Birth of an Accidental HO Layout: The Boston & Maine in NH

Jim Wiggin Jan 7, 2018

  1. Jim Wiggin

    Jim Wiggin Staff Member TrainBoard Supporter

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    Does anyone even do these layout build/progress threads anymore? Well I find it fun to read the many threads on layouts here on Trainboard and with the redesign of my home and exhibition layout I thought it would be a good way to document things.

    Folks into music, specifically the Band the Monkees, will enjoy my title. Loosely based on the song Birth of an Accidental Hipster from their last album Good Times! The song is sung by Michael Nesmith and has a nice haunting tune to it and the album is one I play frequently while building in the shop.

    Like anything, there is a backstory. So how did we get from a N scale CB&Q layout to a B&M HO layout? Allow me to present the back ground. If your not interested, simply scroll through until you see construction images, you wont hurt my feelings.

    Some background on the Galesburg City Job

    TF7.jpg
    The Galesburg City Job or simply, The City Job as known by the Q folks was an industrial branch that had its roots in the streetcar era. The space that would latter become Butler buildings was once home to a manufacturer of streetcars and interurban. At present time, not much is known of this manufacture from your author but research is on going. From the Burlington side, the switcher would originate at the Galesburg yard, then receive trackage rights on the CB&Q mainline that would host such trains as the California Zephyr and all manner of freights from Chicago to all points west. This line runs through Galesburg in a slight east/west direction. The switcher would then enter Santa Fe trackage at a switch just off Academy Street and trundle down west bound to service an oil dealer, Galesburg Soy, Rowe Manufacturing and Butler Building. If you live in an agricultural area, you may know Butler by their grain bins and assorted buildings. From Butler the line wyes and continues west to service industries I have yet to research or branch north where the Santa Fe serviced Galesburg Malleable, Illinois Power and more industries we are researching. It would then cross Monmouth Boulevard and ultimately join the busy Santa Fe Transcon via a wye that would allow trains to enter in either a east bound or west bound direction. Just west of this wye was B Plant, a small staging yard that Bill started to model, slightly compressed albeit. Bill and I have elected to model the year 1966 as it allows us to model these two roads as separate entities and we both enjoy the road units and schemes employed by both roads at the time. We do occasionally run the railroad in late 1970’s but mainly just for the Galesburg Railroad Days display.

    I designed the track plan to be at scale length with no compression on the “main line” or spine of the industrial line. Obviously Butler is only represented with a mere fraction of trackage as this industry alone could be a layout on to itself. I also designed the layout knowing that Bill and I would not always be together so I model the Burlington district or industries and Bill the Santa Fe. My Burlington section has operated independent of Bill’s Santa Fe modules and vice versa although we really enjoy running the layout as a whole.

    The impetus of this modular railroad and what would later become my home layout all started as a conversation between two friends at our mutual favorite of all railroad shows, Galesburg Railroad Days. My friend Bill and I were discussing a past layout he and his sons had built that was both modular and based on the local surroundings and how much fun it had been setting it up and hearing from locals about their experiences living next to the Burlington Line. Stories turned to thoughts, which led to discussion, which ultimately led to a joint venture between two friends whom neither of which was from the area.

    As stated above, neither Bill nor myself were from the Galesburg area. I was a mere three hours away in Central Illinois and Bill was six hours north in Michigan. It became very obvious that distance would be our biggest hurdle. To add to that, the very first “meeting” we had at my place was disastrous at best. We had dreams of large 54-inch super elevated curves for those beautiful silver Zhypers to glide across and lone expanses of farm fields, sidings for meets and spurs in small towns for the local to service. We quickly realized however, to have such scenes, as this would require modules that were well over 5 feet long and 2 feet wide! Both of us only had modest sized vehicles and neither of us was inclined to rent a box truck for a few shows a year. Still, we plodded along with our module ideas and by Sunday afternoon, we really had nothing of great quality to show for efforts. I would be lying to you if I were to say I wasn’t the least bit worried of the project forever being just an idea, however after that unsuccessful and expensive weekend it was certainly turning out that way.

