Modelling the E&N in HO Scale in my basement


January 1, 2012

Spent a little bit of time today on the Buckley Bay / Union Bay roadbed today, primarily getting the cork laid down. Also nearly completed the turnout for Buckley Bay spur as well. Should be able to lay some track down tomorrow and wire it up for operation. One of the nice things with single track territory is that it lays down nice and quick!

Oh yeah, happy new year!

November 28, 2011

Been a little while since I posted an update, but that doesn’t mean I haven’t been doing anything.

Though admittedly it hasn’t been a huge amount of work, every little bit will help. So far I’ve got a lot of feeders and frogs wired together through the installed bullfrogs, work done on getting the command station and boosters setup on a small shelf on the peninsula wall close to the helix, acquired a UPS for protecting the electronics, and oh yeah, built a few more bullfrogs. I’ve also installed and partially wired in three UP5’s, though more needs to be done for those to be usable.

Once I’ve got a fair amount of work done on cleaning up the existing projects I’m likely going to host an open house so everyone can take a look at the work to date. Probably going to be around Christmas, so I’d suggest sending me an email ( and I will privately advise on the address and time/date as the latter get nailed down.


November 20, 2011

Called Cam and Dan this morning to invite them on a hobby shop crawl (nice this city has several shops open on Sunday!) and then do some work on the layout. I picked up a proto 2000 sw9/1200 for the port alberni switcher, (needs a dip as I don’t think the alberni pacific paint scheme has ever been done RTR.) some decals for when the GP9’s are painted, and the latest edition of Railfan Canada which has an article about the E&N.

When we got back to my place, work progressed on fixing a couple of other minor sunkinks and fixing a short on the layout. Two things discovered through that hour plus of frustration:

  1. The continuity on my layout is freaking fantastic!
  2. don’t use a piece of rail set between the ties as a temporary wheel stop.

Most of the Victoria sub is now fully wired and I’ve also even started installing the UP5’s into the layout, thanks to the silver satin cable and plugs I picked up from active electronics yesterday.


Sun Kinks followup

Further to yesterday’s post about the issue of sun kinks…

Spent a bit of time thinking what the heck was going on and then decided to lift a few spikes (turnout did not get lifted) and then cut the rails with a pair of rail nippers.  When I put the track back down to see what sort of length was causing the buckle, it was very close to an eighth of an inch!

Unsoldered the section of track immediately to the north of the switch and then let the turnout rest.  Thankfully, it straightened out almost on it’s own and with a few minor adjustments, is back to normal.  A new section of track was installed after the requisite solder wick was acquired and left a little short with an expansion joint.  The bullfrog controlling that turnout was also replaced, more to ensure an easier time with getting the feeder wires hooked up to the frog.

Inspections on other turnouts showed initial evidence of rail expansion and we’ll have to make sure we do a really good job of spiking down the turnouts with both track spikes and Peco track pins which extend all the way to the subroadbed.

I have a funny feeling that the basement is cooler in the summer than in the winter…

Sun kinks?


Well then. So much for “trackwork that never goes out of gauge.”

Came downstairs to do some wiring work and when I glanced over to the ballast pit spur to set down a reel of wire, noticed something rather odd. And there you have it, a sun kink/heat buckle at one of the worst possible spots.

I thought the basement was a relatively stable climate for the railway and now finding out that I need to adjust track laying practices to ensure there is some room for movement in the rail.


Will post more as repair efforts are done.

November 15, 2011

Another quick update…

Last night I finished soldering the feeders to the track (not to the bus though) on the Victoria sub north of Parksville and then proceeded to install a few bullfrogs…

Specifically on the superior propane spur, the south storage track in the vicinity and importantly, the junction switch at Parksville. I will admit, having lateral adjustment on the bullfrog mounting is extremely useful. Yet another reason why I love these things so much!

November 13, 2011

A really quick update tonight.  Spent about a half-hour spiking down all the fitted track on the Victoria Sub north of the Parksville Junction switch.  On account of a lack of suitable feeder wire, I’m not likely going to get anything that direction done until I can obtain wire.

