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A Good Place to Recap With Pics

I thought this would be a good place to recap my progress with a series of pics that show where the layout stands right now.  I'm doing this because the under-the-table wiring is very boring and I can't think of anything to show on that phase.

So on we go, around the room. From one dogbone on one end to the other dogbone at the other end and all the vistii in between.  Or course, this RR build is nowhere near done, but some basic scenery & stuff is laid in and I can run 'em!  I would like to take a series of short videos in the next month to post on YouTube and point to from this blog.

02/01/2011:  I finished with all the drop-down feeder wires this afternoon.  Now I'm wiring up the accessories I have.  I would also like some illumination for the buildings as well.

02/04/2011:  I have a lot of the accessories wired up and working.  I still have illumination and a semaphore to connect.  
On this essentially forward-only running layout, I decided to remove the reverse units.  As we all know, they are tempermental.  They are also electrical junction boxes.  Their job is to flip polarity on the armature while holding the field polarity constant.  But sometimes full voltage does not get passed through and that can cause some problems.  That can be fixed, but in may case, why bother?  After I did all the drop-down feeder wires I thought I needed, I still had a problem with inconsistent speed on my die-cast Atlantic.  When I took the reverse unit out and hot-wired the loco for forward-only, it greatly improved the consistency of the speed.  I also took the smoke leads straight from the tender and now get full smoke.  Hot-wiring the loco only needs two wires from the tender.  I used the two outer wires on the jack panel for that.  I used the middle two wires on the jack panel for the smoke box.   

My First Clean Run!!!!!!!!!!!!

I had my first clean run this afternoon with a linker K5 towing 4 linker cars!!!!!  WOO-HOO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  I added 6 grams of weight to the front pilot and fixed some out-of-gauge track sections.  No break-aways and no derailments of any kind.  Next up will be to add more drop-down feeder wires and get that part of it completed. I am on my way to a "working" RR!!!!!!!

1/31/2011:  I'm in the middle of some boring work on the RR.  I have 1/2 of the drop-down feeder wires installed.  Ho-hum, but very necessary.  At least when this is done, I'll be able to wire up some action accessories.  Just for something to show, I took two more pics of the RR.

OBTW; the easy modification to linker couplers that I showed a "how-to" on a previous post works marvelously.  Ever since I did that, I have not had a single break-away.  Linkers rule!

Linker Coupler Tips and Tricks

I like the look of vintage Flyer linker couplers.  I think it is the only vintage way to couple passenger cars because the spacing of the cars is much closer than the knuckle couplers can do.  But a lot of guys don't like linkers because of the problems they present. Sigh.  Linker couplers are so misunderstood.  Sigh.  Here is how I adjust and modify the ones on my fleet to operate more reliably.

1)  The linker must rotate up and down freely and I mean freely.  If it doesn't, then touch a hot soldering iron to the bar head and wiggle the linker until it is free.  Don't melt it!  Clean off any oxidation or mold-release agent that has rendered with 91% alcohol and/or a hair dryer set on high.  Careful of the paint!

2)  Adjust the linker so that it rides just a tad above the track rail.

3)  Adjust the linker bar to be level

4)  Now comes a little Timboy Magic!  A typical linker has a straight edge at it's notch.  I use a small, round jeweler's file to back-cut a groove at the base of the notch on the linker.  That notch creates a hook which couples to the adjacent linker bar more firmly.

The Final Push

I have this control panel to finish installing.  There is some more work to do on the 15 amp dedicated household circuit.  This circuit is running under the train tables and will plug in to a GFIC outlet with the power leads going directly back to the main electrical panel.  That should provide adequate protection if the worse happens.  After this control panel is energized, I have the rest of the blocks to install.  Then I'll have to debug the track system.

Dead short!  Dead short!  Dead short!  As I tested the new circuit I ran, I came up with a DEAD SHORT!!!!!!!!!!  I'm used to wiring up household circuits "hot", so I didn't get shocked.  But I am an IDIOT!  That dead short was a no-brainer and I have no brain.  Duh!  Anywho, I found it and corrected it.  Maybe I should stop wiring up circuits hot.  I'm an idiot.

