Sputtering start to a new layout

Stephane Savard May 24, 2018

  1. Stephane Savard

    Stephane Savard TrainBoard Member

    Another update, it's been a while!


    I finished most of the control panel - it's installed and everything works. I didn't bother taking pictures of the assembly of the wires - honestly, I'm a bit fed up with those...

    Cut wire to length, strip wire ends, crimp the dupont connector pins, add the dupont housing, add the heatshrink wrap, strip the other end, pre-tin the wires, trim LED leads, solder resistor to LED, don't forget the heatshrink tube, solder led/resister assembly to wire, shrink the tube, install to control panel, hot glue led in panel, install the panel, connect the 57 wires to the circuit boards... whew.

    This is what it looks like underneath...


    The LED is on the CDU, if this doesn't light up, it's because there's a problem somewhere.

    So at this point, there are only two switches on the control panel that are not yet wired up. Those will go to the two turnouts on the layout that control the two reversing loops. Because of this, I want to automate those turnouts with an Arduino and some detectors. When the locomotive trips a detector, the Arduino will automatically switch the turnout to the appropriate track. The control panel switch will serve as a manual override. However, I'm not ready for that since those turnouts aren't ready on the layout yet - and I'm missing parts (need some relays and some IR detectors for the Arduino).

    Anyway, right now none of the remote turnouts on the layout are actually connected to the circuit boards, so there's that to do as well, but I'm not sure I have enough wire for the time being. That and I want to move on to do something else for now, I've had enough wiring for a bit :D

    Not sure what the next step is going to be, but It might involve finishing the main loop of the track. I'll update when I have something interesting to show!

    Kurt Moose, Mo-Pac, BNSF FAN and 4 others like this.
  2. Stephane Savard

    Stephane Savard TrainBoard Member

    Feels nice working on something other than wiring for a change!


    So after a bit of a cleanup around the layout, I glued in a fourth and final layer of foam on the top of the plateau. This now makes the plateau rise to the level of the woodland scenic incline set, and is now at the final elevation. I'm rapidly running out of foam, and with all non-essential stores closed in the province, I'm glad I had enough for this section.


    Next I just laid down the plan, and used a T-Pin to punch holes all along the track and the river edge. Basically, just like I did in a much earlier post. The pins leave just enough of a mark in the foam to be able to work without the plan.


    After marking the river/stream, I used a Stanley Sureform tool to carve out the river banks. I have no idea why I have this tool! :eek: I don't remember buying it, nor do I remember ever using it for anything! But in a recent YouTube video, I saw a modeler using it to carve foam, and it looked like a good idea. And well, it does in fact work. So yay me for having bought this years and years ago :D

    As I was carving out the river, I pinned down some junk track and a turnout in places where the river comes closest. That wasy I could make sure to not carve too close. As for the depth of the river banks, I just carves down to the next level of foam (about 1 inch). I don't know if I will make the river banks this deep, but I can fix it later to the correct depth with sculptamold.

    By the way, on the left side of that track will be a large cliff that will hide the staging area underneath, rising to the level of the fascia. I'm going to install all the track first before closing that off. I don't have enough foam at the moment anyway.


    Here is the view from the other end. The river ends in a waterfall, and will meander down to the from of the layout. Yup, in my world, engineers build their railroads real close to river embankments! :D (maybe the river bank down there will be a stone wall).

    Anyway, next I'm going to start laying down cork for the track, at least for the mainline (I don't know if I have enough for all the industries too). to complete the track, I will need to install five bridges. One of the bridges is a simple little Atlas girder seen in the above picture. I then have two Kato bridges. And finally, two bridges will have to be scratch-built since they are both curved. We can see where the smaller of the curved bridges will go in the paper plan at the top of this post (crosses the river at the bottom of the picture). The second is much longer and runs across the bottom tracks right in the middle of the layout.

    Kurt Moose, RailMix, gmorider and 5 others like this.
  3. vince p

    vince p TrainBoard Member

    Looking really great.
  4. Mo-Pac

    Mo-Pac TrainBoard Member

    WOW!!! Looking really good there Stephane!
  5. Joe Lovett

    Joe Lovett TrainBoard Member

    Looks fantastic Stephane!!! Carving foam and scenery are my favorite things to do. I use a keyhole saw to carve foam, it makes quick work.

  6. Stephane Savard

    Stephane Savard TrainBoard Member

    Than you for your kind words, it really means a lot to me! I'm not sure carving foam is my favorite thing though, it's a bit messy and I have trouble not vacuuming constantly after each little piece carved! :D

    Okay, so not a lot of progress today, more of a progress report on my planning...


    So as I mentioned last post, I want to start laying track. So where to start? well, why not front and centre, from the bridge (just off camera left) and into the passenger station scene I want to setup!

    Now originally I only wanted to put in a really simple, small station. However, a few months ago, a friend of mine gave me this beautiful Faller station kit he mistakenly bought years and years ago (he thought it was HO scale and only realized recently when he took it out to build). Well, it was a gift, and I want to put it on my layout, so that means I need to move the track a little to accommodate the size of this thing. The grey piece in the picture is the platform/footprint of the station. In my world, this station will now be a rail museum. I hope to find a cheap model of a caboose and set it up nearby, maybe to the right of the station.

