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

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  • #46
    Clouds Finished

    That's certainly possible. It looks like it's never been used. Still remarkable.

    The clouds are now finished, at least as finished as I want to make them. From the "revised" thunderhead to the right are the clouds from last session. The ones to the left of that are all today's work. I perfected my technique a bit with Bob Ross' help. He does make it look easy. It's really not. I also toned down the first ones that I did since they looked a bit "extreme" to me. The biggest challenge was figuring out how many of them looked good versus how many I felt like painting. I really want to build a railroad, not be a mural painter. My wife thinks the whole "cloud thing" is silly.

    This a horizontal panoramic shot which photo-stitched pretty well.

    I made the thunderhead fatter and took away the "atomic mushroom cloud" look a bit. It's still weird, but my grandson and some of the readers liked it so I didn't paint it out of existence.

    Here's another shot of the room.

    Starting tomorrow, I'm going to start building. I'm also helping my now 11 year-old grandson (birthday yesterday) finish up the super hornet. It had a massive amount of decals and some very large which were beyond his skill set to handle.
    Attached Files


    • #47
      Started Making Sawdust...

      Today is momentous day, The Olympics started. Besides that! I began actual construction on the layout. I cut the wood for the four brackets that will be mounted on the back wall to support the rear part of the layout. The brackets are supported by a 2 X 2, with two 2 X 3 arms and a 2 X 2 angle brace. The main components are fastened together with 1/4" carriage bolts. The angle bracket to upright connection will be with Spax wood screws and gussets.

      The end brackets will also have a horizontal sway brace facing outwards that will make the whole think more rigid. Once all the ply pieces are in place, that will also stiffen any horizontal motion. It's nice to have a good chop saw and I just added a big, DeWalt 18 Volt Li-ion, 1/2" hammer drill. This thing is a bruiser and has three modes and three speed settings. I needed to up the horsepower to handle the concrete drilling tasks AND handle the fastening of thousands of screws. That's a fact, it's over 1,000 fasteners to hold this thing together.

      The bottom of each upright has large diameter carriage bolt feet. I epoxied "t" nuts into the bottom and then screw in the bolts with a lock nut halfway in. This gives me a lot of adjustment for uneven floors. This is the same scheme I used in building the existing part of the layout.

      Here's the bracket fitted with the diagonal brace. Even though it's only a 2 X 2, when properly braced and having the load directly into the length, it's very strong. Kind of like building an airplane rather than a barn.

      In the next couple of days I'll finish the assembly, break them apart to more easily mount the upright to the wall and then reassemble them in place. The uprights will be held on top with a 1/2" wedge bolt, and the bottom with a smaller (lighter) Tapcon. With a cantilevered bracket, the main load is on top, and through the angle bracket to the foot.
      Attached Files


      • #48
        More Bracket Work

        Finished building all four brackets and then decided to attack mounting one on the wall. Needless to say, I'm out of shape. Hopefully, as I keep working at this I will be less worn out. The back is quick tender from crawling around on the floor on my knees and boring that 1/2" hole in concrete. That was hard!

        I also built the first sway brace and mounted it too. The result is a very strong assembly that easily supported my 185 pound weight without deflection. They will work as designed.

        Here's a completed bracket:

        The top of the vertical is held to the wall with a massive 1/2" wedge bolt. To mount this you drill a 1/2" hole 3.5" deep into the concrete, hammer the stud into the wall, put the wood over it, and tighten with a deep socket wrench and finally tighten to 55 ft. lbs. with a torque wrench. Since I was fastening it into wood, it was difficult to get to that tension since the wood was crushing. It's actually at about 45 ft. lbs. and is very tight to the wall. The tension on the top bolt is almost all pull-out. It was why I went with wedge bolts since their pull-out is very high. I was told to not trust Tapcons for pull out. They're better in sheer. I first drilled a clearance hole through the wood and marked the center onto the cement. I then used the smaller Tapcon carbide drill to start a hole to secure the location. I double-checked its alignment with the hole in the wood, and then removed the wood and went at it with the 1/2". The DeWalt hammer drill performed well and battery life was terrific.

        The bottom is held to the wall with a long Tapcon. In the bottom location, the stress is much lower so a lighter (and easier to install) fastener works well. In this picture you can also see the gussets holding the diagonal brace firmly to the base of the vertical. This method is used throughout building leg sets when creating an L-girder model RR. I figured 8 screws are sufficient to hold the both side of the gussets. To do all the drilling I had to disassemble the bracket. I may use a washer under the Tapcon to enable it to support more. Also note that I'm using 1/4" ply for the gussets. That's actually a sheet of German plywood that was unused and moved back with me from Germany in 2002. Never throw out good wood!

