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Thread: Builder's Railroad Project: in the Beginning...

  1. #121
    In Memoriam/Battleship Enthusiast Defense Professional USSWisconsin's Avatar
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    You've got some lucky grandsons Myles. Wow!
    "If your plan is for one year, plant rice. If your plan is for ten years, plant trees.
    If your plan is for one hundred years, educate children."

  2. #122
    Rickshaw Professional Senior Contributor Pedicabby's Avatar
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    Well done Builder. Well done. This is one of my favourite threads to follow.

  3. #123
    Senior Contributor Builder 2010's Avatar
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    The end game begins...for the structure that is.

    As always, Thanks! It's fun to write too.

    I made a minor adjustment to another OSB panel that wasn't on the same level as an adjacent panel. I tried the belt sander routine to reduce the height of the higher panel, but there was too much stock to remove so I went to my tried and true, Plan B which was to shim the thinner panel's splice plates under the panel to raise the low piece enough to make it flush. I had to put in about 1/16" of cardboard and it worked. It was flush and I didn't need to generate any more sawdust.

    With that, work formally began on the bridge end. Here's two views of what I'm attempting to do here. First is the plan view of the final structure design, based on what I actually installed today. The light blue L-girders are 23" below the main girder level and are 31.5" long. For the inner one, this spanned the entire distance between the adjacent girders, whereas on the outer one, I had to build some connecting girders that tied into the existing structure at approximately a 45º angle. The original OSB pieces for this corner no longer conform to the new design so I'm going to cut some new ones out of the scrap I have left. It's the light green pieces in the plan drawing.

    Attachment 30803

    And this is the elevation of what the deck truss bridge will look like. There are two options shown. No. 1 is using additional box trusses are lead-ins to the main span, and No. 2 is using earth works leading to an abutment. All of the earth work will be carved pink Styrofoam. I have a hot-carving unit that eliminates all of the plastic from flying around. The bridge is accurately scaled from the kit that I bought.

    Attachment 30804

    And here's the structure itself. For the inner structure I had to drop 1 X 3s directly from the existing girders and then using Simpson splice plates, join it all together. For the outer, I made some small 16" L-girders to extend to the existing structure, and then used 2 X 2s for the drops. Across the bottom is the other L-girder. In this case I went with the carriage bolt fastening scheme. Tying the L-girders together will be a grouping of 1 X 3 and 1 X 2 joists. The bridge abutments and scenery will be supported with these joists and it will tie everything together as a network.

    Looking from the inside to the outside
    Attachment 30805

    Looking outside in
    Attachment 30806

    As I was screwing the screws into the Simpson plates, the lumber started splitting so I had to resort drilling pilot holes for all the rest of the screws. This solved the problem.

  4. #124
    Senior Contributor Builder 2010's Avatar
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    The Build... special edition

    I didn't build today since I was at work, but had a nice experience that will directly support the layout's progress. I may have mentioned that I'm currently working with a new client; a company that buys and sells commercial aircraft parts. The owner is a very nice fellow! They had received an entire pallet piled high with spools of cable that was surplussed by Airbus. I had shown him a picture of my B-17 so he knew that I was a model maker. I was then looking at the pallet and there were large spools of wire that looked pretty good. He asked if I was interested in it due to my RC building, and I told him that I was looking for wire for the new train layout and, since it was going to carry a digital signal, it needed to be twisted pair.

    This wire has three twisted conductors, but looked like it would work if the gauge was right. Since all the specs were in French, it said it was 1.39 mm to 1.53 mm. He said I could have a spool for free, but I needed to find out what gauge that would be. The digital control system calls for 14–16 AWG. I went on the web and researched this size and it turns about to be about 15 gauge. Talk about luck!

    When I came into the workplace today he had the spool in his hand and asked where I would like him to put it. It quickly went in my trunk. Santa has arrived early...

    The spool says for quantity, "739". I think it's listed in meters which would put it at more than 2,000 feet of wire. I'm figuring that I'll need several hundred feet, so this should be way more than I need.

