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T O P I C    R E V I E W
Dan Posted - 08/09/2017 : 3:40:42 PM
Over the years, I had become complacent about the scenery streaming past the Pullman windows on the train ride of life. I hardly noticed being switched down the Old Fart Branch until the train slowed for a flag-stop station that had an unusual name. Its sign board read "Superannuate." What really got my attention was when I checked the schedule and the next station stop would be "Elderly" followed by the one at "Geriatric." For all intents and purposes, the latter will be the end of the line.

This prompted me to take a look at where I am now and where I will most likely be in the near future. I am currently living in a house with space for building a layout. However, all too soon, i will be downsized into a modest senior's apartment or, in a worst case scenario, into a care facility.

Therefore, if I am going to build a layout, I had better start now, but I do not want it to be a major project. I think "unpretentious, but fulfilling" would be an apt description. I envision a small, semi-permanent layout, one with graceful curves and prototype operations, that can easily be relocated whenever the need arises.

While dreamers of big layouts yearn for homes with suitable basements, I am hoping for a senior's apartment with a walk-in closet that can accommodate the proposed layout. If that does not work out, the layout is going to occupy prime living space.

To be ready for either situation, it should emulate a piece of furniture. Actually, a real piece of furniture, a suitable "bar height" or "pub height" table, is a layout option. However ADA compliant doorways, which are thirty-two inches wide, can limit the size of a table-top layout.

Layout height and ADA doorways are both mentioned because, as one gets older, debilitating medical conditions can occur at any time. Therefore, to compliment the interior of the new apartment, the layout should also be handicapped accessible, for the lack of a better term.

Ideally, the layout should follow most of the ADA recommendations for wheelchair use. This means that it can be operated, without assistance, from a sitting position using a seat height of nineteen inches. In addition, it should have a clear access path, thirty-six inches wide, to the operating position.

The average wheelchair eye level is forty-seven inches. According to the recommendations of the NMRA, our layouts tend to look better when viewed from near eye level, so an appropriate layout height would be about forty inches. This height also allows a comfortable forward reach from a wheelchair, thereby providing easy access to the front of the layout.

Having been around full sized trains for most of my life, the urge to build a large layout never materialized. My previous attempt to build an On30 layout was four feet wide by two feet deep, with nine inch radius curves. While the layout itself could not be considered a success, it was a learning experience and a test bed for different types of layout construction.

The layout sat on a pedestal made from the bottom three shelves of a plastic storage unit that was approximately thirty-six inches wide by eighteen inches deep. It was fitted with furniture casters for ease of moving it around. The lightweight, but sturdy pedestal proved so successful that current plans are to adapt it to the new layout.

Diminutive Davenport gas-mechanicals, manufactured by Bachmann, were the motive power on the old layout. However, work on the layout ground to a halt, literally, due to the "Great Gear Debacle." Quite frankly, Bachmann's attitude toward the problem and their products put me off the hobby for a while.

Over the years, Bachmann attempted to make amends with a new Whitcomb double truck, diesel-electric locomotive plus re-engineered versions of two of its smaller steamers; the 0-4-2 and the 2-6-0. They are all good runners and, so far, there are no reported signs of mechanical vicissitudes. While under-the-layout sound and pulse-power DC was used before, the decision was made to switch over to DCC and on-board sound for the new layout.

To accommodate the 2-6-0, which requires curves of fifteen inch radius, the size of the layout will be increased to four feet wide by three feet deep. This will require a somewhat larger pedestal, three feet wide by two feet deep. The lower shelves of a steel wire shelf unit, factory equipped with wheels, will provide an acceptable, living space substitute for the previous plastic shelf pedestal.

The heart of the new layout will be a single, two inch thick slab of FOAMULAR XPS rigid foam insulation - aka the pink stuff. An extra thickness will be glued around the edges, forming a socket that will hold the top of the pedestal. As the layout and the pedestal will need to be moved separately, the two will be held together by just the force of gravity.

