Category Archives: Real History

Posts that deal with the “real history” of the CH&FR – that is, about myself, about the model as a model, its construction and other such events. For example, a “real history” post about the name of the CH&FR would talk about how I drew inspiration from “The Christmas Song” and strung themes from the song together to create a realistic-sounding name…

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.

 

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.

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!

The End of the Road for Glover’s Bend

All good things must come to an end.  To every thing there is a season (turn, turn, turn).

My Glover’s Bend layout has come to its end.  This evening I removed all of the structures and began pulling up all of the turnouts.  All of the usable ones will be sold to help fund the new Frost River layout.

The End of the Road
What’s left of Nolan Yard and Glover’s Bend after tonight’s destruction

Before the deconstruction began, one last train rolled past the station at Glover’s bend: a Pennsylvania Railroad Alco PA-1 pulling a passenger car … another part of the “nScale.net Wandering Fleet” of rolling stock.

Untitled
One last train passing the station at Glover’s Bend.

One might think I would be sad. No, I am not. I have very much enjoyed designing and building Glover’s Bend, but it is time to move on. The space in the Den is needed for other family things, the new upstairs “train room” is almost ready for benchwork construction on Frost River to begin, and I have made my peace with the transition.

It is time for a new season and new things.

 

Modern Power in the Area

While hanging out at Nolan yard today, I caught an unusual sight… a loaded CSX coal train rerouted through Glover’s Bend due to some track maintenance on the usual route.

New Road Power

These are two new GE ES44AC “GEVO” locomotives made by Kato that I picked up from a friend.  They won’t see much service in Glover’s Bend, but will be hard at work on the mainline in Frost River, once the trackwork is done.

 

High Bridge, KY

P1100383

 

Over the weekend, my wife and I made a quick trip down to High Bridge, KY (near Wilmore) to see the famous High Bridge over the Kentucky River.  This bridge was built in 1876 for the Cincinnati Southern Railway, rebuilt in 1911, and expanded to two tracks in 1929.  It is, as you can see, still in use by Norfolk Southern today.

At the time it was built, it was the tallest bridge over a navigable waterway, and the tallest railroad bridge in the world until the early 20th century.

There’s a small park near the north end of the bridge with a dance pavilion, playground, restored caboose, and a scenic overlook, where you can also see the confluence of the Kentucky and Dix rivers just upstream of the bridge.

I hope to return later in the summer when the foliage is on and the river less muddy for some better photos.

ETA: Here’s a few more shots from this weekend’s visit…

P1100375

P1100371

P1100390

 

Science Night!

Science Night by BGTwinDad
Science Night, a photo by BGTwinDad on Flickr.

Last week I was asked to provide a presentation on a science or engineering topic at my daughter’s school. Since most of the other presenters had the “work” and “research” angles well covered, I decided to show something fun.

To the left is a test loop of track that I built.  The loop is broken into 14 blocks that are wired for train detection through a Digitrax BLD168.    The front, back, and left/right curve halves are connected to Digitrax RX4 for transponding detection.  That may be a lot of technical “jargon” for some of you.  The BDL168 detects which of the 14 track blocks the locomotive is on.  The RX4 allows the locomotive to “check in” and report its road number to the computer.

Speaking of the computer, in front of the layout, left to right you see a Digitrax Zephyr Xtra command station, which actually runs the train.  The small box in the middle is a PR3 which is basically a USB connection for the Zephyr.  And then, of course, is the computer.

On the computer (an Apple MacBook Pro), the JMRI software program is running.  It’s displaying a map of the oval,with the train’s location highlighted.  At the same time, it’s running my Virtual Sound Decoder, playing the sound of the engine through the speakers at back, and of course the sound appears to be coming from the locomotive, which is the whole point!

The poster board to the right has some “slides” showing how various sciences (both “hard” and “soft”) can be applied to Model Railroading or any other hobby.

The whole thing was a big hit with the kids, I think.  Either that or they were very polite.  Of course, they were getting extra credit for it!