Thursday, January 30, 2014

More Track Progress

PRR 1361 and N&W 611 pose at the current end of operable track. This will be the eastern portal of the Gallitzin Tunnel.

It only seemed appropriate for a K4 Pacific to be the first to round horseshoe Curve.

I got some more track laid. The westbound tracks are now complete from Altoona to Gallitzin and are wired up. The eastbound track are complete to Horseshoe Curve.

Currently, the layout is wired for cab control. However, in the future I may upgrade to DCC. When it comes to wiring, I'm not messing around. Feeder wire are connected to the tracks every six feet. This should minimize, if not eliminate those annoying dead zones that can crop up. I'm also color-coding my wiring. Don't do it any other way. It makes it much easier to hunt down a problem.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Started Laying Track

Part of my order of track arrived today. I've manged to get part of the Altoona reversing loop laid. After much waffling back and fourth, I decided to go with Peco Code 55 track and turnouts. I originally wanted to go with Atlas code 55, but switched to Peco for several reasons. First Peco offers a greater selection of switches and said switches are said to be more reliable than Atlas. I guess I'll find out for sure soon enough. Second, the design of the track allows you to run older equipment from the deep flange days with no modification.

There are downsides however, namely the tie spacing. Peco track is modeled after British prototype track, where the ties are spaced further apart. To be honest with you, it's a minor quibble that only hardcore rivet counters will get their shorts in a knot over. It's still an improvement over Atlas Code 80.

Anyway, I glued down Midwest Products cork roadbed with silicone caulk. After giving it some time to dry, I glued the track down. On my last layout I made the mistake of not installing enough feeder wires. This time I added a set at every other track joint, which works out to approximately every six feet.

Once the glue dried, I hooked a train set power pack up to one of the feeders with some alligator clips and let my Minitrix K4 become the first locomotive to turn a wheel on the layout. Other than one rough solder joint, which was easily fixed with some filing, it ran flawlessly.

Now, the best way to test track work is to run a big six-axel diesel like and SD40-2 or and E8 or long steamers with lots of driving wheels like a 4-8-4. If you can run them around backwards and forwards, your track is done. I spent the next half hour testing my fussiest locomotives and all ran trouble free. I'd say I'm off to a great start.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Built a Platform for my Power Pack

I decided it was time to build a place for my MRC power pack to sit as well as a place to put my beer when I'm running trains. I used some scrap plywood and firing strips. The whole deal probably took no more than 15 minutes to build. A much larger control panel will be built just to the right of the platform.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Finished Installing the Risers and Inclines

Well, I'm definitely married to this track plan now. Once I had the risers and inclines mocked up, I traced their outline with a sharpie and then glued them down. On my last layout, I used foam tack glue. This time around I used silicone caulk. Squeezing a tube of glue can be cumbersome and tough on your hands after a while. A caulking gun on the other hand is a lot quicker. I imagination I'll do the same on the road bed and track.

Once the glue had dried over night, I used plaster cloth (Another Woodland Scenics product) to cover the flex gaps in the riser and inclines. It was a messy job that took a good bit of time. But I;m finally ready for track.

Friday, January 17, 2014

Finished Mocking Up the Riser & Inclines

There are two ways to gain elevation on a model railroad. You can make risers and inclines out of plywood or you can do it the easy way and use these Woodland Scenics flexible styrofoam risers and inclines. As you can see, I chose the latter option. Why fart around with trying to calculate gradients and all that jazz? I prefer to let WS do the hard part. I used four sets of 2% inclines, which raise the track four inches over sixteen feet. I added another four sets of four inch risers. At any rate I pinned the risers to the layout base with some brads and traced their outline with a sharpie. The next project is to glue them down and cover them with plaster cloth. After that, we're finally ready for track.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

The I1s Project

Here's my completed model of a Pennsylvania Railroad Class I1s 2-10-0. This was one of the most involved kitbash projects I've ever undertaken. As mentioned previously on this blog, there's a huge dearth of Pennsy steam available in N Scale. In fact unless you want to spend a fortune on brass, your options are: the Minitrix K4 pacific, the Minitrix B6 0-6-0, the Minitrix 2-10-0 (which requires a good bit of kitbashing) the Bachmann 0-4-0 and the ultra rare Black River E6 Atlantic. Anyway, on to the blow-by-blow.

I started out with a Minitrix 2-10-0 (More about that locomotive here: [Link]). First I modified the hell out of the chassis so I could slide the shell backwards and make the steam pipes line up with the cylinders.

The modified Chassis and pilot truck.
Next, I cut the pilot off and added a piece of styrene between it and the rest of the shell. I made the two front air tanks from styrene rods, which I chucked in my electric drill and ground against a jeweler's file to get the rounded ends. The pipe connecting the tanks is actually a very short piece of wire.

I painted most of the shell Floquil "Brunswick Green," the cab roof Floquil "Tuscan" and the smokebox Floquil "Graphite." The tender shell was already painted in the correct colors as it was a leftover from another project.

I swapped the stock tender for a Bachmann USRA Medium-distance tender, which not only more closely matches the prototype, it also has 8-wheel pickup. A common malody among all three Mintirix steamers is poor power pickup and adding the 8-wheel pickup to the tender does wonders for their performance.

The "Pennsylvania" decals on the tender is from Microscale and the cab numbers are Woodland Scenics dry transfers.

After that was done, I sprayed the tender and engine shells with Testors Dulcote and used various shades of gray pastels for weathering.

All in all this project was intense. It took me about 2 months of working on and off to complete.


This locomotive has since been sold, ironically to finance the purchase of a brass I1. See you in about three years!

Saturday, January 4, 2014

The Table Top is Built

Oh man, what a day it's been. But it's been a good day. I managed to get the layout's tabletop built. I started out with a layer of 1/4" luan plywood screwed to the benchwork. I then topped it with 2" styrofoam insulation. Easy right? Wrong! See since my wife and I both have a 50-mile round trip commutes, fuel efficiancy was the main factor in us buying our cars, a Toyota Yaris and Corolla respectively. Both cars a great for saving gas but for hauling 4x8 sheets of plywood? Not so good.

Thankfully Home Depot had us covered and provided a rental flatbed truck. But Home Depot gave with one hand and took with other. See for some stupid reason, absolutely none of their stores in Spartanburg County carry 2" styrofoam. So my wife and I had to tromp all the way to Greenville to buy the stuff. Kind of annoying but not a lot I can do about it.

Once I got the stuff home I cut the plywood down to size with a jig saw and used a hot knife on the foam. The latter should definitely be done in the garage with the door open. The fumes from the pink stuff are quite nasty.

The origional plan was to simply go with 2 layers of 2" foam. That was before I found out it cost $32 a sheet. Needless to say after I tallied up what 12 sheets would cost, I picked my jaw up of the floor and rethought the whole plan.

The next step is to get some cork road bed and some risers and inclines from Woodland Scenics. At this rate I should be able to start laying track by the end of the month.