Starting some Scenery

With all my track laid, and the DCC system now seemingly working, it is time to start thinking about scenery. I decided that a first place to start would be a small corner of the layout where I have some mocked in tracks to fill a corner, and the Canadian Pacific staging in the closet.

In Barrie on the Family Day long weekend with the Toronto Railway Museum display, I was thinking about the supplies I need and what I want to do with that corner. One of the things I was thinking about was a need for fencing, chain link fencing to be specific. In looking at the various supplies the vendors had, nothing jumped out at me, so I went online, and the available fence kits out there get really expensive really fast, as is often the case when you buy kits. So I started searching online for anyone else who had a technique to build their own fence cheaper. I found one on the Model Railroad Craftsman Magazine website here.

Building a wooden jig (important as I’ll be soldering on it), and process shots of building the chain link fence support frame.

I was able to pick up the obvious supplies, brass rod and music wire at the show, but tulle fabric would require another pickup. Using a piece of scrap pine that I’ve saved for just in case purposes, and some scale strip lumber, I prepared a jig for the brass wires. Then I cut brass and music wire to size, and soldered it all together. With a few pieces done, I could start to see how much I would need, and look for places to adjust. I didn’t quite think my jig through right, so it creates pieces that if they are butted together, leave uneven spacing of the longer legs that actually go into the scenery. It’s not a critical issue, but it meant as well that the smaller tube joiners I am adding to align the segments wouldn’t be evenly spaced either. My advice on anyone following me is to think through your spacing. I suspect it will all blend away when its installed and has ground cover, but it vexed me for a bit while I was making frames, and I wound up doing a combination of shortening some frames and building shorter pieces to keep my spacing consistent.

Checking the length of the first batch of frames to see how far I want it to go between the mockup “Parkdale Yard” tracks, staging, and the main layout trackage. The legs are intentionally long for now until I am ready for final installation to have lots of room for adjustments.

I made enough to fence two areas on the east end of my layout. A dividing fence between “Parkdale Yard” and the industries, and between Hinde & Dauche which is on layout, and Inglis which existed where an operator would stand. This will help create some definition in what otherwise risked being a large expanse of nothing along the front of the layout.

Getting tulle glued onto the frame and then looking at the frames with tulle on the layout.

For the chain link itself, the article suggested using nylon tulle, its a fabric material used generally in wedding dresses based on what i read, but its a fine nylon mesh, almost so fine that I can barely see it when I’m working with it. As you can see from the photos it is almost invisible in its bare white colour. This has made it challenging for gluing it to the frames, but as with many things, slow and steady wins the race. I have been using a thick CA glue at the corners where posts/lateral wires meet, then thin CA glue along the posts and wires to hold the mesh on. Starting with getting the corners down using bits of scrap styrene for weight, I then work along the bars to get the mesh glued down as best as possible. Cleanliness with the glue is important to not fill the mesh openings, but it will be painted and hide the worst of the glue when it is.

Painting my test pieces to see if the chain link effect is really created or not. I am really pleased with it.

This was my first time using a Tamiya Acryllic paint in my airbrush. I am really really happy with it. I used XF-56 Metallic Grey, it is a satisfyingly dark colour with a little bit of metallic sparkle. Perfect as a base for fence that in the 1950’s was probably in half decent shape. I can add some more colour and a little bit of rust around the appropriate places once it is planted in the scenery.

Painting my first rail. A mix of light and dark rust, and then a dirty tie brown to hide the plasticy flex track ties. Once the track is ballasted it will get some more paint and weathering to look well worn in.

I also painted my first rail on the layout, because of where it was, I chose to brush paint it, because it’s mostly scenic track, so I wasn’t worried about cleaning the rail heads for electrical connectivity. I applied a coat of a light rust, and then worked in some darker rust in places. Once the track was painted, I brought my compressor and the airbrush up and sprayed the ties rail tie brown to blend them and hide the plastic of the flex track. It looks much more rail like to my eyes, and will continue to get blended as ballast and scenery goes in and gets weathered.

For the first end of the CPR staging, I brush painted the track as well, but more carefully and with a cloth ready to wipe the railhead clean as I went. as I move forward with track out of the closet where there is a bit more room, I am going to airbrush the rail as well, its quicker, but I found working with the airbrush in the constrained space of the closet to be challenging as there isn’t enough room for me to aim where I wanted without fiddling about with the paint cup.

All in all, more forward steps. I’m at a point where I am close to considering ballasting the first track on the layout, though I don’t think I have the ballast I really want to use, as I’ve never had luck with using Woodland Scenics on past projects, and many friends have recommended products that are actual crushed stone that behave better when you glue them down. I may need a shopping trip online before I can actually do the next steps, so back to test running trains for a while then!

