Fascia Covering for the Layout Part 2

Another day, another step forward. Following on from yesterdays post, I have now trimmed and glued on the majority of the fascia styrene. There are a few spots around the peninsula hinge where some detail work is needed, otherwise, its done. You can see yesterday’s post for details of the work, but today is just a quick post showing the difference a simple sheet of styrene cut up and glued onto the subfascia hiding the wood and foam, and instantly making the layout look like it belongs and is a part of the furniture, rather than something that doesn’t belong.

IMG_1060IMG_1307December 31, 2019 top without the black styrene, January 19, 2020 bottom with, the layout to me at least now looks like it belongs in the room!
IMG_1305IMG_1308Similarly, the closet and CPR staging (both taken today), now the lighting valance attached to the closet shelf looks out of place, no worries, plenty of styrene left to quickly cover that and create a window box effect for staging.

Yesterday’s post generated some really insightful discussion on the styrene and preparing it for painting. The task of painting is well down the line for me, but its a discussion worth having now. I know at least one other modeller whose layout I’ve visited uses styrene on the fascia. I’ll have to ask him when next I see him what paint he uses on it, and if he did anything to the styrene to prep it. I’m also curious now if his results are different because he used white styrene vs black. The learning continues!

Fascia for a Finished Look

With the the track laid, it means I can make some progress on other areas, the first up is the fascia of the benchwork. I had left it unfinished as I worked as it wasn’t an area that was impacting on getting track laid and the layout built. I’m now at a point where I can start looking at next steps beyond wiring and testing the track. Before I install the switch machines to control the switches, I needed to get the fascia done, as it needs to be ready for drilling the holes for the control rod pulls.

IMG_1277Taking my model railroading back to the kitchen table, just like where I started with my grandparents running trains on their kitchen table!

For my Fascia, I am using the same material I used for my backdrop, styrene sheet. This time however I am using black 0.060″ (1.5mm) styrene. I made a trip mid week to Plastic World in North York, where I bought the large sheets for the backdrop, and picked up a sheet of black. I am using styrene for a couple of reasons, I know how to work with it, its easy to use, and I can paint it. I suspect I will certainly want to paint the fascia closer to when I am done with the layout. I am already planning on painting along the bottom of the fascia black as I did on the peninsula to help it blend into the room.

With today being a snow day in Toronto, I had everything on hand (or so I thought) to get the fascia installed. I started the day on the kitchen table, cutting 4′ long slices off the 4’x8′ sheet of styrene. Its the only place in the house with enough room to manoeuvre around a sheet that size now that the peninsula is in place.

Test fitting and cutting the fascia for the CNR staging traverser.

Once I had my strips cut, I started with the CNR staging, the two staging areas are the most complicated bit of the fascia, as they need cutting and fitting around for the sliding traversers. After a series of back and forth checking measurements, I got it up. I then proceeded to start working along the layout from there. The styrene is flexible so it rounds off some of the harsher corners of the benchwork to have a cleaner, more finished look. At this point, I realized that the tube of No More Nails adhesive I had was almost out, and that I had forgotten to buy another tube of glue, so my progress on that project came to an unexpected halt. Running out of supplies is a risk. I tend to buy things as I run out, and it had actually been on my shopping list, and I just completely forgot to buy another tube.

IMG_1281Its not as clean as it looks in the picture, but you can see the difference the black styrene makes in terms of “finishing” the benchwork.

While I’m out of glue to move forward, that hasn’t stopped me from getting the other pieces trimmed and starting to make smaller pieces for any spaces where there is blending at corners or covers. I’ve already made the parts for the latch which holds the peninsula in place, so that it is also covered. Conveniently, the 0.060″ styrene fits around the latch bolt without me needing to remove it or adjust it.

IMG_1282Not glued in, but the cover parts around the peninsula latch are in place and ready to go.

Sometime in the next week or so whenever I have time to swing into the hardware store for another tube of No More Nails, I’ll be able to finish the job. Even just the one corner really helps make it look more finished. The bare appearance of the benchwork had been starting to bother me, as my layout room is also my office and its on the same floor as our bedroom, so anything unfinished I’m constantly staring at, its good motivation to keep on going with little projects like this.

