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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Hidden Return Yard

A hidden return yard, or “staging” yard, as it is sometimes called in model railroad circles, functions as an imaginary distant place, or places, which are not rendered on the visible part of your layout. You can then send trains to these towns, and receive shipments from them in return, which increases your operational possibilities.  Some layouts, called “point-to-point” layouts, use one or more hidden staging yards in separate places, under the layout, or in other rooms. Others, called “run-through”, or “continuous running” layouts, use double ended staging yards like the one I have designed. This enables the operator to set up one or more trains to run in circles, as it were, around the layout for simple train-watching, and have other trains “waiting in the wings” to make their “entrances upon the stage”.  Funny how theatre language applies to model railroading.  The length of the run, and the route, are determined by the design of the visible part of the layout plus the hidden section.  Originally, I was going to use two helixes at opposite ends of the route to represent a yard at Denver, and one at Chama, New Mexico. After further consideration, I made two changes. Since in the real world, Chama is located between Denver and Durango, I changed the Chama yard to the Farmington, New Mexico, yard, which is further West and South of Durango. The other change involved designing just one larger yard with double ended access, which can receive and dispatch trains in both directions. This makes a continuous run on my layout possible, although it still uses the original two helixes. Here are track plans, in the same format as the visible track plans, which show the helixes and the hidden track for the yard. Although I say “hidden”, for convenient access this track is as close to the front edge of the layout as I can make it, and it is only 13 inches below the lowest level on the main layout.

Images may be enlarged by clicking on them.

Another really big advantage of this change is that I can get rid of two return loops.  Return loops, or areas where locomotives can return to track that is of the opposite polarity than the track on which they are running,  are challenging and expensive to wire and operate, and the fewer of them on the layout the better.  My two turntables still constitute “return loops”, because the locomotives are turned around, and put back on track running in the opposite direction.

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2.  Inverted Box Girder Bridge.

This is known as the High Line Bridge on the D&SNGRR.  I don’t know if it’s the correct terminology, but I refer to bridges like this as inverted box girder, because the box girder support system is below the tracks.  A standard box girder bridge is one where the train travels through (not over) the girder support system.  After collecting numerous photos of this bridge, I found one of the wooden bridge that it replaced (below), so I’ll probably do the wooden version.

9.  Sand House.

This is the sand house, as it still exists, at Chama, New Mexico.  I will be modeling this facility in at least one of my two yards.   Steam locomotives carried sand in a dome on top of the boiler.  When the driving wheels needed extra traction, the sand was fed through small tubes down to just in front of the driving wheels, and released on to the rail heads.  Diesel-electric locomotives still use this method of getting traction on slippery rails.

10.  Ash Pit.

Coal burning steam locomotives produce ash in their fireboxes, and this needs to be emptied.  If the fire in an engine was left burning overnight (banked), so that the engine would be ready to go in the morning, one of the first tasks of the hostler was to pull the locomotive over the ash pit and rake out the grate at the bottom of the firebox.  Cleaning this was necessary to provide proper ventilation for the fire.  Wood burning locomotives did not generate as much ash as coal burners, and what did occur either went out the stack or down on to the tracks.  Is it any wonder that wood burners often caused fires along the right of way!  Ash pits were located near the engine storage facilities in yards.  Some of the coal would form “clinkers” as it burned, and these would be used to ballast the yard tracks (see right area of photo).

10B.  Coaling Tower

This is the sand house and coaling tower complex at Chama.  These two facilities were often located near each other in the engine servicing area of railroad yards.  The coal tower at Chama has been “modeled to death”, and exists on just about everyone’s layouts, no matter where they are set.  Having said that, it is a beautiful structure, and the D&RGW built others that were similar at a number of its towns.  Before it was torn down in the late 1960s, there was an identical one to this at Durango.

I will probably use the method shown above for delivering coal to the tower.  A drop-bottom gondola full of coal is set out over a grid on a slightly raised section of track.  The coal goes down through the track, and is collected by the coaling tower elevator bucket.  The bucket carries it up to the top of the tower, where it is released into storage bins to be gravity fed to the locomotive tenders.

