Sunday, January 22, 2012

Northeast Container Mockup

I'm trying to get the No-Name Industrial Park to the point where I could invite some friends over to operate and not have to explain too much, or excuse too much.  I'm not worried about the lack of scenery at this point, I'm more interested in things that affect operation.  One major remaining problem is couplers - the three versions of the Atlas O couplers and Kadees mean you need to use one of thee different uncoupling pick strategies depending on what is coupled to what.  Converting everything to Kadees has to happen soon.  I didn't feel like working on couplers this weekend, so I decided to mock up Northeast Container.  I think leaving the building up to the imagination is a bit much when there are two separate spotting locations, one inside and one outside.

I spent some time with a couple long rulers and a square to figure out exactly what the footprint of the building ought to be.  I tried to scale off some photos to pick a reasonable height for the buildings.  And I choose a relatively wide loading dock - 14 scale feet.  To make it easier to get the building to sit flat I had to trim back the edge of the roadbed left over from the torn up second track.  I didn't rip it all out - the loading dock can sit on what's left without a problem.

The finished mockup
I made the mockup from a leftover piece of 1/4 plywood.  There are some corner blocks at the joints, which are glued and nailed together with brads.  The warehouse and main building are screwed together in place, so they can be easily separated to carry around.  The loading dock is a piece of 1/4 ply supported by some 3/4 stock made into a U channel to provide a wide flat bottom so the front overhanging a dip in the ballast between the siding and the roadbed from the torn up track doesn't matter.  The building is large - about 11 feet overall.  The building the track goes into is 64" long, and 6.5" high at the front tapering up to 7.5" at the peak.  The building with the loading dock is 72" long and 5.5" high.  The loading dock itself is 30" long. 

A view over the top of the N scale layout

The warehouse has an enclosed dock for unloading cardboard out of the weather.  With it all in place I think I might have made the building a little too short - I may try propping it up on blocks to see what it's like a bit taller.  Part of the purpose of making a mockup, I guess.

The warehouse

The outside dock is where scrap cardboard bundles are loaded into boxcars for recycling.  I've been waiting to have somewhere useful to put that forklift!

The dock

The overview shows the storage track with 2 boxcars sitting on it to the left, the interchange track going around the curve at the end, and the Northeast Container building to the right.  Cars that don't fit in the warehouse get stashed on the storage track.  Most of the empties from the warehouse just go back to the interchange, but some make a stop at the dock to get loaded with scrap.

I'm reasonably happy with the mockup.  If I still feel that way in a week, I'll probably paint it and find something to use for a roof.  If not, well, I have more scrap plywood.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

No-Name gets Car Storage

A small industrial switching layout with no staging like my No-Name Industrial Park needs some car storage off layout, so that you can model the natural eb and flow of cars over the course of several session.  For example Cains releases 1 or 2 empty tank cars each session.  When there are only 3 left, another block of tank cars shows up on the interchange.  In the meantime those tanks have to sit somewhere.  Until now, they've been sitting on the N scale layout.  Clearly not an acceptable long term solution.

Some time ago Ben Brown showed me what he did for car storage on his Chemung Northern layout.  You can see Ben's layout in O Scale Trains issue #36.  Since that issue is sold out they've made it available for download in pdf form.  Anyway, Ben is an amazing modeller, and I thought his car storage idea was a good one, so I based my car storage on his design.

Car Storage
The design is simple.  A shelf, with groves cut for flange-ways, and a flare at the end of each grove to make it easier to get the wheels lined up right as you put a car in.  A saw cut across the the shelves near the front edge holds the car's waybill.  I wanted my storage to be at the end of the layout where the interchange track is.  I wanted it to fit under the layout, without impeding on the shelf, layout bracing, etc.  That dictated no wider than a couple feet.  And I wanted to be able to roll things under it for storage, which limited the depth to just over a foot.  Some experiments showed that a "track" spacing of 4" and a height of 5" was good enough to easily get cars in and out.  Putting all that together, I had space for 2 shelves with 6 cars on each.