        While the bracket appeared to be very strong in a straight vertical load, it was very unstable side to side so the sway braces that I decided would be needed, were in fact, needed. I used the left-over ends of the 8', 1 X 3s that I used for the horizontal member. I cut 45º angles on the end for neatness, and made a 2 X 4 mounting block that would serve as a backing for the lug that was to hold the sway brace. The mounting block is held to the wall with two long Tapcons. While there is some pull-out loading, at least half of it is sheer. There's also no dead load on it like there is with the top wall bracket bolt. Once the ply is in place, there will almost be no lateral loading unless someone falls into the layout. After I mounted the block, I cut a chunk of 2 X 2 for the lug and mounted it will some long deck screws. I always drill pilot holes when fastening anything. It ensures that the upper piece pulls down tight and makes it much easier to drive screws. I use three power drivers which makes for less drill bit swapping.

        And here's the other end. Four 2" cabinet screws hold this end of the sway brace in place.

        Just three more to mount and then it's onto building some new L-girders for the rear of the layout. The large stud will be hidden because there's a lot more stuff that goes onto the bracket that will raise the height of the layout to the finished 42", so I probably won't have to paint the vertical sky blue.
        Attached Files
        Last edited by Builder 2010; 29 Jul 12,, 01:33.


        • #49
          Happy Birthday Myles!
          sigpic"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."


          • #50
            Thanks Jay! Now I can tell people I'm actually 67. Since my wife is a couple of months older than me, I keep taking on her age when it's her birthday, when I'm really YOUNGER!


            • #51
              Birthday Progress

              As a birthday wish... I worked on the railroad today. I started with the first trip to Home Depot to buy the wrong length Tapcons, some new Titebond Glue, a better 5/16" nut driver that won't round out when driving Tapcons, and some shorter deck screws.

              I then began work. To make it easier, I moved my temporary work table—an actual park of the train layout that was used to build the B-17 that will be returned back to its initial purpose—into the middle of the room where I could assemble and drill the brackets without crawling around on the floor so much.

              When I tried to chuck my long, fancy 1/2" Bosch (made in Germany) hammer drill bit it wouldn't center and wobbled all over the place. it was actually doing that when I drilled the hole for the first bracket, but it didn't dawn on me why. So I looked at what was going on and realized that the Bosch bit was designed for their heavy duty hammer drill and it had four milled grooves on the shank to lock into the Bosch unit. But four doesn't go into three and the three-jaw chuck couldn't center the bit so it ran horribly off-center.

              So it was back to Home Depot before I could go any further. They took both the wrong Tapcons and the lightly used Bosch bit. I then bought a hammer-drill bit that had a straight shank. It also didn't have to be so long. I had originally thought that I'd have to drill through the 2 X 2 and then the wall for more than 3 inches with this bit. But that's not how I'm doing it. I'm pre-drilling the clearance hole in the 2 X 2, marking the hole with a sharpie, moving the wood aside, pilot-drilling a little hole with the Tapcon drill, and then using the big drill to make the 3.5" hole.

              As a result of experience being a great teacher, I got two more brackets mounted, and started preparing for the brace that's going into the inside corner on the back wall.

              I then noticed a slight problem. On the existing layout pieces, the L-girder's bottom is 34" above the floor, but on my brackets it was only 29". I don't know where the error crept in, but it's not serious. For the first two I mounted, I will simply mount the L-girders onto a 2 X 2 bolted vertically in between the two horizontal braces high enough to match the height of the other girders. For the back two brackets, I just raised them off the floor so the horizontal braces are 34" off the floor. All of the load is handled by that massive wedge bolt and the Tapcon. Very little load is transmitted to the floor anyway (I hope).

              For the setback wall, I was going to simply Tapcon a 2 X 4 to the wall that would stick out the same distance as the brackets, but I didn't have a 58" piece of 2 X 4 so I decided to make a short L-girder and use that. The line on the wall is at the 34" level.

              L-girders are very strong and when properly braced have very little flex. I first clamp the 1x2 to the edge of a 1x4. I used enough clamps to try and eliminate as much warp as possible. I then install wood screws about every 8 inches. These will be removed eventually. After the screws are in I removed the clamps, remove the screws and take the two pieces apart.

              Then you put on a layer of Titebond (or other carpenter glue) and resinstall the screws to hold it all together and aligned. When the glue dries the next day, remove the screws since they're no longer needed. You could leave the screws in, but a) they cost money, and b) when you're drilling and fastening the joists you will invariably hit one of those now-not-needed screws, so I take them out and reuse them.

              Here's the newly built L-girder before I remove the screws.

              I'll document this corner wall brace next work session.
              Attached Files


              • #52
                I love the "being outside" feel the cloud and sky wall provides (I really like that grey cloud "chasing" two little white clouds under the big white one - to the left of the shop vac). This is an awesome project - so nice to get to watch it come together.
                sigpic"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."


