Never Stop Learning…But Never Forget Past Learning – The Tale of the Blue Bendy

I was working in the corner of the closet on “Parkdale Yard”, my faux staging tracks, and I wanted to put in a mockup 3rd track behind the two I laid, there is room for about half a width of track. Rather than cut a perfectly good piece of flex track in half, I have some spare rail from the supply I bought for building switches, and a giant bag of pre-cut wood ties, but before I get into what I’m doing track laying, a lesson in the importance of never stopping learning, but also never forgetting learning you’ve already done!

IMG_7239.jpgHow do I get the shape cut on this strip of ties to squeeze into the corner of the backdrop?

My lesson for tonight is in the latter, I was trying to figure out how to get a template for cutting an arc through a batch of wood ties tacked together with tape so they would perfectly slide into the corner of the benchwork, then it came to me, PLAN 110 in January 1999….The Blue Bendy!!!!

img_7238The Blue Bendy in action in the corner.

OK, so no, I haven’t had a blow to the head. But as I was thinking of how to create a pattern, I remembered something from the Introduction to Graphics course in the second semester of the first year of my Urban Planning Degree at the University of Waterloo. The “Blue Bendy” is a tool designed for transferring a line or shape from one drawing to another. It’s a plastic bar thing that you can bend to shape, and it holds the shape when you move it from one sheet to another. If you’re interested in picking one up for yourself, its real name is even less creative than Blue Bendy, the Staedtler Mars Flex Curve…. I’ll admit, the name isn’t super creative, but it does at least do what it says on the box!!

Easy does it, position the Blue Bendy where you want it, trace the side with a pen/pencil etc, then cut along the line with a sharp hobby knife.

With a cut line made from a ruler that conveniently changes shape to that of the corner, it was easy to mark the line, cut the ties with a sharp knife, and then make some minor adjustments. I can’t go any further, as I don’t seem to have any HO Scale Tie Plates or spikes to actually put a piece of rail on the ties. I guess I can probably glue them to the roadbed so that’s done at least, but another step forward on a Sunday night.

IMG_7243.jpgCut and fit into the corner to create half a 3rd track in Parkdale Yard.

First Track Laid for Liberty Village

Another week, another layout milestone. I was having a rough day the other day, lots of things going on with work and just got home feeling beat. I was looking for something to put a smile on my face in the layout room. I’ve held off on doing any track laying until my switches are built so I can make sure everything lines up at the staging sliders. Despite this, I realized there is some track I can lay in a corner of the room that is scenic only. To hide a corner in the closet at the east end, I have room for a couple of fake tracks to represent the Canadian Pacific Parkdale Yard.

img_7184Cutting foam roadbed and track to fit in the corner to represent Parkdale Yard.

To do this little bit of trackwork, I decided to use up some old Woodland Scenics Foam Roadbed roll. I used this on my previous layout built circa 2003 in my parents old house in Georgetown when I lived at home for a couple of years after finishing university before I was sure my job in Toronto was going to work out, and to let me pay off some student debt before paying rent.

The roadbed in place, with DAP silicone caulk and then track put in place.

The foam roadbed was glued down using Gorilla Wood Glue. I had done a series of tests with a bunch of adhesives to check that it would bond to the pink foam and not melt it with spare off cuts of foam and roadbed. I decided that the Gorilla Wood Glue was the best for these materials. I have to do the test again with the cork roadbed for the working tracks, but that’s a down the road matter.  I have room for two full tracks across the angle of the corner, which I can put some freight cars on to be a visual block for the join between the benchwork and the backdrop. The yard was obviously much bigger than this, but a couple of tracks provides a bit of extra staging and a visual filler for the space.

First rolling stock on the layout on track actually affixed to the benchwork (and yes, I know it’s a CNR Caboose in a CPR yard, I’m lazy and couldn’t be bothered to dig in the tubs of stored equipment to find a CPR caboose!!)

While I wait on my switches being finished for the serious track laying to commence, the next time I feel the need to do something, I have a bit of track I can practice painting, weathering and ballasting before the main layout work starts. Happy start to my weekend as well writing this post!

Filling in the Last Gap around the wall

When I originally designed the layout, I didn’t plan to use all the space in the closet for extra tracks in staging, I didn’t think I needed to, and didn’t want to have to mess around fitting pieces around the shelf brackets. Then I discovered even in the areas I thought the brackets would clear, they didn’t (See here and the fix here). Today I finally had a chance to swing by somewhere with a table saw, and cut a little bit of plywood to fill the last gap we left in construction back in August.

img_7168A hole in the layout, left because the old shelf supports blocked the area, now gaining some extra layout real estate.

