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Layout Construction Journal

Volume Four - February 2005 through July 2005

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July 27 2005

Busy night this week.  Several regulars and we had some new blood come down – Chris Lee, Matt Klemchalk and Ray Louis, model railroaders who work nearby and asked to come down and see what we were up to.  I gave them a very quick tour (and was slightly embarrassed at how much of a mess the place is right now) and gave them a choice of several projects to work on.  Matt built a foamcore mockup of a meat distributor building I designed, and Chris and Ray agreed to help work on the wiring for the Winnepauk peninsula.  They all did a great job, and I hope they will come back again soon.  Good bunch of guys.  Next week we’ll be ready to start installing the sub-bus lines under Winnepauk and South Norwalk, as well as starting the wiring under Wilson Point.

Matt Klemchalk works on a foamcore mockup of the Armour meats building Chris Lee and Ray Louis work on soldering drops to the track feeders Neil is installing a forest of feeder wires on the South Norwalk siding The mockup of the Armour Meats distributor in South Norwalk's industrial district

Neil worked on completing the switching lead for Dock Yard, and installing feeders for the track and turnouts.  David finished up the trackwork on the last module, and at the end of the evening we broke out the biscuit joiner and assembled all the parts of Dock Yard, and placed it on the benchwork.  Now I can finish filling a few holes and putting down ties between the separate parts, and next week Dave can start finishing up all the trackage there.  I also aim to start getting the switch machines placed and holes drilled in the fascia for the throws.

Craig Bisgeier marke the riser locations under Dock Yard before the parts are assembled Dave Ramos attaching cleats to the underside of Dock Yard while the glue and biscuits dry Dave Ramos Attaches cleats underneath Dock Yard Dave Ramos relaxes after Dock Yard is set in place

And in addition to assisting David and the other guys, I managed to get a few more throwbars installed, completed the turnout controls I started last week, Soldered a few feeders and did a few other odd jobs around the place.  There’s still lots to do before the beginning of October, but we’re making really good progress.

July 20, 2005

Lots of work done tonight!  As promised, Dave Ramos finished the 4-track yard body module of Dock Yard at home, and brought it down with him.  I’m very happy with the way it came out.  Ed Majury immediately jumped on it, installing the last few feeders needed and eventually tying them together and installing heavier drops to connect them to their sub-bus.  Next week we’ll install the switch machines and get this module into place.

Feeders and Drops installed under the 4-track Dock Yard module The switch lead and throat of Dock Yard is begun

Having the large 4-track module back allowed Neil Henning and I to put all the pieces of Dock Yard together and finally plot out the centerlines of the throat tracks.  I wasn’t able to set everything as originally designed because of some variations from plan to model, but shifting the position of a turnout here and there allowed us to keep the operational flow of the design working.  It also revealed that a key crossover had been set too close together, but minor surgery on the approaches re-arranged the relationship (we had wiggle room at the throat end) and the parts will now fit fine.  I started filling in some new ties where I could to get a jump on the next couple of weeks.

Jay Held was pleased to see the first float bridge permanently installed along with the working switch machine linkage, and got to work spiking the tracks on the second bridge.  It’s taking time because he has to drill each spike hole into the acrylic plastic the bridges are built out of and super-glue the spikes into the holes.  Exacting work with the fine-scale spikes he’s using.  Jay tells me the transfer shed is almost done, but he doesn’t want to bring it down until we have stopped using the pier as a workbench.

The first float bridge at Wilson Point is complete and connected up to the yard tracks A very difficult switch machine installation

Neil jumped on the first float bridge when he arrived, finishing the connections between its rails and those already on the pier.  A few feeder wires and that bridge is now ready to go.  When he was done with that, he started laying a #6 switch on the last module of Dock Yard to be finished, while Dave finished laying down the rest of the rail on that piece standing next to him.  At this rate, I expect to have Dock yard finished and hooked up by the middle of August.  Very exciting!

As for me, after working on the throat for Dock Yard I went back to installing switch machines.  I only got one in – it was the hardest yet; an offset machine with a grid brace in the way, actuated from both sides of Wilson Point, and I hit a screw when trying to drill a hole for the knob on one side.  Took well over an hour to get it installed and I had to bend two separate pushrods to finally get it set correctly.  Soon it will be time to start wiring up Wilson Point – I’m not really looking forward to that.  Maybe I can borrow my friend Henry’s wiring creeper…

July 17, 2005

Sunday’s session didn’t get much turnout, but the three of us who showed up got a lot done.  I did some sweeping before anyone arrived, then Neil came over and we did a few odd jobs.  I started to work on installing switch machines at Wilson Point, and Neil finished gapping the turnouts there and got the switch machine access hole drilled for the second float bridge.  He went on to build a few custom turnouts around the industrial area of South Norwalk and finish up a lot of that trackwork. We've started to install some of those turnouts Neil made while I was away, boy it sure speeds things up.  

Neil works on turnouts in the South Norwalk Industrial area. South Norwalk industrial tracks, waiting now for structures and scenery One of the Fast Tracks turnouts Neil built recently.

Ted arrived after noon, and agreed to help out by putting together switch machines.  This has been a huge problem since we started laying track, because I’ve been the only one who knows how they go together.  Usually it also means I need to build a machine every time I want to install one, which really slows things down.  Ted sat down and kept at it, and by the end of the day he’d turned out nearly a dozen machines.  That’s really going to help me finish up Wilson Point quickly, and move onto the mainline.  Of course, we’ll need to put in a lot of machines at South Norwalk / Dock Yard soon also… I guess I’m going to keep Ted busy for a while.

Ted works on assembling switch machines.

David didn't make it but I talked to him, and he's nearly done with laying rail on the large section of Dock Yard he brought home with him before I left for the NMRA national convention.  With the work Neil and I got done on the yard throat in the last few weeks, I think we'll be able to get Dock Yard assembled and wired and installed before the end of the month.  We might be able to run a train by the middle of august at this rate!  

As for me, I only got 4 switch machines installed on the day, but three of the four were difficult installs in obstructed areas and needed special linkages to reach between the benchwork beams and the plywood sub-roadbed.  Two of them had to be actuated from both sides of the Wilson Point peninsula, which made it that much more complicated.  Fortunately I’m nearly done with the obstructed turnouts and installations should go much faster now.  We also permanently installed the first float bridge at Wilson Point, and Neil will start connecting it up next week,

July 13, 2005

First session after the NMRA National.  We had a nice turnout, but I didn’t have things well planned due to short notice and family time so not a lot got done.  Much time was consumed talking about the adventures we had and layouts we saw in Cincinnati. 

