Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Mid-week Report - October 27, 2010

I get to work from home usually once a week at my current job and this allows me to do some things layout  related during normal times of commuting or lunch finding. Sometimes that's cutting wood, defining the layout plan, or just measuring and visualizing what will go where and how things may flow. The one thing I've been struggling with a little was how I designed the benchwork for the peninsulas, and more specifically, what would hold them up. I had studied the free standing supports on layouts like the CSX Dixie Line and CSX Shenandoah Division. I had looked at other double deck layouts and saw table like structures with essentially stud walls down the middle and large L-girders taking up space under the second deck. I decided I would go somewhere in between. The first thing I needed to do was come up with a scheme for the legs and connecting wood. I decided I would use L-girders on the outside of the legs, with the flanges layout on top of the legs. Instead of using a traditional brace at the top of a pair of legs, I'm also using and L-girder to give more rigidity to the legs and provide a stronger base for the supports for the 2nd level and valence. I did a prototype of the legs to be created on my lunch hour today. Here's how it turned out:
First Leg Assembly
Even though the L-girder at the top is pretty rigid, the leg assembly itself was pretty unstable. Adding one cross brace took care of this problem, but I also figured if one was good, two would be better. Overall I'm pleased with the way it turned out, much more than the brackets I built. It took me about a half-hour to assemble and with 12 more to build, I think I could do it in an hour or so, now that I've built one. The other good thing is that I had previously made 3 L-girder assemblies and can now use them for the tops of the legs without need to build any more. I'm also hoping to pick up some pretty cheap cabinet grade plywood in the next day or two and if I can get them, progress is really going to be made on the benchwork!

Monday, October 25, 2010

Update - Second Level Plan and Plywood Cutting Software

Just wanted to post a quick update on the progress on the layout. I didn't get a chance to actually do anything visible on the layout this weekend, however, that doesn't mean I wasn't doing something. I updated the Layout Plan page with the 2nd Level plan. I've already gotten feedback to straighten out or put a slighter curve on the right side of the plan instead of the wicked S-curves in there. Also, you'll notice that the peninsula on that side of the plan is now a branch line server a few mines. Parts of this plan came directly out of viewing the Indianoplis Division ZTS charts for the West Virginia Secondary Track.I also studied this line to see what other industries were on there and found numerous chemical plants, which is the large complex at the top of the plan with a supporting yard for it and the mine runs just prior to it on the main line.

One reason I concentrated on getting the 2nd level design done was to ensure that as I started benchwork construction for it, I wasn't building something that I would then have serious issues with as I started to plan around. It's a good thing I did this as 2 of the 3 shelves I was assuming were going to be 12" actually end up being 15". Also, I decided to do the ripping of plywood method of creating 1x3s and 1x2s for the benchwork pieces. I found the following program, Cut List, that is going to help me optimize my cuts for  ripping the plywood. It's pretty easy to use and simple output. Best of all, it's free. I've already been able to segment my benchwork needs to see how much I can fit on on-hand/readily available to buy plywood versus how much, in total, I need for the layout. I would recommend this program to anyone who is looking for a quick way to optimize their plywood cutting, without guessing on whether you will be able to get all your cuts or not.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Layout Progress - October 17, 2010

I had a very busy Sunday as I took the table saw and miter saw and went outside to rip some wood for two bracket prototypes, a 1x2 and some 1x3s.

The genesis for the brackets was from the following article I found on building brackets for shelves. Each bracket is made by ripping a 2x4 into 3 pieces. I have a few scraps of wood left over and decided to try to build 2 different brackets, one for the stud walls on the outside of the room, and one that could anchor shelves on either side of the wall in the middle of the room. Here's a picture of the one against the outside wall.
I think this one turned out pretty well. Cutting the angle on the side arms was a little hard because I don't have a long miter push for the table saw and I didn't make a jib like the gentleman in the article did. The good thing the rest of my shelves around the layout are all 12" in depth so I can use the resulting measurements from this one for all the others. One thing I will have to do on the next one is pre-drill all the holes for the screws. I didn't split the wood on this one, but I can see it happening. The next one up was the double sided bracket. Here's a picture of the one I built.
I didn't like the way this turned out. Doing both ends was pretty difficult. I had thought of doing this for the peninsula as well, however, I'm not sure anymore. What makes it a little more difficult here is the fact it's mounted to 2x6s. Since it is mounted to a 2x6, I'm thinking I can make 2 of the brackets I showed in the first picture back to back, possibly with one side at a depth like it's mounting to a normal 2x4 and the other side slightly less. This way, i could use a screw to go throw the stud to the other side of the bracket. I may have to play around with it.