Not to say I can’t get anything else done, like installing Bullfrogs for instance, or getting an accessory bus done up to power the tortoises or the UP5’s…



Had to work today, so not as much progress as I was hoping.  However, I did manage to spike down a section of the Victoria Sub immediately after the junction switch, and then pulled the fitted track up so I could prep the turnouts (ie: remove the throwbar and headblocks from the wrong side of the switch) and drill the holes for the throwbar as well as drilling a hole in the throwbar for the eventual installation of the Bullfrog.

I also soldered up the turnout for Buckley Bay.


November 9, 2011

Cam called this evening, from home, around 7:30. Most normal people wouldn’t give this a second thought, but this was rare for Cam. He works evenings during the week, so he was definitely home way early.

I said he was welcome to come over, and he did. I said I was in the midst of doing some work to get my spray booth up and operational, and while I was cutting plywood for the base, he continued working on the fitting of the track we started laying last weekend. I had originally taken a photo at the time we finished that task, and everything looks good, but the photo turned out like crap.  Now we can drill the holes for the throwbars, get the track soldered together and wire it up. Now all the track is connected!

November 5 & 6, 2011

So I will admit that the fluorescent fixture wasn’t entirely all my work. Most of it was, but Cam did provide some assistance. Once that task was done, he got to work on sanding (and in some spots, grinding) the cork into the shape we needed for the Victoria sub, just north of the Parksville junction switch. Once that chore was done and the evidence vacuumed up, he got to work with fitting track.

Meanwhile I was busy getting the three turnouts ready to go, which for one of them included getting it soldered together, and for all three, gluing up the skeletons to the quick sticks, cutting the isolation gaps for the frog and otherwise making them ready for the layout. We managed to get the storage track fitted together and pushed cars from the Parksville yard all the way into the helix, so in some respects, the connection has been made to join up all the track, however, the main track isn’t fully fitted, nor have we got anything really spiked down.

Murray also came up to inspect the progress and was quite pleased. I was certainly happy to have him up too.

Today was a slightly quieter day. I came downstairs with the intent of getting some other stuff done and accomplished:

  • construction of the last bullfrog I have in stock. Need lots more though.
  • built up another four boxcars. Easy kits too. Even better is the fact I obtained them for two or four bucks each. And then spent more than that per car on changing out couplers to kadee #58’s with whiskers and metal wheels…
  • submerging three GP-9 shells in 99% isopropyl alcohol. I hope they don’t come out worse for wear…
  • starting on a turnout for Buckley Bay.

Overall, a relatively nice and productive day.


October 23, 2011

I received a phone call from one of the hobby shops I deal with advising my Intermountain wheels were in.  Goodie…I can take the plastic wheels out of the new boxcar kits I’ve assembled and turn them into scrap loads.  Not that I’m likely to ever do that since wheelsets likely wouldn’t have been changed out anywhere other than Wellcox yard on the island…

Gave Cam a call in the early afternoon, woke him up, and then advised we’d be headed out.  Stopped by Eastridge for the wheels, found they didn’t have any needed Peco track pins and went to Ewok Emporium (aka Chinook & Hobby West – South) for those.  Bought all six bags of them since I’m quite likely going to need that many (and more) for the rest of the layout.

Did a bit of railfanning down at the spot and had a bit of lunch, then back to the house for some additional work on the layout.

Accomplished was a fair bit more wiring/soldering work, cutting isolation gaps between power sub-districts (I’m subdividing the four power districts on the layout to further protect the remainder of the layout from the inevitable shorts) and getting a couple Bullfrogs installed on the siding switches at Bryn.

All in all, another productive afternoon.  Once things get wired into a command station/booster, and bullfrogs installed at Parksville, I can actually do a little switching.  Whoo hoo!


October 22, 2011

A brief update for today. After running a few errands, had Cam and Dan over for a few hours early this afternoon to get some stuff done.

