Tag Archives: benchwork

Office Shelf Inglenook

Every day I go into the office, and there’s a shelf above my desk… it’s about 13″ deep and 48″ long.  I have some “stuff” on it, but it’s largely unused… from time to time, I look up and wonder what I could do with that space…  and I have some leftover turnouts and bits of track from the main layout construction…

Here’s my most recent thought… an Inglenook puzzle in N scale!

The Inglenook is a classic switching puzzle.  The three yard tracks hold 3, 3, and 5 cars each, and the lead track is just long enough for a locomotive + 3 cars. The goal is to arrange 5 randomly selected cars (out of 8) in a particular order on the main track while working within the limited space available… and it just so happens that my shelf is just long enough to do this in N scale.

Since my main layout is modern day and eastern, I might instead go with an older time frame and something Southwestern or Pacific Northwest.  Maybe early BN or even steam era.  I’m rather fond of the BN green/white color scheme, and this might be a good excuse to pick up an older SW unit in those colors.

My thought at the moment is to construct a 13x48x1″ box of some nice hardwood and fill the inside with extruded foam.  The track would be ME Code 55 flex and Atlas #5 turnouts (because I have spares).  The scenery shown here is just for illustrative purposes, but I do have a spare plate girder bridge that would go nicely.

Due to the way the shelf is constructed (modular furniture) there will be about 3″ of space behind the layout backdrop that could be used for storage or to house the power pack.  I could even make the thing wholly self-contained, with throttle controls directly mounted in the fasica.

Power would be DC, most likely, though I might consider getting an Arduino and using DCC++.  Since it’s a workplace setting I would not want to leave anything complex or expensive, and since there is only one operating locomotive, there’s not much need for DCC unless I want sound.  I could provide a power jack in the fascia for a power connection, so the throttle / power pack would not need to be hooked up full time, and I could even possibly incorporate an under-table sound decoder for layout sound (again with a headphone jack in the fascia.

Another benefit of a “side project” like this is it gives me an opportunity to practice some scenery techniques before applying them to the main layout.  If I make mistakes here, it’s easier to correct.

When will this all go down?  Probably not until later in the spring when the weather is nice enough to do woodwork in the garage… and I get just a little bit farther with the main layout.

 

 

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!

Frost River Benchwork Complete!

As of today, the benchwork for Frost River is officially complete!
Finished cutting foam

Finished cutting foam

Finished cutting foam

With the exception of some minor adjustments and “punch list” items, construction of the base benchwork and installation of foam on the Frost River layout was completed today. I have also sketched about half of the track design onto the foam, so that I can plan out where and how to contour the foreground. Once that is done, I will cut and install the fascia.

Still to come, construction wise: the fascia, the lighting valance, and the backdrop. Then it is on to more “modeling” tasks … laying track, building and installing structures, and scenery.

And there was much rejoicing….

A Quick Tip on Tee Nuts

Here is a quick tip for using Tee nuts when bolting wood things (like layout legs) together. At first, I drilled the hole and hammered the Tee nut into place, but I found that I didn’t necessarily get the nut lined up right so the bolt would go through.

A better idea… run the bolt through the hole, and thread the tee nut onto the end. Then, while holding the Tee nut steady against the wood, drive the bolt home with a power screwdriver. The bolt will pull the Tee nut into the wood, and it will be precisely aligned!

Frost River Moves Upstairs

After a long discussion with the “Planning Commission”, the CH&FR has been ceded property rights to the 10×10 foot spare bedroom upstairs. Plans are progressing for an around the walls shelf layout (with a peninsula) that will provide point to point operations for several people.

The proposed track plan is based closely upon the HO scale “Midwest Branch Line” plan designed by Lance Mindheim with some modifications for the continuous run and the point-to-point (vs. out-and-back branch) operations. And of course conversion to the different room dimensions and N scale. Continue reading Frost River Moves Upstairs

Staging Yard Extension Complete

  by BGTwinDad
, a photo by BGTwinDad on Flickr.

In other news that I’m trying to get caught up on, the new Williamson Staging yard/shelf is now largely complete and operational.  The extension hooks onto the layout via a clamping fixture (for lack of a better term) on the end of the layout proper, and then plugs into the DCC bus via a pair of Anderson PowerPole connectors.  When not in use, the extension is made to hang on the wall out of the way, using shelf-track hardware for the wall mounting.

The extension provides 3 single-ended storage tracks, plus an A/D track with a run-around.  All tracks are wired to easily retrofit train detection hardware, when I hit the lottery.

This yard, as it plugs into the layout, represents the Williamson end of the track schematic.  Trains exiting the yard throat enter the layout at the upper left corner and proceed clockwise around the right end before reaching the Glover’s Bend yard.

The track interface at the layout/extension joint has no joiners, and relies upon a simple “tight fit” similar to those used in the FreemoN modular standard for the connection.

I added a fascia…

  by BGTwinDad
, a photo by BGTwinDad on Flickr.

Recently, in an effort to get something done on the layout, I started work on the fascia. I have the two long sides painted and one installed, and messed up cutting the first of the short sides.

I started with Model Master ATSF Blue and CSX Tan paints, and painted color-match swatches on a piece of hardboard, from which I got a quart each of household latex color matched at the local hardware store. After cutting the fascia pieces to length and priming them, I painted them tan and applied a 1″ painter’s tape where I wanted the stripe to be.

Mistake #1: I should have over-painted the tape with tan, to seal the edges and prevent bleed-under. Instead, I went straight to the blue, and the result is that my edges are not clean.  Mistake #2: I wasn’t careful what nap roller I used, so there is a bit more texture than I had originally planned.  Nevertheless, it looks OK, I think.

Still, in the philosophy that some progress is better than none, here we are. It really does look much nicer from across the room, which was goal #1. I will go back later and touch up the bloody areas.