B&M New Hampshire Branch

Jim Wiggin Jul 12, 2019

  1. Jim Wiggin

    Jim Wiggin Staff Member TrainBoard Supporter

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    It's been a long time coming but after years of detailing and painting B&M locomotives, freight cars and buggies (caboose), I'm finally ready to start a layout. This small switching layout is more about a proof of concept as it's design and construction methods will be used for future layouts that are in the design stage. The Galesburg City Job, another N scale layout I designed in 2013 will be slowly morphing into a home layout and will use a lot of the same techniques that will be used here. First however, how this all came about.

    Back in 2016, I started an on-line/Facebook community named MidState Prototype Modelers. This was an invite only organization that included modelers from Central Illinois that were interested in Prototype modeling. Scale did not matter, we had a mixture of HO, N and one 2-rail O scale modeler. The emphasis was prototypical modeling and encompassed everything from operations to detailing. We had a few members who were apartment dwellers and did not have room for a layout. The only exposure they had to modeling was the few T-Trak modules they had built. This was great as they could at least run trains, but only on a limited basis at shows. One member quit T-Trak however because he was bored with the concept after running a few operating sessions on my City Job.

    I came up with the idea of a Winter Project to help push the members to build something, and this is how this layout started. The concept was easy. Purchase a 3-foot, 14-inch deep T-Trak module and using Atlas or Micro Engineering Code 55 track, build an Inglenook. In all, three of us built N scale versions, and our resident O scale modeler, built an 8-foot sized Inglenook. The Inglenook concept is nothing new, our friends across the pond have been building them for decades and they tend to be a more prototypical switching game or puzzle. You can read more about Inglenooks by performing a Google search.

    With my Inglenook "finished" I started to add scenery and structures, then realized I had an extra 3 foot module kit. Why not add on? And I did, and this is the beginning of the Milford Branch of the B&M layout as seen here.

    The layout as said earlier, is a proof of concept for future layouts and as such it would include the following:
    • The bench work would be made from T-Trak module kits. I did the math, and the cost of purchasing, cutting and designing each module is higher than those offered commercially. Lets not forget the time factor either. Simply opening up the box and assembling the module out of the provided light weight Baltic Birch was far faster and lighter than anything I could design.
    • The finished "layout" would sit in a wall mounted shadow box. This will allow a finished look that can still be taken down in the event of a move yet still provide items like LED lighting.
    • All track would be code 55 with a definite distinction between the main line and all sidings and spurs. Not all the track would be at the same height.
    • Turnouts would be controlled by Tam Valley's excellent servo control.
    • An emphasis on fine scale laser cut or scratch built structures and details.
    • While technically not modeled after a prototype, the "feeling" of a real time and place would be the goal.
    • Standardized wiring for both a DCC and DC bus line would be established.
    • The layout will be mobile and can be removed from it's shadowbox for easy transport. The shadowbox can then be taken to a show and with the use of legs, be a free standing display with the modules inserted after transport. Once home, the layout complete with shadowbox is set up on the home wall brackets.
    Now a little back story of the layout itself:

    The Boston & Maine New Hampshire Branch
    Set in my home state of New Hampshire, the New Hampshire Branch once connected to the Northern during the time of the woolen mills. Small towns sprang up beside the rivers and rails and with it came industry. Saw mills, textile mills, dairy farms and manufacturing doted the landscape through out the mid to late 19th century and continued into the 20th century. Alas, by the end of WWII, the automobile and truck had made a large impact on the B&M and the branch and by the mid 1960's the line west of this branch was abandoned. Fortunately the small town of Milford, the terminus of the branch, still sees regular freight traffic.