The “Last Spike” on Liberty Village

Last night I reached a fairly major milestone on my layout. I laid the last piece of rail. I say the “Last Spike” as that is the railway vernacular, but there are actually no spikes anywhere on my layout!! All my track is glued to the benchwork, no spikes for handlaid rail or holding the track down! Maybe I should paint an HO Scale spike gold and put it in as a reminder (though where it is will be buried in a road eventually!)

The last piece before and after gluing down and sliding on the rail joiners.

After the Saturday work session with some friends, and follow up on Sunday, this was actually a fairly short and sweet task, but no less important. From bare room in June 2018, to benchwork in August 2018, to track complete in January 2020, its been a journey. I’ve learned a lot about track planning and translating that from a computer to the real world, about installing track, wiring, and soldering.

Academy Award winning content…or not, but I tried!

To capture the video, I set my DSLR up on a tripod on the benchwork and pointed it down at where i was working, it was a rather ungainly looking setup, but I couldn’t figure out another way. It was a one and done thing, if the video had been much worse I wouldn’t have posted it, but its just bad enough that I’m ok sending it out to be foisted upon the world!

IMG_1241DSLR on a tripod with an LED work light wrapped around the camera strap for lighting.

Tonight, to follow up I started to get track feeders soldered onto the rest of the rail that was laid but not ready for wiring. I drilled the holes and placed the wire last night after the Last Spike Ceremony (me standing by the layout with a dumb grin realizing that I’ve actually hit a pretty awesome milestone). Tonight I got down to two pairs of feeders that I couldn’t easily install without moving the bookcases beneath the layout again, as I need to be able to fiddle with the wire from beneath to get the tinned end bent into an L shape beneath the rail and to push up while I solder that to the bottom of the rail. They will only take about 5 minutes to do whenever I pull the bookcases out to connect all the new feeders to the DCC bus.

Feeders and connectors going in for the peninsula now that the track is laid.

The rest of my week is fairly busy, so I probably won’t get much layout time for the next few days, but the weather forecasters are saying 20-25cm of snow on Saturday, if that doesn’t sound like a day to stay inside and work on models, I don’t know what is!

Turns out Sunday is a layout day too

You might think that after a big progress day yesterday, Sunday would be a day of rest, and it kinda was. I watched both EPL matches this morning while writing up yesterdays progress, but that meant that by 1:30 I was done watching football, and migrated back upstairs to the layout room.

The first thing I did was finish up the west end of the layouts drops to the DCC bus. When we were working on this, we found a short that took some hunting to track down and resolve. It was some not quite fully clearly gapped copper ties on a switch. It hadn’t shown itself earlier, but as we started connecting track all of a sudden both rails were in continuity with each other, not a great situation to have for a layout!! After some frustrated time yesterday searching out the electrical gremlin, Mark found it, and we had it quickly cleaned up. A little bit of paint on the ties will eventually hide the new bigger gap.

Because I’m completely incorrigible, with the wiring connected and looking OK on the multi-meter for no shorts, I of course proceeded to connect my ESU Lokprogrammer to the end of a track, and run a test train out of CNR staging and onto Mowat Avenue. The video below shows the results, right up to the point where it hit track not yet connected and the keep alive ran out of power! An unqualified success, a train successfully run on my layout!!

First attempt at running a train out of staging and down the line (sorry about the video being fuzzy, I’m not here to win cinematography awards!).

A little bit more running exposed a couple of not unexpected snags, particularly on the switches, but without switch machines installed holding rails in place, I think any time the equipment didn’t catch the switches perfectly clean, they were moving the points. I won’t get too worried about this unless it starts happening when the switches are being held tightly in place.

With that done, I decided to start building switch machines. I am using the Fast Tracks “Bullfrog” switch machines. These are laser cut wood manual throws, a lot of my friends have used them on their layouts, and I love the way they work and the simplicity of them. It takes maybe 10 minutes to assemble them. I have two built new for the layout, and one from a little test track I built a couple of years ago to learn how to build and install a switch machine. After building another fresh one for the layout today, I started messing around with the RC aircraft control rods that are used to link the machine under the benchwork to the fascia for the switch to be operated. This reminds me that I need to get some supplies for the handles on the end, I never did get around to doing that.

IMG_1216A Fast Tracks “Bullfrog” manual switch machine assembled. This one is from a little proof of concept board I made to experiment with learning to install these. The throw wire is now too short for the layout, but I’ve got more of those I can replace it with.