Tuesday Train #184

IMGP7011RawConvOntario Southland Railway GP9u 1620 (originally Canadian Pacific Railway GP9 8659) built in 1957 working away switching cars near Dawson Road in Guelph in the snow on February 14, 2020.

The second unit in the consist is Ontario Southland Railway 1591, another GP9u, originally built in 1954 as Canadian Pacific Railway GP9 8487, still plugging away hard on the railroad.


Below is a video of the pair pulling cars, you can hear the crew in the cab and on the ground in the radio in the video. Nothing interesting on the video, but these guys were fun to listen to, they clearly like each other and enjoy their work.

Tuesday Train #183

10050017LMS/BR Royal Scot (4)6100 at Berwyn on the Llangollen Railway in Wales in 2009, at the 6880 Betton Grange Society’s “Steam Steel and Stars 2” Gala. This was an abortive return for 6100 as the weeks operations would reveal numerous problems with the then recently completed restoration, problems that would take many years and a change of ownership to rectify, but she is now back out and running on the mainline in England.

Finishing the Wiring, Gremlin Hunting & Layout Visitors

In my last post I alluded to having wiring problems, and I did, but before I can deal with the problems, I want to touch on the “finishing” of the wiring. First up was to install a pair of HexFrog Juicers, each of these can handle auto reversing the power on six switch frogs to prevent short outs. As my layout has 13 switches, the two of these with the one single Frog Juicer on the peninsula covers the entire layout with live frogs that automatically switch polarity before the layout shorts out.

Prepping and installing the hex juicers. Preparing a base to screw into the benchwork, shots of the hex juicer mounted, and in place, wired up with LED’s lit.

Along with the hex juicers, I was finishing the task of connecting the track feeders to the power bus, to get to the point where I was ready to try and connect the ESU Cab Control DCC base station. For my ongoing testing, I was using my Lokprogrammer running from my computer to check for shorts by running a locomotive along the tracks every few wiring connections. As I went, it generally seemed to be going OK, I wasn’t finding shorts, things seemed to be going OK and I appeared to have successfully managed to connect red wires to red and black wires to black.

Watch for the brief short flash, and then bottom left LED’s flipping colour from red to green.

With the wiring I thought at a point where things seemed to be working, I thought it was time to actually set up the DCC and run the layout the way it will hopefully be run for many years. Again, the setup is simple, connect two wires from the back of the command station to the layout power bus wires.

IMG_1424ESU Cab Control DCC System, finally ready to come out of the box.

And, after I started testing with the Command Control, chaos… the track would not stay on at all, the second I put a locomotive on the tracks, the power light on the handheld control flashed from green to red. Sometimes, pressing the start button wouldn’t even turn the power on. It appeared, that despite everything…the Gremlins were back!!!

GremlinsGremlins!!! And not the cute gremlins like Mogwai, but the nasty monstrous kind that show up when you get them wet and feed them after midnight…

By this point, I had been working for almost 10 hours mostly at awkward angles reaching beneath the benchwork to do wiring. It was time to quit before I lost my temper and did anything I’d regret later. It took a few days to figure things out, and the breakthrough could probably have been found sooner if I’d turned to the internet, but the proverbial “a-ha” moment was when I tried to turn on the CabControl connected to a single piece of flex track just to make sure the base station was working, when that shut down immediately, I realized I wasn’t necessarily searching for a wiring short on the layout, but something else. I had set the ESU power supply set up and the variable voltage know as advised in their manual for HO Scale, my findings from that are, the supply as instructed doesn’t deliver enough juice to run even a small layout like mine. Turning the power supply up a little bit, and almost all my short outs disappeared.

Testing a variety of motive power across the layout. Finally some success. And achieving one of my goals, running a train across the layout on its own power without it shutting off (derailments are another story)

I was still finding little shorts and issues on the frogs with the layout shorting out, it appears that this has been solved by just turning up the power a little bit more from the supply. The best part of this, is that I was able to get the railroad re-wired up after cutting connections when Gremlin hunting, have it powered up and going to host visitors on Saturday morning, which I completely forgot to take pictures of! A friend was hosting an operation session/party/modellers meet Saturday afternoon/evening, and two out of town visitors were in Toronto for the weekend. Chris Mears from Dartmouth Nova Scotia, and Matthieu Lachance (and more here) from Quebec City were over along with regular visitor and layout building helper extraordinaire Trevor Marshall. We didn’t run any kind of scheme, we just talked about the layout, the prototype, the design concept, and banged some cars about, mostly without problems. A nice feeling, and the opposite to a lot of “Trains are Stupid” evenings of the past week or so trying to make sense of the wiring side of the hobby. Now, onwards with running trains back and forth looking for anything that causes derailments, power offs or any other unexpected behaviour for the next few weeks. During this time I’ll get some work done advancing the start of the structures to be ready for doing scenery once I am satisfied with the tracks operation.