Although XPS is not rated as structural, the six inches of foamboard overhanging the pedestal on each side should not pose a problem. What may be a problem is, while most foamboard glues will attach fascia boards and backdrop supports to the laminated edges of the layout, these decorative attachments will be subjected to mechanical stress when moving the layout. Therefore, a more secure mounting method needs to be devised.

The scenery will also need to be secured so the separated layout can be turned vertically to avoid running afoul of ADA doorways. With track, scenery and attachments, the layout itself will weigh about twenty-five pounds; light enough to be easily handled by an old codger and a codgette.

To facilitate moving, the layout wiring should be easily disconnected from the DCC supply mounted on the pedestal. The wiring should also be suitably modified to facilitate operating from a wheelchair. For example, a rare but annoying problem is when a locomotive enters the frog end of a turnout with the points set against it, thereby causing a short circuit that brings operations to a halt.

If the turnout motor is DCC controlled and powered from the DCC track supply, the loco must be physically moved beyond the turnout to clear the short, something that cannot always be done from a wheelchair. However, by putting the track power and the turnout controller power on separate feeds and providing a convenient means for disconnecting the track, the power can be restored to the turnout controller and the points reset. As the tracks will be electrically isolated from the DCC supply, a DC power supply can be connected and used to run the trains.

An unintended bonus for senior citizens is a part of the layout construction. If an episode of unsteadiness (you know the type - "I've fallen and I can't get up!") occurs in the presence of the layout, it may result in some serious scenery damage. However, the forgiving nature of the foam insulation and its loose mounting to a movable pedestal should minimize the damage to the senior citizen.

Speaking of unsteadiness, an unintentional quirk is also a part of the layout construction. When using the pedestal, the Rock of Gibraltar stability of a traditional layout will be replaced with the equivalent of San Andreas quaking. While initially disconcerting, the lack of rigidity will not affect layout operations.

If running trains is desired in a care facility, one must keep one's options open. Speaking from experience, a layout without a working locomotive is a diorama and a boring one at that. However, a locomotive without a layout can provide both sound and motion stimulation to an active imagination.

Perhaps a test stand thing-a-ma-jig, with roller assemblies for under the drivers, complete with scenery and a bit of backdrop, would make a minimalist layout for the above situation. One that is about fourteen inches wide and four inches deep will accommodate the 2-6-0 and its tender. In anticipating future needs, the scenic thing-a-ma-jig can be built concurrent with the layout. In the interim, it can serve as a picturesque programming track.

15   L A T E S T    R E P L I E S    (Newest First)
Dan Posted - 07/21/2020 : 10:09:46 AM
A Bit More Whimsy

The photo was taken from the roof of the layout factory and shows the tramway bridge that spans the spur track and the dump car unloader. The figure on the bridge was originally a brakeman from the Woodland Scenics train crew set. He should be holding on to the side of a freight car and waving hand signals to the engine crew.

As the side clearances along the layout right of way are pretty tight, he was repurposed to be the tram car pusher. The position of his legs and feet and his grasping left hand provide a natural pose for the brakeman's new job. He is shoving the tram car against the pressure of the flowing ganister rock, while signaling the bin operator to stop the flow by waving with his right hand.

The flowing stone is an old tinplate trick that indicates motion. A piece of Scotch tape, sticky side up, was attached to the bottom of the loading chute and trimmed to an appropriate width and length. The stones are then individually selected and glued to the chute and the surface of the tape to mimic a continuous flow from the storage bin into the filling tram car.

As the filling operation is far from an exact science, any stone that overflows the tram car body would simply fall through the sides of the bridge and into the waiting maw of the ground level dump car hopper to be recycled back into the storage bin.



QCAW
Dan Posted - 07/20/2020 : 09:39:10 AM
Adding Life And A Bit Of Whimsy To A Scene

While the ersatz broke down side dump car looks quite convincing just sitting outside the bashed repair shed, adding simulated human beings brings some action to the scene. Ironically, this required making the car stationary with dabs of tacky glue on the axle ends.