The finished unit has two 24" wide by 19" deep shelves, with 5" clearance over each shelf.  I cut a slight taper in the top of the two sides, so that the unit tilts back slightly - the rear of each shelf is 1/4" lower than the front.  If a car rolls, I want it to roll in, not out.  I assembled the unit using pocket screws - 4 on each end of each shelf put in from the bottom, and 4 on the top edge of each side, put in from the outside.  The top hangs 3/4" over each side to provide a flange to screw up into the benchwork through.  I managed to get a screw near each corner up into the benchwork - considering the odd angle of the unit relative to the benchwork members it worked out surprisingly well.  Except for a piece of 1/8 paneling for the back, the whole thing is made out of 3/4 plywood left over from benchwork projects.  I may put a door that hinges at the bottom on it at some point, but for now I like it open.

The first photo shows the shallow saw cuts for the flangeways and the flare at the end pretty clearly.  The cut for the waybills is deeper - about 3/8" - to hold the bills better.  You can see that the 50 foot cars sit well back in the shelves.  The 60 foot boxcars come closer to the waybills, of course, but they still fit with a bit of room to spare.

Car storage under the interchange
The above photo shows the new car storage unit in place under the interchange track (the track with cars on it).  I think it's 12 car capacity will be enough.  Especially if I manage to avoid buying extra cars I don't need.

Friday, January 6, 2012

No-Name as of 1/6/12

A quick photo tour of the No-Name Industrial in it's current state (1/6/12).  First, for reference, here's the trackplan again.

No-Name Trackplan

We'll start at the right end of the plan at the Interchange and move along the layout to the diagonally opposite corner.  The first photo shows the interchange track with 4 cars on it.  To the left of the interchange track is a storage track used for Northeast Container, with nothing on it in the photo.  To the right of the interchange track is Northeast Container.  The cardboard box represents the dock where scrap is loaded into empty boxcars.  There should be a building just past the box to represent the warehouse, with the track the three boxcars in the corner are on disappearing into the building.  The roof in the foreground is mockup of the Midstate Recovery building.

Interchange and Northeast Container

The second photo shows Midstate Recovery.  The building is long enough to completely contain 2 bathtub gons repurposed to C&D debris service, with 1 car's worth of track on the far side of the building and space for 3 or 4 on the lead side of the building.  In the corner by the breaker box is the storage track used for Tighe, there's a single boxcar sitting on it in the photo.  Just past the storage track switch is the runaround switch.  The track heading off the left edge of the photo is the Northeast Container track.  Around the corner on the right edge of the photo you can see a bit of a tank car on the Cains siding.  All the track in the first two photos is code 125 on wood ties, the switches are Old Pullman kits and the rest is hand laid.


Looking at the same corner from the other leg of the layout.  The boxcar against the far wall is the same one on the storage track you can see in the second photo.  On the aisle side is the Cains siding with 5 vegetable oil tanks on it.  The next track in is the runaround, then the main track which continues off where the MP-15 at the front edge of the photo is sitting.  The track with the gray plastic pellet covered hoppers on it is the transload track.  And the track at the far right with part of a boxcar visible is the Tighe track.  All the track in the second two photos is Atlas flextrack and switches.

Cains and the runaround

The final photo is taken standing in front of Cains looking at Tighe.  The aisle side track with the MP-15 on it is the main track.  There will eventually be some scenic excuse for it terminating at the wall, I haven't quite made up my mind what that will be yet.  The middle track with the gray cars on it is the transload track.  There's plenty of space between it and the main track for a gravel area for pneumatic trucks to suck pellets out of the railcars.  The large building mockup against the wall at the left is Tighe.  It's a foam core base with a couple sticks of wood here and there to stiffen it a bit, and some printouts of a photoshoped view of a building I photographed.  Not nearly as well done as Lance Mindheims photo buildings, but it's better than raw white foam core.  The "awnings" over the doors are sticky notes with a fold below the sticky line and with door numbers written on them.

Tighe and the transload track
That pretty much shows the current state of the No-Name Industrial Park layout.  Good enough to enjoy operating on, but lots of room for improvement.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

No-Name Construction

This post collects some progress photos of the No-Name Industrial construction.  Of course it wasn't always the No-Name Industrial (see the evolution post), and there were several changes to not only the plan but already constructed stuff as well.  Photos of the current state of the railroad are in a following post.

Construction started in the corner now occupied by Northeast Container.

