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.

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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:

A Canadian Pacific Railway S-2 for Liberty Village

With the Liberty Village area my layout is set in being served by both Canadian National and Canadian Pacific Railways, and it being set in the late 1950’s (specific date TBD, closing in on 1956/57, probably will leave some leeway by choosing a year/season vs a specific date), I need both steam and diesel locomotives.  I have previously touched on projects to provide small steam 0-6-0 switchers from CNR and CPR, and my CNR diesel needs are met by ready to run models from Rapido Trains (I’ll be using an SW1200RS and a GMD-1 as the CN diesels, both could have been seen in Liberty, long term, slightly earlier models like an NW-2 or S-2 would probably be more regular sights).  But, back onto topic, for my primary CPR Diesel, I am going to be using an Alco S-2.  These were the first diesel switchers delivered to the CPR in Toronto, and in fact, my model will be the first, which is preserved today in Toronto, though I won’t be painting it in a “normal” paint scheme.

IMG_6289.jpgI forgot to take pictures before stripping it down. Here is the body shell ready to have all the paint stripped off it after taking off all the separate parts and glazing.

I recently picked up one of the newer Atlas S-2 models, which is DCC ready, but doesn’t have a decoder.  It was painted for CPR, but in the “wrong” paint scheme, it was in Maroon and Grey with script lettering.  If it had been “block” lettering, I maybe could have used it, but I am going oddball and going for an intermediate scheme between the as-delivered black with Maroon and Gold Trim, and the introduction of the Maroon and Grey paint scheme that is classic Canadian Pacific.  In between, there was an overall maroon with yellow trim paint scheme applied to some Alco and Baldwin locomotives, including 7020 and some other S-2’s assigned to Toronto.  As such, to be different, I am going with this scheme.  There is a collection of pictures of different early S-2’s in schemes including the “Smiley Face” at this link.

CP7020-27020 and 7027 in the “Smiley Face” (which is on the other end) scheme on the turntable at John Street. Photo by Dom McQueen, 1952. From the Bill Sanderson collection. Scan From Here.

This scheme would have been phased out starting in 1954 or so when the Maroon & Grey became the standard.  I don’t know when 7020 was repainted from this scheme to Maroon & Grey, but applying Rule 1 of “Its My Layout”, I’ll have a very dirty and weather worn 7020 in this scheme clearly ready to be repainted switching Liberty Village.

IMG_6313A picture of the locomotive after the paint had been stripped off it. It’s now been primered and is ready for applying CPR Maroon over the entire body.

This is when compared to the steam locomotive projects, a pretty simple one. Strip off the old paint, spray on maroon, decal, seal, weather, and install DCC decoder.  To strip the Atlas factory paint, I used my preferred first choice of 99% isopropyl rubbing alcohol.  It’s cheap, readily available at pharmacies/grocery stores, and compared to a lot of other paint removal techniques, relatively begnin.  That doesn’t mean you don’t take precautions.  Use it in a well ventilated area, and wear gloves when handling, the isopropyl softens the paint when the shell is submerged in it, but the paint comes off in the alcohol and makes a mess if you aren’t careful, and you don’t want the paint/alcohol mix getting on skin or all over your desk.  I find that soaking for about half an hour softens the paint that a first pass with a toothbrush gets off a lot of paint, then you can look for areas where the paint is holding tight to soak and scrub more vigorously.  In my experience, it hasn’t softened the plastic, but I also don’t leave the model in the alcohol and ignore it.  It’s in and out and scrubbed and when I’m done, into soapy water to wash off any loose bits of paint and left over alcohol.  After a chance to sit and thoroughly dry, its then washed and dried again, then painted with Tamiya Fine Surface primer to look for any issues and give a good clean surface for the new paint to attach to.

The real 7020 at the Toronto Railway Museum, and my other model of 7020, an older non DCC Atlas S-2, part of my Toronto Railway Museum collection of models that I take to Train Shows a couple of times a year for the museum. I’ll now have a pair of 7020’s from different eras in my collection!

I suspect, that the painting of the maroon will happen in the next couple of weeks, time and such cooperating.  Given its going to be some time before my layout has a DCC system or is running, buying the decoder and getting the right sounds installed for the locomotive aren’t going to be a rush, but will get done when it gets done.

Something Shiny for Liberty Village

This week I received something I won on eBay, my first Brass Locomotive.  For those who aren’t familiar, for a long time, Brass Locomotives made in Japan or Korea where the only way to get accurate models of many locomotives, especially steam locomotives.  They were (and remain), expensive and often, poor runners (which makes them lousy for layouts like mine designed for operations).  They were as often as not, owned by collectors and displayed, and not run.  I won’t get into a long history of brass and bore people, that’s what Google is for if your interest is piqued, go search. Suffice to say, given the price of a single locomotive that I knew likely wouldn’t run well/at all, and many brass locomotives came unpainted (which mine is, but now I have the skills to paint a locomotive), they were always something where I’d look in hobby shops display cases, and quickly turn away.  I always chose to spend less and have several models vs. spending a lot on one item.  All that said, they do mean that many odd prototypes or locomotives that wouldn’t sell from traditional mass manufacturers are out there if you are willing to find them and pay the price.

