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PostPosted: Mon Oct 22, 2012 3:48 pm 
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...is the HO-scale layout I decided to build. Ever since finding that Johnny Cash rendition of "The Wabash Cannonball" I posted in the random video thread, I've gotten bitten by the bug to revive my model railroading hobby. My dad built me a small HO layout when I was a kid; a 4'x8' sheet of plywood with an oval of track with a figure 8 in the center. When I was 12 I started rebuilding my layout in our basement in PA, and I had a twice-around loop with an elevated trolly track in the center, but both layouts had little in terms of scenery; a few plastic buildings and a street crossing here and there was all. Mostly just bare wood.

I did have a couple Atlas plan books as a kid, however, and always wanted to build something more sophisticated like the big layouts you see among serious modellers; the old men who wear the overalls an engineer hats.

One of the plans I always liked the best was The Granite Gorge and Northern. According to Atlas, it represents the meeting of 2 main lines in a mountain river valley.

I discovered that Atlas sells complete kits for its layout plans, and that the website linked above sells those kits at a discount. So, after some hemming and hawing, I decided to build this layout. I did consider a few others, notably the Folded Dogbone with Branch, the Grade Crossing Deluxe (found in layouts 13-23 at the above link), the Great Eastern Trunk, and the Transbay Interwoven (found at the layouts 24-30 link above; same series as GG&N).

I ended up picking this layout for a number of reasons:
1. At 5'x9' it fit well in the available space; the Grade Crossing layout was eliminated on this basis. At 13' long, it would have had to fit catty-corner into an 11'x12' room as the hypotenuse of a 5x12x13 triangle... and that would not sit well with my wife. I'm not allowed to take up the entire room with it.
2. It had multiple levels; tracks cross over each other quite a bit. The double track that passes diagonally through the center of the layout is a double bridge.
3. It has grade crossings, which always look cool.
4. It does not have reversing loop track. Wiring those is not hard with Atlas electrical controllers, but I find a complex layout plan that avoids them to be more elegant. If I expand the layout later, I may add a dedicated section that does this. It also makes it easier to break the track into electrical blocks that suit my preferences rather than those strictly in the plan. The Grade Crossing, Folded Dogbone, and Transbay all have reversing loops.
5. It avoids the "round and round and round" effect by staying away from what's essentially an oval. The Great Eastern Trunk is plagued by this.
6. It allows the operation of 2 trains at once; either running on 2 mainline tracks, or one loco working the yard while another train runs on the main line. This will be a 2-power-pack layout.
7. It's a mountain layout, and I like mountains. Any of the others could be made with mountains but this one is designed for it.
8. It has enough yard to permit some yard operation, but it isn't an "all yard" layout.

I have plenty of rolling stock left over to use on it, so I ordered the track kit and 2 power packs. I was hoping to use a bunch of old track, but while I have plenty of basic straight and curved sections, I have almost no nonstandard sections, and the switch tracks I have are snap-switches, not #4 turnouts that the layout is designed for, even though they look very similar.

So, this is the reason for my Home Depot thread. This morning, I went to Lowe's and got the lumber! The track won't be here for some time yet, but hopefully by my days off next week. By then I should have the frame together and be ready to start cutting the plywood.

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Ready for the first cut:

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Cut into the sections needed for the framework and tabletop:

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The 2"x4" legs. 4' high.

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I plan to take plenty of pictures as I work, so I'll post more construction as it goes. I hope to have trains running by Christmas at the latest and be starting on scenery. Today was gross cuts of the wood; tomorrow will be fine cuts to allow the rises and falls of the trackage.

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PostPosted: Mon Oct 22, 2012 5:36 pm 
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That is going to be a very cool train layout, DE. My Dad used to have a very nice layout in his garage when he lived up in the Sierras. He also had a really cool "G" scale out in the yard. Now that he lives in a small apartment all he has room for is a long narrow piece of plywood running along the top of the deck railing. He is always puttering around with it, making changes here and there. I can't wait to see pictures of the finished layout. :)

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PostPosted: Thu Oct 25, 2012 11:16 pm 
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The track arrived today. The last few days I've been cutting the 1"x4" sections into the shapes necessary for making the layout rise and fall, and making the right shaped playwood base. With the track I was able to take a break from that and start work on the preliminary layout. The track needs to be completely laid out on the wood in order to cut the seams that allow the plywood to bend. That way you know you're not cutting anything important by accident!

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edit: sorry about not spoilering them earlier.

