New Layout, name TBD

Atani Dec 16, 2018

  1. Atani

    Atani TrainBoard Member

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    @Shdwdrgn suggested that I should post a build thread for my new layout. I tore down my old layout (photos) in August 2017 (one picture of the teardown is in the album) to make room for a home gym. Since then I have been working with a section of Unitrack for the development of DCC++ESP32 and doing a lot of sketching of track plans to fit into the area I was dedicating to the layout while still retaining some space for my office.

    I started with a bit of inspiration from a track plan I found online but it was too big for the area I wanted to build in so I went to drawing up the plan below (at least what is done so far on the main level and even that will very likely change somewhat as I build). After about two months I had a plan that should fit the area so I built a mock-up using some scraps of wood from the old layout so I could visualize of the footprint of the layout in the space I wanted to use. After finding that the layout would work with a few minor tweaks I tore that down and went back to the track planning, at least for one level.

    The plan doesn't have a specific era or line as I couldn't decide on one yet. I'll be running a mix of various locos etc until I repaint them for the fictional line. The two primary loads will be coal and lumber with a mix in of passenger and general freight services to add some variety.

    About two weeks ago I started building the basic benchwork for the staging tracks and the "main" level with plans for the "top" level to be worked on during some downtime. So here is the trackplan so far:

    Staging level:
    IMG_20181216_102042.jpg
    This level is at 30" off the floor, coming in from the top left is a double track helix coming down from the Main level to likely a 5 or 6 track staging yard with a return loop (more on this as part of the Main level description below).

    Main level:
    IMG_20181216_080106.jpg
    This level will be at 44" off the floor and will be split into two areas using the helix in for the staging level as a transition between the areas. Each end of the areas will have a helix to go up to the top level. I haven't settled on the "online" yard in the lower area but will have some sort of engine serving facility with a coal mine at the end by the helix. The other half will have a couple coal mines and a TBD industry before heading to the helix to the top level.

    Top level:
    IMG_20181216_080116.jpg
    This level will be at 60" off the floor. So far I have only planned a power plant that will receive coal loads as you enter the room with a backdrop separating it from rest of the top level, on the other side of that will be another TBD industry and a couple towns, sawmill and who knows what else yet :)

    Each level will be broken down into segments for detection and power districts, with the helixes each being their own district as I have a number of L298 boards to work with as well as a few other motor shields to use. The current plan is to have the DCC++ESP32 base station setup under the helix coming out of staging as a central point and relatively short buses running along the three levels.

    I have a few more pictures on Google Photos here and will add more to this thread and there as I make progress on the staging area which so far just has cork down and the center line for the return loop drawn on the cork. I still need to add a small support section near the return loop so I can connect it to a track along the front edge of the staging level.

    I also have the first 1 1/2 turns of the helix cut and glued with the first half turn in place so I can start laying track in/out of staging before moving higher up. With the Christmas week off from work I'll be spending the dry days outside with the saw to cut more sections of the helix so I can reach the Main level. I'll be laying track on the Main level sometime in January likely.

    But for now it is time to work on the staging level as I'll be setting up for detection on each track and the return loop, servos as switch machines, and detection on each level/track in the helix coming up to the Main level. All run from Arduino Pro Minis connected to the DCC bus and an S88 bus for feedback to the DCC++ESP32 base station. I'll also be adding a series of Nextion interfaces along the fascia to display track schematic and signal replicas. At some point I'll also have WiFi throttles for operations as well :)
     
  2. Atani

    Atani TrainBoard Member

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    Experimenting with the staging yard this weekend. I have the outer return loop mostly ready to put down but working on placement of switches and staging tracks between the outer tracks. With the current setup I should get ~30ft of staging tracks which should be enough for now. I am not sure it will be enough for ever but it will be plenty to get started.

    An overhead view:
    IMG_20181223_085757.jpg IMG_20181223_085801.jpg

    I opted for stub yards rather than double ended in this mockup. I tried double ended but didn't care for how it was looking and the much shorter tracks wouldn't hold the longer trains I'll be running at times. As a quick mock up with cars I put a few down (still in boxes so it is very rough):
    IMG_20181223_085859.jpg IMG_20181223_085907.jpg IMG_20181223_085913.jpg
    I'm missing one road number for these Tobaco Valley spine cars as the hobby shop didn't have it in stock that day (oh well, still plenty to work with). So, just using these I should be able to easily store most of the rolling stock in a variety of ways without having problems. The only downside is going to be re-staging will need to be done as backing into the tracks likely, but that shouldn't be too bad overall.