The photos show two figures in preliminary poses and they are from the Woodland Scenics track workers set. Although these prepainted figures are not the best in the world, they are far better then I can do.

While the gentleman using the pickaxe to yank on the side of the car is original, the guy shown doing the lifting was originally carrying a railroad tie.

As waving guy can attest, whimsically repurposing the Woodland Scenics figures is part of the fun of using them. One is now the streetcar motorman on the new Christmas garden and another is the operator for the battery powered mine loco on the layout.







QCAW
Dan Posted - 07/17/2020 : 06:45:19 AM
Serendipity Rides Again!

The bashed repair shed needs a dedicated side dump car, preferably one that looks like it is in need of repairs. In spite of appearances, no side dump cars were harmed in completing this layout scene.

The Bachmann cars use tiny bushings to attach the movable sides to the U-shaped main body and one of the bushings on one of the cars either broke or fell out, leaving a car with a side that is loose on one end. As the cars are not normally put into their dump positions, this was a minor cosmetic problem not worthy of repair.

However, as the photos show, when the car in question is put into its dump position, the loose side tends to dislocate and jams into a most alarming, but prototypical fashion, which prevents the dump body from returning to its horizontal position. As this is what I had in mind for the car repair scene, the dedicated car conundrum solved itself. It's nice to get an easy one, from time to time.







QCAW
Dan Posted - 07/15/2020 : 06:02:44 AM
Thanks Larryc.

Dreaming up and putting together these simple bashes as finishing touches for the current layout, in the grand tradition of the original heyday of On30 (which is another way of saying that my methods are old fashioned), has been challenging as well as fun; everything a hobby should be.

I have never had the urge to be a "Master Modeler" and I am intimidated by both their work and their work ethics. My form of model railroading can be considered as being "spontaneous" in nature, which compliments my old man attention span.

I hope that in my postings I am finding ways to adequately communicate my creative, albeit rather simple, modeling experiences and that they also prove entertaining for all who read them.

All the best to everyone, both Forum members and guests and, as usual, questions and comments are always welcome.
Larryc Posted - 07/14/2020 : 2:20:50 PM
Dan nice job on the tipper car; looks good. There is something really neat about building a structure from parts already on hand. The whole reason for this hobby is to have fun and enjoy yourself; if your techniques are "old fashioned.... so what as long as your having fun while doing it.
Dan Posted - 07/14/2020 : 12:33:16 PM
Reeving The Sheaves

This posting documents the completion of the recently mentioned Tichy 8007 Jib Crane bash.

Having recently been reduced by arthritis to working with parts that are the size of unshelled peanuts or even walnuts, I attempted to complete the bash of the Tichy jib crane as the arthritis began to abate, which quickly began to look and feel like it was a mistake.

Assembling the kit's multipart sheave blocks was like working with grains of rice that had to go together in a very exact way, while not gluing them to my fingers. The same for the crane winch. The finished model sheave blocks are working ones and the reeving of the kit supplied, extremely flexible miniature chain was also an intimidating challenge, both physically and visually.

While the crane and the rigging were completed and the result, although small in stature, is an impressive sight (it sits right at the front of the layout), "Quoth the Raven, Nevermore!" I will stick to working with larger parts while finishing the layout.



QCAW
Dan Posted - 07/09/2020 : 4:04:51 PM
Another Blast From The Past - Working With Decals

I have not worked with decals since I was a little kid, putting together inexpensive plastic model airplane kits (at that time the trains were set up only at Christmas). My parents had no interest in any kind of hobbies, so I was left on my own and globs of glue and wrinkled decals were the order of the day. My previous model railroad experience, many years later, involved the use of rub on lettering, which produced good results.

