Thursday, 28 June 2018

Mainline and Lift Up Bridge Update - June 28, 2018

Well, I had a small break before going into hospital for a skin graft that will see me out of action (in the train room) for all of July. Hopefully I will be out of action in August as well as I plan to be at the NMRA convention in Kansas City, and then spend time with my son and family in New Jersey. So I got stuck into the new mainline and the lift up bridge to test all the research I had done.
So here are some photos of progress and some lessons learnt building the lift up bridge. Plus my experience laying tracks.
I proceeded to lay track from the current mainline at the far end of the layout. The yard switch ladder was wired for DCC at the bench and joined as one unit (5 switches) by soldering the metal joiners. All the frogs and stock rails are wired. Some will go to "HexJuicers" (automatic polarity reversers from Tam Valley) and some will go to DPDT ground switches where there is room for them. The DPDT switches will be the switch stands and levers.
The track is held down with grey caulk, spread evenly with a putty knife.
New yard entrance and mainline.
 Here is another view of the yard and mainline being glued down. I have a 2M long by 9mm wide heavy aluminium bar that I can lay inside the straight track to ensure it is glued down straight. Once happy - and an eye test along the rail is worth doing as well, I use a narrow roller to press down the track. Often this is sufficient but sometimes pins and weights help to ensure nothing moves.
Laying track. Concrete sleepers for mainline
 In order to get the 7 tracks through the north west corner I had to cantilever the base over the yards below by about 100mm at the widest part. This cantilever is only 3mm plywood but due to the base plywood it is glued to, plus the 20x20mm angle as shown around the edge it is very stable.
Corner curves
Here is the return loop entering the branch line. I continued the 20x20mm plastic angle around the edge of the entire new section. To hide the wiring and under track "spaghetti" I used 3mm MDF as a "concrete wall". This was about 50mm wide (high). I held it in place with clamps where necessary and used "no more gaps" filler to hold and seal it in place and seal any gaps between the wall and baseboard. Then I primed the MDF with cheap paint, and eventually it will be a "concrete" wall when I decide whether to use commercial sheets or scratch build the "wall".
Return loop for Branch line
A small section of the previous city was able to be saved and is roughly in place to see whether the layout works. The city park definitely works and I think I will need an road bridge from the city across the tracks near where the Dremel is in this photo.
Testing city structure locations

Laying track across the bridge joint: 

Now the part where I did a lot of research. Firstly it is important that the tracks are 100% attached to the bridge and abutment and do not move over time.  I watched dozens of "You Tube" videos on the subject. There are several ways of assuring the tracks are firmly in place and here are my comment on each:

  1. Hold the track down with extra caulk and use super glue as well. I watched videos on a top quality swing bridge where the builder did this, but still wanted more stability.
  2. Use "set track" on each side of the bridge. This may work but not where the tracks are not straight. Also the track would look different to the Peco code 55 concrete sleepers that I use on my mainline. Set track certainly doesn't bend like flex track.
  3. Have a removable section of track. This works for modular layouts but would be too much effort every time you wanted to raise the bridge.
  4. Insert screws under each track on either side of the gap and solder to the rails. This is a good idea and one I almost used.
  5. Drill holes in the sleepers near the joint for spikes to provide extra anchoring. Yes, maybe.
  6. Replace the last sleeper (tie) before the joint on either side with a copper tie. Then solder the rails to the copper tie after insulating the tie. This is the method I chose and here are the photos to show the result so far. The copper ties are copper plated board available from all electronics shops.

Here is the first track laid across the gap with the copper ties in place. Note I drilled small holes on each end of the ties so I could insert pins to provide extra stability. The pins were inserted once the caulk had dried. Allow a day to be sure. Also use a fine drill (smaller diameter than the pins) to drill through the holes in the copper ties to, and slightly into the plywood so the pins go in straight and do not split the plywood.
Track on bridge before cutting
After all is dry and stable solder the rail to the copper ties.  The soldering job looks "ugly" now as I used excessive solder but once the track is ballasted and weathered you will barely notice it.
Hinged end of bridge
Next comes the scary part. How to cut the rails so the bridge can open? My research said to use a new sharp fine tooth razor saw. You could use a Dremel but it is difficult to get a vertical cut and the Dremel blades are slightly wider than a razor saw. The razor saw cuts easily. Use the gap in the bridge as a guide. Slip through the cork roadbed and cut the rail as shown with light but smooth fast strokes. I could have used a track gauge to hold the rails but the caulk and soldering seemed to hold them firmly. Use a new, sharp saw and it cuts like "butter".
Cutting track for lift up bridge
Now the test, and this box car rolled through the gap without a hitch.

