Slow, slow progress, and lessons learned!

It’s been what, 2  months since my last post? I have an excuse. I went to England for a month. Can you forgive me? The other 2 weeks I’ve been working on the railway off and on, but it’s not been very exciting or noteworthy.

I’ve been working on the Helix…now that’s been a pain. I’m not in school yet, so I’ve just been doing odd photography jobs, which means my schedule is erratic and delightfully open. The helix…ugh. It’s basically taken a day per level, plus extra time for other stuff. The subroadbed was cut before even the L-girders were glued, so you can see 5 turns worth of helix lying around in a lot of photos (including spares that weren’t cut very well.) I don’t think I’ll be using the same method to build a helix again…it’s been rather unfortunate. The whole thing’s encased in a circle of masonite, so I’m calling it good unless 30 car drags start derailing every time I try to run them. I’ll be using the helix for staging until I start on the upper level, though. It’s definitely got room for the Boundary sub. wayfreight!

Anyways, this is how it worked. I did one turn, secured the subroadbed, then did the ballast strip, then the track (with feeders to every rail, not every rail joiner) and then did the next level. Here’s why this was a problem: Securing the next level required screwing in a bracing plate to the bottom of the subroadbed, something which CANNOT BE DONE while the previous level was in place! What I ended up doing was adding little 2 3/8″ spacers between the supports to keep everything from wobbling too much. This was easy on the mitre saw and it was a great idea. Here’s a photo taken on day 3, showing various levels of completion. I tested the track by pushing a train of 5 cars of varying lengths up the hill with a dead loco on the head, and then pulling it back down with 2 dead locos. Nothing derailed, so I hope it will stay that way once I start running long trains. Another thing you’ll notice is me getting fed up with the metal joining plates and simply gluing narrow bits of scrap wood to the outside of the helix where they will support it but not get in the way.

Staring at this, you may notice the supports fail to be vertical…that ended up being a huge pain later on. I apparently do not have the skill to get the rings of the helix at the same point vertically, so though the spacing was good, applying fascia around it didn’t go well. I had to cut a bit off the top level with the sabre saw so it wouldn’t jut out half an inch further than the rest of the helix…Anyway, I’ve got this big tube there now, and it’s a case of out of sight, out of mind – at least until I try to back a train int there for staging. It’s fully wired, and so far is the only section of track that anything’s run on. Speaking of which, I got my NCE Powercab system and hooked the panel directly into the power bus. It worked wonderfully. I also brought it over to the HO layout and had fun running my Atlas trainmasters there until I remembered how fed up with that layout I was.

Next up, until I get turnouts I’ll be working on the lake scene. I put track down, but I didn’t glue it in place, just shaped it. My GOD Is that track hard to shape well! If you’re just starting with Micro Engineering code 55 track (Especially weathered) I would definitely recommend getting one of those shaping guides that various people make. I’m probably going to get one for 18″ radius curves, since most of my curves are 18″R.

Here’s the scene, with a plywood base for the lake made of an off-cut of 1/2″.

With the track (sort of) in place:

The edge of the board there isn’t where the backdrop will be, of course.

Here’s the fun part: The start of the 2.7% grade up…exacerbated by the aforementioned warp in the Chinese plywood that I used to make the paper mill. I eventually dropped the first riser past the mill below 0″ to make a smoother transition.

Well, that’s about it for now. I’m hoping I won’t have to move that flextrack I’ve bent, that would be a huge pain. The turnout kits are finally being ordered…so I finally will be able to start having an operational layout!

Next up, I’ve got the L girders cut to size for Castlegar and I’m making the staging yard in the hallway. All I have to do first is vacate the ping pong table that’s lurking in the corner to a location it won’t be trapped into. The main DCC station will be under Castlegar, and I’ll be using its yard for storage until Nelson gets built sometime next year. Also coming up is scenery from the end of the plywood sheet up to the helix…I’ve got enough masonite for it!