    Walking away from it for a bit was just thing I needed. One morning soon after the disastrous weekend, I found myself picking up one of my favorite CB&Q books by Michael Spoor and leafing through the pages. Coming upon the chapter of Galesburg, a series of images caught my eye. I studied the images of Galesburg and mentally picked out the many landmarks of one of my favorite rail fan cities when my eyes landed on a phrase “Local crews called it the City Job.” Above the caption was a CB&Q SW series switcher with a small string of cars headed west on an industrial line. As my mind started to formulate, I noticed a small map of to the left and immediately the wheels of progress were rolling once again, The Galesburg City Job was born.
    Module 088.jpg

    To say everything fell into place and all those ideas that both Bill and I have used just spontaneously happened would be insulting to you the reader. It took the course of just over two years to get everything from the module design to the correct track plans laid out to even transporting the modules all iron out. In the interest in time, we will forgo all of that and bring us up to the present and the focus of this build thread, The Galesburg City Job 2.0.
     
    Last edited: Jul 3, 2019
  2. Jim Wiggin

    Jim Wiggin Staff Member TrainBoard Supporter

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    Over the summer of 2017 I took yet another step back from the layout as a whole. I had originally designed the three modules that would be exclusive to the Santa Fe for myself as I had been interested in the road since I was a child. The Burlington modules were scheduled to go to Bill. Well long story short, and by short, I mean about 2-inches, the Santa Fe modules went to Bill and I held on to the Burlington modules. You see the three Santa Fe modules were to run the length of my office at the time but when I went to install the third module, I ran out of wall by 2 short inches. RATS!

    Earlier in 2017, I had made the decision to move back to my native home of New Hampshire. The future of the layout was uncertain and Bill was musing on about narrow gauge and other flights of fancy. I started to wonder if the layout had run its course even though we had never finished it. Fortunately for Bill, I did end up staying in Illinois but the nagging of the future worth of the City Job was a constant thorn in my side. Rather than have an epic tear down of the layout, I walked away from it and started formulating ideas. Ideas of a portable Maine Central or Boston & Maine layout, totally independent of anyone all the way to gasp, HO modeling came to mind. I then had a chance to really sit down and focus on an Amtrak trip to bring my beloved Jeep, Jess back to Illinois from New Hampshire.

    It was then I faced the questions. What do I love about the City Job? It was true I loved the idea that the plan was to scale, give a scale foot or two, but in the way of track work, no selective compression was given. I enjoyed the challenges of switching the industries, especially when I had the opportunity to interact with Bill over on the Santa Fe end. I also loved the interaction with people who had either lived in Galesburg and remembered the industry or had actually operated the prototype working for the Santa Fe, Burlington, Burlington Northern or subsequent BNSF.

    Module 020.jpg
    Module 036.jpg
    What I did not like was my many mistakes I had made in track planning. Fortunately 90% of Bills track work was good and the one mistake was an easy fix. Mine on the other hand were more labor intensive. I also despised the modules themselves. They were over engineered, built of dimensional lumbar, foam, plywood and hard board, which made them heavy. Lugging the 4-foot modules up a narrow star case late at night after a show was my least favorite aspect of them. They were also prone to damage and required a fair amount of support equipment. With these things in mind, I got my pencil out at set out on a redesign.

    And this is where we are now, a clean slate but now with more information and a bit more wisdom on what it takes to not only build a functioning railroad but one that can be in Columbus Ohio one weekend, then in Galesburg all the while still functioning as my home layout in Central Illinois. Lessons learned while we were on the road at shows, transport ideas, set up and tare down procedures, DCC and interaction…… all those years of knowledge now lay before me on this clean slate.

    Originally, the following modules were to be for the City Job, but since the City Job will be built in it's entirety, will be a home layout as well as a layout I take to shows, I have since adopted a much easier, cheaper module kit that is commercially available. What follows now is my transition to an HO switching layout that will also be FreeMo standards.
     