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PostPosted: Sat Oct 27, 2012 10:52 pm 
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Tonight the preliminary track layout was finished, and the tracing done. That means disassembly of the track tomorrow, and re-arranging the room to how the table will be accommodated. This is critical because right now it means the baby is in our bedroom....

Anyhow, I discovered, as I had suspected, that there were errors in the track plan, and it simply will not line up if built exactly as specified. I think that a great deal of that is due to changes in the track over the years; this track plan was around 25 years ago and was not new then. The switch tracks in particular may have changed just enough to throw the plan off. Fortunately, I have spare pieces and managed to correct most of it. Some of it may simply be the fact that right now, the track does not rise and fall, and also that without nailing it down, kinks develop, and straightening one tends to cause another.

Below is how they layout will actually look. The double track diagonal through the center and the one that crosses it near the bottom will be bridges in the final layout. These pictures were taken before the tracing, but its so faint that you probably couldn't see it anyhow. All I had was a kid's crayola blue marker.

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Presently, the below picture of the upper left corner is my area of greatest concern. The tracks are much too close together to permit 2 trains to pass, and the outer track is too close to the edge. There's room on the other end to scooch the entire layout an inch and a half in, but I still may need to adjust the curve a little more to get separation.

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The upper right corner. The middle of the three curves needed considerable adjustment, including a 6" piece of straight track and changing 2 22" radius curves to 18" to fit. However, these changes mad it fit nicely.

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The entire right side. There's room to extend that spur line in the middle another 9" at least, so I will probably end up doing that.

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The area around the grade crossings. These required an adjustment farther to the left. The track that comes into the left crossing from below simply refused to fit, until I took out a 2" piece of track farther left. That actually happened last night and was my big clue that the diagram probably had some errors.

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While it was fun to take a break from the benchwork and play with the track a bit, it became tedious because I was on the floor the whole time. The last two nights of this have not been easy on the back, although my 6-year-old is fascinated with this, and spent both nights regaling me with stories that were.. well, I was always curious to know what came next!

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PostPosted: Mon Oct 29, 2012 11:11 pm 
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Tonight I finished cutting all the wooden members for the structure that will support the plywood. That means tomorrow, hopefully I can have the table assembled. More pics then; I didn't get a chance to take any tonight.

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PostPosted: Tue Oct 30, 2012 12:00 pm 
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Wow, that looks really cool, can't wait to see how it turns out. You said it's a mountain layout... does that mean the track itself will go up and down on "hills" or whatever, or is the track mostly flat and there will be mountains as part of the decoration/scenery around the track?


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PostPosted: Tue Oct 30, 2012 12:22 pm 
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Amanar, from the way I'm reading the plans, several of the loops will be slowly climbing the mountains they're winding around, with bridges across the passes/valleys in between. My guess is two main crests on either end of the board.

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PostPosted: Tue Oct 30, 2012 12:23 pm 
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Kaffis, you're basically correct. The double bridge across the center and the single bridge that joins them at the 2 grade crossings at the bottom left will be elevated, while the yard and the other double line to its right will be below those bridges. The outer loops will rise and fall as needed to connect them. The open spaces will be mountain peaks and scenery. there will be a river meandering through the center too.

It will be a little more clear tonight, since I'll have more pictures. I'm off today, so I finished the assembly of the 2 frames for the 2 halves of the layout just now. I need to go to the hardware store, then I'll be working on cutting the plywood, attaching it, and attaching the legs and the 2 halves of the layout together.

This is actually going a lot faster than I thought it would, even though I'm going more slowly and being far more patient than when I was a kid. For example, as a kid I would never have taken the time to drill pilot holes for screws. I did with this, and it pretty much completely prevents cracking when inserting the screws. It helped that I have 2 drills, my mom's dad's old Sears Craftsman, and a much, much older steel Black and Decker that my dad's dad received as a gift back in the 50's or 60's. It does not have variable, speed, just full power and off, but it works for drilling pilot holes.

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PostPosted: Tue Oct 30, 2012 10:01 pm 
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Frame for the left side of the layout

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For the right side

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Left frame with plywood attached and seams cut

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Both frames together with plywood. The right half was considerably more difficult than the left

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Close-up of the right side. This is where I screwed up a bit. I did not realize it, but the spliced-together portions of the plywood on this half of the layout (needed to make a standard 4'x8' sheet into 5'x9' should have been in the center when I did my tracing earlier. That extra seem caused some problems, but with careful splicing I still have a smooth surface to lay track on. I will need to do a little more splicing around the narrow portion of the river where it runs left-to-right at the bottom of the layout, visible in the previous picture. The river will run slightly differently in the final form. I suppose that's what I get for jumping right into an "advanced" skill level track plan.

