Modelling the E&N in HO Scale in my basement


July 17, 2011

Been a little while since anything of substance has taken place in the basement, and I blame it on desires to get outside and to also get out of the city. The camping trip to Waterton was great as was the shopping in Kalispell.

But after no progress in several weeks, I wanted to get something done. While I’m still working on getting a curved turnout built, I figured other benchwork could be worked on.

So Cam came over and we tested, drew track centres using the sweepsticks from fast-tracks and the secured the subroadbed for the trackage between Bryn and Nanaimo. As I mentioned in the last post, I decided to put this little bit of trackage out of main view to provide for a longer distance visually and physically to reinforce the fact Bryn isn’t exactly next door to Nanaimo’s outer reaches. So it’s a bit of a squeeze underneath Parksville, but we got it secured well enough.

Next up is the trackage out of the main helix towards Courtenay. Risers were cut, attached, track boards drawn on and then secured. We got mostly into the south siding switch of Mud Bay before we found the rolling stools a little hard to be sitting on for extended periods of time. Still glad we had them though!

Next weekend will be spent primarily cleaning up as next Monday sees my hot water tank being replaced with a tankless hot water heater. Aside from the gas bill going down a little bit, the biggest benefit with relation to the layout is the removal of a head-knocker of a flue from the HWT. No nod-unders going into the staging area!

I promise to post pictures soon, likely after things have been cleaned up!

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.


I host a prolific manufacturer

Amazing what happens when things fall into place…

A few days ago I contacted Jason Shron of Rapido Trains to advise I had taken a couple days off work to help him out with his “Canadian on tour” while he was here in Calgary. He readily agreed to this and we met up a short distance from my work on Tuesday evening. Things got really interesting from there… To the point that he didn’t want to stay at the hotel he booked for himself and ended up accepting my offer of my guest room when all the other hotel rooms in Calgary were taken up. The full details are available first here:

June 22nd

And here:

June 24th

You can see a couple pictures of me and the layout on Wednesday morning. While Jason’s writing makes it look like it’s all my work, nothing could be further from the truth… This layout is just as much Cam’s as it is mine… It just happens to be in my basement and built with my funds.

Thanks for coming out Jason, and you can come back anytime for a visit. Just make sure you bring warmer clothes. 🙂

And for the rest of you… Do order a Canadian set or two. He alludes to manufacturing an RDC model but it won’t happen unless sales of the Canadian are really, really good…


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…

June 3rd, 2011

Happy day!

Got an email from a good friend and fellow model railroader David Bedard.  This guy does some pretty fantastic modelling, and after a brief stint in HO scale, went back to N scale.  Still does some great decoder installations and full of other modelling goodness.

But that’s not why I’m writing about him tonight.  No, tonight, I’m writing to say he found my Fast-Tracks #8 turnout assembly fixture!  I’m needing it for at least 5 turnouts on the layout, two of which are needed much sooner than later.  I’ve been almost literally turning my house and garage upside down trying to find this plate of aluminum without success and thinking I’ve lost it.

No, he had it, loaned to him quite some time ago when he wanted to borrow it for building some HO scale turnouts.  He spent around 3 hours trying to find the point-form tool which I already had.

So, Michaelea and I went on a trip to NW Calgary to pay him, his wife and two daughters a visit.  I got my assembly fixture, a couple others (#5 and #7 turnout assembly fixtures and point-form tools) which I wasn’t expecting, but grateful to have nonetheless, and Michaelea got to spend some time with young kids and Samantha.  We also had a great time shooting the breeze and he showed off a #12 N scale turnout built with code 40 rail.  Wow…Talk about tiny!



One of the reasons for going with such short benchwork (depth-wise) was my choice of lighting. Pretty much from the get go, I decided I wasn’t going to use flourescent or incandescent light fixtures. Especially those with 110V AC required! I didn’t want to have to buy and install a sub panel onto my electrical circuitbreaker panel for the sole purpose of running lights. Nor did I want the added height such fixtures impose.