                • #53
                  The Corner Bracket

                  Thanks Jay, you're my biggest fan...

                  "Picture's worth a 1,000 words..." I described how the corner brace was going to work. I had an hour after I got back from work today and installed it.

                  With the additional bracing it's very strong. I was going to use three 1/4 X 2-1/4 Tapcons, but you only see two. It appears that my super DeWalt drill can break them off when over torquing. I'm also using washer under the heads to spread the load onto the wood.

                  So... 4 down and one to go.

                  I love how structures get stronger and stronger as you add diagonal members. It's a great lesson in geometry.

                  Here's one view showing the L-girder attachment points. Even with two Tapcons, that beam isn't going anywhere. It also shows the mounting block on the wall for the diagonal support brace. It's held with two Tapcons.

                  Here's the other side showing the sway brace. I was able to have the bracket sway brace mounting block perform double duty. The brace is held with some 2" drywall screws on both ends. The small mounting block on the right end is held with the long deck screws. I like the deck screws because they use the Torx held slot which is very hard to cam out. You don't need a lot of vertical pressure on the power driver like you do on a Phillips head screw.

                  Just for the pictures, I laid one of the old L-girders from the previous railroad across the corner bracket and the right-most bracket, and then measured how level it was across. Taking care to measure the mounting height produced a perfectly level line from those two.

                  While this attention to detail may be a bit anal, I find that the more carefully all this infrastructure is laid in, the easier it is to level the subroadbed when it's time to install all of that. Plus, it makes for a very tight and light construction that will last for years and years. The nice thing about L-girder is there are almost no parts that must be cut to a specific length since all members lie across one another and there are no butt joints.
                  Attached Files


                  • #54
                    Brackets Complete

                    Back to train layouts... This will be 2-part post since I have more than 5 pictures.

                    Installed the last wall bracket today so all the concrete drilling is now complete...gladly.

                    I did some checking. The pull out and sheer strength of the 1/2" wedge bolts is both 4.600 pounds. The weight of the entire railroad won't be anything like that, so I have no worries at all that the brackets can't do their job effectively. The wood itself will shatter before the bolts leave that wall.

                    Here's all five wall brackets now in position.

                    Attached Files


                    • #55
                      L-Girder Building Begins

                      With the brackets in position, I was ready to start making L-girders. I don't have a work table available for an 8 foot girder-making job, so I put the brackets into good use already.

                      I'm supporting the 1X4 on its edge by inserting a 2X2 between the horizontal bracket rails held with a c-clamp, and then clamped the girder web to this.

                      With the web stabilized, I was able to clamp the 1 X 2 flange on top in prep for screws and glue. This process goes pretty fast and I was able to glue up four girders that will stretch the entire length along the wall across all brackets in a little over an hour.

                      Here are four girders waiting for the glue to dry. I offset the flange by 3 cm so the flange and web don't fall directly in line with each other. The longest run which goes across the back wall from one end to the other will use 3.9 girders spliced together so these four represent 1 long girder.

                      While they were drying, and before I remove the screws, I decided to start figuring out how to mount them onto the brackets. As noted earlier, the first brackets I installed are about five inches lower than they should be, so I need to put a riser in place to end up with a level girder. Here's the riser in place that levels the girder with the corner bracket (which is at the correct height).

                      Notice how neatly the 2 X 2 sandwiches between the bracket horizontals. I'm going to use one or two carriage bolts to fasten the riser to the brackets and the girders to the risers.

                      Here's a riser at the other end. Each riser is 10.5 inches long and the flange rests on the top when level so putting it together will be a snap.

                      Nothing's in its proper place here, but the theory is now proven. Next session, I'll remove the clamping screws from the flanges and start mounting the girders AND splicing them together. In Kalmbach's Benchwork book, they talk about using a piece of web that 2X its width in length to bridge between to girders to make a splice. When I built the layout in Germany, this is how I did it, but when I enlarged it in Pennsy, I used Simpson Strong-tie metal hardware to make the splice. It worked well and was easier to work. Splice plates are used on both sides of the web with lots of fasteners.

                      I will also make some more girders for the forward girder that traverses the wall brackets.
                      Attached Files


                      • #56
                        Your workspace is way to clean. Please tell me you spent a few hours cleaning up before snapping those pictures.
                        Human Scum. Proud Never Trumper


                        • #57
                          Thanks for the compliment, but it's misplaced. You see that's not the workshop...that's the project. I don't want to show you the workshop. Also, I was vacuuming up the concrete dust from all the wall drilling as I went along. I didn't want to breathe it or track it around the house. The work table cum layout part behind this picture is not neat, and I haven't vacuumed sawdust around the chop saw or the drill press in the next room since I started. So, as you know, pictures can be deceiving.


