Archive for the ‘Planning’ Category

Major Track Plan Changes

As always, double click on the track plan so it gets big enough to see what I’m talking about. I’m sure by this point you are as tired of reading about track plan changes as I am of making them. It feels like the process is one of endless sacrifice and compromise. I guess if it results in a layout that operates better, it will have all been worth it. I always anticipated changes when it came right down to building benchwork and laying track. I just didn’t think there would be this many. Why all the changes?  As I explained in a previous post, allowing for the background lighting system in the plan cost me three inches on every wall.  I never thought that would make all that much difference, but it does.  Then, when I started to grid out the resin paper I had taped to the floor for the drywall and paint work, I discovered that somehow, I had failed to check the room dimensions, probably since before I built the low hip wall, because I was five inches off on the width and two inches off on the length of the room.  The hip wall at the bottom of the plan, and drywall on all four walls would just about account for these errors.  So, in addition to the major track re-alignment I wrote about in the post on horizon lighting, I was now faced with design alterations that would most certainly result in the loss of a number of features, as well as the contraction of the operating areas.  There is now probably not room for more than three on the operating crew.  To sum up:   1.  The Little Dora Mine, and one of the Silverton Industries are gone.  2.  The Stock Pens and the Icing Dock in Durango have switched places.  3.  The Trolley passing track in Durango is gone.  4.  The Micro-Engineering turnouts I am using are somewhat longer than the ones that Empire Express draws on the plan, but EE does have a larger one that more closely matches ME’s.  To my surprise, replacing all of the shorter turnouts with longer ones did not create major problems.  Turnouts are now labeled for left, right, curved and Y.  5.  Sidings at Lower Cascade and Durango were already lost to the horizon lighting space; now Silverton siding is reduced to about three feet in length.  6.  The rail-to-water log transfer bit the dust because there is no longer a convenient track from the lumber camp to the river.  7.  The three large loops in the center of the room are now down to 22″ radius curves, which is absolutely as tight as I can go.  8.  You may have noticed that the lift-out at Durango is gone; that may prove to be a plus.

Now for some positive news: All of Silverton is now closer to reach, and I figured out a way to do the staging yard without the two helices! I was trying to get down to 13 inches below the layout with the yard, but that required two large helices with nearly impossible grades in them. If I do it without the helices, I can still get down to about 8.25 inches, which I’m hoping will be enough reaching room. I have built helices, 25 years ago, in N-scale, but I wasn’t looking forward to building these.

Changing the plan means changing the schematic, so here is one-third of the new drawing.

Here is the middle third.

……..and here is the other end of the line.

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What is a Schematic?

Remember to double-click on the photo to actually be able to see it!  A “schematic” is a simplified version of the track plan, laid out with the main line running horizontally on the drawing.  Note that this does not depend on the compass direction of the main line in reality.  East, West, North, South….it all becomes left and right on a schematic.  The way distances are represented also changes from a scale version of reality (the track plan) to a kind of “what comes next” arrangement. If there are no diverging tracks, industries, stations or points of interest, the length of a track, from one point to another, is truncated on a schematic.  Compare the way distances are represented here with the revised track plan I just published.

The schematic for my Denver, Durango & Silverton took four photos to represent, end to end. For operators, if I ever get that far :-), portions of the schematic will be posted along the fascia in the areas to which they correspond. The purpose of this is to make the layout easier to understand, and to facilitate communication.  I did a little color-coding, making the main line track red and the siding tracks blue.

I used my track planning program to create this schematic, so the track lines are not so rectilinear as they would be if I had drawn all of this free-hand.  Also, the grid lines have no meaning.  On the track plan they represent square feet, but not here.  Eventually every item of note (tunnel, track, bridge, etc.) on a railroad needs to have a name, so that engineers can communicate their location to the dispatcher, and the dispatcher can instruct engineers on how far to proceed along the line, where to meet opposing trains, etc.  For the time being, I have just started identifying some things by their location in the layout room, like “North Wall Tunnel”, shown here.  Speaking of meets, on a railroad with a single track main line, like this one, sidings (blue) must be provided where trains going in opposite directions can get past each other.  The length of sidings dictates how long the trains can be.  Take a look at the Densel Washington film, “Unstoppable”, to see what happens when the siding is too short!  My freight cars will all be seven inches long, and my passenger cars will be nine inches long.  Lengths of locomotives, tenders and cabooses may vary, but must also be taken into account.  I have indicated by each siding what the capacity is, with or without locomotive and caboose.

Durango is the most complicated trackage I have, but the schematic makes it much easier to understand. I also started to number the turnouts in this area, because they will have controls mounted in the fascia.

