Friday, January 20, 2012

Making Tracks - (Or, better late than never)

Well, it's been two weeks since the events in this blog occurred, but the story is still worth telling......

It all started when I had one of those rare (for me) Wednesday work sessions, and true to form, it was full of moments.......

So, before the guys came over that night, I made sure I had rail, rail joiners, and any other supplies (like beer and scotch, naturally) ready for my pals. One of the major projects (and the main reason for having a bunch of extra hands available) was to move and reposition the Monmouth Street team yard (see below) into it's new position. No big deal, and I proceeded to have friend Jim Fawcett make sure it didn't come down on top of my head as I backed out the screws holding it to the layout.......And then, everything went to Hell in a hand basket......

How the heck is this supposed to line up, I ask you?

So it turns out you should never, NEVER assume that your tracks are gonna line up the way you expect (or want) them to, and you should move and measure things into position first, or as they say when cutting wood, measure twice, cut once! Well, of course this got discovered just as the rest of the "team" arrived. I scrambled around, looking for a suitable alternative in my "turnout stash", and even the CRAZY idea of installing a custom hand laid turnout was bandied about (friends Craig, Dave and Ted are all Fast Tracks users, and have built their layouts almost exclusively using their track laying products), but as Dave put it, "But if we do that, it won't say Peco on it", so in the end, I ran down the street to the hobby store to pick up what I hoped would be "the" turnout to get me out of this mess.....

OMG, $34 for one lousy turnout?!

I am VERY lucky that I live all of 5 minutes from the Model Railroad Shop, which is New Jersey's, if not the Country's, oldest continually operated model train shop. Not only are the prices good, but the owner Jack deRosset is a class act and always a pleasure to deal with. So, praying that this Peco turnout would do the trick once I got it home (thank God I was there only 2 nights before and had noticed it hanging on the pegboard), I ran in and out (though not as fast as I wanted to) and back to the boys, who were already getting other little projects done in my absence.

Who needs custom track work?

Well as you can plainly see, it worked, perfectly, I might add. On top of it, friend Jim Fawcett cut the out the most perfect piece of foam to fill the gap between sections here. This 3 track team track section that's causing all this work was added on to the layout very early on when friend Walt Appel had to dismantle his layout, and in the process, I saw it was perfect for what (and where) it is on the layout, so he "willed" it to me and it was sparred a trip to the dumpster. For the longest time, it was the only thing on the layout with track, and it's still the only thing with any kind of scenery! It's also built out of Homasote and heavy wood framing, whereas the other section in the foreground (the Grand Street LCL penninsula) is made with simple 1x2 framing and a foam base. Of course the odd angle, and that lolly column don't helps things, either.

The entire reason for all of this was that after the last Shakedown, we discovered that the radius here into the team yard was not only way too tight, but there were vertical curves as well between the sections. So to get a better alignment, I figured that I needed to bump out the section by at least an inch (it turnout out to only be 1 /2 of an inch), and now, once I secure everything back together this weekend, I should be in good shape. (*update - It has since been installed permanently, see below)

Yes, I tested it, and it operates VERY smoothly...Just need to add some more power feeders

Here's a 1951 Sanborn Map of the real thing.....3 tracks outta 8 aren't TOO bad!
The tracks from Grand Street freight station come in from the top, and the Edgewater Branch tracks are to the left.

Wow, this actually looks like a real model railroad! Needless to say, I've got inspired to finish up the other trackwork that needed doing...Stay tuned!

So all is all, a happy ending......Now, I just need to clean up the place for the February Shakedown.....It looks like a bomb went off! (a direct quote from my girlfriend when she went down to the basement when I came home one night). Until the next post, happy model railroading!


Friday, January 13, 2012

Colds, Blog Comments, And Whatnot For Friday the 13th

So, after all the excitement of last weekends "destruction construction", and big plans to get a jump start on things this week, I got laid up with a nasty cold that only just now (on Friday the 13th of all days) has finally let up and allowed me to feel like going back in to the basement again. Now the decision is, do I keep the two Code 100 double slips, or plunk down some coin on two new Code 75's? Oh, the decisions.........

In other news, I've been told that some people have had trouble leaving comments on the blog, so as of this morning, I went into the settings and tried to fix it......So if you're one of those people, feel free to try again, and hopefully now, anyone can leave a message....I know that SOMEBODY out there wants to comment, (good OR bad!). Next week the "dream team" will be over to make a lot of mess and help to get me ready for Shakedown #4 in February, so wish me luck that I get all the prep work done before next Wednesday!

So, until then, may your tugboats stay leak-free, and your carfloats remain un-capsized!

Saturday, January 7, 2012

The NJ Division made me do it........


Well, I went and did it......After returning from a New Jersey Division NMRA meet in South Joisey today (or as we in the North call it, "the Shore", even when it's all the way over by Philly) with friends Jim Fawcett and "Scary" Ted DiIorio (of fame), I came home around 4PM (after getting up at the un-Godly hour of 6AM on a Saturday morning!) and proceeded to go down to the basement and do what needed to be done. Yes, in response to my last post, I went and tore out those two double slip switches in advance of replacing them - With a total of four! The job wasn't nearly as bad (or hard, or destructive!) as I thought, and all that is left to do now is go and special order two more Peco Code 78 double slips (ugh!), since I think it'll make more sense to replace the two Code 100's with like Code 75's (not to mention one of them is kinda melted to begin with). I'll also need to fill and sand and repaint the slight divits in the foam sub-base that came up when I separated the adhesive-caulked turnouts from the foam. All it took was a little water (to help loosen the caulk - thanks to friend Jerry Dziedzic for that suggestion who is doing the same thing) and a patient hand on the other end of a Mason's trowel. And here's the results -

As it turns out, I didn't ruin any track, and there were no track feeders that needed to be cut (yet). I won't get the turnouts until later next week (takes about 2-3 days once I order them tomorrow), but then I can begin to "rebuild".....Man, those crew members of mine better appreciate this!