After one Bullfrog, I decided that my goal for the day was to finish the last two sidings on the peninsula. One was easy, a piece of flex with a gentle curve, the other was a bit more complicated. A curved track into a switch to two sidings flanking the freight shed I’ve been building. Once all the track was adjusted, curved and trimmed, I marked out the sides, moved it, and placed down a layer of the clear Alex Caulk. The track was then worked into position, and weighted/pinned down as appropriate. It will sit till Monday night now to have the pins and weights moved while the caulk cures.

Laying the final track on the Peninsula, from L-R marked out and holes for switch machine/frog wire drilled; caulk down; first siding down and caulk spread; and, final view with track down and weighted/tacked down.

With the track on the peninsula down and now drying, I went to the final gap in the layout, a less than 1.5″ piece on Liberty Street between where I’d been working east and west across the layout. I’m not going to install this tonight, I’ll do that Monday or Tuesday night, it will give me something to look forward to at work as the week starts. I’ve got the final piece of track to be laid on my layout cut to sized, filed down, and joiners added ready to go whenever I decide the time is right.

IMG_1215Less than 1.5 inches to go to the trackwork being laid for the entire length of the railroad. So of course, instead of doing it, I’m blogging about how that’s all that’s left to do!

In well less than two years since we took possession of our Townhouse in June 2018, I have gone from a bare room, to a nearly functional layout. This is a huge thing for me, I’ve wanted to build a layout for a long time, but never had the space. Since we moved in, I’ve turned that dream into a reality, and in the process, I’ve learned a lot from friends, and from trial and error. With a bit more wiring, I’ll be in a position to start testing trains to see if the track works and start looking for snags.

With that, a productive Sunday in the layout room is over. Time to go help get some dishes done in the kitchen so we can make a late Sunday dinner of home made Bacon and Gruyere Quiche and watch the new episode of Doctor Who in a couple of hours.

Saturday Layout Working Party

Well that was a productive Saturday afternoon and evening. The layout room cleanup this week paid off nicely. Four friends joined me, Mark, Dan, Trevor and James. This was great as Mark and James had never seen the layout room, so it was their introduction, while Dan and Trevor (See Trevor’s post on the day here) have been regular visitors and helpers in construction. It also proved that the biggest number of guests that can reasonably be accommodated is 3! Five people in the room with the layout and tools going is too many to manoeuvre at times.

Mark, Trevor and Dan working, and a sort of group shot of Mark, Dan, James and the back of my head discussing what we are doing!

We started the day by starting to make the wiring connections from the individual track feeders to the DCC power bus along the sceniced part of the layout, the connections in staging were previously made. Mark started from one end of the layout, and Trevor from the other. Dan was prepping to replace a switch throw bar that we broke on our big tracklaying day last year, and I was learning and asking lots of questions of Trevor and Mark to understand their slightly different, but equally effective techniques for making the connections from the track feeders to the bus wire. I now know two different techniques for it, and can work on finishing the job myself in the coming weeks.

Splitting the bus wire, in this case 14 gauge speaker wire, and then connecting the track feeders into the bus.

While we were upstairs working, my wife Heather decided to bake some cookies for us. Last week after baking some cookies for herself and for me to bring to a friends layout operating session, she announced that she was taking a break from baking after the holidays and doing a lot of it. I’m happy that break only lasted a week! If you like good food, you should check out her blog, its in the sidebar and linked here!

IMG_1184Gandalf was not having it, too many train guys in his house. It stressed him out so he retired to the sofa downstairs to recover.

With the bus wiring started, and my understanding growing as how it is done to make good connections, we moved onto the final bit complex trackwork, the series of crossovers to access the peninsula on my layout. This area reflects the trackage from Liberty Street onto the spurs on/along Pardee Avenue. This is complicated trackage, as there are two spurs accessed from one direction, and one coming the opposite way, it means there are two crossings in close proximity, and all of this needed to be aligned so that the curves were navigable, and the crossovers didn’t sit on the split where the peninsula starts as it is designed to be swung away, and I don’t want this area to be any more unreliable than the risks movable benchwork already creates by the fact its designed to be moved.

Dan working on adjusting the switches and getting the trackage off of them installed. I’m honestly not sure what Trevor is doing other than proving you cannot fit in my layout room while standing on a three step ladder (the higher ceiling area is the skylight vault in the middle of the room).

