Progress Update 2

June 15, 2013

With my findings about operating noise from the foam, I knew I’d need a number of sheets of 1/4” plywood, as well as more foam (I want to build a mountain eventually, after all), so I got my friend Joe to help out with an acquisition trip with his trailer. We got the foam and plywood home and this weekend I’ve been working on finishing out most of the remaining joists as well as laying down the plywood and foam.

The layout really starts to feel like it’s taking shape now that I’ve got the foam cut to fit. I did a test fit with some of the track last weekend but several of the larger curves (O-81, O-90, O-108) and a couple switches are on backorder, so that’s going to make it tricky to get the track fully laid out to make sure it really fits.

One issue that I did notice was that my ideas about what I would be able to reach were quite optimistic, leading me to seriously rethink the need for access hatches. The rule of thumb seems to be that you should require no more than a 3 foot reach, but even that feels a bit long, and I’m pretty tall.

Last weekend my wife and I worked on putting together the Atlas O Signal Tower, probably the first model I have worked on in 20 years. Humbling in many ways but I’m trying to do it right this time. I’d like to paint the insides so that the walls don’t glow when it’s illuminated, as well as look into doing some very basic weathering (mortar for the bricks, mostly).

The model has a gooseneck lamp over one of the doors and that got me thinking that it would be great to have an actual light there, so I spent quite a while researching options for this. While there are quite a few cheap-looking lamps of this sort on eBay (they all ship from China), I did find a kit from Ngineering which looks very cool, although possibly at the very top of my skill level. If you know of a better source for these (preassembled, maybe?), I’d love to hear it.

Still on the thread of lighting, I thought it would be cool to have a lit lamp inside the signal tower on the operator’s desk or thereabouts, but I found it practically impossible to find any sort of kit for this. There are tons of vendors selling tiny LEDs, but lamps and lanterns are oddly hard to find. A vendor called Berkshire Valley makes little metal lanterns but I’m not certain how practical it would be to modify it. At this point my best idea is to try to create a lantern in modeling clay and then use Amazing Mold Putty to make the plastic version. I got this idea from a great little series of videos where Mark TrainMaster uses this product to duplicate dwarf signals (part 1, 2, 3). Perhaps this is an obvious task to someone with more modeling experience than I have.

I ordered a kit of hot wire foam cutting tools from Hot Wire Foam Factory: the Freehand Router and 4” Hot Knife. The plan is to use them to terraform this 2” foam. After a brief trial I think they are pretty good tools, but am concerned that my foam is quite a bit denser than the foam these tools are designed to deal with (styrofoam). In cutting a chunk out with the hot knife the wire kept bending back by 45 degrees, and the freehand router had similar issues. I did notice that the power cable leading to the tool gets pretty warm, which makes me think that I might get somewhat better (hotter) results by making my own cable out of higher gauge wire. Certainly, more practice is needed.

So with the plywood decking screwed down and the foam resting on top of it I think I’m ready to lay out what track I’ve got and start tracing it out, as well as figuring out a ditch-cutting hot wire rig.