Roadbed/Track

Planning for Talc - 2

One thing is leading to another around the talc dump. I felt like I needed to have a better idea of the arrangement of the buildings before proceeding with the scenery.

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Since many of the talc dump buildings were to be connected by the On18 tram, I built a section of right of way. Since the tram will not actually run, all track components including the roadbed itself are styrene. I used Grandt Line 18 inch sectional mining track as a guide for gauge, crosstie placement and length.

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Using sheet styrene for roadbed will allow the tram tracks to undulate along the uneven surface of the ground at the dump site.

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I mocked up a suitable arrangement of buildings for the scene.

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With the arrangement of the buildings determined, I was comfortable with the idea of continuing with base scenery to the left of the talc dump.

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Rather than use Gypsolite to cover the plaster cloth on this hill, I tried Fusion Fiber. I found it to be very easy to use with easy cleanup. The ground surface is not as brittle or prone to cracking.

Op Session This Week?

Yeah, right.

My long range schedule for working on the layout this year called for hosting an op session this week.

I sent out an invitation email to the usual suspects, then sent a follow-up email out the very next day to postpone the op session for another month due to the unusually cold weather.

15-02-21-at-9.38.07-AM

While this report from
WeatherUnderground indicates that it feels like 17˚ degrees, it actually WAS 17˚ at about the time my cancelled op session would have started.

The small space heater in my shop, plus the incandescent track lighting, can usually warm things up nicely, but not this week. Dressing more like I was going skiing than to work on a layout, I continued the track cleaning I had started after ballasting the turnouts a few weeks ago.

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I had already put in a few hours on the track with a dental pick, freeing up the points and clearing ballast away from the flangeways.

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I removed the bucket from a V-bottom side dump car, and pushed it through both routes of every turnout, watching to see where the wheels hopped over an obstruction, and listening for clicks.

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I got right down on the roadbed with a flashlight and did all I could to assure that the turnouts were freed up and sufficiently clean. I assumed that a thorough cleaning of the track would bring about a full recovery of the trackwork back to operational status.

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The day before my postponed op session, it was about 20˚ when I bundled up and headed to the shop to clean track. After going over all the track with
varsol, with special emphasis on the turnouts, I tried to run a train over the line.

It was as if I had not done a thing to clean or tune the track. The trains crunched over grit going through the turnouts, the locomotives stalled, the points would not throw completely. The bad situation was compounded by the cold temperatures, which caused my Homasote roadbed to shrink slightly. This in turn caused some of the electrical gaps in the rails to close up. Mysterious electrical issues abounded.

I had no trouble imagining all this happening with an audience of frustrated operators on hand to offer conciliatory comments. A more aggressive means was adopted to clean the track; fine grit emory cloth was wrapped around a wood block and the track was scrubbed to a high shine. Out came the dental pick and the soldering iron. Keeping in mind that the cold and unusually low humidity might be causing some of the alignment problems, I decided to wait until the temperature climbed to above freezing before regauging all my closure points.

Hopefully a month will be enough time to get the layout running reliably again. Situations like this remind me that a model railroad is a precision mechanical system with relatively tight tolerances. Smooth, slow operation is such a joy that it is well worth the effort it requires.

Returned Ballast

It has taken a long time for me to get tired of looking at my incomplete trackwork.

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Most of my turnouts have been waiting a long time to have the copper clad crossties and throwbars painted.

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My first few attempts at painting copper were unsuccessful due to the paint not sticking. A thorough search of my paint supplies turned up these Floquil paint markers. They came in a set called “structure weathering.” Colors included Weathered Concrete, Roof Brown, and Weathered Black.

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The Floquil markers did an excellent job of coloring the copper. Since the markers are no longer available and I wasn’t sure it they would last once primed, I went ahead and painted all the copper crossties and throwbars on the layout. Hopefully I will have the opportunity to use them again before they dry up.

