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T O P I C    R E V I E W
kumard Posted - 01/10/2016 : 2:19:51 PM
Today I'm starting my new model railway called 'the Town'. It will be another location on the same branch line that my other model 'The Depot' (at Carendt) is situated along.

I'll spend some time in the next couple of months fleshing out the universe that this branch line lives within - namely history, geographical, location, time period, other stations/depots/stops etc. For the moment this is what I have:

  • Somewhere in the upper Midwest.

  • The time period is a mixture of the late 50s, early 60s.

  • The branch is over 100 miles long. It's connected to a mainline in the south-east.

  • It's crossed in several places by other railroads.

  • It ends in a small terminus in a small town in the north-west.

  • The branch is a Soo Line branch that was taken over in some kind of merger or purchase and has never been a favorite of the administration. Its financial returns, marginal at best, are now no longer able to sustain it and it has been marked for closure within two years.

  • Passenger travel ended in the early 50s but the occasional fan trip from the Soo Line Historical Society sends a steam engine up the line with eager rail fans every few years.

Here's the photo that will provide the aesthetic foundation for the model. It has been a favorite of mine for some time now. Although the picture is set in winter or early spring I'll keep the model within summertime but with the usual muted colors.
1/12/15 - With the assistance of another forum member I was able to trace the source of the image (thank you Robert Chant). As I suspected it is copyrighted. I've written to the owner to allow me to post it here but in the meantime I've removed it and have replaced it with a link to the official source.

Here's a sketch of the layout. It's of a simple loop but crossed by another line. The other line is the remains of a local traction company that also serviced several industries. The traction company has long gone along with its electric power and a few remaining industrial tracks are now serviced by the Soo.

I'll post more this week. I'm trying to learn a rail design program to produce a proper working diagram. I intend to start construction in March beginning with the benchwork. The size will be 72 inches with 18 inches.
15   L A T E S T    R E P L I E S    (Newest First)
kumard Posted - 01/22/2018 : 9:39:12 PM
Thanks Rob,

I'm going to build a standard turnout eg no 6 with the Brooks-Smith rivets method just to see how easy/hard it is. I'll post more on that at a later date
robchant Posted - 01/22/2018 : 4:52:36 PM
Hi Kumar,

The results using the rivets looks fantastic!

Take care,
kumard Posted - 01/22/2018 : 2:44:00 PM
Hi James,

I'll post my conclusions about PCB ties another time but for the moment my advice would be to score the ties to isolate them before laying the rails down. Actually the crossovers are very easy as you just continue the scores in the center line of each track.

I'm not sure I want to use PCB ties again but it's too early to make a final decision. I've been experimenting with a British system called 'Brook Smith' which uses tiny rivets embedded in the wooden ties onto which you solder the rail. My first test on a straight track went pretty well and the method can be used for turnouts and crossovers. It's very fiddly but the result looks superb. Can't use it for this module but will attempt to use it for the next module.

The Brooks Smith method uses rivets made by the Scalefour Society in the UK. I had them sent to me. You can buy them from their website and takes a week to arrive. I drilled holes and fitted them. The rivets sit a little high but this will allow me to add tie plates under each rail (not shown).

It took me a little while to figure out how to solder the rail to such a small surface but eventually I was able to get a sturdy join.

Once ballasted the track looked really good. I'm very excited to build a layout using this method and finally add missing features to the track such as tie plates.

Of course one of the benefits of using this method is that you don't have any pesky cuts in the ties to hide.

Thanks for your comments James.
jbvb Posted - 01/22/2018 : 11:21:38 AM
When PCB ties were a new idea, the MR authors would score the copper twice and pick out the portion between the score marks with more knife work. I've only made limited use of PCB ties, but enough to know this is time-consuming. And of course, with turnouts and diamonds, you never know which tie has a little teeny short till all of a sudden the ohmmeter reads infinity.

Looking at your photos, I feel your pain. Could you make a fixture that holds the Dremel in the right position to cut only .010 deep? Or would it be better to use one of those odd-shaped hand sharpening stones I've occasionally seen to 'sand' out a strip down the middle?

I know some people who had a high-resistance short across a lot of handlaid track (from painting the ties & roadbed black using homemade paint: linseed oil and carbon black). They sawed and sawed, but finally gave up and connected 110VAC across the tracks (watching carefully, with water handy) till it all stopped smoking.
kumard Posted - 01/22/2018 : 01:42:08 AM
Hi all.