    The town is home to a few large customers on line, such as Steimbeke & Sons Lumbar Which has two spurs that lead into their yard, Blue Seal has been using the old B&M freight house for grain and other agricultural products, a small spur to serve a future customer, Murphy Performance Parts and a team track. While the era is set around 1977 - 1980, not much has changed here. The gas station is pretty much the same as it was when first built in the 1940's and the old colonial houses have survived time really well. Power for the branch is usually a a well worn GP9, still wearing it's Bicentennial nose stripe it received in 1975 in anticipation for the Bicentennial, albeit somewhat faded. You can hear it plying it's way through the New Hampshire over growth, steel wheels screeching on the tight turn east of town, before the sound of the prime mover echos off the stone retaining wall. On any given day, she'll be hauling a few box cars and at least one flat car loaded with lumbar. If the yard master in Manchester has done his job right, the MM-01 (Manchester to Milford train) has placed all the cars bound for Milford, at the front of the train. That means the crew can leave the cars assigned to the eastern end of the line on the siding back in east Manchester. Once they have cut those cars, they pick up their buggy and head west to Milford.

    Now fortunately for the crew, all but one customer has all the spurs facing the same direction. Since Milford is the terminus of this line, the first thing the crew does is to cut the Buggy off from the train, just past old route 3. They'll use the old passenger siding to perform a run around and place the Buggy at the end of the line. From there, all the facing spurs are switched out, then the last customer who faces the opposite is switched and connected to the train sitting on the main. The train now heads back to Nashua yard as MN-02. Sounds simple but, that siding is short! It was designed in the days of Prairie type 4-4-0s and small coaches, not first generation diesels and 50 to 60 foot cars! Also, the crew doesn't want to foul up old Route 3. Sure they re-routed it a few years back, but it's still a heavy truck route. You don't want to be the guy who backs up traffic in Milford! Please keep in mind, because of my modular design, this may be a prototype layout similar to the Galesburg City Job. Time will tell.

    Do I have your attention? I hope so. Let's get started.
     
    Last edited: Mar 23, 2020
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  2. Jim Wiggin

    Jim Wiggin Staff Member TrainBoard Supporter

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    [​IMG]
    Here we have the humble beginnings of what will be the NH Branch of the B&M. This particular kit was purchased by T-Kits which unfortunately is no longer in business. Unfortunately the owner, Terry, passed away last year. Masterpiece Modules however makes exceptional kits like this and are available on-line.
    The image above shows my method of keeping things flush and true while the yellow carpenter glue cures. The module size is 3-feet wide by 14.5 inches deep.


    Track work has started. I'm using Atlas Code 55 along with #5 turnouts and one Y. The mainline is glued down to the cork roadbed and feeders have been soldered to the track and routed underneath.
     
    Last edited: Mar 23, 2020
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  3. Jim Wiggin

    Jim Wiggin Staff Member TrainBoard Supporter

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    In order to make the illusion complete, I needed to place my siding and subsequent spurs in "the weeds". Main lines are built with drainage, ballast and generally have to withstand higher speeds. The spurs are usually laid flat on a graded path to the customer and in the case of the B&M, the only ballast used was cinders and some ballast. The transition I used was a simple piece of balsa commonly used for model airplanes. I cut a 1/16th piece the same width as the cork roadbed and then made a second cut about six inches long. Using a sandpaper T-bar, I carefully sanded a bevel or grade.


    Here we see the finished transition glued down to the module awaiting it's track.


    Completed track for module one or the "Inglenook" end. Under the module, I have a barrier strip on either end. both a DCC and DC bus main run between the barrier strips and connect to track feeders or DC powered items. Each end of the module has a pig tail which uses Anderson Power Pole connectors, just like FreeMo.


    I used Rustoleum Camouflage Brown to lightly spray the track and get rid of the shiney brown and silver. of the track. This makes for a good base for further weathering later. You'll also notice the skirt I had made for the layout, complete with the B&M McGinnis logos embroidered on either end.
     
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  4. Jim Wiggin

    Jim Wiggin Staff Member TrainBoard Supporter

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    Next I wanted to give the modules a finished look so I sanded the fascia down and applied an ebony stain to it. I like the dark black color and it will match nicely with the skirt. Once the stain had dried, I applied a poly clear coat for furniture. This hard finish looks better and holds up better then latex paint. I also built a simple transport box. Both modules, plus a staging area and spot for the freight cars allow me to make one trip from the car to the show.


