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!

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


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:


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


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.


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!


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


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.


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!


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:

First Future Matt:


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

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!

I should really write one of these.

Geez, I’ve been putting this off. Why? I wanted to provide finished stuff, not updates! Too bad, nothing’s finished. Where am I? Wellll….

Just after my last post, I fixed up the track going from the Boundary sub to the Rossland sub main, which is the straight through track of the wye. Things kept decoupling on it because the transition was too steep, so I pulled it up and sanded it the hell down – dumb me also forgot to feed it! All is now well.


A few tracks over, however, more problems arose. The track buckled and an earlier attempt was made to secure it, but alas, it only made it worse. I had to pull it up and sand out all the caulking from underneath it. Remember, when securing track to a surface that isn’t perfectly level, make sure to secure it VERY securely.

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I bought a whiteboard and whipped up a timetable for it. I’ll do an actual printed timetable eventually, but I need to learn how to use design programs first.

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So that’s it for January…Awaiting resources, I made no posts and no progress. A week in, I realized something I could do – Though I had yet to calculate where to put the backdrop and scenery behind McCormack Creek bridge, I could totally divide it into two sections, doing the front first, leaving room to put the bridge in! First I put in a good solid support for the fascia, which is extremely tall to accommodate the bridge. This is comprised of 1×4 salvaged from the 10 year old scrap pile, some 1x3s for vertical support, and a failed cut for the helix to perfectly match the curve above.

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Next up were the scenery supports. Working from my CPR plans, printed to 1:160 scale, I positioned pads for the piers at the right points, and cut out the exact profile of the valley. How ridiculous is that?! I also put profiles in a few other places for good measure.

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At the same time, I set up a new cut for Castlegar, one that shall have smooth sides. It’s all glued, supported in obvious ways.20130215 2

After that I didn’t get much done for a while. I ended up soaking those 6 deluxe innovations chip hoppers in brake fluid (prestone dot 3) which worked very well, if apparently toxically. I filtered out most of the large bits of paint floating in it by running it back into the bottles through a coffee filter. This clogged up pretty badly, and though the first bottle filtered through in about half an hour, the second half of the second bottle took four days. FOUR FREAKING DAYS.

Oh yeah, then something pretty cool happened.


After over a hundred applications, perhaps closer to 200, I finally found SOMEONE who was hiring. That’s awesome. I won’t have a big budget, though, since I did my fiscal planning and my budget is much the same as before. Oh well!

My current project, besides the planning for the upper deck (which is finally gaining traction) is working on the helix.  I’m offsetting the top by 2.5″ to allow some room for scenery as it curves around the top, so I’m planning the tie-in for the upper deck. This is very exciting. I removed the last section of the helix, leaving cool hanging track while I added in the spacer section.

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Having taken off the masonite I had previously wrapped it in allowed me to become acquainted yet again with how terribly skewed my supports are.

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Also, I don’t believe I’ve posted a photo of all the feeders going into the bus, so here it is:

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Maybe someday I’ll get some ty-raps and tidy it up.

Next up, I positioned the section and found out that GUESS WHAT there are problems. First off, it doesn’t make it to the next support. Not a huge deal, I’ll deal with it. The best way to deal with it, unfortunately, is to add another inter-deck support like I’ve done in many places. That doesn’t work because the inside of this subroadbed strip is outside of the outside of the next one down.

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In the end I figured out that the inside of the top should line up quite well with the outside of the next one down, so I screwed and glued a 1×2 to the outside of the second to top level and the underside of the top level. It’s now fairly solid, but I’ve got more tweaks and a cool idea to put into practice.

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Well, back to work! Someone’s gotta make a bunch of cash for flextrack – oops, I mean, a house. I’ll try to come back quickly!

Last post for a bit…finished laying pulp mill and wiring.

So a great triumph has come – I MET A DEADLINE! I said to myself that I would be done laying track in this section before I left, and BY GOD I WAS! Ground throws and everything. I secured everything down with a thin-but-not-too-thin layer of clear silicone sealant, same as the turnouts, but kept gluing the ground throws down with wonderfully rigid wood glue.

LOOK AT THAT TRACK FLOW OOOH YEAHHH. I’m pretty fond of how well the track going to the woodchip tracks keeps curving through the diverging side of the #6 as if it were built just for it.

One that was all done, I shoved a bunch of cars into the yard as if it were an operating session. This is the view the operators will have, since the backdrop is behind everything. Eventually I hope to have one of those lifting dumpers that operates for the short track the single hopper is currently on.

