Changes to Nelson Yard, Part 1

Two things led me to make some fairly major changes to Nelson, the largest yard on the layout, and one that has its own assigned switch crew (and possibly 2 in the future)

The first was a comment from the yard crew, mixed in with others from my last op session, that it would be nice if Nelson had a yard lead so the switch job wouldn’t need to clear the main. No problem!

I decided to pull out 2 of the 3 switches at the east end of Nelson, push the main track outside of where it previously met with the yard lead, and effectively double track it through Procter. I also put a crossover in where the east siding switch previously was.

Removing the 2 switches from the east end was easy, but turned out to be fantastic, as even though they were cut to fit a specific space, they fit perfectly in with the new switches in Procter!

Original position. At left is an industry track to various warehouses, centre is the main, the MLW S2s are on the yard lead, and to the right is the shops.

With switches carefully removed…

…I took them to their new position, and cut out that precise length of track.

Then I installed them by sliding the rail joiners completely onto the turnouts, and then sliding them back once in place.

Mission complete!

Now, the crossover was difficult. I couldn’t fit a pair of turnouts into the space available as a traditional crossover, so I opted to use a curved turnout on the main. A Fast Tracks 30″/20″ radius #8 turnout would fit, but I wouldn’t want to spend $150 on a fixture for a single turnout. So I downloaded their template, printed it out, and went at it! I made sure to bend all the rails to just the right curvature and shape before soldering them down.

It ended up being very sexy, even though it took more than twice as long to build as a regular turnout! I installed it across from a normal #8, making the S curve very gentle.

I use Ribbonrail track alignment gauges on my curves, and in this case, I used it to keep the curve flowing properly into the switch as I laid it.

Looking good!

I throw my turnouts with servos controlled by Tam Valley Octopus IIIa boards, and to save on outputs, my crossovers are thrown by a single output together.

So far, it’s been operating nearly flawlessly. Huzzah!

There are more changes to tracks that haven’t been laid yet. Let’s look at the plan again.

I’ve had issues with JMRI not being able to move all the cars it should, and it’s due to limitations within the yard. Look just below the diesel shops and left of the roundhouse, and you’ll see the RIP (Repair In Place) yard. I had 2 tracks in the original plan, and I was simply going to put bad ordered cars there until I could get to them.

Instead, I moved things around so that there were 4 tracks of the maximum length that fit (#5 ladder) to use as an overflow for the class yard. I may even end up building the shorter trains, such as the Creston turn and my Tadanac wayfreight on them. (The second may be short lived, however.)

I also moved the drop-down wye further into the aisle. It’s still up in the air whether it will be built as such.

Lastly, I moved the top right tracks a bit. In real life, the merchandise terminal is on the north (aisle) side of its tracks, but I moved it to the far side so the switch crew could actually reach it!

Time to have an op session to test this out.

Nelson, BC yard and Cranbrook staging build

Well, it’s been a very busy summer for me! I got a lot done immediately after the first operating session in April. That showed me that my idea of building the layout in stages didn’t particularly work with my vision, and Nelson as a staging yard became a very confusing place. So, I removed the temporary staging tracks, and built the yard.

The Yard: Prototype Nelson includes the mainline, 3 long tracks, and 5 short tracks in the yard. I ended up with 4 long tracks in the 1500-1900′ range, and 4 short tracks in the 500-1100′ range. As on the prototype, there are 2 curves to the north within the yard. My plan includes a RIP yard, wye, and roundhouse that I have yet to install, but are marked out. Here’s an overview:

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If you think the yard seems empty, you’re right – I took most of the cars out to body mount the couplers and weight them closer to NMRA spec.

I built the yard ladder with the turnout points nearly butting into the frogs to allow for the longest possible tracks with a #6 ladder.

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After installing that, I realized that the engines for all these trains that terminate and originate at Nelson need to go somewhere, so I sucked it up and built the run-through portion of the shops!

