Overhead Storage and Lighting

I feel that I’ve reached another minor milestone with my layout depicting North Tonawanda NY.  I’m ready to proceed with laying more track, but there’s a back-story that I want to tell.

Back on July 30th, I posted about my quandary over layout lighting.  Thanks to those of you who responded to that post with ideas and opinions, by the way.  It was one particular response from Tim Swaddling, via this blog’s link to my Facebook account, that prompted an important shift in my thinking.

Tim suggested that I consider using LED lighting on the underside of shelf built above the layout.  LED lighting sounds like a promising technology, but it was idea of a shelf above the layout that appealed to me immediately.  The existing and future parts of my layout consume valuable storage space, and this will be a point of contention if I choose to expand the layout beyond the scope of the first phase.  You can check out a conceptual drawing of my plan by reading my post from July 21 2014.  The idea of capitalizing on otherwise wasted space above the layout presented an excellent opportunity to prove that the layout can co-exist with other uses for the room.

I didn’t follow through with the LED lighting scheme that Tim suggested.  I don’t have enough experience with LED lighting, and I don’t have any on hand with which to conduct experiments.  In the interest of moving forward with the layout construction, I decided to go with a continuous strip of single lamp T8 flourescent fixtures.

I considered having cabinets built above the layout, but that was soon proven to be a prohibitively expensive and impractical extravagance.  Once the notion of cabinets was ruled out, I was back to Tim’s suggestion of a shelf.

For the front edge of the shelf to be generally above the layout facia, the shelf would have to be 16″ deep.  I didn’t want shelf brackets on the wall underneath because that would mess up the flat surface for my layout backdrop.  The combination of ductwork above the layout and the fact that I had already finished the wall for the backdrop meant that I would be looking for ways to hang the front edge of the shelf from the ceiling and somehow attaching the back edge of the shelf to the wall.

I decided that a solution involving hanging the wooden shelf with steel rods and angles would be worth trying.  I got a great deal on a sheet of blemished cabinet-grade plywood, and also bought some threaded rod, nuts, bolts washers, lag screws, slotted steel angle, and then set about experimenting.  Eventually, I settled on the approach shown below.

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Here’s the basic skeleton. I used lag screws to fasten some slotted steel angle to the underside of the joists, directly above the most shallow edge of the benchwork. Then I used lag screws to fasten the some angle to the wall. I bolted the threaded rods into place along the angle that was fastened to the joists, and then hung a strip of slotted angle from the ends of the rods.

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The angle that’s hanging in mid-air was leveled, then I cut the plywood into strips to fit. Here you see the first sheet resting in place before being fastened.

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Both shelf strips are in place here. You can see that I had to do some work to allow the rod to pass through the wood. The wood is held down to the steel angles by gravity, and then numerous 3/4″ wood screws were used to fasten the wood to the angles. These screws are only necessary to fix the shelf horizontally. The steel angles and rods hold everything up.

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I’m experimenting with different valance heights using foam core board. My aim is to keep the valance as small as possible while still hiding the entire underside of the shelf. This image was taken at my eye level. The space between the bottom of the temporary valance and the top of the benchwork is 17 inches. I might try making the valance another inch larger.

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I’ve spent most of the summer framing walls, wiring up outlets and lights, building this shelf, and installing the layout lighting. The next step is to move that heat register from its current location above the shelf to about two feet out, so that it dumps air into the aisle instead of onto my shelf.  Eventually, I’ll off the shelf and the space below the layout with black fabric.  Having worked all summer on the room, I’d like to spend some time actually working on the layout.  I think I’ll get to work on building more switches.

Layout Lighting Quandary

I’d like to hear some opinions about my approach to room/layout lighting.

In my concept drawing, below, you’ll see that there will be an aisle with benchwork “shelves” on either side in this first phase of my layout.  It may be a very long time before the layout grows beyond this space.  Whatever I do for lighting in this part of the layout should be consistent with the way the future sections of the layout are illuminated.

layout schematic1 copyHere’s my quandary.  My layout is being built in an open basement room.  Regardless of how large it does or doesn’t become, it will always be in a space that is shared for other uses.  I think that the more conventional approach to layout lighting (lighting directly over the layout behind a valance) works well in a layout room, but I’m not sure it will work in a shared space.  Also, I like the clean look of a suspended ceiling with drop-in lighting.