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After the paint dried on the copper crossties, I ballasted the turnouts. This limestone ballast was crushed and screened for me by Gene Browning. Years ago I gave the ballast away after getting all my track laid, completely forgetting that I still had all the turnouts yet to do. I felt like an idiot having to go back and ask for my ballast back. It had been given away a few more times, but it miraculously found its way back to me. I mixed some sand and HO scale cinders in the limestone ballast and spread it very thin, sprayed it with a mixture of water and rubbing alcohol, then a mixture of water and matte medium.

Weigh Scale Track -1

Last month a few friends and I visited a layout that included weigh scales as part of the operation.
This got me to thinking about the scale I am planning to include on my layout.



I had installed the pad for the scale when I laid the track for Shops Yard, and used
Kit-O-Mat software to design the scale house.


My scale house is a slightly modified version of this chicken coup.



Referring to photos of the scale track at Rockhill on the
EBT, I determined that the “live” rails that crossed the scale were offset pretty far from the “dead” rails that heavy locomotives rode on to bypass the weigh scale mechanism. On the three foot gauge EBT, the rails were offset half the gauge from each other, or 18 inches apart. I tacked the rails down on my scale track to see what half the gauge, or 15 inch offset, looked like. That appeared to be pretty extreme, and I began to move the rails closer together until the offset between the live and dead rails “looked right” to me.



I ended up with a relatively small offset between the rails across the pad. Probably too small, but I wanted to be sure the offset did not adversely affect operation of cars being weighed on the live rails.



Even the lightest cars should not have a problem staying coupled and on the rails going over the scale.



With throwrods installed, completion of the scale track is waiting for delivery of servo switch motors.

Winwood Track Ballast

Once the new track in Winwood was in place and electrified, I ran a few trains on it to check for dead spots and other problem areas.



I then cleared all rolling stock out of the area in preparation for painting the rails and ballasting the track.

I used a Q-tip to wipe a small amount of transmission fluid along the top of all the rails and over the points of turnouts, hoping that the oil film would make the eventual cleaning of the track easier. I taped large pieces of kraft paper along the track on the shelf for masking, and then spray painted the track lightly with gray primer.



Once the primer was dry, I randomly brush painted ties with earth tone acrylic paints to add some variety to the color.



Once the ties were dry, it was time to paint the rails.



The gray primer helped water based Polly S brand paint adhere to the rails. I used Rail Brown as a base, mixing in International Black and International Orange for variety and to add some slight differentiation between the main line and the sidings. Mixing the black and rail brown produced a greenish brown, which I warmed up by adding the orange.



After painting the rails, I mixed ballast for the track. My ballast is primarily Pecos & Brazos limestone O scale ballast, to which I have added sifted dirt and sand from my neighborhood streets. On the coal transfer siding, I added coal dust to the ballast. I graded the ballast with a one inch brush, and cleaned all the ballast away from the turnout points.



Once the ballast was in place, I sprayed it with a mix of water and alcohol. I then used a turkey baster to apply diluted matte medium as an adhesive.



A characteristic of the limestone ballast is that it becomes much darker when wet, and once the matte medium is applied, it will remain dark even after it dries.



To lighten up the dark toned ballast, I applied a few thin washes of the same earth tone acrylics that I used to paint the ties. The washes make the ballast look particularly dirty and rain scoured, which I like.

Once the ballast was dry, it was time for a major cleanup. Dried ballast had to be picked off the rails and switch points, which marred the rail paint so it required some touch up. The turnouts had to be worked free and functional again, and the railheads had to be polished clean of all paint and grime.

Winwood Trackwork

My original plan for the section of the layout that runs through a hole in the train room wall into the shop was for it to be a staging or fiddle area for car storage. Friends assisting me with the track plan design suggested a modeled terminal for the narrow gauge to transfer freight to and from a standard gauge connection would be much more interesting.

But I had only allocated a narrow shelf to the layout in the shop, and was not sure it was even possible to include the basics of a terminal in that space. To test the possibility, I quickly laid a test trackplan using HO flex track left over from my previous layout.

