Layout construction progress - CN 50s-70s

Mike VE2TRV Aug 4, 2017

  1. Mike VE2TRV

    Mike VE2TRV TrainBoard Member

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    A few weeks ago, I finally decided to start building my layout - instead of planning it and drawing up track plans and starting over. I had three straight weeks of vacation time, so I jumped in with both feet and started building.

    In the modeling accomplishments thread for this week, I posted a first photo of my mess/construction site:


    Trains have run! So it's functional.

    Benchwork is two 2x5 foot folding tables with three 2x4 foot MDF panels bolted on each, and connected together with a 1x4 foot presswood board that can be unbolted to separate the two 4x6 foot halves. The legs can be folded up for easy egress from the spare bedroom in my apartment. Over the whole shebang are panels of 2.5 inch thick foam insulation to raise the surface a tad and to dampen the noisier engines of the roster (like old blue-box Athearns that sound like epileptic coffee grinders).

    After a bit of deshambleizing, and some more progress during the week, it now looks like this:


    The small yard is set and won't change much save for structures:


    Get an urge to nibble something during the day and have a brilliant modeling idea? How about an apple corer to bore wiring conduits in the foam base?


    Finally, a couple of big bruisers to test the viability (and derailability) of the track. So far the Athearn SD40-2 (left) and Kato SD45 (right) have found two kinks that needed rework:


    The fun continues...
     
  2. Ed Slanina

    Ed Slanina TrainBoard Member

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    Looking good, I like the apple corer idea.
     
  3. cocotrain2

    cocotrain2 TrainBoard Member

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    Good job.
     
  4. Hardcoaler

    Hardcoaler TrainBoard Member

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    Great work Mike! I'm inspired by your photographs. I'm still in the track plan doodling stage, thinking of a replacement for my 30 year old N Scale Delaware, Susquehanna & Northern.
     
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  5. Mike VE2TRV

    Mike VE2TRV TrainBoard Member

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    Do like me - freestyle it! Just make a checklist of what you want, decide what it will be sitting on, and start laying track. It will all come by itself. It's the best fun I've had in a long time. And i've never felt better at the end of vacation time as this year.
     
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  6. Hardcoaler

    Hardcoaler TrainBoard Member

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    I need to build the table first and I've decided on an 'L' shaped layout made of Hollow Core Doors cut to specific lengths to fit in the space of my existing pike. The existing railroad will be demolished. I want to have the legs on casters so that I can pull it away from the wall and everything has to look nice. I sometimes mess around with woodworking, so I'll enjoy the precision of table construction. My layout room is pretty cramped, so I have to work around things.

    I agree with you completely on the freestyle building aspect. I'm a planner at heart, but you're right that it's difficult to cover every aspect of layout construction ahead of time.
     
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  7. BoxcabE50

    BoxcabE50 Staff Member TrainBoard Supporter

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    Too true. Despite thorough planning on paper, I have seen too many instances of actual construction not coming together as that drawing predicted.
     
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  8. Mike VE2TRV

    Mike VE2TRV TrainBoard Member

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    That's why I've dispensed entirely with the paper, physical or electronic (I've removed all old track plan files from my computer). It's been too long in the planning phase and it was time to lay down some track, and let chips - or ties - fall where they may.

    Now everything is set - all the track is glued down and I have attained what I wanted: a functional layout where I can run trains while I finish the rest of the construction.

    Here is the current state, annotated with my structure/scenery plan, which is about 80% sure at this point:


    The next phase will be mostly electrical, isolating each functional section and supplying their wiring, and adding more feed points to the main line to ensure power is delivered even if some rail-to-rail connections fail.

    I bought more ballast today, in preparation for that phase, and a Walthers Cornerstone diesel fueling station. I've found that the area occupied by the as-is kit is too large for the available space at the engine servicing facility, so I added some length to the engine shed tracks and backed up the shed itself - the lead-in to the stalls is now longer than before. I will adapt the fuel station kit to the extra available space, cutting and splicing here and there to make it fit neatly between the two engine service tracks, and even recycling some parts inside the engine shed.

    I have made several runs with different locos and a short train behind it, and I'm confident that nothing will derail unless something stupid is done, like leave a turnout in the wrong position. I also like the way this layout can expose weaknesses in couplers and other rolling stock parts. There is one engine that consistently uncouples its train on the main in the right foreground area.

    I just had an idea - as I was typing this, of buying a cheap dollar-store apple corer and attaching it to a long rod that I can use on my cordless drill.
    Think scale tunnel boring machine. I can then carry wiring right to the end "customer", be it a structure or a track. Hydro-Mike, maybe?:cool:

    (if I start sending 1:87 scale electric bills to my model customers, I'll check into the padded suite at the Looniday Inn :confused: ).

    All this strictly follows my rule #1 - having boxcar-loads of fun.:)
     
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  9. cocotrain2

    cocotrain2 TrainBoard Member

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    That's all that matters really ' Having fun. Good job.
     
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  10. Mike VE2TRV

    Mike VE2TRV TrainBoard Member

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    Update on uncoupling problem - two more locos exhibit the same problem in the same spots (of note is that an Athearn F7B doesn't derail anywhere).

    What seems to be a common suspect is the absence of that *bleep-bleep* coupler spring...:mad:

    I ran a switcher over the spurs and yard and no trouble yet.

    I marked spots where I'll cut the rails for isolating the various sections and to enable disassembling the layout into two 4x6 sections.
     
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  11. Mike VE2TRV

    Mike VE2TRV TrainBoard Member

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    Wiring the layout begins...


