An Hour at a Time

It’s frustrating when life gets in the way of having fun.  All those pesky commitments that pay for my food and shelter can seem to sap my energy and make it feel like I have no time for a hobby.

Lately, I’ve been making a habit of spending an hour a day working on the layout.  Two projects that I was able to work on over the past week or so: ballast some track and build a new warehouse structure core.  I found more than hour of time today, but this was a rare exception.  Here’s a photo of my progress.IMG_9540 I know it doesn’t look like much, but a little bit of ballast has helped to take this part of the layout a small step away from looking like the Plywood Pacific.

The styrene building in the background is the new building core.  This replaces my first attempt at the warehouse, in which I was trying to compress the building’s height in order to give the illusion of more length.  That was a fail.  I’m estimating the dimensions from photos, so a bit of trial and error is to be expected.  The proportions look better now.  At some point I’ll put a layer of styrene over what you see and I’ll be adding three rows of windows and other finishing touches to it.

After I finished working on the warehouse, I cleaned all the dried glue from the rail heads and did some pointless shuffling of cars.


Upside-down Roadbed

I built some upside-down roadbed this evening.  Check it out…


What you’re seeing in the photo above is ½” plywood roadbed hung from the 2×12 floor joists that form the ceiling of the crawl space in my home.  I thought I’d try something a little unconventional in order to use the crawl space for the layout and for storage.

Here’s the back-story.  The plan for my layout is to have two long shelves on opposite walls of a narrow room.  The two sides of the room are separated by a crawl space where the track loops back.  The conceptual drawing below (not to be confused with a track plan) helps to illustrate this. 

layout schematic1 copy


The shelf on the left side of the drawing is the International Paper plant.  The shelf on the right side of the drawing is the yard.  A track goes from the bottom left to the bottom right side of the drawing by way of a 180 degree turn-back under the crawl space.  Hence the upside down roadbed.

You’ll notice in the top photo that I’ve left some room for 30 inches of double track  to extend into the crawl space in front of the roadbed I’ve already installed.  This will facilitate the staging of a cut of boxcars loaded with wood chips, and a cut of tank cars loaded with few different chemicals.  There was no way to fit all of that into the visible part of the layout so I’m addressing it with hidden tracks.

The connection to the North Tonawanda yard from the paper plant will be finished when I build the benchwork on that side of the room.  For now, I’ll use the first 6 feet of this connection as a tail track and place to stage the train coming into the plant at the beginning of an operating session and leaving the plant at the end.

I’ll tack some flex track onto the roadbed tomorrow.

When are we having the first ops session?

Trevor got me thinking more seriously about operating sessions when he responded to my post from a couple of days ago. I was excited to announce that I had actually moved a locomotive under DC power (not the 0-5-0 method) on the first part of my layout.  His immediate question was, “When are we having the first ops session?”

This is a good question, and I’ve given it some thought.  In order to have an operating session at the paper plant, I’ll need to install two pieces of hidden track. One is the tail leading back to North Tonawanda yard, and the other is is actually two parallel tracks for woodchips and tank car unloading.  The tail track will serve as a place to stage the inbound train, and the two parallel tracks will store relatively large quantities of cars spotted for unloading in place that I’m not actually representing on the layout.  Paper plants are huge operations, and even with 12 feet, it’s still very compressed in HO.

Other crucial pieces of infrastructure are the push-rod thingies that run from the turnout controllers to the facia.  I haven’t even begun to figure that out, so I’ll need a little help from my friends who’ve already done this.

So, realistically, I could probably have the two pieces of hidden track installed by January.  The turnout control rods are the big unknown for me right now.  This could take a few days or a few weeks.  An ops session would have some stand-in pieces of rolling stock and a bunch of white styrene building cores, we’d still be spotting and pulling cars, for which could be facilitated by a quickly scribbled switch.  I might be able to make this happen fairly soon.



Yesterday’s exciting progress on the layout was marred by a glitch.  I turned off the DC power pack to take care of some other things around the house.  When I went back to the layout later, it was shorted out.  I have no idea how that can happen, but I guess I’ll have to figure it out. The joys of building a home layout.

Suggestions are welcome!

F-units for the Niagara Branch

Athearn announced that they will be releasing a range of FP7s under their Genesis brand.   Penn Central’s Niagara Branch in my basement could use a pair of these for the pool of four-axle road switchers that will will be part of the rotation of locomotives used on trains crossing the CASO and transfers between Frontier Yard and Suspension Bridge.

Check out their flyer.

Click to access 02_Gen_FP7_052314.pdf

I’m partial to the pair numbered 4341 and 4349.  In the list of details, they’re indicating that both will have cylindrical water tanks and only one will have the PC logo.  I like that Athearn is offering some variety with this pair.

The flyer has a couple of issues though.  The illustration for this pair doesn’t match the list of details, and the era listed ends at 1967.  Maybe they transposed the 6 and 7.  I’ll have to check the numbers, but most of the FP7s survived until in the end of Penn Central in 1976.