Anyway, moving on to some REAL modeling........

So like I said, we went to a real NMRA division meet in south Jersey today unlike the rather lame excuses for meets that we have up here in north Jersey! It was that, or go to an equally lame Greenberg train show only 25 minutes away, but I'm glad I made the trip. Besides the good company, I got to see how a very involved and thriving NMRA division puts on a meet, see some friends from the Philly area, and sit in at some great mini-clinics. One of these clinics was by a gentleman by the name of Arnold Kimmons on building easy, cheap, but great looking trees for your layout. After the meet, there were layout tours, and Arnold's was suggested to us as a "must see", and we were sure glad we did. Arnold is modeling a freelanced layout set in 1956 in South Carolina, and though he only has a small 14x2 section built so far, his scenery work was, in a word, incredibly realistic. His scenes really draw the viewer in, but I'll shut up now, and let the pictures do the rest of the talking......

In the third photo above, you can see some great trackwork, and you might think he handlaid it, and built his turnouts using the method du'jour, with Fast Tracks jigs, but Arnold had the last laugh, and showed us instead that his track and turnouts were built by a company that sells it all pre-made called Custom Trax - Though the cost would be out of line for a big layout, something akin to Ted's layout (or smaller), would be able to use this product without sending the purchaser into the poor house. The last photo shows some of his great "tree work", and I suggest checking back to the NJ Division's website in the very near future as they mentioned that they would be posting all the clinic info from the meet on their Yahoo Group.

Soooo, in the end, it seems I need to attened as many NMRA, RPM, LDSIG or OpSIG events as humanly possible to keep up the level of "layout excitement" I seem to experience every time I come home from one. Oh, did I mention I also came home with five new cars from the meet for the layout ready for the layout with Kadee's and metal wheelsets installed for only $48? Good times, good times....

Stay tuned for more developments in the next two weeks!

Sunday, January 1, 2012

New Trackwork for 2012

Seems I'm on a roll.......Now, if I can only do the actual work on the layout! But I digress.......

This post is about another trackword addition if you will, that came out of the Novemeber shakedown. Speaking of which, here's two photos from that session, courtesy of my friend Dave Oleson -

Looks like a good mix of confusion and goofing off!

What it's all about!

Now, back to the new trackwork. The LVRR had a small yard just inland to the main flaot yard at Washington Street, collectively referred to as West Yard (on maps), and as Grand Street (to the men who worked this area). This yard was connected to the Main Line off the wye at Johnston Ave (see map below) and parallel to the National Docks Branch. It also led to the Edgewater Branch, the Grand Street freight station (LCL), and also was the base of the LV's original TOFC yard and ramps. These three "features" were important operational "givens" of the layout design, so having this yard as part of the layout was key.

West Yard, aka Grand Street Yard. Wye to Main Line at bottom, Hudson River to the right, National Docks Branch parallel to the left, Grand St. LCL station at top, Edgewater Brach to to top right

Same yard, looking the same direction (North). That's the NJ Turnpike extension leading to the Holland Tunnel to the right (which conveniently serves to hide the hole in the backdrop on the layout). Also, notice the tracks full of early TOFC flats.

And here's the model, looking the other way (south). There was about 12 tracks wide, but the layout has only 8 tracks. That's the mock up of the NJ Turnpike viaduct to the left, disguising the hole between this yard and the main yard at the upper left.

So, now that we have an idea of what we're looking at, let's get to those track changes.........The problem with the above yard is that when switching the four tracks to the left, it requires you to pull back on a stub ended switching lead on the other side of the backdrop. Not a problem per se, but not exactly convenient all the time. So, in a break from the prototype (and this time, one I'm OK with making.....I think), I decided to make the rightmost track another thru track leading to/from the Edgewater Branch, as seem in the "before" and "after" photos below, looking "north", as in the map above.

The third TOFC track now becomes the new thru track in this track change (notice the two chalk lines where the tracks will be realigned to. the tracks leading off to the top are the leads to Grand St. LCL freight station, and the Monmouth St. team tracks. The track curving off to the top right is the Edgewater Branch.

The tracks leading off to Grand St. and the Monmouth St. team tracks are now on their own singular switching lead. I'll have to cut some of my track power leads in order to make sure the tracks flow smoothly, which as you can see, they do NOT do now!

Here's two more before and afters, looking the other direction ("south")



I think this'll give me a lot more flexibility with this yard, especially when switching the Edgewater Branch, which until now, had only one track leading to it from the yard. And better yet, unlike my last post about the main flaot yard, I had these turnouts, AND it's a simple "cut and replace" job, requiring no fancy or otherwise destructive trackwork work to change things. I hope this will make a difference for the next shakedown!