Rebooting the past

SDVike Mar 6, 2021

  1. SDVike

    SDVike TrainBoard Member

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    Good evening,
    I've followed this and other model train boards for the last couple of years. I've been wanting to get back into the hobby ever since I got out after highschool in the mid 90s. I always had an excuse why I couldn't unbox my trains and start building a layout. Finally, after 25 years I have a location to build my layout. Its a storage room in my basement. While not huge, it is clean, dry, and large enough to fit more than a 4x8 sheet of plywood.

    The room is L shaped. The main part of the room is 16x10. The extension of the L is 8x12. The inside walls of the L has drywall that hasn't been finished. Same with the ceiling. The rest of the walls have the foundation insulation common on newer homes. My original plan was to finish the room before starting a layout. Roughly a year ago, I started this process by laying vinyl flooring down. My progress on the room has stalled since as other projects around the house took priority.

    A couple of weeks ago I bought a couple of boxes of train stuff off of craigslist. It's from the son of a former modeler. Most of the equipment is from the early 2000s or older. I paid $150 and got 5 DC engines, an assortment of freight cars, an entire small town worth of buildings, bunch of trees, and some really old track. It all needs some work but he had a large amount of Kadee couplers and wheels and trucks. I should be able to assemble 20-25 good freight cars from the 1920s -1950s. I also got 2 good passenger trains from that era. My favorite engine is a IHC 2-6-0 Mogal that runs really smooth. All in all, a pretty good haul for $150.

    From my high school days, I had almost 100' of flex track and about 10 Atlas Customline switches. I also had 10 snap switches (almost 20 if you include the snap switches in the craigslist find). At that time, I was really into 80's diesel equipment so I have a couple of Anthern locos, and about 15 decent freight cars. Now I am stuck with two different era's to choose from. I really like watching the Mogal run and I think I will be switching to a transition era railroad.

    Of coarse, when I bought the equipment off of craigslist, I had to see what I got. I set up a 4x8 sheet of pink insulation on saw horses. My original plan was to just unpack everything and see what I got. Two weeks later, I am complete hooked. I've laid out the good Nickel Silver track (no snap switches or section track) on the the foam board and I realized I have come to a cross roads. Do I stop and try to finish the room (the best option for keeping everything clean)? Do I keep the 4x8 layout I have quickly thrown together as motivator? Do I build something a little more permanent yet fairly easy to move?

    I am leaning towards the last option. I want something I can run trains on while I finish other projects around the house. I really feel the room won't be 100% complete for another 2 years minimum. The temporary set up doesn't lend itself to easy block wiring. It needs proper benchwork. I also want to start converting everything to Kadee couplers and eventually DCC. I also want to keep collecting items off of craigslist as I see a good deal. Finally, I think this would allow me to practice my modeling before I build the more permanent shelf layout. I'm thinking of expanding the 4x8 to 5x10. This will give me enough room to run 24" radius curves. It will also allow for longer yard tracks. I should be able to run most steam era equipment on that. I can move the layout around when I finally get to finishing the room.

    Well, its getting late. I'll get some pictures of my very simple layout upload in the morning. I'm hoping this blog will help me stay motivated to practice my modeling and maybe motivate someone like me to reboot their childhood dreams.
     
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  2. SDVike

    SDVike TrainBoard Member

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    [​IMG]
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    Here is the layout I threw together with my track from Highschool. The yard is a mess since I don’t have the length or switches I would like to make it properly fit.


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  3. SDVike

    SDVike TrainBoard Member

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    Finally, here is the powered equipment. The first pick is a Bachman set I think. It’s too lite and runs a little fast. I mentioned the Mogal before. It’s my favorite. I know nothing about the 0-2-0 switcher. It runs fast and I haven’t really tested it at slow speeds. Finally, the two diesels from the mid 90’s. The BN was my favorite and it used to run slow and smooth. Now it stalls out at slow speeds. It needs work. The switcher always was a loud and jerky engine. I love the looks but I will need to improve it if I ever plan on making it a permanent part of my collection.
    [​IMG]
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  4. logging loco

    logging loco TrainBoard Member

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    Welcome back to the hobby SDVike.