So imagine the smile on my face when I discovered LED Strips packing some 600 surface mount bright white LED’s into five meters worth of flexible material, on eBay for not even fourty dollars including shipping!

The two reels of them arrived on Friday from Hong Kong. Cam suggested we use my DC power pack and a multimeter to test out both voltage and current draw and we are both pleased with the results.

We even setup a few strips of track at Parksville pit our test equipment on them and then taped up the strips in position and voila! We’ll need to run two or three strips for adequate lighting but I did half expect that given Timothy Horton’s layout (he also gets credit for the idea of using LED’s) uses three strips for his n scale BCR Dawson Creek sub layout.

Another unknown off my checklist. I’ll raise a drink to that!

Work still progressing

So with Taxes (ugh), house cleaning and the various bits of other things that take up my time, I’m remiss with getting updates done.  Oh yeah, and also a few other things like working on Murray’s home layout.

So far, we have completed four turns on the main helix, the majority of the benchwork for the peninsula is in place (Trackboards still need to be cut and secured though) and the amount of track laid has tripled from March.  Of course, that’s easy to do when the helix chews up a lot of track going around and around and around… And unfortunately, Cam and I discovered my work with the 26″ radius 60° arc design was a little flawed.  When the start of the helix construction came around, we discovered the shape didn’t match the 120° arcs and the ready-rod wouldn’t work due to lack of support on many of the inside holes.  So they got pitched and we’ll need a few more 120° 26″ radius arcs cut.  But we’ll likely have enough to connect Parksville with the lower deck, and at some point soon, we’ll be able to run trains from the middle deck to the lower deck.  Not going very far mind you, but it’s still progress.

I’ve also started building the Code 70 turnouts for the visible portions of the layout.  They’ll be needed in a hurry for the Parksville area.

And with that, I think I’m going to build a few more…


Updates still coming

I’m finding time I wanted to put updates into WordPress hasn’t quite materialized as I had hoped.

I’m still wanting to post details as to what happened in the three weekends early in March as there was certainly progress on the layout, but I just want to get this live.


March 26, 2011

In what’s sounding like a rather similar theme to the last few weeks, Cam again came over to push some more progress on the layout.  Except we needed a bit of materials.  Specifically, wider strips of 3/4″ ply.  After some measurements in my Kia Rondo, it was determined that indeed, the car can actually hold strips of 8′ long materials.  And thus, off to Home Depot to pick up a sheet and have it ripped into various lengths.  A couple 6″ wide strips, a few 3″ strips and the balance in 4″ wide strips.

Why 4″ wide strips?  Reason for them is for support of the Summit region of the upper deck.  We constructed the usual grid of front and fingers together, but owing to the height of the upper deck, they ended up resting on top of the wall.  Kinda tough to secure using screws through the web of the plywood as it would do nothing but split the wood.  So, we backed the entire shebang with 4″ wide strips, and then secured everything to the back of the wall. The plywood will eventually be hidden behind trees and a mountainside. Some additional shims underneath the plywood fingers ensured we’re stable and level.

The upper deck is now definitely going to be in the range of 68″ from the floor.  Awfully high up for those who aren’t of average-or-taller male height.  I’m debating the inclusion of turnouts and other derailment prone trackwork that high up, but we’ll see.

February 26, 2011

For a few hours this morning, Cam came over to get some more progress with the layout. We finished off setting up the base for the main helix – putting a fair number more braces upon which we can secure the lowest rotation of the helix. One more leg to support the weight and the base is for all intents and purposes is done for now. We’ve also measured and marked out the rough location for the holes through which we’ll thread the ready-rod. Unfortunately, we can’t really go much further for the main helix as we need to ascertain the exact position for the entry into the helix from Parksville. And for that, we need to finish the one turn helix at the other end of the basement – the connection from Bryn to the Parksville Industrial area.

And that’s what we worked on following a work-related outing to go bowling at the Glencoe Club. So, we started attaching the first sections of the lower level of the helix to the benchwork. Our first bit of actual trackboard attached to the benchwork!