The recently bashed car repair shed has two large blank walls that could use some prototypical advertisements, one of them being the once ubiquitous Mail Pouch Tobacco sign. On eBay, I found some appropriate barn signs made by Blair Line LLC. I would have much preferred to use the rub on ones or even the peel and stick kind, but these are ordinary waterslide decals, which for me, would be a challenge.

Walthers Solvaset was acquired in an attempt to make up for my lack of experience and the fact that I was doing almost everything wrong. According to research and the decal instructions, the decals should ideally be placed on an even surface that has a glossy finish. I was attempting to put them on a finely ribbed surface that has a finish of flat grey primer with a spritz of Krylon Flat Crystal Clear on top of that.

The first decal, an ad for MELO-CROWN cigars, was applied to the rear wall of the shed, the side that cannot be seen from the normal operating position. I used it as an experiment to see what would happen and what not to do. The Solvaset had no effect on the flat grey finish and, after several applications, the decal had settled deep into the surface crevices. As with my other recent layout projects, I had to buy a two ounce jar of Solvaset when all that I needed was just a few drops.

With my self-confidence heightened, the highly visible Mail Pouch decal was installed on the front wall of the shed. I found that I preferred having this rather large decal (two and a half inches by a inch and a half) to sit on the surface of the ribbed wall instead of settling deep into the crevices, as this tended to prevent distortion of the decal and its lettering by the uneven decal softening action of the Solvaset.

The photo shows the end result of the Mail Pouch sign project, after a protective coat of the Krylon Flat Crystal Clear. As for the cigar ad experimental effort, while the decal is still a part of the rear wall and it looks okay when it is being viewed from a respectable distance, the less said the better.




QCAW
Dan Posted - 07/01/2020 : 12:00:15 PM
Have I Become The Jake Flack Of My Generation?

The title is a rhetorical question, the result of a lugubrious nocturnal rumination, which sometimes accompanies pizza night. Jake Flack was one of several curmudgeons at a model railroad club nearly sixty years ago. At the time, there were a few of us young whippersnappers who were junior members. Despite our assignments to menial tasks, we genuinely considered ourselves to be among the hobby's movers and shakers.

The model railroad skills of Jake Flack stagnated before I joined the club and the equipment that he brought to the operating sessions was, to put it kindly, old fashioned to the point of being sad and his being a curmudgeon prevented any chance of change. This was especially true of his long passenger train that we upstarts referred to as the Flackawanna Flimited. As a country, we were attempting to go to the moon using space age technology, so Jake's attitude was deemed to be worthy of ridicule.

I am now the same age as Jake Flack, when I knew him long ago, and with age comes wisdom, or so it is said. When I look at what I recently produced, using a mix of old ideas and even some parts going back to the seventies, along with memories from my earlier tinplate days, my efforts that are posted here are indeed old fashioned and even somewhat poignant and this, subliminally, begs the title question.

My switch from DC to DCC on the present layout and the change from constructing shake-the-box plastic kits to laser cut wood kits shows that I am willing and able to learn, so I guess that I am not the Jake Flack of my generation. Nevertheless, at times, I do show a fondness for being an old man who is said to be "set in his ways."

Dan Posted - 06/27/2020 : 8:08:35 PM
Warning - Junk Box Bashes Can Be Habit Forming

This project is a bashed, junk box repair shed for the Bachmann On30 side dump cars. It started out life as an enclosed HO scale hopper car unloader structure from a Walthers kit. Although it was old and in rough shape and the clearances through the door openings were rather tight, it was being considered as an enclosed unloader for the layout's side dump cars. For ease of operations as well as visual appeal, an open-air unloader was decided on, so into the junk box it went.

The layout now has something that it didn't have before, a spur track dedicated for the repairing of four-wheel rolling stock. The previous success with the junk box bashing of a small passenger station, got me to ruminate about bashing the rejected HO unloader into a smallish car repair shed.