While I was away, Neil borrowed the Fast Tracks jig and took home all the bright rail I had (which wasn't much as we have run into a shortage again).  I wasn't expecting much, but by Thursday I got an e-mail from him saying "SEND RAIL!"  Apparently he used up all the rail I gave him and built five turnouts.  He would have built more if he had not run out.  He brought down the turnouts tonight, they looked great.    Three were immediately installed on the layout.  

David came down and did some more work laying track on the Dock Yard modules.  Unfortunately he wasn’t able to find rail joiners while I was away, so he wasn’t able to accomplish much on the section he took home.  But it will get done soon I’m sure.  Tom, Ted and Jay came by too.  Jay finished the first float bridge, all I have to do now is clean the solder off the tops of the rails from the gauge bars and that bridge can be permanently installed.  Tom did some more work on the electrical components, and Ted – Well, I’m not sure what Ted did.  I never gave him an assignment and he had to leave early anyway.  But it was good to see him. 

John Montenegro came by too, and got some more tie strips made for us.  I really wanted to thank John for getting photos of his layout to me before the convention, they were a big help to my presentation of the Ten Commandments of Yard Design clinic.

July 10, 2005 (NMRA Convention Update)

 I returned from the NMRA National Convention in Cincinnati, OH yesterday.  While I was there I had the opportunity to visit many layouts, and found lots of great ideas out there.  One of the most interesting and innovative was Allen McClelland’s V&O layout.  His second time around with the V&O, McClelland has infused many great new ideas and techniques into the new layout, including wider aisles, hardshell (gypsolite) coatings which were as strong as cement, and a narrow valance with screw-base fluorescent lights to fill dark areas.  I was very impressed with the new V&O. 

Another great model RR I visited and operated on was by Gerry Albers, a Virginian 1950’s layout.  Gerry hosted the LDSIG picnic this year, and his layout is going to be one of the better and interesting layouts in a few years.  His design was really good, but I was really taken with his wiring and control panels and its obvious he is light-years past the rest of us in panel design.  I hope at some point he will share his thoughts on this with us so we can all benefit from the work he’s done.  By the way, Gerry is also responsible for the wiring on the V&O. 

There were other nice layouts I also enjoyed visiting and gleaned ideas from, and I hope to include some of them on the Housatonic as we go forward in the next few months.

June 29, 2005 

Neil came over Tuesday, because he won’t be able to make it Wednesday.  We wanted to look at building the last two turnouts off the siding in South Norwalk (one of which leads into Dock Yard) but quickly determined that we needed to add a new piece of plywood roadbed to support it.  We placed the precut sections of Dock Yard up on the benchwork, but quickly figured out we were going to have a hard time getting the size and shape of the new roadbed panel right without the Dock Yard parts set to the proper height.  So we spent the evening installing risers for the precut Dock Yard sections.  Three steps back for one step forward, but its progress.

Wednesday saw another great turnout and a lot of work that got done.  Neil was over again (he was running late and missed his appointment – their loss, my gain – and he and I worked on finishing up the risers and plywood benchwork for the Dock Yard throat.  That’s ready to get ties and rail now.  Ed Majury was down again, and continued his work building turnouts on the Dock Yard sections.  He managed to finish a long turnout (maybe a #7?) before the night was done. 

Ed Majury builds a turnout for Dock Yard Tom Solders Drop wires around South Norwalk Ted DiIorio installing wire management, he's having a good time -- but I have nightmares about him under my bed...

Tom was down, and continued working on the power drops around the Winnepauk peninsula.  Ted worked on installing cable holders to support the power bus under the peninsula, and Dave followed them, running a new sub-bus wire and connecting up the drops to the bus with the Scotch-Lok suitcase connectors.  It’s exciting to be getting all this electrical work done, it means we’re getting closer to that day when we can actually run a train.

Jay puts fine spikes into the Wilson Point float bridges Mike helps file down the plastic inserted in the rail gaps

Jay continued to work on the float bridges.  They are nearly finished now and just about ready to install, once I get the switch machines for them installed. He was finishing up many of the final details, including actually spiking the rails down to the decking on the bridge.  I asked him to use some special new spikes I got from Andy Reichert’s Proto:87 Stores.  They are photo-etched from stainless steel and are extremely fine.  Jay showed me his work on the first bridge at the end of the night, and I was astounded.  The spike heads were so fine you could barely see them at all.  But they are tough little buggers for their size and we expect they will hold just fine. 

If you are looking for some really fine results on your trackwork you should really check out these products and others at the Proto:87 Stores.  They are more expensive than Micro-Engineering spikes, but a lot finer in scale too.  You get what you pay for!  I can’t justify using them everywhere on a large layout like this, but they are nice for special scenes or modules, or even a smaller layout where fine trackwork is important.  They even make individual tie plates that go with the spikes.  Gnarly!

We had a new guy down too, Mike Sicurella, another local guy whom I work with.  He’s been following along on the web site for months, and he finally took me up on the invitation I extended to him.  Mike worked on trimming and filing the plastic inserts we are placing in the frog gaps at the turnouts of Wilson Point.  He spent a couple of hours getting these trimmed flush and filed smooth.  I think he had fun, and I hope he will come down again.

There won’t be any updates for the next two weeks, as I’ll be away in Cincinnati for the NMRA National Convention.  I’ll be around all week, and presenting a clinic on the Ten Commandments of Yard Design.  Please look me up if you are around and say hi.

June 25, 2005

Dave Ramos was over for a litle while today, and we got some of the drops Ted put in on Wednesday hooked up to the power sub-bus.  We used the 3M suitcase conncectors for the first time, and while we had a bit of a difficult time, they did work well and only a couple didn't work out.  Electrically everything worked out great, so this looks like it will be a good solution.  Got to see if there's a better way to mount these things though.  We tried 5 different kinds of pliers and not one worked perfectly.

It was also my first chance to play with the Fast Tracks jig tonight.  I started working on a turnout Wednesday, but this time I printed out the directions and built it step by step.  The instructions were very clear and there were many photos to help understand what was being done.  I had a couple of minor missteps because I'd never done it this way before, and the learning curve was very shallow.  In two hours I had built my first turnout, and it is nearly perfect.  A single truck passes thru the frog and points without a single bump or snag.  I'm sure now that I've done it once, the next few will go much faster.  

June 22, 2005

After a one-week vacation hiatus we got together again tonight.  It was a good turnout, with many hands doing much work.  Jay was down and continued his work on the float bridges; Neil was here and got to work tuning up many of the turnouts in Wilson Point.  There were some frog feeders and guard rails that had been missed first time through, plus some spikes that needed to be replaced, and that kept him busy.  Ed Majury was over, and continued working on the Dock Yard sections.  Ed unfortunately fell into the trap of failing to center the rails on the ties properly and had to redo much of what he’d done.  The ties on the Housatonic are shorter than modern-era ties, and anyone who’s handlaid before usually gets caught by this.  There’s less overhang at the tie edge beyond the rail than your experience tells you there should be.