Once I test fit the little bit of plywood into the opening, I took it back out and pre-drilled and countersunk where the screws would go, I got it back in, and because of the low overhead height, I hand drilled pilot holes into the cross frames. Once one hole was drilled and a screw put in, the other three were easy.

Hand piloting the holes because of restricted space, and the filler piece installed.

With the plywood in, it was easy work to cut down another bit of the pink foam, and tack it in place with No More Nails cauk. All told, probably took me an hour including cleanup to finally have the around the wall portion of the benchwork all done. Nice way to do the first layout work for 2019!

img_7172Ready for roadbed and track. No more room for a train to fall down behind the layout anymore!

Another Saturday, and some more benchwork progress

IMG_6827Looking like a layout.

I haven’t actually done much in terms of actual work on layout building of late, that’s coming in 2019 when my friend finishes building switches, but that doesn’t mean I haven’t been active at least working my way through layout building issues and things I need to do.

Having had some time to live with the benchwork, I’ve uncovered problems and opportunities to change my plan before I actually lay any track to hopefully wind up with a better layout at the end of the day.

IMG_6832The “West” or CNR Staging, puttering around with track alignment gauges and flex track in advance of laying track.

The past few weeks I’ve been playing with flex track on the traverser that is easier to work on for the west end of the layout. I figure once I’ve done the installation of track out here, it will be easier to replicate in the tighter closet for the east. The west staging will have four tracks, the east can accommodate 5 because of how the lead to the layout reaches it, but I’m leaning to only installing 4, I don’t need more for the size of my layout, and I don’t want to encourage myself to buy more rolling stock than I actually need!

The “east” or Canadian Pacific Staging area, the traverser was out so I could work, showing the finding of a replacement tail track board, and getting it in and foamed today.

With the discovery that I had to replace the closet shelf brackets, it meant I could have a proper tail track off the traverser for each track on the shelf. To do this, I had to take down the original piece that was cut around the old bracket, and install a new one. Fortunately, I had the perfectly sized piece of spare plywood from benchwork construction in the summer, and was able to carefully remove the existing piece, and use the screw holes in it as a guide to drill holes in the new piece so it lined up exactly the same. Success, the traverser still slides properly, so it was on to putting on the pink foam, and being back to where I was at the start of the day, ready to lay track!

And now, if you’re still reading, an apology, there hasn’t been any of my “Tuesday Train” railfan photo posts in December. I haven’t had time, and I’ve been remembering sometime during the day on Tuesday while I’m at work, my new job has many perks, but one of the things I can’t do at it is waste my time doing silly stuff like blogging about trains. I’m going to take the Rest of December off the Tuesday Train, and re-set and get ready to get back on with model making and layout building in 2019. I’ll have a year in review post as I’ve done the other years of this blog before January 1, but for now, I’m off to put my feet up and enjoy the rest of my Saturday evening.

IMG_20181205_1943160Sneak Peak of 2019 to come when the trackwork is done! Dan will have more to say about building the switches when he’s done them.

Saturday Nights all right for Layout Progress

Since my discovery last weekend that I had effectively blocked the CPR staging to the point that it wouldn’t function effectively with the existing closet shelf brackets, I’ve fixed that problem, and moved on with some actual layout building, working on the traversers, laying out elements, and my first mockup building.

Replacement shelf brackets in place, which give me the space to have a full set of tail tracks at both ends of the closet traverser. I have a piece of wood perfectly sized for the one end, I’ll need to get a piece cut for the other if I do want to add more tracks.

One big plus of the problem I discovered last week is that it means I get more staging and run around space in the closet. I don’t know if I will need it or not, but it won’t hurt to have it.  Two metal L brackets later, the storage shelf in the closet is supported, and the tracks are no longer fouled. I’ll need to carefully remove the foam from the one end in the closet to remove the wood and install the new piece, but I have an off-cut from the benchwork construction in August which is the perfect size for the staging in this area.

As I’d noted last weekend, I was using the new rotary cutter I bought to cut cork and foam. The traversers both now have their cork roadbed in place. It’s not glued down yet, no reason other than I hadn’t gotten around to it!

Two shots of the CNR Staging Traverser, now with cork roadbed in place. On the right you can see me mocking up the roads with EVA Foam, which will be the underlay to raise them almost to track height so I don’t have to use as much putty/plaster to create the roads.