I also ripped some 1x3s which I then attached to the front of the 2x2s I placed on the shelf brackets last weekend. I still have a few left for the other side, but here's a photo of what I've attached.
I also have to add a strip to the front of the 2x2s at the right of the photo for where the locomotive shop juts out some from the rest of the yard area. Once I get all of these in place, then I'll drill holes for wire channels, just have to figure out the appropriate drill bit for that one.

The goals for this week are to purchase and cut the wood needed for the center peninsula. I'm planning to build it by borrowing some ideas on building shelving units out of 2x4s. It should have two shelves, each 18.5' wide, with leg supports on the outside. I plan to have these leg supports every 3 feet with the L-girders I built previously mounted on top as well as a 1x2 running down the middle for the support for the peninsula upper deck bracing. I think once all the primary benchwork is in, I'll start to have a better feel for the space in general.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Layout Plan - 1st Level

As I mentioned in my last post, I've been slowly creating a plan for the first level of the layout. Once I was able to settle on a footprint, finishing the plan from its previous state was pretty straight forward. Here's the plan, clicking it will load in a new window:

My approach to the layout and its design is that I have about 7 areas on the layout where I could place major switching areas. On the lower level, I have used 4 of these areas:
  • Classification Yard
  • Auto Plant/Intermodal yard
  • Power Plant
  • "Lebanon" siding/industries
In addition to the above areas, I've also put in 3 other small industries directly off the main line. Lets look at each area individually.

Classification yard

The classification yard sits in front of the main-line and siding (almost consider it a double main operationally). The yard has 2 A/D tracks with leads on either side so engines can uncouple from their trains and not foul the main. There are 6 classification tracks, one of which would be utilized for a runaround. Additionally, there is a 3 track engine house and a 2 track fueling area next to the engine house. The yard lead is long enough to pull an entire train off the A/D track, however, I don't know that that will ever truly happen operationally. The yard is based off of some of John Armstrong's designs from a Model Railroader Information Station article package on freight yard design as well as based on the yard on Bruce Faulkner's Shenandoah Division and Dave Vollmer's Enola Yard. Just outside the classification yard, along the "top" of the plan is the passenger station. There's a dedicated track and a platform will sit between the passenger track (light green track) and the main line.

Auto Plant/Intermodal Yard
The Auto Plant is to represent an Assembly Plant. It has 4 tracks for deliveries of auto parts in 86' and 60' box cards. It also has 4 tracks for auto carriers, holding 3-4 each. I haven't decided yet on the company, but will need to do that for specific 86' box cars that I will need to purchase. The intermodal yard has 2 tracks, each long enough to hold 5 89' flat cars and the equivalent lengths of spine or well cars. This also marks the end of the double track mainline. The design for this area was based on a few auto plants I found, but was most influenced by Seth Neumann's NUMMI auto plant. I had enough room that I didn't need to do a crossing on the two switches.

Power Plant
The power plant resides on the far left peninsula. As you can see, the plant itself will be a flat with some depth against the backdrop and the coal pile will be between the plant's 3-car yard and the mainline as it enters the turnback. There's also a receiving yard for the unit trains to drop off their loaded cars. I actually operated this portion on XtrkCad while I was designing it. A 20-22 car unit train can be switched using two of the 3 tracks on the receiving yard, but necessitated the extra lead to the left of the plant's yard. Once the cars are dropped, the same crew can assemble the empty return train using the track in the receiving yard closest to the main line. Using a scale speed of 10mph, I was able to do this switching in about 15 minutes, pretty good operation time. I envision having a switcher of some kind, probably a 44 tonner from Bachmann. The plant layout was based on a power plant near Reading, Pa., and the track setup was actually based on a design in Bernie Kempinski's
Mid-Size Track Plans for Realistic Layouts. The plan was for the Shirley Industrial Park's Vulcan materials plant.