Here's the latest.

Having finished isolating track the task was now to start powering the trackwork. There are going to be three independent DC systems:

1. Powering the sections.
2. Powering the turnouts.
3. Powering any lights and accessories around the layout.

Before starting wiring I decided to clean up some of the track. I polished down many of the solder joints but importantly I filled in the gaps in the PCB ties and the gaps in the rails in the crossovers.

I used Woodland Scenics Foam Putty. It was the easiest to control of the three that I tried. I will be using it to build the ballast profile around and between the track so it didnít matter if some got between the ties. Once hardened I polished the top of the ties and used my Dremel to remove any foam that got in between the rails.

To fill the ugly gaps in the crossover rails I used styrene shims that I cut and sanded to straddle both rails. I then used my Dremel to cut the gap between the rails. I gave the rail a lick of paint .

Close up you can see the filled gaps but from a distance they start to disappear. Once the trackwork and ties have been buried I may go back and color the styrene shims a light grey or even pencil color. Although not perfect, the trackwork looks much better with the gaps filled.


I didnít get as far as I hoped today but I made a start. The overall wiring concept for the track power simply involves adding two main buses that will separately power the two sections. I need to secure the buses to the board then run wires down to the tracks.

Hereís a little diagram I put together to help me understand what I have to do. The throttle requires an AC input so Iíll have to buy an AC power transformer. Once that is done the rest is pretty straightforward. The two sections are powered from the throttle and controlled by an on-off SPST switch in the control board.

I want to suspend the bus below the board. I donít want it held tightly against it. I was thinking of using ceiling clamps for curtains but the cost is more or less the same as having Shapeways make them for me. Therefore I did a quick design for a clamp and they will cost around $5 each to print up. The clamps will hold each bus away from the board which helps with maintenance.

This is a quick test fitting of the bus. It will be suspended below the board and held by my special clamps.

Iíve connected power wires to the track above. They will connect via male female connectors. I need to be able to remove sections from the power in order to isolate shorts. This type of connection allows me to do that.

Thanks all. More next week.

kumard Posted - 01/15/2018 : 1:22:40 PM
Michael >> A way to fill gaps is to insert a piece of styrene thatís the same thickness as the width of the gap >> Yep gonna try that.

Frank >> You and Tim Warris from Fast Tracks are in another league when it comes to turnouts and crossovers. >> Thanks Frank. Tim Warris is an excellent track layer and of course owns Fasttracks - where I get most of my supplies. It was his blog on the Bronx Terminal that inspired me to 'have a go' at tracklaying with PCB ties. I used his 'knotched rails' method for my crossovers. One day I hope to have my work be as clean as his. I'm still learning and things got quite messy while I tried to figure things out.
Frank Palmer Posted - 01/15/2018 : 10:35:29 AM
Kumar you and Tim Warris from Fast Tracks are in another league when it comes to turnouts and crossovers. Excellent.

I don't know if you've ever seen his Bronx Terminal layout.

Michael Hohn Posted - 01/15/2018 : 08:15:01 AM

Very nice work.

A way to fill gaps is to insert a piece of styrene thatís the same thickness as the width of the gap. It doesnít need to have the same profile as the rail because once the glue driesóprobably ACCóyou trim the styrene to match the rail. A little paint and it disappears.

Aside from aesthetics this also prevents gaps from closing, although with your rails being soldered to ties this would not occur.

Welcome back.

kumard Posted - 01/15/2018 : 12:16:11 AM
Hi all.

Back to the project after a short break. I continued to lay missing sections which I then isolated followed by the turnouts and finally the crossovers.

The nice thing about working on small modules is the ability to turn them around and work on them from the back. It allows me to get in very close. This will be particularly important when detailing the track bed. Here I have turned the module so that I could work on the back side.

Isolating the track is intensive fiddly work and it gets messy and dirty. Itís not exactly fun but once you get going it can be done quite quickly. Using my grain of sand bulb I isolated all the straight sections and then the turnouts. The biggest and most upsetting issue was the fact that I had to make large cuts into the copper surfaces of the PCB ties to get them to isolate them properly. These cuts will not look good in close-up photographs so I have to fill them somehow. Iím going to try wood filler, plastic filler and finally my favorite: Woodlands Scenicís foam putty.