Ted and Wayne were down, good to see them – Ted got to use the new soldering gun I picked up and was soldering drops to the strain relief posts and track feeders around South Norwalk, in preparation for them to get connected to the power sub-bus.  Next week we can start connecting the drops to the sub-bus with the 3M suitcase connectors.  Wayne was once again a huge help and volunteered to help clean up the place.  He got all the junk around the layout picked up, swept up the floors and organized all the under-layout cabinets.  What a huge difference, and I really appreciate it.  I’m just not very good at cleaning up, and his efforts are a godsend. 

Myself, I was helping out here and there, giving Jay a hand with the switch on the float bridge, manning the dustpan while Wayne swept, and otherwise trying to keep things moving.  I managed to install a throwbar on a turnout at Wilson Point.  Later, after everyone but Neil had left, I started working on a turnout in the new Fast Tracks jig.  I only got about a quarter-way done, but so far I really like it.  It’s cool to have a template to measure and cut by when constructing the turnout.  I can’t wait to finish it up.  While I was playing with the new toy, Neil started gapping the frogs in Wilson Point with a dremel and cutoff wheel, and epoxying in strips of ABS plastic to keep the gaps from closing up.

Nothing dramatic got done, but we made a lot of good progress.  Thanks everyone!

June 19, 2005

Sweet!  The Fast Tracks Turnout Jig arrived while I was away, and I got to open it up today when I got home from my trip to Virginia.  We were away this week for my cousin Cherie’s high school graduation – Congrats, Cherie!) and we got home late Saturday night.  So today I didn’t have much time for trains today, but I unpacked the box to touch and feel everything. 

I had ordered a turnout building kit from Fast Tracks along with the jig, which includes a switchpoint and frog point filing jig, a set of five Quick Sticks turnout ties, a coil of fine-diameter solder, a bag of PC ties to build turnouts with and a CD-ROM with all the instructions on how to use the tools.  My first impression of the jig and the tools in person is that this is a well-engineered and executed system that will help nearly anyone build quality turnouts with repeatable accuracy.  The jigs are both precisely machined, and hold everything exactly in place as you work on the components.  I get the feeling it would be more difficult to screw up a turnout than to do it right as long as you follow the instructions. 

One of the biggest difficulties in building a turnout on the layout is having to build everything to fit on every turnout, measuring over and over again using track and NMRA gauges to ensure everything is placed properly.  Another is trying to get the parts all filed and fitted properly.  The two jigs take almost all of the guesswork out of the process and help you manufacture all the necessary parts quickly, without much regard for the track gauges.  Once you are done filing the switchpoints and frog points, and the grooves to let in the point rails on the stock rails, you just follow the simple step by step directions, placing the parts on the jig and soldering them up.  You could say it takes a bit of the art and skill out of the process, but the upside is you get easy to build and accurate, repeatable results.  I can deal with that!

The Quick Sticks tie strips are laser cut to fit the turnouts built in the jig perfectly.  You glue them down and apply the turnout right on top of them.  At first glance, they look pretty good; I can’t wait to try one out on the layout.  The spike holes to hold the turnout down are even pre-drilled by laser.  Very cool.

Unfortunately I don’t have time to start using it today, but I’m really looking forward to it.

June 8 2005

A great session tonight!  We had a lot of folks over!  David continued his work on the track up to Winnepauk, permanently installing the girder bridge (which I finished earlier in the week) and made it to the current end of track.  Well, ties, anyway.  Neil continued his project of adding feeders to the closure rails in Wilson Point.  Tom was over and tried to attach more jumper wires to the standoffs, but needed a higher-wattage soldering gun to do it.  I’ll pick one up later this week.  Instead I helped him hang the fascia panels along South Norwalk. 

Scott Dunlap came down, always happy to see him – he helped install the rest of the stone arch bridge in South Norwalk.  The hydrocal parts broke on him a couple of times but he managed to cobble it back together and glue it up.  In the end it came out just fine.  Ed Majury was down too after a long absence and generously started to do trackwork on some of the Dock Yard panels.  That will really help move that part of the project forward.  Myself, I floated around, soldering feeders to rails, helping out with the fascia, and trying to install another switch machine, this time for the float bridge.  Didn’t quite finish that project, but I’ll get it done soon.

For upcoming weeks, we need to get the backdrops completed and painted; fascia painted; put down homasote and ties down through Winnepauk and then rail, and to start building up the landforms in the areas around where track has already been laid.  I never thought it would come but were now getting into the scenery stages of this part of the layout.

June 6 2005

Trying to get some things done between sessions, I got the second half-turnout for the second float bridge built, and got started on the rails and ties to go over the Winnepauk girder bridge.  Because there will be no way to spike these rails down to the bridge, I took some rails and bent them to the right shape (there's a slight bend in the end coming off the curve) and used PC ties to connect them and hold the gauge.  When that was done I made up some bridge ties from leftover pier planks and glued them to the bottom of the rails with Pliobond.  I'll sand them gently when the glue is dry so the ties rest on the bridge as they should, and when the bridge is painted (tomorrow I hope) the whole thing will get glued together.

June 1 2005

Well, this week was better than last week.  David, Neil and Jay were over (though Jay had to leave early and was only able to repair a rail on one of the float bridges that was damaged accidentally).  I made more rails with feeders for Dave, who is now nearly up to the girder bridge at Winnepauk and laying rail around the turnback loop (which will eventually be enclosed by a Bellinadrop).  Neil and I also finally get the plywood and homasote up onto the Standard Oil module, and screwed and glued it down.  I think we're about finished with the design of this module.  David and Neil have put in a lot of work on it and I think they have come up with something that will work well. 

Neil was looking for something to do after the Standard Oil module was set up -- He thought he'd be building the back-to-back turnouts on the main at South Norwalk tonight (North end of SoNo siding and the Bishop & Lynes industry track) but I beat him to it and built them over Memorial day weekend.  So he put in new feeders instead, which will power the closure rails and point on each turnout once the live frogs are gapped.  He managed to get about 2/3 of the turnouts on Wilson Point wired up.  Cool -- soon it will be time to start wiring these babies up.  Not much has been happening on the wiring front because neither Ted or Tom has been by in a few weeks.  I miss you guys...

After Standard Oil and getting rails ready for David, I spent some time installing another switch machine under Wilson Point.  This is one of the machines that have to be offset because it's right over one of the main girders.  I used a length of brass tubing that the .047" piano wire fits into nicely to mount the machine about 3" to the side of the turnout, away from the girder -- and it was a big success.  Worked out great.  I now know I can 'fix' the other turnouts at the throat of the yard (also blocked by the support girders) with only a little extra effort  Phew!