Operating the P&EBR over the past few months has shown that the transfer terminal in the shop is indeed a good idea and adds a lot of interest to running the railroad. So the time has come to move beyond the “testing” stage and proceed with layout construction in Winwood.


For years, Winwood was represented by HO scale flex track hastily laid on a Homasote shelf 8 feet long by 16 inches deep. This confirmed the possibility of Winwood being a transfer terminal for the P&EBR.


Changes at Winwood began with moving a light switch and installing a blank plate over the switch box. The HO flex track came up quickly.


I decided to use “store-bought” track in Winwood rather than handlay in order to expedite construction. The revised trackplan was printed out full size and used as a guide for placement of the first turnouts. Some rolling stock was used to check clearances.


At the right end of the shelf, part of a standard gauge flatcar kit is used to check clearances at the transfer. Here, a short stretch of standard gauge track will have narrow gauge tracks on either side. All the tracks will stub end directly into a mirror against the wall to give the illusion that they extend further.


The new track is in. Soon the Winwood Turn will be trying out the new arrangement.

Open for operation

The last section of track to be completed on the layout was complex, at least for me. I wanted to build it last so I would have plenty of experience going in.



A jungle of electrical connections were created under the roadbed. Hundreds of spikes were driven. There were mysterious problems with the stationary decoders.



The last section of track to be powered up was the scale track at the Ariel Church end.



Finally, the work train was pushed up into the town track and unloaded. The trackwork is done!



With wooden blocks filling in for soapstone boulders, the first stone train leaves Meridian Quarry.



The train swings around past the future location of the dust mill.



Rocking over the switches at Cove Quarry.



Up the long grade toward Ariel Church.



Past the Ariel Church town site.



At the yard, the Plymouth locomotive cuts off and runs into the locomotive service track.



The Mill Job pushes the loaded flats past the end of the yard.



The future site of Piedmont Mill, where an overhead crane will lift the soapstone boulders off the flatcars.

Eventually.

Lots of New Turnouts

A long expanse of new crossties stretched away from Ariel Church all the way to Piedmont Mill.



First order of business was to stain them and the Homasote roadbed a dull black with a heavy coat of ebony wood stain.



Once dry, the stain was sanded almost completely off the tops of the ties.



Once that mess was cleaned up, I went back and stained the tops of the ties with a random application of wood weathering gray solution, Floquil Driftwood and pickling stains.



Then ballast was spread over the roadbed, shaped and graded with a paintbrush, then soaked with a water and alcohol mix. While still wet, the ballast was saturated with diluted matte medium. Once that was dry, I used a single edge razor blade and dental pick to clean ballast off the tops of the crossties. A thin acrylic wash of dirt and mud tones was then applied to the ballast and ties.



I drilled an eighth inch hole down through the roadbed centered between the point crossties, and centered between where the rails would run over them.



This was used as a pilot hole for drilling a five eighths inch hole up through the subroadbed. I did not drill up through the Homasote. Once the hole was drilled up through the subroadbed, I went back up on top and elongated the pilot hole to the width of the larger hole underneath.



Six new Tortoise switch machines were tested prior to installation using a toy transformer.



I bent six actuating rods from the heaviest gauge piano wire that would fit through the #56 holes I had drilled in my turnout throws. I am afraid it might be too stiff, and cause undue strain on the throw solder joints. Time will tell.



Each Tortoise switch machine was attached under the subroadbed, first with just two screws to allow some adjustment, then with four screws tightened to hold it securely in place.



Each actuating rod was centered, then checked to make sure it was centered in the hole through the roadbed.



The turnout was then dropped down over the actuating rod. I slipped 1 mm thick styrene shims under the PCB ties near the throw to help reduce friction of the switchpoints rubbing across the wooden crossties when the turnout is thrown.



Track is being extended to connect the installed turnouts.