I finished wiring the circuit under the train table.  I have active outlets at all three control panels now.  Each control panel can be turned on or off independently with the use of an on/off switch.  I also finished wiring the GFIC outlet that the circuit plugs into.  It is under the train tables on a wall and is not noticeable.  I'm glad I am done putting that GFCI circuit into my panel.  I hate taking the cover off the panel to insert another circuit breaker.  I just don't enjoy sticking my hands in there.  But it is done and it tests safely.  So now I am wiring the track, one block at a time and working my way around the layout in the process.  No pics to show on this part.

I'm still working my way around the RR wiring in the blocks.  I have two left to wire in and section of track to repair already!  It must have expanded some after I laid it and a section buckled!  So that is what I'll be doing tomorrow.  Snore...  

Here's a pic of the track that buckled.  I'm in the process of repairing it.  I think I'll shave the back cut back a little as well.

Okay; so much for the speed bump.  I hope there is enough lateral clearance.

I'm still working on getting my first clean run with one train.  I have all the blocks wired up and they all work.  I'll need additional feeder wires for places where the track voltage is a little low.  That's to be expected, but first I have some track issues where there are break-a-ways of my linker couplers.  I'm solving them one-at-a-time.  I also discovered that one transformer was bad.  Bummer.  I usually don't try to repair a transformer, unless it's a faulty circuit-break, or on/off switch, or light bulb, or handle, or primary coil, or secondary coil.  AHA!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  GOTCHA!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  Otherwise, it becomes a brand-new boat anchor.

I'm still working on getting a clean run as far as the front pilot wheels on my K5 is concerned.  There are still a couple places where they like to jump the rails.  But I have a clean run on a consist with linker couplers!  Linkers are nice couplers, but they are also finicky.  I have developed a technique to help them stay coupled together.  Of course, cleanliness is paramount and they have to rotate up and down absolutely perfectly.  They also have to be adjusted to the correct height and the link bar has to be level as well.  If anyone is interested what other step I take to help them stay coupled please let me know and I'll post a "how-to".
I made a small set of shelves to store my little roster.  It is on one side of the entrance door.  I want to make a similar set of shelves for on the other side.

Laural Mountain

A TREMENDOUS Happy New Year to all Flyers!!!!!!!!  It's gonna be a GREAT year!  2011 will see this project completed, wired up, debugged and run.  I'll be buying a video camera in the coming months to post some videos of it in operation.  HERE WE GO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

This is the start of Laural Mountain.  I'm back to the cardboard strip basket weaving technique that I excelled at in college. lol  There will be a plaster hard shell over this framework and my "oatmeal" over that.  I'll be putting some rock faces on it and there will be PLENTY of vegetation and maybe even a snow cap.  Time will tell!

The ladies at Micheal's want to know what I'm doing with all the glue sticks I'm buying. I tell them I've kidnapped a spy and am torturing him for his sekrits for Wikileaks. lololololololololololol 

01/04/2011:  To the untrained eye (lol) it might appear that I have been slacking.  Well, I have!  lol  But what I did get done today was to establish the basic shape of the mountain.  It is stable, so I took out the tent pole in the middle.  I also have all the fascia board installed.  There is a lot more work to do on the webbing.

I am done lugging plywood up and down the stairs to measure, cut and then measure & cut again!  There is a little carpentry work to be done yet on the two tunnels.  I like them totally enclosed, even though they are inside the stand-up mountain.  I have the tunnel portals roughed in, but they will need defined.

01/05/2011:  I have the one side pretty well woven in now.  The other side needs finished off.  Then I'll need to enclose the insides of the tunnels and I can start covering it with hard shell.  I'll do the mountain, then the next level down and so on until it's all done.

I know it's a little tough to imagine how this is going to work out, but it will.

01/06/2011:  I have all the basic construction completed and all the areas filled in.  Next up will be to do the plaster hard shell.