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The left section, looking at it from the right. Note the support member under the lip where the single bridge will run to the right side. There are 4 of these independent support members in total. They keep the track rigid and at the correct height at places where an underlying frame piece is not present.

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The entire layout, with a coat of dark gray spray paint very generally over the areas of trackage. This highlights where the river is. There will be a waterfall or dam (not sure which yet) in the river where the layout halves meet. The reason for this coat of gray paint is that I did not want to spend the extra money for cork roadbed for the trackage. I also didn't want plywood peeking up between the rails. This out to give a mountain-y base color to work from when I start adding the scenery.

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Right side with the paint.
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Left side with paint.

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I did not get to attaching the legs today, nor the bolts between the sections, although the hinges that hold them together on the outside are installed. Tomorrow, I'll install the legs, but not before bringing it inside. I also managed to lay my hands on 65 feet of 20-guage wire. That means I can start wiring as I lay track. I need to give some thought as to how exactly I'm going to mount the control panel. That isn't in the plans!

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PostPosted: Wed Oct 31, 2012 9:32 pm 
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So today, I did indeed manage to get the legs on, the halves together, the entire monster into the house (it felt like around 75 pounds for each half), and began laying the track.

This is the right half with 2 of the legs attached before the other 2. Off to the left you can see the left half. This part turned out to be trickier than I anticipated. I also ended up lowering the layout height from 4 feet to 3'6". This is easier to work at, but still high enough to keep marauding toddlers away.

Now that I'm laying track, the really fun part begins. I also get to work in the comfort of air conditioning from here on!

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This is the left half. In the very near future, I'm going to add diagonal crosspieces between the legs on the backs and sides. I'm also planning on installing shelves underneath, so the fronts will remain open.

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The left half, with the legs re-attached inside the room. The legs are attached with 3/8" bolts, so taking them on and off is easy.
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The entire layout inside the room. The halves are held together with 3 more bolts and 2 hinges on the outside. Naturally, the halves did not want to line up exactly in the room, even though I had them lined up and level outside. It took a little doing to get them back together.

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Track has begun being laid. None of it is tacked down yet; this part is to get everything lined up before installing the bridges. I identified a few problems. Where the single bridge heads to the right from the double bridges at the double crossing in the bottom left of the layout, the lip I had cut stuck out way too far, and the support member underneath it would interfere with the yard entrance. I moved the support back. The lip will probably end up being cut, and then placed back in the empty hole below it to support the track on the lower level. That will require installing a support underneath it.

Second, a similar issue where the double bridge begins at the upper right. I move the support back to clear the wye turnout that leads to the single siding under the bridge, and will have to cut the lip off and re-install it under the lower track.

Also note the 2 plate girder bridges in the background and the pier girder one in the foreground. The river actually ended up lining up nicely with the lower-level portions of the track plan.

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The most serious problem. Could be a lot worse. The inner of the 2 curves pictured does not lead smoothly up the ramp to the level where the double bridge begins; it goes too far out to the right. I'm not sure what caused this in cutting, although I think it may be due to my earlier error in having the spliced end on the right of the layout instead of the center. Still, it should not be too hard to fix with some very careful insertion of thin wood supports. Those will most likely be glued in place. I didn't have time to start on that tonight, although I did need to reposition the support at the right end of the long single bridge to clear this curve as well.
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PostPosted: Fri Nov 02, 2012 11:14 pm 
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Last night and tonight, I finished all the track laying except the double and long single bridges. All of the electrical connections to the track sections have been installed, and I began working on the long single bridge.

This is the layout at this point. The single bridge is installed with the warren trusses on the right and the pier girders to the left. All of the other track has been laid except for the double bridge. None, however, has been permanently nailed down yet except the grade crossing at the left end of the single bridge and a couple pieces of track at the right end to hold the bridge track steady. The locomotive is there to put weight on what I thought was going to be a weak point. It's holding up quite well, though. I did have to add some wood in the river to put one of the piers in place, so that will require some thought down the road as to how to do the scenery for it. A rapid spot, perhaps.