12.   Small Engine House (Silverton).

I will probably scratch-build some version of this type of engine house for Silverton, because space up there is very limited.

13.  Single Stall Engine House (Lumber Camp).

I think something like this would look good in the lumber camp.  The open side provides a nice look into the interior of the shop.

15.  Small Temporary Bridge at Lumber Camp.

Since track in the cutting areas of lumber camps only needed to remain in place as long as it took to remove the trees, it was constructed as simply and quickly as possible, as this little temporary bridge demonstrates.  I’ll use something like this in one area of my lumber camp.

16.  Lumber Camp Workers’ Quarters.

Lumber workers lived and ate right in the camps.  Often the structures were built small enough to be moved on rail cars to new locations.

19.  Animas River.

The Animas River Gorge is the most beautiful part of the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge RR.  My central “roll-under” will attempt to recreate some of this gorgeous right of way.

20.  Snowy Area.

In the mountains, particularly at higher elevations, snowfalls can occur into the late spring or come early in the fall.  I have so many trees left over from the Christmas Train layout that have snow on them.  The snow can’t be removed, and it seems a shame to throw them out, so the only solution is to incorporate a little bit of a snowy area on my new layout, so there will be one little corner, high above the lumber camp, where trains will travel through a winter wonderland like the one pictured in this early fall snow scene here.

22.  Yard Tracks.

Railroad yards were areas where freight and passenger cars were assembled into trains, and locomotives could be stored and serviced.  They were almost always fairly flat, and quite often had darker track ballast because the clinkers from the ash pits were a handy substance.  Sometimes, especially on narrow gauge lines, there were areas where grass and weeds grew up between the rails.  My layout will have two yards, one at Durango, and one at Silverton.  Yards are an integral part of model railroads built to operate with a purpose.  This is a photo of the actual yard at Durango.

27.  Tunnel Portals.

Tunneling was the technique of last resort for railroads because of the time and labor involved.  Railroads preferred to run their trains as near to level ground as possible.  In mountainous terrain, that often meant using small cuts and fills, or trestles and bridges if there was water involved.  Culverts under the tracks and through the fill also served to keep the tracks and ballast dry.  Most tunnels had to have tunnel portals and tunnel liners to keep falling rocks off the tracks, but in areas where the rock surrounding the tunnel bore was hard and stable enough, no tunnel portal at all was necessary, like the one pictured above.  This is on the Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad, and is appropriately called “Rock Tunnel”.

This is a typical wooden tunnel portal, designed to keep the mouth of the tunnel open, and falling rocks from the surrounding mountain at bay.

29.  Water Tower.

The D&RGW had distinctive water towers with slightly tapered sides.  The rooves were sometimes round, and sometimes octagonal.

29B.  Lumber Camp Water Tank.

30.  Low Water Crossing.

Just outside of Silverton, the D&SNGRR crosses a shallow section of the Animas River.  This crossing is effected on a series of very low trestle bents, and short pylons consisting of rock enclosed in wooden boxes made from railroad tie sized timbers.  In the area to the right in Plan Section 3, which I may wind up calling Cascade Canyon, there are three rail crossings of the Animas River, each lower than the one behind it.  This would be the nature of the lowest crossing.

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1.  Curved steel trestle (#4 not used)

Curved steel trestles like this one which suggests the famous Georgetown Loop were used to replace wooden trestles in the late 1800s.  They were often composed of varying sections, as this one is.  Here we see a combination of plate girder and truss construction supported on steel piers.

5.  Small Howe truss bridges

This is very similar to the Hermosa Creek bridge on the Durango & Silverton.  I have built a model of this bridge.  See post on same in list.

6.  King Post (top) and Queen Post (bottom) truss bridges

I have built two identical Queen Post Truss bridges from one balsa wood kit from Australia.  See post for miscellaneous bridges.

7.  Wood Trestle bridge

What narrow gauge (or standard gauge western railroad for that matter) would be complete without one of these beautifully crafted wood trestle bridges.  They were used in the early days of western railroading, because wood was plentiful, construction techniques were sound, and they were relatively quick to build.  They came in all sizes depending on the area that needed to be crossed.