Lots of New Ties

With snow accumulating from one storm to the next, I have begun laying all the track remaining to be built in the area from Ariel Church to the Shops, and on to a connection with the Piedmont trackage.


My piano jig got a real workout, generating string after string of crossties for new track.


Long expanses of roadbed comprise a major portion of all the track on the layout. The seven turnouts required have all been built and are waiting to be installed.


Ties are custom cut to fit the three turnouts that lead to the locomotive servicing area.


This arrangement of three more turnouts lead to the RIP and scale tracks. Just beyond, the crossties for the locomotive shop track are glued and clamped.


Blue tape strings of crossties are dropped on the mainline roadbed. Just beyond is the RIP track, the locomotive service track, the fuel track, and way back against the wall is the hidden continuous run connection from Piedmont.


Gluing down the mainline ties. This latest tracklaying project ate up almost all the ties I had on hand.

Whose Idea was This?

Upon completion of the trackwork at Piedmont Mill, I was able to run trains through a hole in the wall between my office/shop area and the main layout room.



The track through the hole is hand laid, requiring the rails to be spiked to the wooden crossties by hand. As I spiked the rail down approaching the wall from both sides, it became apparent that there was a long stretch of track through the wall that was going to be very difficult to spike. The two factors conspiring to make track laying trouble were very poor access to the hole, and the shallow angle of the track through the hole.



Initially, I had quit spiking when it became aggravating to proceed any further through the hole. This left about 14 inches of track unspiked. Not long afterwards, trains began derailing in the hole. Once I got around to trying to fix the problem, the loose rails were back in gauge again. So, I guess I was lucky that I discovered early that the rails could not be left “floating” through the hole.

I ended up climbing up onto the layout and laying across the Shops Yard roadbed on my stomach, reaching into the hole with a pin vise to drill pilot holes, then inserting spikes with very thin pliers, then pushing them home with a nail set. The ”pushing them home” step of the procedure enjoyed about a 20% success rate. Eventually, the rails through the hole were spiked and glued securely, and I was left to look at the three other holes through walls that I plan to run hand laid track through.

Backing into Piedmont

Laying track in Piedmont started out neat enough.



The turnout at the far right was built in place. The other two turnouts were built in Fast Track jigs, then spiked in place. I installed the Tortoise switch machines while the turnout positions could still be adjusted.

The white cardboard inserts between the benchwork joists kept ballast from falling down into the cabinet underneath. But the cardboard had to go when I started pulling Loconet cable and dropping feeders to the buss wires. Consequently, much of what was in the cabinet had to be pulled out, and what remained got a good shower of ballast and sawdust.



Try as I might to keep the office clean, it soon degenerated into a typical construction zone with tools and parts everywhere.



Entry into Piedmont is currently only possible from the hidden track bypassing Shops Yard.



The second boxcar is on a section of roadbed that will be cut out for a bridge.

Setting my office right again is going to take a while.

Old ties, new rail at Piedmont

I am waiting on an order from Boulder Valley Models so I can continue building rolling stock. I thought I would fill the time by laying some more track.



This is the Piedmont Mill site. It is hard to believe that I glued down, sanded and stained the crossties on this part of the layout four years ago. At that time, I was just considering using Fast Tracks fixtures to build turnouts. Consequently, the trackplan had not yet been revised to include only “standard” turnouts. One of the turnouts in Piedmont is a little odd.




In the plan above, the red turnout is slightly curved. The diverging route radius is 24 inches, but the “straight” route is the beginning of a 24 inch radius reverse curve that leads to the Warehouse and Boilerhouse spurs. I bought a Fast Tracks fixture for building #4 wye turnouts, and I could have used one here. But the ties were already down, and I was in the mood to go ahead and build this turnout in place.



I used my Fast Tracks Point & Frog Jig to make a #6 point for this custom turnout. This worked out well, as the two routes out of the turnout follow the crossties nicely.



I gave myself a lot of “lead” between the frog and points, so the point rails came out long and either route through the turnout is smooth.