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The Operations: I’ve decided the 4 long tracks are arrival/departure tracks, and worked hard to make them run fluidly with JMRI. Track 1 has setouts from all Nelson sub freights as well as the east Boundary freight (for chip gons from Grand Forks and Midway) and pickups by the Kraft Switcher, train 87, only – This allows that track to be the one on which the Kraft is built. Similarly, train 81, the westbound Boundary freight is built on 2, and the Nelson freights are built on 3 and 4. (This is subject to change. I’m thinking of using 4, which is only useful for 1100′, as a build track for an extra train to Trail to get pressure off the Hotshot)

The yard tracks, 5-8, are used for all trains. There’s one little tweak within them, which might be eliminated with the previously mentioned change. The smelter at Trail takes in lime cars from the tipple at Fife, and since the hotshot isn’t built at Nelson, the east Boundary freight drops these cars off specifically in track 5. Track 5 is split into two tracks within JMRI, 5, and 5-5. These are pooled, and 5-5 can only be worked by the east and west Boundary freights and the east and west hotshot. This allows the lime cars to stay together without a kernal, so only one move needs to be made. Calling it 5-5 makes them both show up as the same track, so without explanation, you’d simply think it’s running very nicely!

The yard is run with a pair of MLW switchers from the east end. Currently I’m having fun with the sound-equipped Atlas S2s. (Note: The layout is always viewed from the north, so east is left, west is right)

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There is an industrial area behind and west of the station, and when that is built I may need to add a second yard job with a single unit at the west end. My idea is to have the Nelson crew also be responsible for hostling power and getting crews and trains together – this means it will probably be a 2 person job, regardless of whether 1 or 2 sets are in use.

As for the shops, they work like this: Any incoming train, save for the Hotshot and passenger trains, will pull into its assigned arrival/departure track. The power will be cut off and run to the west end of the shops – this is where the near track that runs around the north side of the yard comes in. The engines are run into the shop and then, when the next set of power leaves ahead of them, they’re moved forward to sand/fuel pad. Each of the two shop tracks, including the fuel area, accommodates 2 4-unit consists. Once they’re ready to go, they may be taking a westbound train – I didn’t want them to have to run down the main to get to the west end of the yard, so they’ll take the runaround track all the way to the west ladder. This is prototypical.

On to Cranbrook!

The Yard:

Prototype Cranbrook is a division point where trains arrive and depart, in effect, in 5 directions – East, the Crowsnest subdivision to southern Alberta, west, the Nelson subdivision to the Kootenays, north, the Windermere sub to Golden, northwest, the Kimberley sub to the Sullivan mine at Kimberley, and southwest, the Kingsgate sub to the UP line in Idaho. Note that none of these junctions are near Cranbrook save for North Star junction to Kimberley. My modeling picks up after Curzon Junction, so we don’t see any of the Kingsgate traffic. However, most of the tonnage on the Kootenay Division moves east from Nelson through Cranbrook to points beyond. It’s a staging yard, so I kept things simple. 5 ~2000′ tracks are containing within a staging loop, and one 1200′ track sits outside of the loop. This is nearly identical to Midway. I have potential for more levels of storage between Cranbrook and Midway, but I don’t want to add them until I feel it’s necessary. The layout is shown on this masterfully drawn temporary panel.

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I try to keep run-through freights balanced between Cranbrook and Midway, that way operators who aren’t into switching have something to do.

I’ve decided to not lay the industries on the Nelson subdivision at this point. This includes a lot of spots at Creston, a log reload at Tye, and the Kootenay Lake barge operation at Procter. I’ve built enough for now, and it’s time to see how it works!

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All turnouts in both yards above are controlled with Tam Valley Octopus controllers and 9g micro servos.

PS – It’s not quite cleaned up at the moment. There’s still lots to do before the next op session!

Quick update – February.

Prepare to be underwhelmed! I’m swamped with preparations for an upcoming bridal show, and have started doing real estate photography part time to bring in a bit more money. However, I did find a bit of time to do railway work in the past few weeks.

My goal is to have an operating session with 4 or 5 people in mid-March (after the aforementioned show) so I set up JMRI to route my cars and print switch lists – Needs more testing, but it looks like it works well! I’ve also created a new timetable and train instruction sheets, and I’m working on siding diagrams and dispatcher sheets.

The new timetable is meant to be printed on a double sided half-letter size piece of cardstock so it’s easy to carry. It’s for smaller sessions so I chopped all the trains that aren’t really completely necessary. Have a look!

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To accommodate this, everyone needs to know what time it is – I own a mix of NCE Pro cabs and utility throttles, and only the former has a time display. I got these great fast clock kits from Circuits4Tracks – They’re the cheapest on the market in kit form with the Canadian dollar down, easy to assemble, and have great customer service.