    Attachment 30818

    With the cable having three conductors, I'm inquiring on my other blog if I can use the 3rd conductor to carry current for other applications such as signal, switch or lighting power. MTH's digital control system (DCS) sends out 18 VAC in hot lead and brings it back on the common. It then superimposes a digital pulse train onto this current that addresses a specific engine. The engine responds with a handshake. It is a full, bi-directional system where the engine can report on it's actual speed in scale MPH, report on the number of hours it's been running, and measure signal strength as the engine moves around the layout. This is the reason why the hot and common must be the same length and why they're twisted pair rejects noise better than parallel conductors.

    If I can't run additional power on the 3rd conductor, it's not a problem. It will just be along for the ride. So now I have absolutely no excuse about getting the trains up and running as soon as I finish the bench work. I've got the track, the switches, the rubber roadbed, and now I have the wire.

  5. #125
    Senior Contributor Builder 2010's Avatar
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    Whoops!

    My initial euphoria was misplaced. The wire is actually somewhere between 20 and 22 gauge. It's very sophisticated with a copper foil and full shield around the conductors and then another copper-like foil surrounding the individual conductors. I had a good look at the wire and tried some ferrules on the ends. I'm disappointed since the wire must not only carry a digital signal, but it also carries 18 volts with fairly high amperage and should be 14–16 gauge. This actually powers the trains and some of these can have four motors plus lots of light bulbs lighting passenger cars. The current load goes high. I can still use this wire for auxiliary stuff and powering the many turnouts, but not for the main power source. Darn!

    Attachment 30836
    Last edited by Builder 2010; 22 Nov 12, at 03:57.

  6. #126
    Senior Contributor Builder 2010's Avatar
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    After some deliberation, I might be able to use all three conductors tied together to give me the 14 gauge current carrying capacity that I need. Since I have some much of it, doubling up is not a problem. It's not easy wire to strip.

    Today, my oldest grandson and I did some more work on the bridge area. We got the joists in place with him doing the real low work, while I did the cutting. I then built 7 more riser/cleat assemblies, and started getting the subroadbed in place. I had to make some adjustment cuts to the mating edges to bring the roadbed into alignment across the bridge area.

    Attachment 30955

    The left side of the assembly was a little springy since the rear girder was pretty far away from the wall bracket. My grandson suggested just putting a support under the bottom. It was a simple solution that made the unit very solid. As the subroadbed is added the construction gets more stable. It doesn't get in the way since this part is way too low to ever have to get under... unless you're really, really small.

    Attachment 30954

    For the temporary bridge I cut and fit a piece of OSB into the gap. I then installed an edge-mounted 1 X 3 on the bottom to act as a stiffener since the span will be more than 31 inches. It makes a nice flat piece.

    Attachment 30956

    I set the risers for the outer track first. This installation is complicated in that it's part of the down slope of the high line. I temporarily fixed the risers with clamps until the total grade was smooth without any abrupt changes in elevation. I then put in one screw in each riser and went back and leveled the heads before putting in the other screw. That's where we ended today. Tomorrow, I'll finish up the bridge area with the inner track. The last piece will be another temporary bridge across the middle. That piece of OSB already exists and it too will need an underneath stiffened. With that addition the bench work will be finished... or at least finished enough to start laying track.

    The temporary gap filler is just that... temporary. As so as I build the bridges and start landscaping the gorge, the temps will be discarded and the real bridge will take over. There won't be any rush since the trains will be running, but I can't get too complacent since I've already bought them.

  7. #127
    Senior Contributor Builder 2010's Avatar
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    The Middle Bridge Area

    Moving right along, I finished the bridge end with the temporary bridges. I found another springy portion and added another drop-leg to ensure that if I learn on it, it doesn't move downwards. I also took care of a punch list item. Some of the joist ends were sticking out beyond the OSB on the layout's long front. I kept catching stuff on it and today it almost pulled the camera out of my hand when the strap caught on one of the longer joists. I used a square to draw a vertical line on each joist that extended out past the sheeting and then carefully used the saber saw to hack them off. I'll mount the skirting to these ends (and also some glued blocks that will have cross-grain facing out for a better grip on the little screws.

    Attachment 30959

    Attachment 30960

    While the center sections are temporary, they're strong, flat and will hold up anything I run across them. I will have to keep my momentum or they could easily become "permanent" bridges. With the 23" drop, it should be a decent looking ravine. The pile of boxes in the background is all the trains sitting quietly in their boxes. Hopefully, they will be extracted sooner rather than later. I must keep my momentum up or else those temporary bridges could become permanent.