The original model was a run through type of unloader and that feature carries on in the repair shed bash. Being on the short side, the run through feature allows for either end of a car to be worked on in the center of the shed. As the cars under repair will be stationary, a part of the scenery, the tight door clearances were no longer a concern and they actually add a bit of charm to the structure.

Armed with my trusty razor saw and a fresh blade in my Exacto knife, I cut away the damaged areas as well as any unusable parts and the following photographs show the result. Some junk box HO double hung windows were installed atop the rear wall at roof level to act as a source of light and for ventilation. As the model was originally HO-scale, the simulated corrugated metal siding may look a bit strange in O-scale; nevertheless, it will work for this repair shed bash.







QCAW
Dan Posted - 06/25/2020 : 06:23:46 AM
No Runs, No Drips And No Insects

My recent and protracted bout with arthritis has eased up considerably, so it was time for some long delayed scenery projects. The major layout structures, the factory and the rock bin, were still in their modification and test fitting stage with Scotch tape holding things together. With their configuration finalized, they were pulled apart, thoroughly cleaned and sprayed with rattle can paint. When reassembled, as the title indicates, they turned out pretty good.

While the biggest structures were off the little layout, it was time to "ballast" the track using acrylic paint. A few sections of track were pulled up at a time, the painted on ballast was applied and the track re-laid with new rail joiners installed, making a semirigid structure. I found I had a bag of nails for laying HO sectional track, that was purchased long ago, back when four by eight foot tabletop layouts made from sheets of plywood were in vogue. As the nails also work well with the current foamboard base, they replaced the sewing pins I had been using for that purpose. As usual, the bag contains hundreds of the little nails, when all that I needed was about two dozen.

When the ballast project was finished, it was time for the acid test. Previous operations were almost flawless and I rarely had to employ the layout thumping skills that I learned back when dinosaurs roamed the earth, but would this still hold true? There was a bit of collateral damage when a wire connection broke on the turnout motor, but after completing the needed repair and a regular track cleaning session, the answer is yes.

QCAW
Dan Posted - 06/19/2020 : 12:39:53 PM
From Roof Rack To Grillage - Another Quick And Easy Bash

One of the details that the layout needed was a simulated underground hopper into which the Bachmann side dump cars could shed their loads of ganister rock. A layout vehicle that I was bashing a while ago had an easily removable molded plastic luggage rack on its roof that reminded me of the following description that was printed in Coal Age magazine, August 1916: "A steel grillage is usually placed over the hopper to prevent excessively large lumps from entering the equipment. This grillage also acts as a safety measure to keep workmen from falling in."

Serendipity very quickly took over thr project. The roof rack "grillage" fit perfectly between the edge of the factory spur track and the foot of the trestle bent adjacent to the front rock bin legs, a very suitable place for the hopper. The grillage was also the right length to handle one side dump car. The dollar store also played its part with a bag of "pebbles" that was really finely crushed white rock that simulates quarried ganister. While the project needed about a tablespoon of the stuff, a nearly one pound bag only cost a dollar, so I have more ballast for home decor vases.

On the prototype, the dumped stone that was immediately usable would pass through the slits in the grillage, while any big lumps remained on top. A couple of hearty whacks with a sledgehammer would soon make them usable. The stone would then be elevated into the storage bunker and when the underground hopper had become empty, another car could be dumped. On the layout, all of this, of course, would have to be imagined, but the grillage and the stone between its bars indicates both its possibility and its plausibility.









QCAW
Dan Posted - 06/17/2020 : 07:24:55 AM
Thank you for the offer. Although the subject is intriguing, the model will be a static display on the layout.

All the best,

Dan
BigLars Posted - 06/16/2020 : 9:59:30 PM
Dan, If you are looking for the Grandt line battery engine to operate I have done a few of them. Message me if you need me to post details.
Dan Posted - 06/16/2020 : 12:26:08 PM
A Lesson In Heavy Lifting - Model Railroad Style

The most important real world lesson is always to lift with your legs and never with your back; unless there is something really heavy and then you need a crane.