    Last edited: Jul 3, 2019
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  3. Jim Wiggin

    Jim Wiggin Staff Member TrainBoard Supporter

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    The first thing I wanted to tackle was the module system itself. As stated earlier, the originals were over engineered thanks to my inability to properly use basic wood working tools. The original modules were made up of 1 x 3 lumbar, 1/2-inch plywood for a sub roadbed, 2-inch pink foam for terrain, 1/8-inch hardboard for fascia and 1.5 x 1.5 legs plus some hardware. Hindsight on this design showed me this was a bit too much for a relatively flat industrial area in a relatively flat state. For the new module design, I got my inspiration from the FreeMo chaps and realized I could do better with less. Simply put, the new modules are still 48-inches long by 18-inches deep but they are a simple tabletop style and everything including the legs is made from Baltic Birch plywood. The module ends and leg mounts are made of 3/4-inch Baltic Birch and the 48-inch sides, cross members and top are made from 1/4-inch Baltic Birch. The legs, which fold up into the module now, are made from both 3/4-inch and 1/4-inch Baltic Birch glued into an L girder for both rigidity and straightness. So far the bill of materials for the module is, like its design, is light.

    • 1 2 x 4 sheet of 3/4-inch Baltic Birch
    • 2 2 x 4 sheets of 1/4-inch Baltic Birch
    • 2 5/16 3-inch long carriage bolts
    • 2 5/16 wing nuts
    • 6 5/16 T-Nuts
    • 8 #8 washers
    • 8 #8 x 3 wood screws
    • 4 5/16 4-inch long carriage bolts
    • 1 bottle of Titebond yellow wood glue (Green Label)
    Tools needed to complete the construction of the module was as follows:

    • Table saw
    • Drill press
    • Miter Saw (chop saw)
    • Cordless drill
    • Drill bits
    • 1-inch spade bit
    • 24-inch adjustable clamps
    I next set up my table saw making sure everything was square and even used a fine wood working or cabinet saw blade in the machine and set out ripping the sheets into the desired widths. Starting from the widest to most narrow.

    Module 001.JPG
    Material in which to build two complete modules less the plywood top.
    • 18-inches wide (1/4-inch sheet)
    • 5.75-inches wide (1/4-inch sheet X 2) & (3/4-inch sheet)
    • 3-inches wide (1/4-inch sheet X 2) & (3/4-inch sheet)
    • 2-inches wide (1/4-inch sheet X 4)
    • 1.75-inches wide (3/4-inch sheet)
    Module 002.JPG

    Module 003.JPG
    Next I set my table saw up with a slide table. This would allow me to “router” a channel for the three stringers to slide in. With the two 1/4-inch sides, I marked the middle and 1/3rd sections. Using a square I marked the location of the channels on the inside of the ply approximately at the 2 foot on center and measured out 1/8-inch in either direction creating a marking for my to follow that would be 1/4-inch wide. It is important to mark your pencil lines on the outside or the finish side as you will be cutting the channels on the inside of the board. I set the table saw height to cut at 1/8-inch, placed the side in my slide table and simply pushed the board back and forth in between the lines I had drawn earlier. I now have a nice square router that will accept the stringer and keep things square as well as strong without the use of screws.

    I cut my end pieces of 3/4-inch to 17.5 inches long using my miter saw then inserted a 1-inch spade bit into my drill press. I centered my hole to the exact center of the width of the end plate and three inches down from the top. This hole will be used to pass the electrical bus line from one module to the next. Following that, I took the two 3-inch wide 1/4-inch pieces of wood and cut three pieces 17.75-inches long. These will be the stringers that will go into the channels I had just previously cut. Three 1-inch holes were drilled into the stringers for electrical needs. They are centered at 1.5-inches from each end and the middle one is approximately 8.75-inches from the end. All three holes are centered at 1.5-inches from the top to bottom.

    Module 004.JPG
    I glued the sideboards flush to the ends of the end plates and used the corner clamps to keep everything square while the glue dried over night. Once the side boards are glued to the ends of the end plates, the modules dimensions are 48-inches long by 18-inches wide. After the glue had dried, I inserted the three stringers and made measurements to ensure there was no bowing. Everything must be 18-inches wide. Once happy with the fit, I glued these in as well with the top being flush with the eventual table top. The space below will allow space for the legs when folded up.

