The ballasting of track has begun in earnest. I finished the areas that I started several weeks ago and continued on as far as the station which is just about the mid point of the original layout. I am using a technique used by Cody Grivno. His video on ballasting was very very helpful. For now I am not putting any ballast near the points or the throwbar of each turnout, time will tell if my skill set gets good enough to go back and fill in where i missed. So far all of the affected turnouts are working fine. I sincerely hope to keep it that way. You can see where I ripped out some cork roadbed that used to support a railroad structure. That structure, a small shed has been moved the the MOW track which itself used to serve an industry. One thing about model railroads is that they are ever-changing in a dynamic way. 

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Here is the new extension for the layout. My son, Steve, installed it today. He also moved the big mirror .above the original layout so as to clear the back drop (coming soon). The geared mechanicals for rotating the turntable are re-installed and working great. The flextrack for the new extension should arrive tomorrow.

The turntable end of the layout. The black rectangle on the far right is the mounting for the crank handle that lets the operator rotate the turntable bridge. It works like a charm now that we found the correct tool to tighten the set screws on the gears. Very smooth operation and easy to line up the tracks. The back drop still needs a few more feet of whiteboard to get it to completion and of course some blue paint.

This is a picture of the new turntable and the final arrangement at the South end of the layout  The service facilities on the track connecting the turntable to the trackage are probably where they willbe for good. The engine house has not been constructed yet but there is a plan to put it over the track feeder on which the Diesel Loco is currently located

            I did a bit of work on the railroad today. First I repositioned and remounted the switches that control power to the two remaining feeder tracks to the turntable. Made them much neater and easier to see. Then I repaired a couple of freight cars which were missing couplers and in one case a complete truck at one end of the car. I also moved some of the smaller service buildings fromthe front of the layout to a better position near the MOW track. Making that particular track the MOW track has also meant making a new industry building because the "Parker Tool Company" partial building did not fit anywhere else on the layout. The name will continue but the building will have to change, and move. 

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            Today, the 21st of November, I finally got back to ballasting the track. After watching Cory Grivno's video at Model Railroader.com I am much better prepared for the job than I was before. I am now using the proper tools, pipettes rather than 50 cc syringes to apply the alcohol to make the ballast accept the glue/water mixture much better and a similar pipette to administer the glue mixture to the ballast. I am also delivering both liquids to the outside of the rails and letting it wick into the ballast between the rails. After an overnight of letting that application harden tomorrow I will apply ballast to the areas outside the rails also following Cody's instructions. Cody's method works much better than I have ever seen before and I now actually like to ballast where before it was a job to be dreaded. I figure it will take several days of work to ballast the entire layout, better make that a week or two at least.By the way, the single stall engine house at the right hand end of the original layout has been moved the track one, the track closest to the wall. The building was blocking ones view of the maintenance of way equipment and so I moved it further back in the scene to track 1 instead of track 2. The scene is much improved that way. "The Parker Tool Company" will probably become one of the stores in a new structure kit I ordered from a company in Vermont. 

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This is the new crane car and boom car which I kitbashed from a flatcar, a transfer caboose and some left over parts from the engine house.

        I have recently embarked on a different kind of hobby, model railroading. It is really a return to the hobby which I had departed from some 45 years ago,or so. A fellow ham operator friend of mine introduced me to a local Model Railroad Club here in Bradenton called Real Rail. I was immediately carried back some 45 to 50 years when I was a member of the New Haven Society of Model Engineers. The club was one of the oldest Model Railroad clubs in the Country and it was a great honor to be asked to join. Similarly, it was a great honor when I was accepted into Real Rail. Just hanging out with the club members taught me a lot. Remember, when I left the hobby many years ago, there was no such thing as DCC (digital command and control) and everything, locomotives, rolling stock, track etc now costs a great deal more than it did in that prior life.

            I decided to start small, my layout is 11 feet long and only 18 inches wide. It is what is referred to as a switching layout. THe main activity will be moving freight cars to and from the model industries that will be built in the future on the layout. Already, I have two locomotives, a diesel switcher called an S-4 and a 0-6-0 steam loco. Both are run by DCC and both have sound decoders mounted. That is another of the sea changes in the hobby. Now most locomotives make the appropriate noises as they operate. THe steam engine chuffs as it rolls along, the whistle blows for crossings, the bell rings continually while it is in the yard etc, etc. The diesel has a prototypical engine start-up when the power is first turned on and it also makes all the appropriate and prototypical noises as required. Another factor that increases to true-to-prototype feeling is that the detail on everything is so much better as the units come from the factory. Manufacturers that used to produce almost toy-like units now provide so much fine detail that the units look like the finest brass locos from my day back in the 70's.

This shows the layout in it's early form. THe turntable in the foreground has been replaced with a PECO unit that operated properly, but the tracks are all in the same places as before. 

N1GY- The simple Approach to Ham Radio

The diesel loco similarly has all the detail that is expected today. With the sound decoder in place direct from the factory, it has all the  audio detail one expects today.

The engine house has been moved as you can see. This improved the view to the MOW track and let me display my steam power much better. The boom car in front of the crane is a new addition kitbashed from a ATSF gondola I picked up at the hobby shop today.

​My Model Railroad, A Different Hobby

       All of the turnouts, some people refer to them as switches, but the proper term is turnout, are manually operated using small "ground throws", one of which is just below the diesel loco in the picture above. Since operations on this small layout will be the local movement of freight cars, it makes more sense than having to run back to a control panel to throw a toggle switch to operate the turnout. 

          My DCC control system is from a company called NCE. THe "throttle " is hand held on a 7 foot tether which plugs into a panel on the front fascia of the layout. There are a few toggle switches also on the front fascia which control power to the turntable feeder tracks and overall power to the layout. There will also be a hand crank which via a system of gears will rotate the turntable to the desired track. Everything else can be controlled from the hand-held throttle.

             I will add more photos as the layout gets more buildings and scenic details. By the way, did you know that the ham sign off of "73" came from railroad telegraphers as a way of sying goodbye with a 2 character Morse Code message.

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          There is more progress on the layout. The locomotives now have their crews (engineer and fireman) in place, A couple of buildings have been added behind the station, There is room for an abbreviated town center near the station. In addition, the first "industry" has been installed, a loading ramp big enough for 1/87th semitrucks sited at the team track. I do have reservations about the loading ramp because I thought I had measured it correctly but now it appears to be a bit too high to match the floors of box cars. Ah well, practice makes perfect or at least a bit more accepable.

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              Here is a shot of the new turnout in place. I have not painted the mounting block for the ground throw yet but eventually that job will get done. Yes I know the roadbed has not been placed yet, but until the new benchwork is in place there is no need. I am switching to cork roadbed from the foam material I was using, Iam just more comfortable with the increased grip of the cork when laying track.

              My son arrived today from the icy grip of Connecticut winter and within a short time had my turntable cranking mechanism operating like a champ. Then he set to work and put up the six foot extension of the layout from the north end of the layout over to the TV. It looks great, he even put the fascia on the front of the extension and figured out the best way to anchor the backdrop on that area. I will have to get another 2' x 4' chunk of whiteboard to finish the backdrop on both parts of the layout but for now I just want to get more track laid down and the rest of the stuff. I will post a picture of the extension as soon as I can take the shot.

Here is the kitbashed single stall engine house with the medium duty crane off to the right of the doors.

        Today, my son in law and my grandson came over and assisted me in installing the rotating mechanism for my turntable. The system works but another snag has arisen in that the locos seem to lose power as they cross from the feeder tracks to the turntable tracks. The locos work fine on either track but for some reason they lose power until they are fully on one or the other, I have checked the rail ends in question and the mismatch in height is no worse than it was before when the locos would cross the connection easily in both directions. I have cleaned the track to no avail and filed the ends of the rails to improve the crossing still with no improvement. I am stumped at the moment so I guess I will have to wait until Tuesday for the HO group at Real Rail to pick their collective brains about the problem. I should add that I have checked the continuity of the rails on the bridge with those on the feeder tracks and all appears OK.

         Well it is now a day later and the problem has been solved. The addition of the gearing had nothing to do with the problem. It turned out that somehow the wiring to the turntable bridge had become reversed and thus every time a loco touched both the bridge tracks and the feeder tracks at the same time it created a dead short and the whole system went off. Swapping the wires to the bridge fixed the problem. I have also discovered an easier way to attach the gears to the bridge so I can use a small hand crank on the front fascia to rotate the turntable bridge. 