    The only drawback is that the curve of the track is now 12" radius instead of 13.5". Oh well, I really wanted the station. The cork and track are only pinned down right now, this was just a dry fitting to make sure stuff worked.

    Which brings us to the bridge!


    I absolutely wanted a truss bridge on my layout, and used a Kato model. This shows exactly where the bridge will be located. However, I need abutments! Well, I googled dozens of pictures, and in the end, I figured I'd just model them in Fusion 360 and print them out...


    So this evening I took out the laptop and digital calipers and came up with the following (front and back views). Tomorrow morning I will fire up the 3D printer and get printing!

    Maybe more to come tomorrow!
  7. gmorider

    gmorider TrainBoard Member

    With regard to the sureform tool, I feel like the Model Railroad Fairy left it for you one night while you slept, knowing you would soon need it. ;)
  8. Stephane Savard

    Stephane Savard TrainBoard Member

    Well, I hope to get more visits from that Model Railroad Fairy visits often! :D

    Well, another day, another update!


    I glued down the cork for the passenger station siding this morning, here it is pinned and drying. I think I have enough space for the station - it helps that the station is not parallel to the table edge, it should make landscaping the scene easier and more visually attractive given the tight space. Or so I tell myself :)

    The separation between the yard tracks and the passenger lines though will be tough to scenic. I'll look online to various small layouts and see how people in general have dealt with this sort of thing.



    The bridge abutments came out quite nice though not perfect. In terms of size, I think they'll do quite nicely. However there are two improvements I want to bring to the model. The first and most important is that I didn't measure the back height correctly. The back edge has to move up by about 0.75mm so that the rails from the incoming track matches the height of the bridge rails. Second bit is that there is a block that fits right into the bottom of the bridge and holds it in place. I was too conservative with the size and it does not fit as tightly as I'd like. So, I'm off to correct the model file and reprint.
  9. Mo-Pac

    Mo-Pac TrainBoard Member


    I like the abutments, I am assuming that you made them? The detail, design, and height is what I am trying to find to fit the Tomix short bridge. Because I will be using a two inch layer of foam board. Their pieces are either too tall and or not too prototypical in USA.
  10. Stephane Savard

    Stephane Savard TrainBoard Member

    Mo-pac, yes, I made these from scratch using design software and a 3D printer. I don't have too many prototypical concerns on my layout, my rule is simply whether I like it being on the layout or not :D. I just aim to be somewhat "realistic" - no one but me will ever see the finished product in person anyway!

    In this case, I started by searching for "Truss bridge Canada" in google to look at various images. Then switched to searching out "Truss Bridge Abutment" in google. In the end, I found a forum post of another modeler's bridge abutments that I quite liked, and built mine using the same rough shape. However, I believe he scratch-built his from styrene. I've also seen others building them out of plaster and quick styrene molds. Abutments can also be built by carving pieces of foam to shape! In my case, I happen to have a 3D printer and figured that would be the best way of getting the shape I want.

    As for commercial pieces that are too tall - have you thought of cutting them short? My own abutments are too tall, but I expect to be digging them into the terrain - a lot of times these abutments will end up partially underground anyway.
    BNSF FAN, Joe Lovett and Mo-Pac like this.
  11. RailMix

    RailMix TrainBoard Member

    Prototype abutments will always be a substantial distance under ground to provide a good foundation. How much will depend on the type of ground in the area, so no problem there. Those 3D printed abutments look very nice, particularly as the striations from 3D printing appear to capture the appearance of form lines quite nicely. BTW, scenery is coming along well. It's going to be a very attractive layout.
    Mo-Pac likes this.
  12. Stephane Savard

    Stephane Savard TrainBoard Member

    Thank you RailMix! I was thinking the same thing with the striations, except, well, we'll see how it goes after this post, hehe. In any case, those print striations usually annoy me, especially since my printer seems much more susceptible to these than other printers (it appears to be hit or miss if you get a printer that suffers from this). This is the first time that I wasn't too worried about them at all!

    Right now, the layout is a sea of blue foam roughly cut to shape so it's difficult to figure out exactly how it will look in the end. It will also depend on my skill level - this will be the first time trying to build "realistic" scenery on this scale (errrm, well, at this scale meaning the size of the layout, and 1:160 scale both).

    Okay, so I have yet another update on the bridge story.


    Okay, I have to confess, I don't know what I'm doing. I have a vague plan, but I'm really just deciding as I go along. So yeah, the first thing I did was to start rough carving foam to fit the abutments. Then out came the model railroad fairy's gift, and the sureform carved some additional slopes into the terrain. I want the river banks under the bridge to be pebbles/rocks, and I may add a gravel road leading down to the top of the river bank from the right.

    Something like this rocky river bank, a picture I took two/three years ago on a trip:

    Stephane Savard 3014583_2385.JPG

    Anyway, I just carved and carved until the abutments fit, and the banks and slope matched roughly what I wanted.

    Then, I worked with something new! Sculptamold - it's some sort of plaster/fiber blend. Out of the bag the stuff feels like really dusty cotton fibers. With this, I spooned some of the stuff right at the bridge ends and sank the abutments into it...



    It was actually fairly easy to work with, despite putting in too much water. However, it seems to be setting nicely, so no harm done. I'm taking something of a chance though, I think I'll be able to remove the abutments after the sculptamold sets. Maybe. Hopefully. :whistle:

    Note though that I only mixed enough for the abutments. I'm not ready to landscape the entire river/bridge scene just yet, I only want it in place so I can continue working on the track. Anyway, we'll see how it goes and how well it dries. If the abutments stay stuck to the scenery, so be it, I'll just clean them up and paint them in place. They're rather dirty with plaster, but after this post, I'm going to go back with a wet paint brush and clean them up as much as possible by swiping horizontally. At least if the abutments stay stuck, the paint brush marks will be in the correct direction for striations.

    So this is what it looks like with the bridge in place!


    At least I know the bridge is fully removable!

    Edit: So yes, I was able to clean the dirty plaster from the abutments, but even now, they appear to be very solidly attached to the layout!
    Last edited: Apr 11, 2020
    Kurt Moose, in2tech, gmorider and 5 others like this.
  13. BNSF FAN

    BNSF FAN TrainBoard Supporter

    That is going to be a cool scene when finished. Everything is looking great so far. (y)(y)(y)
  14. Stephane Savard

    Stephane Savard TrainBoard Member

    More cork, always more cork!


    This was yesterday, where I put down cork climbing the hill up to the (more) industrial area of the layout. If I remember right, the grade is at 3%, or at least that's what it says on the Woodland Scenic incline set that was used. At the bottom of the photo we can see the #4 turnout that exits the mine siding and crosses a small plate girder bridge (Atlas). Further down the hill are the two turnouts, one that starts the siding, and the second, mid-hill leads to a large curved bridge that will cross the tracks down below.


    Reverse view of the same. Notice the cork hanging in mid-air? That will be replaced with a Kato girder bridge. I'll be installing that soon after I run out of cork - I just need to design and 3D print another abutment for that particular bridge.


    This latest picture was today! Again, still going strong with cork laying. I finished the Mine siding (the mine will be just on the other side of the river), and curving across the river and into the very start of a second siding that will serve two other industries.


    Closeup view of the river crossing. I need to scratch build a bridge here because of the curved bridge. Should I make a curved bridge? or should it be a straight bridge with curved track? hmmmm.


    And finally, just an overall view of the current state of the layout. I have two and a half lengths of cork left. I may have enough to finish the siding, we'll see tomorrow I guess!

    BNSF FAN, Joe Lovett, Mo-Pac and 2 others like this.
  15. Mr. Trainiac

    Mr. Trainiac TrainBoard Member

    Looks exciting. For the river crossing bridge in question, I would say to go with a straight bridge and curved track. I would think most small-span bridges would try to avoid the engineering problem of a curved span.

    The more progress you make, the more I like the track plan. It looks like a lot of fun to both run and operate on.
  16. gmorider

    gmorider TrainBoard Member

  17. RailMix

    RailMix TrainBoard Member

    Hey, that curved river crossing looks like an ideal place for a curved trestle. A ballast deck type would be easiest and still look good.
  18. Stephane Savard

    Stephane Savard TrainBoard Member

    I haven't decided yet for the bridge, but after looking at images of ballast deck bridges, I'm thinking I'm liking that quite a bit - most likely straight with curved track. A trestle would be nice, but would it work in a modern world, and in such a small space (river will be at about an inch from the roadbed)?

    Anyway, thank you all for the suggestions, but for now, an corking update!


    I just managed to finish the siding! Those four tiny pieces of cork road bed is all I have left - and with local stores closed, and the price of shipping track, I'll have to work on other bits before continuing with this. In any case, I still have to install three bridges, two of which will require custom abutments, and the third will be scratch built as mentioned earlier. At the top of the picture will be a Lethbridge, Alberta type of steel trestle span that will cross to the incline set. The cork for the Mining company trackage I will likely install just like I did for the yard. Will be much easier than setting everything up with strips.


    Here's what the area should look like - I coloured in the track so it would be easier to see. The mine is the Walther's Diamond Coal corporation. It was a gift from my family. I'll modify it to look more modern, and possibly not coal based. We'll see. At the bottom is a random industry, not exactly sure what it will be yet, but I sort of like the idea of a heavy equipment manufacturer. At the right end, a chemical plant - something with lots and lots of pipes and tanks and doodads and fittings and you get the idea :D It will be a field-day with the 3D printer!!!
    Sumner, Joe Lovett and BNSF FAN like this.
  19. in2tech

    in2tech TrainBoard Member

    This is looking amazing. Very nice job, and be sure to keep some pictures of the beginning, so once you start to add scenery, you can go back and compare :)
  20. Sumner

    Sumner TrainBoard Member


    Very nice! I like the way you used the crossing to help with the placement of the two industries. I haven't done that on any of my layout planning but will look to do so. Thanks,


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