    And here it is at it's first show. Last summer I was honored to show the beginnings of this layout at the 2018 St. Louis RPM meet. Despite the lack of scenery, I did get many positive remarks. As an operating layout, it has just enough to keep it interesting.
     
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  5. r_i_straw

    r_i_straw Staff Member

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    Cool, I spent three years growing up in Milford from 1962 to 1965. We lived on the west side of town on Highway 101A or Elm Street. The old house is gone now and is some woodworking business. The neighbor's house is a Wendy's. The B&M tracks were on the other side of the highway up the hill a little way but I could still watch trains go by from by brothers bedroom window upstairs. Usually an RS-3 or an F unit in the old Minute Man paint scheme, a few box cars and a caboose. Here is a newspaper article I saw years later about a collision at West Street just east of where we lived.
    [​IMG]
     
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  6. MK

    MK TrainBoard Member

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    Excellent Jim! I like your transport box. I've seen so many different attempts at transporting T-Trak modules, some better than others, and I still have not seen an optimum design (to my standards). Things still get broken off or lost (e.g., fastening bolts, etc.). Yours is getting close! :)
     
  7. Jim Wiggin

    Jim Wiggin Staff Member TrainBoard Supporter

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    Thank you sir, I know it is not perfect but it is evolving. The owner of T-Kits used to make an excellent transport box for the modules but unfortunately this too is no longer available.
     
  8. Hardcoaler

    Hardcoaler TrainBoard Member

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    Really nice workmanship Jim! I can't wait to make some sawdust in my garage.
     
  9. NtheBasement

    NtheBasement TrainBoard Member

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    It looks like good workmanship. I have to say I'm concerned about the horizontal brackets being attached to the uprights only at the very ends. The force on those is going to be really high; as weight gets added near the layout edge the lever action is going to multiply it many times over back at the wall. Is there a way to add gussets or something so that you have some attachment points further from the uprights?
     
  10. Jim Wiggin

    Jim Wiggin Staff Member TrainBoard Supporter

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    Thank you for following along and your question. Your concern is valid and honestly one that has crossed my mind, however, one thing I realized after building the modules of my N scale City Job was how I had over engineered them. I think I could literally use them as maintenance ramps for Jess my Jeep! This is a proof of concept for my larger N scale layout and should I need to, I can easily add the gusset to each bracket but I don't think so.

    1. The two modules are made of light weight Baltic Birch and the amount of scenery and structures for the small foot print will be relatively light.
    2. Both end brackets will have a hardboard end glued to them to help with strength.
    3. the sandwich design here will also help with rigidity.
    Please note, these are just my thoughts and I could be wrong, I've been wrong before :). Fortunately, if I need to add gussets, I can without much effort.

    UPDATE: 3/23/2020. Based on NtheBasement's comments and the fact that I wanted to take the shadowbox with me to shows, I have since updated the overall design.
     
    Last edited: Mar 23, 2020
  11. Jim Wiggin

    Jim Wiggin Staff Member TrainBoard Supporter

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    It was at this point that I realized my first draft of the shadowbox was not going to work. The first shadowbox was not up to my standards. I also realized that the combination of the layout with the shadowbox would further enhance the view rather than just setting two modules on a table. It was then I started to think of some engineering options.

    • How could I build a shadowbox layout that would allow easy transport, easy set up at shows and still look like a finished layout in my home?
    • Could I engineer the shadowbox to allow current and future modules be replaced and inserted?
    • What could be the best of both worlds? A home shelf layout and a display layout for shows.
    • Could lessons learned from the Galesburg City Job would be applied?
    • What could be designed as a true modular approach?
    • Could it still fit in a small car and be displayed at a one day train show?
    All of the above were the concerns I had in mind before pencil hit the paper. I wanted a finished looking layout in my home but still desired to showcase the layout at shows. Many shows in my native New Hampshire are just one day shows, so a minimal amount of time to set up would be key.

    I first started with the area I had on hand, roughly a six foot span of, well ugly, wall. It is true that I live in the oldest house in my town in Illinois and I'm sure that the wallpaper covering up that old horsehair plaster is from the mid 1950's at best. Fortunately the layout will cover most of the holes and tears.

