Risers, track plan tweaking, and blue track

I must seem to be making terribly slow progress…but I’ve had a busy week.

I polished up my flextrack (Micro Engineering weathered code 55) with this stuff called Met-All. The tops of the rails are incredibly shiny…but this polish is bright blue. And it got EVERYWHERE. Picture attached. I’ve been cleaning it off with a toothbrush, but it’s slow, painful, and when I get the polish off, it takes the weathering with it. I don’t know if I’ll just use all this track in the helix to nowhere, or try to touch it up with a bit of brown paint. I wanted the weathered track because of how the track in the coffee table layout looked after my dad painted it…

Anyway, I spent a fair bit of yesterday (before my uncle showed up unexpectedly) putting in risers. I now have all the risers in place. Where there are two on the same joist is where the pulp mill is going to be. As the layout is sectional, I placed them for support where the two sheets of plywood will meet. I also tried to put them far enough out that if someone leaned on the edge of the layout there wouldn’t be too much distortion. One thing you’ll notice by looking at the plan is how I have a printout with me at all times…I marked in not the height of the track, but the required riser height from the top of the L girder, which is the bottom of all the risers. Means I don’t have to look at a given elevation, add in 6″ and then subtract 5/8″ or 1/2″…whatever the roadbed is.

Speaking of the pulp mill…I’ve been trying to work a sawmill into the plan, and been researching a lot to get a small, but prototypically operational plan. People at nscale.net have been a huge help for that! The plan I’ve got now (attached) has a track for dumping logs into the river for storage in log booms, 2 tracks in the loading shed, a burner to show it’s a sawmill, and the possibility (though not a very good one) that one of the yard tracks could be used for loading finished lumber….but in all probability, I’ll do it in the shed.

Another update…I was planning to do the walls and everything once I finished the electrical contracting course I’ve enrolled in for the fall, but I’ve been put on the waitlist. Perhaps the rest of the layout will have to wait longer…and I might do the Castlegar yard and up to Farron this fall to get a bit more operation going before the rest of the layout goes in/

Anyway, here are the photos I’m sure you’re interested in.


First steps – Basic benchwork

I started construction at the beginning of the month. It took a while to decide what benchwork method to use, and on the bottom level I’m using 2×2 legs, 1×3 with 1×2 flange L girders, and 1×3 joists. I’m starting off by building the peninsula, as the walls need to be finished and THERE ARE NO ELECTRICAL OUTLETS IN THE ENTIRE ROOM. This thing won’t even be operable until next year.

Attached photos: I started the 4 sets of 2 L girders by putting together the 2 sections nearest the helix and getting them on their legs. Next up, I did the close set of L girders and legs, then stood everything up and added the final set suspended between them. I eventually added 3 more legs that I thought I didn’t need…such is life. I may yet add two more under the long section, it’s not quite as rigid as I’d like. 3 of the 4 sets of L girders are butt-joined together, but the fourth is underneath the other 3. It is logically a higher one as the railway climbs 4″ to get onto it, but McCormack Creek sits there…and that bridge is over a hundred feet high.

One thing I learned…BE CAREFUL GETTING EVERYTHING LEVEL! I ended up shimming 4 legs, and even that wasn’t enough. My skinny section wasn’t level, and I was lucky to have my joists the way they were – I was able to torque that section until it was level and make 2 butt joints between joists to make sure it stayed that way!

Onto the helix: It’s made from 5/8″ plywood with a 17″ inner radius and 19.5″ outer radius. It’s supported by 3 pillars that come up from the joists and have 3/8″ deep notches cut into them every 3 inches. This gets you a 2.65% grade. The lowest sections are joined with wood blocks, but the upper sections use something else to assure clearance – you’ll see more in a later post! I attached the angled pillars using a section of 2×4 mitre cut to 45° and fastened to the joist.

One thing I did from the very start was number everything. With 6 L girders of differing lengths and 21 joists in this section, they were bound to be mixed up otherwise!