1. 4/7/99 First section of backdrop.

2. 12/31/01 First benchwork, shelf brackets

The removable section in the corner between Midstate Recovery Systems and Cains is based on a piece of 3/4 inch plywood which slides into wood channels on each side.  There are hard stops at the back, and toggle clamps underneath to hold it so the rails are precisely aligned.
4. 2/26/02 The removable section.

In this overview of freshly glued down ties, you can see the ties for the second siding next to what is now the Midstate Recovery siding - that second siding never got as far as rail.

5. 5/24/02 A lot of ties glued down.

I use insulation displacement connectors, which are very reliable if you use them only on the type and size of wire they're rated for. The heavy red and black wires are my #10 track bus. The smaller red and black are #18 track feeders. The orange and brown pair were going to be the #12 accessory bus, current plan is they will be a separate power bus heading from my command station (which is on a shelf under Cains) to the N scale layout.  At the time I choose the wire, it still wasn't clear that I wouldn't end up running older O scale equipment that drew a lot of current, which is why I choose the heavier wire.

6. 3/8/03 Wiring.

Building the second leg of the layout.  This view looks from Cains down toward the corner with Tighe and the transload track.

7. 9/16/04 More bench work.

I got impatient and reused a bit of old plywood with homasote glued to it for sub roadbed for the main track behind Cains.  That made it harder to tie into the preferred 3/4 ply sub roadbed.  The second problem is the sub roadbed was positioned for the Elmira Industrial plan, and the Corning Industrial plan needed it in a slightly different place, so I had to remove about 4 feet of it.  The plastic tube coming out of the plywood and curving into the wall is for feeding the cab bus through into the ceiling and on to the radio base station.

8. 9/16/04 Adjusting roadbed to the new plan.

When I did both the Elmira and Corning Industrial plans, I had access to a large format printer with the caveat that I bring my own paper.  So I could print the plan out on 3'x4' paper sheets full size.  Taping in place and running over the lines with a pounce wheel made it easy to transfer the plan to the plywood.  The track closest to the aisle is the Cain's siding, which will be cookie cuttered to allow lowering it an inch.

9. 10/17/04 Transferring plan to plywood.

Here's the Cains siding cookie cuttered out and lowered 7/8 inch. If you look really closely at the sub roadbed just where it separates from the main plywood, and again two risers closer to the foreground, you'll see I had to route the thickness of the plywood down to 1/2 inch for a foot or so to make the two vertical curves fall where I wanted them to. In the background you can see the sub roadbed for what was the Wegman's siding on the Corning Industrial plan (now the Tighe siding), elevated 1/2 inch with a strip of 1/2 inch plywood. I used a belt sander to get a nice long taper on the end, and the curve around the back corner is a series of short pieces with shallow angles on the ends which make the curve when put together.

10. 11/19/04 Cains siding cookie cuttered.

The homabed at the yard throat. Lots of cutting and fitting. The little dots are all the brads sticking up that I used to hold it in place while the glue dried - they'll be pulled out later.

11. 11/20/04 The homabed at the Corning Industrial yard throat.

Sanding the homabed can be tedious.  I got impatient this time and did it with the belt sander. Works quite well with relatively fine sand paper, a vacuum attached to control the dust, a bubble level stuck to the top (that round white thing), and some restraint. The odd thing in the upper left is a belt cleaning tool - it unclogs the sandpaper, and unclogged sandpaper makes everything go faster. You do need to be careful, and not press at all but just let the weight of the sander to the work while you worry about keeping it level and moving so you don't make dips and wobbles. It's way faster than the long piece of sandpaper on a 2x4 approach I used before.

12. 12/4/04 Sanding the homabed.

The original part of the layout is handlaid code 125 rail on wooden ties. The new part is Atlas code 148 flextrack. Needless to say, they're not the same overall height. It took some time and a lot of trial and error to get the homabed tapered down just enough to line up the rail head. The damage to the paint on the old rail is from the rail bender. It's not really noticeable from a normal viewing angle, but I'll touch it up one of these days. The speckly paint on the flex track is from a painting experiment that didn't go quite so well.

13. 12/4/04 Tricky alignment job.