    Soldered wires to the ends of the yard, engine house and storage tracks (6 in all), dug trenches in the foam base to run the wires out and made a nice clean harness with cable ties to run off the edge of the layout - applying work techniques to home fun.

    Unlike the track plan, the wiring schematic is not the result of inspiration, but of careful planning. I do electronics for a living, and good wiring can make the difference between a good product and a lemon. I've done the diagrams for the two power control panels that will switch tracks in or out of the circuit, and determined the number and type of toggle switches needed.

    The next phase will see the same wiring job applied to the branch line and the industry and city spurs.

    In the end, the main will be controlled by one power pack, the yard on another, and the branch line and spurs on a third one. I will be able to switch the branch/spurs between their own power supply and the yard's, to be able to send a short local over, pause it, switch over to the #3 supply, and do whatever locals do.
     
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  12. Mike VE2TRV

    Mike VE2TRV TrainBoard Member

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    More wiring:


    I encountered a short when firing up the power pack for the first time after wiring this. Eventually, it was one of the cut ends of the wires that had a tiny strand shorting out the two poles. Best solution was to separate the two conductors.

    I went out yesterday and bought a gaggle of toggle switches and a pair of project boxes to house the isolation and distribution controls. One will control the yard, and the other will control the branch line and spurs. The main line will be directly wired to its own power supply. Unfortunately, I got the wrong toggles for the isolation circuits - they're momentary lever switches (spring back to rest position after release) instead of true toggle (on/off) switches. At a buck apiece, they're not a problem and will remain in my stockpile for any future electronic projects. I'll get the right ones later today or some time this week.

    I've started adapting the Walthers Cornerstone diesel fueling station to the available space in front of my engine shed. While I do that, I'll have my brain ponder what the next step will be with wiring and the rest.
     
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  13. Mike VE2TRV

    Mike VE2TRV TrainBoard Member

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    I've started building the control boxes which will house the toggle switches that connect/isolate the yard tracks, spurs etc. Drilling is complete for the front panels and the toggles are installed. Next up is wiring that up and the external connections to hook up to my wiring harnesses.

    Other than that not much since this week the landlord started replacing all the windows in the building (it was supposed to be September) and basically everything non-essential is on hold until they finish.
     
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  14. Hardcoaler

    Hardcoaler TrainBoard Member

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    Looking forward to seeing your controls Mike.
     
  15. Mike VE2TRV

    Mike VE2TRV TrainBoard Member

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    My windows were to be replaced tomorrow but because of heavy rain (15-25 mm, or up to an inch) it's put off until Monday. So the hold is held, but I will get into the internal wiring of my control boxes.

    They're housed in project boxes I found at the electronics surplus for $8 apiece, a pleasant surprise, and they're just the right size. The toggles are 99 cents apiece, plus some terminal strips, so the entire kit and kaboodle will cost me under $35. The cheap old bugger in me likes that.:)

    I'll take and post photos of the boxes as I progress.
     
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  16. Mike VE2TRV

    Mike VE2TRV TrainBoard Member

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    Finished my two control boxes:

    For the yard and main line siding:


    Fpr the branchline and spurs:


    The second one allows switching power from the local power pack to the one that powers the yard, useful for transferring between the yard and the city and industrial spurs.

    Typical internal wiring:


    Rear connections:


    They're tested with a multimeter to confirm the connections are correct and that there are no shorts.
     
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  17. Jovet

    Jovet New Member

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    Very nice work. I've always been partial to pass-through terminal blocks for things like that, but I have difficulty finding them.
     
  18. Hardcoaler

    Hardcoaler TrainBoard Member

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    Nice work indeed Mike. Are your terminal strips the "European" type that I read about?

    The cool thing about controls such as yours are that if you ever expand or change up the railroad, you can replace the box instead of having to tear up a fixed panel. I plan to follow a control design similar to yours, though your professional skills I can't hope to replicate. :)
     
  19. Mike VE2TRV

    Mike VE2TRV TrainBoard Member

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    Thanks to both of you.:)

    I don't know if they're "European" but they're flexible, cuttable, and can take decent-sized wires. I particularly appreciate the mounting holes between the individual contacts.

    The screw-terminal pass-through type makes it easy to diagnose electrical problems on a section of track by simply taking the section physically out of the circuit. I have a spare power pack that I attached alligator clip wires to the terminals and can use it to separately power the offending track section until I find the source of the fault.

    Indeed, modifying or upgrading the layout is simpler and way cheaper - at $8 a pop, those project boxes don't hurt the wallet one bit, and those toggles and terminal strips are reusable.

    My professional skills come in handy as I work in a company that manufactures test instruments for electrical utilities (I've assembled well over 100 units myself in the 18+ years I've worked for them, and had a hand in designing some of the circuit boards). I've applied most of our assembly rules to this project, particularly wiring - good quality wiring not only looks good, but avoids a lot of problems down the line.

    Now that these control boxes are complete, I can start attaching the individual track wires and then make my Dremel earn its keep by cutting the rails at the planned locations. Then I'll run a few electrical tests to make sure ol' Murphy didn't get involved in the process, and finally start on making the layout not only run good, but look good.:cool:
     
  20. Hardcoaler

    Hardcoaler TrainBoard Member

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    Rules to profit by for sure. I enjoy wiring too and although it can't be seen, well-executed wiring pays large dividends in reliability and in speedier troubleshooting. I'm sitting here thinking of the railroads I built as a kid using scrap snippets phone wire, speaker wire and lamp cord, all held together with twisted ends and electrical tape!
     

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