After the cut
Now to raise the bridge and lower it etc to test. So far so good.

Lift up test
OK that is all. My plans are to decide on the type of signalling I will have on the new mainline. Do I block wire? Do I use infra red sensors?  Do I have block occupancy? Do I link switch positions to the signals? So far the choices are wait for the new Atlas Signal Control Boards being released next month as I have several Atlas signals. I am also researching the new NCE signal boards, Azatrax, Logic Rail Technologies and I am sure there are other methods and solutions that balance ease of use with appearance / animation.  I appreciate any input and suggestions.

Monday, 11 June 2018

Lift Up Bridge and roadbed

Here is a quick update on the new city terminal, container depot and storage tracks I am building as well as experiences building the lift up bridge.
When finished the layout will be one mainline which is mainly double track except for a section through the mountains and across Feather River. There will then be a major branch line from Gleeville to Beauville, with another branch to "Tree No More" the pulp mill. This branch line will extend to HJ yard and reverse back through another storage yard yet to be named.
On the new sections I used 12mm plywood as the roadbed and glued 3mm plywood sheet on top of that. The reason for the dual plywood was there are two areas where tracks pass under this new section and I wanted to get extra clearance. So in those areas (where the tracks are underneath) I split the 12mm plywood and just had the 3mm plywood covering those tracks. With the base and small overlap of the 3mm plywood there is sufficient strength and no sagging.
Once all the plywood was glued down and screwed to the risers below I sealed the base with cheap latex paint. Then we were ready to lay out the track and switches and draw lines ready to lay the cork roadbed. For the cork roadbed I bought 3mm sheets from Hobbyco in Sydney and proceeded to cut them into 20mm wide strips with bevelled edges. This was easy to do by using a metal straight edge clamped to the cork sheet and running the Exacto knife at an angle.
Laying out switches to draw centre lines 
I used caulk to glue the cork down and a roller to press the cork into the caulk. In some cases I held it in place with pins, especially on the bends.
After a day I sanded the edges of the cork to improve the bevel, and then using a long sanding block sanded the top of the cork. After this I painted the cork roadbed to help seal it. It is best to do this as later when ballasting the water and diluted glue used to hold the ballast can seep into the cork and lift it.

First cork roadbed laid
I test fitted some of the old city to see if it could be re-used. The park will fit well and the Leeville Central Station will probably work beyond that.

Mainline cork laid

cork laid, sanded and painted (sealed)

The next phase was to finish the lift up bridge and run the cork roadbed across it. Follow the following photos to see the construction and how I stabilised the bridge to ensure the tracks will always align. Here you can see the bridge is aligned with a plywood stop and small plywood blocks on each side. All of this was glued with waterproof PVA glue and screwed in place.
From this picture below you can see the base for a rail bridge and river or creek.

Lift up bridge in place.
I then installed two magnetic catches on the base of the bridge and wired them as shown. The red and black wires shown here go to the metal plates. Behind the magnet sections on the baseboard are soldered red and black leads to go to the bus wires and track beyond the bridge. When all this is connected power will not flow to the tracks on the bridge or the open side if the bridge is raised. Hence this should protect trains from falling onto the floor.

Magnetic catches helping to hold the bridge down and give electrical connectivity

 Here is the hinged end of the bridge with the bus wires installed. A 2nd set is currently not planned as trains will be stopped by the bridge if an operator is inattentive. Not ideal but I am guessing this would be a rare occasion, if ever.

Bus wire through bridge to rest of layout.
 Here is the first cork roadbed laid over the bridge. Note it is glued across the gap. It will be cut at the joint with a fine blade mitre saw so the bridge can be raised.
I have cut the cork and tested the bridge and alignment and so far happy. More news when we lay track and get the first train running.