The subject of cranes provides an opportunity for a brief lesson in model railroad history, when dinosaur sized heavy lifters graced the Christmas gardens of yore and the idea of "scale" as we know it today, did not exist. To provide a familiar size reference, the tiny figure in the next two photos is non-other than Waving Guy, all six feet six inches of him in today's O-scale.

The oldest model railroad cranes (at least on the New World side of the big pond) are from the Triassic Period of tinplate trains (aka the Early Era). The first photo shows a Lionel 2 7/8" gauge No. 600 Derrick Trailer, circa 1905.

This hand operated crane is made from cast iron and folded sheet steel, with a boom that rotates through a full circle, with a usable "reach" on either side of the car, and a hook that is attached to a hoisting drum by a chain that is long enough for the hook to reach the ground. Of a somewhat ambiguous design, whether it is to be used as a movable cargo crane or as a "big hook" to pick up wrecks is the decision of the possessor. This early and impressive four wheel crane is 14" long, 4 1/2" wide and 11" tall and it weighs about four pounds.



The second photo documents the very popular Jurassic Period of tinplate trains (aka the Classic Era), a time when model cranes became more prototypical. It shows the T-Rex of its time, a Buddy "L" No. 240 Small Derrick, circa 1923. Don't be fooled by the name, it is BIG and it could be used with any of the period trains. These where often Standard Gauge trains (2 1/8" gauge) that generally came in two sizes, large and even larger.

With the boom and the hook independently adjustable, just as on the prototype, and the boom swinging left and right through an arc of about 270 degrees, it is a delight to behold and to operate. Also made of cast iron and folded sheet steel, this majestic hand powered model is 21" tall, with a horizontal swing of over two feet and it weighs about seven pounds.



A vast multitude of operating cranes came from the Cretaceous Period of tinplate trains (aka the Post War Era). In lieu of using track gauge to determine relative size, they were made in the newly adopted O and S scales and they presented the opportunity for every industry and/or railroad to have a heavy lifter of some type.

In more modern times, cranes for scale model railroad use, in their quest for realism, diminished greatly in size. They are often small enough to fit in the palm of one's hand, so one now has to pretend that they are functional. The final photo shows our friend waving guy in his normal environment, posing with a current bash in progress. It is an 8007 Jib Crane from Tichy Train Group.



While the dinosaurs are long gone, their ability to be used with different sizes of trains lingers on in the DNA of some of the present day model cranes. The Tichy 8007 is marketed as being suitable for all of the scales that are currently offered in their product line: N, HO, S and O. In the history of model trains, there are some concepts that just don't change, except, perhaps, in physical size.

QCAW
Dan Posted - 06/10/2020 : 1:31:39 PM
The outdoor food covers (aka the anti-bug paint drying domes) have arrived in the mail. I plan to use two when painting the factory, a fairly large building with numerous parts, but there is a problem. The covers are so lightweight, they will blow around the yard in a light breeze and the answer, once again, was found at the dollar store.

In the decorative accents aisle, they sell ten ounce plastic mesh bags of glass beads (the bags are actually more like pouches). By letting one of these bags drape naturally over the plastic tube on the top of the cover, both the bag and the cover will stay put.

The dollar store also had a shipment of white foam boards and two will be cut down to make twenty by twenty inch spray painting bases that will accommodate the use of the seventeen by seventeen inch covers. The covers have frills around the lower outside edges to discourage crawling bugs from entering the domes. A couple of extra glass bead bags from the dollar store, protected from the spray paint by encapsulating them in plastic food storage bags, will keep these super lightweight, but cheap and disposable bases from also flying around the yard.

When the painting is done, the bags of glass beads will be recycled to ballast the vases that will hold summer and fall cut flowers. I am not the only member of the household that has developed the unwanted knack for unexpectedly knocking things over.

QCAW

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