            I have also added a new scratchbuilt building to the layout. Made of heavey matteboard it now has a rollup freight door for unloading of freight cars and a personnel door with concrete steps and a railing. all non functional of course but these are the details that add to the overall look of the layout.                 Well, another milestone has been reached in the life of almost every model railroader, the layout is getting an expansion. No benchwork as yet but a turnout to the new portion has been installed and is working well. I have it locked into the straight path until the new benchwork is up. The new expansion will have a 3 track "staging yard" behind a switchback series of tracks serving several new industries. I had hoped to include a car float and a port area  but that will have to wait, I have too much to do and learn before I tackle that project. Like the original layout all of the turnouts on the new portion will use Caboose Industries ground throws for activation. I had contemplated brnging the turnout controls to the front of the benchwork, but in the end I decided to go with what I am familiar with. The extension will make the shelf layout L-shaped with a 6 foot leg to the West off the North end of the shelf portion.

              I will have some help this weekend to finish up the work on the turntable and maybe assist in getting the raw materials for the new benchwork. If we get some things accomplished I will post pictures of the extension. BTW. the loading ramp in the photograph higher up on the page turned out to be about 1/4" too high. My bad, must have measured it wrong. However it has been modified to return it to the correct height although the fancy railings had to go. A quick repaint had everything looking OK  and the semi truck still fits.

The steam locomotive has very detailed running gear and things like the rope from the bell to the cab and all of the prototypical detail one expects now a days.

Here is the new loading ramp for the team track. The railings came from a Walthers turntable kit that went uncompleted because of warpage of the pit. Peco makes a much better 90 foot turntable even if it is a bit Europe oriented. Below is a shot of the diesel with it's new crew, unfortunately the crew of the steam loco was not as cooperative, I just could not get a good photo of them.

First trackage laid on the extension. Power feeders yet to be installed.

Here are two pictures of the extention to the layout. As one can see, I am still soldering feeder wires to the track.I used 5 right hand turnouts and one left hander to lead track onto the extension. The feeder wires were attached to a buss pair of wires which tied into the existing power system for the layout. A test run of one of the locomotives showed no problems on any of the new track. Then the real fun will begin, ballasting the track and creating scale industries for the railroad to serve. THe goal here is to have a model railroad that is operated in a prototypical manner in a sense just like a real railroad would do. All of the turnouts are operated by ground throws which are almost scale size, just like any trainman in an industrial switching situation would do. Thus the operator has to be engineer, conductor and trainman all at the same time. The process of figuring out how the train should be assembled in order to make the placing of certain freight cars at certain industries as smooth as possible can be a real poser. Some of the larger HO scale layouts that fill an entire room or even more can take as many as 20 people to operate the layout in a prototypical manner. That is part of the draw that brings some people into model railroading. The intellectual problems of figuring out the operation. Others like myself are also attracted to the prospect of having to build the layout itself. Not just the benchwork, but also the buildings, the scenery, the roads, and the houses. Just creating the railroad structures can take many months of building, and all of this construction is on a very small scale about 1/87th the size of the real thing.

               Right after my son left to go to a conference, I was messing around with the locomotives near the turntable when I made a big mistake. Since the turntable is connected to the hand crank via a worm gear it is not possible to turn the turntable bridge by the "hand of God" method. That was the method that I of course tried to use. I heard a loud crack and realized that I had broken the joint between the vertical shaft and the turntable bridge. The next day I went out and got some 5 minute epoxy. Mixing it up I put a dollop of epoxy on the end of the shaft and pushed the shaft up into the bottom of the bridge. Securing the shaft and gear with some painters tape, I left the repair completely alone for several hours. When at last I tested it after removing the tape, I was overjoyed to find the repair was a complete success. The bridge of the turntable now moves very smoothly in both directions. I am now keeping my hands in my pockets until I really need to use them on thje layout. I also found time this evening to kitbash Walthers 2- stall engine house into a 1stall much shorter engine house. It fits neatly over track 3 at the turntable, which is good because it simply would not fit on either of the other two storage tracks. I will add a photo when I am finished painting and weathering the new engine house.

                Well, that third storage track at the turntable had to be removed because it was just too close to the Engine house. I will be redoing the switches that control power to the storage tracks now that I only need two switches for the two remaining tracks. I did get some things accomplished today. I added 8 more freight cars to the fleet, I got three of them switched to KaDee couplers, the others already had them installed. One of the cars was a maintenance of way heavy-duty crane  car and I kitbashed a flatcar into a boom car to go with the crane car.I also put protewctive outriggers on both sides of the crank handle that rotates the turntable and added a duplex AC outlet to the fascia near the center of the original shelf. That will make it much easier to use power tools like my Dremel tool on the layout. I went to a clinic put on by the RealRail Model Railroad Club of which I am a member. One of the other members demonstrated weathering techniques using makeup powders. Very interesting and really added to my knowledge base.