May 28 2005

For the last couple of weeks, I've been talking to Tim Warris at Fast Tracks about having a custom turnout template made to help speed along the construction of turnouts for the RR.  It's not that we're not doing a good job on them, I think we are -- but my crew and I would like to find a way to make the building process both faster and more standardized.  Right now, we're building each turnout to fit even tough we're using the same turnout tie template for nearly every switch.  So we're really building the same switch over and over again as though we were building the first.  

Fast Tracks manufactures an aluminum turnout jig, machined to hold the rail and a number of Printed-Circuit (PC) ties in place while you solder them together, creating a skeleton turnout on the bench where it's a lot easier to work on, then drop it onto the layout and spike it down.  It's not inexpensive at around $100 for a standard template, but compare that to the price of good commercial turnouts and you'll see that it only takes a few to equal the cost, and anything you build afterward is saving you a lot of money.  I have friends who have bought templates from Tim and everyone I know who has used them thinks they are great

At this point on the Housatonic, time is often more valuable than money.  With probably over 70 more #5 turnouts to build for this RR, the prospect of shaving 30 to 60 minutes off the time it takes to build each turnout starts to look like a pretty good deal.  So I contacted Tim about making up a #5 template based on our 1880's track standards.  (As an early period railroad, we use tie sizes and spacing that are different than modern (post 1910) standards, and a regular 'modern' template wouldn't work for us.)  

Tim was great to work with, and asked me for a diagram of my current #5 tie pattern to work from.  I considered several methods but decided to set up a turnout blank from my #5 tie jig, and brought it up to my computer and scanned it with a ruler for scale.  I sent Tim this scanned image to work from.  That was earlier this week -- I got a return message from Tim last night (Friday) that included a CAD drawing of my tie layout in PDF format.  That's fast service!  Tim asked if it looked right to me before he goes ahead and starts cutting the template -- much easier to fix problems before the aluminum gets cut.  So this morning I printed out a copy and brought it down to the layout.  I lined up the drawing with the rails on one of the turnouts I built, and taped the diagram down.  Then I did a pencil rubbing of the rails on the diagram.  The lines rails matched up almost perfectly!  I gave Tim the go-ahead this morning to make the jig.  Hopefully in about two weeks we'll have the jig in our hands -- I can't wait to get started using it.

May 26, 2005

Well, it finally happened, after months of great sessions we had a stinker last night.  We started late because of a birthday party for Dave my wife threw, and then he had to leave with his family.  Neil and Jay and I went down to the basement and argued for over an hour about how to design the Standard Oil plant at South Norwalk.  It’s a small space and hard to fit in all the features we want to have, and there’s not a lot of agreement on how to do it. 

We tried using some lengths of flextrack at first to display what each of us were thinking, but that wasn’t working out too well.  Finally I grabbed a roll of masking tape, and we used that on the plywood base to show where we would put the tracks.  David’s design, which I’ve had a lot of input into, is more linear but allows us the room to place tracks of adequate length in the facility, at the expense of ignoring the data we have.  Neil’s design is closer to the prototype with the tracks inside the facility diverging from the “mainline” and curving in, but suffers from having the loading tracks too short because of those curves. 

Jay is on Neil’s side, in favor of sticking to the prototype plan.  I’m just undecided about all this.  I think Neil may be right -- and David too, whose original drawings were much like Neil’s before I started changing them.  I hope they can come up with a good design that lets us do what we want to with the industry.

Well, after we were done arguing it was already getting late and none of us really felt like doing anything (I think the cold wet weather had a lot to do with it), so we broke up early with nothing accomplished save the Standard Oil plan discussion.  Hopefully that will lead to better designs and a solution to the problem.

May 22, 2005

We reached a small milestone on Sunday, except for the float bridge approaches, turntable and roundhouse tracks, all the rail is now down in Wilson Point.  That’s great!  Much of the credit goes to Neil and David who both worked hard on getting the rail down and building turnouts over the last three months.  I had a bit to do with it too, but these guys did the lions' share of the work.

We got together Sunday evening after helping Jay out in the afternoon to get some of the materials to finish his basement.  None of us were busy so we said what the heck, and the guys came over.  Neil, as previously mentioned, finished up the trackage at Wilson Point, David laid another 6 feet of rail out towards Winnepauk, and I did some switch tuning (the first switch laid on the pier had to have some of the deck boards shaved a bit so the points would throw) and then I worked on the industries at the north end of South Norwalk. 

I put homasote down on the local industry platform John Montenegro built a few weeks ago (I pieced it together from some scraps), and installed a second platform strip for another industry.  I also made up a few ties strips for turnouts and installed them on the newly-laid homasote.  I’ll finish that work up tonight, and hopefully sand and stain the ties before Wednesday’s session so we can start laying in the mainline rail through this area.  Once this track is in we have a continuous run all the way from the end of Wilson Point almost to Winnepauk.

May 18, 2005

Good Wednesday session this week.  A good turnout, Neil and David as usual, Jay was by and Tom came down too.  The electrical components came in earlier in the week, and Tom did me a big favor by starting to solder 14-gauge ‘drops’ and the 20-ga. Track feeders to the strain reliefs that Ted installed last week.  Soon these drops will be connected to a 14-ga. Sub-Bus with cutoff switches that will connect to the main bus lines coming from electronic circuit breakers.  The breakers will get power from the SystemOne DCC command control system booster.  And then, we may be able to run a train, but that’s still months away.  Tom’s and Ted’s work are the first few steps on that journey.

Jay and I worked for a while on the float bridges at Wilson Point.  A couple of weeks ago I built a half-switch to be installed on the first bridge, and we soldered it up and installed it tonight.  I’m very pleased with how it came out, and so was Jay.  We even managed to keep the homasote block intact after removing the soldered turnout so we can build more identical switches later.  Jay performed surgery on the bridge model and cut away the decking to make room for the PC-ties that hold the switch together, then glued the rails down to the bridge.  Of course, in our excitement we both forgot to drill a hole in the bottom of the bridge for the switch machine wire, but Jay managed to do it after the bridge was finished.

David laid another six feet of track down towards South Norwalk from the ‘seed’ length I started a few weeks ago.  He called it the Lincoln Highway section, I laid it and not long after someone came along and laid some more next to it.  Now he’s nearly connected up to Dock Yard from the north.  I’m really proud of him; he’s really taken to the hand-laying process.  Good thing because his NYC waterfront layout will need to be all hand-laid too.

