From a Wall Hanging to My Layout, The Bat’leth of Switches

Track, you can’t run trains without it, and I’ve been semi-stalled on doing much with my layout waiting on it. That all ended last night. My friend Dan kindly offered to build my switches for the layout using the Fast Tracks system to hand lay them. This is a great thing, as I love being able to involve my friends in my layout, and he has much more experience building switches than I do (which is zero). For the layout, because of the tight curves and complicated track work, hand laid switches offer more flexibility in adjusting them and making things fit than commercial turnouts would.

IMG_7809
Track as an art piece. The Bat’leth switches hanging on Dan’s office wall. The Fast Tracks Templates used to build it from are taped on the piece of plywood below.

Dan built all the complicated trackage for one corner of the layout as one piece. There are five switches and two crossovers which he built as one combined unit to keep everything in alignment so it would hopefully work. It was built over the printed Fast Tracks templates from their website that I positioned and taped together to make sure the trackage would work. Until this big corner piece of track was in place, I have been holding off on doing any track work as everything else on the layout will be aligned from the Bat’leth (Star Trek Klingon sword, the piece of track looked kinda like on Dan’s office wall). Dan took pictures as he was building the switches, he’s hopefully going to write about it either for here, or for a Model Railroad publication. Either way, if it gets written up here or in print, I’ll post about it sometime.

IMG_7810The big block of track in its future home, the corner of Liberty Street and Mowat Avenue on the layout. Now on to aligning track, and sorting out any issues before getting electrical leads (other than for the frogs which Dan wired) and affixed into position.

I was super excited last night when I got home from a super tasty BBQ feast near his office, that I had to start messing about. First up was to clear up all my temporary bits of flex trackage so I could position equipment and get a feel for things, so I could get the Bat’leth off its board and onto the layout temporarily at least. It’s a big piece of track, but just one of 8 pieces Dan built between it, individual switches, and a couple of combined switches. The rest of my track will be Micro Engineering Code 70 rail Flex Track and Shinohara Code 70 rail crossovers.

Now that I have the piece of track that dictates everything else on the layout, I can seriously start confirming placement of buildings and roads, and pin down the last thing that needed work, the placement of the peninsula. My intention all along has been for the peninsula to be hinged so I can swing it out of the middle of the layout room, when you see the pictures of the penninsula, you can see why, it kind of hovers over where I sit at my workbench, making it a hazard for me constantly knocking it if it’s in place when the layout isn’t being operated. That said, one of the many back and forth thoughts I’ve been having tonight is on trying to find ways to live with that. My intention is to get the trackage down on the around the wall benchwork, then build and install the peninsula, as there isn’t a lot of track on it, and its easier to work when it isn’t there (another reason for making it swing or removable totally).

IMG_7816Mockup peninsula back out, you can see how it crowds the room. I’m of two minds on whether to keep with the plan to hinge it so it can swing to the right in the image in front of book cases, or permanently affix to benchwork.

With my mockup peninsula back in place, I can start making the real world tweaks from the track plan on the computer to make everything fit. I have a plot of the survey of the building that goes on the peninsula, which means I am able to lay the plan out, and check that track can reach where it should around it. I am seeing some spots where I may not be able to achieve everything I want to. One consideration is I have a large blank spot along the wall where the Women’s prison was located. There would only have been a wall there. Instead of further compressing some buildings, I may just make some adjustments given the large chunk of area in the middle of the layout that has no active industries. First things first though, need to sort out the position of the trackage from the plan to the benchwork and see how everything fits.

 

Working on peninsula track geometry. Good news is the peninsula is shifting right which widens the walkway in the “U” on the left for operators, bad news is this squeezes parts of the layout to the right.

Part of the reason I write this blog is to keep a record of what I’m doing and have done, and to help keep myself grounded and motivated.  Contemplating the peninsula, and playing around with the various switches (and discovering naturally a few places here and there where some adjustments will be needed to track gauge or guard rails so equipment will reliably track through them), I started getting what for lack of a better description was an anxiety attack about the whole layout building process. Too many things piling up in one short period of thoughts, need to fix this, and do that, and I haven’t done this, or I don’t know how to do that, or I need to change that…and just letting myself get away from myself and run ahead of myself at the same time. Its a recipe for a mistake, and I could feel myself careening towards something bad like dropping a locomotive or breaking something.

Feeling that way, I walked out of the layout room about 3 hours ago now feeling daunted and frustrated and more than a little apprehensive that even this simple layout is biting off more than I can handle. I am still nervous, the but feelings of angst from puttering for an hour when I got home from work tonight, as super excited as I was to see track and start making progress, told me it was time to down tools. Dinner and a movie on the sofa with my wife and ignoring trains has helped enough to at least let me write this post, and writing this post is giving me comfort as I know I can keep going slow and steady, and that I have friends in the hobby I can reach out to help me work through the “problems” and keep building. I’m sure tomorrow or in a couple of days, whenever I next put in some time in the office working on the layout, that a clear head will help me move forward again!

3 thoughts on “From a Wall Hanging to My Layout, The Bat’leth of Switches

    • Rene, the piece of foam there is 24”/2 feet wide. Part of the mocking up is to see what the “right” width is. Based on the mock-up, it looks like i can shave 4” of width and have the track work and fit the buildings I want. Based on the mock-up, the peninsula is likely to be 20” wide by 40” long from the edge of the shelf benchwork. Once I’m satisfied with the dimensions, I will probably trim the piece of leftover foam I’m using (it’s actually my sacrificial piece I used in benchwork construction for cutting on, the other side is all gouged up) to see how it looks at actual dimensions. Setting it in the “stowed” position is a good idea as well. I’ve left it where it is to live with it for a few days to see how I feel about it in that position in case I do decide to leave it as a permanent installation.

      The nice part about not feeling rushed is I have the time to think about things, based on what I’ve seen this week, if I’d built the peninsula last summer it would likely have been mounted in the wrong position now that the critical track work is in place.

      Stephen

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