Category Archives: Scale Modeling

Hand Laid Turnouts

This is my first hand-laid turnout. It is a #7 right-hand switch made with MicroEngineering Code 55 rail, PCB ties from Fast Tracks, and using the Fast Tracks template. I cut and filed the rails by hand using my bench vise and a file. Overall it has taken three weeks, but probably only a couple of hours of actual working time.

The wrk wasn’t nearly as hard as I expected it to be. The filing work was a bit tedious, and I did a terrible job on the wood ties, but the turnout is quite functional.

I’m looking forward to building plenty more of these in the future, including some more complex track work like this crossover coming soon…

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!

Fun in the snow!

Yesterday, Kentucky got over a foot of snow (17 inches at Bluegrass Airport!) in less than 18 hours.  It wasn’t all bad, though.  Here’s some video of my friend Ray clearing the rails on his 7-1/2 inch gauge Soo Line railroad.

The fun part is that we had just gotten cleaned up from a foot-deep snowfall a few weeks earlier.  Here’s some more video of that snow-clearing job…

Continue reading Fun in the snow!

Not So Easy-Peasy Lighting

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Having just purchased some new passenger equipment, I decided to add some lighting. Rapido Trains has a very nice kit for just this purpose. It’s called the “Easy Peasy Lighting Kit” and frankly, it’s the bee’s knees when it comes to lighting passenger cars.

Rapido Easy-Peasy Lighting System

The kit consists of a battery-powered light board that you install in the roof of the passenger car using double-sided tape (not provided) or your favorite “other” means of attachment, and a magnetic “magic wand” that is used to turn the lights on and off. There is a magnetic reed switch in the center of the board. When you bring the wand near the car roof, the lights come on. Bring the wand near the roof again and the lights go on. The system doesn’t require track pickup, so you don’t have to worry about DC vs. DCC or metal wheelsets or loading down your booster or power pack with lighted cars.

On the other hand, the batteries will eventually die, and if you used a strong adhesive (like I mistakenly did), replacing the batteries could be a bit tricky.

Installation in most passenger cars is pretty easy. You just install the batteries, pull off the car roof, tape the board in place, and replace the roof. Done. Here’s the board installed in a Con-Cor Union Pacific smooth-side coach…

Rapido Easy-Peasy Lighting

… and the same car in the dark…

Rapido Easy-Peasy Lighting

All is not dandelions and lollipops, though. I bought these boards to go inside some old Rivarossi varnish that I had repainted for the CH&FR Railroad. To my chagrin, I discovered that the board does not fit in the cars. On all three cars (coach, diner and Pullman), the clear plastic ends of the roof/glazing part are too close in, and the board is too long to fit between the ends. In addition, on at least the coach, the bathroom walls on both ends of the car are too high to allow the batteries to fit inside the car.

Rapido Easy-Peasy Lighting System

Rapido Easy-Peasy Lighting System

Clearly some modifications are required. The diner and Pullman are going to have to be modified fairly significantly, so I will cover them in a later post when I’ve figured out how I want to do it. I will document here how I made the lighting fit in the coach.

The first step was to shorten the length of the light board enough to fit inside the roof-and-glazing part of the coach. To do this, I used a razor saw to trim as much of the battery end of the board off as possible. I got right up against the battery holder here, so much so that you can see I opened up the hole for the one of the battery holder legs. This is a tad risky, so use good judgement.

Rapido Easy-Peasy Lighting System

This is almost, but not quite enough to make the board fit. Unfortunately, the other end has a fairly narrow but important circuit trace around the end, so cutting it with a saw would be dangerous. Instead, I used some 300-ish grit sandpaper to file down the end just a smidge, enough to make it work.

Rapido Easy-Peasy Lighting System

Alternately you could cut the board with the saw, breaking the trace, and then solder a wire to re-establish the circuit.

Now the board fits lengthwise, but we still haven’t solved the “too tall battery” problem.

