Modelling the E&N in HO Scale in my basement


July 27-28, 2013

“All that’s left to do is everything” -Jesse James

Probably the best quote I’ve got from The show ‘Monster Garage’ which aptly describes what we have done, and what’s still needing to be done after he cram sessions over the past couple weeks.

To summarize what has been completed:

Trackage in the staging yard is now complete, spiked down (required a trip to the hobby shop solely for track pins! And then another for more #71 drill bits, both account hard, and unforgiving, birch plywood) and (mostly) fed. I say mostly because there’s probably a dozen feeders still needing to be hooked up to the track bus and about as many needing to feed the microswitches powering the frogs in the staging yard. That aught to be fun…

We have servos installed and running on most turnouts, in fact, all the turnouts which must be electrically controlled, are, though I still have a ton of programming of the Quad-LN’s to do, routes to line, etc. I also changed out the accessory bus power supply with a 6A 12V power supply for the entire layout instead of having two running on the layout. I’ve also got a UP5 connected in the staging area too. To finish that bit off requires finding a spot for the Zephyr to live, wiring it in for the programming track at the end of the wye, and other linked tasks.

And then there’s the cleaning needed. This requires a massive amount of vaccuuming of everything, plenty of testing and generally making the basement hospitable. Did I mention that Jason arrives in a little over 36 hours?

July 17, 2013

Spent an hour and a bit last night hooking up previously dropped feeder wires to the bus.

That is all…

July 13-14, 2013

A brief update…even though there was plenty of work done.

Over the course of the time spent downstairs on Saturday and Sunday, I got feeders dropped and secured to the rail for the entire ICG Nanaimo – Nanaimo depot sub-district. Not wired into the bus, but that will hopefully be completed this week. I also gapped the rails for that power district as well.

Cam was over for Saturday and some of Sunday and worked on getting track laid in the staging yard. Made really good progress too, having completed all but a few tail tracks on the southern end of the yard and half of the runaround track. Sunday saw the last bit of staging yard benchwork completed – that is, the reverse leg of the wye into the programming track, and a lot of that track is fitted, though still needs to be spiked down. We also found that cheap birch plywood has another nasty trait – loves bending the track pins! Coupled with the splintering capabilities, I can’t say I will recommend it for benchwork again.

I’ve also been working to get a servo programmed to become the block for errant rolling stock headed to the abyss. Mostly successful, but not entirely positive I can get the Singlet to function as I need it to – that is, having a microswitch operate as a toggle… More to come on that…


July 7, 2013

So it’s been a little while since my last post but I’m still working hard to get things ready for the end of the month.

Yesterday began with some cleaning of the basement – it’s a real disaster down there – and getting things lined up.

Since making the decision to go with servos instead of much larger and more expensive tortoises, I’ve acquired the Quad-LN’s from Tam Valley Depot, the servos, wiring and microswitches from eBay (servos for about $2.50 each, at my door, microswitches for 17 cents each, wires free due to a sharing deal with Dave Bedard) and after all is said and done, I have a DCC controlled turnout for less than the cost of a tortoise bought in a 12 pack… And that doesn’t include the other bits needed like a DS64 or the wiring involved.

Installation of these servos started yesterday and the Quad-LN’s were installed as well. Sadly, I neglected to order an aligner for the Quad-LN’s and the instructions indicate one is necessary to properly set them up. 🙁 I tried a few programming things but in the end, nothing did as it was supposed to, likely because the power supply I was using couldn’t pump enough juice. The Quad LN says it needs about 750 milliamps of power and the supply I used only provided about 300… So I’ve ordered an aligner and a 5amp power supply from Tam Valley. Hope to see them soon.

Meanwhile, Cam was busily getting turnouts laid in the staging yard. We’ve got a lot of track still to lay and I’ve got even more basement to clean up, track to wire and more to do…will get some more done tomorrow.


June 8-9, 2013

Despite appearances to the former, I have been working on the railway over the past while. Just haven’t had much time to actually write about it.

Where to begin:

The track plan for the staging yard has been (almost) finalized. A couple weekends ago, Cam and I were working on the plan for the benchwork and we got to discussing the end of the staging yard. Specifically, how to terminate it. Owing to a lack of feedback from a much earlier post of mine, we decided on a curved turnout ladder and bending the track towards the main helix. The reasons to take this route as opposed to a sector plate or a transfer table, despite their much lower costs and space requirements, are a longer track for the Port Alberni Freight, a longer tail track, and as we discovered, longer storage tracks and a possibility for a couple loco storage tracks.

So with that plan in place, we’ve been building benchwork to make that happen and I’m pleased to say we’re done the benchwork for the staging yard.