Neil started work on the last turnout on Wilson point tonight.  It’s difficult because he’s working the “wrong” way – it’s easier to work forward from the points, but in this case he’s working back from the frog, and it is more difficult this way.  He did not finish it, but I expect he will next week, and then there’s just a little more rail on the pier to be laid, and the float bridge approaches.

Myself, I was working on installing more switch machines under Wilson Point.  So far they seem to be working out well, though there have been little problems here and there.  It will take some tweaking and adjusting to get everything right.  I now have four machines installed, but I haven’t tested any of them electrically yet, and three of the four must have the points tweaked for better reliability.  But I’m confident it will work out.

May 15, 2005

Got a lot of work done on the layout this weekend.  I finally installed the first switch machine under Wilson Point today.  It works!  It needed a lot of fine-tuning (both the machine and the turnout) but A lot of what I learned can be applied before the machine gets installed the next time, which will help a lot.  The pushrod linkage to a clothespin knob worked well too, though I see for lengths over 10” I’m going to need to provide additional guides to keep the wire from bending.

I also worked on a kitbashing project this weekend too.  Recently Walthers brought out a 4-window wood caboose that had a somewhat familiar look to it.  Careful investigation showed it might be a good donor kit for my small fleet of 3-window bobber cabooses I’ve been wanting to build for years.  (See the Caboose page for more information on this.)  I bought a couple of kits a month or so ago, and got busy with it on Saturday.  Here’s a photo of the original caboose model and the kitbashed bobber after major surgery.  After some more details and paint this should come out to be a really nice model.  Guess I don’t need to use the castings I started making anymore.  Even the trucks are from a Bachmann bobber caboose; I couldn’t get the ones I cast to work properly.  It needs details, new wheelsets and paint but I think it's a winner already.

May 11, 2005

It was a close call, but the new spikes arrived just before the session tonight.  I was sweating bullets, because Neil and David have been all over me about the spike shortage.  Now everyone is happy again.  Whew!

Special visitor Ed Kenny was over tonight and he gave me a hand working on the new switch machines.  Earlier in the week I’d gotten a supply of new PC switch rod bars from Harold Werthwein, which have been working great – thanks a million, Harold – and got five turnouts completed in Wilson Point.  These turnouts are now ready for switch controllers – but we didn’t have any!  I spent a good part of Tuesday and last night with Ed working on a production line constructing these home-made controllers.  We did pretty well, assembling about 15 of the 30 blanks I made.  I’ll start getting these installed this weekend, and we’ll keep hooking up turnouts as we get more of them completed. 

Ted DiIorio was over too, and took on the dirty, uncomfortable job of installing finish nails under the benchwork to serve as strain relief for the track feeders.  He managed to do all of the areas where we currently have track down.  This is a key effort, because starting next week we begin to wire up the layout.  I spent many hours over the last few days working on a carefully detailed electrical plan for the railroad, defining power districts, assigning sub-buses to circuit breakers, etc.  I think we are all ready to go on this – thanks to Ted’s work. 

Neil and David continued to work on laying track, especially now that they have the right spikes.  Dave got 6 more feet of mainline laid between Winnepauk and South Norwalk, and Neil got half a turnout done.  Well, it would have been a turnout and a half, but he had to take it apart a couple of times to fix problems that occurred.  This one just didn’t want to go down ‘right’ for some reason.  No sweat, I know he’ll git r’ done right next time.  There's only two more turnouts to be laid on Wilson Point, and Neil is really lokoing forward to getting a train running on this thing.  As are we all!

One last thing to report, the lintel mold I made on the fifth worked perfectly and I was able to pull a bunch of castings from it.  After I had 5 I made a new mold.  I'll use this mold to make 20 more lintels, and then make a 20 -part mold.  From there, five more pulls will make all the lintels we need for the model.  

May 5, 2005

Remember that mold I poured yesterday?  Well, lesson learned – Smooth-On PMC-780 molding compound is NOT COMPATIBLE with polyurethane casting resin.  I tried a test pour tonight and the resin bonded to the rubber.  Arrrgh!  The mold was ruined.  Fortunately the styrene master model was de-molded without damage, and I was able to re-pour the mold using Smooth-On OOMOO 25 RTV, which is definitely compatible with PU Resins.  I’m glad it wasn’t a larger mold.  The PMC-780 is supposedly for use with concrete and plaster, so I'll save it for making rock molds or bridge abutments to be cast out of plaster.

May 4, 2005

Wednesday was unofficial and unscheduled, but a number of the guys showed up anyway.  Neil, Jay and Dave all came and worked on track-laying, which was tough because we are nearly out of spikes (I’ve ordered them but it won’t be until next week sometime that they arrive).  They managed to use the micro spikes to good advantage.  Neil got another turnout and a half in, he’s very close to finishing up all the track on the dock now.

John Montenigro was over again (a trend!) and was willing to learn to handlay, but I figured let’s wait until the new spikes come in for that.  Instead, John got busy doing carpentry work and built the plywood support for the Armour Meats distributor and the Jerome Paper Co. industrial tracks in South Norwalk.  I love it; things are beginning to come together over there!  Neil brought one of the three Dock Yard sections home with him last week, and brought it back finished today.  We could have that yard in place and ready to roll be the end of June.  Whoopee!

Myself, I spent some time soldering feeder wires to rails for David, who completed the service tracks at Wilson Point, and later I started working on the switchpoints and stock rails for the Wilson Point float bridges.  I laid them directly on homasote, and soldered flat wire stays across the tops of the rails when everything was properly in gauge.  Then I’ll remove the spikes, pull up the turnout and tracks and we’ll glue them down on the bridge with Pliobond, and remove the stays.  I just have to wait until the new turnout throwbars (switch rods) come in so I can secure the heels of the point rails.

I also finally poured a mold for the South Norwalk Iron Works building project.  I wasn’t happy with how the first part and mold came out so recently built a second better one.  Finally got to pour it tonight just before everyone left.  Little bits of progress everywhere…

May 1, 2005

Another Sunday session so close on the heels of the last.  We had a new visitor this week, Dieter Zakas, who I met through the Operations SIG chat list.  Besides Dieter, Neil and David were over, and Ted and Wayne were over later too.  Neil did his regular thing and got two and a half more turnouts built -- Great!  David laid another 3 feet of track, and under Neil's guidance took on his second turnout.  Came out pretty good too.  I'm pleased that things are moving along with the laying of new track and turnouts, since that's out biggest hurdle to surmount right now. Unfortunately my camera battery died so I didn't get too many photos today.

Dieter and I worked on the bridge at Winnepauk in the morning, installing the new abutments and piers for the girder bridge that goes there.  I built the bridge models a few weeks ago, and we needed to adjust the heights of these parts to make the bridge sit right.  He did a very good job with it -- thanks, Dieter. He and Wayne also did me a huge favor - they swept up the floor and picked up a lot of garbage and junk.  I never seem to have time to get around to that.  Thanks guys for making it a lot nicer and safer for everyone to work.