There will be a fast clock at Nelson (visible from Grand Forks and Castlegar) and at Farron (visible from Creston) as well as in the dispatcher’s office in staging.

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Additionally, I put in the plaster hardshell between Farron and Fife because it looked way too lame without it – Hence the last article about tunnel liners.

So, some crappy cellphone photos!

Passing the pond at Paulson

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Rock walls high above Christina Lake

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Anyway, I’ll see what I can do before then – Something tells me I won’t have turnout control in for Nelson or Midway for the convenience of my operators. C’est la vie.

How to build tunnel liners: Concrete and rock

Spoiler for the next big post: I’ve been adding a lot of scenery base in. I decided to make my life MUCH easier and put in my tunnels, weathering and all, before the hills above, and I’m very happy with this strategy!

The prototype Paulson tunnel is 365 feet long through a nose of rock that shuts McRae Creek into a tight canyon known as Paulson Gap. This is one of my favorite spots on the Boundary subdivision, as it contains sheer rock faces, a tunnel and a snowshed in a few hundred feet of track.

The tunnel itself has poured concrete portals dating back to the 1940s. These continue about 30 feet back into the tunnel or so, where it reverts to blasted rock.

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For the portals themselves, I used Chooch concrete portals with the top trim cut off and the corners rounded to mimic CP’s very utilitarian method.

Here’s where I got clever.

I made a form to act like the wooden forms the concrete would have been poured into. This form was made out of a dollar store ‘for sale’ sign with lines scribed into it with a somewhat dull exacto blade and a ruler at (roughly) the same points they are on the portal. Then, using a hot glue gun, I temporarily attached this form to the inside of the two tunnel portals. This ensured that it kept its shape, although the tunnel is much longer than that!

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I had some clearance issues, the tunnel being on a curve combined with the narrow portals caused a slight rub from my test autorack. In the end, I changed the shape of the liner from a rectangle to a parallelogram so that the end away from the portal was higher. This solved the clearance issue.

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With the form ready, I soaked some paper towels in a slightly runny plaster of paris mix (since they don’t carry hydrocal within 500 miles of me anymore) and draped them over the form, making sure the plaster was worked into every nook and cranny – though the end result says I could have done a better job!

Removing the form yielded a look that was almost perfect. The transition from portal to liner could be a bit smoother, but I ended up filling the gaps with more plaster. Then I painted it with a mix of mostly unbleached titanium and raw umber, following it up with washes of both unbleached titanium and black. (Couldn’t find the india ink)

Here’s two photos before the patching and final wash:

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Next, I was going to just use black construction paper for the rest, but as I was putting it on I noticed that you could tell by looking through the tunnel as it was short enough that you could barely see the other side! The prototype is quite a bit longer, after all…I was all ready to start carving some plaster and was talking to my dad about how he did his tunnel liners with crumpled aluminum foil molds when he said “Why not just use the foil?”
Freaking. Genius.

This was seriously SO EASY. Crumpled a sheet of foil, spray painted it with some matte oxide red I had lying around, shaped it, stapled and hot glued it onto the existing liners (which were glued down by this point) and voila! It looks SO much better. It’s hard to show in photos, especially since I can’t get a tripod in. It’s only on the outside of the curve, since you can’t see the inside from any reasonable angle. There’s construction paper over the top to prevent light entry, and it’s attached with push pins to allow easy access in case of a derailed car.

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Seeing the light shining through from the other side is nearly unreal in how good it looks.

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Can’t wait to get that hillside built over it!

 

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Until next time, highball!

The Long Overdue Update!

Well, I’ve been focusing so hard on Past Matt/Future Matt on youtube that I kind of abandoned my blog for the past year. Back on track now, with no pun intended! (And apologies for having such inertia..)

I updated my post on programming realistic lighting effects to include NCE decoders!  https://kootenaymodelrailway.wordpress.com/2012/11/29/programming-lighting-effects-on-tcs-and-digitrax-123-decoders/

This comes in light of the fact that I finished Cuprum Junction in Grand Forks – The interchange with the GN line to Republic and the hi-line. In fact, I have laid all the track on the Boundary Subdivision! Save staging, that is – The swing gate that sneaks beneath the duckunder is a bit daunting, but the first thing I’ll lay if I start doing track again.