14.  The High Line Curve

This section of the route between Durango and Silverton is famous for its beautiful scenery, incredible engineering feat in construction, and considerable cost to put together.  With the line located 400 vertical feet above the Animas River, workers were lowered over the top of the hill on lines to blast and dig a narrow shelf for the railroad.  The cost of this effort, in 1882, was over $1,000. a foot.  When prices for new locomotives averaged only $4,500. each, the D&RGW could have bought a new engine for every four and one-half feet of track they laid here.  This scenic highlight will be featured on the “roll-under” section in the middle of my layout.

Silverton, Colorado

Silverton, Colorado,  is a small town high in the San Juan mountains (just over 9300 feet) that started its existence in 1860 with Charles Baker’s discovery of gold in the area. However, it wasn’t until the 1873 treaty with the local Native American tribe, the Utes, that the area was opened to settlement. Even then, being in the high mountains without any easy route to market, large-scale mining wasn’t practical. However, a wagon road in opened in 1879 provided some access, and prospectors quickly realized the potential held by the area – not in the gold originally sought by Baker, but primarily in silver, hence the town’s name.  I’ll only have room to model the railroad facilities at Silverton, but I hope to get some of the sense of the grandeur of the place in my curved corner background.  Silverton is about 45 miles due north of Durango.

17.  Mining structure…..shown here: the tipple, head frame, hoist house, and bull wheel at the top of the head frame.  I will be using my low-side gondolas to carry this ore to Denver, rather than the high side gon shown here.  If I can manage the space, there were eventually smelters located in Durango, and even in Silverton, but for operational purposes, having to ship the ore to Denver is good.

17B.  This photo shows a typical western mine entrance with timber shoring, and a track for (probably) hand-pushed mining cars. These cars usually tipped into a facility with a sloped floor that slid the ore into an open gondola.  I’ll be using one of my small Porter locomotives to move these gondolas around in the mining area.

I think I’ll model this little water wagon some where in the mining area.

18.  The helix to Denver/Farmington hidden return yard….is located under Silverton.  The one to Farmington will be located under the Durango yard.  A helix is used to take trains up or down grade without using a lot of lateral run space.  Helixes are always out of sight, because nothing like this exists in the real world of railroading.

21.  Plate Girder Deck Bridge…..A plate girder bridge is a bridge supported by two or more plate girders.  These can be placed above and to the sides of the tracks, as shown here, or under the rails and ties.  These are quite common, even today, so keep an eye out for them as you drive around.  The plate girders are typically I-beams made up from separate structural steel plates (rather than rolled as a single cross-section), which are welded or, in older bridges, bolted or riveted together to form the vertical web and horizontal flanges of the beam.  Railroads sometimes used rounded corners on the bridges or sometimes left them square.  I will have at least one bridge of this type on my layout.

23.  Snow Shed…..In mountainous areas, snow could seriously affect winter operations.  Average snowfall along some stretches of the track was just more than the rotary snow plow could handle.   There were also areas where snow slides (avalanches) could be predicted to happen every year.  In that case, wooden snow sheds were built over the tracks to keep them clear in heavy snows.

24.  The Silverton Station…..There isn’t even as much room here as there was in Durango for a station, but you can hardly have a railroad town without one.  Pictured below is the real station at Silverton.

…..and here is a compressed (model) version of it, although they didn’t use the right windows…..anyway, it’s interesting, and about all I would have room for, although I could save room by modeling a combination depot/freight house in one building.

29C.  This Engine House, or something like it, would service the mine Porter.  Here is one shown with a Porter inside.

33.  Sawmill at the Lumber Camp…..Sawmills are always interesting structures, and I figure, although most of the timber is sent to Denver, they might have a small mill here for cutting logs to dimension lumber for local use.  It also makes for another kind of load to ship from the lumber camp….flatcars with cut lumber. One item that mills provided in this area was ties for the railroads.