Of course, all that didn’t come without some more hidden work…

HOLY DAMN LOOK AT ALL THOSE FEEDERS! Remember, it’s two wires per section of track (as long as it’s not a short one with tracks at both ends) plus one wire for every rail of a turnout plus 3 for the ground throw! (Red-black-frog)

Well, I took care of that.

Once that was done, the reward was running a train. Or pretending to. I still have to actually clean off the rails, then I plan to burnish them as in the GLEAM method (google it if you don’t know it) and then add no-ox-id to the railhead to keep it from getting dirty in the future.

Anyway, that’s me signing off! I’m going off to visit family, and then I’ll bike the old Columbia and Western railbed west from Castlegar (Actually, west from the pulp mill, up what you see in the background of the last photo) as well as the old Nakusp and Slocan from New Denver to Nakusp. Don’t expect a blog update until September.

If you’re thinking of using this information to rob my house, don’t. A friend will be here, and he knows kung-fu. I love being able to say that truthfully!



Pulp mill turnouts! A visual guide to a new way of laying ties.

Remember how INFURIATING I found ties? While hiking in the mountains, my brain had an idea. a fantastic, wonderful, groundbreaking idea. Turn it all upside down! This simplifies the hell out of ties.

Instead of gluing the ties to the turnouts…glue the ties to the ground! I’m using clear silicone sealant, it won’t be dissolved by most chemicals you’ll use on the layout, whereas other sealants may be. I took lots of step-by-step photos, so here we go:

First, I start with paper templates as before, downloaded from Fast Tracks to match their turnouts. I put double-sided tape on them, and then put the wood ties on, with the end to be cut extending off the straight side of the turnout. This makes cutting them easier, and straight ties on that side look better than lopsided ones. Since I’m putting these on the roadbed later by flipping them over, I use the opposite of the templates that I would normally, every right-hand turnout becoming a left-handed one.

Next, you trim them up reeeeal nice.

Flip it over and do a rough test fit…

Put the turnout fixture on top of it for a more accurate locating, and mark the edges of the templates in pencil to guide your caulk…

Spread the sealant onto the place…you need to spread it very thinly to make sure it doesn’t come up between the ties and interfere with your points or ballast. You can see at the left side of this picture that I didn’t quite manage this.

How do you like those lines, eh? SOMEONE got lazy. Too bad I’m the only person I could blame.

Next up, you lay them down with the fixture again as in the fourth photo, and after lining it up properly weight it down and leave to dry for however long your sealant takes to dry. When dry, peel it up slowly at an angle. This will avoid putting undue stress on a single tie and pulling it up.

Remember how I had too much sealant on the left side? I carefully took it out with a knife, cutting it from beside the tie on each side and then teasing it out. It’s important to cut away the sealant you pull up, because that way you won’t accidentally pull up a tie. Anyway, you get good at this quickly enough that you won’t have to worry about it for long.

Now you’ve got all the wood ties looking nice!

Next step is to prepare holes for the feeder wires. As I covered in earlier posts, I run a feeder to each rail and each frog. Put your fixture in place, making sure it’s held down PRECISELY AND ACCURATELY. Then use a good, contrasting coloured marker (I used a red sharpie) to mark where your feeders will drop down, just inside the rail.

Once that’s done, drill the holes with as small a bit as you can get away with.

Meanwhile, you get the feeders on the turnouts.

Test-fit into place to make sure you don’t have a feeder that’s in a place that will bunch up under the turnout, stopping it from laying flat.

Once you’ve made the proper adjustments, paint the ties. (I would use an airbrush, but I don’t have a compressor.)

I used Floquil paint pens, they have a set of 3 including railroad tie brown, rail brown, and rust. I haven’t used the rust yet, but have applied the rest in an obvious fashion. Painting the ties before they’re on the turnout lets you get it in awkward spots such as between the points and the stock rail. I didn’t paint the throwbars since I will later be soldering ground throws to them. After you’ve painted the rail, it’s important to clean it as soon as you can. With the Floquil paint, I used a rag soaked with rubbing alcohol stretched over a block of plywood to thoroughly clean the railhead. You must be careful not to catch the rag on the rails, since the ones just past the frog are only held on by one tie….why yes, I did snap them off! How did you know!?

Now put your painted turnouts into place! I secured them with pliobond, the same as usual, but I haven’t yet done a good enough job to say whether that works or not.

Obviously, then you connect them to the rest of the tracks. Since I snapped off some of the rails, I just brought the flextrack to the appropriate spot and soldered it to the final tie.

Aaaaand pulp mill! I’ll do the chip tracks and powerhouse track  (right side) later this week. I’m going to try to get all the trackwork done before I go on vacation. For once, I’m actually on track, as it were!