This is the first turnout a visitor will see when they enter the layout, and I think it came out fine. But I still much prefer using Fast Tracks fixtures to build turnouts.

A Major Tuneup


A train runs up the newly extended mainline. The unballasted section will eventually be cut out for a bridge.

When the mainline was extended to Ariel Church, it became clear that the P&EBR was ready to begin limited operations.


Entering the Town Track. Shops Yard will extend from this turnout over the crossties in the foreground.

Trains can use the hidden extension off the end of the Town track as a staging area for out and back operation.

The problem with this idea was the condition of the previously built handlaid track on the layout. I had been hasty to build and move on, and there were dead spots, dips and rises, and out of gauge sections throughout. Unreliable operation was one of the major factors leading to the death of my old Dry Fork layout. So I decided now was the time to do whatever it took to get the Piedmont & East Blue Ridge running like it should.



A close inspection of a variety of locomotives and cars running over all the track pointed up problems that required hours to resolve.



Watching and listening for clicks, rocking, binding, electrical dropouts. Running fast and slow, coupling light cars to heavy cars, long cars to short, pushing and pulling trains through all the turnouts.



Dozens of new electrical connections and hundreds of new spikes later, the railroad is almost ready for regular operations to begin.

Against the Wall

With enough Fast Track turnouts built to lay the entire Shops Yard, I determined the best place to start laying track was in the area with the worst access. That way I could lean on the Yard roadbed and use it as a shelf for tools and materials without fear of crushing anything.


There is a stretch of hidden track that will connect the Piedmont Mill trackage to the Town Siding at Ariel Church. This surreptitous connection creates a reverse loop, making continuous running of trains possible. It is not to be used during actual layout operations, so it will be hidden from view under the scenery. The connection it makes to the Mill trackage is through the hole in the backdrop shown above.


I used HO standard gauge flex track to lay the hidden connection along the wall. The handlaid track starts where the hidden track curves away from the wall, comes out from under the scenery, and becomes the Town Track siding.


The Town Track is ballasted with a mixture of Highball cinders, Pecos and Brazos limestone, and sifted sand and dirt from my neighborhood streets. I smooth and spread the ballast with an inch wide paintbrush.


Once graded, I wet the ballast down with an alcohol/water mix, then glue it down with a mixture of white glue, matte medium, and water. Once dry, I scrape down any high spots in the ballast, then paint it with a thin wash of earth tone acrylics.


I sanded a strip of cardstock into a wedge to raise the level of the flextrack up to the height of the handlaid. Then I started handlaying track toward the Town Siding switch. Once these rails are spiked down, I will install the Town Siding switch, and then extend the rails from it up the siding to make the connection here.

End the Year Laying Track

All this past summer, the end of the East Blue Ridge Railroad was at the first crossing of Buffalo Creek.

This winter, the track is being extended all the way up the hill and through Shops Yard.


The mainline crosses Buffalo Creek a second time, and then immediately enters the yard limits at Ariel Church. I built the two turnouts at the entrance to the yard, and cut Kappler switchties to fit.



Long hours have been spent hunched over the bench, assembling turnouts in Fast Tracks fixtures.


Cutting, bending, and filing rail, huffing solder smoke, and listening to long sets of John Fahey, Adrian Legg, and Laurence Juber.


The turnouts that form the opposite end of Shops Yard are built. Now I can "rough in" the alignment for the yard tracks.

Dust Mill Yard Complete

The mainline and sidings are finally in place and powered in the Dust Mill and Cove Quarry areas.



I was overly optimistic in estimating the time it would take to install, adjust, power, and program a long string of Tortoise switch machines and Hare stationary decoders. To the very last turnout I was dealing with connectivity and shorting issues. But, as of right now, it all works.



