Current situation in Calgary

Well folks, it’s been a busy week but I’ll sum up. Southern Alberta has been completely effed, and I mean that in the most profane and complete way possible, by flooding. Pretty much every major highway was shut down, 26 communities inside of Calgary and many towns outside were completely evacuated. Nearly 100,000 people inside of the city and countless others outside had to leave their homes, many coming back to homes completely destroyed.

Don’t worry about me, the Kootenay Division may be built in a basement, but it’s on quite a big hill.

The rest of Calgary, however….this was an unparalleled and unprecedented event. Please look in my photo gallery at the following link:

Once you’re done reeling from the images that I soaked $5000 of camera gear to get, please consider donating some money to the Canadian Red Cross, which helped us and is still helping us so much during a state of emergency which still hasn’t been lifted 10 days after the water rose – and only for two days.


Let there be light! (And Power)

Project for the last two weekends: Upgrade the 120V systems in the room. If you look back to this post from January, you can see the last lighting upgrade I did – This was at a time when a full time job was uncertain and the idea of actually adding hundreds of dollars of electrical installations to the room was even more so. Still, things change…

I started by adding plugs. Plenty of plugs.

This is how I got power in previously:

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Preeeeetty sure stapled extension cords aren’t up to code.

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Well, whatever keeps them from falling on my face.

Now, understand that I only had space in the panel for a single 2 pull breaker, so I was limited in my options. One 15A circuit for power, one for lighting. Instead of hogging all the receptacles, I decided to add one in the hallway and one in the next room for the deep freeze and other things to plug into. In the railway room, they were installed approximately 12 feet apart as per the Canadian Electrical Code. The main deviation from normal CEC practice was the double switched plug under Castlegar – that’s my nerve centre!

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The bottom left plug, which has the power bar plugged into it, is switched by a switch next to the light switch at the swi- er, door. The blue extension cord goes through the benchwork to be a central power drop under Celgar. All DCC and layout electrical expansions will eventually plug into that power bar, which you can casually turn off as you leave. Awesome!

By the way, don’t pick on me for that being unlevel. The guys who did the electrical when the house was built (may they ever be spit on by Alpacas, Emus, and other long necked creatures) ran that orange power circuit precisely where the device boxes needed to go, preventing them from being mounted properly. Smooth move, guys.

Actually installing the power circuit in 3 of the 5 walls was crappy, removing the vapour barrier and insulation made for some nice irritation on the skin and a cough the first day when I neglected a dust mask. Here it is going in behind Nelson:

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Having to move everything away from the walls and taking drywall off a couple made for everything getting very, very messy extremely quickly.

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Hee hee hee.

But hey, at least they look good on the drywall!

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With the room powered up after 2 days of itchy insulation work, I had a lot of momentum. I got 6 light fixtures and 5000k “Natural” T8 lamps and placed them over the aisles. These are meant as work lights, and while they do a good job of lighting the layout now, once the upper deck is in place things will get a bit darker. I tried to line things up the best I could while still having adequate lighting, and it could have gone worse. At least this meant I had to drill less holes into the ceiling joists! See, this is what my layout looked like after that…

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And of course the irony of wood chips being all over the chip mill…

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But after a good day’s work, the lighting was done. Without insulation to deal with, it was easy as eating a pie!

Well, let’s have a before and after.

Before, after installing the old-new lights in January:

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And after, with permanent wiring:

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There’s a minor (900K) difference in colour, but the difference in brightness is kind of incredible. Especially going back to 2012 and prior, when lighting consisted of 2 13w CFLs at either end and a 500W work light for wherever I was at the time. Plus, no more stumbling around trying to find the pull chains!

Oh yeah, you might have noticed something…since all paint has been discontinued and we haven’t had Polly Scale in Canadiana for years, I gave up on waiting for paint to get my structures done and put up the rest of the Celgar complex (sans tanks and stuff) using nothing but masking tape and a little bit of make-believe.

It’s terrible, it’s bad, it’s ridiculous, but you wouldn’t believe how much it adds.

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Man, the Kraft Switcher really lucked out today with a single C-liner…doesn’t get much worse than that!

One last item: Earlier this year, I installed plastic sheeting to separate the layout from the workbench. I had to take that down to install these lights…I was thinking of putting it up over the entire ceiling to prevent dust coming from above but decided against it after seeking advice on a few forums, mainly The reason for this is that there are so many other dust sources in an unfinished basement that a drop in the bucket isn’t work the effort. I also decided not to put the old sheeting back up because the upper deck will be going in so soon, adding tremendous amounts of sawdust and requiring me to redo it anyway. So, this is the last time the layout will be clean for a while!