Sunday, 20 May 2018

Rebuilding Update: May 2018

Well it was scary getting a circular saw, plus jig saw into the layout  and taking out about 30% of the layout.
The amount of finished scenery and buildings that were removed seemed excessive, but it is amazing what we cram into a layout. The dust and dirt hopefully will be cleaned up. Boy the vacuum systems worked overtime.
This was the city section on the "old" layout.
What was the old section that had a return loop under the layout is now 60mm higher and will go from this area across a lift up bridge to the other side of the layout. The base is 12mm plywood and I plan to add a 3mm plywood top to smooth over all the joints. You can see the 3mm plywood sitting on top of the 12mm plywood base here.
Here is the bridge temporarily installed. The hinges are Blum hinges that allow the section to close closely to the base but leverage out to enable a close finish. They are very common in kitchen cabinets. Check out the web for information and how to create the 35mm hole for the hinge etc. I experimented in the garage with a few test pieces before making this hinge.
As of today we have the base almost completed, but not finished.  The next stage is to ensure levels and attach the plywood base. Then I will glue the 3mm plywood top to the base and seal it with an undercoat. 
The other stage is to make the lift up bridge. There will be 3 tracks at one end and two at the other. I plan to add a base and scenic the lift up with a small river crossing. So far the frame seems very stable and I feel confident I can add the tracks and cut them and ensure good alignment. I am still researching how to wire and isolate the tracks to ensure electrical connectivity whilst the bridge is closed but not when open. The web is a valuable tool, even though some of the blogs are questionable. However you can learn something from every experience.
The new secondary line will use the current tracks and pass through Gleeville, Beauville, HJ Yard and return. It will also have a side line to "Tree No More" Pulp Mill. Here is a test of the return section of this line. It is a reversing loop so I had to wire in an automatic return loop switch - a Tam Valley unit. Also you may see that the 12mm plywood is split here to enable extra height in the loop.

More to follow including details of the lift up bridge.

Wednesday, 25 April 2018

2018 and New Plans

They say a Model Railroad is never finished!

It has been a year since I posted an update. In that time I have had several operating sessions, worked on a number of my NMRA Achievement Program Awards, detailed and scenic several areas of the layout, and enjoyed reliable running of the trains.
Some days I will spend adding lights to a structure whilst allowing several trains to run. Sometimes I will tune locomotives to make them consist (run together as multiple engines) better. Although the layout looked complete there is still a lot of detail to do. You (I) can spend a whole day adding a few people to a building or street scene. Installing miniature LEDs in building can be quick or if you want to separate light in rooms can take all day.
There is however an area of the layout I have never been 100% satisfied with and it has caused me some pain. Under the city I have three tracks that circle around and there are two hidden switches powered by Tortoise switch machines. If I get a derailment it is mostly here. A derailment means getting under the layout to retrieve the derailed trains: painful. 
The latest Model Railroader magazine (May 2018) has an article on basic layout design. They defined three shapes: The Island (where you can walk around all sides), Around the Walls with Peninsula, and Twice around and Return loops. My layout is basically the latter. It has worked well. Visitors can enter and the wide aisles give good movement. However as it is open the two return loops near the entrance to the room are wider than I would like. An Around the Walls layout however has one major disadvantage in that you need to "duck under" or have a lift out section or gate to enter the room. I never wanted this, but the article recommended this layout. This got me thinking about my returns under the city and whether I could amend my plan to save this issue. The more I doodled with plans and using Xtrakcad the more I became convinced I should do it.
Raising the mainline and yard areas and wiring will be relatively easy. Building a new city and container depot and industries will take a little time but that is the fun of the hobby.The main issue I have to solve is how to manage the swing bridge or duck under at the entrance. I have researched several designs but I think it will be a bespoke design engineered as we build. 
They say the hardest thing about making a decision is deciding to make a decision! So, I am moving forward and 2/3 of the locos and rolling stock are in their original boxes and stored away. 
Here are some photos of the early stages. It only took a few hours to go from a "finished" layout to the pictures below.
This is the entrance to the room and between these two sections we will have a swing bridge or duck under. Note the barren area on the left where the city was.
 I removed the city area which was above one of the returns. Fortunately I built the city on a removable piece of plywood.

 Here is the city before removal.

 Here is the city minus a few of the "skyscrapers" and Leeville station. It will be painful to undo a lot of the detail here but hopefully the city park can be saved as is. There are perhaps 100 lights in this city.
 This is the other return near Gleeville where the new tracks will join via a swing bridge. I need to remove some scenery and the scrap yard I built.
 At Gleeville I have parked one of the mixed freight trains.
 The Feather River will remain and another mixed freight is parked here for now.
 Removing the container depot and building from this area was hurtful. The track left and above the road to the bridge will all be raised 50-60mm.
Here is part of the container depot before removal.

 Similarly here all the back half of the layout will be "dug up" and raised 50-60 mm.
 Scenery in Feather River will not change. How many horses can you see in the trees?
This is a quick update.
Next steps are to disconnect all the wiring of the sections to change, remove the track and buildings, store what scenery I can save and then cut the baseboard and raise it 50-60mm. This is no small task and hopefully can be completed relatively cleanly.
Once I have the new baseboard in place I can lay out the tracks and switches and position the swing bridge.

A lot of potential hiccups but will continue to blog with updates.