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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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!

CPR 7020 Nearing Completion

 

One of the planned workhorses of my layout will be a Canadian Pacific Railway S-2 Alco switcher Number 7020. This is a model of a locomotive which is preserved at the Toronto Railway Museum. She spent her entire working life in Toronto switching for the CPR. As I’d written about previously, I’m modelling her in her 2nd paint scheme, an overall maroon with yellow bars and trim.

IMG_8224CPR S-2 #7020 being tested on my layout. Still have to apply decals to the number boards and then weather.

Today I flat coated the locomotive to take off the shine and seal the decals for weathering. It already looks lightyears better being dull, and will get some heavy weathering to reflect the paint scheme being tired and near replacement in my mid-late 1950’s era.

First test pull of cars from the staging tail tracks onto the traverser.

I’m still using a loaner DCC system (and even if I had bought mine, I haven’t wired any of the layout yet!), but that was enough for me to put 7020 on the track, and check that she moved forward and back, and was able to pull some cars onto the staging transfer table. Successful test, as you can see in the video above.

IMG_8230Temporary wiring hookup to power a single track on the transfer table.

Once I’ve finished the numberboards, I’ll probably set up the good camera for some beauty shots before weathering is applied, but that’s another days task as a productive holiday Monday of layout puttering comes to an end for me!

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.

A freight shed and learning to Cast Resin

Saturday this weekend I got together with my friends Ryan Mendell and Trevor Marshall at Ryan’s house. He was coming to my end of the City in the morning to go shopping at Sculpture Supply Canada, a store that specializes in casting and model making supplies. I suspect most of their business is costume makers and the like, but it’s a handy place for model railroaders too. Ryan has recently started his own business selling freight car kits and tools that he’s designed at National Scale Car, so he’s going through resin casting supplies making molds and producing parts for his kits. When he said he was going to be in my end of town, and he then offered a get together at his place with Trevor who wanted to work on some of his projects using Ryan’s fantastic workshop (I’ll send you to Trevor’s blog to here his tales), I jumped at the chance. I packed up a kit for the layout I hadn’t started, and off we went. After stops at Sculpture Supply and Wheels and Wings Hobbies, we made it to Ryan’s.

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The Kanamodel CNR Freight Shed kit in progress. I’m using it for a loading dock shed on Pardee Avenue, as its close enough and saves me building something from scratch. I’m building it about 3″ shorter than the kits normal size to fit the space it has.

The kit I brought is from a company called Kanamodel, which sadly went out of business around 2017 when the owner passed away. I’ve built a couple of their kits before, and was generally happy with them, but the resin parts in the kit that form the roof supports on the top of a wooden post were in a word, abject. Of the six in the kit, one was passably decent, three were usable, and two were garbage. Fortunately, I only need four, but Ryan suggested this would be a good project to make a mold of and cast some new ones as a way for me to dip a toe into resin casting. For the buildings of Liberty Village, in the long run it will be easier for me to 3D print the masters for the windows, and cast them from resin. They’ll be cheaper in the long run, and if I break a window, a new one is only a few minutes away, which avoids the problem I learned on my model of Bar Volo, if you 3D print, and you have no spares, you’re a bit screwed if you break any!!

 

Making my first mold box with the one decent roof truss in the kit.

I have always found the notion of casting parts to be daunting, I think some of that was you first have to build a good model to use as your master for making the mold. Now that’s easier for me with 3D printing, but having never seen any of it done, I didn’t really understand the process. This process applies to flat or 2D items, anything that is detailed all around is a different process making a multipart mold box. For what I was doing, glue the part down to a styrene base, then build the mold box walls to hold in the rubber around it. A quick spray with a mold release, and then the two part rubber can be poured in. Bang the mold on the table to get air bubbles to rise out, give it a couple of minutes, put on a piece of wax paper, and slide a block of glass/acrylic across to squeeze out any excess rubber and create a flat base. Put on some weights, and then let it sit for a bit (the length depends on the rubber being used). Once its cured, it pops right out. a little bit of cleaning, and then its on to making resin and casting.

 

The stages of making a rubber mold. The two part mix, the box ready for the rubber, the mold filled with rubber, smoothing out the mold (this side will be the bottom when casting, and needs to be flat so the part fills with resin), and weighting it down while the rubber cures.

Similar to the mold material, the resin is a 2 part product, you mix them together, and once that’s done, you have a “pot life” and a “cure time”. The pot life is how long it is liquid and can be poured to try and get it into the mold. For what Ryan was using, it was 3 minutes. Then you wait, the advertised cure time was 10 minutes, but his basement was a bit cool and it took closer to 20 minutes. But when done, out popped a replacement part, with all the imperfections of the original perfectly replicated.

 

The mold out of the box to make it, and the first casting of a new roof truss.

Because we were getting late in the day, and Trevor and I both had to leave, I wasn’t able to cast the four parts I needed, but we cleaned up our various messes in Ryan’s workshop, and Ryan said he’ll cast me a few more of the parts for the next time we see each other. It was a great learning experience, and I think I understand the basic process well enough now to pick up supplies, and try it on my own in the future.

First Track Laid

Another milestone, I finally reached the point where I was comfortable enough and confident to lay the first piece of track on the layout. I’m starting with the “west” CNR staging traverser and its tail tracks. Its all straight, no turnouts, the wiring drops will be easy and can be done after the track is laid for simplicity. Today I got the first piece aligned, and its now glued down in place.

IMG_8145Track glued down to the cork and weighted down.

I’m going to lay the track one track at a time. I’m using small brass screws at either side of the slide to solder the track down before I cut the gap, an idea I got from Rick DiCandido’s layout where it works far better than I could hope for, so we’ll see if my construction works as well as Rick’s does! I’ve got Fast Tracks sweep sticks and spacers to keep the tracks perfectly parallel and spaced evenly, so in theory when all done and gaps are cut, all the tracks will align and trains can run into and out of staging!

I’ve gone back and forth and back and forth on using cork roadbed. I bought enough to do the layout, and I’ve decided on not. It raises the track too much for the lightly laid rail that was at road height in Liberty Village, and would have meant then having to install a deep subroadbed on the roads as well for the scenery. We’ll see how it goes, but having seen a few others layouts recently modelling industrial areas where they have foregone cork, it sealed the deal on the way their track looks and the way I want mine to look.