The two tracks on the right side are for acid tank cars, the two in the middle will be covered loading docks inside of the building that I’m kitbashing (ordered the windows today), and the left side is a loading dock on the outside of the building. Further to the left is the kraft building, which you’ll have seen in other photos.

Here’s a great historical shot of the acid tanks when the mill was brand new in the early 60s. I thought it would be easier to access the tracks if they weren’t side-by-side behind the mill, as it’s already a 2′ reach, and you don’t want to be jamming your fingers in there, knocking details off left and right.

I’ll probably build the tanks out of PVC pipe.

Oh, and I made a shelf. Right under the terminal strip, made of spare 3/4″ ply. Nice and solid. I left room for further boosters since there will probably be 3 booster districts on the layout in the end. This is a good central location, being in the middle of the room. Ignore the feeders that I have yet to tie into the bus. I think I said this already, but to reiterate: DO YOUR WIRING BEFORE FASCIA! It’s causing me no end of contortion.

That is all for now. I hope you enjoyed my nice big post.

Omnibus post. Turnouts. Pencils. Cocaine. No, wait, plaster.

Now that omnibus legislation is in the vogue in parliament, why not do an omnibus post? Scroll down to the bottom for the lessons if you’re in a tl;dr mood.

It’s been a while since I posted any photos of the main portion, so I’ve done a lot. HEY MAYBE IF I POST EXTREMELY INFREQUENTLY IT WILL LOOK LIKE I’M GETTING STUFF DONE!

First, I’ve laid all of the turnouts outside of the pulp mill and lumber mill. I suspect if I keep feeling the way I do, those will come along in the next couple weeks.  Anyway! Wiring turnouts is fun. Here’s the fixture from the crossover at Castlegar and the turnouts at the east end of the wye as viewed from the bottom. Pretty much every stock rail has a feeder going to it as well as every frog, the frog wire going to the cheap DPST switch that throws the throwbar. (Note to self, get slightly less cheap ones next time!) The #6s are done with ties that I cut myself (the huge pain ones) and the #8s are done with quicksticks that I got in the kit from Fast Tracks. If you can afford these, they make it a LOT easier, but it more than doubles the cost per turnout if you’re being cheap like me. All the ties are connected, so there’s only rarely a time when they fall off.

Here’s the crossover shot from above and installed. I -may- have not smoothed out the glue enough before laying it. Oops. I fixed that later on…but it’s too late for what I laid before that 😦

You can also see the crappy little poorly dimensioned styrene coal pit I made. There’s going to be a coaling tower in that space. Now, one thing I regret is keeping the frog wires above ground when there’s no recess for them to go in. DON’T DO THIS GUY SRSLY.

You can see I continued the different ballast levels into this area, based on prototype photos…as you can see here! The mainline is on 1/8″ ballast for most of the layout, but here it transitions to 1/16″ cork strip, and the siding goes from 1/16″ to none, to 1/16″ for the crossover before falling down to the base again, later meeting the main. This shot from a friend in Castlegar shows what the area currently looks like, and vividly depicts the elevation.

You can see the backdrop slowly coming along in the background, more on that a bit later on.

I’ve been using carpenter’s glue for everything, and I think I’m starting to regret just how ugly it is. If anyone has suggestions for something cheap that’s not as…yellow…comment! I also have accidentally broken the bond between track and masonite more than once. Speaking of glue, I just noticed that one rail in the previous photo is poking up after the frog, so I checked on it and GUESS WHAT the copper came off the PCB tie. I don’t want to replace this one, so I’m going to try supergluing this one down. GOOD LUCK TO ME AND RRRR.

Speaking of profiles, I have all the locomotives upstairs for speedmatching, so here’s chip hoppers on the 3 different levels. WHY DO N SCALE CARS LEAN SO MUCH IT’S SO ANNOYING-


The mainline is on 1/8″ Midwest cork, the 2 sidings are on 1/16″ cork I bought from the local hardware store, and the entire pulp mill complex will be on the ground.

Let’s backtrack to turnouts.