Wait, what do I mean if?

Well, I’ve spent the last half a year laying track and putting in electronics, and with the amount of the stuff I’ve done in that regard I am SO ready to do something else! On the other hand, I’ve done a TON. Instead of the track only being in the area of the pulp mill, it goes up a 2.6% grade out of the top of the helix, through the short Shields siding, through a short tunnel, across the tall link and pin Farr Creek bridge, into the 1km long Bulldog tunnel (1500′ modeled) before soaring over the duckunder at Farron Summit, where there’s a 2000’ish siding, wye, lumber spur, and various MoW tracks. From Farron, it tips over down a 2.6% grade, winding its way around a small pond on McRae creek before entering Paulson canyon, with its towering cliffs, tight curves, tunnel and snowshed, often avalanche ravaged on the wet side of the Monashee mountains. Further downgrade the coniferous trees thin out as the line soars high above Christina Lake on the dry hillsides around Fife, a very short siding with a lumber spur and limestone tipple. The bottom is reached at the Kettle River bridge at Cascade, the longest bridge on the layout at over 500′ long! On the west side is the Grand Forks Sawmills and Cuprum interchange, all tucked neatly together in a little package. Another crossing of the Kettle River using a truss bridge reaches Grand Forks proper – I may do a history post later – and the wye, 3 track yard, and long passing siding with many varied industries. Great spot to turn around as you reach the end of the layout!

You’ll want to see some photos, of course.

The first section of new track from the past year, Shields siding:

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This siding prototypically was above Shields Creek, with a medium length siding for loading lumber. Today, the Shields Forestry Service Road crosses the abandoned railgrade here, where a picnic table and outhouse sit across from the hidden foundation of the old station. On my model, the siding twists in a tight S curve over a high fill – A scenic feature I’m excited for.

After wrapping around through a tunnel, the line crosses the second of the 3 major bridges on the line – Farr Creek

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Though this may not be constructed for an eternity due to its unique nature, the scenery presents some constructive difficulties. The front of the benchwork could not be very high, even though it was dropped down for the valley, due to the height of the hills on the lower deck. What you see is the best compromise.

Next is the Bulldog Tunnel:

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This is not going to be an obvious helix, with the track disappearing into a near-prototypical hill on both sides of the ridge, with a backdrop to top the scenic divide. Originally, the line completed in 1900 used a series of switchbacks (5 on one side, 7 on the other) to get over this ridge, but the 1km long Bulldog Tunnel was completed 2 years later. With a slight curve at the west end, this was unsettling to bike through – No light at the end of this incredibly long bore!

 

We get into the almost-scenicked are at Porcupine Creek

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Porcupine Creek was originally one of the CP’s famous wooden trestles, until it was filled in like so many others. Trestles are cheap to construct, hard to maintain, and make super good kindling. This is the most major side valley in the Dog Creek valley, which we follow to the summit.

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At the summit, the wye leg winds prototypically toward a side valley before unprototypically slinking behind some hills with its long tail. You can see that I’m experimenting with a bristol board/hot glue lattice in this area.

Past the summit is a bunch of windy track that will eventually be snowsheds, tunnels, canyons, and loads of interesting stuff. The landscape changes from a high mountain pass to lush forest to near desert, an incredible variation that was found in only 19 railway miles of the prototype! Near the bottom is the Fife limestone tipple, a 2 car lumber loading spur, and runaround track. The level tipple track makes a huge visual impact highlighting how steep the grade is, much as in real life!

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At the end of a solid 2.65% grade we find the big Kettle River bridge:

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At over 500′ long, this is/will be the longest – But not the highest – bridge on the layout. The backdrop behind hides the Great Northern Railway’s Carson spur staging track, enough to hide a small train.

Next is the biggest industry this side of the pass, Grand Forks Sawmills. I designed this to be an interesting track plan by itself, and was fairly faithful to the prototype.

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Grand Forks GE sawmill

On the near (north) side, there’s the lumber loading sheds, the far side has the chip pile, there’s a runaround and potential loading track that may be used for switching, a potato warehouse from a mile down the line, and smack in the middle of everything is the GN Carson Spur! Today, this is the only operational part of the Boundary sub west of Castlegar. The Grand Forks Railway sporadically serves the sawmill, interchanging with the Kettle Falls International, which bought the old BNSF/ex-BN/exx GN line up from Republic, Washington.

