Saturday, May 29, 2010

One Week to Proto Meet

Well, I'm not quite far enough to be on the layout tour this year, but I'm having a few of the guys over for dinner to see the progress. Amidst the daily batch of sawdust, here's the the current state of the layout:

The "Holyoke/Waterbury" helix is in its final location, although not actually attached to anything yet. Eventually Stanley Works will be on top of it. The "Hartford/New Haven" helix is under construction (and the source of the day's sawdust). The deck for 2/3 of the upper level is in place, but not attached. I've been mocking up the track plan and making adjustments and it's going to work well.

In the end I opted to build the "Hartford/New Haven" helix around the pole after all. I shifted it slightly but it will allow a better connection to the layout in that position.

These last picture shows how the staging looks in relation to the upper deck. Well, sort of. The picture was taken with a flash so you could see it. Without the flash, they are pretty dark and disappear very well. Coupled with the depth of the upper deck and the planned fascia, the staging will be very unobtrusive when operating. You can also see the piece of masonite spline clamped in place where the Berlin line will be.

I'm hoping to complete the majority of the second helix this week. I have turnouts on order for the upper deck, and once they arrive I'll finalize the track layout for the east side of town, leading into New Britain yard. This is the most complicated portion and everything will be dependent upon that.
We'll see how far I get this week, but I'm looking forward to next weekend. If you're coming to the NE Proto Meet I'll see you there!

Monday, May 17, 2010

Work Update

I completed the upper deck over the weekend. The basement is still a bit of a mess, so I'll take more pictures shortly.

So the new challenge is determining exactly how to tie in the helixes. On the west side, the mainline will go down a grade to enter the helix under the Stanley Works. I'll be using the masonite I cut for the spline on the last layout. The masonite spline is great for this because it automatically creates easements into the curves, and it also makes steady vertical curves. I've done a quick mock-up and it looks like this will work well.

The real issue is on the east side of the city. I moved the helix I've built to see how it will fit in place there. I could move it into position provided I'm sticking with the idea of placing it behind the support column, instead of around it.

The problem is that the geometry I was hoping for doesn't really work. So I measured out how it would differ if I moved it to be around the pole. It helps, but not not really enough. I looked at a number of possibilities, including entering the helix in the opposite direction. In the end it creates as many problems as it solves.

After a lot testing, I've come up with an approach that I think will work pretty well. It will obviously depart from the prototype, but I think it will actually improve operations. Besides, I haven't come across any pictures from that side of town...

So on the modified east-side of town the mainline will also dip into the hidden helix quickly. The siding will extend to serve several industries on top of the helix. Since the inner track on the mainline which will run passenger and freight is 26", I'll reduce the radius of this helix to that radius. In addition, the turnout to make the helix single-tracked will be placed before it gets to the column which will save me 4" and allow me to move the helix enough to open up the geometry a bit.

When I get a chance I'll see if I can get one of my buddies to draw up a plan to post.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

But wait, there's more!

Wow, three updates in three days!

So I picked up some 12' 2x3s to make the main deck in two pieces. It went pretty quick actually, and they're up. With the legs already in place, I just put three clamps up and rested the deck on those while I attached it to the wall. I started with a stud about a third from the end, and just made sure that the top of the deck was at the level line. That way I could use that point as a pivot and screw into a stud at the other end of the deck. Once those two were attached, I made sure it was level and attached it to the legs. That was it. It was simple to go back and attach it to each stud from there.

Here's a picture before I completed the angled supports on the last two legs. I also hadn't cut the legs to length yet.

I'm hoping to have some time tomorrow to continue around the walls. I'd really like to cut the OSB for the decking itself, but I'll do the same thing I did for the staging and start with the corner pieces first. So I'll at least need to build the side wall decking for that, and I think I need to pick up a little more lumber...

Friday, May 14, 2010

More Progress

So I consulted with my engineers last night at the NHRHTA Photo Archive. The challenge being how to support the upper deck. So Dick suggested I place the legs at the same location as those supporting the lower deck, and use an angled support to support the front. The deck will be attached to the wall, so it should have plenty of support that way.
So the easy part was the legs, but I can put up temporary cleats to add the deck. Here's a picture of the legs with 1x2s where the upper deck will be. One of the issues I had with the lower deck was getting it leveled since the legs are on the carpet. So I made them long as Chris suggested and I'll cut them to length after the weight of the deck helps them settle.

I'm hoping to make some progress on the deck tomorrow. I'm going to see if I can get some 12' 1x2s and 1x3s so I can make the main section in two parts.

Here's a picture from today's work:

Thursday, May 13, 2010

How Time Flies

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.