Today Was a Good Day to Lay Track

Just under a year ago, there was no layout in my house. Then, with a lot of help from my friends Ryan, Doug and Trevor, we built benchwork in a day last August. Today, I had a work session booked with friends to work on tricky bits of the layout with many hands and for me to learn things from people with more experience than I have in layout construction, so that I get myself set up to be able to make more progress myself when time permits.

The first task of my day was a quick run to Home Depot to pick up a few pieces of trim lumber. I finally figured out how to get some decent lighting into the closet and the CPR Parkdale Yard staging yard. I made a valance board that is installed onto the shelf using baseboard lattice trim, and glued around the metal shelf frame using No-More Nails caulk adhesive. Then, using a supply of self adhesive LED Strip lights leftover from the set we bought for our kitchen cabinets, I installed a strip of the lights behind the valance. Now, there is ample light for working in staging, and for anyone operating there to see what they are doing. An easy couple of hours of solo work which made wiring in the closet so much easier (didn’t make the space any bigger, but made it brighter at least!).

 

 

 

 

The two pictures show the new valance board clipped onto the shelf railing while the glue cures, and the second shows the lights on and working and brightening up the staging yard.

Today, I had two friends, Dan and Trevor coming over to help. Both are experienced modellers, and Dan built all the switches for the layout, including the monstrous Bat’leth of track that fills one whole corner of the benchwork that Dan built. It needed some final adjustments before laying, and then filling in the pieces to connect the switches up Mowat Avenue from the staging yard to the first corner of the layout. It took time, but Dan’s meticulous and super skilled, and he was able to make minuscule adjustments to track and locomotives/freight cars that had them running far better than I have managed.

When Trevor arrived, we set to work on installing the layout power bus, the main wire that gets connected to the DCC control station and then to all the individual pieces of track. For the bus, we used 14 gauge speaker wire, its big enough to carry a lot of power and info, but easy to work with, and already paired. Using plastic mounting bases, that you connect zip ties into, the wire is loosely held for now beneath the benchwork but the zip ties can be pulled tight once the work is done to keep the wiring from moving once all the slack is taken out as I move along the layout and connect wiring from each of the pieces of track.

Once the bus wire was run around the room, we (and by we mostly Trevor if I’m being honest!) started to connect the track at the west staging, and figure out how we would wire the sliding traverser shelves so there was enough slack for the shelves to move, but not so much that it would hang or not work.

 

 

 

 

Trevor working on the less sexy part of layout building, the wiring, but its super important to make a layout run.

Dan built all the individual switches using Fast Tracks jigs and supplies, but before we could install them, one in particular, a large combination piece with five switches and two crossovers we called the Bat’leth because of its resemblance to the Klingon weapon on Star Trek needed some little cleanups and testing with my rolling stock before it could be glued down. Between some fine filing on the points, replacing and adjusting wheels on locomotives and freight cars, equipment now seems to run flawlessly through the switches. With that, we could move on drilling holes for the switch throw bars and the frog wires to drop through the benchwork. After sorting out all the bits of track that go between the Bat’leth and the walls, we were in a position to apply a layer of DAP Alex Clear caulk and get the track glued down into position.

 

 

 

 

Trevor works on wiring the west staging traverser, while Dan works on adjustments to the switches he built for the layout. On the right, the Bat’leth is now adjusted and glued down in its corner of the layout curing.
Proof I did some work thanks to Trevor. A picture of me working on my soldering skills, and on getting the track glued down and aligned with Dan.

With the day’s work winding down, we had some fun testing that the wiring actually worked, and that I could control a locomotive on both ends where the track is connected, and not short out or blow anything up. After today’s work, about 1/3 of the “visible” track that will have scenery is installed is glued down, and when timer permits, I can move on with installing wiring drops and laying more bits of track. As usual at the end of a good work session, we were stopped by both the time of day, and the running out of supplies!!

 

 

 

The First powered test on the CPR Staging, running over the layout bus (main wiring line) from my ESU Lokprogramer at the other end of the room. Means everything we wired (mostly by Trevor) was done right!

 

Trevor brought his O-18a, a locomotive which would have been very at home in Liberty Village. The video is a short test on the CNR Staging at the end of the day.
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Two Working Staging Yards

As Count von Count would say, I now have two working staging yards ah ah ah…

Image result for count von count 2 hahaha

Too much? Maybe, but its a little bit of an accomplishment that I now have two fully functioning staging traversers, one in the main layout room for the west end of the layout, and one in the closet for the east!

Doing the one in the main room first was definitely easier. Working in the confined space beneath the closet shelf wasn’t fun, and won’t be again when it comes time to drill holes for wiring, but it’ll get it done and be on our way to actually being able to test and see if trains can get on and off the staging under their own power, not just being pushed by hand.