    You will have a nice size room when it is finished. You have enough space for a layout and a comfortable work area which I feel is also important.

    This looks like N scale, but my thoughts would apply to any scale.

    I can draw some parallels between your situation and mine.

    In the past few years I've just gotten back into the hobby. A lot of my rolling stock and kits were purchased between the mid 1980's to 2000.
    My room is smaller and finished but I need to disassemble some furniture and take down shelves before I can build a little larger layout based on a large lumber operation.

    I'm currently building a layout with Unitrack on a hollow core door. I don't care for the look of Unitrack and the HCD has advantages and disadvantages but it's working out great as an interim learning layout. As I work on this layout I keep notes on what I'm learning, what works, what doesn't and I occasionally work on my next track plan.

    In your photos I noticed a folding table and possibly a work area set up on some cabinets.
    Maybe you could build a small switching layout to fit on the table and incorporate into a larger layout later.

    Finishing the room and building a layout around the walls will give you plenty of room for 24" radius turns and long yard tracks.

    Starting with a small switching layout will give you a chance to improve skills, test run equipment as you up grade it and experiment with DCC if you want. Experience gained on the small layout will make building a larger layout go much smoother.

    Well, take it or leave it. That's my two cents. worth.
     
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  5. minesweeper

    minesweeper TrainBoard Member

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    in your situation, I will use the foam board as a test layout to finish by testing and practicing the new techniques you will run into, and PLAY with the trains.
    For a "final" solution, I would go for a modular "around the walls" that gives you plenty of track mileage per square foot occupied.
    This will give you plenty of time to experiment and get something that really fits your tastes.
    Good luck
     
    Doug Gosha and logging loco like this.
  6. logging loco

    logging loco TrainBoard Member

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    Thanks minesweeper. That's exactly what I was trying to say only a lot less wordy!
     
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  7. BigJake

    BigJake TrainBoard Member

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    I would keep your existing layout, and focus on converting your locomotives to DCC, and/or acquiring new DCC locos & rolling stock, building structures, etc. with an eye to the future layout.

    Unless you want block detection for signals on your existing layout, DCC will eliminate the need for blocks (unless you add a reverse loop,) and even if you want detection blocks for signaling, you won't need the electrical block switches for controlling cabs.

    Then you can keep working/playing on your 'Pink Panther Layout' as much as you want, until the space is ready for your ultimate layout.
     
  8. SDVike

    SDVike TrainBoard Member

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    Thanks for the feedback.

    Logging Loco - I agree, I do have a great space for a future shelf layout. I thought about building a switching layout, but quite simply, I like to watch trains run through somewhat realistic scenes. I say somewhat, because I actually like watching trains cross over themselves via bridges. I tried building a switching layout years ago, I think I quickly lost interest because I couldn't just let the train run. I do plan on creating a plan that allows for switching and point to point operations, but it will also have the ability to just let a train run mileage.

    I've decided to build a experimental finished layout first (5x10). Thanks to BigJake, maybe I'll call it the Pink Panther XL. LOL. I will be testing several techniques that I never accomplished on my childhood layouts. I think to start I need to put proper bench work under it. This is the plan I created.

    It should give me a place to test new cars and engines. I will only need to buy a couple of switches. I will get a small yard and a little bit of switching. I also have a branch run that sits at about 2% grade. I can see adding a small switching layout at the end of the branch. This should be fairly easy to wire up for DC running and the convert to DCC once I have converted/bought ones. It will also give me a place to build a town scene. As you can see from the pictures above, I have a large number of down town buildings that i picked up from craigslist. None have interiors so this gives me another area to modify.

    Screen Shot 2021-03-06 at 3.28.41 PM.png
     
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  9. SDVike

    SDVike TrainBoard Member

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    Just for info, here is the room that I will still share with storage. While its quite a large space, the two doorways do break it up some. Because I do need still store stuff in this room, I cannot have a duck under near the door by the North East corner.

    Screen Shot 2021-03-06 at 3.27.07 PM.png
     
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  10. logging loco

    logging loco TrainBoard Member

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    Nice!
    Looking forward to seeing some updates.
     
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  11. minesweeper

    minesweeper TrainBoard Member

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    It is also a good catch to think of expanding your pink panther by connecting it to a future shelf layout, so you can still run trains on circles.
     
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  12. SDVike

    SDVike TrainBoard Member

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    On my childhood layouts I used the tried and true L Girder construction with a plywood top. For this new layout, I've decided to use the pink foam board. I am still thinking that plywood may be the best option for my permanent layout, but I wanted to experiment with this one. One of my goals is to keep this layout somewhat light so the foam board should help with that.

    I see three areas that I would like some advice.

    1. How do you attach the foam board to the support structure?
    I'm thinking of doing some type of L girder with cross pieces every 12" or so. I'm just not sure how to attach the foam. Liquid Nail?​

    2. What is the best method for using a switch machine on a 2 inch thick foam board?
    I've seen videos of people cutting holes in the foam to mount the switch machine closer. I feel there has to be better method. Any ideas?​

    3. How do you like to build grades on foam?
    I see there are foam grades from Woodland Scenics. At first I thought they weren't too badly priced, but now that I have looked at them, I am afraid of how expensive it could get. It looks like I could spend over $100 on the 25' of incline. It would be quick and light. I've contemplated carving multiple layers of foam to get the grade but I don't think i could keep the grade consistant. I've also thought about just installing plywood for the grade but that adds a lot of weight. What have you guys done?
    I appreciate your feed back. I hope I can start giving some of my own some day.

    FYI, let me know if you would rather that I post these questions in separate threads. I know this forum is for layout design but I would like to keep a running Thread on my layout build.
     
  13. BigJake

    BigJake TrainBoard Member

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    1. You need to use a construction adhesive designated for use with the foam insulation board you are using. Other adhesives may dissolve the foam board. Beware that ordinary white/yellow glues that have to dry, involving evaporation of water from the glue, may take a LONG time to cure when trying to glue large sheets of foam on top of each other.

    2. I've never done it, but I would assume hogging out a hole in the bottom side of the foam board would work. You can use masking tape or other stops on a suitable diameter drill bit to drill "gauge holes" from the bottom side, the depth you want. Then hog out with a knife, chisel, etc. until the drilled holes just disappear (you could drop a bit of paint in the holes to make their bottoms show up better, but this involves flipping the foam board upside down). You could reinforce the bottom of the hole with plywood, cardboard, plastic, etc. if needed; adjust depth of hole accordingly. Experiment with a scrap piece of foam and see what works for your situation.

    3a. You can cut a tapered board/hardboard/posterboard/etc. that you can put a level on top so the bottom of the taper is the slope you need, and use that as a gauge when carving your grade.

    3b. You can also use the gauge holes (of progressive depths) as above in #2.

    3c. You can make your own flexible tapered foam grades by first cutting the taper on a straight strip, using a table saw or a hand saw. Then cut saw kerfs in the side to allow you to bend the tapered foam strip to the curve you want. If using a hand saw to cut the (thin) kerfs, I would cut them as needed from the outside of the curve, and perhaps reinforce the inside of the curve with tape. If you have a table saw, the sawn kerfs will be wider, and you may be able to alternate the kerfs from either side, like the WS strips. You could use a dado blade for even wider kerfs if needed. Extruded foam board is more rigid than the styrofoam that WS strips are made from, so you may need to cut the kerfs deeper (stopping closer to the opposite side) than they are on WS tapers, to give you the flexibility you want.

    Hope this helps...
     
  14. SDVike

    SDVike TrainBoard Member

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    So it was an eventful weekend in more ways then one. We had a major storm coming in so I decided this would be a good weekend to work on the train room. I wanted to upgrade the lights, continue to organize the storage room, and finally redo my makeshift workbench.

    First up was the track lighting. Two years ago when I decided to convert the storage room into a train room, I installed the first part of a track light system. This weekend I upgraded them. I still need a few more lights but the track is in place.

    Before the upgrade[​IMG]
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    After running more tracks.
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    Next I purchased a rolling cart from Harbor Freight. I wanted something I could roll tools and train supplies around and not have them sitting on the layout. I think it will be an excellent addition for the $100 I spent on it.

    [​IMG]


    Finally while trying to clear a space for the work bench, I realized that I needed to move the layout around. I decided to build part of the benchwork first. I converted the existing frame to L-girders. I added 2x4 cross members. Ideally the cross members would be 1x material to reduce weight but I have a shed full of 2x4 material. I made legs of 2x4s with a 1x4s glued to them to give them strength. It needs some bracing but I cannot get at the wood in the shed due to the blizzard. I’m very happy with the results so far. It is quite light at about 50% complete.

    Also in the building of the bench work, I had to decide on a layout height. I’ve never had a layout higher than 36”. I’ve decided to set the lowest level of track at 45”. I think I will like it at that height.

    [​IMG]


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  15. SDVike

    SDVike TrainBoard Member

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    Oh and here is why I couldn’t get more wood out of the shed.
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    Last edited: Mar 15, 2021
  16. in2tech

    in2tech TrainBoard Member

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    What state do you live in? And/Or country. You never said if it was N Scale or not? The Pink Panther is looking awesome. You can't change the name now :) Is that someone on a tractor moving snow in the background? Like maybe you? After looking again, I don't think anyone is on the tractor?

    And you get to play Pink Panther music in the background as you work on the layout, too funny! Or watch the movies.
     
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  17. SDVike

    SDVike TrainBoard Member

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    Sorry. I kept meaning to post that I’m modeling in HO on code 100 Atlas track (since that is what I have). I plan on changing any future builds/expansions to code 83.

    I’ve started telling my wife that I am working on the pink panther. It fits...until landscaping goes in.

    I live north of Denver Colorado. We got somewhere close to 2 feet of snow. I’ve never seen this much snow here in the high plains. Normally those snow totals are only in the mountains.


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  18. SDVike

    SDVike TrainBoard Member

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    I made some good progress today considering I kept stopping to watch some basketball (Go Buffs!). I started off by removing all the track and structures from my layout. The new work bench came in handy for a safe place to store the buildings.
    [​IMG]

    I then added 1x4 pine to the frame that I built last week. This will give support to a facia and the 1/4” board/foam-board that will go on next.

    [​IMG]

    I then nailed 1/4” plywood to the frame using brads. I only nailed the edges of the plywood because I want to be able move the 2nd and 4th 2x4 incase it aligns with a switch machine. It will be a simple matter of removing 6 screws and sliding it over. My plan is to add cleats under the layout once I have the track laid down. This will secure the top more permanently than the brads.

    [​IMG]

    I then added the foam-board to top using a foam adhesive. I unfortunately forgot to take a pic of the glue applied before I applied the foam (twice ).

    [​IMG]

    I then cut off the excess using a hot knife I bought from Harbor Freight. It made me realize that I need to figure out a way to vent this room. The fumes got pretty strong.

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    Finally I weighed down every thing to help bond the foam to the plywood. I placed the weight over the 2x4s which should keep everything fairly flat.

    Half way through this process, I decided next time I will bond the foam to the plywood on a perfectly flat surface that is fully supported. I’m not sure how well the foam and plywood will bond in between the 2x4s. It’s important that it bonds to help strengthen this span.

    [​IMG]

    Well, now it’s time to order cork roadbed and build the lowered section at the end of the layout.


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  19. Shortround

    Shortround TrainBoard Member

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    I may have to try finding one of those around here. Or more likely 'on line'.
     
  20. logging loco

    logging loco TrainBoard Member

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    Coming along nicely SD.
     

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