    Now with the track plan figured out for staging it is time to lay a bit more cork at the other end of the staging as it enters the helix (1/2 turn is secured in place and just needs cork and track before the next section goes in). From my rough calculations I should end up needing about 5 1/2 turns to go up the ~14" to the main deck from staging. Next week this will all get cut, soldered and glued down with detection servos for the switches. A couple Arduino Pro Minis as decoders for the switches and one for detection likely. Should be some fun :)

    I'll also be placing an order for more track as I'll use most of my supply in staging and the helix to exit staging. I'll be placing an order online soon for that, another case of track or two and then the main deck should be good to go once I get some masonite cut up into strips for splines (I have plenty, just need to cut it)
     
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  3. Atani

    Atani TrainBoard Member

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    The Christmas week was rather productive for me. I was able to sort out the staging level tracks and get half of them glued down and yesterday ripped up three sections of track as I didn't realize I had a few pieces of Atlas flex track mixed in with my Micro Engineering track (they are different lengths and flex differently, those should have been a clue!). So with those tracks ripped up and new ones placed down yesterday and today I can say that half of the staging deck is complete and I need to start working on the DCC bus and connecting the feeders to it.

    Here is a shot looking across the staging from return loop end:
    IMG_20190103_074927.jpg
    I've been shuttling across the tracks a pair of the spine cars just to test trackwork and making sure things will operate smoothly before I move to the next phase.

    Up next will be to stretch out the DCC, 12V and 5V bus wires along the back side of the layout and then attaching the various feeders before moving back over to the helix to the main deck after I pick up more insulated rail joiners and track.
     
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  4. Hardcoaler

    Hardcoaler TrainBoard Member

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    The layout is looking good! Testing trackwork and clearances using fussy cars is often good policy. All of my past N roads have been modest in size, as will be my new one. I never run 86' equipment nor double stacks, but I use these cars for testing, knowing that if these cars are happy with the track, tunnel portals and overhead bridges, all will be beyond suitable for my 50' cars.
     
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  5. Atani

    Atani TrainBoard Member

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    Thanks! I learned from my last layout to test as you go and make sure everything is more or less bulletproof. It saves a lot of headaches in the long run! Since I'll be running wood and coal most of my cars will be shorter varieties but I'll likely throw in some longer cars for variety and through freight.

    I'm also using a double sided plastic guide for getting the track clearances right, I forget what it was called but I picked it up a few years ago for spacing parallel tracks one side is 7/8" and the other 1 5/16" spacing. It certainly makes laying ME track that is mostly straight (that stuff is virtually impossible to get straight!)
     
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  6. in2tech

    in2tech TrainBoard Member

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    Very nice layout and coming along, best of luck!
     
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  7. Atani

    Atani TrainBoard Member

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    Thanks, I got the rest of the feeders connected up last night and got to do my first switching in the staging yard. I have a bit of work to do still before I can move beyond the staging yard though. I need to pull up the switches to add the frog feeders since I forgot to put that in, oops... Thankfully one of my DCC engines (Atlas #49537) only had issues on one switch and that likely was due to the points not being snug against the stock rails. When thrown the loco went through just fine but with the switch lined to straight through the loco stops dead on the frog. So today's task will be pull up the switches enough to quickly solder a feeder to the frog and drill the holes for those. Thankfully that should be easy enough to do as I didn't solder the joiners on the switches so I can simply slide them off to the flex track and pull it up.

    I'll also need to get my servos setup for controlling the points, I have 50 9g servos with 3d printed mounts and a switch that will control the frog polarity based on the servo position. I just need to straighten the piano wire and mount these below the surface and connect them to an arduino stationary decoder (will have two in staging as the switches are on opposite ends).
     
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  8. Atani

    Atani TrainBoard Member

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    It was a busy weekend and last couple days as I'm getting the staging yard finished up and will move on up the helix soon, I need a couple days of dry weather to get outside to cut more segments of the helix wood. But the wet weather has helped me get some electronics sorted out for the staging yard and to get a pile of flex track to use on the main deck :)

    New ME C55 Flex (thanks to @fifer for the extremely fast service as always!):
    IMG_20190109_073538.jpg
    I think I'll have enough for the main deck, this is two cases and a few extras from my last batch that will get used up in staging.