"Lebanon Area"
The "Lebanon" area is on the peninsula on the right side of the plan. This area has a passing siding, passenger station and industries at both ends. The industries at the end of the area as you go towards the yard are an Animal Feed facility, based off the Cargill one in Lebanon, and a scrap yard. This arrangement is pretty close to the actual one in Lebanon, as it existed on Conrail in 1996. On the other end, closest to the helix, is a chemical/fertilizer plant, based on Lebanon Chemical.

Elsewhere on the 1st level are a grain elevator and some kind of manufacturing/transfer building on the left peninsula and cement plant just prior to entering the helix for transition to the second level. The cement plant area is actually based on the Pacma plant track arrangment in Palmyra, Pa. Overall, I'm really liking this level's plan. It has a lot of operational potentional, a section of double track mainline and one other passing siding which should make dispatching and train movements more interesting. I did make the helix to the second level double track, so that will be the other passing siding on this level.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Layout Progress - October 15, 2010

It's been a while since I last posted but I've been making steady progress on a layout "footprint" and pieces of a design for that footprint. I've also done some moving around of the shelf standards as I've decided to put staging below the layout, so the brackets and standards will support staging and the 1st Level. I moved the standards down last week and this week I took scrap 2x4s and some 2x6s left over from the wall creations and made 2x2s to attach to the brackets, similar to what Shaun did on a previous layout. I then attached them to the brackets using a 1 5/8" drywall screw on the front hole and a 2 1/2" drywall screw on the back hole. It took me about 15 minutes to cut up the wood and another 15 to screw these on. I'm going to attach a 3/4" strip of 1x3, probably, to the front of these to give them more support and prevent the brackets from swinging a little. I also have to drill a hole through each to run the bus wires. Then I'll attach the front strip and the next step will be to put down the plywood sub-roadbed. Since this whole area is pretty much industrial/former industrial, a sheet of 1/2" or 3/4" plywood will do the trick. Here are some pictures of the work done so far.
Yard area:

City/Passenger Station Area:

Auto Facility/Intermodal Yard ara:

Close-up of the bracket attached.

The brackets are situated so that when 3/4" plywood is attached, the height from the floor will be 40". In addition to this work, I've cut some wood for the first center peninsula. Depending on how it turns out, I may use the same technique for the second one. Here's a quick view of the footprint I'm going to work with now:

As you can see, I've got about 2/3 of the design for the 1st level done. I'm currently flushing out the left-side to include a power plant in the "blob". Since this will be a two-level design, I also went looking for options on how to build the second and 3rd level bracing. My goal is to keep the second level (and peninsula) widths at 12". I'm probably going to build a few test brackets following this design and see how I like them. Again, they use 2x4s for the design and I have plenty of 2x4 and 2x6 scrap still left over that I can use to experiment with. I am slowly running out of wood so I know another trip to Home Depot or Lowes is in store for me, maybe even this weekend. I'm trying to do about 15-30 minutes of work per night to hopefully keep making progress.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Princeton Junction Convention - Day 1

So I got home a little while ago after spending the first day of the MER convention, aptly named Princeton Junction. I was able to visit two layouts prior to check-in at the hotel, met a few people I've heard on the Model Railcast and talked with on forums and then got a chance to operate on John Rahenkamp's Clairmont, Lewiston & Western. Tomorrow is going to be a mix of clinics and layout tours. Also, since I took the day off and before I headed up, I did some design work on the new layout plan. Here's the yard, which I decided to do first then fill in around it. I'm hoping as I view more layouts and meet more people this weekend, I can begin to put the pieces together on the plan and finally start major building. I know I've already learned a few things in the 3 layouts I've visited, so I'm anxious to see more, learn more, and, hopefully, apply it all.


Welcome to the my Conrail Model Railroad site. I will document the research, design, construction and operations of my N-scale model railroad based on Conrail's Ft. Wayne Line in Ohio.

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