    BM038.JPG

    Or, I can repair that wall like....

    BM039.jpg

    This. Wow, now that's better! Amazing what a little elbow grease and some Photoshop can do.
     
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  12. BoxcabE50

    BoxcabE50 Staff Member TrainBoard Supporter

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    If only photoshopping could actually replace home repairs... :D:D:D
     
  13. Jim Wiggin

    Jim Wiggin Staff Member TrainBoard Supporter

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    My design for this is essentially three parts:

    • Wall mount shelf layout for home use with the ability to connect to a larger home layout.
    • A stand alone switching layout in a shadowbox format for train shows
    • A "hollow" modular design that allows modules to be inserted and removed easily.
    This post starts with the wall mount part. Many threads and books have discussed this so there is no real reason to go over this as my needs were simple, hold up the shadowbox and layout. A quick trip to my favorite store, Menards and some drawings and it was off to the garage.

    BM040.JPG

    Pretty self explanatory, I made my own wall brackets because it was cheaper and I could design them for my needs. I built three "kits" all identical like that above using 1X3 pine. The longest piece was the vertical piece to be attached to the wall so I pre-drilled and counter-sunk the three mounting holes. The horizontal top, the part that the shadowbox will rest on, is exactly 1/4-inch shorter than the depth of the shadowbox. Finally the cross brace is cut at 45 degree angles on either end. The horizontal top also has the mounting holes for the cross brace to be assembled with a combination of wood glue and wood screws.

    BM041.JPG
    And here are the three brackets installed. Both a torpedo and a long framers level were used once the ideal height was calculated. You will notice the slant of the roof so I needed to take that plus the height of the overall layout, about 18-inches, into account. They are not pretty but they will not be seen eventually. I'm also planning on using this area as storage.
     
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  14. Jim Wiggin

    Jim Wiggin Staff Member TrainBoard Supporter

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    With the wall and home aspect of the layout done, it was time to build the shadowbox. First, a little bit about the shadowbox and why I wanted to do it. My biggest pet peeve with The City Job was the lack of a back drop. Sure it was okay without in some instances but to me, it never felt finished. Our friends across the pond in the United Kingdom are well versed in not only switching layouts, but the shadowbox as well. The shadow box is able to accomplish two things: It presents the layout nicely and allows for some elements of lighting to complete the effect and it draws the eye to the scene which is our layout. A good reason why museums use the shadowbox for some displays of dioramas. There are plenty more reasons why I went that route, but you'll see this unfold in future posts.

    BM042.JPG
    Here we have the frame of the shadowbox. Made simply of 1X3 select pine, cut 1/4-inch longer than the two modules together, a little over 6 feet, and 1/4-inch deeper than the depth of said modules. I used the best 8-foot length pine I could find and measured everything twice before cutting once. Corner clamps were used on each corner, before drilling two countersunk pilot holes. The assembly was then taken out of it's clamp, wood glue applied, clamp re-applied and two wood screws driven home. It is essential that the screws be just below the top of the wood so that the hardboard that would be applied latter was smooth. A somewhat laborious process but worth it in the end.

    BM043.JPG
    Another angle for your viewing pleasure. You will also notice that I "goofed up" on my middle support stringer. Or have I? Nope! I did indeed design it that way for a few reasons.
    1. A simple cross brace for stability and rigidity.
    2. I need a flat area for those little T-Trak adjustable feet to rest on. The corner of the frame is just thick enough to accommodate the feet on the two ends of the modules but not on the other end or the middle.
    3. I need just enough room under the stringer for the hole that will have the Tam Valley Servo wires to go through.
    Now it was time to recycle the the old brackets I had originally designed.
     
  15. Jim Wiggin

    Jim Wiggin Staff Member TrainBoard Supporter

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    BM014.JPG
    Here is a picture of the original concept, permanent brackets and shadowbox frame that was ultimately abandoned. A New Englander by nature rarely, if ever, throws something away. And so, once liberated from the wall, the pair of 1X2 end brackets and the one 1X3 middle bracket was modified as illustrated by the red lines. The shadowbox itself is 21 inches tall and as such, once the top of these brackets were cut flush, I simply measured 21 inches to from the to the bottom and affixed them to the back of the 1X3 frame.