The newspaper is the same newspaper I've used as bulk filler in other sections.  When the plaster is dry, I just pull it out from underneath, leaving a hollow hard-shell.  I'll do the same on this section, then discard the newspaper wads.  I'll leave the cardboard backing, however.  It will bond somewhat to the plaster, so trying to pull that down would be disastrous and not necessary at all.
There will be some clouds to paint out when all is done and there will be sky touchups to do as well.  Routine.

01/07/2011:  I got plastered this morning!  The section is now covered over, with the usual amount of slop from slinging plaster.  I'll let it dry a while and start in with my "oatmeal" covering.  I don't know how much I'll get done this week-end, due to all the televised sporting events.

In the process of getting at the top of this mountain, I had a slight mishap.  For the first time, I used a stepladder.  It slipped on the newspapers I had on the floor to catch drippings.  I crashed down on an small adjacent "finished" section.  It got bunged and splashed with wet plaster.  No big deal.  I'll fix it when I paint and cover the present section.  If that is the worse that happens to me building this layout, I'm good.

01/08/2011:  Thanks for all the well-wishes.  The crash reminded me of when I sometimes took a foul tip under my chest protector.  No harm, just a nice mouse.  Even at close to 300 pounds, I still have cat-like reflexes!  So it's back up on the horse.  That was my mantra in my youth as a wanna-be rodeo star.  Anyway, I got a little "oatmeal" applied this morning.  I had to stop and go out to a big-box store for more material.  Bowl and playoff games this afternoon, so this is where I stop for today!

I'm a little concerned that the top ridge looks a little too straight, so I'll "correct" it with some gobs of "oatmeal".

01/10/2011:  Happy Monday, Flyers!  It's back to the grind!  I finished up with the basic shape of this mountain by covering it with my "oatmeal".  Overall, I am satisfied with it's shape.  However, there is one view of it that I need to enhance.  I'll point it out to you in the upcoming pics.

I'm okay with this side, although some rock faces will help.

Starting to have a problem with accepting the shape on this right-hand side.

I'm also good with this side.  Texture will augment it.
My "problem" side on the left.

Here we go.  This side is way too symmetrical.  It looks like an igloo or egg.  I gotta do something about it. 
If anyone has any productive suggestions, I would be glad to entertain them.  My current plan it to give that side a new face with a lot of rock outcroppings.  Keep in mind that this mountain will have a very thick cover of vegetation over it.  I can also use those vegetation mats to add thickness in some places so that the symmetry is not so pronounced.  I'm not opposed to building this side out and creating a tunnel for the trains on both levels.  But that tunnel will have to allow me access to the track.  So if I go that route, then I have to put a large fascia on this side with an access flap.  Not exactly the look I want.  So, let's see what happens tomorrow when I add rock ledges!

01/10/2011:  I think I have made a step in the right direction.  I broke up the surface smoothness and some of the symmetry with a very rough coat of "oatmeal" and debris for rocks.  I'm out of scraps to use, so I'll make up some plaster rock faces this evening for tomorrow's session.  When I'm reasonably satisfied that is has a chance, I'll go ahead and paint it all and cover it with ground foams.  That will be a little bit of overkill, since I'll be going back over it to weave in massive amounts of vegetation mats.  But I think the underpainting will help to give it depth.

I need to texture the area between the upper and lower track.  A small hill where the track goes through might be in order here.

01/10/2011:  There was a special request for me to back up and show how this mountain interacts with the other sections and the RR on a whole.  A little impossible to do, really - but here is my effort.  Please excuse the construction clutter 'n@.

01/11/2011:  I may not be finished for today, but I thought this was a good place to stop and take a couple pics because my next effort should change the look of this mountain a lot.  I added a bunch of texture and rock faces.  I built out the middle tier as much as I could so that the mountain has a little more natural shape and look less like a wedding cake (not that there is anything wrong with cake!).  I also re-established the graded right-of-way for clearance and cleaned up the fascia board.  I spackled it as well.
I'm still not completely satisfied with this view, so hopefully the paint & such will improve it.

I'm pretty happy with this view now.