With that, I’m off to bed. I’m getting at least a 5 day weekend due to flooding evacuations, so we’ll see how much I can get done!

Catastrophic flooding and a state of emergency in Calgary

So, you folks might have heard the news, and some of you might even remember that I live in Calgary, so I’ll give you an update on what’s going on.

1: I live on a hill. A nice big hill. We corrected drainage problems years ago, and no water is anywhere in the house. Except the sink. There’s muddy water in the sink. The tapwater tastes muddy.

2: This is by far the worst flood in Calgary’s history. It’s four times higher than the previous record breaking flood. The closest we’ve ever gotten was localized flooding in winter due to ice jams up until the 1950s.

3: Calgary isn’t the only place affected. All of southern Alberta is FUBAR, including highways 1, 2, 3, 22, 40, 93, and the CP Crowsnest and Laggan subs. On a related note, there is a washout on the Kootenay Valley Railway’s Nelson sub near Wynndel, MP 73.8 in my era.

4: Nearly 100,000 people have been evacuated from 26 communities. Less than 2% needed an emergency shelter, the city’s done an amazing job of sticking together.

5: I’ve been out and about taking photos and getting water inside both of my 5Ds. (Yay…) I have a gallery at the following link, please check it out. It gives a glimpse into the utter devastation that’s occurring here.

The Canadian Red Cross is accepting monetary donations at this time, and I do strongly encourage you to donate.

How to build roads. Poorly.

Well, I tried. I took the best looking ideas for making a road and crapped all over them. I took the techniques from this page, because I absolutely loved the way they looked:

Let’s follow what I did…

Step one was to add foam board. I got mine at the dollar store, 3 sheets for a dollar. I drew the curves freehand, though it wouldn’t have been much harder to use a radius stick thingy like I use for my curves.

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Once cut (Don’t use a dull knife, you will rip the crap out of it!) I cemented it down with wood glue. I love wood glue.

This road is about 25′ wide, which is a good real life width sans shoulders, similar to the actual road that goes to Celgar.

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Placing structures in their final positions, I could cut around their locations.

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So far, so good….now it’s time for the plaster coat! The track is masked, and the outer grade crossing pieces are in place and masked on top and the side. This is where things begin going awry, however.

The link says to paint the tinted hydrocal on. I decided I wanted a smoother road, so I used a putty knife. This made it far too thick! WHOOPS. It was also hard to get rid of some of the ridges, so I decided I could sand it later. Sanding plaster? Avoid it if you can. Some of my track is still white despite my best efforts.

It looked fairly good…


…And then it dried.

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Wait, what?

Yeah, it kind of turned nearly white. And I have no idea why. It appears that only happened where I smoothed it with my finger, but that’s PRETTY WEIRD.

It was at this point that I realized that pulling the masking tape off the sides of the outer boards left a fairly sizable gap. That’s no good! So I masked just the tops this time…

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Getting closer! Add in a little bit of drywall mud, paint carefully, aaaand…

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YEAH! It’s not perfect, but I’m happy for the time being!

So, you might be wondering about the crossings…the mainline crossings are straight Osborn kits, and the throat of the mill is made of Blair line one lane crossings. They fit in quite well with my road width, although I’m not sure I like the look of two pads together. Oh well!

I weathered them from new wood to dirty by first staining them with some leftover dark wood stain I had left over from photo boxes I made (walnut or something, I don’t know…) followed by a couple washes of India ink once they were in place. Don’t be deterred by the stain’s water-repellant nature, it will soak in eventually!

Sooo…yeah! Take what you can from this!



Kootenay Kwickie: Making a helix more interesting

So, my regular readers will know that I added a masonite wrap to my helix last year, mostly to stop trains from falling out and smashing into about 14 million billion pieces on the floor. However, since my helix is a full 4 and a third turns hidden (that’s one and a quarter scale miles, kids!) a train running at the scale speed limit will take about three minutes from when the caboose disappears to when the locomotives pop out at the other end. This is a long long LONG time for an operator that doesn’t even know if his train’s stalled!

Solution: Plexiglas. It’s somewhat pricey, but absolutely worth it for such a long hidden run. I bought the smallest 1/16″ sheet that would work for $30. If you’re wondering what thickness will work for you, it’s a safe bet that you can bend it to a radius of no less than 350 times the thickness of the sheet.

Cutting: I used my mitre saw, and took it slow. If you take it fast, you’ll probably chip it.

Securing: Drill pilots holes and FER CHRIST’S SAKE DON’T USE WOOD SCREWS. I got impatient and used wood screws, but round headed screws would have prevented this: 20130609 2

Yeah, I had to redo it.

Anyways, once done, voila! You know precisely where your train is! For full effect, you can paint the track black, or even add LED strings for illumination!

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