Turns out, mostly electrical work on the laid trackage. Dan dropped feeders on the Bryn section, Cam spiked down a couple feet worth of the trackage south of Bryn, and afterwards, while I was finishing up soldering the feeders to the lower helix, he stripped and prepped all the feeders onto the bus wire. I followed afterwards with soldering all the wiring together. Still more soldering to do, but had other plans this evening. Will likely get more done tomorrow…

October 9th, 2011

So the previously disconnected track around the peninsula end of the middle is now connected! With yesterday’s installation of the two curved turnouts leading to the Parksville team track and National Silicates (along with their associated tortoises), Cam and I got all the trackage laid, spiked down and feeder wires hooked up to the track (still needs to be hooked up to the bus mind you…) and then worked all the way to Bryn. So for the time being, we have trackage from south of Bryn through to the port sub past Parksville.

Excellent progress!

Really offset Tortoise install


Here is the switch leading to the Parksville team track. On account of the one-turn helix underneath this track, we couldn’t put the switch machine underneath the trackage as per normal custom. As a result, we fashioned some funky tube and wire contraption to ensure there is adequate pressure on the points. The turnout will be controlled by a signalogics switch control.

My first curved turnout!


Here’s my first curved turnout, in place for the National Silicates spur at Parksville. And yes, the inside curve is indeed the main track…

September 26, 2011

Apologies for the lack of posts over the past little while.

Admittedly, not a whole lot of stuff going on other than things taking up weekends (GETS in Edmonton, Railway Days at Heritage Park, good weather and obviously taking advantage of it before snow flies.) to get stuff done.

However, a few bits to report on:

  1. A restock of Code 70 ME flextrack arrived, so I’ve got enough to lay trackage on the visible portions of the peninsula.
  2. We’ve secured the trackage in the Parksville yard.  I’m also getting a fair number of feeders wired for that trackage as well, including the port sub trackage on the middle deck.
  3. I’ve built a few Bullfrogs, now that I know how to make them work effectively (ie: take some of the spring out, wax the moving friction bits and voila.  Works wonderfully.)  I’ve also installed two of them – one at south siding switch Mud Bay and at the Ballast Spur just south of that.
  4. I’ve acquired and received a few more bits from FastTracks, including an assembly fixture for doing the curved 30″/40″ #8 turnouts and a few more quicksticks.  As a result, getting trackage laid through the Parksville industrial area will be happening soon and we’ll be able to connect a few more bits of trackage together.  (thinking south of Bryn all the way through to where the port sub enters the helix!)
  5. We’ve got another piece of backdrop installed, so most of Parksville has a backdrop installed.  We are learning that the “Murray school of glue” is desirable here.  For those who don’t know, Murray is one who figures that if it’s worth doing, it’s worth OVERdoing.  Thus, his glue applications tended to be quite excessive.  The backside of the masonite is quite rough owing to the manufacturing so the excessive glue is better to ensure a good bond.
Once I’ve got a few things cleaned up, I’ll post some more pictures.

Port Sub trackage


Tracklaying for the Port Alberni subdivision and backdrops are visible here. The turnout at the front is the junction switch for the Victoria and port subs.

Parksville trackage!


We’re getting quite close to having no code 70 track left to install, now that Parksville and the trackage on the port sub is ready for permanent installation.

July 31, 2011

Dan called this morning, saying he’d like to come over.  I of course agreed and shortly after noon (only slightly delayed), he arrived and we got some wiring work done.  He works for a demolition company and managed to salvage some good lengths of red, black, blue and white 12-14 gauge solid wire and donated them to my cause.  So after ensuring all the wiring chase holes were drilled, we got to work on installing the wiring into the lower deck and the middle deck (despite the fact there’s no trackage installed yet).

Afterwards, the feeders were installed from the track and hooked up to the bus wire.