    With this out of the way, I started on the final structure piece before I can actually lay track. It's been five months so far and it's almost done... the bench work that is. If the railroad was the size it used to be, it would have been built months ago, a point which I am regularly reminded about.

    The middle bridge area has an OSB piece that was cut before I decided how I was going to bridge the ravine in this area, so I am using this piece as the temporary bridge. I braced the bottom using the last pieces of the old layouts laying around. This piece was actually two reinforced pieces that used to hold up a bridge in old design. BTW: any areas of open joists like that in the background, will be eventually covered with pink foam. I intend on doing most of the landscaping with pink foam and I have a foam carving set to do it.

    Attachment 30961

    I ran a string line to set a reference for the structure that's going to support this whole affair when all the landscaping is in ... some time in the distant future.

    Attachment 30962

    And here's my "artist's" impression of the structure. Perspective's a bit off, but it gives the general idea. As before, I imported the photo into CorelDraw and hand drew the structure on top of it. It's tricky (in real life that is) because all these members intersect the rear girders at angle requiring Simpson Strong-tie plates to provide attachment. Right now the temporary bridge piece extends all the way to the main piece on the right, but the actual bridge section will start above the place where the L-girders are dropped. I'll make that cut after it's finally fitted.

    Attachment 30963

    I'm going to have to buy a couple more pieces of 1 X 3. I seem to run through that stuff much faster than I thought. My original estimate didn't take into consideration all the wood consumed in the swing door and the bridge areas.

    I have to work the next three days so I'll finish the middle bridge area on Friday. Once all this is finished, I'll get into the track laying. This is a four step process.

    Step 1: Lay all of the track into its final position. I use pieces of 1 X 2 across the track with a screw through it to clamp the track firmly in place.

    Step 2: Trace all of the track with a Sharpie.

    Step 3: Remove track and replace it with the foam roadbed which will be glued to the subroadbed with Liquid nails

    Step 4: Reassemble the track and fasten it to the roadbed with Liquid nails. I don't screw the track down since screws convey the sound directly to the OSB negating the sound deadening qualities of the foam, like the bridge on a guitar or violin.

    My track still has the lead wires from the previous layouts soldered to it. I have to find out if that wire can stay and that I can tie the new wire to it. Or, having an extra splice would deteriorate the digital signal. I hope the former, not the latter is the case.

  8. #128
    Senior Contributor Builder 2010's Avatar
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    Middle Bridge Work

    Did some more work today on the middle bridge area. I got all the pieces cut and assembled the right hand frames. I decided to continue the vertical supports all the way to the floor since the nature of the these jogged frames seem to be springy. I had the stock so I decided to consume it. I was able to salvage a couple more chunks of old L-girder, so I only had to fabricate two new girders for the middle spans on the right and left frames. I even scavenged the last of my square stock. One leg is an American 2 x 2, another is a German 50mm X 50mm, and two more are old 2 x 3s from the very oldest iteration of this layout when I was building an N-gauge pike before my son went to college in 1989. I had some metric carriage bolts left, but they were too short to properly pass through all this wood and have enough threads on the outside for the nut and washer, so I used a Forstener bit to counterbore the bolt holes. On the Metric-sized lumber I had to counterbore both pieces, since the Metric is quite a bit thicker than it's American counterpart. Next session I'll finish these up and the benchwork is complete!

    Attachment 31058

    I still have to fasten this structure onto the existing girders. I'm going to use Simpson Plates again for this. There's really not much stress on this part of the layout since it's main purpose is to support scenery, but I am concerned to maintain the precise alignment between the two parts of the layout. These two bridge areas are the only things keeping the entire front part of the layout from pulling away from the back... plate tectonics and all that...

    On a totally different subject, I decided to get some nice Keil-Line bridge shoes for the bridges that are eventually going to close these gaps over "dead man's ravine". Valley Model Trains had them in stock and I got three pairs. I actually will need five since the middle bridge is going to consist of three deck bridges to accommodate the curve and each will need shoes on one end.

    Attachment 31059

    From the ads in the magazines, I thought these were plastic, but was happily surprised to find that they're cast metal. The bridges have to support a lot of weight, such as large 3rd rail steamers. Being metal I'm no longer worried about this.