The dump cars on the elevated track are in position to be pushed out onto a trestle that will be built over the crusher at the Dust Mill. The waste stone will be dumped into the crusher, milled into powder, then bagged and stacked on pallets. The boxcars are spotted for loading on the Dust Mill siding. With two quarries and the Cutting Mill providing the Dust Mill with waste rock and cutoffs, the Dust Mill will be loading a lot of boxcars. A string of flatcars sits on the Dust Mill Yard track waiting to be consigned to a quarry for loading, and the Davenport is on the mainline pushing a pair of flatcars to Meridian Quarry.

I imagine this will be a busy spot on the railroad with plenty of work for a crew to do.

Jumping Ahead

Once the Tortoise, stationary decoder, and feeder wires were in, the road crew wasted no time loading Dust Mill yard with rolling stock.



For some reason, I decided that rather than continue to extend the track around the corner, I would jump over to the other side of the aisle, and start laying track back toward Dust Mill Yard.



Choosing to jump directly to Cove siding meant having to deal with some electronic issues sooner rather than later, since this turnout is the beginning of a reverse loop.

Dreaded Task Done

Ever since I included a custom curved turnout in the trackplan for the Dust Mill yard, I had been dreading the day when I would actually have to build it.

That day finally came as I extended the mainline around the end of the peninsula from Glade Junction.



I have built turnouts in place before, but few had come out well enough for me to be confident about building this one.



Once the turnout was in, I pushed a variety of rolling stock through the closed and thrown route, adjusting and filing until even short 4 wheel cars would roll smoothly over it.

Turnouts on a Curve

The crossties in the Cove area of my layout are Kappler 6 foot, and 6 foot 6 inch ties mixed



Five turnouts had to be built in order to get the track through the curve. Most of the turnouts are curved themselves, which complicated the placement of crossties.


Ties had to be custom cut and angled to carry the track along the curve.


The sets of crossties were then glued down in position.


Once all the crossties were glued and dry, I stained them with Olympia Ebony stain. After letting them sit overnight, I sanded almost all the ebony stain off the tops of the ties.


Once sanded, I stained the tops of the crossties gray using a random combination of Driftwood and Micro Mark's wood graying potion.


I then ballasted the roadbed. I used Gene Browning's Pecos and Brazos O scale limestone ballast, with some sifted sand and road dirt from my neighborhood streets mixed in. Gene's ballast is very clean and uniform. When I went to his house to pick up my order, I got to run trains on his layout. Great customer service!


The dust mill siding turnout before -



and after -


staining the ties and ballasting the roadbed.

Trackwork Extends to Cove


Gluing down crossties for the track around the end of the peninsula and into Dust Mill yard.


Fabricating more turnouts.


Crossties going in on the mainline and down the Cove Quarry siding.


Using the turnouts as a guide for placement of crossties at Cove Quarry.

When I revised the trackplan and eliminated the Apex Quarry track, I realigned the railroad grade in this corner. The track closest to the wall once led to the transfer yard in the next room. After the realignment, I planned on simply abandoning this grade, but have since changed my mind and will be using the grade for a loading spur.

Along Glade Creek

Recent construction has seen a proliferation of wires under the roadbed at Glade Junction.

I am using Tortoise switch machines to throw my turnouts, and TTE Hare II stationary decoders to control the Tortoises. My reasons for using the Hare stationary decoders are to reduce the clutter on the fascia, and hopefully incline operating crews to bring their train to a complete stop, throw the turnout, roll through, stop, close the turnout behind their train, and continue. On such a small layout, delaying operations with some prototypical ceremony is essential for slowing everything down to extend run times.



The little work train runs back and forth finding dead spots and confused frog wiring.


Here the work train is delivering new crossties to the railhead. Soon the line will be extended up Glade Creek to Dust Mill Yard.


Laying out ties for the first turnout in Dust Mill Yard. This is the only turnout on the layout I plan to build in place. All others will be built at the bench using Fast Tracks fixtures.

Start the Year Laying Track

It was last April when circumstances conspired against laying track on my layout. The delay gave me time to rethink the trackplan, and I think the modifications are a big improvement.

