based Kato turnout controllers that I built for a friend, and the completed control circuit for my animated swing gate.

Kato Crossover Controls

The CDUs are based on an integrated design I have that incorporates a switch and indicator LEDs, but my friend wanted to mount these remotely from his control panel, so I provided connectors for the switch and LED. These are a very simple design (not mine, just adapted), and the selected capacitor is powerful enough to handle a double crossover.

Stepper Motor Control

The swing gate control board has screw terminals for all of the motor, sensor, and control connections, and sockets for an Arduino Pro Mini and a stepper motor driver. This is ready to hook up, once I solve the mechanical issues with connecting to the shaft of the swing gate itself.

New Power

CXST1141 Atlas MP15DC

This is the latest addition to the power roster, an Atlas MP15DC that I bought second-hand from a friend and that will be used in the yard. It’s DC for now, but I will upgrade it to DCC soon. I’ve tested it on the branch line, and it runs quite well.

Dixie Cup Factory Model

I’ve built up a SketchUp model of the Dixie Cup factory as well…

Dixie Cup Mockup

Dixie Cup Mockup

Dixie Cup Mockup

New Lighting

Finally, I replaced the ceiling fan in the room with a much, much brighter 4-tube fluorescent lighting fixture with 5000K daylight tubes. It’s almost too bright in here now!

New room lighting

As part of the lighting upgrade I also moved the wall switch for the room down below the layout deck. The “standard” switch location was behind the backdrop and would be impossible to reach once scenery was in place.

New room lighting

The new wall switch incorporates a very convenient outlet that will help with working on that part of the room.

That’s all for now! I have some track laying progress to report, but I will include that in a separate post after I take some better pictures with the new lighting.

Narrow Shelf Construction Continues

I’ve made some more progress on the narrow shelf. The fascia is up, as is the backdrop and the valance above. I’ve also wired the lift-out section, and am preparing to continue the bus wire across the layout. It’s time to figure out exactly where I’m going to have all these bus segments come together.

In other news, I’m making progress on the bridge and trestle that will go into the siding area on the narrow shelf, too…

Valence!

The fascia and valance will be painted black. There will be a shelf unit below that will hold train cassettes, and the top of the valance will be a display shelf for the “train of the day”.

In other news, I’m making progress on laying the track around the “triangle” area. I decided to play it safe and lay cork for the whole triangle, only lowering the grade on the branch and Dixie Cup spur on the track beyond the triangle. I think it will be smoother operations, and probably more prototypical, given the short distances involved.

Progress Update – Laying Track!

It’s been a bit too long since I’ve posted something. Sorry about that! I’ve been trying to get to a milestone point to announce that. Well, no milestone quite yet, but there has been some progress! I have laid track!!

Track laying progress

I started, naturally, on the narrow shelf along the closet wall. This is some of the simplest and most straightforward track on the layout. A simple length of track with a siding. I’ve added a pair of short (80 foot) bridges over a creek in the middle of the siding. There’s a lot of that sort of thing (up-and-down terrain, small creeks, etc. in this area. Indeed, it’s quite hilly, and that will be hard to show in the compressed space of this layout.

Track laying progress

I’m using MicroEngineering Code 55 weathered wooden-tie flextrack and Atlas Code 55 turnouts on this section, and most of the rest of the layout too. There will be some concrete ties on the main line, and I may sneak in some Code 40 track on some of the industrial track. The track on this part of the branch is laid directly on the foam, with no roadbed. It’s industrial track, has been there a while, and won’t have much of a profile like the main line will. I painted a base coat of tan under the track to make sure there’s no green foam color showing through.

I’m using Gapmasters from American Tie & Timber to secure the track as it crosses the gaps on the lift-out section. These are well tested, handy tools for just this sort of situation, and Wayne is good to work with.

I’ve also started working on the grade up from the lift-out around behind Dixie Cup to the main part of the layout. I cut in the Woodland Scenics ramp, carved back the foam around it into a slope, and then covered it with plaster cloth. Once that was set, I laid on a coat of lightweight spackle to hide the fabric of the plaster cloth and provide a smooth surface, then followed that up with a coat of base paint.

Track laying progress

Right now I’m waiting for the glue to dry on the Gapmasters at the corner end of the lift-out, and then I’ll be ready to install the track up the hill. I already have it curved to shape and feeder wires attached. Once the track is laid, I’ll mount the contact switch that will cut power on the hill when the lift-out is missing, and connect up the bus wire.

It’s nice to see the layout begin to take shape. Progress is good!