    Module 005.JPG
     
    Last edited: Feb 4, 2018
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  4. bremner

    bremner Staff Member

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    Jim, that looks like a great start. The problem that I have with layout build threads is finding mine!
     
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  5. mtntrainman

    mtntrainman TrainBoard Supporter

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    Thats why I put a link to mine in my signature line...fast and easy to find...LOL ;)(y)
     
  6. Hardcoaler

    Hardcoaler TrainBoard Member

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    Jim, does your 1/4" plywood fit snugly in the channels/dadoes that you cut? In working with 1/4" in previous projects, I found that what I bought was like most current ply products -- it's undersized and will be a tad loose in a 1/4" channel. I have a dado set for my table saw, but can go no less than 1/4". I'm not building a layout of standard modules, but am engineering things so that my two tables can be separated and as importantly, I want to lessen weight and 1/4" ply might help with that.

    I see that Rockler offers a 15/64" router bit to address this problem, so I guess I could go that route if I must. Thank you.

    http://www.rockler.com/undersized-router-bits-1-4-inch-shank
     
  7. MK

    MK TrainBoard Member

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    Don't use a dado blade. Just make two (possibly three) cuts with a standard blade staying within the two lines. Yes, it'll be more work and it'll depend on how good you are in "staying inside the line". :)
     
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  8. BoxcabE50

    BoxcabE50 Staff Member TrainBoard Supporter

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    Your aerial view in Post #1 is very helpful for envisioning the whole assembly. :)
     
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  9. Jim Wiggin

    Jim Wiggin Staff Member TrainBoard Supporter

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    I found that the Baltic Birch I picked up is exactly 1/4-inch thick so after I have slid the mark under the table saw at about three passes, my joint is fairly snug. Also I’m using those corner frame clamps you see above. I picked these up at Menards for about $8.00 each. A steal when you consider it helps make the joints strong and square.
     
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  10. Jim Wiggin

    Jim Wiggin Staff Member TrainBoard Supporter

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    Bingo.
     
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  11. Jim Wiggin

    Jim Wiggin Staff Member TrainBoard Supporter

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    Thanks Ken. This is the current Galesburg City Job. So far it has been to Trainfest twice, the Ohio N Scale Weekend twice and what we call Homecoming, Galesburg Railroad Days, three times. 2.0 will be basically the same track but with improvements.
     
  12. Hardcoaler

    Hardcoaler TrainBoard Member

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    AH ha -- excellent idea to not use the dado blade for the 1/4" ply. I'll not have to spend money on a router bit.

    I tend to overplan layout detail, but it pays dividends. Better for me to work out this issue now than to run good lumber later! (y) Thanks y'all.
     
  13. MK

    MK TrainBoard Member

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    Sorry for the slight drift. :D I made my own locomotive display/storage case as a decorative piece. I used a standard 12" table saw blade (good one like Freud) and make the necessary channels for the sliding plexiglass doors and the "tracks". At first I was going to glue down tracks but why the extra expense when I can cut my own groves for the wheels to fit in? ;) I think it looks cleaner too.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]
     
  14. vince p

    vince p TrainBoard Member

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    Nice looking woodwork
     
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  15. MK

    MK TrainBoard Member

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    Thanks! Just a table saw (big one with 12" blade). :)
     
  16. Jim Wiggin

    Jim Wiggin Staff Member TrainBoard Supporter

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    Nice work! Part of my redesign of the City Job was spending at least a good month of research, mainly on YouTube on wood working. YouTube is actually more then just cat videos and a wealth of good information. The Baltic Birch is not cheap, so I wanted every cut to count. If I ever had a doubt, a scrap piece of ply was used and tested first.

    Up next is the leg assembly, how I designed the legs to be light, portable and warp free. I’ll post this in the next few days as I get images together.

    Thanks for watching and stay tuned.....
     
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  17. Bill Denton

    Bill Denton TrainBoard Supporter

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    Excellent thread Jim !
     
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  18. Joe D'Amato

    Joe D'Amato TrainBoard Member

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    loving the ideas here
     
  19. Joe D'Amato

    Joe D'Amato TrainBoard Member

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    Its in your garage. LOL
     
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  20. bremner

    bremner Staff Member

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    true
     

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