Ted and Wayne were over also, and they helped frame out some of the benchwork that we needed to extend around some curves and in front of South Norwalk to support fascia.  After that, Ted, Dieter and I cut some new masonite fascia panels as well as the plywood and homasote for the Standard Oil module.  Thank goodness the weather is finally turning nice again, and we can get some work done upstairs in the garage.

April 27, 2005

Well, we had a good turnout this Wednesday.  The usual suspects, David, Neil and Jay were all over, and Tom as well.  Plus, we had Scott Dunlap in again and John Montenigro came down after a long absence.  Scott, John, Tom and David all worked on completing the backdrops and did a great job.  We now have backdrops in place from South Norwalk all the way around to Winnepauk..  Great job, guys.  Now I need to go back and tie up the loose ends (literally) and get started painting.  In the meantime, Jay and Dave took measurements for the Standard Oil module so we can cut the plywood and homasote to cover it.

Later, David, Jay, Neil and I were all working on track.  We have an awful lot of rail to lay, and it’s a slow process.  There’s a lot to do along the mainline between South Norwalk and Winnepauk, but there’s just as much to do in the South Norwalk yards that hadn’t even been started yet.  After tonight, though, we at least have a few feet down.  Jay and David started separate pieces of the yard and managed to get a few feet done each.  It’s a start!  Neil and then Tom were both helpful by cleaning and soldering feeders onto many sticks of rail, which will ensure a supply for a few weeks.

April 14, 2005 

Wednesday was strange – for the first time in months I had a work session where neither David nor Neil was present.  It felt very strange…  That’s OK though, because I had Tom, Jay and Scott Dunlap over, and we all got a lot done.  Tom continued putting up backdrop supports around South Norwalk, and while he was doing that Scott and I worked on continuing the backdrop on the Winnepauk peninsula.  We hung masonite spline strips on the backdrop supports, slathered then with adhesive caulk, and stuck the rolled vinyl flooring to them.  Spring clamps and staples held everything in place until the caulk started setting up.  We’ll have to go back and carefully join the seams of each section shortly but the backdrops are looking pretty good to me right now.

Jay finished painting the ironwork on the float bridges, and got started laying down the rails on the first bridge.  He has glued them down with Pliobond, and intends to drill and spike the rails into the lucite bottom for strength and looks.  In a couple of weeks we will need to look into building the switchpoints on the float bridge.  That should be really interesting.


April 10, 2005

Our Sunday session this week was a great one!  A light turnout but we got a ton of work done, as we usually do on Sundays.  Nic Platas and Charlie Tobin were out from Long Island again, and we had David for a little while and Neil the whole day. 

Nic and Charlie worked with me most of the day on backdrops and upper-level benchwork by Bethel (over South Norwalk ) and David and Neil worked on upper-level benchwork for Danbury (on the peninsula over Winnepauk).  

Backdrops were a pain all week leading up to this.  I started off wanting to use wood lattice as a supporting structure, until I tried to buy some and found out it was $4 for each ¼” x 1-1/2” x 8’ strip!  Yikes, I could buy two 2x4’s for that!  I looked at some other alternatives; including ripping my own lattice from 2x4’s.  But that wasn’t going to work; I couldn’t buy lumber clear enough.  So in the end we decided to use some of the Masonite splines we already had for subroadbed.  They are cheap, will do the job and we already have plenty of them cut.

Then, we were going to use this great plastic sheet material Ralph Heiss found called Plas-Tex for the actual backdrop.  Not styrene, but some other type (maybe ABS or PVC) that has a nice pebbly texture on it that would have been great for painting on.  But, we couldn’t find it anywhere.  It was too late to try and get styrene sheets from the plastic supply house (not open on weekends) so we had to improvise again – I bought some vinyl flooring remnants at Lowes, which we will use instead of the plastic.  At least it goes around corners real well.

Even the attachment method had to be changed – Ralph originally used double-sided foam tape to hang his plastic backdrops, and I was going to do that too – until I did the math and found out it was going to be a small fortune in tape.  I ended up buying several tubes of clear adhesive caulk, which was a lot less expensive.  We hoped it would do a good job.

So we started out Sunday making a few quick changes on the supports and brackets around Bethel, we realized the height was a few inches off and had to reset and re-grade them.  Nic and Charlie were not convinced the vinyl flooring would work, and wanted me to use 1/8” Masonite instead, but I wanted to try the vinyl first.  We were all wondering if the caulk would stick to the shiny floor surface, but a quick test showed it would hold just fine.  

We hung a couple of Masonite strip battens across the vertical supports and measured the backdrop height at this location.  My tablesaw made quick work of the roll of vinyl flooring, cutting a 9’ length to height in seconds.  From there, we unrolled the roll and notched the top of the backdrop around the brackets.  Finally we gave the battens a good coating of caulk and pressed the vinyl into place.  We secured it every 16” with a staple through the vinyl into the vertical supports.  A few firm presses on the surface of the backdrop and the caulk seemed to grab and hold it well, so it looks like it went up like I hoped.  A success!  Next test is to see if it will paint up well.

We wanted to get started on the next backdrop section at South Norwalk , but had to get the upper-level supports in place first.  Much discussion about how to do it (a complicated bit of engineering) led to a decision to just go ahead and build the section of upper-level benchwork and hang it first.  Again, Nic and Charlie weren’t convinced my design was going to work but I convinced them to try it.  It took about 2 hours and a lot of wood-cutting but we got the 8’ section built and hung.  Unfortunately, they had to leave so we stopped there, but it was good to have help on that complicated piece.  And as it turned out the design was very successful.  It will need some adjustments but the concept was proven.

David and Neil picked up where we left off on Wednesday, working on the backdrop supports under Danbury .  They looked over the plans and informed me they were changing Wednesday’s design because they came up with something better, so I told them to go for it.  They pulled down the brackets and rebuilt the sections with more 2x4s until there was a 12” wide tunnel down the middle of the peninsula.  Dave had to leave early, but Neil kept on working and after Nic and Charlie left I helped him out.  The new design will work great for supporting the upper deck ( Danbury ) with no extra exterior bracing.

We got as far as starting to cut and shape the crossbeams for the Danbury grids (they mush be built in place, unlike all the other grids that were built separately and dropped onto the beams) before Neil had to leave.  But it was a great day, and we got much more done than I had hoped for.  Looking forward to the Wednesday so we can finish up the Danbury grids, and get some more backdrops hung.