Anyway, the photos show my progress up to now. You can see the different bits of bracing and legs I’ve added as time goes on. Now all my joists are in place and I’m moving on to roadbed!

Full resolution links to plans:

Lower level

Upper level

Middle off to the side-y level

Photos, chronologically ordered:

Good morning British Columbia! Here’s my life story.

Well everyone, it’s the start of a new blog. So let me tell you a bit about why it’s here…

I have an HO scale model railway. My dad built it. It’s…great. It’s not me. It’s got a 1 scale mile mainline run with a two passing sidings, a warehouse and a coal mine on it, and a yard with a small capacity, flour mill, and some oil storage tanks of a general sort. No staging. Switching isn’t great, neither is capacity. Another thing that bothers me is how scenes aren’t separated, you can see  too much at one time and though it’s hard to tell from these photos (on purpose) the realism was severely reduced. It was based off a plan from the 50s for the Virignia and Truckee, but a steam engine pulling 4 tiny cars isn’t my thing. My dad also built it with larger track centres which precluded putting more industries in many places they otherwise might have gone. He was good at scenery, though…although not my style of scenery! As these photos will show, he likes his red tones and crumbly rock.

I’ve become increasingly aware that what I want in a model railway is an accurate representation of an area that I’m passionate about, and that area is Canadian Pacific’s secondary mainline across southern BC. This includes famous areas such as the Myra Canyon (Holy trestles EVERYWHERE!) Coquihalla Pass (Abandoned in 1959 because the mountains were too hard to fight) and Kootenay Lake (Retired Calgarians ho!)

With the space I have, I chose the areas I was interested in the most. Creston, where I lived for a couple months and intend to spend more time, is in a fertile valley at the southern end of Kootenay Lake. Lots of lumber and fruit are the main commodities hauled, and the Kokanee brewery adds a lot to the mix. Kootenay Lake itself is incredible. It has more in common with a glacial fjord than a warm, inviting lake – steep slopes lead straight down into cold depths, and the CP tenuously clings to the edge of the Selkirk mountains. I was fortunate enough to get a cabride along the entire shore – and I’m modeling 14 feet worth of it.

Another shot to show the lake itself…you can barely make out the railway line if you look very hard.

I also wanted to model the Boundary district from Nelson to Midway. Many of my happy childhood vacations went along highway 3 through Midway, and today the operations end at Castlegar, 30 miles west of Nelson, the rest of the line to Midway being abandoned in 1990. This part of the line goes through the less imposing but equally beautiful Monashee mountains from Lower Arrow Lake to Christina Lake (You know, the place where the bears were guarding the marijuana grow op last year…)
I’ve attached plans for what I came up with. I wanted to stay in HO, but I found the room’s size hard to work with to get anything truly great, and N scale gives twice the mountain for the same size. It’s got 3 (too many) helixes, staging at both ends, and more switches than I’ll ever be able to build. It models Creston, 2 tunnels and 3 bridges along Kootenay Lake, Nelson, Castlegar (including the paper mill that is the current end of the line) the Labarthe tunnel, McCormack Creek, Shields siding, Farr (Fire) Creek bridge, the Bulldog tunnel, Porcupine Creek, Farron, Paulson gap/McRae Creek, Fife and the cool rockwork along Christina Lake, the bridge over the Kettle River at Cascade, Grand Forks, and Midway. The minimum radius for the mainline is 18″ and I mostly kept sidings above 14″. I kept the main grades at about 2.6%, a little bit more than the prototype to really give my engines some work.

I wish I could also have had another bridge, a couple more sidings, and Eholt summit, but alas, the room is only 14×30′.

More photos:

Rock retaining walls above Christina Lake:

Bridge over the Kettle River at Cascade: (I’ll be modeling it at 3/5 length, unfortunately)

Limestone tipple at Fife, to be modeled: