Modelling the E&N in HO Scale in my basement


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!

April 6, 2013 – The Bridge is in!

Really wanted to get some really meaningful progress done on the layout this weekend and made it happen. This past Wednesday, went down to Murray’s place and borrowed his router (and bits), and lined up assistance from Cam and Dan for Saturday.

We tore apart (again) the area around the Vancouver Island Gas spur, to allow for better scenery work, then built the trackboard down to the depot.

And then we built a bridge!

A fair bit of thought (and purchases) went into engineering and building this movable bit of benchwork, primarily because I vowed after hitting my head on a duckunder at CMT, that I would never have to bend over to get into the basement. Though there is a major crawl to get into the dispatcher’s desk, the rest of the operating session crew should never have to bend over to access any of the trackage. Anyhow, after much deliberation, we decided on a lift-up bridge rather than a swing bridge as originally intended for the access to points south of the Nanaimo depot. Lots of measuring, cutting, routing and then plenty of glue (of two types – the regular yellow carpenter’s glue and a polyurethane glue) were used to bond the wood and metal together. Here’s the bridge in the closed position:


And in the open position:


Yes, I know I need to install a doorstop or some such device to prevent the drywall from getting dinged too badly, but the hinges do assist in ensuring the bridge won’t fall down unattended, and provides some assistance in lifting it. It’s still very much a manual process to open or close, but it’s nowhere near as much work as it would be if there was no spring in the hinges.

I’m still needing something in the way of an alignment pin to keep a lateral alignment certainty but the brass latches on the underside make sure the vertical transition stays as it should.

We also need to get cork and track laid, but it’ll likely be after SUPERTRAIN before that happens owing to the time needed to build two curved #8 turnouts, two #7 straights and two #6’s for the trackage needed up to the bridge.

I should also really get the wiring finished for the lower helix and the rest of Courtenay yard too… Lots to do for sure before the next major bit of benchwork: the Staging Yard!


The past few weekends, and a Good (progress) Friday!

So I’ve been busy, and to be honest, not terribly inspired to write about the progress made on the layout.

But progress has definitely been made! A few weeks ago, I did a fair bit more wiring work to the Courtenay site, and we can (in theory) run trains all the way to the depot in Courtenay…. Which is good for the dayliner, but not for the Courtenay turn which needs access to all trackage in the town to do what it needs to do. That will come in time.

But more importantly…

We have benchwork into Nanaimo! Cam, Dan and I worked over the past couple weekends to get benchwork built and this past (Good) Friday, Cam and I got track boards installed south to Vancouver Island Gas. This spur is rather interesting because of … Well, here’s a picture that explains it all:


Cam and I have also worked out a solution for the bridge across the aisle to the staging yard. Instead of being a lift-out or a swing bridge, we decided on something more resembling a bascule bridge. It’ll swing up to vertical over the fridge, and the best part, we’re using self-closing hinges. The weight of the bridge will keep the pressure light when the bridge is down, but assist in raising it and will also ensure it stays open when it’s up. Of course, given the fact we need to incorporate a grade along the line to the VI Gas spur means we’ll need to incorporate some mechanism to keep rolling stock from going to the great abyss if it’s not connected to a locomotive!

That we’ll figure out over the next while…

Till then,

No further track laying north!


The northern end of steel has been reached! Granted, wiring still needs to be installed in addition to some yard trackage in Courtenay, and some bullfrogs also need to be installed, but the mainline is in!

January 21, 2013

Spent a few hours last night separating bundles of salvaged 12 and 14 gauge wire (thanks Dan!) into appropriate colours, and then got to work installing the remaining pair of PSX-3’s. Lots of screws and nylon spacers getting the boards secure.

Wiring in the things reminded me why I prefer solid wire for these things. And even though it says the terminals are rated to fit a 12ga wire, it only JUST fits, and even then requires a lot of pushing and angling things just so, and that’s not counting the stranded wire frustration. I ended up using 14ga solid wire for the pass-thru connections.

January 20, 2013

Wow, been a little while. Happy new year! I’ve been a little busy with getting things in place for SUPERTRAIN, and late this past week determined that I need to have the layout to a point where I can have a mini-ops session by the time mid-April comes around. I say mini because I’m wanting to show off the layout when a few friends arrive in town for the big shoe, but I know for a fact I’m not going to have Port Alberni in place in that sort of timeframe. Nanaimo, and staging, on the other hand, should be doable.

Spent an hour downstairs on Saturday and most of Sunday getting lots of little things done. Specifically, eight bullfrog switch machines and another turnout for Courtenay. Cam arrived in the early afternoon and set to work on the trackwork into Courtenay itself.

At the end of the afternoon, we’ve got track up to the south siding switch of Courtenay. So for the lower deck, needing to get everything around the walls wired, lay track in the Courtenay yard, lay track for the team track and ICG, and install the bullfrogs. Not much work really.

Which then leads to getting benchwork installed for the second deck, getting track installed and then comes the bigger question of exactly how I’m going to build/operate the connection across the aisleway to staging. We’ll (sunglasses) cross that bridge when we get to it.

December 29, 2013

Spent this morning washing a bunch of turnouts and then assembling them with the quicksticks. Found one of the skeletons I thought was originally code 70 was actually a code 83 turnout which is for the staging yard. Oops.

Cam came over and we got to work on finishing the cork to Courtenay. After that was done, the track laying came. Cam got started with continuing the trackage north from Union Bay, and I started in on another turnout skeleton, occasionally providing my eyes to the progress and ensuring the track was kink free.

Dan arrived after he finished up work for the day around 6. He joined Cam with the track laying stuff, and I got to work on making the little clips to wire in the bus to the lower helix. Once there was a fair amount more track installed, I worked on hooking up feeder wires to the track. By the time 9:30pm rolled around, we were getting to the “done” point, and called it a day.

To sum up, we have cork down all the way to the northern end of track in Courtenay, only two turnouts need to be finished and track laid to just past BC Pole. A very good day of progress!

December (mumble), 2013

As much as I dislike Omnibus type things, I’m afraid I need to use it here…

I’ve been down to the basement quite a bit over the last few weeks and haven’t been doing any updates to the blog so my apologies to James and my other lurker readers for not doing these more frequently.

After getting the track boards cut, they spent a bit of time being left alone but they did get secured not long ago. Shortly afterwards, Cam and I cut a board and attached to the wall right at the bottom of the stairs. This will form the tail track and the northernmost trackage in Courtenay. This will come in handy for the crews working the Courtenay turn as they’ll likely need to do some shuffling of cars to switch on their way back to Nanaimo, as the vast majority of the turnouts are south facing.

I’ve also been busy building turnouts, mostly #6’s, but also a #8 curved turnout as well. Much as Cam would like Courtenay and the trackage into it to be arrow straight like it is in the prototype, my basement just won’t allow it, and I’d rather not give up a couple important industries (BC Pole and Dominion Tar) to accommodate that wish, so the turnout to the Courtenay team track will be situated on curved trackage. As far as we can tell, all industries in Courtenay in 1988 are present and able to be switched. I’m looking forward to operating it!

As we hosted a Christmas Brunch for a few important family members, I wanted to get the basement into some semblance of order and also do massive cleaning to make it presentable, I spent about three evenings getting a lot of cleaning/organizing/purging/etc. done. The results are fantastic. Family loved it, trains ran (though admittedly some dirty track in the helix caused some angst, more on that later) and all was good. I even spent the better part of a couple hours tonight doing the same to my workbench.

Couple days ago, spent a few hours in the morning to finish painting the stairs into the basement. Just plain white primer for now.

As I eluded to earlier, some dirty track has been bothering me. More due to all the dust in the basement, something rather unavoidable with all the construction happening, I decided to take advantage of the Boxing Day sale at PM Hobbycraft and looked at an Atlas track cleaning car. To the best of my knowledge, it’s the only vacuum equipped car, so picked it up and then proceeded to install a DCC decoder into it. I ended up removing all the wiring inside, hardwired the decoder in and after a bit of programming, am now able to control the speed of the fan. Ran it successfully through both helicies in front of a couple GP38’s. the results were promising. After a couple runs, the hopper was showing a few bits and the screen was covered in fine dust. The unit could definitely use a capacitor to assist the vacuum motor, and a couple other tweaks, but I’m satisfied with it. I’d post some pictures, but they’re too dirty. 🙂

Yesterday, spent a couple hours and laid some cork down through BC Pole and Dominion Tar as well as the mainline approaching both. Should have the rest of the cork laid tomorrow and probably some track soon as well.Had a real SOB of a time trying to get the lid unscrewed off the full 1.5L jar of contact cement though. I now own a couple strap wrenches…

Also received my order of track yesterday too. 10 bundles of code 70 flex, totaling 180′ of track, so should be good for a while. The three existing bundles weren’t going to make it to Courtenay. While we were out shopping, also picked up some 14ga stranded wire from MRO in red and black for bus wiring needs. My PSX-3’s finally arrived a week or two ago and I can get them installed.

Can’t think of anything else to mention. Thanks for reading this far!

December 2-5, 2012

So I’m finding the workflow with the registrar duties for SUPERTRAIN to be a little less hectic, and Cam found himself with a little extra time, so we got some additional work done downstairs. We’re now in the final stretches of getting all of the benchwork into Courtenay done. All the track boards, minus tail track well north of the Courtenay depot) are cut (including one spur I cut solo on Monday) and ready for installation!

We also checked the lengths and ensured we could fit at least a three-car pole set into both Dominion Tar and BC pole. And in fact, we could actually fit a five car set into the Dominion spur!

And over the past few evenings, I’ve been building turnouts again. I’m needing them and figured track installation is imminent… Two #6 turnouts are now built for the pole yards. Next up is the ICG spur in Courtenay, and then a curved 30/40 turnout for the Courtenay team track. Of course, the track into Courtenay is pretty much arrow straight, this making a curved turnout unwanted, but the layout dictated it to keep the number of separate curves down.

I’m also debating another open house this year after Christmas to show off the progress, but haven’t come to a decision as of yet. If you’re interested, drop me a line – either via email or a comment to the post.