Saturday, November 19, 2011

Palmer Industrial Fascia

I mentioned at the end of my Foam on the Palmer Industrial Park post that I was planning on following the recommendation in Lance Mindheim's book "How To Build A Switching Layout" to use 1/4" MDF for fascia.  The bending experiment I showed at the end of that post was a success.  Here's a photo of that piece of MDF after I unclamped it and left it sitting on the bench for a couple weeks:

The bend holds even when unclamped
 You can see that the bend has relaxed a little bit, but not much.  Success!  I bought a sheet of 1/4" MDF to do the rest of the fascia.  I promptly broke two strips trying to put both bends in a single piece for the end of the peninsula.  Sanity prevailed while I still had enough left of the sheet.  I went back to my original method of doing just one bend at a time.  I used a trash can lid, sitting on a piece of 2" foam with a hole cut in it for the handle, so the lid would sit flat.  I filled the lid with water, and soaked an old towel in it.  Then I wrapped the towel around the section of an MDF strip that needed to be bent.  I propped the ends of the MDF up a bit to give it just a little bend, and left the towel wrapped area sitting on the trash can lid with the water deep enough to keep the towel soaking.

Heavily soaking at the beginning of a bend
The water needed to be refilled as it soaked in.  And pouring it over the top of the towel made sure the whole towel wrapped area stayed soaking.  Over the course of several hours, I propped up the ends higher and higher, wedging them in a little too to keep increasing the bend.  It's very important not to rush this process, or the MDF will break.  As the bend progressed the towel wrapped section sat further down in the water in the trash can lid, which made keeping it soaking easier.

The bend is progressing nicely
Once the MDF will bend to the desired radius without much force, it's time to go clamp it on the layout.  I did each bend in a separate piece.  Some planning as to where the joints in the MDF will be is necessary, so you can get the bend in about the right place with enough extra at each end so you can trim to fit.  It does take a little time to do, but it's kind of fun and I think the end result is worth it.

I fastened the MDF to the layout with yellow glue and brads.  At the joints between pieces of MDF I just made sure both ends were cut square, butted them up, and glued them like crazy.  After all the glue dried I went back and filled in the imperfections at the joints with wood filler, and sanded it flush.  It didn't take much.  The dark color of the fascia hides any remaining imperfections.  The joints between the MDF sections have a 1x4 behind them below the plywood surface, which helps keep them firmly aligned.  The top 2 1/4" is unattached though - all that's behind it is the 2" foam.  The rigidity of the MDF combined with it's solidly glued base seems to make the top end of the joints between strips plenty strong enough, even though they are just butted together and glued.

Fascia in place and painted
Above is a picture of the end of the Palmer Industrial Park peninsula with the fascia installed and painted gloss hunter green.  I painted the layout supports satin black too, which was a big improvement.  I used valspar latex enamel paint - the color, finish, and brand were selected by what was available at the local Lowes pre-mixed in a quart can.  The colors turned out pretty nicely.  The green is a pretty dark color, and it doesn't seem to be possible to get a picture of it that really shows it's color properly - it looks darker than the above picture in person.  I used forest green on the O scale layout (in the background), and in person that doesn't look as nice as the hunter green.

The paper track plan, cut back to not overhang the edges, did a good job of keeping the green fascia paint off the layout surface.  After the fascia paint was dry I pulled off the paper track plan for good.  The most recent thing I've done is finish going over the rows of indentations in the foam left by the pounce wheel track plan tracing so the track center lines are easily visible.  We lost power for four days in an early but nasty storm here.  It eventually occured to me that since the best way to go over the rows of indentations is to shine a flashlight along the layout surface, it was a task perfectly suited to a cold and dull evening with no power.

Fascia done, backdrop done, trackplan traced - time for track?
The current state of the layout is shown in the photo above.  It's now time to quit waffling on some final track decisions.  When I started this project I planned to hand lay code 40 turnouts and use ME code 40 flex track.  I eventually convinced myself that if I ever wanted to actually get the layout running I should use Atlas code 55.  I've purchased all the Atlas code 55 track and switches I need, but I must admit there has been a little nagging voice in the back of my head saying "it's still not too late to do code 40".  I also need to finalize a decision on how to control the turnouts (ground throw, just plain friction, tortoise, something more exotic), and practice soldering point jumpers to those tiny little points a bit more on my two sacrificial practice turnouts.

Up to now, all of those seemed like decisions I could string along until the time came.  The time has now come.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Aeronautical Distractions

Model railroading has been my main hobby for as long as I can remember, if not longer.  But I do have other hobbies, and occasionally one of them occupies enough time to be a serious distraction from railroading.  Recently that's been the case with radio controlled airplanes.  Specifically, small (about 15 inch wingspan) battery powered electric RC planes.

The aeronautical distractions, bottom to top in order of preference
Of the six micro rc airplanes I've had, five are still flyable and are shown in the above photo.  Micro in this case means they all have a wingspan in the range of about 15 inches.  First was the Parkzone Vapor (center in photo).  With 3 channel control (throttle, rudder and elevator), it makes a good beginner plane.  Very rugged too.  Second was a Parkzone Cessna, a little faster but still 3 channel.  It's not in the above photo, because it had a terminal encounter with a tree.  Third was the Parkzone Sukhoi (top plane in photo), the first micro rc plane with ailerons on the market.  It's "twitchy", and was too much for my abilities at the time.  Ailerons allow for more variety in crashing - cartwheeling turned out to be a specialty.  I got overwhelmed, shelved it and stopped flying for a while.  The fourth plane I got is the Parkzone P-51 (second from top in photo).  Also a 4 channel plane (throttle, rudder, elevator, and ailerons).  It's not twitchy like the Sukhoi.  I learned a lot with it until a tree jumped in front of it and bent the prop shaft.  While waiting for a replacement I bought the T-28.

The bottom two planes in the above photo are my favorites.  The Parkzone micro T-28 (second from bottom), and an E-flite micro Beast (bottom).  The T-28 is a very fun plane to fly.  It's very well behaved, yet still pretty maneuverable - loops, rolls, and other stunts are pretty easy.  Relaxing and fun.  It also has the distinction of being the only micro RC plane I haven't crashed (if you don't count a few bad landings).  The Beast is, well, a beast.  It's the only plane in the bunch to have a brushless motor and a 2 cell (7.4 volt) lipo battery - the others are all single cell.  It's got very large control surfaces.  It goes fast, can turn on a dime, and can roll fast enough so you loose orientation (i.e. you think it's rightside up when it's upside down).  It does exactly what you tell it to do, and has no self correcting tendencies (if you let go of the controls it won't level out).  It can get into a lot of trouble very fast.  If you look closely you'll see the that left top wing has been broken off right at the inside corner of the aileron.  The bottom wing has been broken twice.  The guy wires have been popped off a couple times.  The nose has been mushed in once.  Medium thickness foam safe CA with a kicker can work wonders.  But the wing does have a slight twist to it now that messes up some maneuvers.  It's still in good enough shape to teach me a few more things though.  It is most definitely NOT relaxing to fly (at least at my current skill level), but it is a lot of fun.

To tie this back into model railroading, you'll notice the planes are sitting on the benchwork of the N scale Palmer Industrial Park - in fact they're sitting on Trans Plastics.  That photo was taken after I finished installing and painting the fascia (the subject of the next post I'll write), but before I finished tracing the pounce wheel dents in the foam with black magic marker to make the track plan more visible.

Now that the weather is colder and the wind seems to insist on being too gusty to fly these little planes when it's still light enough to see them, perhaps I'll get back to some more model railroading.