Cam arrived during this point and continued working on the trackage towards Buckley Bay.  Mud Bay siding was completed as was a good portion of the trackage between what will be Buckley Bay and Mud Bay (around the base of the peninsula)

Afterwards, I fixed up a turnout – forgot to cut isolation gaps and install guard rails on the turnout at North Siding Switch Mud Bay – and then we hooked up the power pack to the bus wire.  And then began the fun!  Dan got the honours of running a really long train from the helix down to Mud Bay and beyond.  Given the fact the train was way over length for the siding, we had some fun working the train back and forth to get the locomotives by all the cars and then back into the helix with the caboose on the tail end.

I now know that I need to get a fair number of couplers replaced as those crappy plastic couplers just don’t hold up to anything in the way of strain.  Not that was any new knowledge in my opinion…I knew I needed to, but the need for work to the fleet of cars I’ve been acquiring over the years will now need to happen sooner than later…


July 30, 2011

Cam called this morning, invited me over to his place to review the drawings. A couple revisions and will get them scanned and posted to the website shortly. Then off to Home Depot for more plywood – a selection of 4″ and 6″ wide strips. Back to my place to get some stuff done. Cam worked on getting all the cork sanded and then started in on trackwork.

Doug S. came over shortly after to discuss with me the control panel for the Free-mo’s yard control panel and its design. Once that was all figured out we all went for lunch.

When Cam and I got back, more trackwork. For me, that meant prepping the fast tracks turnouts for install… Gluing on the quicksticks, cutting the isolation gaps for the frogs and electrically testing them for continuity (or more properly, lack therof). Cam installed the trackage on the lower deck, connecting into the helix and working towards Mud Bay.

I’m happy to report we have two turnouts installed! After we spiked down half of the main and siding at Mud Bay, we called the tracklaying to a halt (owing to tired butt syndrome) and grabbed some extra rolling stock, a couple more locos and tested a port freight up the helix. For the most part, a success!

Pictures to come…


July 29, 2011

I suppose this post will also end up including stuff done last week as well as tonight. Apologies in advance for any potential confusion…

While Cam waits ever so patiently for me to finish building the two curved #8 turnouts for the south Parksville industrial spurs, we managed to get the subroadbed built and installed for Mud Bay siding and then all the way around the peninsula, ending just shy of Buckley Bay. Nice thing with this is the fact we incorporated a grade into the hidden portion of the trackage and managed to do it without introducing reverse superelevation like we did with the hidden loop of track in the peninsula helix. We were concerned we’d have to go with ready rod on all three decks because of that, but we found a solution: pre-stress the pieces and voila! We’re level, just how we wanted it!

Over the past few nights on my own, I’ve been laying down cork on the fixed portions of benchwork, polishing off the first of what I’m sure will be many boxes of Midwest cork. Turnout areas are fun… Thank goodness “ballast hides a multitude of sins!”. I’m still really impressed with using contact cement for this task!

Cam has also been puttering away at the trackplans, adjusting things here and there for the changes we’ve introduced. He’ll be showing them to me tomorrow for approval and then we’ll get them scanned in. I’ll post them on the trackplans page once I get the PDF’s.

We also found a few pictures posted on the vancouver island forum of the Vancouver Island Gas spur from 1986. Picture an LPG tank parked at the bumper post on top of a trestle two stories up… We are most thankful for the interesting vantage of this industry and we’ll be trying our best to model this spur accurately. And when it comes to spotting cars there, the crews will definitely not be allowed to kick the car down to the trestle!

As I’m on my own for the next couple weeks, I’m hoping to get a decent amount of work done… I suppose I should head back down and see what I can do…


Main Helix


So far, the main helix is the longest installed trackage. What you’re seeing here is the lower half of it, running from just north of Parksville (front is the Victoria sub, back side is the Port sub) down to just south of Mud Bay. Grade is around 2.4%, and the GP35 at the far back can pull nine plus cars unassisted at only 30% power up the grade. The connection from Parksville to the summit of the Port sub will be occupying the upper portion of the ready rod.

June 25, 2011

I have two projects on the go right now in my basement.  One of which is installing tortoises into the “centre crossover” section of Lindsay Yard for the Calgary Free-mo.  The other project is the E&N, of course.