    For the non-techies (my wife, for example), bridge shoes are those interesting steel structures that actually transfer the weight of the bridge to the piers and abutments. One end is fixed with a pin and the other end is either a slide plate or roller box which allows the bridge to expand and contract with temperature changes without interfering with it's ability to support the load. Since I'm spending time to build near scale bridges, they just had to have bridge shoes.

    Attachment 31061

  9. #129
    Senior Contributor Builder 2010's Avatar
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    Middle Bridge Work cont.

    My grandson and I continued working today on the middle bridge area. I got the two support structures built and then he helped me by doing the low work. It thought I measured the legs correctly along with all the other parts, but when I aligned the tops of the L-girder extensions with the tops of the main girders, the legs sort of no longer were on the floor. I don't actually need them to touch since the whole thing will get stiffer and stiffer as I add the sub-roadbed, track, and all the scenery elements, but I may just screw some ply extensions to the legs that touch the floor to add some more stability.

    Attachment 31078

    On the front right leg in this picture, I had to drill the holes three times. First I found out that the girders made with German lumber are bigger in all dimensions that those with US lumber. The legs on the left side are almost a half inch longer than on the right side. I didn't know this until I constructed the frame and fit it in place and found the girder extension was much higher than the mating girder. I took it apart, cut off the excess leg length and then re-measured and drilled the holes for the girder, but I inadvertently put the counter-bores on the wrong side so I turned it over and did it one the other side. The only reason for the counter-bores is because my carriage bolts are too short and I didn't feel like buying any more. Then I found out that I positioned the main girder wrong so I had to take it apart AGAIN, and put in another set of holes. I began to look like Swiss cheese. Even after getting it all installed, they're still cockeyed. Luckily they're not being asked to do very much, just hold up some scenery and stay put. They'll do both jobs just fine.

    Attachment 31079

    I cut the 24" out of the center of the existing bridge piece that represents the actual bridge gap. The two end pieces—shown here outlined in red—will be permanently fastened to the approaches and will both have a riser and cleat under them. The middle section will get a bottom rib to stiffen it. This piece will be temporary. Once I construct the ravine and river bed, then add the abutments and piers, this piece will give way to three, segmented deck bridges.

    A point of information. All cabling that has to go from the control panel in front to the entire rear of the layout will be passing under and around this middle bridge area or the left end bridge area (in the background of this shot). It can go around the right side because the swing-gate cuts it off. It's one of the reasons that I'm going to need so much wire. If I'm using DCS, I may run just the power leads to a Track Interface Unit (TIU) positioned in the rear section, then run all the power block runs from that position. It will reduce the wiring that needs to go under the mid-bridge, and reduce the length of digital signal lines which is helpful also. I probably will have four power blocks fed by two TIUs. I will still have to run the switch machine wiring from the panel, but this is smaller gauge. You can also operate track switches remotely with the DCS, but I'm more comfortable with switch control on a real control panel with real indicator likes. I'm old-fashioned that way.

    Also, I am not going to scenic the entire ravine from the left to mid bridge areas. I'm going to let folks use their imagination to fill in the missing area. I want that are open for access to the rear trackage.

  10. #130
    Senior Contributor Builder 2010's Avatar
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    Benchwork Done!

    Well... the benchwork is officially done. I completed building the temporary bridge for the middle-bridge section. When I'm ready to add the real bridges, I just have to remove the three temporary fillers and then build the abutments, etc. and install the new ones.

    Attachment 31091

    You can see the stiffening rib under the temporary filler. This thing is rigid enough for me to stand on.

    Attachment 31090

    Here's a shot taken from the top of a step ladder showing all the benchwork. I cleared off all the tools, trash, etc. in preparation for this shot.

    Attachment 31092

    And here's my MTH Veranda which couldn't wait to try out the high line. Big layouts make O'gauge, scale-length engines look good. The white stuff around the engine is the foam packing material. I took this out of its box as a request from the grandsons who missed seeing them. Patience young skywalker...

    Attachment 31093

    Here's a reverse angle view. Looks like an empty 'artist's canvas' just waiting for something creative to happen...

    Attachment 31094

    I have more than 5 pictures I'm making this a 2-part post.