IMG_6410Something I never thought I’d buy, a Brass Locomotive.

I hadn’t even been looking for one, it was one of those “some day when the layout is built I might look for one” things, but since I announced my layout prototype, two of my friends Trevor Marshall and Ryan Mendell had bought Van Hobbies O-18a’s!!  One of them, my friend Ryan Mendell saw this one pop up on Ebay a couple of weeks ago at a good starting price and let me know about it, and I was able to buy it for slightly less than either of them bought theirs (anecdotally the Brass market has been softening as the number of model railroaders shrinks and the older modellers with large brass collections try to sell them off and can’t find buyers or pass away and leave their family to deal with them).

IMG_6416.JPGThe history sheet and original decals that came with the unpainted brass locomotive.  When mine is painted I will use modern decals as these ones are likely not fit for use after years in a box.

The O-18a’s were 0-6-0 switching locomotives, originally built for the Grand Trunk Railway, a predecessor of Canadian National Railways between 1919 and 1921.  The last ones were retired in 1961, and two survived into preservation.  They were used for industrial and yard switching, and in Toronto, were based at the Spadina Roundhouse, and serviced industrial areas in downtown Toronto including Liberty Village, hence my eventual need for one.

With this locomotive, I now have my core fleet of locomotives for the layout, and I mean it when I say I won’t be buying any more for a while!! I need to spend time and funds on things like laying track, constructing buildings, scenery and a DCC system to actually run the layout.  While many of the locomotives are projects (This, CPR U3e, CPR S-2 (post coming), they are in hand, its paint and details and work, not buying more than I need to actually be able to operate and have a bit of variety.

Tour around the Locomotive.

Below are two videos of the locomotive being tested.  It runs, reasonably well, but since it will need to be fully disassembled to install DCC, and to paint it, I will likely replace the motor and gearbox with something more modern and reliable.  I know Ryan will be doing that with his, so I’ll be able to see what he has to go through, and observe someone who is much more mechanically inclined than I am do the work before I have to take on the task.

The only thing left for me to do now is some research on which of the O-18a’s which lasted into 1956/57 when my layout will be set were still working in Toronto, and choose a road number for the locomotive when painted. I’ll have to be sure to not choose the same number as Ryan and Trevor, otherwise they won’t be able to bring their examples to run on my layout!!  So for now, another project, but another important one for my layout, so i can live with that at least!!

A Mini Milestone – The First Train on the Liberty Village Line

So a mini-milestone on the path to constructing a layout.  To celebrate putting on the final pieces of the foam layer on the benchwork, I set up a couple of pieces of track, and got out a locomotive and cars so I could run a first train on the layout.

IMG_6301IMG_6292It’s not fancy, but it is exactly the maximum length of train that can be run on the layout and fit in staging, a short switching locomotive, 3x 40′ freight cars and a caboose!!

Video below of a quick run back and forth, any sound cut outs from the locomotive are the quality of my gator clipped power connection for temporary testing and not the locomotive itself!

Foaming the Layout and Testing the Peninsula

Another non-glamorous task of layout building got underway today.  Putting on a layer of insulation foam on top of the plywood  This will be the base for the scenery.  It is easier to insert details into than the plywood, and gives me the ability to have smoothed out some of the imperfections in the alignment of the plywood with the foam later.  I can both cut away at the foam if needed for the limited terrain of Liberty Village, or add cork roadbed for the tracks on top.

IMG_6262.jpgNot the most exciting picture, but showing the benchwork with 1/2″” insulation foam installed on top, and a piece in place to let me check spacing for the eventual peninsula to be built to complete the benchwork.

I’ve got a bit of foam to do in the closet for the 2nd staging traverser.  It’s a tight spot to work in, and I just ran out of gas and motivation to work on cutting foam and getting it sorted.  At that point, I realized the largest piece of foam I had left was more or less the size of the peninsula.  Its a couple of inches wider, and a couple of inches shorter than I’ve designed, but it let me more or less get a feel for how impactful it will be in the room, and to be sure that it will generally work.  Most importantly, there is room to maneuver between the benchwork on the wall and the peninsula for an operator.  Depending on how tired I am after the train show Saturday and Sunday, I’ll try to finish the foam work this weekend.  Not glamorous at all, but another step closer to being ready to lay track.