Dan called this morning and wanted to come over to do some work on the layout.  When he got here, he found out about the first project and wanted to get some practice with wiring up tortoises.  He’s likely installing a fair number of them on his layout when that gets going, and I didn’t see any reason why he couldn’t get some practice in now.  So, with some advice, guidance and my tools, he got to work on those and voila.  8 tortoises ready for installation.

Cam came over a little after Dan started in on the tortoises and he and I got to work on the layout.  Cam put in the last bits of cork on the Port Sub section on the middle deck, and then proceeded to grind the living daylights out of it to provide a level ramp off/on the cork for the transition from scenicked area to helix trackage which doesn’t have any cork.  My Surform tool got quite a workout.

Following that, he got some trackage laid from the peninsula helix towards Parksville’s industrial area, only to find there were two concerns:

1)  I didn’t have any micro-engineering joiners of suitable size.  Apparently the code 83/100 Atlas rail joiners are just a little oversize for the code 70 track.

2)  I didn’t have the curved #8 turnout for the Parksville team track built yet.  At some point soon, I’ll tackle that project.

I did receive a full box of goodies from Fast Tracks via UPS earlier in the week and in it were 24 #6 quicksticks which I started making use of.  Three turnouts are now virtually complete and ready for insertion into the layout after I spent the morning washing the turnout skeletons.

I also had a bit of a brainwave this morning and after explaining it to Cam and Dan, they readily agreed on the track revision. Northbound out of Wellington Siding, the trackage passes by ICG Propane and then curves again and into Bryn.  Noting the mainline distance between Wellington and Bryn being well over 7-10 miles, I figured there should be a little bit more track between the two and used the space underneath the unloading ramp north of Parksville Junction to install a little more hidden trackage to increase the running length and improve the illusion of distance between the two places.  Once Dan finished with the Tortoise wiring, we all got to work on getting the supports and subroadbed installed into place.  The area formerly planned to be occupied by track will now likely be a whole ton of trees and perhaps a trail of some sort.  We’ll see.

Also of note is the installation of the subroadbed and cork for Bryn.  That’s all done now too.


June 4th, 2011

Got up this morning, had breakfast, and went downstairs to do some cleanup, and to start building #8 turnouts.  Got one LH built, which will end up either at the South Siding Switch of Mud Bay, or the Junction Switch at Parksville.  In either event, it is needed much sooner than later.

Later in the morning, Cam came over and we got to work.  Progress on the helix was already up to the point where we were at the midpoint, and needing trackage to get in and out of the helix from the middle deck of the layout.  We had already cut the pieces of wood to graft onto the helix pieces, but ran out of time to get the other bits cut, secured, and whatnot to get them all working together.  Today was the day to make that happen.

So, we got the Victoria Sub connection into the helix attached (after much test fitting and rasping to get a clean tight joint) with a couple splice plates made from Baltic Birch and plenty of glue (oh yeah, the other task from the morning was refilling the yellow carpenter’s glue bottle – works much better now!) and clamps.

While Cam was taking care of the dryfitting, I got the subroadbed boards for Parksville Yard and the Port Sub trimmed to a much better size, and looking really good.  Once the connection piece into the helix was secured, we secured down the subroadbed boards with plenty of screws.

Following that, the connection to the Port Sub into the helix came in and after much debate as to the height of the helix, figured it was good where it was and secured it very firmly to the two walls it sits against.  The thing is not moving at all!  We can now start running track within Parksville and then into the helix and carry that up to the top.  All I need to get done are a few more turnouts, cork laid, and then we can lay track, wire it up and perhaps have a bit of switching going on at Parksville.

Towards the end of the day, we liberated more than a few pieces of rolling stock from their boxes, including a CP Rail GP35, hitched them all together and ran them up the helix at around 30% power from the powerpack.  No issues whatsoever, so I’m figuring if all works well, 3 locos should have no problems hauling 18 cars up to Port Alberni.

A great day for progress.  Yes, I’m sure you’re wanting pictures.  No, I haven’t taken them yet.  Patience grasshopper…