    On the electronics side I've been assembling stationary decoders for the turnout control with servos, the first one:
    IMG_20190109_073621.jpg
    It is complete and tested, the soldering on the back side is rather ugly for the 6N137 but I cleaned it up a bunch after finding a rather annoying short that caused my DCC++ESP32 base station to buzz when connected to the DCC bus. I ended up having a diode reversed (need to pay attention to the line on them more closely) and a stray solder blob bridging an inline resistor on the DCC wires (oops).

    The second DCC decoder for the other end of the staging yard is still in progress but the soldering is being done more carefully this time using a magnification stand with alligator clips to hold the PCB while soldering (such a lifesaver!):
    IMG_20190109_073640.jpg

    Also changed PCB as the green ones seem to have a better success rate for the solder sticking to the pads and not straying to the nearby holes. Still TBD on this one will be the servo pins (will be along the top) and to solder the pins on the arduino in the middle. That will all come together later today possibly.

    But by this weekend I'll have the staging yard completed and ready to install the detectors and get them wired into the bus for reporting back to the DCC++ESP32 base station.

    I'm also considering adding a set of LEDs with a track diagram of the staging yard showing occupancy and switch direction. Thoughts?
     
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  9. Hardcoaler

    Hardcoaler TrainBoard Member

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    Mine will be a DC road (with DCC sometime later) using Kato Unitrack and I'll have two panels with toggles and LEDs, one for turnouts and the other panel for blocks, main layout power, DC/DCC selection, layout lights and reverse loop direction. I thought about doing a track diagram, but in my case it would have taken up too much space. I'll be using plugs for connections to lessen work under the layout and to make disassembly easier when we move to our retirement home some day.
     
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  10. Atani

    Atani TrainBoard Member

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    Makes sense, I'm all DCC at this point so its a bit easier for me I guess.

    Yeah, that is a concern for sure. Especially with the space it would require for various LEDs (strips or individual) to illuminate a diagram. Having a roughly 8ft staging area (excluding the helix footprint) it would make for a rather large diagram even if I compress it down to 1in to the foot.

    Thankfully I'm not planning on moving anytime soon and when I do move I'll just be pulling track/switches/electronics/buildings up and scrap the lumber likely. Then when I find a new place I'll figure out a new layout design likely.
     
  11. in2tech

    in2tech TrainBoard Member

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    Very nice design and work you have already done. It appears you enjoy the building part of a layout.
     
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  12. Atani

    Atani TrainBoard Member

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    Thanks! Yes, the design/build phase is one of the parts I enjoy immensely. Though, I can't wait to get trains running on it fully. At the rate I'm progressing I should have part of the main deck ready to go by early summer.

    I've got most of the staging yard down (5 pieces of flex to lay still) and in the meantime while glue dries I'm working on the turnout decoders and once I find my piano wire I'll get the first three servos wired up for controlling the turnouts in the yard.
     
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  13. Atani

    Atani TrainBoard Member

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    So a little bit of pre-weekend work today... The tracks are now all down in the staging yard!

    IMG_20190111_131419.jpg
    This is looking from the return loop towards the helix, I took this before putting the last track down (was waiting for glue to dry).

    IMG_20190111_131429.jpg
    Looking from about halfway through staging towards the helix end again, without the last piece of track still as the glue is drying on the center most track.

    IMG_20190111_131439.jpg
    A view from the edge of the helix towards the other end of staging. I added more cork between the outer two tracks to not need to cut the staging tracks as that would have cut about 2 1/2 ft off the overall length of staging tracks.

    IMG_20190111_150721.jpg
    The final piece of track is now in and the glue is drying. With this piece in place I now have roughly 35ft of staging tracks but some of that will not be usable due to clearance around the switches.

    The tasks for this weekend, provided I have time, will be:
    • add feeders for the three new staging tracks
    • wire CT coils for detection circuits
    • install staging DCC bus wires
    • cut wood for the helix (still have 1 1/4 turns ready to put in but was waiting for staging track to be in and complete first)
    • cut a ton of spacers for the helix turns
    • install programming track (low priority)
    • implement LCC on ESP32 (more info on this later)
    With that long list tomorrow is bound to be pretty busy as Sunday is already booked up for the entire day. Next week I'll be traveling for most of the week so no work will be done on the layout during that time so I'm squeezing in what I can now.
     
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