April 6, 2005

Good turnout tonight.  Since we’ve decided over the next few weeks to concentrate on backdrops for the lower level, much of tonight’s work has focused on tasks to get us there.  We need to put in a lot of supports for the backdrops all along the South Norwalk area and all the way up through Winnepauk.  A few months back we put in a few supports along the peninsula (replacing some lower level legs in the process), so Ted and Neil got busy making and putting up more intermediate supports that will give us places to hang the backdrops. 

Tom and I got the water level out and started behind them, marking the new supports with the proper height of the upper deck at Danbury .  We quickly determined the brackets we were going to use for grid supports were going to affect how the backdrop would be attached, so we cut some more 2x4s and set them between the wide parts of the supports, and I hung brackets on these after everyone went home. 

Jay was over and continued his work with the float bridges, they are nearly ready to install now.  He also brought over his own magnificent float bridge model, and we took a rubbing of the track layout.  I’ll transfer this rubbing to a CAD drawing, and out rail-marine group here in NJ will use this diagram to build the rest of out float bridges and carfloats.  This way we will all have compatible equipment in case we ever need to share, swap or loan models.

March 30, 2005

We've had light turnouts the last couple of weeks, and this week I'm recovering from a bad cold, so there hasn't been much to report on.  I've been working on a kitbash of a Tichy Train Group low-side gondola model into an earlier 1880's 32 foot coal gondola model.  I saw the kit at the recent Amherst train show and bought a few, thinking it might be a good candidate for back-dating.  I sat down and over a few nights I learned that it makes a damn good early-period model!  Here's a picture of the nearly-finished model to show you what I mean.  It's working out so well I bought six more, and figure I'll need at least 20 or so when it's all said and done for this model.

We've been hard at work laying track and building turnouts for the last few weeks during our Wednesday night sessions.  We're nearly up to the far end of the yard and out to the float bridges. The tracks on and around the ashpit are almost done, and all I need to do is sift some real ashes onto it and glue them down to finish the scene.  Another project I've spent time on in the last few weeks is a new under-layout switch machine, and I've put up a picture of the prototype here.  Not bad for a few pieces of 1/8" plywood, a length of music wire and a slide switch.  I hope it works...

We're also going back now and starting to put in the switch rods on all the turnouts we've done so far, and soon it will be time to start wiring everything up.  We probably should have been doing that as we went, but we were having so much fun...  I guess this means we'll have to start gapping the frogs now too.  Oh, bother.  Ted and Tom started getting the spline ready for surgery a couple of weeks ago where bridges are going to have to be cut in, and David acutally did the cutting last week.  Now he's going to get the scenes ready, with the abutments and piers and such.  Better get the bridge models built quickly, we're running out of places to lay track.  Plus, we got the ties down on all the track areas for South Norwalk, we need beople to start laying track on these so we cen get them in place and hook them up!

March 13, 2005

Neil was over last night since we were both home with nothing else to do on a Saturday night and we got more track in Wilson Point laid.  Two new switches were put in and another two feet of track.  Every little bit helps.  Today I got to spend a few hours in the basement and made some progress on the ashpit at Wilson Point.  I lined the cutout edges with stone-relief styrene plastic, and smoothed over the ramp into the pit with some shirt cardboard, and laid some ties down on it.  

I spent some time looking around for scrap girders I could use for the rail supports for the engine lead over the ashpit and came up with nothing, so I made a couple of I-beams from strip styrene.  I made gauge rods out of 1/16" styrene rod, and put together the assembly.  Then I used some of the stone-relief styrene sheet to make stone support pillars that support the beams.  Didn't come out too bad at all.  I'm not done modeling this yet, but it is coming along nicely.  Got to paint everything soon.

March 9, 2005

One of those Wednesdays where it seemed like nothing got done, though actually it did.  David, Neil and Jay were over, and except for Jay we all did trackwork.  David, who started learning to handlay about a month ago, started working on his first switch, the south siding switch at South Norwalk.  Neil walked him though it and it took a while, but I think Dave did a pretty good job.  Unfortunately it seems like I left a lump in the roadbed when I sanded and the whole thing isn't too flat, so we may need to rip it out and do it again, which stinks.  

Neil worked on a few odds and end in between showing Dave the ropes.  I worked on getting the ties down in the complicated trackwork area near the float bridges at the end of Wilson Point.  After I got done with that, I used my router to dig the ashpit at Wilson Point down a bit deeper.  That worked well but made so much smoke the smoke alarms in the house went off!

Jay continued his work on the float bridges, and now has both of them planked, and one of them sanded and dyed again.  I need to find time to paint these models before next week, as he's expecting to set them in place and start laying track on them!

March 6, 2005

Ah, a Sunday afternoon and evening free to work on the railroad.  Number one on my list today was to level and shim the turnout supports in South Norwalk after we lowered the siding last week.  That took some time, but I was able to get it to work by piecing it together with layers of shirt cardboard and white glue.  While that was setting up, I started to use the new #6 turnout tie jigs I was able to build a pair of this past Thursday night.  The new ties for the turnouts went down great, and I filled in the bare spots with individual ties.  I also finished up some of the #6 turnouts I had to lay on the new South Norwalk yard panels.

While the glue was drying on all of that, I got out my sanding block and torpedo level and sanded all the ties we put down this past Wednesday, all the way from South Norwalk to Winnepauk.  When that was done I sanded all the Yard panels for South Norwalk's yard, and finally the new #6 turnouts I'd laid earlier.  And finally I got out the stain and colored all the ties I'd just sanded.  Doesn't sound like a lot, but it took 6 hours to do all that!

March 2, 2005

Had an unexpected but welcome guest this week, Scott Dunlap.  Seems he had a rare Wednesday night free and decided to come slum it with the North Jersey crew.  Scott is a real good scenery guy, but there's not much for him to work on yet.  So he offered to make himself useful by making tie strips.  And boy did he do a helluva job, he went through almost two bags of ties and made enough strips for us to put in ties all the way to Winnepauk from South Norwalk, as well as all of the South Norwalk yard tracks.  Thanks Scott, that was a huge help.  We're now ready to lay as much as 30-40 feet of track thanks to his efforts.  Here you can see Scott starting to pull the tape off some recently set ties on the South Norwalk Yard base (obviously not in its final location).

In addition to Scott, I had my usual suspects around, David and Neil.  It certainly was quiet last Sunday without David around, and he made up for it tonight.   David couldn't stay late, but helped me get an unpleasant project out of the way that needed to be done.  When we laid the spline for the sidings in South Norwalk and Winnepauk, we should have allowed for the siding to be about 1/8" lower than the main track going through the area, but we did not.  In fact at South Norwalk the siding was actually higher than the main somehow.  David and I carefully cut the spline subroadbed for the siding loose from the main, and using a router cut notches in the bottom of it over where the risers support it. This allowed the subroadbed to sit lower than the main, and we glued it back in place.  