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Track Plan Tweaks 9/5/12

Remember that you can double-click on this photo to enlarge it. I have been working on a schematic for the line, which I will be posting shortly. In the process, I discovered some small tweaks I wanted to do in the track plan. 1. In order for the forced perspective to work in upper Durango, I can’t have O Scale trains running right next to HO Scale houses, so I had to tunnel that curve behind Durango. I think in some earlier versions of the track plan I had it that way, but I went through once and tried to “daylight” as much track as possible. Track in tunnels can always be a potential problem. 2. At the San Juan Oil Co., I created a second spur. I need to be able to drop one car off, and pick another up, and the double spurs make that much easier.

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Re-thinking the Helices

A helix is a spiral of roadbed that allows a model train to ascend or descend in elevation, usually out of sight of the operators or viewers.  The factors affecting the grade within the helix are the thickness of the combined plywood, track bed, track, support hardware and clearance needed for the trains, and the diameter of the helix. The smaller the diameter, the steeper the grade that is necessary to maintain the clearance needed for the trains. Think of taking a “slinky” and pulling it apart or compressing it. The distance between the rings of the slinky is your clearance. The clearance has to be high enough so that your trains don’t get stuck! In my case that height is just a little under 4.5 inches. With the clearance kept constant, the grade will vary based on the diameter of the helix. The larger the helix, the smaller the grade, and vice versa.

Helices are uncommon, but not unheard of, in real railroading…the Tehachapi Loop in California being one very famous example, that qualifies as a single circle helix.  A good friend of mine at The Minnesota Transportation Museum has been helping me with my helix planning. In addition to some very useful suggestions on what kind of wood to use, he has been urging me to make the diameter of the helices larger to reduce the grade within the spiral. Locomotives are limited in their ability to pull loads uphill by the steepness of the hill (grade), the weight of cars they are pulling, and the tractive effort (pulling power) of the engine. Working uphill on a curve adds considerably to the tractive effort needed to “make the grade”, as they say.  I must also credit an old friend in the Industrial Arts Department at Hill-Murray School, where I used to work before retirement, for suggesting that I use Baltic Birch plywood in the helices. I’ll talk more about this as I get into the actual construction of the helices. My friend at MTM has convinced me that I should not try to build a helix with a 3% grade, as I was originally planning. That helix would have had a diameter of about 48 inches. My problem was that to increase the size of the helices would force me to cut into some of my aisle space, perhaps even to the point of reducing room for, and hence the numbers of, my operating crew. I may now have to limit operators, or visitors, to three others beside myself. 

Double-click on photos to enlarge. I need to keep the helix under Durango Yard in its original position. I could move it to the corner under the town of Durango, but I would lose my lift-out, and block my emergency exit door. The second helix was to have gone under the Silverton turntable, but putting a larger circle there would create reaching problems above in Silverton Yard. After some playing with it, I have decided to try the areas indicated by the two dark circles in this photo. I only push the Durango fascia out about four more inches, and in Silverton, I locate the helix where there is less reaching needed.
Permit me a little math, now. A 57” diameter track center-line (28.5” radius) on roadbed that is 3” wide, will make the edges of the helix 60” apart.  57” times Pi (3.14), according to the formula for circumference (Circumference = Pi times Diameter), gives me a distance around one circle of the helix of 14.915 feet. If that were 15.000 feet, at a grade of 2.5%, the separation between layers of the helix would be 4.5”, so that’s close enough for me. So, I am building two five foot wide helixes, with a grade within the helix of about 2.5%, and a clearance for trains of about 4.5 inches. This should work.

The number of circles within the two helices will not be the same because the helix under Silverton will have longer approaching tracks, whose grade can alleviate the need for as many circles in the helix.

This photo shows the new location of the fascia (brown lines), and it isn’t too bad, but I still think it will be difficult to get more than two operators into the area on the right beyond the “roll-under”.
One fortuitous outcome; I now have a nice location for my sluice mining scene. If you look closely at this photo, you’ll see that I have also added a run-around track in the Durango trolley line. I now have two O scale horse-drawn trolleys, one to run each way between the depot and the upper reaches of the town, so they need to be able to pass each other. The other addition is the indication for a smelter along the wall to the east (left) of the Durango turntable. Historically, there was an ore smelter in Durango, and if I make it a very low-relief building, with no visible servicing tracks, I can work it into that corner.

