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Trees, Trees, Trees

Whether one is building a layout for the first time or for some with many under their belts, there are always hurdles to overcome.  At this point of the layout, it is building trees to form the tree corridors that the lines had to run through.  These tree corridors were the barriers between the rail lines and the farmers’ fields.  In order for me to finish the lower section of the layout, Owen Sound main yard, I need to finish all the scenery at Park Head and the beginning of the line going to Wiarton.  This installment is about making trees.

I used four different methods of building trees.  The most rewarding but time consuming was SuperTrees by Scenic Express.  The next method using Sedum was taught to me by Richard McQuade.  I finished off some trees which were started by Chris Creighton and finally some Woodland Scenics which were IMHO the least realistic but good enough.

I purchased a box of SuperTrees quite a few years back at a Boxing Day sale at one of the remaining Model Railroad Stores in the GTA but it was not until Trevor Marshall gifted me the Starter kit that I actually took notice.  So, I started out with SuperTrees.  They use armatures that can be used on their own but also trimmed and glued to tree branch clippings that act as trunks.  Unfortunately, the armatures are usually curled and there are two methods for straightening them out.  The first is a low temp soldering iron applied to the stem and the second is to boil them in water and glycerine, then hang them out to dry with weights.  I used both procedures to do just that.

SuperTrees Drying

The first SuperTrees I made were Birch Trees which were needed for the out cropping just before the line crossed over Highway 6 on the way to Wiarton.  These were made without the trunks.  I combined the fronds at their base with floral tape then added branches over and over using Quick Grip which came in the starter kit.  Then they were sprayed Krylon Chalk Grey and the ‘rings’ were added with an extra fine black Sharpie.  I used the provided SuperLeaves in light green colour.

Birch Stand

The trunks for the other SuperTrees I made were from clippings that I cut from various shrubs and trees around our property and from those provided in the kit.  Both worked well.  To install them on the Styrofoam, I drilled out the bottoms, inserted and glued brads or finishing nails with their heads ground off.  This method has proven to work quite well.  Note that the blue Styrofoam is way easier to insert the brads into than in the orange Styrofoam.  I had to drill out the orange Styrofoam to mount them.

Trunks

I glued the SuperTree branches on the trunks using Quick Grip which seems to be only available in the US.  It works really well.  I have looked for substitutes in Canada but so far no luck.  It has been suggested to use thick ACC but it is not even close to being as effective however, is really great for sticking fingers together.

SuperTrees

I painted the trunks and other trees with Krylon Chalk Brown outside the house and then highlighted the bark with an acrylic grey mix.  On the SuperTrees, I used the provided SuperLeaves in both light and olive green colours.  On the sedum trees, the Chris trees and the Woodland Scenics trees a combination of various colours of ground foam and Selkirk Scenery leaves were used.  I am not certain if Selkirk Scenery is still around.  The ground foam was attached using Quick Grip and the leaves were attached by spraying acrylic matt medium on the branches or ground foam.  I use cheap floral sprayers from dollar stores.  They seem to work better than the ones provided by the scenery companies.

Woodland Scenics Short Trees

Chris Creighton Trees

I wanted to make the tree corridors varied with different types including conifers except the area before the line crosses Hwy 6 which had Birch trees.  The conifers used were a combination of Bachmann, Woodland Scenics and others donated by Jim Parker who at 93 is unfortunately is retiring from the hobby.  Thanks Jim, anything to make things move along more expeditiously.

Here are some pictures of the results starting with the birch trees and moving down the line towards Park Head station.  I find them acceptable.

Birch Tree Grove Before Hwy 6 Crossover

More trees are in the works to complete Park Head and when that is done, the next steps will be adding fencing and telephone poles.  I am looking forward to that posting, pun intended.

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Upgrades!

Have you ever shuddered at the suggestion that it’s time to upgrade?  It usually evokes computer obsolescence in one’s mind.  There was a saying in the 1990’s that computers and their parts were obsolete 70 days after they were first released to the public.  I don’t know how true that is today but in model railroading, upgrading is not necessary as often or is simply up to the modeler’s discretion.

I finally found some time to get to two old workhorses that needed upgrading.  They were the first two models I had built in S Scale of the CNR K-3 Pacific class, K-3-b 5584 (2003) and K-3-a 5575 (2004).  I used American Models Pacific drives which had valve gear similar to Tyco in HO.  Eventually a kit developed around them that had better etchings and better details including accurate valve gear replacements.  5584 needed the original Tyco style valve gear replaced with Baker-Pilloid and 5575 needed its tender updated.  5575 had its valve gear upgraded from Tyco style to Walshaerts in 2005 when it returned from a photo shoot in Texas severely damaged.  It had most likely been dropped on its front end by Canada Customs when inspecting it for duty valuation or any security threat.  Although insured, the USPS would not pay out due to the fact that I had no purchase receipt showing its value.  But, enough said about that. 

The first true pilot model that used all the kits parts was CNR K-3-d 5611 (2005).  All the K-3’s I have built for myself ran on the Owen Sound/Wiarton subs.

5584 With Tyco Style Valve Gear
5575 With Tyco Style Valve Gear

Both locos were first equipped for DC PFM sound but 5575 did get an early silent DCC installation so it could run on the S Scale Workshop Modular layout.

During the repair and upgrade, 5575 received new valve gear, new cast resin cylinders and a new pilot.  The tender remained the same with the standard CNR wafer herald.  5575 had this herald for most of its life and any shots I saw of it in service had this herald.  Most of its life it was stationed in Lindsay, Ontario but it ended its career in Palmerston, making it a candidate for the Owen Sound sub.