                          • #58
                            It's amazing what you can accomplish when you have three solid hours to work on the project. I got the two rear-most L-girders in place, leveled and tied in. This required building two more 8' lengths and installing them. I used two different means of tying the girders to the support structure: deck screws or their equivalent, and 1/4" carriage bolts. For the rail that butt up against the bracket vertical support I used the deck screws since there was no effective way to get behind the bracket for the other side of the bolt. But on the free-standing connections I used carriage bolts which are immensely strong and really lock the structure together. The long 32 foot girder is not dead straight when sighting down its length, but it doesn't have to be. The joists that go on top, just lie across the girders and are fixed at each end with one screw. The amount their ends stick out doesn't matter.

                            Here's today's progress looking from both directions.

                            Here's some details of the joinery involved.

                            In the first instance, I used carriage bolts to hold the riser to the beam since I could see both sides.

                            This next one is a full, free-standing support. You can't help noticing that the carriage bolts are wayyyyy long. I'll trim them with the Dremel and a cut-off disc in the next work session. I was getting tired and didn't want to tackle a step that could easily get a little out of hand. I didn't want to rush it.

                            The last example is using deck screws into the bracket upright. You can see that it's sitting above the bracket due to leveling requirements. Note also, the relief cut I made so it would clear the sway brace. When I chose to install the sway braces on top of the brackets, I realized immediately that I needed to add relief. I used the saber saw to make the cut. The other choice was to mount them on the bottom of the bracket, but I didn't relish the thought of putting in the screws upside down.

                            While the straightness of these long girders isn't critical, it is important to make sure that they are square. I trued up the free-standing with a machinist angle block. Even perfect level isn't critical at this stage because the T-blocks and their risers are individually leveled and cross-leveled before the sub-roadbed is laid on top. I just like stuff level as I go along since it ultimately makes everything a little easier.

                            I used Simpson Strong-tie splice plates to hold the girders together. The plates are on both sides with 8, hex-head, self-drilling sheet metal screws holding them in place. They hold the girders very securely. I've used up my stash from the previous layout and I'll have to buy more. I have phillips head screws that are designed to fit the holes in these plates, but they're too long and leave sharp points sticking out whenever I use them.
                            Attached Files
                            Last edited by Builder 2010; 04 Aug 12,, 03:29.


                            • #59
                              Did some work today, but nothing photo worthy. But I do need some input from forum readers.

                              I've drawn two designs on with the outside loop elevated in the back with a shallow grade going up and down, not exceeding 2%. The other has the layout flat all around. I split the subroadbed piece in the back to accommodate the grade if I chose to build it.

                              I need to decide very soon if I'm going to do this because in one more work session, all the girders for the back 1/3 of the RR are going to be finished and I'm going to start laying down joists and risers. It's those risers that will determine which way I go.

                              An elevated section adds more work! It's going to run for almost 40 feet. That's a lot of embankments that will need landscaping, retaining walls, viaduct arches, etc. But, without it, the trains in the back will be out of site when two trains pass each other. It will also make the layout more boring. In the old house, the layout was open all the way around so you could stand on that side and watch trains. Now I have a wall, which has it's own advantages, but makes the rear track less visible.

                              So...what should I do? All responses will be carefully weighed.

                              I did fabricate three more 8 ft. girders that when spliced will produce the last girder that runs across the back of the layout. I'm getting very fast at building these. In Germany, where I produced the original girders, they sold me longer pieces so I didn't need as many splices.

                              Speaking of splices... I then went to Home Depot to buy more Simpson Strong-tie splice plates to replace those I've consumed. I bought large ones for the girders and medium sized ones to splice subroadbed pieces if I don't want to use OSB plates underneath. I also bought more Deck Mate screws since I love that star drive. They don't cam out and you don't have to put much downward pressure on the cordless drill to drive the screws. Phillips heads, which is what was used before, require more attention to keep the bit seated. I don't even want to talk about slotted screws. Slotted screws? What the heck are those?

                              And I bought the correct length carriage bolts...25 of them, so I won't have to cut off the excess with the Dremel. Speaking of which, I used it with the flexi-shaft and a 2" reinforced fiber cut-off wheel to remove the extra lengths on those bolts. I wore goggles and had to grind a lot, but got them all. My skin still smells from iron fillings.


                              • #60
                                Since you'll be looking at it for years to come, the nicer design should not be discarded as an option right away.

                                Maybe you could do repetitive features with a mold to ease the amount of extra amount of work?

                                You could also try to make the elevation as small as possible (if you can get away with it) to reduce the amount of work.

                                For retaining walls you could print out a wall section and stick it to a vertical surface, but I'm not sure it would look nice.