Below is a photo that was taken along the newly framed wall looking into the narrow part of the room where I will start the layout.  As you can see, there are a number of utilities that complicate the ceiling a bit.  I plan to install a suspended ceiling at a height of about 7 feet in that narrow space, which allows for a few inches of clearance under that duct.  Out in the main room, the ceiling will be almost a foot higher, with a bulkhead providing a clean transition.

IMG_3061In the above photo, you can see the benchwork for the International Paper plant on the right.  Notice that the duct is directly over the benchwork on that side of the aisle, which forecloses on any opportunity to put drop-in lighting over International Paper.

My plan is to install a continuous row of drop-in florescent lighting directly over the aisle (the lighting you see in the photo will be removed).  I recognize that this flies in the face of conventional wisdom, vis-à-vis layout lighting.  Does anyone have experience-based wisdom to share?

Power for the Paper Mill

As the ties are getting glued down to the benchwork on my switching layout, I’ve been thinking ahead to the day that I will actually be able to operate. I’ve made relatively few investments into locomotives and rolling stock for the layout, so to begin, I’ll be drawing on the equipment I already own.

The benefit of building such a small layout is that I won’t need to invest in a massive fleet of rolling stock.  That’s not to say I won’t do that over time.  But it won’t be required in order to start up.

I’ve been researching the location I’m modelling, and according to Doug Kroll (an important source of historical information for me), Penn Central kept at least a pair of switcher+caboose combos at the small yard in North Tonawanda because two jobs operated from there.  One job was responsible for switching the paper plant and industries in town, and the other went up to branch line to Lockport and back.  Photos have revealed that the typical power for these assignments included Alco S2, S4, and RS1, all maintained out of Buffalo.

I bought a P2K S3 decorated in Penn Central at the Springfield show.  It’s a very nice model, but I have no photographic proof of an S3 having been assigned to North Tonawanda.  Still, I have no issues with using it on my layout.  It will likely be repainted at some point in time because I’m not pleased with the lettering font.  In addition to the P2K S3, I already owned an Atlas S2 and S4 from the original run of these models that was offered some time in the late Medieval period.  These are a bit crude by the standard of today’s models, but at a time when I’m spending a great deal of money on other things pertaining to the layout, it’s convenient for me repaint these and convert them to DCC.  They’ll serve as stand-in models until such time as I decide to flea-market them to help fund upgrades.

Here’s a photo of Penn Central 9741, an Alco S4 that was assigned to Buffalo.  At the time this photo was taken, I’d invested about 90 minutes of my time and maybe 30 bucks for a decoder and other consumable supplies, including Tamiya paint Microscale decals.  I’ll do some weathering prior to reassembling it.  I’m waiting on another decoder so that I can do the same treatment to the S2.

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A Cold Sunday Afternoon

It appears we are experiencing the winter that will never end, here in southern Ontario.  When I woke up at 9am on Sunday, it was -10 Celcius.  We achieved a high of -7 Celcius in the afternoon, though it was very sunny.  I walked the dog in the sun and then sat down to work on the lettering for three models.

IMG_0180I’ll progress from top to bottom.

Penn Central N8 caboose 23298 now has all of its lettering applied. It’s posed with the roof and cupola resting in place.  I’m ready to spray flat finish onto it and weather both porches before I proceed further with the assembly.

Penn Central X58B boxcar 361520 finally received a road number.  I still have to apply the end lettering, but I want everything to settle into place on the sides before I start propping the model up on its end.

Lehigh Valley X58 boxcar 8203 has all but the end lettering applied, for the same reason as the PC boxcar.  Microscale’s Liquid Decal Film worked like a charm to fix up the crumbling decals that came with this Railyard Models kit.  Thanks Ted.  I’ll make a note to buy my own bottle 😉

Penn Central N8 Caboose Project

I picked up a Bowser N8 caboose, factory painted in Penn Central some time ago.  It’s a nice model, but the paint left a bit to be desired.  Bowser decided to apply the scheme with the white stripe running the length of the car, and as far as my limited research revealed, this was something of a rarity.  The clincher, though, was that after careful examination, I wasn’t happy with the lettering font.

I considered my options, and eventually resigned myself to the inevitable.  I stripped the paint off the model and applied a new coat of Polly Scale Penn Central Green.  While I was at it, I masked off the cupola to paint the sides green, as per photos of the prototype.  A Microscale Penn Central caboose decal set provided the necessary elements.  Here’s my progress so far:

IMG_0143I need an end-photo of one of these cabins to determine if there was any lettering hiding in the grime.  I’ll probably get this one together pretty soon, though I’ll likely hold off from gluing the roof on until I get my friend Steve to help me hook up some red marker lights.