In order to quickly isolate the copper-plated ties I used my Dremel to cut the ties quickly. The result are these grooves in the ties that are quick thick and donít look good. Iím going to have to fill them and hope that the grooves will not be so noticeable in close-up photos.

One of these fillers will have to do do the job. Iím leaning away from using the green putty. Each has a different consistency and may or may not be easy to lay down with the tips of my fingers.

I did a quick but clumsy test filling gaps with the green putty and it clearly doesnít look good. I need to be a bit more careful as poor workmanship is visible in closeup photography. The turnout will look much better once it has been painted and ballasted.

And so to the hardest and most important set of track work: the crossovers. the each have to have the corners isolated from each other as well as the rest of the track work. Ugly cuts have to be made in the center of each section. I started using a razor saw for the first crossover which cut very thin gaps in the rails.

Cuts were made in each rail using a razor saw. I also made cuts in the center of the PCB ties along each track. Most of these ties will be covered as the rails will be level with the surrounding ground as in the inset picture.

The hardest part of this project was the double crossover. It didnít look pretty to begin with and certainly after chopping and cutting it looks even more messy. However all the sections are now isolated and ready for wiring. I gave up on the razor saw as I wore out the blades and switched instead to the Dremel. The cuts are wider and more noticeable. Once again I had to cut into the ties quite deeply but once again the ties will be covered over as the ground will meet the height of the rails.

The red arrows show the cuts in the rails. The yellow arrows show the cuts in the ties. All these ties are going to be buried. Any visible ties will have their gaps filled in.

These gaps were made by my Dremel saw and are quick thick. I may fill them in with some kind of plastic rail but once the ties are hidden the whole look of the track might improve and the gaps seem less noticeable.

So with the track mostly laid (the coal spur will be laid once I start working on it.) it is time to start wiring. There are two sections. Each will have its own bus which will be fed from two SPST switches. The traction line has a couple of isolated spurs powered using SPST switches. See diagram.

Once the buses are installed with switches Iíll connect them to the controller that I purchased. This is a hand-held device from Stapleton Electrics in Canada. It is small and saves me having to build a platform for my other controller. More on that another time. Iíll start wiring tomorrow.

Thanks all. More next week.

kumard Posted - 12/18/2017 : 12:17:34 PM
Thanks chaps. Will continue mid-Jan.
Frank Palmer Posted - 12/18/2017 : 11:58:33 AM
May the power be with you Obe Wan Kumar.
Michael Hohn Posted - 12/17/2017 : 11:08:56 PM

Safe travels!

Pennman Posted - 12/17/2017 : 10:43:57 PM
Your railroad is taking great shape. Nice work
kumard Posted - 12/17/2017 : 10:07:17 PM
Thanks Michael and Mike.

Wiring Part 1

Now that the control panel has been designed and fitted I have begun the wiring. The steps are basically:
  • Lay missing sections of track.

  • Isolate rails.

  • Connect sections to the control panel.

  • Wire up the crossovers and connect them to the control panel.

  • Add the turnout motors and connect them to the control panel.

  • Add three docks to the exit points for the removable cassettes.
I had previously left several sections to be laid with rail while I focused on the turnouts and the crossovers. I have begun to lay those sections. It sometimes has meant removing rail and adding new ties but the goal is to lay the rail in complete and isolated sections wherever possible. The various tracks that will comprise a single wiring section will be powered by a single bus connected to an on/off (SPST) switch.

I decided to reduce the sections from nine to two. These two wiring sections correspond to the two distinct freight operations on the layout Ė the branchline and the electric traction line. The traction depot also has two tracks (3 and 4) that are isolated in order to store two locomotives. Iíll decide on the colors of the lines on the diagram another time. Iím leaning towards grey/black/brown to tone things down a bit.

I have a power reading meter which I will use later in the project to test for levels. In order to isolate sections however I just needed a quick and easy method to spot that a section was isolated. I put together this grain of rice bulb with a couple of crocodile clips. Once connected to each rail I added power from the throttle. If the light did not shine then I had a short. I then used my Dremel to cut into each copper tie until the light came on at which point I knew that I had removed all shorts. It has proved a very quick simple method.

Iím isolating the single stretches of track first, then the turnouts and then the crossovers.

Iíll spend the rest of this week isolating rails then Iíll be travelling to Europe and will continue on my return in mid-January.

Thanks all!
Tyson Rayles Posted - 12/11/2017 : 08:32:16 AM

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