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Because of the limited space for photos (without paying extra) on this blog, I have a short list of e-mail addresses of people who would like the complete set of reference photos I have collected. I will do the same for the construction articles, as I post them. The blog will contain a summary, but I will send complete step-by-step photos to those who request them. You may contact me by using the comment area of this blog.

Ref. # 9. This coal tower and sand house currently exist at Chama, New Mexico, on the Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad. In the latter half of the days of steam locomotives, the primary fuel was coal. Oil was also used in some areas. Wood was the original fuel. Coaling towers, of one style or another, existed all over the country. There have been multiple models of this facility released over the years, and they have found their way on to model pikes that aren’t set anywhere near New Mexico. Despite the fact that this is a commonly modeled edifice, I like it, and will probably scratch-build one like it for the yard in Durango on the DD&SRR. Actually, my research shows that the coaling tower at Durango was originally very similar to the existing Chama tower.

Ref. #10. Before leaving on a run, steam locomotives emptied their fireboxes of the ashes of the spent coal or wood they used for fuel, by parking over an ash pit. If it was coal ash (cinders) it was commonly used for ballasting around yard tracks (see right section of photo above).

Ref. # 11. I don’t have room for a roundhouse at my Durango. The original was a huge structure, so I’m going to go with a couple of smaller engine houses, which are just as interesting to model and view. Here is a possibility for a two-stall engine house made of wood construction.

Engine house interiors are fun to model, too, and can be viewed with removable rooves.

Ref. # 16C. Most of the lumber felled on the DD&SRR will be shipped directly to Denver on flat cars, but at the suggestion of a friend and fellow rail-fan, I am incorporating a log transfer facility to ship some logs by water. These were simply a sloped wooden ramp that came to the height of the flat-car bed, and some kind of rig for pushing the logs off the flat-car and down the ramp into the river, or pond next to the sawmill. Granted, the real Animas River south of Durango would probably not be deep enough to do this, but any excuse for another industry on a model railroad is good enough. I like the photos of these where the tracks go out on trestles over the actual river.

Ref. # 19. The Animas River valley that the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad follows between Durango and Silverton is one of the most beautiful railroad rides in the world. It was pictures of this route that first drew my attention to modeling this area. I have numerous DVDs that I will be using for reference pictures, but here is one photo of the Kind of scenery I will be modeling. A large portion of the edge of the layout will terminate in the middle of the river, so I can model at least one bank of it.

Ref. # 22. The caboose track was a short yard track where cabooses were stored to be added to the ends of trains after they were made up by the yard switcher. I’ll probably have two to three cabooses available in the yards at both Durango and Silverton for this purpose. Most D&RGW cabooses that I have seen are the three-window type, shown here, or the shorter “bobber” type with one or two side windows.

Ref. #24. The real passenger station at Durango, like the roundhouse, was way too large for me to fit into my railroad, so I’ll be making some kind of compressed version of it. My freight houses will be separate facilities, so I don’t have to park freight cars on the main line in front of the depot.

Ref. #25. Here is a picture of a model of a typical stock pen like the one found at Durango. Sheep and cattle were the main commodities shipped from these facilities, and you can see how they were kept separated. I like this one because it is complete, yet small….perfect for the space I have available.


Ref. #25B. I tunneled a portion of the track behind Durango so I can model a little of the actual town. I’ll be using building flats at the rear-most locations (buildings with just the front sides rendered), but I want to incorporate at least some streets and three dimensional buildings. Most buildings on O-Scale layouts have to yield to extreme compression like these, but that gives them a unique character, and almost theatrical quality, that you don’t find in other scales. Buildings are a major determiner of time period, and I haven’t set a precise year for my railroad, yet, but I know I want to have some early automobile traffic, and some residual horse drawn vehicles.

Ref. #26. The freight house was the earliest inter-modal facility. Usually located in the vicinity (if not the actual structure) of the passenger station, the freight house was the destination of a lot of LCL (less than car-load) deliveries. One side of the house had a dock for rail cars, and the other was set up to allow trucks or horse-drawn wagons to load. There was usually also an office of some sort for keeping track of the comings and goings of the shipments.