Rapido Easy-Peasy Lighting System

To make room for the batteries, I used the razor saw to trim 1/8″ off the height of the bathroom walls on one end of the car’s interior part, and then sanded the cut edge smooth. This frees up enough room for the batteries, but leaves the walls tall enough to look OK through the windows.

Rapido Easy-Peasy Lighting System

Finally, after a test fit, we add the tape and reassemble the car.

Rapido Easy-Peasy Lighting System

And that’s pretty much it. Voila! … almost…

Rapido Easy-Peasy Lighting System

The custom paint job on these cars didn’t include the roof, which I elected to leave the original silver. Trouble is, as you can see, the paint has worn thin in spots, so I’ll have to repaint it to keep the lights from bleeding through.

Rapido Easy Peasy Lighting

This isn’t a perfect solution. The foam tape I used is pretty high-adhesive. Probably too high. I’m quite concerned that I’m going to have some trouble when it comes time to replace the batteries, especially since I carved off all the “wiggle room” on the battery end of the light bar. I might actually find myself buying another car to scavenge a new roof from it, if things get bad enough.

In hindsight, it may have been better to cut the ends off the roof/glazing part to make room from the bar instead of shortening the bar to fit in the roof. I could easily have added some thin clear plastic to re-glaze the car ends. But, the car is lit and ready to go, once I replace the couplers again.

I’ll also point you to Mike Fifer’s succinct how-to on installing these lights in a Micro-Trains Heavyweight car.  Notable differences (and I should have listened to Mike!) are that he wraps the LEDs and the light spreader in tape to stabilize the board, and he doesn’t secure the board to the roof, instead just letting it rest on the tops of the seat backs.  That latter difference will certainly make battery replacement easier.

CH&FR Announces New Passenger Service

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GLOVER’S BEND – The CH&FR Railroad is proud to announce a new pilot passenger service with daily commuter service from Glover’s Bend to Huntington WV, Ashland KY and Russell KY.

The twice-a-day service will run as follows, Monday through Friday:

Northbound Station Southbound
Morning (#50) Evening (#52) Morning (#51) Evening (#53)
7:00 AM 4:45 PM Williamson, WV 9:45 AM 7:00 PM
7:15 AM 5:00 PM Glover’s Bend, WV 9:30 AM 6:45 PM
8:00 AM 5:15 PM Huntington, WV 8:45 AM 6:00 PM
8:15 AM 5:30 PM Ashland, KY 8:30 AM 5:45 PM
8:20 AM 5:35 PM Russell, KY 8:25 AM 5:40 PM

All times shown are departure times, except the last station, which is arrival time.
Weekend schedule will be published separately.

Onboard amenities include free coffee, newspapers and WiFi, and continental breakfast served in the diner/cafe car.

Extended year-round weekend operations to Charleston, WV and Cincinnati, OH will be added shortly.  The railroad also expects to provide weekend excursion service through the scenic New River Gorge during the fall foliage season.

The new commuter and excursion service will be provided in the CH&FR’s newly refurbished 1920s-vintage heavyweight passenger cars.  These cars provide the latest in modern conveniences including heating and air conditioning, comfortable seats with USB power plugs, and free WiFi service, while providing a first-class vintage railroad experience.  At the head end will be the CH&FR’s own Erie-Lackawanna EMD F3 #6611.

Same-day one way or round-trip tickets may be purchased at any station along the line.  Weekly and Monthly passes will also be available at a discounted rate through the CH&FR website.

Replacement Bridge

Work continues on the layout, though slowly.  The main bridge at Glover’s Bend had been damaged in an accident, and frankly it wasn’t very well put together to start with, so the CH&FR decided to replace it with a new one.  The new bridge is almost ready for painting, and then will be permanently installed.

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The model is a Central Valley Model Works Pratt Truss bridge, the high-portal version that can allow double-stack trains to pass through. It’s a very nice kit, with lots of molded-in detail and a fairly easy assembly process. The optional add-on walkway and railing kit adds an extra touch, I think.