Monday, January 5, 2015

(De)Construction Lessons Learned

So as I deconstructed the benchwork this past weekend, I paid attention to how solid or un-solid the benchwork was that was coming apart. First feedback I want to give/emphasize is


So I used quite a bit of these. Some worked fine and others didn't. I will say, everywhere I used them I also had glue support if it was structural, like along the center peninsula. That worked out ok but the glue really didn't bond as well between plywood pieces as I would have thought. I'm not sure why. Also, if you do insist on using drywall screws, use the longer kind. I had a mix of 1 1/4" and 1 5/8" (I think) and the longer ones held much, much better, almost as good as the 1 1/4" wood screws. But if you can, use the wood screws as that's what they are made for.

Second, if you can afford it and/or have one already, use pocket holes for everything. The last few updated sections I did, I used pocket hole screws from my Kreg Jig. These were the most solid joints in my benchwork and were also easy to undo. I also used it for my last few L-girders, eschewing using glue for them. This enabled me to reuse both of these pieces of wood as well.

Finally, be careful of using "scrap" wood. I gained access to almost a pallet full of half-sheets of cabinet grade plywood. I ripped these down to the 1x3 size I was using. While the 9 or 11 plys allowed for added strength, it appears, after about 4 years in my basement, that the glue itself seems to be delaminating. This usually means it has dried out. For the most party, my basement has been pretty damp except for the winter months and even then it's not bone dry, hovering around my 35%-40% setting on the dehumidifier. I think it was stored outside for a while before I got it. Meanwhile, the "hardwood" plywood I purchased from both a local lumberyard and local big box stores seemed to be just fine and were as solid as they were when I put them up. I'll probably use the gift cards I just got for Christmas on buying a sheet or two to rip down to new 1x3s and 1x2s for the new benchwork lattice.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

New Year, New Layout

Happy New Year!!  As I mentioned in a previous post, I had contemplated whether or not I wanted to continue with the double deck layout or switch to a single deck. With addition of our 3rd child, I'm realizing space is at a premium in our house. As is time. I had one of those "talks" with myself and concluded that if I want to have something running or operating over the next year or so, it won't be a double deck layout. So, as of the day after Christmas, I started dismantling the benchwork. I've seen some people take a panoramic shot of their layouts on the 1st of each year. I think I'll start that this year as well. Here's my shot below:

Here are two other shots as well:

As you can see, the top level is gone completely as are all the backdrops. I'll probably remove the peninsula items later this afternoon and readjust the shelf brackets to the new base height of the layout, which I'm going to attempt to put the railhead around 53". I'm nominally 5'9" and according to the "proper layout height" diagram pervasive in the model railroading press, my preferred layout heights range from 52" to 41". Most of the layouts I operate on are somewhere in that range. The areas on the layouts I most enjoy operating on are on the higher side. Two in particular are set at 52" and the other's upper deck is 54" for railhead height. These are HO layouts so i think the 53" will be good in N scale as well.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Go West Young Man!

So a few things happened recently. As you could tell from an earlier post today, I've contemplated going back and forth on simplifying, knocking stuff down, etc. Well, the first thing that happened in this questioning was removing the idea of a gate. I then designed a loop under the helix to the second level to go under the layout and back to a run through staging. I had even lowered the shelving to accommodate this and reattached the subroadbed above. The more I looked at it, however, the more I realized that the 2nd deck really had nothing to do operationally with the first and was almost a 2nd railroad in need of the same operators as the 1st level. This didn't really sit well with me so after some consultation with the others in my operating group, I decided to shelve the plan to go to Lordstown and Warren, including the GM plant and the WCI Steel Mill and concentrate solely on the Ft. Wayne Line. I kicked around a few spacing plans and came up with a pretty good plan from Alliance through Crestline. Here's level 1 from Alliance through Orrville:

Note that things have been flipped around and the Canton Yard is simplified and now across from the Republic Steel plant which has also been slimmed down some. I rearranged some of the other industries as well. Here is level 2 from Wooster through Crestline:

This plan shows the space between Wooster and Mansfield dominated by a couple of large elevators as well as the GM plant on the outskirts of Mansfield. This plant is on the old Erie mainline. I also tried to keep the plans simple with most industries straight-lined off the mainline, with the Wooster area the exception due to it being on a corner. That worked out ok because those industries are in an industrial park that loops back in on itself.

I feel both of these plans add a little more "dead" space around the layout in areas where non-railroad items could be modeled. So if I stay with everything as is, this will be the intended plan going forward.

Subroadbed Update

So while I contemplate simplifying, I've been adding subroadbed to the layout. On my last construction post, I had only done the one side. Well, I've made it around most of the rest of the layout. Below are some quick pictures of each area:

Dead-end aisle
Peninsula side
Wall Area across from end of peninsula

I also attached the other side of the peninsula and now I'm down to connecting the areas with small pieces of plywood as well as a big 4x4 piece I'm cutting up for the turnback loops. I also have some design updates which I'll post shortly.

Simplify? Get Larger?

I've actually made decent progress on the benchwork and subroadbed top (more to come on this), but since our 3rd addition to our family, I feel like I may never get this double deck layout up and running in a decent amount of time. As a result, i've been looking around at "simpler" layout plans online and in my magazine/book rack. Basically, I got advice on this from a few of my local operators that, other then just put down track, said go around the walls and then figure out if you want a peninsula of the main line, switching, both. So with that in mind, I played around with a few configurations for a single-deck layout. The first is an HO scale layout based on someone's design on, I think, a thread on the Model Railroader forums. I had to adjust it to meet my smaller space, but still have the flow.

Basically, a train would start in staging, go around into the yard, then run a loop around the walls, pass the yard again, then go back into staging. In looking at the plan, there are 2 large-ish switching areas outside of the yard, which I would imagine having industries behind it, and two smaller ones in the short peninsula and the other over at the bottom of the stairs. Obviously being in HO, not sure how much I'd be able to put in each area, but I'm sure I could find help in designing something there. I'm the only N scaler in my operating group so moving up to HO would allow me to have assistance on things like building construction, DCC wiring, etc. I'd also be starting from scratch so any purchases I made would come with knuckle couplers, DCC ready locomotives, etc., and there wouldn't be a large backlog of that work to do in my current N scale collection. Downside is I'd be selling all my N scale items and that could take a while.

I did this outlay first and then said, what about this as a footprint for an N scale layout? So I did a rough in sketch of the same twice around loop.

In this case, I'd separate the two scenes on the one wall. My thoughts were a yard on the front with perhaps a road or some building separating and maybe a TV terminal on the back. The two lines would be separated unlike the HO plan, totaling about 3 scale miles of track. There would be 2 switching areas on the long peninsula, 1 more then is probably doable in the HO plan, and the short peninsula would obviously have a larger industrial base then the HO. Same with the switching area at the bottom of the stairs. Basically, the layout could have what I call 3 mainline switching areas and 4 industrial complex type/branch switching areas. The more operating I do, the more I like the concentrated switch areas where you bring in a local and then do some jigsaw puzzle figuring out to move the cars on the train into spots and the cars in the spots to the outbound train.

So these are some of the thoughts I'm having right now as we approach the holidays and a few days off.


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