Cam said it might be a good idea to just continue making a mess and finish the benchwork for the entire layout while we have the opportunity, and get it done and over with. Can’t disagree with that, so we’re now working on the benchwork for Port Alberni… Another weekend and we should be done!

Also of importance in this work is how I’m going to be powering turnouts in the staging yard. David Bedard has been a fan of using RC Servos for turnout control and showed me a lot of benefits for using them. Prime among them is the cost. These things are very inexpensive compared to the cost of just the tortoises themselves, let alone the time involved in hooking them up… These things are small, plug and play (literally, no soldering required!), and robust. After all, these servos go into model airplanes which means if they fail, it usually ends up with said airplane corkscrewing into the ground with really, REALLY disappointing results!

As a result of the decision to switch to servos, I’ve got a pair of DS64’s for sale. Make me an offer…

And lastly for this update. Jason Shron (of Rapido Trains fame) will be visiting my layout again at the end of July. He’s expressed interest in participating in an ops session or two while he’s here. After hearing of the progress on my layout (which has been really substantial since he last saw it) he managed to convince me to have one.

I agreed to the idea of a partial ops session (not involving any switching in Port Alberni) and then realized how much work is involved… I suppose nothing lights a fire under one’s ass like a deadline like that! Better get to work!

May 26, 2013

Simple update from yesterday’s small amount of work:

Installed six bullfrogs, and trimmed the throwbars to length. Also had to run to get #6 screws as that’s the only size which fits.

Tonight is running bus wire.

May 18, 19 & 21

This past long weekend was a very fruitful session of track building!

Following a lot of benchwork being completed over the previous weeks, we now have track laid pretty much all the way from just south of Bryn through to the Nanaimo depot. Yes, the saying, “we’ll cross that bridge when we get to it” applies here as last Tuesday, we now have track onto the drawbridge separating the staging trackage from the rest of the layout.

In addition to the great amount of trackwork done (which includes trackage into five industries), I’ve got bullfrogs built for all of the switches, though they still need to be installed.

And one last thing. Dan spent a bit of free time and punched a hole through the wall where the staging yard will come through the wall from the utility room.


April 29, 2013

Finished up all the feeder wires and the bullfrogs in Courtenay this evening. Accordingly, I am now able to run freights all the way north… But until I get the layout vacuumed, nothing’s getting there!

Tricky benchwork

Spent a fair bit of time with Cam and Dan this past weekend. Saturday was primarily spent measuring, checking with levels, and a whole lot of cardboard being drawn on.

Now that the bridge is in, the work of getting to the staging yard is now underway. The big challenge is that there’s a wye into my future programming track and the main route to the staging yard itself happens to be in rather tight quarters. Specifically underneath the stairs to the basement and clearances in spots are tight as hell. Thus, the planning needs to be quite good because we don’t have ability to lay track on said benchwork after it’s installed. This also includes turnouts and their switch machines.

So the need to get it all bang on the first time is quite important.

Sunday had Dan and Cam over to start making lots of sawdust (and I just vacuumed it all!) in constructing the bits. Well, most of them. We’re still working on the one leg of the wye, but we ran out of time on that. More to come in weeks ahead.

Getting to old tasks

This past week has bee an interesting one. Of course SUPERTRAIN wrapped up last Sunday after a spectacular weekend and record attendance, and had a few people over to see the layout. Needless to say, Dan Garcia and Matt Soknacki of Rapido Trains were quite keen to see the layout as were a few others, including Steve Stark. Steve was introduced to me by Tim Horton (of BCR Dawson Creek fame, not the coffee shop) as a fellow E&N modeler. Steve is also an absolute fount of knowledge about the industries on Vancouver Island, and as a result of him, I’m needing to pull up a very short length of track at the end of the Superior Propane spur in Parksville and replace it with… Get this… Code 83 rail on Concrete Ties. Yup, there’s a 100′ long chunk of 132lb rail on concrete ties in the hydrogen peroxide facility. Yup, that spur was a dual-purpose bit of track according to Steve… Served as both hydrogen peroxide and propane!

In the past few evenings, I’ve also been taking care of a more necessary task, running bus wire and properly powering up the lower helix. After getting the bus soldered to the clips and then secured to the ready rod, gapped the rails at the lower end to ensure two boosters weren’t feeding a common set of rails, and made the connection of the bus to the appropriate PSX unit.

Fired up the system, did the quarter test and all good. And then I sent the Courtenay turn north from Parksville. Shortly after the train departed Parksville, I got sparks and beepage from the booster. Turns out that I have a DB150 which has the rail sync … Well, out of sync. A quick change of the output wires and problem solved.

Started the turn back down the hill and put the dayliner into service at Courtenay and had the two meet at Mud Bay. I suppose I should’ve taken a photo to commemorate the moment, but didn’t. Was having too much fun!