On January 2, 2011 I started to make my “permanent” layout in my basement. Trains were running 10 months later after some extensive work.
Getting a house with a basement also came with a major dose of reality. The plans for my 20 + year long dreamed of but very unrealistic “Wildwood to Pittsburgh” layout died the very instant I walked down my basement steps for the first time while looking at my house in June 2009. The basement was much smaller than “the dream” but I was completely OK with that. It was truly a life changing moment at that exact second I realized this could be MY basement and what I was going to be working with. In 30 actual seconds I was satisfied and said I wanted to get the house. Reality and in some sense maturity has finally arrived.
I quickly settled in on the idea of building something generic, manageable and moveable (sectional) but not built to S-Mod Standards. It will be higher and have sections that are larger than I could easily move for a weekend train show set up. I had to get trains running in a reasonable time frame to keep my interest and progress going.
I am making my layout starting with some of Don DeWitt’s former Grand Arbor yard module. I am using 16 of the original 24 feet for my layout. The remaining 8 feet may see some refurbishing in the future. It will basically be a large loop for now with a footprint of about 12 feet by 32 feet. That will take up MOST of my basement. My straights will be 24 feet long. A freight yard will be the basic theme of one side. A passenger station will be the theme of the other side. The mid 50”+ radius turns will accommodate every locomotive I own. The track height will be about 52” from the floor. Besides the 16 feet being refurbished everything else will be made brand new. With the work done so far I have wondered if I just should have just started out completely new but I am beyond that now. It is a rolling work and idea in progress – get trains running in my house! I am using S Helper Service flex track (Code 139) elevated on ¼ ” thick Homabed for the mainlines. Everything else is code 100 flat on the deck. “Down ramps” have been made to transition between the elevated mainline roadbed and change of rail sizes.
Both ends will have 2) code 139 mainlines and a code 100 runaround/yard lead. This will be so the mainline trains can run unimpeded while keeping switching busy. There is a “freight bypass” route on the passenger side. Of course I will be using NCE DCC with wireless handles. There will be 3 power regions with many sub-regions protected by circuit breakers. All turnouts are going to be powered with the Switchmaster/Hankscraft stall motors. They will be controlled with DPDT toggles on the running fascia track diagram/control panel with bi-color LEDs to show route direction. I believe in keeping things simple especially if visitors come over and want to run.
Here are the control panel frames being constructed.
Some people have asked me about the engine house. It is a plastic O Scale trolley barn kit.
I bought it from Don DeWitt after buying the yard modules. I HAD to change the sign to something PRSL.
Photos added 7-17-11
They show the sections in order left to right.
The white panels are sidewalks for where the passenger station to going to be. I am adding about 4 feet to them on the new section to the right.
The Corner Frames
There are a few possible pinch points in my basement. No matter how well I try to plan everything I just don’t know for sure until I “see it live” full size on my floor. Before diving head first into making the rather elaborate frames I wanted to cut some “flop down” sheets in the footprint of the corners to put on the floor and see how and where everything will go and fit. I have heard of people using large sheets of cardboard for this purpose. Luan worked just as well which is what I used.
Since the inside frame rail is going to be curved, I could not figure how to hold everything in place with the pressure of something curved. I decided to make a frame fixture that will hold the pieces in place while the glue dries. I made a temporary 70” x 70” work table that will be an assembly fixture.
I designed the frame in Solidworks but only used 2D. Everything can be measured to 3 decimals places if I wanted. I would have NEVER been able to figure this out without Solidworks or a computer design program. I was going to try and bend plywood as the curved back rail, but decided to use 1/8” x 3” aluminum flat bar.
Below is my work table. With the exception of the above frame plan I almost never fully plan or draw anything I make. It is usually figured out on the fly. I like to do it that way because it keeps me thinking. The pivot is a 1/2” pipe floor flange that is reduced down to 1/4” pipe. It will eventually have many braces to make it into a full holding fixture.
The below photo at right is the first sheet of luan I cut out in the footprint of the frames. I think it kind of looks like a baseball field! With the exception of the curved side edge, I cut everything with a utility knife and long steel and aluminum straight edges because I wanted all of the cuts to be crisp and straight. There was also no sawdust generated in the basement.