This week after a couple of really long days at work dealing with deadlines and some role transitioning, I came home and the solitude of soldering rails to the brass screws to hold them aligned and in place, and then cutting the rails so the traverser would move was a couple of hours of peaceful time with my mind to escape some work stress and just enjoy the rewards of why I work hard, being able to come home and build a layout and have the luxury to be able to play with trains at night!

CPR “Parkdale Yard” staging for the east end of my layout, in the open and closed positions. There is still enough room for me to comfortably stand between the staging and the closet wall behind me, so it will be possible to operate here.

Now the next task is to start wiring up the staging yards, and laying track to connect them. I have some friends coming over in a bit over a week for a sunday afternoon wiring and trackwork party, which should be a good opportunity to make some progress and learn some new stills. I can’t wait for the next step forward!!

Canadian Pacific Staging – Saturday Work Session

IMG_8918.jpgLaying the first track for my second staging yard, the “East” or Canadian Pacific Railway Staging.

The first year of building a layout has been a funny experience. A year ago today I didn’t even have benchwork, today, I laid the four tracks for my second staging yard/traverser, the east or CPR Parkdale Yard. With that, I’ve now laid approximately 37 linear feet of track, though it exists in a 61″ and a 56″ space on either end of the layout, there is no middle between the yards!! There is approximately 30 linear feet of “mainline” and sidings along Liberty Street and Mowat Avenue to lay, which means over half the track on my layout is now in place!! Despite that, I can’t run a train anywhere, nevermind from one end to the other!

Tracklaying in process. Applying lessons from the easier to access west staging construction to make laying track in a tight space less frustrating!

Today was a chance to see if I’ve learned anything from my experiences doing the CNR or West staging, which is out in the open and imminently more accessible for working on than in the closet. I can’t believe when I started revising the Liberty Village Line design to fit our house that I ever thought I could start construction in the closet. I’d have quit the hobby if I’d been working in there first instead of learning out in the open part of the room, even if that means some of my mistakes may be more visible when the layout is done. I can’t thank my friends Trevor, Ryan and Doug enough for our benchwork buildathon day last summer. When I had them out my goal was to get out of the closet, that day everything but the peninsula was built, and my progress working on the layout has been so much better for it.

What half-witted moron thought building a layout with under 6″ of clearance to an existing closet shelf was a good idea…

It’s a long weekend for Canada Day, so I had a whole Saturday with nothing on and no commitments. It meant I could take the day and hole up in my office/layout room and take my time laying the track in the closet. this worked out well, as I could work for 15-20 minutes on laying a track, let it bond for an hour or so, work on other things, then lay the next track without being rushed.

I installed the acrylic fall shields on the CPR staging.Being in the closet, its just easier and safer to have them up.

The next steps are to solder the rails to the brass screws I installed on either side of the location for the rail cut to let the traverser slide. Once the rails are soldered down so they don’t move, It will be Dremel time to cut the gaps again. This was fiddly out in the open, it will probably really suck in the closet, but having done it once, much like the rest of today’s tasks, I am much more confident that I will be able to do it and not mess up today’s hard work.

IMG_8932State of play at the end of a give or take 7 hour session (with breaks for laundry, lunch, a nap, glue setting, etc). the S-2 Switcher is sitting at the limit of glued down track, the track to the left is work in progress for alignment.

I’m looking to have some friends over in July for a work session to help with laying turnouts and wiring, both as many hands make light work, and as these are things I am less experienced with and I continue to lean on the generosity of friends in the hobby to help me learn, and I look for ways to help them in return with things I know. I’m still a long way from running a train, but this was a productive use of a long weekend Saturday to get many steps closer to the end goal!

What a difference a Year Makes!

Wow, its hard to believe that a bit over a year ago we bought our house. Tomorrow is the one year anniversary of our actual moving day. A year ago this week (June 18th, 2018), I posted a quicky post with first pictures of the layout room/home office. I meant to do this post on June 18th this year, but was busy and didn’t get the chance. Truth be told, I haven’t done anything in the layout room since Tuesday other than play with my Rapido Royal Hudson, but that’s another post for the weekend! For now, one year of change in my Layout Room, can’t wait to see what it looks like in June 2020!!

img_5481IMG_8773June 2018 and June 2019, Boy do I not miss that fuzzy wallpaper!!
img_5482IMG_8772June 2018 and June 2019 looking the other way in the room. Clearly showing the next big to do, proper layout lighting!!

I can’t wait for year 2 of the layout building adventure. So much to do!!

