Monday, August 8, 2016

August 2016 Update

It's been over seven months since my last post here. I haven't completely given up on model railroading, its just become a lower priority the last few months. I've been busy with summer household projects and we have another newborn at home to take care of. I've still been thinking about the layout occasionally though and have even reworked the track plan several times in SCARM and done some minor construction. 

Another problem was that because of all the work around the house, my layout room was completely trashed up until recently. Now that I've got it cleaned up a bit, I'm more open to spending some time down there planning and working on the layout. I'd still like to get a track plan nailed down this year and at least be able to start running some trains on it. I just need to find a way to keep myself motivated. Cleaning the room was definitely a good start. 

The reason for redoing the track plan is primarily because I made the table a little too wide. I thought the reach would be comfortable for getting to the middle of the table, but after messing around on there for a while it's just too much. To alleviate that, I've decided to block off a rectangular section at the center of the table. This reduces my available space a bit, but will make for an easier modeling experience. Plus I don't have to dismantle the entire table this way.

I also decided to go back to having a wye, rather than a turntable. This wouldn't fit the way I wanted to at first, so I decided I must add a small 1' x 2' section to one corner of the layout. 

Here is the current iteration of the revised track plan with the center blocked off.

Revised track plan with the center blocked off.
To block off the center of the table, I built a simple structure using some hardboard and 1x4's. Once I have the exact location figured out, the plan is to sink it into the foam down to the same level as the plywood.

A look at the basic structure for the new center of the layout.
As far as the goals I laid out back in January, I don't need to change any of them. I just need to actually work toward them a bit more. I've still got a good chunk of the year to work with, so hopefully I can be writing a post four months from now showing that I've completed at least a few of them. Only time will tell I guess.

Friday, January 1, 2016

Goals for 2016

Goals always help serve as motivation to get things done. Over on my hockey card blog, I used to put together goals each new year and would use that as something to work towards. They weren't anything set in stone, but at least a guidline to help keep my focused throughout the year. It worked pretty well there so I'm hoping it will help with my model railroading hobby moving forward into 2016.

Goals for 2016
  • Purchase and install the rest of the track and cork roadbed needed for the basement layout
  • Complete wiring and DCC system hookup for the layout
  • Be able to run trains and basic operations on the layout
  • Purchase and build another structure kit
  • Add some locomotives or rolling stock to my Detroit & Mackinac collection

While none of these are earth shattering, they are attainable and will give me a bit of a guideline for the next year. I've learned over the last six months or so that this hobby takes a lot of patience, but is well worth it in the end. I am giving myself the entire calendar year to just get the basement layout up and running, so hopefully I can meet these goals and then some. Just the fact that I am writing this post tells me I am in better shape than I was going into 2015. 

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Prototype Pic of the Day #24

NS #1031 | Image courtesy of Steven McKay via
Its about a week from Christmas here in Michigan and there has been a noticeable lack of snow lately. I was browsing and came across this great shot of some Norfolk Southern power rolling through a snow covered Cohoctah, MI. I've actually driven along side these same tracks in the past so its kind of neat to see them with some unique power. According to the photographer, this was the first time in 15 years a NS train was on that line.

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Basement Layout: Roadwork

I still don't have all of the track I need to finish my main line run yet, so I've been working on some smaller projects for the layout lately. One of those is figuring out how I want to do the roads and grade crossings. In my last post I showed some work I started with foamcore poster board. Now I've had some more time to play with it and I think I will be using this for sure on the layout.

I've cut a few more test pieces and started experimenting with striping using acrylic paint. I took some frog tape and used two pieces to create a straight line along the center of the road. Then it was as simple as brushing on some yellow in the opening. For a first shot at this, the results are pretty good. I missed on the centering a bit, but this was just a test piece so that's ok.  I'll just have to measure before I put the tape down next time.

Experimenting with road striping.
The straight sections are the easiest so it took a little more effort to get any curved lines to work. To do this, I cut some thin strips of frog tape with my xacto knife and placed them gradually along the bend. The hard part about that was keeping a consistent gap between pieces of tape. I got as close as I could for another test piece and threw down some paint. This one also came out pretty nice.