I primed the homabed (and everything nearby) to seal it. I had white primer on hand, so that's what I used.  Gray would have been a better choice.  Pretty much every switch in this picture had to have a bit trimmed off at least one leg.

14. 12/13/04 Laying Atlas flex track and switches
That second siding I pointed out the ties for in photo 5 above meets it's demise.  The remaining siding was Cornell Brothers Agway on the Corning Industrial plan, and is now Northeast Container on the No-Name plan.  The jog visible in the distance was originally justified by the second track, I'm figuring out how to place buildings so as to make it visually "obvious" why the track jogs.

15. 2/13/05 Tearing out the ties for the second siding.
In the Elmira Industrial plan, the access hole in the corner was inside a building. In the Corning Industrial plan, it had the Cornell Brothers Agway track extending over it.  So I made a removable hatch to cover the hole.  The hatch registers against the near side of the hole, and in the back in the corner there's a cleat with a couple springs pushing against the hatch to keep it from wiggling around.  The screw eye near the front edge will be hidden by bushes. It's a handle to make it easy to lift the front edge, get a hand under it, and lift the whole thing out.  Since the end of the spur is going to be completely weed covered I didn't bother with homabed, ties, or ballast. That's just 1/2 inch homosote with rail spiked directly to it. The whole mess is sealed with gray paint. The track on the hatch is unpowered, since only a little over a car length of track is on the hatch there's no reason for a loco to ever get down there.

16. 8/5/05 Access hatch.

17. Screen wire for scenery at Cains.

The plans at one point called for a curved switch leading out onto a second peninsula covered with industry.  It seemed like a good idea to see if I could actually build a curved switch that worked before proceeding, so I did.  I drew up the centerlines in cad, printed out a full sized plan and glued it to a piece of 1/8" plywood.  I glued PC board ties to that, and after a lot of rail bending, filing, fitting, and soldering I had a turnout that worked pretty well.  And then I changed the plan to not need it.

18. 1/10/06 Curved switch done and works.

Not shown in this series of photos is the benchwork and track for the portion of the Corning Industrial's yard along the back wall - around the curve to the right in the photo below.  The only part remaining to be constructed was the second peninsula.  This is what the yard throat area looked like at the point at which doubts set in and eventually the plan changed.

19. 3/19/06 Corning Industrial yard

Even though I was very exciting about the new plan, it was a horrible feeling to rip up track and remove benchwork.  Especially given my glacial construction pace.  But it had to be done.  This photo shows the same corner as the above photo, with a lot of track removed and the benchwork around the corner removed.  The following photo shows the homabed being scrapped up.

20. 7/4/07 Demise of the Corning Industrial, converting to a shortline.
21. 7/6/07 Scrapping up lots of homabed.
Old stuff removed, ready to make progress on the shortline.  The horrible feeling went away at this point, replaced by enthusiasm for the new plan.  You can see the remnants of the curved yard homabed.  The heavy pencil lines are the new track alignment.

22. 7/6/07 Starting on new track.

The new switch for Cains is in in this photo.  I like the new Cains alignment much better than the old one.  Also note that the team track siding had the homabed tapered down to plywood level, to make it a bit lower than the main track.

23. 12/2/07 Main track in.

24. 4/5/11 Feeders ready to solder to new track.

Rather than show the current state of the No-Name at the tail end of this already too long post, I'll follow up with another post with current photos.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Update on NO-OX

The No-Name Industrial Park is back in business!  After the NO-OX distaster I spent a LOT of time cleaning track using various solvents and techniques.  I got small improvements in traction, but nowhere near what was needed.  Frustration lead to basically ignoring the layout for a few months.  And that turned out to be just what was needed!  A few days ago I decided to spend a vacation day cleaning track again to try to get the layout operational.  But first I did some test running.  It turns out that I can now shove 8 of the Atlas 60' Berwick hi-cubes around the curve and up the short grade into the Tighe track with only minimal slipping as long as I keep it moving - if I let the speed drop below a scale 4 mph (easy to check since I've speed calibrated my loco for 1 speed step per scale mph in 28 speed step mode) then slipping takes over and it gets stuck.  Apparently some of whatever was making the track slippery has either evaporated, or gotten stickier, or something.  That's good enough to resume operating the layout.  And I can hold out hope that time will continue to improve the situation.