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This is a closeup of the bridge. The picture kind of makes it looked kinked, but it it isn't. You also might notice there's a section of track about an inch and a half long between the truss and girder portions of the bridge without and bridge under it. I cut a small portion of pier girder that will be installed there tomorrow. The track is quite stiff even without it but it doesn't look right. The long tank car in the background is good for testing curves for side clearance, while that boxcar in front of it is unusually tall and good for testing bridge clearance. The Conrail locomotive needs some work; it's only semi-functional (if the layout were powered), however as you can see its sitting over a joint in the bridge without causing dropping.
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Tomorrow I'm going to work on the double bridge, probably the most challenging part of the layout. It takes a total of 5 piers to support it as each half consists of 3 warren trusses and a deck truss (which looks like the warren trusses on the single bridge, except the trapezoidal steel girders are under the track, forming a deck; those sections go over the river.) The problem is that because the 2 halves of the bridge are so close together, an end must be cut off each pier and the 2 glued together to form one wider pier to support the bridges that close together. I cut and glued the first pair tonight, but it almost became a mess. I need to get a tool more suitable for cutting plastic.

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PostPosted: Sat Nov 03, 2012 12:27 am 
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Amazing!


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PostPosted: Mon Nov 05, 2012 9:45 pm 
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The double bridge has been installed, and I've started nailing track down. Actually, almost done with nailing track. I've identified a few errors too; places where sections had to be changed slightly to avoid kinking.. The double bridge looks pretty good; I was afraid that when the time cam to put it in I'd run into some simply insurmountable problem trying to align the ends, but it worked out.

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The control panel. I did this earlier today. The switch panels are connected to the transformers, but not to anything else yet. It's physically connected to the layout now; next pictures will show it in place. I only have 20 gauge wire in red and white, so I didn't color-code the leads from the transformers to the switch track controls, but for the actual trackage, white will be the common rail, red will be the insulated rail that breaks the tracks into sections. The green switches assign the section to one transformer or the other; up goes to the left transformer, down to the right. Center is off.

((Finally managed to remember to re-size an image too.))

Image

Might be fewer pictures for a while since the layout won't really change appearance with the track nailing and wiring. However, trains should be running pretty soon!

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PostPosted: Tue Nov 06, 2012 5:06 am 
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I've never done any major production with HO scale stuff..

Doesn't the base landscaping have to be done before you permanently mount the track?


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PostPosted: Tue Nov 06, 2012 9:23 am 
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Midgen wrote:
I've never done any major production with HO scale stuff..

Doesn't the base landscaping have to be done before you permanently mount the track?


Certain things do, like if you put down a mat as an underlying color, or or the spray painting I did, or a roadbed. For the most part though, you want track down first so you don't end up with scenery that interferes with the track. That's what I was using the cars for; to make sure a train will clear the bridge piers. It would be pretty hard to get my hands in around scenery to nail track. The book has instructions for making mountains. It would be almost impossible to lay track inside mountains.

The bridges themselves are not yet permanently emplaced though. That does have to wait for the major scenery.

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PostPosted: Fri Nov 09, 2012 10:46 pm 
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Sorry no new pictures. Unfortunately, now that the track is laid there's just been nailing and wiring. No major visual changes. I'll be finishing the wiring tomorrow night though.

Testing the sections revealed a few trackage issues, which I managed to pretty much resolve. Unfortunately, one of the two tranformers already took a **** and it has some nonstandard screw so I can't even open it up to look. I think the dial somehow became disconnected from the rheostat inside because it's stuck on full power. The other one works though, so I can still run one train. I ordered a new, better quality one for the "B" Transformer. The "A" transformer still works and will become the secondary, as well as supplying power to the switch motors.

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PostPosted: Sat Nov 10, 2012 1:17 am 
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Looks great DE. Can't wait to see pictures with scenery.

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PostPosted: Tue Nov 13, 2012 10:30 pm 
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Been testing the track with various trains for the last 2 days or so. I have most of the kinks worked out, although the Atlas turnouts needed a lot of manipulation with needle-nose pliers to get trains to consistently go through them the right way. The #1 turnout in particular on the schematic (the rightmost turnout on the entire layout as you face it) was particularly hard to work with, but I finally got it to where it will consistently let a train go through with no derailments.

I've done a lot of reading since starting on this pike that I really should have done before. I don't know that much would have changed since my available space would have been the same regardless, but things I have learned between that and running the actual trains:

1: Curve radius is no joke. The 18" radius that Atlas plans make seem standard and 22" that they make seem wide are actually very tight and fairly tight respectively. While the locomotives and cars I have will handle 18", they can have a hard time with it and those tight turns going into the turnouts have probably exacerbated the derailment problem.
2: Grades are no joke. This layout rises and falls rapidly and that limits the number of cars a single engine can haul to around 5-7 plus a caboose. More than that and you wither need 2 engines, or to apply more power. Applying more power doesn't work all that well because it can cause the wheels to just slip, and because you can't give it all that much juice coming up to the grade because of all the curves. At 100% you'd be throwing cars off the track like crazy. I will probably mark my transformer with "never exceed" at 80%.
3: Being older makes not simply flipping the transformer to 100% a lot more palatable. As a kid, I always wanted full throttle, which was awfully hard on the rolling stock that got thrown off the table.