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Double-click on this photo to enlarge it, so you can see what I'm discussing in this post. A friend of mine has been urging me to draft the fascia for some time, so I thought I'd give it a shot. The light brown line represents where the boundaries of the edge of the layout might be. This tells me two things. How much standing room I have for operating the layout, and exactly what the reach might be to fix things, derailments, etc. Since my effective reach is about 30 inches, the north-east corner of the layout, lower left, where the town of Durango will be modeled, is a concern for me. You can see from the plan that it could be up to six feet to the corner from where I could stand. Although I don't care for "pop-ups", I might have to incorporate one here (as illustrated by the purple line). I could do it without passing through regular track on the layout, and the trolley line (green) is not functional, so splitting it doesn't matter. As long as I don't have any significant weight gain, I can fit in a two foot by three foot opening with no problem. 🙂 Hidden tracks (red) will be accessible from beneath the layout.
I’ve also added another mine, the “Gold King” to the mining area. All of the mines in this area are named after actual mines in the vicinity of Silverton, Colorado.

While you are looking at this version of the track plan, take note of the green trolley line in Durango. It extends from the hills above the town, down through Main Avenue, to the depot, where it terminates in an "armstrong" style turntable. The picture shows one of these in San Fransisco, but the SF cars were connected to an underground cable; my trolley will be horse-drawn. In SF, they have to release their grip on the cable to turn. They can do this because gripping or releasing the cable is how they move or stop. The cable is in continuous motion. On the turntable, the car is turned by the motormen pushing on the metal pipe railings on either side. Perfect balance allows the weight of the car to be minimized.

Even full sized (at least narrow gauge) railroads used these kinds of turntables, because they were inexpensive. Here is one at Laws, California. There is a full-size replica that I have seen at the Orange Empire Railroad Museum in Parris, California. The operators would push on the angled wooden pole at each end of the turntable to turn the engine around, hence the nickname, "arm-strong".


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After more than a month away from actual modeling, I am finally getting things organized, so I can build again. I redesigned and reassembled my work-bench. The whole thing is now on heavy casters, so I can roll it around as I build the layout.

On the top shelf on each of the corner units on my workbench I'm going to create a little storage/display area for rolling stock works in progress. I can't remember where I got the background poster; I've had it for years. I bought it to video my old Christmas layout, and cut it in half here so I've got one piece for each side.

Another item I build for roll-around storage is a two sided pegboard arrangement that is six feet tall by two feet wide. This side has all kinds of modeling supplies....

.....and this side has tools for working on the room.

So, back to the storage/display tracks. I also had a 1 x 6 left over from my Christmas layout that had a double tracked storage arrangement, Peco code 100 track on cork roadbed. There was enough length to make a piece for the top of each shelf unit. I used a chisel to get the glued on Christmas snow-cloth off of it.

To get rid of the white paint on the track, I took it outside and sprayed it with four different shades of Model Master paint. I wiped the rail heads with mineral spirits right after painting, although I won't ever have to run electricity through these tracks.

Back inside, and after the tracks dried, I built and test-fit eight little end of track wooden bumpers.

I dry brushed the ties and end bumpers with some gray acrylic. When I had wiped the rail heads, some of the paint came off of the molded plastic spikes, turning them white again, so I went back and touched them all up with black acrylic. Painting all the spike heads on my railroad is probably not something I'm going to actually do, but you never know what you'll get carried away with when you've been deprived of modeling for over a month!

Two inch wide masking tape is perfect for covering the tracks and the cork roadbed for the ground cover process.

My buddy is just an armchair modeler.

The taping and mudding of the sheet-rock is finished now, and the preliminary painting is done. I chose two different sky blue tones from the same paint sample card. The one for the ceiling is a little darker, because the sky is a darker blue right overhead than at the horizon. I haven’t bothered to finish the painting in the corners, because they will all be covered by the coving process.

Here is the way I’m going to do this. I’ve glued and screwed two one inch by four foot strips of 1/8th inch tempered masonite to the wall. The lower strip is 12 inches from the corner between the wall and the ceiling. The upper strip is 15 inches from that same corner.

After a sufficient time for the glue behind the hard masonite strips to set up, I’ve taken a 2 foot by 4 foot sheet of untempered masonite, and popped it into place between the other two strips. I’ve used the untempered masonite for this because it is softer, and bends better. This forms a nice curve, and needs no other form of support. Next I’ll take some sheet rock mud and create a smooth joint in the area of the one inch strips.

After several days of hard work, the drywall is in place. Eric Danielson of Stillwater, MN was my drywall installer, and he did a great job. Tomorrow and Tuesday we tape and mud, and Wednesday we sand. By Thursday I’ll be ready to paint. I’m going with a sky blue on the walls and ceiling.  The floor will stay the way it is.  The original loft floor was particle board, and I put one-eighth inch tempered masonite over that with a layer of material that Menard’s sells for sound dampening under laminated flooring in between.  This stuff is a light blue color, about 1/16th of an inch thick, and kind of spongy.  I put this in to give the floor a softer feel when walking on it, because I don’t want to carpet.  Carpeting is too dusty for a layout room, and it would make my “roll-under” feature harder to use.