The yard ladder at Castlegar is screwed up. Because I was careless. When assembling multi-turnout fixtures, MAKE SURE THEY’RE STRAIGHT BETWEEN THE TURNOUTS! I had to kind of bend the last one and though I just put on its ground throw today, I’m a bit worried that shoving 20+ long cuts of cars through it might cause problems. It’s only visible if you’re watching a train go through it…or looking at it from fairly straight on…whatever. IF IT WORKS IT’S FINE. More annoying in that section is how I realized how much better frog wires look when routed under the tabletop instead of beside the tracks, but due to the placement of joists and risers I couldn’t easily route the wires underneath. It would have taken a longer drill bit than I have! Anyway, on these turnouts I used ground throws that were extremely simple, only 2 bends. Some of the more, er, ‘artistic’ ones further down have like 10. Apparently you don’t need to be that complex! Before you complain in your brain, the paint pen I was using to colour the tires went dry as I was doing these turnouts. I’m thinking of airbrushing them in the future, once I get a compressor. That’s holding up a few things…

Here’s a more complicated throw, there being no place to put the switch beside the turnout. Speaking of no room, I’m regretting there not being a spot for a prototypically situated water tower. DAMN!

Anyway, I didn’t do this as well as I could have, but it works. It’s the heavier piano wire that I SHOULD have put in a metal pipe, but instead just scratched a trough in the masonite before I laid the turnouts. Then I bent the piano wire on one end, shoved it under the turnout, decided later that it should have a piece of thin wood (the edge of a quicksticks tie strip, incidentally) to protect it from ballast and whatnot, and wrangled the whole thing into place.


Now, here’s something that I realized I should do a bit too late. I killed the two ground throws I already had in place on the east end of the wye because I realized it would be easier to have the overpass have the plywood tabletop bent up to it, cookie-cutter style. Since this photo was taken, I’ve re-set them both. I’ve also put a piece of masonite by the easternmost turnout because there will eventually be a speeder shed there, surely to be represented by that little shack for some time. Only time will tell if I need to add another joist and riser set to get a flatter section at the top, where the bridge will be.

So we’re doing a backdrop…and we’re doing it in the simplest way. It’s simply masonite with carefully countersunk screws drilled right into the studs. Because the studs aren’t perfectly straight, it isn’t perfectly straight, and I perfectly don’t care. The peaks will be covered in a fresh spring snow, while the valley will be full of wildflowers. Granted, I’m kind of combining March and June, but as recent snowbound trucks on Kootenay Pass attest, it’s not that far off reality!

Now, at the corners, it gets a bit tricky.  Purely trial and error on this one. Beveled the edges of the little piece that goes in to nuzzle up against the backdrop sheets on either side, which end at the studs. That crosspiece is necessary to hold up the house, and I haven’t yet decided whether it’ll just be sky blue or have the view south on it, obscuring the staging and switching yards somewhat. For something important, it sure is a weird shape…anyway, filled in the gaps with drywall joint compound, same thing with the screw holes.

Okay, so I did some scenicking! FINALLY! Finally, my trains won’t fall off and hit the concrete a scale 500 feet below. (That’s only happened once, if you’re curious.) I used the wire screen method, with carefully planned out 1/4″ ply profiles. I did them all while comparing them with the real terrain on google maps, though I don’t think that really helped me do it justice. The feel will mostly be in the shapes and colours of the rocks, and the trees, naturally. Where the wire screen needed extra supporting I used scrap bits of cardboard. It was sagging a bit near the tunnel, so I just jammed a piece on top of the profiles, and along the tracks I stapled a number of small rectangles of cardboard near it. I’m not sure I entirely thought out the lakeshore as much as I should have at the west end, being such a shallow elevation compared to the cliffs behind the tracks, but I’m sure it’ll work itself out. The inside of the tunnel is lined with foamcore left over from one of my girlfriend’s mounting projects, and it’s in two pieces as to be removable. The side away from the water is glued to the ceiling, and screwed into the subroadbed with 1 screw. The side nearest the water is attached with 2.

I don’t recall if I talked about the rear support for the hardshell, but it’s just 1/4″ ply just forward of the ends of the joists, supported by 1x2s. It was cut by eye, so…yeah. The actual backdrop will be screwed through this directly into the 1x2s. I’m hoping that it will be removable on occasion for photos, but I’m not holding out too much hope. The upper level will be entirely supported from above, so that will make it easier.

Anyway, I keep using hydrocal of different consistencies with my paper towels, so I’m starting to learn about the consequences of that! Incidentally, I have a large cooler of water (labeled non-potable just in case) that I use for emergency consistency problems. It’s also useful for getting a bowl of water for painting. I originally used it for my D-76 developer in my darkroom, but it really didn’t help the shelf life of the mixed solution.

Before and afters:

There will be a small creek going through a pipe or culvert at the obvious place.

Now, I THINK that’s everything.

Lessons learned:

Watch your turnouts carefully to make sure the stock rails are straight between turnouts. It’s really easy to have a bend where you don’t want it, and then it’s a BITCH to fix.

Smooth out your adhesive as much as you can so it doesn’t ooze up between the ties and screw up your ballasting later on.