But now, 8 months later, I am again in my gandy togs to line some rail. The first order of business was to pull an extension to the power bus under the roadbed from Cove Quarry to Glade junction around the peninsula.


I am using stationary decoders to control my turnouts, so the power bus will be running both the track and the Tortoise switch machines.


At Meridian Quarry, I installed the Tortoise switch machine before I installed the turnout. I find it easier to slide the turnout around on the roadbed to make slight adjustments than to try to mount the switch machine precisely. I use a toy DC transformer with built-in rheostat and reversing switch to test the switch machine during installation.



Once I was happy with the operation of the switch machine, I dropped the Fast Track turnout onto it, adjusting it so center position on the switch machine centered the points of the turnout. Then I tacked the turnout in position with a few track spikes.



Rail is being spiked down on the Meridian quarry spur and Glade Junction wye.

Transfer Yard

The Apex Quarry track along the wall is gone.



New subroadbed to carry the track through the wall to the Transfer Yard.



I painted the Homasote roadbed gloss black, and started test fitting the yard trackage on it.



Transfer Yard track in place. Can't wait to start knocking cars around!


Track realignment

I have revised my trackplan to eliminate a track with bad access.


The track running along the wall between the two holes is the one that will be relocated. The hole through the wall closest to the camera is new.



On the other side of the wall is the shelf for the new Transfer Yard. I traced the revised trackplan full sized on kraft paper and laid it in position to check fit.



Planning how the revisions will tie into the existing construction.



The kraft paper pattern was used to cut Homasote roadbed.

Trackplan Revision



The new hole in the wall between the layout room and the shop area. The revised trackplan will mean the removal of the track shown in the upper left running along the wall. Instead, the track leading off the end of the wye will curve through the new hole and into the Transfer Yard.



Here is the new hole from the other side of the wall. I am using a folding carpenter's ruler to approximate the radius of the curved approach to the Transfer Yard.

Crossties and Ballast

Kappler Ties are glued and clamped down to the Homasote roadbed at Glade Junction



Then I rubbed the ties and roadbed down with Olympia Ebony stain.



Once dry, I sanded almost all the stain off the tops of the ties, vacuumed up the dust, then restained the ties with a mix of Olympia pickled white and Floquil Driftwood.



Next came ballast. I mixed up a quart of ballast using ancient Life-Like limestone ballast as a base. (Bought at Bob's Hobby Center on Cary Street for 85 cents back in the early 70's). The ballast was spooned onto the roadbed, then foam brushed into place. I soaked it with rubbing alcohol, then used a turkey baster to dribble on a mixture of water and white glue.



I am not happy with the look of the ballast. It has a strong blue/white cast that doesn't have the weathered and old look I want.

Fast Tracks Turnouts

One of the major shortcomings of my previous layout was the poor quality trackwork. There are a lot of important relationships in the geometry of a reliable turnout that evade my perception. Early on I was very careful in the construction of my hand laid turnouts, and they came out reasonably well. But with experience I became less careful, and made more mistakes.

The fixtures available from Fast Tracks address very directly the problems I had hand laying turnouts. All the angles and lengths are preset to exact standards. The fixtures themselves are extremely well made and easy to use



Here is my workbench set up for cranking out turnouts using Fast Tracks fixtures. Just out of the picture at the upper left is a small belt sander that makes quick work of shaping points and stock rails.



A completed turnout set in place at Meridian quarry. Three of these wyes will make up Glade Junction.

Homasote Roadbed

The Homasote roadbed is all trimmed out, and the pieces have been set in position to check fit.



Once I was happy how everything fit, I glued the Homasote down to the plywood subroadbed using Liquid Nails for Projects. Then anything and everything I could get my hands on to clamp the pieces together was brought to bear. First in the Shops Yard,



Then through Ariel Church.



The parade continues down the mainline to the Dust Mill site,




and around the peninsula to Glade Junction



and up to the end of track at Meridian Quarry.

