The PRR Chartiers Branch - Progress Report - 2013-04 Report
04/27/2013
04/27/2013
I had built this module framework about a year and a half ago, with the intent of scratchbuilding a turntable on it. However, I have so many projects ongoing (both model railroading and not), that I figured building a turntable from scratch isn't going to happen any time soon. Nonetheless, the unused space was beckoning me to expand the track. Rather than coming up with some convoluted track plan, I decided a simple track leading off of the layout's bridge to the back of the closet would be good enough to store some cars. To make the gentle easement curve, I used some strips of styrene that I clipped together with some mini clamps. This allowed me to draw a line on the ceiling tiles I use for my roadbed materials.
2013-04 Report
I was then able to mark off the position of the ties, which then made it possible for me to cut and trim the ceiling tiles to form to the intended track plan. I glued the ceiling tile down to the plywood top of the module using wood glue. After that dried, I was able to paint the whole thing an Earth-tone color (brown in the case). The next photo shows the strips of wood I cut to make my ties out of. I did the exact same thing I did for the rest of the layout.
2013-04 Report
After the ties were glued in place, I used the handy tool shown in the next photo to make sure all ties were more of less even at the top. It is made out of two pieces of MDF to which I glue some 150-grid sandpaper on the bottom. The sandpaper sticks out on both ends and the ends are slightly filed down so that it is easy to slide this tool over some ties that are too tall initially (if you don't do that, the tool will catch those ties and rip them up). After vacuuming the dust, I was going to stain the ties the same way I did the rest of the layout, which is using Minwax Special Walnut stain. However, since I last used that can, it had dried up and hardened. Instead I decided to try the old alcohol-and-india-ink solution and I liked the way it came out.
2013-04 Report
I had some home-made ballast left over, so I glued it along the slopes and in between the ties. I didn't have enough, so the last two feet or so doesn't have full coverage. However, my plan is to eventually put a bunch of buildings in front of the track in the back, so the ballasting will not be visible anyway.
2013-04 Report
With a few hours of work, I spiked 4.5 feet of track down. Here my battery-powered NW2 is used to test the track. The curve is incredibly tight, so some of my equipment won't make the curve, but that's the best I can do with the given space. The future plan is to make this module into a small town downtown scene with a single main street going from left to right, and the track disappearing behind the stores lining the street.
2013-04 Report
Bill grabs the opportunity to quickly sneak on to the waiting RS-1 dropping off a box car, and has someone snap a photo of him.
2013-04 Report
I tried my hand at making some taller bushes (very small sapling trees, perhaps). These were made using dried flower stems from Hobby Lobby, grouping three or so pieces together, and then dipping them in a small puddle of melted hot glue. You only have to hold them for a little while until the glue is set. I put the drop of hot glue on wax paper, but that proved a bit tedious to remove later on, so the next time I'll try this method, I'll just use the sheet of glass I use for modeling purposes. However, the hot glue bottom allowed me to then use Aleene's Tacky Glue to glue the bush to the scenery base. The hot glue blob will be visible, but that is easily hidden by applying some more ground foam around the bush.
2013-04 Report
Well, I tried living with the sharply-curved track I had made earlier this month, but I just wasn't happy with it. Both of my main engines groaned trying to go around the curve, and nearly all of my equipment either derailed or sharply hit the neighboring car. I also realized that 4.5 feet of additional track was great, but it would not help the congestion my layout is now experiencing as I have more equipment on it. A different solution was necessary.

I had intended to fully scenic this module, but that put a cramp on the possibilities of the track. One day, in the shower (where I get most of my good ideas!), I came up with this idea of making removable storage "cassettes". You can see the basic concept in the photo below. I cut a piece of 1/2" plywood two feet long, and two inches wide. I used some leftover oak quarter round pieces to act as the guidelines for this "cassette" board. I also decided that this area is probably not going to have scenery, so I wanted to make these as barebones as necessary. I glued 8 ties to the board, as you can see.
2013-04 Report
Here is an overall view of what this looks like from within the room. A train comes off the layout, crosses the bridge I built last year, and reaches the two-foot removable "cassette" placed on the module. I assumed two cars/engines per cassette, and so I made enough of them for my entire inventory, and the cars I plan on building later on this year.
2013-04 Report
If I had had some spare flextrack, I would have used that, but I didn't. I do have plenty of code 83 rail leftover, so I decided to use that. However, I didn't want to make this very fancy. I used rail joiners to connect the loose rails to the end of the bridge. The Tomalco track gauges allow me to center the rails across the ties, and make sure that the rails are at the proper gauge. I started spiking the rail, but soon discovered that once the spike makes its way through the ties, it hits the rock-hard plywood.
2013-04 Report
So, the solution was to go back to the way I handlaid track when I was using code 40 rail in my N-scale days. Superglue! I used thick superglue to glue the rails down to the ties. Much easier and much quicker. This photo shows the rails for the first cassette finished.
2013-04 Report
The idea is to drive cars onto the cassette, and then to move the cassette out of the way (to the left side of the closet module). To make sure the cars don't roll off of the cassette, I used some spare Kadee and S-Helper Service S-scale couplers. I used long screws (for security) to install the coupler to a block of solid wood, which, in turn, was glued to the cassette in front of the last tie. I used my track inspection car to determine the proper height and location of the coupler.
2013-04 Report
I drove my recently-completed PRR FM flat cars onto the first cassette. They were coupled to the mounted coupler, which then allowed me to carefully move the cassette.
2013-04 Report
I built six cassettes. Most can only hold two cars and/or engines, but my short hopper and cabin car allowed me to fit three onto two of the cassettes. Except for my NW2, this is my entire roster as of this writing.
2013-04 Report
It is now easy for me to attach one of these cassettes to the bridge track and allow an engine to offload the cars. It makes it possible for me to run any car on the layout, without the entire layout being overloaded with rolling stock. I have space for another 8 or so cassettes, so my roster can expand over time. The cassettes represent the off-layout, unmodeled world.