Ok, so this is the second year in a row that I planned on having the basic benchwork in place for the NE Proto Meet. So that didn't happen. But I've finally made some significant progress, although much slower than I'd like.
I'm going to try to update this each time I work on the layout. So even though the entries may not be consistent, at least it will show some progress. Here's an update with a few pictures.
Timeline to date:
2/7/2009 - Painting the basement. I had Home Depot match the NH Silver Gray Pinstripe, Hunter Green, and Warm Orange colors for the project.
2/9/2009 - I finished "patching" the wall where the closet door used to be. I have moved this door, as well as the utility room door, for a better room configuration. The corner of this wall was so far out of alignment that I ended up applying putty up to 3/4" thick. I made a fence from masonite, and filled the space in layers of spackling putty and tape on top of the sheetrock.
4/26/2009 - I had been slowly assembling the lower level (staging) benchwork, and my buddy Bryan came by with his pickup truck to get some supplies and helped me attach the upper level supports on the wall.
5/9/2009 - I have pretty much completed the lower level benchwork by this point. I needed to determine what I was going to use for the decking. I had considered sheetrock for a while, but eventually narrowed down the choices to sticking with OSB, or using foam. I wanted to complete the lower level before building the upper level. I also needed to work out the details on how to build the helixes.
2/20/2010 - While I made some progress in design concepts, I basically hadn't made it any farther with the benchwork. For the first part of the benchwork I had borrowed my father-in-law's chop saw. At one point, it wouldn't turn off and started smoking. In the end it seems to be working OK. But at the time I still needed a saw. I didn't want to spend the money on a power saw nor find someplace to put it when I was done building benchwork. So I finished the lower-level benchwork by picking up a hand miter saw instead. Yep, a significant portion of the lower-level was built using a hand saw...
Fast forward to February, and the support for the leg of our dining table broke. I wanted to get moving on the layout, and had been considering buying my father-in-law's old radial arm saw. Well, I was having trouble figuring out where to put a simple miter saw, where the heck would I put the radial arm saw? Plus, he works for H&R Block for the tax season and I didn't want to wait. So I bought a sliding compound miter saw. It cost less than replacing the dining table, which I fixed, and I was ready for benchwork.
My NHRHTA Photo Archive buddies Chris, Dick and Peter came by to help. For several weeks, Dick and I had been discussing the helix. Actually, Dick, who works for an architecture firm, was discussing the helix. I was just trying to explain what I was trying to accomplish, my basic concept, and sketching out the space. He designed the helix, then picked up the wood and cut it all in preparation for the work session.
So Chris and I went to work on building benchwork and the engineers started to figure out how to put together the first helix. By the end of the day, Chris and I had prepped for the upper level (and changed the design...), and picked up and cut the decking for most of the lower level. We decided to not assemble the upper deck until the helix was completed to set the proper level.
The helix was well underway, with a turn-and-a-half complete, but was still quite a challenge.
2/21/2010 - I spent the better part of the day playing with the helix. With some tweaks I figured out a few slight modifications to get it working OK. I actually disassembled it completely and started rebuilding it. I got to about two turns and started adding roadbed. At this point I confirmed what I already suspected - It would be much easier to install roadbed and track as I built it. So it had to wait until I had the track.
3/11/2010 - I finally have track and start working my way up the helix. In the meantime I had also laid roadbed for a good amount of the staging, and painted the staging deck in Railroad Tie Brown (again I got a big can of latex paint color matched). I continue to tweak the design of the helix structure. I had to move it away from the wall to build it, and it's still a bit more wobbly than I'd like, although I'm assuming it will be more stable when moved to the corner. I also need to figure out a way to design a larger opening to get inside it.
5/13/2010 - Construction was on hiatus while I waited for supplies for turnouts. Once I got those, I started to work on the details of how I would assemble and control the turnouts. This led to completing the design for the fascia as well for when I get that far.
As a result of this experimentation, I also decide to have Tim Warris of Fast Tracks make me a fixture to help solder the throwbars onto the points consistently. Until that comes I won't procede with building switches, or additional trackwork.
In the meantime, I've completed the helix with new bracing up to the single turnout. It's very solid, and more importantly, it works! I've tested it with a Walthers Trainline FA-1 and was able to pull 18 cars up it. I also tested it with a P1k DL-109 and a Bachmann Spectrum Light Mountain. The only issue I ran into was one poorly formed curve. It's one of the ones I installed underneath another deck. The fix was simple, I needed to use the longer throwbar between the locomotive and the tender. This is obviously the only point where I didn't quite maintain the 28" radius. But the inner track on the final level will be 26" radius, which is also the planned inner radius for the mainline as a whole. So I'd need to do this regardless.
So I'm hoping to still install the basic upper level benchwork by the Proto Meet. At least that way the couple of friends that are coming by will have a good idea of what I'm doing, and will probably be able to give me some advice as well. I'm trying to get a work session going in the next week or so to move that aspect along. I won't have much trackwork in place, since I probably won't have the points fixture before that.