Ref. #27. Sometimes if the rock was self-supporting enough, railroads simply left the tunnel bore and opening with no other structure, like this one on the Cumbres & Toltec Scenic RR, appropriately named “Rock Tunnel”. More often, however, some kind of timber, stone or concrete portal and tunnel infrastructure was required to keep material from the mountain from falling on to the tracks.  See photo below of “Mud Tunnel”, also on the Cumbres & Toltec Scenic RR.

Ref. # 28. There will be a turntable in both the Durango and the Silverton yards, probably very similar to the one pictured above. Locomotives needed to be turned to return to their points of origin, or to be serviced, or stored in the engine house overnight. Railroads used several means of doing this, including what was known as a “wye”, which was a roughly triangular section of track with tails. The locomotive would switch on to one leg of the wye, and go to the tailing track, a second switch would be thrown which would allow the locomotive to follow the other leg of the wye, and by the time it switched back on to the main line, it was facing the opposite direction from the way it started out. Model operations on a wye are interesting to watch, but unfortunately they take up a lot of real estate. The turntable is the most compact way of turning model locomotives around.

Ref. #29. Water was an essential ingredient in making steam locomotives run. Water towers come in all shapes and sizes, so if you are modeling a specific railroad, you will usually have some distinctive style from which to make your selection. I’ll have water towers in at least four places, the Durango and Silverton yards, the lumber camp, and the mining district. I may even incorporate one or two along the main line like the one pictured above. Steam locomotives could not go very long without filling up their tenders with water.

Ref. #32. I have heard of some fruits and vegetables being shipped out of this region that would have needed refrigeration, but certainly some incoming food stuffs bound for Silverton would have had to have their refrigeration refreshed at Durango along the way. And another industry where cars can be delivered is always an asset to a working model railroad.

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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.

I'll have to remove this fixture tomorrow for the taping/mudding process, but this is what the finished lighting will look like. This neat little appliance allows the light bulb to swivel and tilt, giving me a range of opportunities to highlight different areas of the layout.

I have a special challenge that basement layouts generally don’t have to deal with.  My overhead space is extremely limited.  Any lighting or valances that would descend from an already low ceiling would be a real obstacle for operators.  When I met with my electrician, we decided to go with recessed can-type fixtures.  There are some that will allow the bulb to aimed in a variety of directions.  I want to be able to highlight scenes around the layout.  I also want to be able to dim the lighting for night time operation.  Since incandescent bulbs are being phased out nationwide, I am looking at dimmable flourescents or dimmable LED bulbs.  I’ll have more to write later when I get into installing my backdrops, but I have plans to use colored rope lights behind the mountains to simulate horizon sky color.  In the theatre, we use red, green and blue (the primaries in light) to light sky backdrops.  By mixing the intensities of these three primary colors, any color in the rainbow can be achieved.

East end of the layout.  The orange lines indicate the location of the ceiling joists. There is room between these to install the can lighting fixtures, which are represented by the red circles.
Central section of the layout.  I’ve located the cans (red circles) directly over areas that I want to highlight, so that I am not depending on the bulbs being able to swivel too far.
West end of the layout.
Update: Progress on the lighting. Last Sunday I worked with the electricians, and we got a lot of the wiring done. This photo shows the can fixtures on the West end of the room for 11 of the 21 layout lights. I’ll be using dimmable flourescents in these. They have about a 2:1 ratio on the beam spread (width of beam: distance from bulb).  I considered using the newer, and brighter, LED bulbs, but aside from their nearly $40. apiece cost, their beam spread is only about 1:1, and some of my throws are as short as two to three feet.
Here are the other 10 fixtures on the East end of the room.  We are wiring the room with two 20 Amp circuits for the DCC train control, and two 15 Amp circuits for the lighting. There will also be a separate circuit for a small baseboard heater along the south wall (under the mining area).  Things are coming together quickly now.  The electricians will finish March 4th.  Another layer of R-19 insulation will be installed in the ceiling, and under the floor (making two layers in each area) on March 6th.  Between March 7th and March 10th, the drywall work will be completed.  Then I’ll be ready to paint and start installing the backdrop.

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