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April 2003 - Page 40


Southpoint is just beyond the operators pit. It features a pickle plant and open-air machine shop. This section of the layout is quite low, only about 30 above the floor. Access to the operators pit is done via a step over rather than a duck under. ished critiques come from those special model railroaders who start every other sentence with, When I build my layout... There is no perfect layout, even for your own personal standards. Everything in modeling is a compromise in some way. That is why I emphasize writing objectives and expectations before buying supplies. It eases the impact of reality as it creeps in along the way. The first step for an operator like me is to have a layout that runs well. Good running requires sturdy benchwork. Open grid and L-girder construction with 1x4s and 2x4s is versatile and time proven. Build your benchwork so you can stand on it you will. Plan to modify your plan. I found that sooner or later virtually every subroadbed riser will be tweaked use screws, not glue. Use clamps so you can float lengths of grade to get smooth slopes before screwing risers to grid, or after if you prefer. Steep slopes are a frequent compromise on a layout; dont make them worse with local variations. This is especially true for steam. A very emotional and controversial topic is rail size. I used code 100 everywhere and rely on weathering, ballasting, tie spacing and grass to create the proper code. Look at pictures of vintage rails and factor in how you are going to finish the track. Measuring track height and laying the exact scaled rail is not going to make a happy layout if code 70 ends up looking like code 50 when ballasting and cosmetics are completed. Im a rails-in-thedirt fan. I like a lot of fine ballast and dirt around my rails. If I started with short rail I would end up with wheels in the dirt. My experience is to use taller rails for good train running and create the code with the finishing materials. For ballasting I use what I call the big toe approach. Remember when you were a kid walking along the tracks. A piece of ballast was about the size of your big toe. Look at one of your scale figures and envision the big toe. Thats the largest your ballast should be. Off mainline material is smaller. Im a big fan of using natural material for ballasting. Its fun to search for colors. Its easy to make a couple of screen cuts, and you get a dust cut that you will need to color your rock structures. It doesnt matter much what you use for roadbed. Cork is easily sanded for smoothness and is cheap. All that quiet stuff gets covered with ballast that is a harsh sound reflector. Save your money for trains.

How Do Those Electrons Work?
Im not really going to go there. Bigger wires conduct better than little wires and copper wires generally conduct better than nickel silver rail. Assuming we are all using DCC or are going to, a friendly layout is easy to create. I used 12 awg bus wires run off of a terminal strip with 20-24 awg short feeder wires to the rails. More is better. Be sure to buy good wire and stick to a color code. I number each bus wire with a tape flag so I can troubleshoot effectively. I have four major blocks. Each has a PC board that catches a short before the DCC Command Station sees it. Two of the boards also provide auto reversing. I use Tonys Train Exchange Power Shields. Other brands are available. In my opinion this approach is a must. A short in one block does not stop the electrons in the other three blocks. It seems there is always someone with a newly acquired brass steamer that shorts on every curve. Dont be angry; isolate them so they dont bother your inherent right to electrons for your train that never shorts. There are several good, reliable switch machines. Some are too fast, some too slow, and some too noisy. Follow instructions and use the right size wire for the current flow. I use twin-coil machines and power them with a dedicated 24V transformer through a commercial capacitor board. I bought cheap pushbutton switches. Spend more money for the good ones.

Many important activities occur inside/under the layout. It is critically important that the extensive train activity be monitored. On the left is the 13 TV that displays an image generated by an infrared camera with six IR emitters on the camera PC board. The camera is mounted at the north end of the mole hole inside the mountain, inside the helix. The camera looks south as seen in the middle picture. The camera/modulator are available from All Electronics. Communication is done with three multi-channel pocketsize radios from Wal-Mart.


APRIL 2003

Added December 15, 2010 - Share