New year: Lighting, Track maintenance, and a valence

Well, it’s been Christmas, so it’s been hectic. It’s been especially full of not-trains since I spent so much time moving and re-organizing everything upstairs!

So after Christmas, I started thinking about how dingy the layout was. There were the 2 60W bulbs at either end, plus the one pair of fluorescent tubes at the far, far end. With more scenery going in, Castlegar to Kraft was so dark you could barely read the road numbers on the cars! Solution: Move the fluorescent to the middle of the room aaaaaand….I bought a pair of 37W CFLs. They’re enormous. ENORMOUS! They’re about 4 times the size of your average CFL! They’re equivalent to 200W incandescents, so they throw a LOT of light. They’re also white balanced to 4500K, which while not daylight, is the same as a standard ‘cool white’ fluorescent tube, so I don’t have to worry about inconsistencies in light when taking casual photos. I also replaced the hallway light with a 23W 4500K fluorescent. Everything is quite bright and white, and I’m not sure if daylight balanced would be too cold!

I also moved the fluorescent tubes to the centre of the room, over the aisle at Robson West. This isn’t a permanent solution, but it brought the light to where it needed to be.

Here’s your after photo:

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Hey, now you can see how terrible the room looks! Fantastic, another thing to think about =)

On the same tack, I took back a couple dozen fluorescent tubes to the local hardware store for disposal.

Or at least I tried.

There was a little accident…9 bulbs ended up on the floor in about a zillion billion pieces.

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That was fun.

Then the big milestone happened. I had my first operating session! That is to say, the first time a real train ran and did real work, and the first time I had a real person holding a real throttle. In this case, my lovely lady played engineer and I conductor on train 87, the Kraft Switcher. It took an hour to work all of the pulp mill and sawmill and get ready to depart Castlegar. Of course, there’s no Nelson, and nowhere for it to go, but the thought is there!

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I also ran trains 12 and 81 past to give some interest, using the helix as staging.

There were a lot of derailments, though. The trackwork was far from flawless, and much of the last week has been soldering, filing, and gluing. Some of the points didn’t have sufficient clearance for all of the different wheelsets, and so I repositioned them. The same was true of many flangeways for guardrails and frogs, especially with the old wheels of the C-liner and GP9 which were about as big as you could get on code 55! Filing the flangeways worked wonders. Finally, the caulk I used to secure the turnouts down wasn’t enough to combat track forces in a couple of instances, and the turnout had drifted slightly causing the points to not close against the stock rail. I used CA (Cyanoacrylate adhesive, superglue) to secure them in place. Now there are perhaps a tenth of the derailments, though that is still enough to be a pain. That’s not including the staging yard, where I’m having trouble with tortoises.

Securing down a turnout while the CA cures:

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Later that week, a friend dropped into town unexpectedly. We ran the same op session, but it was a bit different – he used to be a conductor with CP. He finished in 45 minutes, although I don’t think he ran as carefully as my girlfriend!

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So, in at least the pulp mill, things are going reasonably well. Maybe next time we won’t shove quite as long a cut of cars.

The next project to tackle was also lighting related. I was on a crusade against darkness in the most literal sense. I decided to build a quick valence above the to-be-scenicked portion of the staging yard/Castlegar.  I built it purely out of what I had lying around. 1/2″ ply for the main structure with bracing of 1x2s, a 7″ tall masonite panel spray painted flat black for the valence, and a few bits of 1×3 to support it here and there.

Under construction, gluing on the bracing:

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Test fitting the light, a 39″ under cabinet fluorescent:

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I decided because of the way it was designed I would be losing a lot of light, since the shell would throw light towards the aisle due to the end the cord came out of, so I used spray adhesive and staples to line the entire thing with aluminum foil for a reflector.

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On the inside of the masonite I made sure that there would be a surface to glue to, since I didn’t want any screws showing on this one.

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The finished product seemed to be nice.

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In place:

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And finally, fully completed and lit up. It’s not perfect and I would have preferred a slightly longer fluorescent, but for a days’ worth of work I think it made a big difference.

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That’s it for now, I hope I’ll have more to cover for another post before the end of the month!