Neil started off the evening laying town tie strips between South Norwalk and Winnepauk almost as fast as Scott could make them.  Then he was doing various small jobs around Wilson Point, one of which was to start the 'excavation' for the ashpit.  First we determined its location, then he laid ties for the crossover and switchback of the service track.  When that was in, he worked with a knife and chisel to carve out the space for the below-grade part of the ashpit.  He cleared away all the homasote so we could go in next week with a router and cut the bottom of the pit out of the plywood.  This way there will be a lot less dust from the router.

February 27, 2005

Another good week!  I had a Wednesday and Sunday session this week, and we got a TON of stuff done.  I'm still amazed at the progress we're making.  After last weeks' session, Neil was really leaning on me to get the turntable installed so we could lay more track around Wilson Point.  Took me a couple of nights, but I managed to get it installed before Wednesday night.  My wife has been really generous this week in letting me get work done in the basement, and I'm very grateful.  And so was Neil. :-)

We had a lot of folks over doing work!  David and Neil cleaned out the corner behind the stairs and got the benchwork for Standard Oil up.  It's neat that the temporary workbench is able to slide underneath it and out of the way.  Now I have to clean it off so I can use it again.  Ted and Wayne were over and helped out by covering the plywood sections we cut a few weeks ago for South Norwalk's yard and freight house, which was a big help.  Soon we'll start laying track on these, and then we'll assemble them and screw them to the benchwork.

Ed Majury made it over and and helped tune up some of the turnouts we'd already laid, and gave us a few more pointers on building them.  We're still learning but every turnout gets better and better.  John Montenigro made it over for a couple of hours and made up a bunch of tie strips.  That's good, because I expect we'll be going through a lot of them soon.

Sunday wasn't as well attended, but six hours of work session means you can get a lot done, and we did.  Jonathan Jones made it over, and laid nine feet of rail in South Norwalk.  Kudos!  Neil laid a bunch of new rail in Wilson Point too, and spent a lot of time getting the area around the turntable ready for tracklaying and a building a foundation for the roundhouse.  Like I said, he's been waiting for this.

Jay has decided to bring the transfer shed home with him to work on, as he's made space for it on his workbench.  Instead, we worked together on getting the float bridges started.  While Jay planked the bridges with stripwood left over from the pier, I worked on extending the floats we'd built months ago in the water.  Turned out photos showed us the floats were much bigger than we thought, about half the length of the bridge.  So I built a couple of extensions and planed the sides, then screwed them to the water behind the originals.  It'll most likely never be seen, but we'll know it is there and that it's right.  Soon these bridges will get painted and fixed in place, and have rails laid on them -- and then we'll connect them up with the new train being laid around the turntable.

After Jay had to leave, I spent some time marking up the new supports in South Norwalk to locate the tracks on the panels.  Next week we'll be able to start putting down ties here, and getting some rail laid down.  Very exciting.  We're going to try to do as much trackwork as we can on the panels off the layout, only bringing them together when it's time to install them.  I hope it works!

Finally, we decided a few weeks ago the sidings at South Norwalk and Winnepauk were too high, we should have dropped them below the main when we set the spline in place, but I forgot.  So we cut the siding in South Norwalk away today so we could rout 1/8" grooves in the spline where the risers touch it, dropping it a bit.  We'll do the same in Winnepauk in a couple of weeks.  I hate doing things twice, but we want it to look right and it's so hard to remember all of these things...  I need to get more organized!

February 22, 2005

A good week, got in several nights and weekend time, and had some extra help from Neil on Friday.  Seems he had a free night and so did I, so we got together and cast the rest of the pieces of the Iron Works model.

We completed the end wall mold and pulled our castings from that (only needed one) and made our four castings of the tower too.  We had a lot of fun and we now have all the parts for the Iron Works model.  Neil has gotten pretty good at the casting process now, a good thing because he never thought he'd get the hang of it.  Soon it will be on to the Roundhouse molds.

On Wednesday we had a lot of help -- Jay continued his work on the Transfer Station, getting the standing-seam roofing ready for application to the building.  Poor Jay, this has certainly been a taxing project and it seems like nothing has been easy about it.  I know in the end it'll be a great structure, though.  Tom and I were working on the backdrop and upper-level supports that will line the back of South Norwalk and hold up Bethel, which will be on the upper level.  This is the easy part; the hard part will come in a few weeks.

Neil has been a trouper, coming over every week and spiking rails to the pier.  It's not easy, either.  The 1/8" plywood under the decking is pretty tough and he bends a lot of spikes trying to get the rail down securely.  And it seems like one of my constant projects these days is preparing rails for the other guys laying the rails.  Here I am in the aisle between South Norwalk and Wilson Point with Neil.  As you can see, the aisles are quite large and comfortable.

February 15, 2005

Holy cow, it's been a month since I last updated the site.  Sorry about that, but my home PC got corrupted and it's only now been restored (Thanks David).  So here's a quick update on what's been happening:

Neil and I have been working on a new project, a Iron Works building for South Norwalk.  I drew up the plans, and Neil built the master model walls, and we're casting them to make a larger building.  Here's a photo of two of the wall sections together.  This is without any work to the castings yet, just raw out of the molds.  There's another set of pages on building this model you can look at by clicking here.  We've also been working a lot on track for the last few weeks, and as you can see we've started to lay track out on the pier.  We now have about thirty feet of track down and a handful of turnouts, which are nearly finished.  I'm still working on a throwing mechanism, stay tuned for that.

Ted was really busy last week moving the scenery base and roadbed along nicely.  As you can see from the photos he's nearly all the way back up and around the Winnepauk peninsula with the fabric and homasote roadbed.  That's coming along really nicely.  Soon this area will need a backdrop so we can start working on the scenery here.  In the other photo you can see Jay is really coming along with the Transfer Station model, he's working on the roof and soon it will be ready for paint.

Neil hasn't just been working on the Iron Works, he's also bee scratchbuilding a structure or two for me.  Here is a paper mockup of the Wilson Point Windmill I did from a CAD drawing I made, and which Neil and I modified and redrew.  Then Neil too a pile of Styrene and detail parts, and came back a few days later with the completed model:

I got started running the power bus line around the bottom of the benchwork a couple of weeks ago.  I'd originally planned to drill holes in the risers to pass the bus wires through, but a friend showed me these nifty little wire-management cable ties, which we're stapling to the benchwork.  Makes it easy to pull the bus wires away from the layout for maintenance or soldering.  They work pretty well!  And finally just a fun picture, showing our one ever-present gondola being used right now to hold spikes and track gauges.  

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