After a few hours of hard work wiring and figuring out the final track geometry, it was time for some dinner (the least I can do is feed my friends to thank them for helping build my layout, it isn’t nearly enough, but its a start!). I ordered a couple of pizzas from our local place here in Etobicoke, Milano’s Pizza, and despite the consensus from my friends that Pineapple has a place on pizza (pro tip, it does not), we never the less ordered a Hawaiian pizza for the crew along with a more traditional one and some mozzarella sticks. After a relaxing dinner break, Mark headed for home before the roads turned to ice (Toronto set a January rainfall record while we worked, better than a snowfall record I guess since people travelled from across the City to get here), while Dan, Trevor and I headed back upstairs to finish the trackwork they had started.

After dinner Dan and Trevor figure out how to complete the “baby Bat’leth” of trackage onto the peninsula, building it in place to get the curves right.

We got the track alignment and curvatures sorted out eventually. We wound up using a pair of the four-tie long “Gapmasters” from American Tie and Timber that I bought for each of the crossings to hold the trackage in place. We figured that would give better support since the tracks cross the gap at an angle for when I make the cuts to allow the peninsula to be swung into its stored position.

IMG_1203Dan and myself working on the last crossing of the peninsula. The heritage brick is doing yeoman’s work at holding track down while the Alex Caulk dries.

With that, tracklaying is almost done. After the gang got packed up, I spent a bit of time cleaning up the room of little bits of wire cover and sawdust so Gandalf wouldn’t get at it, and started to plan out my next steps. There is a bit of soldering cleanup on some of the bus connections that were started and not finished, and a real chance that I can finish track laying this afternoon (after a nice lazy morning watching proper football and drinking tea. Trains can happen during with the NFL games as background later). There is one switch and three sidings on the peninsula to go, then my final piece gap between the two ends of the layout.

IMG_1204End of the day, the peninsula looking mighty fine and progressing towards completion.

Preparing for a Weekend Work Session

Working on the layout, its something that I try to spend at least a few minutes on every day, even if its just sitting here at my computer thinking about next steps. That said, I wouldn’t be where I am without having had two big multiple person work parties (here and here). I had one in each of 2018 and 2019. I’d like to have 3 or 4 in 2020 depending on need, so I’m getting the year started early and having one this coming weekend. Depending on how much we advance, I may not need big work parties after the track and wiring are complete, as then I will be starting test operations and scenery, but that’s getting ahead of myself!

Tonight, I was cleaning the layout room and getting organized. Nothing like cleaning a room when you know you are inevitably going to make a mess on Saturday! Assuming the weather forecast doesn’t get worse than it already is, I should have four friends joining me to work on a variety of track laying, track repair/adjustment and wiring tasks.

IMG_1169The peninsula, now with my printed survey removed and almost ready for track laying to commence.

By cleaning, I don’t really mean dusting and polishing, I mean getting stuff off the layout and workbench where it seems to inevitably pile up while I’m working so we can see what we are going to do on the weekend. Big goals are to start connecting the track feeders to the DCC bus, and to finish the crossings of the peninsula. This is just fiddly enough trackage that I can’t bend/adjust align it myself, I need at least one, and probably two other sets of hands. I’ll have that for the weekend.

Something new to try for the gaps, etched ties to solder onto the rail to hold it, then cut through everything for the gaps, and an overhead view of the three tracks that cross the peninsula gap.

In the never-ending effort to get better and do things better, it was suggested that I look for pre-etched strips of ties to solder to the track and hold everything in place for crossing gaps. I found some at the recommendation of another modeller from the American Tie and Timber Company, called the Gapmaster. If these work on the peninsula, I am considering going back and re-doing the track onto the CPR staging, there is a slight misalignment somewhere. A guard rail/check rail on the inside of the curve at the traverser would probably fix this, but installing that onto the existing ties would be difficult, replacing some ties at the crossing with this, and other select ties with PCB ties would potentially be an easy path to resolve the alignment issues. We shall see.

In any event, the layout room is now mostly set up. Need to pull out the power drill, Dremel and hand vacuum chargers tomorrow night to make sure all the cordless tools are fully charged and ready to go, then it will be showtime on Saturday afternoon. Clearly to be continued!!