With all the added rough texture, I'm afraid I won't get a good paint job by using even my largest wall brush.  I hate to break out the Hudson sprayer to paint it, but I think I'll have to.  Using the Hudson sprayer is tricky. First off, the paint has to be diluted, then strained through a stocking.  Care must be taken to only give the sprayer a couple of pumps of compressed air.  Too much and the paint can get propelled with too much force and splatter all over everything.  I'll have to cover what I don't want splashed and use a lot of caution.  But it is a way to paint a large area quickly and get good penetration into all the cracks and crevices that I have created.  All this said, I'll still be covering a lot of it with vegetation matting.  But I think by making as good an underpainting as I can, will allow the veg mats to blend into the terrain more convincingly.  Let's see...

01/11/2011:  I may have to stop here for a couple days.  I ran out of ground foams.  They are on order for delivery ASAP, so I should be back in business in a couple days.  While I am far from finished, there is an improvement in the right direction.  I can't apply the vegetation mats until I get the ground foams because that is what I top them with.

01/11/2011:  Lionroar88 suggested that I add a rock slide with a tunnel bored through it to the side of this mountain and I thought that was a great idea.  So I tried my hand at it.  It's not exactly like the pic he sent me, but I think it fits in with my style the way I did it.  Of course, I'm not done painting and decorating and I'll want to add vegetation, so I'm not done yet.  But here is where it rests for tonight.

I think it brings relief to an otherwise roundish mountain.  It isn't too long, so I should be able to service track in it from both ends.  Maybe I'll do another one in a different place.

01/15/2011:  I completed the painting and sprinkling phase.  Next up will be to glue down some vegetation mats.  I added another tunnel.
I could use another light on this side.

Funny thing about the technique I use; as the "oatmeal" dries, I find I need to touch up areas that have opened up.  That's okay, though.  I use a grayed-down orange paint for that and it adds more color.

This time after I was done painting and sprinkling ground foams all over, I hit it with some spray paint; black and primer.  I like the added effect.   Maybe tomorrow, I'll get the fascia sanded and painted while I'm waiting for the mountain to dry a little more before I start putting vegetation mats on it.  Interestingly, experience has shown me that simply painting the fascia makes a world of difference as well.

01/16/2011:  I think today's effort frames it in quite nicely and makes it pop.  I still have plenty of touch-ups to do and I still want to glue down some vegetation mats; although perhaps not as many as I originally intended!  I'm also glad I added that last tunnel.  I think it helps to make this mountain look less like an inverted coffee cup! lol  It was a tough mountain to build.  I had to make it big and tall enough to stand up inside of, yet attempt to texture it so that it didn't look like an igloo.  I'm all-in-all pleased with the result.  OBTW, the benchwork is level.  The camera angle makes it look a little slanted.

I have cleaned up the train room quite a bit in the past week.  If felt good to put the gallons of paint away and to use up the last bit of plaster.  Truthfully, I'm a little tired of doing scenery work and laying track.  I want to run some trains!

01/18/2011:  Uh-oh!  There's trouble on the RR!!!!!!!!  It looks like the RR crew built a tunnel portal out of spec.  The conductor is out looking and is that someone from ABC news taking a picture?  Or is that an insurance adjuster?  Uh-oh!!!!!!

01/19/2011:  There's a party going on right here; a celebration to last through-out the year!  The fun folks in Timboy Town don't need any excuse for a party.  Timboy Town is actually a drinking town with a railroading problem! 

There is plenty of lateral clearance now!  Richard was the winner of the raffle and he got to ride the cowcatcher as the K5 made a clean trip through Laural Mountain Tunnel #1!!!!!!!!!!!!

01/21/2011:  ALL THE TRACK IS LAID!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  I now have to wire up the remaining blocks and de-bug.  Hopefully, the trains will be running again within 2 weeks.

Next up will be to build the third and final control panel.  After the trains are running well, I'll want to come back to this section for more building.  I have two deck bridges to build and some vegetation to install on this mountain.  But those items are purely cosmetic.