First Steps into Digital Command Control

My layout will be operated using a Digital Command Control (DCC) system. While to many of my my modeller friends, this seems an obvious statement, to those who are my friends that aren’t railroaders, they don’t really understand how model railroads operate. A very small layout may literally just be a single locomotive and a power pack (like the ones that come in simple train sets), and need no complicated wiring. for my layout, while it’s simple, there is the chance that multiple locomotives will be working and there will always be a number of locomotives in staging. DCC is effectively a computer control system, the locomotives and track are always receiving power, but the decoder, a mini computer inside the locomotive ignores the power unless it receives a computer signal sent with the power through the rail that tells it to pay attention to the command and react. It is a powerful system for running trains, and with new controllers like the ProtoThrottle, you can operate a model railroad with controls that are almost like those in a real locomotive.

IMG_8371ESU LokProgrammer. Its a lot of box for the size of the stuff in it. The environmentalist in me says they really need to work on their packaging.

The LokProgrammer is a tool for updating and adjusting settings on locomotives with ESU decoders. I really have been impressed with the ESU decoders and control system from visiting friends with it, and I see me buying an ESU control system in the near future when they are back in stock. This is a vital tool as it will let me customize sounds and how locomotives behave on the layout. I recently did a full setup at a friends using his after he’d helped me install the DCC decoder into my 7020 model for the layout, now I can use that to help me program my locomotives myself in the future.

 

CPR 7020 on the test track connected to the LokProgrammer, and a couple of screenshots, the top showing the throttle test screen, and one showing the adjustments of all the Control Values (CV’s) on the decoder to change settings.

If i’m being completely honest, I still don’t understand most of what I’m doing with the DCC and the setup, but I’m getting there, step by step, and having the LokProgrammer means I can now look at how things are configured, and learn what changes when I adjust different settings. Another day, another step on the road to having a working layout.

Completing the Staging Transfer Table (Round 1)

I’ve started laying track on the layout, starting with the “west” staging that is the Canadian National Railway staging, representing the Dufferin Yard where Exhibition Station now stands. The way the layout is set up, I have to mirror what I’ve done for the “east” Canadian Pacific Railway staging representing Parkdale Yard. My original plan was to build in the closet first so I could make mistakes where they would be more out of sight. Over time, I decided that it made more sense to start in the main room, because I’d have room to work and see what I was doing so that when I’m working in the more constructed closet, I’d already know what I was doing.

Scenes from Tracklaying, using a heritage brick from the Don Valley Brickworks as a weight to hold track down while the silicone caulk sets to hold the track in place.

Once all four tracks were laid, I cut the gaps in the rails so that the transfer table could slide. I did this with my dremel tool and a flex shaft attachment so I could get in close and control my cutting. I don’t have any pictures as it’s hard to take pictures of yourself doing this. Once the gaps were cut, I slid the table, and noticed my first mistake. I had the table pushed in too far. the drawer slides have a point where they stop resting on the hard stop, and to close them the last 1/8″ or so you have to push hard. I’d intended to not use this as it could cause rolling stock to fall over off the rails, but I’d failed to check where everything was sitting before laying the tracks.

Cutting rail gaps, its hard to take pictures of yourself with a demel tool cutting gaps.

After some frustrated looking at it, I realized I could easily move all the pieces of track not on the transfer table to fix the alignment. It took maybe 45 minutes including the time needed for the new silicone caulk being used as glue to set and hold the track in place.

Realigned tails and then laying the balance of the track in staging.

Getting everything lined up meant I could spend some time rolling equipment on and off, and looking for places where there were misalignments or issues. I found and fixed a few, I expect when I get closer to full operations, I’ll need to come back and file some rails a bit to provide a bit of alignment give, but overall I’m happy with it at this point, as I can now look at getting started with wiring it up so I can actually run powered tests across it so see how things work.

Video of a first test of the staging, before I installed a safety shield at the back to make sure equipment couldn’t take the fast way to the floor off the back side!

Friday I was able to go to my local plastics supply store and buy some pieces of 1/8″ acrylic sheet cut to the sizes I need for the spaces I need to have a safety guard for now. There may be a few other areas that need to be guarded once the layout gets closer to completion, but for now, its mostly around the staging transfers when I get them done. The clear safety screen is now in place. I’ll need to run a bead of caulk between the foam and the acrylic as there’s a bit of a gap and a little bit of caulk can keep that from becoming a dust mess full of bits of construction debris.

Acrylic safety shield on the back to make sure equipment doesn’t take the fast way to the floor off the back track.

The final task I did today was install a kitchen cabinet handle so there is an easy way for operators to move the transfer table. Eventually I’ll add a skin of black styrene or ABS to make the facade of the layout look presentable, but that’s a well down the road task.

Installing a Kitchen Cabinet Handle for the transfer table to make it east to shift and align.

At the end of the day, I’ve now laid a touch over 17 feet of track, though it only covers about 4.5 feet of benchwork length with the four staging tracks on one end. Its nice to see some track in place at the 11 month mark from when we closed on our house and moved.