This is the most open this room will ever be, so I’m enjoying all the space while I can! After painting sky blue, I’ll start installing the untempered masonite backdrop. I’ll use the untempered material because is it is easier to bend into the corners. This coving hides the corner of the room, and gives the layout more depth. I’m also going to cove the background on the short wall as it runs up to the first row of lights on the ceiling. This horizontal curve will help to hide the fact that the north wall is so short. I’m not sure what I’m going to do where this curve meets the vertical curve at the northeast and northwest corners. Ideally, I would like to create some kind of compound curve. I guess I’ll just play that one as I come to it.

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Track Plan for the D,D&SRR

As work progresses on the loft space, I keep getting better ideas for the track plan. The thought that I will certainly be, some day in the not too distant future, committing this plan to reality can bring all kinds of things to light. Today I totally redesigned the town and rail facilities at Durango. I realized that the area of the plan that I might have to reach into the most often, the yard, was the furthest area from the edge of the layout. (See older drawings below) This didn't make sense, so I brought it forward to within two feet of the edge, easily within reach of the 0-5-0 switcher. I also put one of those little hand operated trolley turntables next to the station like the ones that are used in San Fransisco where the lines terminate by the waterfront. You can click on this photo to enlarge it.

Hi Railfans,

Here is a recent version of the track plan. I have used a program called Empire Express to do the drawings. It works well on my MAC, and has as many features as I need, without being too complicated. I keep working over the plan to conform to prototype practice, as my research continues. If you have seen earlier versions of the plan, you will notice some changes. If you are looking at the plan for the first time, the total space is 23 feet by 10 feet, and the little gray squares on the plan are one square foot each. The scale is On30, which means it is O Scale (1/4″ to the foot), but runs on HO Scale track, which represents 2.5 gauge or “narrow gauge” in O Scale.

If this is the first version you are looking at, my railroad, the Denver, Durango & Silverton, will be modeled on the narrow gauge operations of the Denver & Rio Grande Western and the Rio Grande Southern in the southern part of Colorado. These narrow gauge lines flourished in the late 1800s, and gradually died out in the mid 1900s, as the resources they carried, primarily lumber and silver and gold ore, decreased. The advent of better highways to serve these areas also contributed to their demise.  Some sections of the line are still run as tourist railroads, notably the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad, and the Cumbres and Toltec Scenic Railroad.

My railroad will model the line from Durango up to Silverton, about a 45 mile run through the amazingly beautiful Animas River Canyon. I will also have an off-line hidden return helix that will lead to a hidden yard representing Denver if entered from an eastbound direction, or Farmington, New Mexico, if entered from a westbound direction. Basic traffic on my line will come from Denver to the yard at Durango. From there trains can go on to the yard at Silverton, or run through to Farmington. Return trips go the other way. The locals will serve the various on-line industries, as well as taking loads and empties between Durango and Silverton or to Denver and Farmington. The mines and the lumber camp will be served by (2) little 0-4-0 and 0-4-2 Porter steam engines. I also have (2) two-truck Shays that will bring logs down to Durango from the lumber camp. Two other Porters will serve as yard goats, and the main line will be served by two 4-6-0 Moguls, two 2-8-0 Consolidations, and a 4-4-0 American.   A newly purchased DCC/Sound Porter will replace one of my old non-sound Porters.  Eventually the goal is to have all locomotives equipped with DCC and sound.  The larger locomotives will handle the local duties, and the run to Denver and Farmington. These lines also carried passengers, mostly miners and tourists, so I will be modeling the D&RGW’s famous San Juan Express, a short train for passengers, mail, and small shipments that can fit in the baggage express car.  Eventually I will be running two sections of this train each day, one Eastbound and one Westbound.

One unusual feature of the layout will be what I am called a “roll-under”. As opposed to the traditional “duck-under”, access to the west (or right hand) side of the layout on the plan will be via some kind of a seat on rollers that goes under the central cross-over section.

The small numbers in parentheses on the plan refer to reference photos I have in digital files that I use for modeling.   See the posts on the Reference Photos for Plan Sections.

I hope you enjoy looking at this, and I welcome comments.   You can enlarge photos by clicking on them.

Town of Durango, railroad yard, entrance to helix to Farmington.
Center roll-under section between Durango and Silverton representing the Animas River Canyon.  This area will be rendered to be viewed from both sides.
Silverton and Cascade Canyon Lumber Camp area of layout.

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