The first sheet turned out to be well within 1/8” of all needed dimensions and angles. I dare say they are within 1/16” or LESS!
The “compass” is a piece of 1” aluminum angle. I was rather proud of myself when I thought of the “pencil bolt” idea to secure the pencil for its simplicity. I just ran a 5/16” nut down the pencil. Problem solved!
I am starting to lay out the first corner frame. I am very happy with how it is turning out. The measurements are really close to the plan. I have to tweak some of the lengths of the frame pieces but not more than 1/8”.
This is the first corner frame I completed on 7-29-11. I photographed it in my driveway
Here are the basic frames completed with the ¾” deck installed. I have all 4 of them built to this point now. I rough cut the curve with a saber saw and trimmed the deck with my router and a flush cut bit. The corner frame fixture has since been dismantled as soon as they were completed and returned to the wood pile for recycling into future projects.
In the 2 months since my last update I worked on the layout extensively without much documentation of the progress.
I just figured I would the spend time working on the layout instead of photographing and updating this page.
As of 10-16-11 all sections are up on their real legs making a deck height of 53”. All of the above frame construction photos were on a work table with the legs not actually attached to the frames at 48” high. We flipped the sections vertically and back to horizontally MANY times during the wiring process. This would have been very difficult with legs attached.
The mainline track centers are approximately 3” throughout the entire layout. While 3” was a little wider than I would have liked the main purpose for building the layout was to be able to run anything I owned on any piece of track without concern of derailing or sideswiping another train. The track centers had to be wide because of the EM-1 boiler overhang running on the inside main possibly hitting passenger cars on the outside main.
These photos are showing the laying out of the curve center lines. I did not use the compass to draw fixed radius. I used the compass to just lay out starting reference points. In the middle photo below you can see where I used long wood splines (pine cut to ¾” x ¾”) that created a flowing constantly changing radius with easements etc. I tacked in a few needed points. The natural curvature of the wood did the rest making the laying out of the center lines very easy as long as you don’t force anything. Making the 18’ long splines was annoying. They broke a few times during the layout of the lines but the results are well worth the effort.
The radius is nominally 62”, 59” and 57” for the 3 curved tracks.
These photos show the wiring the new 8’ long section showing the bare copper wire buss lines, turnout motor power buss, and Hankscraft 3 volt 1 RPM stall switch motors running at about 2 volts. With that gear reduction they are unstoppable at full voltage. It is rather typical of what the rest looks like. ALL turnouts are powered except 1 that is getting spiked shut. There is no need for anyone to reach into the layout for ground throws. There are now 9 wires running the entire length of the underside of the layout. 6 wires are for the DCC power buss for the 3 power regions. Three wires are for powering the Hankscraft motors as plus, minus and center tap. We have completely isolated the frogs but they are powered. The control of the motors and flipping the polarity of the frog is all done at the panel with a single DPDT toggle switch on the panel. Crossovers require a triple pole double throw toggle.
I was asked why I was making “control panels” if I was using DCC. Simplicity! I want the learning curve to run my layout to be about 3 seconds long. Once you master the use of the NCE handles, controlling turnouts are just flipping a toggle switch. All turnout controls are shown in their actual place on the linear panel fascia. The panels are Masonite that hinges downward with auto pin striping for the track diagram. They will have bi-color LEDs to help identify the turnout route.
The 4’ long “bridge” section only has a crossover on it so it has a smaller control panel. All DCC equipment is being mounted on a shelf on this section. It is the perfect ½ way point for the power buss to go left and right. The buss will terminate at the ½ way point on the other side. I am installing snubbers to filter and correct the DCC signal in the buss at that point.
As with any project with this, especially wiring things are expected to go wrong. My friend Charlie Leonard is helping me greatly especially with the wiring and finding shorts. Finding one of the shorts on one of the old sections I refurbished was particularly frustrating. We still don’t know how or why there was a wire UNDER the boards of a grade crossing. That is where the short was! Unbelievable!
With any luck I will be running some trains on my layout by 10-17-11
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