Sputtering start to a new layout

Stephane Savard May 24, 2018

  1. Stephane Savard

    Stephane Savard TrainBoard Member

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    Small steps, I work on the layout a bit here, a bit there!

    I started gluing down the track in the yard. I usually start by pinning down the track exactly where I want it, and then use a permanent marker (i.e. the sharpie) to mark a few spots around the turnout. Mostly, I use it to mark where to stay away with glue. It's slow going, I only glue down two or three parts a day, but so far everything fits nicely, and I like taking my time. I also started installing the ground throws. They aren't permanently attached yet, just using pins.

    The tricky bit was that some of my ground throws must be installed further away from their ideal position as there isn't any place between the tracks. I mentioned the other day I wanted to use push rods...

    IMG_20180913_201621100.JPG

    This is the push-rod. It's just a brass rod inside a brass tube. Nothing fancy. I used a Dremel to carve a small trench in the cork. Eventually it will be covered by ballast. Also, you can see the sharpie dots I marked around the turnout's fiddly bit - guides telling me not to apply glue any closer to prevent gumming up the mechanism.

    In the following picture everything is pinned in place before gluing, and testing that the ground throws works correctly (they do).

    IMG_20180913_202649302.JPG

    One thing to note... the caboose industries ground throws have a large assortment of different bits and pieces for connecting to various manufacturer turnouts. Surprise! they don't provide one to connect to a random brass rod. Well, they do, but the hole is much too large for my purpose. I guess I could have flipped the assembly around and used that little hole at the end, but I didn't want the turnout to look different than it's neighbor. The solution to that was to make my own little connector using the one shown below:

    IMG_20180913_183659400.JPG

    I took the blade connector, snipped off the blade bit, and added a hole, resulting in this:

    IMG_20180913_184411787.JPG

    Now my ground throws look alike.

    That's it for now, next update will likely be when I finish assembling the yard.


    (I finally got my macro lights out for some slightly better photos - however I'm still only using my cellphone for the pictures. Too lazy to get the real photo equipment out, this will have to do!)
     
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  2. Stephane Savard

    Stephane Savard TrainBoard Member

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    A minor update...

    IMG_20180917_221631233.JPG


    I've installed all of the turnouts (13 in all!) in the small yard, glued down and ready to go. I did briefly get worried about accessing the throws at the back of the yard, but after setting up some boxcars in front of the throws, I found that access wasn't an issue. Also nice to see that I could push the boxcar throughout all the turnouts without any issues.

    Next up, gluing down the ground throws to the cork, trimming the cork around the ground throws, and then cutting and installing the straight sections of flex track.
     
  3. Mr. Trainiac

    Mr. Trainiac TrainBoard Member

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    I'm a little late, but this month's Model Railroader had an article on remote-location ground throws with the push rod thing that you are doing. If you don't already read the magazine, it may be a cool article to check out.
     
  4. Stephane Savard

    Stephane Savard TrainBoard Member

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    Might have been neat to see that article, but I'm not a subscriber. After you mentioned it I did go to the website and see the one picture and article description.

    Its a really nice idea having the ground throws far off on the edge with
    stand-ins in the actual yard, but I don't mind the scale mismatch. I like that I can move a little lever that looks like a ground throw inside the yard. My rail world doesn't need to be perfect, I just need to like and enjoy it.
     
  5. nd-rails

    nd-rails TrainBoard Member

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    Stephane,
    has to be said and surprised more emphasis hasn't been given, but turnouts in a tunnel- fatal mistake!
    Knowing how track cleaning, rolling variation and point picking can and will occur as problems, access to nearly hidden or covered turnouts is asking for trouble.
    Scenic block the staging by all means, but try and avoid covering, FWIW
    dave
     
  6. Stephane Savard

    Stephane Savard TrainBoard Member

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    Technically the rails and the turnouts at the back won't really be in a tunnel since I want the whole length of the back open. That opening is planned to be at least four inches tall, maybe more if I slope the "roof" in making the cliffs that cover these tracks. That's the "plan" anyway and I hope it works! Backup idea is to make the cliffs and hills covering that area removable, which is what I'd like to do to access some of the tunnels on the left side of the layout. Thanks for pointing it out though, and just making a scenic block might end up looking better and easier to do. I'll have to look at this more closely soon!
     
  7. in2tech

    in2tech TrainBoard Member

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    Nice work, really enjoying following your progress.

    Sent from my SM-G550T using Tapatalk
     
  8. nd-rails

    nd-rails TrainBoard Member

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    Nice big (tall) chunk of scenicked polystyrene can sit by itself and when well covered, and the flat 'join' area connects with an array of bushes and other disguising features, would be most useful IMHO,
    d
     
  9. Stephane Savard

    Stephane Savard TrainBoard Member

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    Time for yet another update.

    All the ground throws are now glued in place...