I’m doing everything in nice slow stages. Build the benchwork, let it sit and settle a bit, put on the foam, let it sit and settle a bit. Lay the cork, let it sit and be sure before I glue it down. In a few weeks time once my friend is done building switches, then I’ll be motivated to start getting cork glued down so I can actually lay some track. Early 2019 is going to be fun with laying track and then figuring out wiring and DCC to run some trains! I want to have the track laid and wired and running flawlessly before I start any serious scenery work.

I debated back and forth about laying track directly onto the foam instead of using cork, but I decided I wanted to use the cork, as it will raise the track level, which means I can build “foundations” for the buildings that can be blended into the scenery. Liberty village was pretty flat, even between the tracks and the road, but between the cork/track and the EVA sheet raising the roads to basically rail level, it will give me the opportunity to fill the gaps with sculptamold/ground cover materials to create undulations and imperfections so that everything isn’t unrealistically washboard flat.

That said, while I’m not starting full on scenery, I am going to start working on mockups of the buildings for the layout to get a sense of size and scope of the work I have coming in building buildings, and to look for places where the buildings as I’ve envisioned them will block operations.

Brunswick Balke Collender takes shape, in cardboard mockup form. Depth makes such a difference, and quick mockups allow for making decisions before time is spent on finished buildings.

The Brunswick Balke Collender Co factory is going to be the first thing people see when they enter the room. I’ve had a printout of a drawing taped to the wall since the summer, but with starting to block out roads and such to see how/if things will work as planned, it seemed like a good time when I got a big piece of thin cardstock to make a mockup. Mockups are great, they are fast, make a layout look less empty, and let you look for things you’ll need to adjust in the finished model. For example, the main building will just be the south wall, set at an angle so that the east side has a bit of depth, and the west side will have non/minimal.  The boiler house, a separate building is going to need to be compressed to fit the space. It’s going to have its full width and height, but will be somewhere around 30% of its actual depth. My mockup is a bit too deep still, but its a lot cheaper and easier to find out my first estimate was too big in cardboard than styrene later.

As I move forward, I’m sure I’ll find lots more adjustments to buildings once the track is in place and I prepare the mockups, but that’s all part and parcel of the layout building experience.

Whoo-Hoo!! A Mistake in Layout Building

Well, not really in the building, more the designing, and certainly not one that can’t be overcome. I finally spent a couple of hours being semi-productive in the layout room on layout building, instead of working on other model projects or thinking about layout building. I spent my evening using a new tool (more on that in a minute) to cut cork roadbed and 1/4″ EVA PolyFoam Sheet (See here) which I am planning on using as the base of my roads to bring them almost to track level So I can then build the surface with my usual road material of choice, drywall compound.

So, on to my mistake.  I discovered that I haven’t left enough space in the closet staging for Track 2 to clear the shelf brackets that hold the closet shelf in place.  My measuring and estimating was wrong. I’m about 1/2″ short of the clearance I probably really should have. I need the shelf to stay for the storage it provides in the closet, but also need to have at least two working tracks on either end of the traverser for a locomotive to get off and let the traverser slide in and out for it to run around cars.

IMG_6686A diesel locomotive just clears, but the caboose smokestack and cupola foul the shelf bracket.

Once upon a time, this kind of discovery would have been met with a river of four letter words and anger. Tonight, it was met with an odd sense of relief that I’d finally found something I’d gotten wrong. The first phases of layout building have gone so well, that I’d found myself looking at the layout and wondering where I’d made a mistake that was going to cause me grief. I’m sure there are others out there to find as I inch closer to laying track and wiring and such, but this is one that is relatively easily fixed. I’ll need to get alternate brackets for the shelf, and install them, not a big deal, will take half an hour to fix once I get the right sized brackets. In the meantime I can keep fiddling around with track and such and getting ready to lay it on the traversers.  I could probably do that anytime, but I’m waiting until my friend Dan who is building my switches is done, So I can adjust alignments if needed before I commit to fastening any track in place.

As for the other part of my evening, my new tool.

IMG_6687A new tool, this may be my new favourite cutting tool!

A few weeks ago I used one of Michael’s regular string of 50% or 55% off a single item coupons to buy a hand-held rotary cutter. It was in with the leather and fabric working stuff, but it’s perfect for using with a long metal straight edge for cutting lengthy materials such as the cork or foam sheets I was trimming tonight. I’ve never gotten as nice and straight cuts as easily on large materials with any other knife I’ve owned.  With the coupon it was around $10 Canadian, an absolute steal now that I’ve used it!

Edit: The Rotary Cutter is sold under the “ArtMinds” by Michaels, as a leather cutter, packaging is below: