Progress Update 4

July 28, 2013

Progress has been a little slow over the past few weeks – hard to find time to get down to the layout, and some tricky problems to solve. One bit of very good news, though: the backordered track arrived, so the main line loop is finally complete!

Trestle Work

Most of the work has involved the trestle bridge. The bents have been easy to make, but figuring out how to line them up with the curve of the track has been challenging. The path I ended up taking was tracing the track on a piece of lauan and then cutting the stringers to match the curve (the stringers are the 1/4” strips of wood that the track will sit on top of, which then sits on top of the bents). Now that I’ve got these cut I need to get the profile of the gorge set so that I can cut the trestle bents to the appropriate height.

Switch Derailments

On the old layout I had a good bit of trouble with the pickup roller on my CSX SD80MAC getting hung up on the Atlas O switches, and those problems haven’t disappeared (the plastic insert pieces Atlas provides didn’t fix it, either). The problem is particularly bad on my newly-added O-72/O-54 curved switches.

On the old layout I tried creating inserts for the switches, but I spent some more time looking at the locomotive trucks and determined that at least a large part of the problem was due to a significant amount of lateral movement in the outer axles, which allows the pickup roller to shift and roll off the center rail in these switches. With the normal non-curved switches the locomotive would stop dead with the pickup roller wedged into the switch; with the curved switches the wheels climb right up out of the rails. Not so good.

Constructing custom inserts for the switches seems like it would be really time-consuming (there are 15 switches on the layout), so instead my thinking is that I’ll put spacers on the axles to reduce the amount of play. I’ve tested this with cut up cocktail straws; E-rings seem like the way to go long-term, though.


Last weekend was a pretty great weekend for train nerds. The National Train Show was in Atlanta and it’s about four or five times the size of most train shows we see around here. I suppose we have the NMRA 2013 convention to thank for that. There were a lot of fantastic layouts at the show, though. HO and N scale were everywhere, with one or two O scale layouts and one G. A few Z’s.

Aside from the layouts, which were outstanding, my favorite part was getting to visit the booths of some of the companies that make products for model railroaders. A real highlight was the Scenic Express booth, where the photo above was taken. Their website has tons of cool little things and it was killer to see scenes like the one shown above. No doubt we are looking at hundreds of dollars of their products in these scenes, but holy crap. Unreal.

Another vendor that was fun to see was Iwata, who makes airbrushes. They had airbrush classes going on and I got to play with one of their airbrushes. I never thought I’d want an airbrush but it could be a good backup if this whole programming thing doesn’t pan out. The world needs more Panama City t-shirts and license plates.

I also got to head up to Woodstock to see Eric Siegel’s layout during his open house, which was very, very cool. I tweeted a photo. Eric does a lot of videos on YouTube and so I’ve seen almost all of his layout in one stage or another via YouTube, but it was a treat to see it in person and get a feel for the scope of everything.


I bought Basic Model Railroad Benchwork a while back and have really found it useful (wish I’d bought it sooner). One of the techniques that’s covered in there is using extruded foam as the landscape surface and using a hot wire foam cutter to cut ditches alongside the roadbed. I finally tried this out with my Hot Wire Foam Factory kit (the one with the freehand router and ‘knife’). I plan to write more about this in a later entry, but in short it went well. I tweeted a photo here.