    IMG_20180923_114008946.JPG

    I roughened the bottom of the stands with sandpaper and used the same latex caulk (DAP Alex Plus) used on the track. Two tiny screws finish job. The next day I tested each of the ground throws, and everything is working nicely!

    For the yard tracks, I wanted to make sure the tracks were truely parallel to each other, the spacing constant. I made myself a silly little tool for this...

    IMG_20180927_211732735.JPG

    ...nothing more than a bamboo skewer with small notches cut into it. I just lay the caulk down along the center-line I draw on the cork, put down the track, and then run the track spacer down the track, pinning down the rails as I go. I have to say it's not my really my idea, I got it from Kato. Ever notice that the blue rerailer tool has notches on it's side? I figured out that those notches are exactly the correct spacing for Kato unitrack. I was going to get all fancy and notch some plastic part or something, but then just went with the bamboo skewers!

    Here's an overall look of my progress...

    IMG_20180927_212120694.JPG

    Yes, it appears that I'm moving at a glacial pace, I'm sorry for anyone wishing for more updates!

    Quick question though.. why does atlas flextrack have a few ties spaced differently? The gaps appear very regularly along the length of the track. Is it for soldering wires? They'll be rather convenient later on since those will be the places where I drill through the workbench to install the electrical leads (and my extra long 1/8" drill bit fits perfectly in the gap).
     
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  10. Mr. Trainiac

    Mr. Trainiac TrainBoard Member

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    I don’t know about the Atlas tie gaps. The HO version doesn’t have that. In your picture you have that short straight track that is not installed between the two turnouts. I see a gap in the ties about 1/3 of the way from the right. Is that what you mean? If so, that is pretty unusual. I have never seen that before. If you don’t like it, you may be able to slip a “dummy tie” underneath the rails once the track is glued down. It might help bridge the gap for locations without feeder wires.
     
  11. Stephane Savard

    Stephane Savard TrainBoard Member

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    Yes, that's the gap. It doesn't bother me, but every flex track piece I have has the same gaps at the same locations. I was just wondering whether these gaps had a purpose.
     
  12. Stephane Savard

    Stephane Savard TrainBoard Member

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    I was really dreading this next part. I've made historic messes in the past attempting this. Soldering.

    IMG_20181001_195622279.JPG

    Not this time!! I finally got it!

    The video that helped me the most is by far Luke Towan's on youtube. I really love his series of videos on building dioramas and it worked absolutely great. I usually stream youtube to the large TV in the living room to watch those videos.

    Roughly...

    1. Drill 1/8" holes on each side of the track, between the ties.
    2. Strip the wire (20 AWG, stranded), apply a bit of flux to the end, the heating iron (25W) and then let some 60/40 solder flow into the strands.
    3. Bend the tip of the tinned wire 90 degrees, snip off any excess.
    4. Flux the side of the rail(I use a toothpick for this), apply the tip of the iron to it, and tin it with a drop of solder.
    5. Thread the wire into the hole and position the 90 degree bend of the wire against the side of the rail.
    6. Clean the tip of the iron, melt a tiny bit of solder on it, and touch the iron to the wire/rail joint. Done!

    I've heard some say that we should solder track leads to every piece of rail, others only every few feet. Honestly, I'm not really sure what's best, but I've decided that I will solder leads to every piece of flex track (well, the ones longer than six inches at least), and not touch any of the turnouts. I figure this should be enough. So, what does this look like in my yard? The following photo marks all the places I added a lead.

    IMG_20181001_194749194.JPG

    And under the table?

    IMG_20181001_194832705.JPG

    The leads are too long for now, but the next job will be trimming crimping on forked terminals and connecting to screw terminals. At which point, I want to connect a temporary bus from the terminal to the NCE power panel and try running a locomotive in this yard!


    On another note, a second round of surgery coming up next week, so I will be away from working on the layout for a few weeks.
     
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  13. in2tech

    in2tech TrainBoard Member

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    Really nice clean work. Can't wait to see when you have all the track put down. Mind taking an overall picture once in awhile so I can get my bearing :) You must be into wood working and being very careful as it looks great to me at least. Very professional and clean to me! Can't wait to see another update! Also good luck with the surgery! Although I can be OCD I have very little patience :) Apparently not you!
     
  14. NScaleKen

    NScaleKen Permanently dispatched

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    so orderly, makes my layout look like a bird was trying to build a nest :p

    Hope the surgery goes well, fingers crossed for you
     
  15. Stephane Savard

    Stephane Savard TrainBoard Member

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    Thank you for all the kind words! I've seen "clean" installation pictures online, and my layout doesn't seem to come close really! As for the woodwork, it's the first time working on any large furniture, but I do have some experience wood working on smaller projects (i.e. radio controlled airplanes made of balsa :) )

    For you in2tech, I did clean the space up a bit and took an overall picture of the layout, though there isn't much to see except a mess of tools!

    IMG_20181007_194152459.JPG

    Normally the white cabinet is located under the table, but now it's just an extra table. It's actually an old sewing machine table that I converted into a storage unit.