Zip across the smaller Kettle River bridge and you find yourself in Grand Forks itself.

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A nice little yard, perfect for handling sawmill and interchange traffic. As you can see, the track zips through the backdrop. This will eventually lead to the upper/west staging, but I’ll need to build a swing bridge and I am DONE LAYING TRACK.

The east end has seen some work, too, though not much.

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Nelson yard is home to some 60 billion – or perhaps just 52 – turnouts, not counting the Kootenay Forestry Products sawmill and Procter yard/barge slip to the east. I couldn’t stomach or justify laying that at the moment, so I laid all the west end turnouts, 13 in all, to get the first 5 tracks in to be used temporarily as staging tracks. Just 40 more and I could have the whole yard, except I don’t care! Hahahahahahahahahahahaha! I think I have turnout-brain.

 

So, you say, this guy has a lot of turnouts, how does he control them? Well, the cheapest solution would be solenoids, but those would snap my points right off. I instead use 9g servos controlled by Tam Valley octopuses. I’m working on a youtube video to show all of this, and I won’t duplicate that here. Have a link to part 1 and part 2 as they are up, though!

Temporary control panels are in, and I’ve retrofitted servos onto all the mainline switches in the Castlegar/Kraft area. Those DPDT slide switches I used earlier just don’t last.

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Lots and lots and lots of wires, oh yes! I never do things the easy way.

That was a TON of work condensed into a long blog post, I hope I can update more regularly now without the weight of this hanging over my head!

In addition, I’ve been trying to get some more operational sense into my layout. You’ll have noticed the yellow post-its hanging out on the side of the roadbed. The show both passenger and freight speed limits, as well as the mileage.  These hopefully work in conjunction with the timetable that I created…

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I hope that makes any sort of sense to someone with experience with TT&TO operations.

Well, that’s my hundred dozen words for the day! If you made it through, high five!

How to replace trashed track.

Okay, so here’s this week’s post. There’s this curve that I put in at the very beginning that I’ve never been completely satisfied with – There’s a join in the middle that kinked slightly, and eventually went out of gauge. After that, I tried soldering PCB ties to it to keep it in gauge, but it was ugly. Recently, it started getting worse, so I did this!

Firstly, I shaped a new section of flextrack to fit the old curve.

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Next, I used my dremel with metal cutting wheel to precisely cut at the ends of it.

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Then use a chisel to gently…gently…lift…and carefully…destroy the track. You could save track if you want, but this is for replacing damaged track so forget it!

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This is a good time to remove the old feeders. Save them if you’re happy with them, but I put new smaller gauge ones in.

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Once you’ve got the old section lifted, you have a choice of whether to lay track on the old roadbed or not. My roadbed was covered with 2 kinds of caulking as well as wood glue in addition to masking tape for superelevation (banking) so it was going to be very difficult to give it a level and consistent base, so I used my chisel to take up the old cork as well. Sometimes a fresh start is good.

I cut the roadbed with a knife at either end of the section I was replacing, and then chiseled it up, being careful not to damage the rest that I left.

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Once all the cork was up I was left with a bit of gluey residue, I took care of that with sandpaper on a narrow piece of wood until it was smooth.

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Now, the process begins anew! I used wood glue to secure the new cork and cut it at the ends to match the existing sections. After that, the rest was a breeze. Sanded down the ends to make sure that there wouldn’t be any bumps before I added superelevation using this method.

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After that, slathered on a slightly-too-generous helping of caulking and tacked it down to dry.

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And voila! As smooth as I could ask for.

Kootenay Division video series launch – A conversation through time!

Hey, everyone. I’ve been working on this huge project all year and will continue to for the upcoming year. I’d love it if you would all subscribe to it! The premise is that every Wednesday I upload a video taken a year ago and every Saturday I upload a video taken that week, and converse with myself about all manner of things.

It’s called Past Matt/Future Matt.

First Past Matt:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZBvm4qeKzuA

First Future Matt: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jwnKc_MBJS4

Subscribe!! www.youtube.com/subscription_center?add_user=kootenayvlog

Thanks in advance, please enjoy this 104-video long series!