    BM044.JPG
    Now a close up of the assembled piece. As you can see, this is the middle piece and I have already applied the backdrop of the shadowbox. 1/8-inch hardboard was glued directly to the frame, flush with the bottom, then the back brackets were combination glued and screwed to the frame. That solid end and 1/4-inch ply box you see here and on all three supports will come in handy soon.

    BM045.JPG
    Here you get a better view of my madness. Both shadowbox ends have been applied now. The sides are also 1/8-inch hardboard. You'll notice the ends overhang about an inch below the frame. Neatness counts. This also shows how the shadowbox fits on the brackets made earlier. Now we are getting somewhere!
     
  16. Jim Wiggin

    Jim Wiggin Staff Member TrainBoard Supporter

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    With the back and ends attached to the shadowbox, it was time to add the bottom fascia. I wanted it to match the ends as well as the top of the modules. Once again, 1/8-inch hardboard was cut and glued to the frame.

    BM046.JPG
    Multiple clamps, something one never has enough of, comes in handy as seen here.

    BM047.JPG
    With the fascia installed, I hope the image better illustrates what my design is trying to accomplish. First we see that the fascia is flush with the module, module #2 of 2. We also see how the module sets in the recess of the shadowbox making track work or scenery easy. I can just remove the module and work on it at my work bench rather than spend hours standing at the layout. Another bonus is the fact that I can switch out modules. Right now I'm freelancing the current switching layout but I am actively looking for a segment of the B&M that is 100% prototype based. I can build as many 3-foot T-Trak modules as I wish and simply swap them out. The middle stringer in the frame is seen here as well, allowing me to adjust the feet on the modules to help with leveling, although as of this date, it has not been an issue. One will also notice the metal inserts in the ends of the T-Trak module. Originally, I wanted to use a combination of T-Nuts and screws to clamp the modules together. So far, the tolerances on the shadowbox have been good enough, that I have not had to use them. Even with Atlas code 55 track, the joints between the two modules has been seamless with no derailments.

    BM048.JPG
    And the overall view. Top trim fascia has been installed and both modules are in place. My McGinnis logo curtain is in place to help establish a semi finished look. You'll also note that the first bracket, just to the left of the picture has now gained a power strip. It is in a handy location and one flip of a switch powers everything on the layout.

    There is still plenty more to do to the shadowbox before calling it done.
    • Install the NCE DCC panel
    • Build and install a CTC board
    • Install trim pieces
    • Install LED lighting to the top of the valance
    • Enclose the top of the shadowbox
    • Paint and finish shadow box
    Up next, designing an all in one throttle holder, CTC board and tool holder plus installing the NCE DCC panel.
     
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  17. Hardcoaler

    Hardcoaler TrainBoard Member

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    That's beautiful and precise woodwork Jim. You made a wise choice choosing better quality wood, as it makes everything so much easier. One of the biggest challenges of this sort of multi-dimensional project is thinking ahead for mechanical connections, wiring, lighting, scenery and a dozen other facets. You've excelled there as well. Cool stuff! (y) I'm really enjoying this thread.
     
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  18. Jim Wiggin

    Jim Wiggin Staff Member TrainBoard Supporter

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    Thank you! I'm happy that you are enjoying the thread. I used to (and still do) enjoy reading layout build threads as there can be so much to learn.
     
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  19. Jim Wiggin

    Jim Wiggin Staff Member TrainBoard Supporter

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    When I originally designed and built the Galesburg City Job, it was a series of lessons. The very first time I set it up at Galesburg in 2015, I did not even have a way to transport it. Eventually, I built a cargo box that allowed me to slide each of the three modules into the box. Each module would rest on a series of rails then end pieces of plywood were screwed to the end to keep each module from sliding out. The box was 4 feet long, by 18 inches wide and about 2 feet tall. It fit into my Jeep Cherokee and subsequently my Ford Focus hatchback.