  11. #131
    Senior Contributor Builder 2010's Avatar
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    Benchwork Done! Part 2

    I've been doing research on how the Plastruct Truss Bridges should be configured now that I'm turning them upside down and converting them from a through truss to a deck truss. The bridge doesn't have to be as high or as wide since a train with over-height freight cars doesn't have to pass inside. So I took the scale drawing of the original design, narrowed it and reduced the height. In the Kalmbach "Bridges and Trestles" book I found some drawings of single tracked deck bridges and it looks like the trusses are centered about where the loading gauge of the engine is, and was stated at 9'-6", roughly double the track gauge. The "loading gauge" is the overall width of the engine, not just the wheel spacing. It's as wide as 11 feet.

    Here, I hung the new plan under the temporary span to see how it looks and fits. It works well and the proportions seem right. Since all the components of the bridge kit are "cut your own", I should end up with extra material which can be used to build the plate deck bridges that are going to span the middle bridge gap.

    Attachment 31095

    Here's the newly proportioned bridge on the previous plan. The height of the truss looks about right. The previous version was too deep for the length of the span. The shorter the truss members, the greater their compression carrying capacity, however the longer the tension members are the greater tension they can carry.

    Attachment 31096

    I found some screw points sticking through some OSB on the far end that I had missed. I'll grind them off next session. Then, I'll vacuum the entire surface (and the floor) in preparation for track laying. I'm actually going to be building a model railroad not just the world's most complicated work bench. So... the benchwork phase (Phase II) took a little over 6 months. I would hate to think how long it would have taken if I worked a full-time job like I used to. Track laying is much less physically demanding so it will give my hands a rest. It should also take much less than 6 months, but I'm not going to make any predictions until I get started. After that comes wiring. If I can use the pigtails already soldered to the tracks it will greatly speed up the process.

  12. #132
    Resident Curmudgeon Military Professional Gun Grape's Avatar
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    Way to cool.

    I have enjoyed watching you build this bench as much as I enjoyed your Mo build.

    Can't wait to watch you "Fill in the blanks" and build the scenery.
    Its called Tourist Season. So why can't we shoot them?

  13. #133
    Senior Contributor Builder 2010's Avatar
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    Thanks, as usual, Gun!

    It certainly was different than the Mo... And my hands didn't hurt as much doing that one. It's been fun to write about too. Once you get intoa the groove, I look forward to the journal entry after every session.

    After the track work, I'll probably take a break and do some more scale modelling. I've got a bunch on the shelf that are begging to be built and I'm itching to buy a 1:350 scale USS Wasp LDH-1 Amphibious Assault ships. There's some spectacular new models of these available with photo-etched included, plus a complement of tanks, Ospreys, and air cushion landing craft. So much to do and so little time.
    Last edited by Builder 2010; 03 Dec 12, at 01:49.

  14. #134
    In Memoriam/Battleship Enthusiast Defense Professional USSWisconsin's Avatar
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    its like a beautifully framed and prepared canvas - I am excited by the possibilities and look forward to the next steps...
    "If your plan is for one year, plant rice. If your plan is for ten years, plant trees.
    If your plan is for one hundred years, educate children."

  15. #135
    Senior Contributor Builder 2010's Avatar
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    You're right! I've even considered throwing a coat of Gesso onto it.... Here's the layout with the earth tone acrylic base coat. It does help manage the splinters and makes it easy to put the track layout marking on the platform. I took this picture from a 6ft. step ladder with my tripod taped on top of that. It gives a better view of the whole deal. I'm leaving this setup in place so I can shoot more time lapse status pictures.

    Attachment 31175

    Right now I'm preparing track...lots of track! Some of the old track has adhesive and old foam roadbed on the back which I have to remove so the track lies nice and flat.

    Here's what I'm talking about.

    Attachment 31176

    The old roadbed was made out of granulated vinyl. I used two different adhesive. In Germany I used a clear urethane adhesive which worked real well, but it a pain to remove once cured. In the US expansion, I used Liquid Nails. It's easier to remove since it's a bit more brittle. At first I tried removing it with a razor blade scraper. It worked, but was difficult to control. Then I used the special chisel I have for removing detail from plastic models. It worked better, but it's very slow. Today, I'm going to try to use the Dremel with a coarse sanding drum on a slow speed. If that works, it will be much faster.

    I also make a little fixture to hold a Sharpie the correct distance from the track's ties to mark the outside of the new vinyl roadbed. I also bought a laser level to shoot straight lines. This part should be fun!

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