Main Line Grade

Once the position and roadbed of the two complex areas had been secured in place, the time came to connect them with a winding mainline.


The mainline is a simple single track that connects the yard at Shops with the yard at the Dust Mill. I waited until last to build the mainline so it could be adjusted to fit, both horizontally and vertically, since The Shops Yard is at the top of a grade.


The curves have been determined and the subroadbed cut out. Risers were cut to establish the grade up the hill from the Dust Mill to the Shops.

Setting track level

I want to use the same hole through the wall to access the staging area in the garage that I used previously with my HO scale layout. Now being in O scale, the height of the hole is somewhat restrictive, so I need to keep the track low through the hole.


Once the track height through the hole in the wall was determined, I used it as the height for all the track on this section of the layout. The height for all the roadbed risers was set using a string and line level.



Once the height of all the risers was determined, I used the subroadbed to locate them on each joist.



The location of the subroadbed was in turn checked by placing the roadbed on top of it to make sure everything was lined up from the track down.


Shops Yard in place

The height of the risers for Shops Yard put the rail height at the same level as Piedmont on the other side of the wall.



This same track level carries on through Ariel Church to make switching and spotting cars easier in this area.



Once the risers were all in, the subroadbed and roadbed were glued down in position.



Track 1 is the Scale Track. The scale will be in the short tangent between the long S curves.
Track 2 is the Yard Lead. This track eventually continues to Piedmont and the mill.
Track 3 is the Town Track. This track will be adjacent to the town site of Ariel Church. and will be the holding track for maintenance of way equipment, rail cars, or whatever the Shops Yard crew wants to keep out of the way. The Town Track will be hidden from view from the sharp curve to the left and on down the length of the wall, where it becomes the Back Lead for switching Piedmont Mill. When operating the layout "for keeps", the Back Lead and Town Track are considered to be two separate spurs. When running the layout for show, this hidden connecting track will allow continuous lap running.

In the Carport

I wanted to lay out my full sized prints of the Shops Yard trackplan flat. The only place big enough was the carport.



Once the tiles of the trackplan were taped together, I laid the sections of homasote roadbed on top of it to see if the butting edges needed to be trimmed.



The roadbed sections fit well on the trackplan. I used them as patterns to cut out the plywood roadbed. I took care to not have the joints in the subroadbed fall near the joints of the roadbed.



Once the subroadbed was cut out, it was in turn checked on the trackplan for fit.

From Plan to Roadbed

I built the benchwork referring to scale printouts of my trackplan. Once the benchwork was complete, I printed out my trackplan full sized, trimmed each piece out to fit the benchwork, and laid it all out in place.



I was interested in trying to get an overall idea of the proportions of the parts for the trackplan. Were the sidings the right length? Was the servicing area big enough?

These concerns over getting the general impression of the railroad right rested on several issues.



Primarily, I had never modeled in O scale before, and had not developed a feel for how much space would be required to portray the scenes I wanted to include on the layout. I wanted to err on the side of allowing too much space. To aid in visualizing the layout as being an O scale model, I built a mockup of the completed layout using the trackplan as a basis.



Secondly, I was concerned that the layout went through all the initial plan and design phases with the assumption that it would be an HO layout of a West Virginia coal and lumber operation. Once I decided to model a soapstone operation in On30, I made very few alterations to the plan. So, when I looked at my trackplan, I could still see it as an HO standard gauge layout. Steve Sherrill helped me understand the operational differences between HO and On30. My previous layout had suffered from not giving an accurate impression of the operation I was trying to model, and I did not want to make the same mistake again.



I didn't see any glaring problems with the full sized trackplan laid out on the benchwork. I thumb tacked sections of the full sized trackplan printout to sheets of Homasote, and transferred the trackplan to the Homasote by tracing over it with a pounce wheel.


Adjoining sections of roadbed were trimmed for a tight fit at the joint.