5575 with Walshaerts Valve Gear and New Pilot

CNR 5575 ended its life on the Palmerston storage track in tallow behind CNR E-10-a Mogul 81.  It then sported the roundel passenger logo.  I had lots of photos of it in that state.  I assumed that they put that logo on just before storage as CNR had a habit of doing that.  However, in 2011 I found a photo of it in steam on the Palmerston turntable, full coal load with the passenger roundel on it.  So, if my 5575 were to represent its time on the Owen Sound sub, it would need a new logo on the tender.  I decided this past summer to change the logo.  The old one was removed using a 99 proof Isopropyl alcohol on a Q-tip.  The tender sides were gently sprayed Scalecoat black where the old herald was, leaving the rear number plate and capacity numbers alone.

5575 Loco and Blank Tender

I decided to add the pieces of sheet metal on the front of the sides of the tender. 0.020 brass was used for this.  I am not certain, but I think they were put on a lot of open cab locos’ tenders as wind deflectors.  For a final touch an incandescent bulb was installed for the backup light.

New Herald and Wind Deflectors
5575’s Tender New Look

The deflectors were hand painted black then everything over-sprayed with Floquil Flat Finish.  Before the tender was re-united with the loco, the loco received the customary cab curtains.

I then decided that it was high time for 5584 to get upgraded.  In its former shape, it would not negotiate the DCC layout as the cylinders would short out on the shorter wheelbase engine truck when negotiating a 42” radius.  American Models only insulates the centres of their drivers so their valve gear is live on both sides.  They cleverly insulate the valve gear using Delrin inserts everywhere.  To get around this challenge, I cast resin cylinders and used nylon screws and a plastic sleeve to keep both sides separate.  It works fine unless the brass brake shoes get in the way.  I may try to 3D print replacement brake hangers/shoes when I get better at 3D drawing.

Therefore, 5584 needed new valve gear, new cylinders, a new pilot and eventually new steps.  If you look closely in the photo, you will notice that the original stairs are now too short.  That is because the pilot that was on there was too high.  It was a severe modification of the AM USRA plastic pilot which could no longer be used.  It is still in good shape and looks CNR enough so I may have a future use for it.

5584 upgrades

I found too that the way I had mounted the engine truck did not work and that the axel spacing on the old engine truck was too close together to allow enough swing.  So, the kit version of the engine truck with longer wheelbase was added to the mix.

Because the pilot was now at the correct level, the stairs and front handrails had to be replaced.  The list just kept on going

Not everything is painted yet but 5584 is being broken in and has performed quite well.  A few adjustments need to be made before the stairs and handrails are painted.  Of course the cab curtains will be put on.

5584 and Its New Front
5584 and 5575 With Curtains

Yes, it’s true that these locos are 18 and 19 years old but now renewed.  When I told my grandkids, they could not imagine that they were younger.

Okay, I have done my upgrades for now.  Next, back to the layout.

Ah, Scenery!

I have been completing the scenery at Park Head as quickly as I can because it is the area directly over Owen Sound. This will facilitate being able to start laying the track and building Owen Sound.

It has been a busy year for me.  My duties as secretary for the NASG and being the Clinic Chair for the 2022 NASG Convention did take up a bit of time (someone’s gotta do that stuff) but now I can do other things like continue the layout and perhaps do a few more posts.

Grass is growing everywhere from Hwy 6 crossover before Wiarton to the entrance to the helix.  It is actually long Noch grass which I applied using the Noch static grass tool.  I hear that there are better devices out there but I bought this quite a number of years ago and don’t want to change it out.  I found that it worked well and now the layout has a nicer look to it.  I will be adding weeds and shrubs once the trees are all in.

I also built two stock pens from ‘Boxes of Sticks’ kits, one for Park Head and the other for Wiarton.  This picture shows the static grass and manure pile around the Park Head stock pen.

Park Head Stock Pen
Park Head Buildings

You might notice that the buildings are coloured now.  I used a can of spray primer by Dupli-color that can be purchased from the Canadian Tire Retail store in the automotive department.  They have these behind the counter now.  The colour is red sandable and when it is wet, it is very close to CNR Red number 11 (Mineral Brown) which is the common colour for just about everything which is rolling stock and buildings.

After using the spray paint, I decided roofs were in order.  I checked the Internet to see how to model canvas roofs.  I tried a couple of methods that did not work for me but they do work for other people.  Jim Martin suggested cutting masking tape into the necessary widths, laying it on and then painting over with inexpensive acrylic paint.  I used the various photos I had that showed where the canvas/tape should overlap. It worked well.  Here are the pictures that show the steps.  I am happy with the results.  The freight shed and tool shed used the same method.  The outhouse roof did not need covering.

Park Head Station Taped Roof 1
Park Head Station Taped Roof 2
Park Head Station Taped Roof 3
Park Head Station Taped Roof 4

I mixed up some black and white acrylic paint to create a warm black and hand brushed it on.  I am happy with the results.

Park Head Painted Roofs
Crossing Hwy 10

The tracks coming in and out of Park Head ran through corridors of trees that separated the lines from the farmer’s fields. I have started to build trees using the Scenic Express Super Sage Tree kits. I had purchased a set quite a few years back and Trevor Marshall kindly gifted me a starter set just before he moved to Saskatoon.  As per usual, I read and reread the instructions.  They had some links to check out which I did. The tree branches are quite curly, very dry and brittle.  I tried two methods to straighten the tree branches. The soldering iron method worked well but the glycerine bath made them more pliable.

Here are some pics of the first line of birch trees just before Hwy 6 crossover.  Many more trees will be added as well as shrubs and other natural wild plants.  This stand is on the removable piece of Styrofoam which is in front of the removable backdrop which is in front of the circuit breaker panel.  I will have to train my wife, Terry as to how to remove these if I am not around and there is an emergency.  Or, I can just stay at home forever and play trains.

Treeline 1
Treeline 2

The trees have even started growing at Park Head!

They’re Advancing Everywhere!

I find building trees quite enjoyable and I have started building more.

I guess you noticed that ballast is creeping in.  It is not a task I enjoy; therefore, I will not cover it as it covers the cork roadbed.  Until next time, hopefully sooner than later.

Hindsight!

Greetings!  It has been a while, hasn’t it?  I have done a lot since my last entry but not that much different from what I have already posted.  I did learn a few lessons along the way.  As they say, “Hindsight is 20 -20 vision.”  Ah, 20 – 20 vision, those were days long gone by.

When I moved the track to accommodate the upper level entry point of the helix, I decided to over sand the cork roadbed to make the track dip a bit here and there like what I saw on some videos of the branch in the 1950’s which I have seen lately. This caused some difficulty with my CNR Mikado S-3-a 3702 when it was running along the wall.  I thought that there were not enough track feeders and put more in.  This did not help but it was good to do anyway.

The Culprit

However, when I took a closer look, I discovered that the roof extension of the semi-vestibule cab would touch the top of the modified tender at one of those dips and short out. 

A Better Look When, Where and How the Short Occurred

Having made this discovery, I finally decided to connect flashing LED’s to the circuit breakers and attach them to the fascia. This would show any shorts that would happen from now on. These circuit breakers have outputs for an LED and a buzzer.  There are 6 districts on the layout and they all have their own circuit breaker. The possibility of having multiple annoying sounds going off at an operating session made up mind to not install buzzers. The flashing LED’s instantly show a short and are kind of cool to look at.  However, trying to attach these to already installed circuit breakers under the layout turned out to be a pain, to say the least.  Hindsight!  I should have put them in when I was initially installing the circuit breakers.

The Solution Off
The Solution On

I found some symbols on the Internet that are for Short Circuit, printed them out on large labels and added them to the panel with the LED poking its head through. So far, four are installed. Park Head and Owen Sound South need theirs done. Those circuit breakers are easy to get at because the Styrofoam is not glued down yet and I will do them before I install the track at Owen Sound South.

And the Mikado? I put some Kapton tape under the cab overhang and it seems to be working out well. But I am still thinking that one out.

The Scenery is coming along. If you look closely at the layout above the Short Circuit Display, you will see some green fuzzy. I have been flocking everything. I will get into that next installment.

NASG Josh Seltzer Award

This is very nice.

I would like to thank the NASG (National Association of S Gaugers) for bestowing their 2021 Josh Seltzer Award on me for this blog.  Josh Seltzer was an early promoter of S Scale.  He ran an S Scale business with his wife Barbara, redecorating and modifying American Flyer cars with Scale, Hi-Rail and Flyer options.  Sadly, he passed away in 2003 at the age of 52.  The award, which was created in his honour, is given in recognition of those who support and promote S-scale modeling via a web site on the World Wide Web or any form of electronic media.

I would also like to thank all the people who follow this blog for your support.

Here is a picture of the NASG Josh Seltzer award on my layout at Park Head with the Wiarton main and the north leg of the wye in the foreground.  The SD-40-2 diesel may seem out of place but it belonged to Josh Seltzer and is lettered for his private name model railroad, Zanesville and Lake Erie.  I purchased it indirectly from his estate.  When I bought it, I had planned on repainting it to CP Rail but now it will remain in Josh’s colours out of respect.  My grandson Everett likes the green diesel.  I can always consider it a lease loco which CN did do and still does from time to time.  It is really a nice paint job.  I am pretty sure Josh did it.

Zanesville & Lake Erie SD40-2 at Park Head

As an aside, I am operating this layout in different eras which is the reason for the classic diesel.  1950’s steam era still rules but every so often I will change out the equipment to add variety and operating interest.

Next: Where the layout is today.

And Now for Something Completely the Same June 2021

I feel I have made enough progress to post an overview of what has transpired over the last 4 months.  I won’t go into the methodology as most people already know how to do what follows but if you have any questions in this regard, please give me a shout.

I have been concentrating finishing off the upper level especially Park Head because it is directly over Owen Sound. Access to putting scenery will be difficult at best once the track for Owen Sound yard is in and felt I had to at least get the station and surrounding buildings roughed in before approaching them with any scenery.  The structures at Park Head were somewhat unique and provided a number of challenges that had to be overcome since I only had photos to rely on, not plans.  From my observations, none of the structures at the Park Head train facilities were standard.  CNR adopted the use of old wooden coaches and baggage cars to replace stations on branchlines that had burnt down.  The original station burnt down on August 19, 1934 and was replaced by a coach, number 3174.  A boxcar, number 322095 became the freight shed.  Of course the coach roof had those turned down ends over the open platforms. I believe the car builders built them that way just to frustrate modelers.  I didn’t like the idea of trying to bend wood roof stock or making the curved ends by bending pieces of stripwood then covering them with thin paper.  Luckily my friend Jamie Bothwell came to the rescue and suggested I use Bachmann On30 shorty passenger cars because they had downward curved ends on their roofs.  I checked out local flea markets and found they could be had for a reasonable cost.  They scale out to around 10’ wide in S which is quite acceptable but they were still very short.  I had to cut the bodies so that when spliced together, they would be the correct 54’ 10” up to the platforms. I got the information about the length in the Lepkey-West CNR Passenger Car Book 1.  This meant that I could not use the O scale windows and had to cut them out.  The rooves were cut and spliced as well so they would be able to plug into the slots in the joined bodies.  Tamiya filler was used and sanded to fill any gaps.

Park Head Station Spliced Together from Two On30 Passenger Cars

Although I drew up a new set of S scale windows in Fusion 360 to have printed out, Jamie offered to laser cut the window frames out of 0.020” sheet styrene.  I opted for Jamie’s help because the 3D printing was too expensive at the time.  I glued his window strips in each side and after cutting more 102 itty bitty pieces per side, I glued them all in place and ended up with a correct 17 windows per side with a blank at the right end of each side where the wood stoves were.  The following photos show this progression.

Getting as many photos as possible of the eras I am modelling has been a hobby within a hobby.  Sometimes I get really lucky.  Many of the photos I have studied show the tracks to Wiarton bordered on farm fields that had tall trees lining the fence along the right of way. In a way, the railway ran through a corridor of trees.  I painted rather tall trees on the backdrop which will be fronted by model trees.  Grass and weeds were simulated by dry brushing with a stiff brush.  I am pleased with the results.  The front edge of the layout is not going to be treed because there is not enough room between the track and the edge of the layout.  Also, ease of access when there are derailments is important. 

Having the station started and a placeholder double sheathed 36’ boxcar in place, I was ready to start the scenery.  I carved long leftover skinny pieces of Styrofoam to line the lower edge of the backdrop creating a berm.  I used a Woodland Scenics hot wire cutter for this.  Our driveway was a bit messy with Styrofoam bits but a ShopVac made quick work of it.  I decided to put in a ground cover base which was Sculptamold.  My friend Trevor Marshall gave me some unused boxes of it amongst other cool scenery stuff before he moved to Saskatchewan.  Thanks Trevor.  I had never tried this before and unlike plaster it provides a very nice uneven bumpy surface.  Earth coloured latex was brushed on with a coating of finely sifted dirt/sand to follow.  Then the Woodland Scenics green ground foam mixture was glued down.  This was done right up to where the Park Head station platform was supposed to go.  In the following photo, you can see the effects of the Styrofoam strips already scenicked over, covering the lower edge of the backdrop. 

Before adding any more scenery, I thought it best to build the station platform.  Pre-1950’s, the platform was a boardwalk but later it became asphalt framed with timber.  In the following photo, I have placed the platform in its intended spot.  It was cut from dollar store foam board which I would NOT use again because when I painted it with water colours, the paper separated.  I will use stuff from an art store in future for other platforms.  The little green tool shed is a stand in.

The timber frame needed to be curved to follow the track.  I used some long pieces of Mt. Albert Scale lumber to form the frames by first soaking them in hot water and the bending them to fit.  They were held in place using T pins and metal weights and left in place until dry. The fringe in the next photo acts as a telltale so people don’t bump their heads when ducking under. The top pf my head has reaped the fringe benefits.

Along with the station, there were three other buildings inside the wye at Park Head, a freight shed made from a boxcar as previously mentioned, a rather high tool shed and a two-hole outhouse, I suspect for Men and Women.  I used two photos in Ian Wilson’s book and those that I have collected through the years.  The freight shed was kitbashed from a 40’ double sheathed boxcar someone had built which I cut in the middle and shortened to 36’. I used a photo that Robert Sandusky kindly provided me for help with the freight shed.  The tool shed was scratchbuilt and my first two drafts were board and batten which was what it looked like in the distant photos I had access to.  Then I noticed in a photo I had from the Basil Headford collection, that the tool shed had a side door and was wood sheath or tongue and groove.  The hip roof was the most difficult part getting the ratio and the length of the cap so that it looked just right.  The board and batten outhouse was scratch built next.  For some reason, it was the easiest to build.  Is someone trying to say something to me?  Oddly enough, I had a really cool video of the outhouse.  Jim Van Brocklin, a US railway cinematographer, was stuck at Park Head in 1956 and happened to film the goings on. To recant Jim’s story, he bought round trip tickets to Owen Sound which the ticket agent at Palmerston was happy to sell him without telling him that the northbound train 173 was scheduled to arrive in Owen Sound exactly the same time as the southbound train 174 was leaving and if the northbound train was late, he would have been stuck in Owen Sound overnight which he could not do. Of course 173 was late that day.  As a result, Park Head got some unplanned filming.  Lucky for me, but not for Jim.  The following picture shows the tool shed with incorrect board and batten siding and the outhouse.

Of course, after I did this, I realized I had forgotten to paint the track.  This is something I feel is necessary because it makes the track look less like plastic and more like wooden ties.  As I may have said previously, I can hand lay track but I don’t unless it is necessary.  I just find slapping down flex track quicker in some ways.  Then again, one does not have to paint hand stained laid ties to get that creosote look.  At any rate, I fired up the air brush and carefully painted the track Railway Tie Brown.  The ties will have a lighter wash applied at a later date.  I did all the rest of the upper level track which has not yet had scenery added, at the same time.  The paint I used was water based and it did work well on the plastic ties, wood ties and the sides of the rail.  On the printed circuit board ties not so well.  I would like to migrate from lacquer to water based paints for all my airbrushing but I need to master painting on metal before I feel comfortable painting any rolling stock.

Here is where I am as of this posting.  The station was painted Floquil Foundation which gives a nice raw wood colour.  The jar was from the 1970’s and stored upside down!  Some touch up with the body filler is necessary on the station sides.  Once the station has dried enough, it and the three buildings will be painted most likely CNR Mineral Brown or Red Number 11 which is really close to Pennsy boxcar red or whatever those SPF’s call it.  Then I will distress and weather the buildings.  As you can see, the track has been airbrushed. I will do the sides of the rail by hand a rust colour.

The omnipresent fencing will go in after everything else is in.  I have drawn up the correct CNR/GTR Canadian version of trackside fence and had it etched in nickel sliver.  I can’t wait to try it out. 

Until next time, stay safe.  Live Long and Prosper.

A Simple Tour of My Current Progress, January 2021

It has been over 12 months since I posted last but in that time I have managed to get quite a lot done and undone.  I decided to take a break from posting because I wanted to avoid sounding too instructive which was a comment I received.  This year has had its issues with Covid – 19 and I spent a lot of time during the summer at the cabin clearing out trees so a driveway could be put in. Before that, my wife and I had to hike our supplies in. That meant lugging things over a 100 metres long uneven path and at our ages was becoming a bit much.   I had to buy a new chainsaw because I burnt the old one out.  The new one is better and I am more afraid of it than any other power tool.

So here is a tour.  I started early last year (2020) putting in all the Styrofoam for the lower level which represents Owen Sound.  Then I proceeded to install the roadbed and track for everything up to the point where the mainline entered the main Owen Sound Yard, just behind the Roundhouse. I stopped there so I could access the upper level to start scenery.  I felt these steps were necessary so I could join the levels with the intended helix. This also meant clearing out part of the basement which is always good.

Going from right to left, the drawing shows the North Part of the Mainline with Passing Siding and Storage Track. The sidings and storage tracks are in magenta.  A Supertest Oil Facility was located there as well.  The Boarding Tracks were where they would hammer boards to the inside of the boxcars before they put the grain in them.  There was a spur to Harrison’s Lumber and finally the tracks to service the Grain Elevator.  People familiar with the prototype track setup will notice that there are two instead of three tracks at the Grain Elevator.  I used modeller’s license of selective compression but I can install a third if I need to.  All turnouts are powered with Tortoise and DPDT toggle switches.  The LEDs in the panels are 3mm.

Before I could start the scenery at Park Head on the upper level, I remembered that it was rule of thumb to put in a backdrop first.  I decided to make removable backdrops made of hard board cut into 16” strips 8 feet long. They have to be removeable for maintenance purposes.   I used 2” x 2” wood spacers to project them out from the wall.  They are mostly held in place with strips of Velcro.  Note, do not cheap out and use the clone brands, they don’t hold up as well as the real Velcro.  They were painted the same colour as a sky shot that I took at Park Head.  Next I started to put in lighting under the upper shelf to add illumination to the lower level.  These are inexpensive LED tubes.  I started to lay track on the lower level so I would get an idea of where the helix would go. (And yes, that is the Starship Voyager behind the trees.)

Lower Lighting and Backdrops

I installed the benchwork and track for the North Part of the Owen Sound Yard which has the north passing siding and storage tracks where Supertest Oil was located. This is also where the lower level will connect to the helix.

North End of Passing Siding/Storage Track Under the Wiarton Turntable.

Then the boarding tracks were put in where they put the boards on the inside of the boxcars before they filled them with grain. The control panels for the turnouts are placed as close a possible to where the turnouts are. The turnout control panel for the north end of the Passing Siding/Storage Track can be seen just behind the boxcars on the Boarding Tracks.

The Boarding Tracks with Passing Siding/Storage Tracks in the Background
Boarding Tracks and South End of Passing Siding/Storage Track Turnout Control Panel

Next, the spurs to Harrison’s Lumber and the Grain Elevator were put in.

Grain Elevator and Harrison’s Lumber Sidings
Grain Elevator Siding with a Mock Grain Elevator

The Pottawatami River rough in and its bridge were installed after the track was laid.  The Styrofoam and track were cut out. A piece of 0.060” plastic sheet was glued underneath the Styrofoam and sealed around the edges.  It was not too hard.  I used an Atlas HO bridge which I widened by splitting it down the middle and gluing a piece of brass sheet underneath.  The bridge needed to be shortened as can be seen in the photos. Micro Mark HO Rivet decals were used. The ends were carefully airbrushed black. Pieces of styrene sheet were used to simulate the shoes under the ends of the bridge.

Crossing the Mighty Pottawatami River
Bridge Widening
Bridge Shortening with New Ends
Finally the Two Sections of Owen Sound North are Joined Again

The helix is in. Yay!  It was built to adjust and take apart if necessary. Wood is in short supply these days because it seems everyone is renovating with the Covid thing happening. It is also a lot more expensive! Unfortunately, the only 1/2 inch plywood I could get was construction grade, warped. I had to add stiffeners along the edges to make it straight. The only 1″x 2″ pine I could get was finished in white. Some extra spacers were put in place between levels to ensure straightness as well. The grade is about 2 percent. Most of my Pacifics will need weight added. When I built them, I did not add weight due to the fact that they were only running on my level S Scale Workshop Modules. I should have planned ahead. CNR 5580 has been weighted and will now pull a 3 or 4 car passenger train up the grade well enough. This is about as long as the usual southbound prototype train was so I am in the clear there. Of course, the diesels have no problem with the grade! I may add another level and lessen the grade using shorter spacers but that is when I can go outside and use the chop saw. Then again, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!

Where the Lower Level Meets the Helix
Where the Upper Level Meets the Helix

I am getting used to the helix. It is kind of like watching a train go continuously around a Christmas Tree. Maybe next year I will put a tree in the middle during the holiday season.

The next instalment will be upper level scenery. Cheers, until next time and do stay safe. 

Converting an Sn42 Turntable to S Standard Scale

The turntable being used at Wiarton is a Walthers Powered HO 110 foot which turns out to be about 80’ in S Scale.  This is about 5 scale feet too long but considering that steam locomotives are always between 3 to 5 feet longer than their prototypes; this should not be really a problem appearance wise.

Because of the location of the turntable, I will have to leave the backdrop open for access in case of a derailment.

The first order was to take the deck off the bridge.  It was fairly straight forward.  Before doing so, I marked colours on the centre post to remember which wire went to which rail.  The carriage wheel sets have been removed as well.  They will be eventually replaced.

The Bridge Being Dissected

The deck comes off with screws which are a bit hard to get at.  If you are doing this be careful not force anything or break any parts of the mechanism. 

Top of Bridge Minus Deck

What remains is shown below.  The carriage wheelsets are back on again.

Deck Removed Wires Lengthened

The hole where the wires come through is about three quarters of an inch in diameter.  I suppose I could have simply put an S Scale track on top but I was concerned about alignment at the ends and how much extra I would have to build up the track work approaching the turntable.  Also the HO turntable bridge would not have ended up being the correct width.  By making a new deck, I could control the width and add 1/8” to each side.

Next I measured and marked out where the centre of the turntable pit would go and cut out the hole in the Styrofoam.  I found that I needed to add a bit of bracing using styrene sheet.

Once done, I put the bridge back in the pit with some S Scale track on it.  I placed some cork roadbed and track up to the edge of the pit and tried to get a handle on how much I would have to build up the deck in order to have both the track on the turntable and the feeder track vertically level.  It turned out that I needed to shim the deck of the bridge 0.240” and the lip of the pit 0.100”.  To do this, I cut out 3 sheets of 0.080” styrene for the turntable deck which were one quarter of a real inch wider than the HO deck.  I drilled a ¾” hole in the centre for the wires to pass through.  I also had to add some small lengths of wire to the existing wire to make them long enough to reach the track.

Laminations Being Glued On

The gluing of the track to the deck had to be done carefully so it would line up equally on each end.  I measured and marked carefully then put masking tape down each side to make sure that there would be no variation.  I glued the track down using water based contact cement and let everything dry for the recommended 24 hours.

Track Glued Down

The bridge was placed in the pit and a track alignment gauge from Ribbonrail was used to align the track at both ends.  I powered it up and let it rotate to make sure.  One of the neat things about this turntable is that it comes with a control panel and you can press a CW (Clockwise) or CCW (Counter Clockwise) button to nudge it into place if things don’t always line up automatically.

I also cut and laminated pieces of 0.060” and 0.040” styrene to shim the lip of the pit.  I bevelled these pieces and glued them on the lip where the feeder track enters and on the opposite side.

I am quite pleased at the result.  I will eventually finish detailing this with proper sides and railings but for now it does what I want and well.

CNR S-3-a 3702 going for a ride!

This turntable worked out really well.  These come in HO scale lengths of 90’, 110’ and 130’.  They are not cheap but do come with everything including a nice control panel which will allow you to program where the turntable stops.  It is an easy way to do indexing.  I don’t need indexing at Wiarton since they only used the turntable to turn the locos 180 degrees.  Apparently the steel combines were never turned.  I am not certain about the wooden ones that ran before 1955.  I wanted something that was easy to install and easy to use.  This fit the bill quite nicely.  I plan to use the 130’ version for Owen Sound.  Next up, the installation of backdrops.

Turnout and Controls

I like to be frugal so I build mostly the same number turnouts using Fast Tracks fixtures.  The number I use is 6.  I have one of the earlier fixtures purchased in 2001.  It does not have all the features of the latest ones but still works well.   After having built more than 35 turnouts, it seems that I am still challenged to build a turnout in less than an hour.  The instructions say that they can do the same in 45 minutes!

Shown here is a scratch built curved turnout using Fast Tracks techniques but not their fixture. I believe that the outside radius is 42″ and the inside is 39″. This depicts before the turnout control was added.  I am not sure about anyone else but I have to tweak my turnouts over and over until everything runs through them.  I hear there are people who can actually build them so well that they just plop them in place and everything works famously.  Unfortunately, I am not one of those people.  Then again, they may not be using P64 wheelsets.  Why do I use P64?  One, they look really, really great and two does the word masochist have any meaning for you?  At any rate, that is what I chose when I first got into S scale in 2000.  You would think that after 19 years in S, I would know better.  The combine you see is the first pilot model for the CNR combine.  It is 2 scale feet too long and does have P64 wheels.  The subsequent kit was corrected.  Since I don’t really need another combine, it most likely will never be completed and remain a track tester.  If it can go through the track work, anything can.

No Control Turnout

While visiting my friend Willie Waithe’s wonderful N Scale layout, Willie showed me a turnout control system using model aircraft servos.  The system is called Berrett Hill and can be readily found on the web at this address.  http://www.berretthill.com/trains/Welcome.html .  Kevin Hunter is the owner and master designer of these controls for both servo and Tortoise turnout control.  Since my Styrofoam bench top is only 1” deep, I liked the idea of the shallow depth of the servos and the dedicated programmable controls.

The servos can be used under the turnout in a support or to the side with a 3D printed well.  I opted for the well because I really don’t want things hanging down over the lower level.

Here is picture of the same turnout showing the well and the servo in place with a control wire attached to the drawbar.  Eventually scenery will cover the well and the only thing visible will be the servo arm and wire connector.  Because I wanted to retain a shallow bench work that would not protrude into the lower level, I decided I could live with this non-prototypical looking method.  At any rate, they work really well and that is what is most important here.

Same Turnout with Servo Control
That is a Frank Titman Built Hopper

The controls I chose are touch toggle held in a 3D printed mini-cup.  I chose to have two LED’s on mine to show green for mainline and red for diverging tracks.  The touch toggles use cables that connect to a Servo Control Base which in turn directs the signals to the appropriate servo.  The Servo Control Base is programmed by the user to limit the amount of travel which the servo does.  It is a fairly simple task once learned.

This picture shows the 1 the Servo and 2 the Well that the Servo will be placed into.  The Servos come with different levers and wheels one of which you can choose to best provide an arm to connect through a rod to your turnout drawbar.  The well, 2 is shown without and with the well cover in place.  The slot in the cover is for the arm from the Servo to go through.  These are both 3D printed and have variations in them.

Servo and Well

Number 3 shows the Servo Control Base.  Number 4 shows the Two Light Mini-Cup Toggle.  Number 5 is the Setup Remote and number 6 is the flat DCC cable which connects the Setup Remote to the Servo Control Base.

Servo Control Base, Mini-Cup Toggle, Programmer and DCC Cable

The Servo Control Base comes with either 4 or 8 sets of I/O connections and requires a 5 volt 2 amp power supply.  Although I managed to source the same locally, it was actually cheaper for me to buy direct.  You can buy a complete setup called a Servo Control Package for 8 turnouts at about the cost would be for a 6 pack of stall motor turnout controls.  However, when purchased separately, things are not quite as cost effective.  There are a lot of other parts that are optional that can help like extension cables for both the Servos and the Power Supply.  The extensions cables became a necessity for me and they come in different lengths.

The Servos must be programmed to only throw as far as necessary to close the points either way.  With the power off, you need to plug the DCC cable into the Servo Control Base and then turn on the power.  You then cycle through all the inputs/outputs of the Servo Control Base and at each input/output you program the throw of the arm.  You must go through all the input/outputs even if you do not have that many Servos attached to that particular base.  For example, I found that if I stopped programming at input/output 6 instead of cycling through to 8, then the programming would either not take or would be off.  Programming takes a bit of trial and error but once it is understood, it goes fairly simply.  As yet, I have only had the odd time where I had to reprogram and it is because I added more toggles to particular Servos so I could control them from more than one location.  If you do go this route, and have multiple toggles on Servos, you have to go through the program cycle using only one toggle per Servo, turn the power off, attach the other toggles and then everything should be okay.  It took a bit of learning but I did manage to have both sides of the wye at Park Head controlled on different sides of the wye.

This picture shows the underside of the wye where the Control Base is and the Multi-Input Adapters so that more than one Toggle can control one Servo.  The Multi-Input Adapters are on the left and the cables out to the Servos on the right.  All cables are numbered to correspond with where they go into the Control Base.

Servo Control Base with Multi-Input Adapters

The next two photos show a typical installation at the end of Wiarton.  The one showing the cover off also shows the .040” plastic shims I found necessary to hold the Servos in place securely.  This is not something they outline in their instructions but something I found was necessary.  The rod I started out with was 0.032” but found that 0.025” worked much better. 0.020″ is too weak for S.  I also found that the recommended 1 ¾” hole saw was too large for Styrofoam and used a rarer 1 5/8” hole saw instead.  The fit was more secure.  The ones drilled with the 1 ¾” hole were too loose and needed to be shimmed and glued in because the Styrofoam was not as stiff as plywood would be.

Servo In Well With Cover On
Servo In Well, Cover Off Showing Cam Behind Arm
Note the white plastic shims on the Servo Arms for Stability

The other thing I should mention is a mechanical cam/relay system is available that attaches to the Servo arm which is for changing the polarity of the frog. I found this to be quite frustrating to adjust and keep in place. I stopped using this method and used Frog Juicers instead for the turnouts at Park Head. I have had comments about the extravagance of using Frog Juicers from some MR visitors to the layout but since this is going to be my last layout ever, I want to make sure that everything is fool proof. Frog Juicers are so much easier and don’t need adjusting.

Scenery will cover the Servo Well Cover eventually.

Control panels were made from 0.060” sheet plastic cut into 3.5” strips.  These strips were donated by my friend, Ken Wilson.  I made up a pattern to design where the mini cup toggles were to go depending on mainline or siding use.  I used green tape for mainline, red tape for the divergence or the turnout and orange tape for sidings.  Yellow tape was used for the legs of the wye.  I labelled the tracks wherever I could.  I used my wife’s label maker.

Holes Laid Out and Cut
Template is Above
Tape for Main, Sidings and Wye in Place
Panel In Place Showing Turnouts Lined Up for Main
Mini-Cup Toggles Showing Divergence onto Wye

Please excuse the temporary scenery. It is in place just to get a feel.

Overall, I am quite pleased by the final results of the Berrett Hill turnout control system. However, I already have enough Tortoises and toggles for the lower level so I will most likely use them. It would be more time consuming in some ways but more cost effective since I already have them.

Next: The Conversion of the Walthers Sn42 Turntable to S Scale Standard Gauge

An Update for Fall 2019

I am sorry about not posting for a while.  I have been busy with other projects like building a stairway at our up-north cabin from the lower deck to the lake. Our cabin is on top of a high ridge of rock.  At one time, I could manage the effort easily but now that I have aged and slowed down, it took most of the summer; however, I can still mix cement with a shovel.  Next year, we finally get a dock again after having been ruined by ice a few years back.

In my earlier installment, I spoke of having all the track work in the upper level installed.  This a miss-guided tour of where the layout is today. 

Looking from the South End of Park Head

The 5 foot train turntable that you see was built for me by Jim Martin in exchange for me building and painting a brass tender for him. I think I won out on that one. I did modify it a bit and it works well. It will not handle the length of the trains I need for more prototypical operation and once all the track for the layout is finished will be modified and or extended in some way.

Park Head from the North End

This is a shot of the north end of the wye. The station has been removed and is having the correct number of windows applied. Yes, it matters to me. The fairly cool looking Plasticville water tower was built and hand painted by my father when I was 5 years old. I patiently watched him do it and have been inspired ever since. It was for my American Flyer set up. It does not really have a purpose on this layout because neither Owen Sound or Wiarton had one. It is nice to have though and may end up somewhere in the background as an industrial tank.

Down the Wall to Owen Sound

This is showing the east leg of the Park Head wye proceeding to Owen Sound. As you can see, the turnouts are in as are the controls. The montage on the wall was done by my artist friend Sean McClare when we were on a drama department road trip to investigate Hanover, Ontario. It was an information gathering and verification trip for the last musical I wrote, called ‘Small Town Summer’. The montage will have to be moved to make way for the back drop. The clock was built by my father from a black walnut tree which he grew and processed himself. He was quite a guy.

Park Head North

Here is a shot of the north part of the wye and yard at Park Head. Starting from the left, this track is the west siding. The track to the right of the west siding is the Wiarton Sub Mainline that serves Park Head station. The track to the right of the Wiarton Sub Mainline is the East Siding and the farthest right track is the end of the north leg of the wye. The stock car indicates where the stock pen will be. The hardboard for the backdrop is propped in place to get an idea of where it should go.

The Hydro-Electric Sub Station at Circuit Breaker Panel

All around the corner past the circuit breaker panel cabinet and on to Wiarton. I hope to conceal that panel with a removable backdrop. Removable is good because of various reasons, none the least is Murphy’s Law which can come into effect at any time. I have a great respect for that Law which seems to encompass most everything I do.

On to Wiarton 1

My old piggy bank from when I was a youngster is where the Highway 6 will cross over the track. Didn’t my parents throw anything out?

On to Wiarton 2

More trackage as the Wiarton Sub proceeds into town. Those two pictures will have to be moved into the front area where the Train Turntable is. You may notice the Star Trek ships around the layout. They will be hung from the ceiling to portray the episodes where the crews went back in time to either save the world or by mistake. Remember, Star Wars is fake but Star Trek is real! Just ask my flip phone which I still proudly use. One to beam up please.

The Great Stand In

Finally we are in Wiarton. Here is where the future station will be with the siding for the freight shed which was pulled there from where the turntable is/was. It will be a bit of a challenge to build this thing since I can’t seem to find complete plans. I do have a floor plan and some simple side elevations. Murphy’s Law dictates that, “When you slave over a model that you really want and have no plans from which to draw, someone will step up with the plans upon completion and you will find that said model needs important things redone!” I always keep that in mind so I get started on things.

Around the Corner Again

Now we are getting into the yard at Wiarton. Those trees were made by Chris Creighton formerly Schomberg Scale Models. They weren’t up to his standards and he gave them to me. I think I have high standards but then again, free is always better than not having trees. I think they are great!

Wiarton Yard 1

The siding will service the coal shed and a cattle pen. It should make for a bit of interesting operation if one has to move stock cars out of the way to get to the coal hoppers. The hoppers that CNR used were not CNR company cars but US imports like Louisville & Nashville, Reading, Pennsy and Illinois Central. For some reason still beyond my comprehension, coal was imported from the US because it was cheaper to send it across Lake Ontario by barge and pick it up by rail than get it from the collieries in Nova Scotia and Alberta. The US coal may have been better suited to the demands of the steam locos.

Wiarton Yard 2 – Turntable

As we enter Wiarton yard, the turntable, run-around track and the siding are shown. The turntable is a Walthers HO 110′ modified to S Scale. It works great and I will do a segment in the future about the conversion once the sides etc are put on.

Wiarton Yard 3

Progressing through the yard, temporary cliffs are in place to give the impression of where things will have to be in the future. It is a nice duck under that kids can breeze through here. I love those annoying phone calls when they want to clean my air ducks. I always tell them that we have geese and they can clean them instead. For some reason, I don’t get those calls that much anymore.

Wiarton Yard 4

The end of the line. It is truncated but that is as far as I can go without making comfortable aisle space uncomfortable. Speaking of aisles, my granddaughter, Isla helped me to lay some of the lower level roadbed. She was enthusiastic which is nice. I believe she now knows just how long it takes to just simply get track down. At the end of the yard will be an ice house and fish house with some water’s edge to help out the illusion. Once again, the temporary Styrofoam cliffs do help with my visualization of what is to come.

For a coda, I have had a number of non-train people operate this portion of the layout, running the real trains as they did. Some have been children, others adults. In all cases, they did well even with the Sergent couplers which seem to prove to be so troublesome to regular model train people. Are non-train people more open to new things? I wonder if the quicker, easier Kadee experience has somewhat biased the model train people? Next time, turnouts and their controls.