    The design was okay, but the three CTC boxes that controlled each module's turnouts as well as the throttle holder on the one module, had to be removed each time the modules were to be transported. So the night before a show, I would drag the transport box out, set in the Focus, then run upstairs to where the City Job was located. At the time, The City Job was also my home layout. The first thing that had to be done was to unplug all the servo controls, remove all three CTC boxes, the throttle holder then finally the legs. I also made the mistake of adding a small T-Nut into each CTC box and had to use a machine screw and screwdriver to disassemble and reassemble the boxes to the front of each module. I found it a pain at shows during set up and take down. I also found it redundant to remove and replace four screws for the throttle holder. And where did my uncoupler tool go? Oh yeah, on the parking lot or street I had modeled. There had to be a better way.

    Once again, armed with a mechanical pencil, some paper and a ruler, I set out to design a CTC box that would also hold the throttle and small tools and could be installed and removed easily without tools. Once I was happy with my initial sketches, I used some medium cardstock to "fab up" a full scale mock up. I also realized another mistake I had made with my design used with the City Job. I used a combination of 1/4 inch plywood and 1/8 inch hardboard which was over kill really. This time I sourced some quality 1/8 plywood normally used for model airplane applications. This would also allow me to stain the wood rather then just paint everything black like I had done before.

    BM049.JPG
    Above is the result of the cardstock mock up. You can just make out one of the City Job CTC boards behind it. The mock up is resting on the plywood I planned to use. The area just to the left of the face plate for the servo controls is for the throttle holder and aft right is a spot to hold tools such as the RIX uncoupler tool or a pencil.

    BM050.JPG
    I used double sided tape to further mock up the prototype, complete with throttle holder and tools. This was looking promising indeed!

    BM051.JPG
    Looking at the panel as an operator. Everything in one piece that can be removed with two wing nuts and a few plugs. It was time to fire up the saw.
     
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  20. Jim Wiggin

    Jim Wiggin Staff Member TrainBoard Supporter

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    Thanks to the full size mock up, I had templates to use in cutting out the main pieces of plywood. I did adjust and design the tool section a bit so it could accommodate track cleaning equipment but the overall design was still based on the mock up. I found if I was careful and used blue tape on the line of plywood getting cut, I could use my table saw to make all the cuts. The area for the throttle holder was laminated with the original back and a square glued to the front to give the throttle holder screws something to bite into. I also re-enforced the bottom inside of the CTC portion with a piece of strip wood. The tool section was simply a small shelf with a smaller piece above, drilled to different sizes to accommodate the RIX un-coupler tools, pens and pencils.

    With the assembly built, I applied a nice cherry stain. I next removed the two modules from the shadow box and with the aid of clamps, positioned the CTC assembly to the center of the shadowbox. When I was happy with the location, I carefully drilled two 1/4-inch holes that I had measured inside the control panel, directly through the shadowbox. Two 1/4-inch machine thread screws were then inserted through the box and shadowbox and two wing nuts were threaded on. With clamps removed, I drilled a third hole in the center that will allow the 6 servo wires to pass through.

    BM057.JPG
    And here it is. Now when it is time to move the layout from room to show and back again, I only need to unplug the throttle, place it in it's box. unplug the servo controllers and release the box by undoing the two wing nuts. The screws I used are tapered so I counter sunk the holes that the screws would sit almost flush. I plan to glue two small pieces of plywood to secure the screws to the box.

    BM056.JPG
    I also installed the NCE panel making sure it was mounted in a way so that it was solid into the frame but would not interfere with the modules or come into contact with any other parts of the modules. The wire hanging you see there is one of the Tam Valley Servo Controllers. I had to do a test run of the layout since it was the first time it had been powered up since October and I had just received a new Atlas B&M GP38-2 with sound. Sweet!

    The next thing to do is to give the CTC box a nice coat of polyethylene clear and finish the CTC panel. You may be able to see it on my rolling tool cart. You may even spot more of my madness as you may notice something that looks like servo wires. Hmmm.

    Coming up, the CTC box gets a face.
     
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