    Since my last update, not much has happened in terms of progress. Turns out I disliked the quality of the wires I used for the track leads, so most of the time was spent desoldering the old leads and installing better quality wires in their place. It was time consuming, but surprisingly easy.

    Next was setting up barrier strips under the table, and making countless jumper cables...

    IMG_20181007_194404992.JPG

    For orientation, the front of the layout is actually the top of the picture. The blue/white wire coming in from the left is connected to my NCE powercab. I currently have it only connected to the one track lead, but tomorrow I should have enough time to connect up the remaining two barrier strip sets.

    Even though I only have the one track lead connected, I couldn't help myself and I ran one of my SD40-2w locomotives throughout the yard. I was able to get it running at slow speed throughout all the yard tracks and every turnout, but the locomotive keeps stalling when trying to move from the yard onto the main track, just about here...

    IMG_20181007_195026605.JPG

    The yard is made up of #4 turnouts, except for the main line crossovers, and strangely enough, this is the point where the problem occurs...

    problem areas.png

    I was a bit worried about selecting the #4 turnouts, but in the end, it's the #6 turnouts giving me a problem! It looks like the problem is when the locomotive is running at slow speed. Both trucks may be spaced just right to hit both frogs at the same time.

    Anyway, I'll continue hooking up the wires, and we'll see if the problem persists once I start installing more main line - but that will be after I recover from surgery.
     
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  16. Stephane Savard

    Stephane Savard TrainBoard Member

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    I finished connecting all the track leads this morning. I then tried running the locomotives again and I'm getting a lot of problems. Maybe someone on here will have some advice for me...

    First, the locomotive is hitting some dead spots throughout the yard. In the following video, you can hear the sound cutting out and the SD40-2 jerking at a few spots (00:12, 0:22, 0:27, 0:42, 1:07, 1:10, etc...) then stops dead when moving through the crossover (two #6 turnouts) at timestamp 1:49.



    I have noticed that if I run faster through the yard, I get fewer cutouts, and I can actually get the loco to cross the #6 turnouts when moving at speed 30 (the video shows the loco running at speed step 10 of 126). Also, running through the track does not necessarily cutout always at the same spots. I can even get it running from one end to the other without a single cutout, but only rarely at this speed.

    I did try cleaning the locomotive's wheels (I have a Roto Wheel Cleaner by Woodland Scenics), but it made no difference. Unofrtunately I don't have any track cleaning pads or erasers or anything yet. That will need to be a new purchase next time I pass by the hobby shop.

    Sorry for the quality of the video.. it's my cellphone and the first video I upload.. ever :)
     
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  17. in2tech

    in2tech TrainBoard Member

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    Thanks for the overall photo of the layout. I really like those kind's of photo's and most people don't take them. Please take a few during your construction. One thing I noticed though, very nice bench work, extremely clean wiring ( you even did it over ), track plan's on the layout, cabinet's for storage and all appear to be same color, and to top it off a vacuum cleaner :) Yes it's official your are also OCD. I mean this in a very nice way!

    I can't help you with the locomotive running problem's, but I am sure someone will!

    Best of luck and continue with the updates when you can! Also extremely smart to test your layout as you go along. It's easy to trouble shoot as you only have the yard done, so you KNOW it is the yard causing problems! For now. When you complete it and have a short or something, that's a different issue :) As always can't wait to see the next update, and your video was really, really good quality! Keep up the great work!

    First Subscriber to your YouTube channel :) I wish you had comment's turned on, but it's up to you! Hope to see more video's of your layout during the construction and after. Don't forget to add an overall video shot once in awhile too :)
     
  18. drbnc

    drbnc TrainBoard Member

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    Do you have a non-sound DCC Kato or Atlas 6-axle unit to try? Those IM's are picky about the smallest bit of oxidation, especially on their wipers.
     
  19. Stephane Savard

    Stephane Savard TrainBoard Member

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    In2tech: yes! I'm likely doing twice the work I really need, but that's just the way I do stuff. The white storage is just happy coincidence, I happened to have those units handy, and instead of throwing them out, I decided to use them. As for YouTube comments, I'm not planning to keep updating a channel. The video is unlisted and only linked here. I may do more videos of the layout's progress later, I'll see.

    Drdnc: in the background of the video is a Kato es44ac, DCC non sound. I have exactly the same problems with that locomotive. In fact, possibly even worse through the #6 turnouts since it is longer than the sd40s. I just used the sd40 for the video since it's easier to show the problem with sound.

    (Edit: the sd40-2w locomotives are also six axle)
     
  20. drbnc

    drbnc TrainBoard Member

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    Interesting. Rub a pencil eraser on the track, that's better than sandpaper. And catch the inside of the rails as well. Then hit with isopropyl alcohol to clean-up any "stuff". Rub your finger across the rails, feel for any spots that are not smooth (excluding joints, of course).
     

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