Painting curved road markings with painters tape.
So far I like what I see with the painting method, so I might just do this for the entire layout. Beyond that, I still need to figure out exactly what I want to do for the grade crossings. The picture above kind of shows what I'm thinking so far. I have both the road and sidewalk coming to the exact same elevation just before meeting the ties. This will leave space for a pre-made crossing to be inserted.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Basement Layout: Making Progress

While I'm not exactly as far along as I would have liked by now, I'm still enjoying working on the layout. I've been busy lately with making track plan changes and starting to lay some track and cork down. Now I just need to get out and buy enough track and turnouts to complete the mainline loop. That is my primary goal right now. Once I'm at that point, I can at least have some trains running again and then decided what to do next from there.

One thing I'd like to show here is what I am doing with the cork to differentiate between the main line and the sidings/yard area. Rather than using standard HO scale cork for everything, I've decided to go with N scale cork for the sidings/spurs and in the yard areas. This should give me a bit more of a prototypical look with the main line sitting just a bit higher than everything else.  

After I bought a few pieces of cork to get started, I realized that to make a 3 foot long section in N scale thickness, I can just take a third strip of N scale cork and put them all together. This turned out to be almost exactly the same width as the regular HO size, so I think I will go with this, at least for the lower sections of track that aren't grouped close together. For those areas, primarily the yard, I will probably have to go with sheet cork. 

Here is a look at how the three pieces of standard N scale cork line up with HO scale.

Comparison of three pieces of N scale cork and two pieces of HO scale cork.
I've also been working on some other small projects, one of which is figuring out what to do for the roads I need on my layout. I want something that looks good, but can be made from readily available materials. That led me to doing a quick YouTube search and I came across a great video from Gknos modeltrains. This video shows how roads can be made from simple foamcore poster board. I've been trying it out and have to say I like the results so far.

Messing around with some foamcore poster board to create roads and sidewalks.
For the main road section in the center, it is just a 3" wide strip of foamcore board with the paper removed from both sides and painted with some grey acrylic paint. The sidewalks are the same, only they are sitting up on a piece of thin foam sheet. This did a nice job of simulating the sidewalk being at curb height. The seams in the sidewalk were done by cutting slightly into the top surface with my xacto knife. Now it just needs some striping and weathering.

Monday, November 16, 2015

Basement Layout: First Turnout and Another Track Plan Change

Things are coming along nicely with this project so far. I'm going at a pace that I'm comfortable with and fits well within my spending budget and available free time. So far I've really enjoyed the process and I'm looking forward to learning as much as I can as progress is made. 

This past weekend I made a trip to the local hobby shop and picked up my first turnout. I bought an Atlas Super-Track 83 #6 left hand to get started with the siding that will connect to the scrap and lumber yard spurs. I decided to go with #6's anywhere possible to hopefully avoid derailment issues down the line and also have a more prototypical look. 

A look at my new Atlas turnout.
While my track is far from permanent at this point, I've got this new turnout test fit and ready to be installed. It was pretty simple in that I just had to remove the end ties and cut some flex track to line up properly with the diverging route. I'm happy with the look and functionality of it so far after some preliminary run by's with my new Bachmann GP40 and a few of my Intermountain D&M boxcars. 

Now, as far as the track plan change, this came about after doing the test runs over the turnout. Once I marked the centerline for the main that runs along the edge of the table, I laid down the cork along it then added the track. It turned out to be way too close to the edge for me, so I've decided to eliminate one of the yard storage track and shift everything a bit so I can have another inch of room between the edge of the track and the edge of the table. 

Revised track plan.
I also changed the industrial area a bit so there are now only two spurs: one for the scrap yard and one for the lumber yard. I was hoping to squeeze in three different industries, but I felt like it would be too cramped so I will just go with the two for now. Plus, this makes for one less turnout in that area so that's a few extra bucks I can spend elsewhere.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Side Project: Toy Train Table Update

Well, I have another project I can cross off my to do list. I'm really happy with the way this one turned out. Its actually been done for a few weeks now, but I'm just getting around to taking pictures of the finished product. My son loves it and has been playing with it every day so there is a bit of wear and tear already. 

The finished toy train table.
We've been slowly adding to my son's collection of wooden locomotives as he's been really into the whole Thomas & Friends thing lately. He loves both the toys and the movies. I couldn't be happier because Thomas is what got me into trains when I was about his age so its nice to continue with and enjoy it together. 

So far we've got him the Thomas engine along with Trevor (right) and Gator (center). There are just so many of these things out there and actually pretty expensive for what they are. I'm hoping to add a few more along with some additional rolling stock so he can have some nice looking trains to run around the table.