Anyhow, a few more pictures:

The layout from the right side. Test trains are sitting on the spurs (in no particular pattern) since part of the testing has been switching moves.

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The layout from the front. The schematic has been attached to the control panel.

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The test train parked on the yard entry track. The bright blue care poking out from the back of the bridge is a Rock Island grain carrying hopper. This is an important test car because it's longer than most and therefore stresses curve clearance.

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The turnout that was causing trouble. The right frog had to be tightened up to the track when it was thrown to send the train to the left. It seems to be a major problem with these Atlas Code 83 turnouts. I wish I had gotten Code 100. Most of my stuff is older and I have a feeling large wheel flanges are a major culprit. I do plan to replace as many plastic wheels with metal as possible though. My reading indicates that plastic wheels distort, wear, and are produced at generally low quality.

Image

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PostPosted: Wed Nov 14, 2012 9:06 am 
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much <3 for the sante fe silver and red engine.

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PostPosted: Wed Nov 14, 2012 9:46 pm 
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2 trains running at once, now that the second transformer is here. I put out a few little decorations just to spruce things up a bit till I can work on the scenery

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Crossing the bridge. That Santa Fe is my strongest-pulling locomotive. The Burlington Northern one runs well, but doesn't seem to be quite as powerful.

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EEEK! GET OFF THE TRACKS!!

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PostPosted: Sun Nov 18, 2012 9:47 pm 
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I obtained another of the steam locomotive I had when I was a kid. This particular locomotive is a Great Northern Railroad 2-8-0 Consolidation type loco. Historically, 2-8-0 was a very, very common type, eventually supplanted by 2-8-2 which could support a better firebox with the rear truck. I had one of this exact locomotive when I was little. Unfortunately, this one has several vices. Since I accidentally got code 83 track instead of code 100 it has a hard time on a lot of the turnouts due to its deep wheel flanges, common on rolling stock over 20 years old. It also has a lot of play in the drivers and needs a lot of clearance to the sides. It also seems to need the wheels clean. On the plus side, while its slower than the diesels I use, it also does not lose speed to a heavy load as easily, so it will pull 5 or 6 cars without much of a performance drop. I think this is due to its greater weight and the fact that on this particular model, the 8 driver wheels all actually drive.

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Beginnings of the mountain that will be the main terrain feature of the right half of the layout

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The aluminum foil is a tent over the tracks that will protect them from the plaster when I start putting that on. The aluminum foil extends over the track to the tunnel exits, but I took the picture after only 1 piece was installed.

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PostPosted: Fri Nov 23, 2012 5:32 pm 
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I am building one too!


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PostPosted: Fri Nov 23, 2012 5:37 pm 
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More pix


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15legs.JPG
15legs.JPG [ 220.35 KiB | Viewed 1348 times ]
12folded.JPG
12folded.JPG [ 190.95 KiB | Viewed 1348 times ]
11piano.JPG
11piano.JPG [ 199.4 KiB | Viewed 1348 times ]
10bottom.JPG
10bottom.JPG [ 227.9 KiB | Viewed 1348 times ]
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PostPosted: Fri Nov 23, 2012 5:39 pm 
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Joined: Fri Nov 23, 2012 5:29 pm
Posts: 38
And more pix


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21terminals.JPG
21terminals.JPG [ 224.01 KiB | Viewed 1348 times ]
20wiring.JPG
20wiring.JPG [ 221.36 KiB | Viewed 1348 times ]
19track.JPG
19track.JPG [ 220.58 KiB | Viewed 1348 times ]
18roadbed.JPG
18roadbed.JPG [ 221.07 KiB | Viewed 1348 times ]
17tracing.JPG
17tracing.JPG [ 226.72 KiB | Viewed 1348 times ]
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PostPosted: Sat Nov 24, 2012 1:00 am 
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pbp Hack
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Joined: Wed Sep 02, 2009 8:45 pm
Posts: 6812
Hey Jerry. Thanks for sharing.

/bonk

_________________
I prefer to think of them as "Fighting evil in another dimension"


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