Sunday, December 6, 2015

009 Mammoth Cave RR - Layer Cake with Pink Frosting

I snuck down to the basement for about 30 minutes in hopes of getting some quiet time.  Its Sunday, which means the wife likes to yell at the kids all evening.  Its kind of a hobby.  Even the dog is noticeably missing.

We need to start building terrain.  We're going to use the layer cake method where we put on layers of foam to get the desired effect.  The second layer is significantly higher, so we'll use 2" foam.

Using some white paperboard, I'll make a tracing template for the next foam cut.

I lay out the paperboard on the layout and tape it to the side to keep it from rolling up.  A sheetrock square helps me to cut a straight edge with a knife.

After laying the track circle down on the paper and tracing it with a brown marker (for track) I then cut out the canyon part.

I tape the template down to the canyon and to all the sides to keep it from moving.

Using a red Sharpie (why didn't you guys tell me I had been spelling it wrong for years!) I marked all the cut lines for the foam.  I always cut the foam a little big, then trim it to size later with a smaller hot wire cutter or a rasp.

Be sure to mark the "keeper" pieces and the trash pieces.

Once the template is cut, I transfer the cut lines to the foam stock with a red Sharpie.  I'll go back and touch up the lines that were interrupted with the tape.

I cut out the foam layer with the heavy duty hot cutter.   Here is what it looks like.  Notice it is very close to the track line.  Later we'll trim it down and round it off.

The canyon is getting deeper.  A quick hit with a heat gun will smooth this out.

As you can see the top of the locomotive is higher than the foam.  All good until we hit the tunnel!

Later I'll add another stack of foam.   Its quiet upstairs.  Time to sneak by them and get a sandwich.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

008 Mammoth Cave RR - Gorge Time

Once the trains start running, the kids become very interested.  They were upstairs playing until they heard the train.  Luckily, Taylor (age 10 now) is good with the camera, so she took all the pictures while I worked.

I traced the train track on the foam then drew in the second level trackage.  I'm getting ready to cut out the gorge and put on the second tier of foam.

I've been photo bombed by Katie, now five years old and sporting a lollipop.

The camera person just can't be left out, so she shot a selfie, also with a lollipop.

You can see from the drawing that there is a river and a gorge that runs along the center of the layout.  The cave is further back near the tunnel portals.

Using different color Sharpee markers I drew the canyon and the river, as well as all the structures.

The Digitrax unit is on a shelf below the layout, but isn't fastened down yet, so I have to be careful when moving the layout around.

I removed the soldered track and set it over on the Navajo Mining Railway while I work on the scenery.

Everything is drawn on the first level, so now is the time to cut.

I'm using a heat knife that I bought some years ago from Harbor Freight.  It is my second as they don't last long.

This is a slow and boring process.  Luckily the girls keep me entertained.

I pitch the blade at a slight angle to mimic the sides of the canyon.

Once the section is cut (about 15 minutes) then I remove the inside of the canyon and keep for later use as scenery material.

Here is the lower part of the gorge.  Imagine a small pond in the middle with two small waterfalls and lots of large Kentucky rocks on both sides.  Better start making ferns!  I can't wait to show the NMRA guys the Southern scenery.  Everyone here models the Utah rock scenery, which is amazing, but EVERY layout has it.  Thought I'd do something different.

Once the inside part is removed you can see that we have some depth here.  There will be a nice bridge spanning this cravass.

There!  Next we'll make the second level which will be much more difficult and will require a lot of cutting.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

007 Mammoth Cave RR - Running Trains!

I hooked up the Digitrax DCC system to the layout using just two feeder wires.  Let's give her a go!

The locomotive is a bit rusty and needs some work, but its been running for an hour now with no problems or derailments.  The two heavy 20' cars are tracking well out of the box.

What fun to finally have some trains running in my basement again.

Monday, November 30, 2015

006 Mammoth Cave RR - Track Gang at Work

I moved the layout into the bigger basement room to be warm by the fireplace and to have more elbow room.  Aside from 107 interruptions by Wicked Witch of the West, I am getting some work done.

Each section of the track is being carefully trimmed and filed to fit.  I'm starting with code 70 rail joiners for code 83 track as they fit a little tighter.

Aside from the soldering iron, these are the tools I'm mostly using for the trackwork.

Today I started using the code 70 rail joiners but they were just too tight, even when trying to open them on the widening tool.  Can't afford to have my hands gouged, so I switched back to the loose code 83 joiners.

My mobile tool bench has everything I need for track work and it can roll around the layout with me.  The light is the most helpful to my eyes as seeing tiny things even with glasses is tough.

I"m using Rick Wade's gifted weights that are so handy!  They hold the track in place while I solder.

I've decided since I don't have the turnout I need and can't afford a replacement, I'll just do without.  We have a simple loop of track now.

 The loop of track is done!  You know what comes next???

Sunday, November 29, 2015

005 Mammoth Cave RR - Foam! Foam on the Range!


Oh give me a home,
And a truckload of foam!
And track and some turnouts to lay.
Then seldom you'll see,
A much happier me!
And I'll be in the basement all day!

The Foam Fairy gave me a present!  I was very sad that I was going to have to go to Home Depot and spend about $100 on foam sheets for the layout as I was out of stock.  Then the Foam Fairy, without provocation, called me the other day and said he had tons of foam and would I like some.  I couldn't say yes fast enough!  Thank you my friend Steve Moore of K.I.S.S Method here in Salt Lake.  He had a big supply and gave me enough to build the layout.  If you aren't familiar with his products, check them out  I have all his planning templates and use them frequently.

After clearing out the family card table in the basement I laid the layout on the larger piece of foam.

Using a Sharpee, I outlined the layout for a cutting diagram.  With a very sharp razor knife I scored and broke the foam.

With the layout mounted I test fit the foam and it fits great.  It is very hard to cut foam with a straight edge.

Using an old piece of HO track I test fit the curves.  The drywall square and orange Sharpee marker laid in the straight sections of track on the lower level.  Little Katie was listening to Michael Jackson songs and I was dancing, which is very hard to do when you are laying track.

I test fit the straight track and then began forming the curves.  They are very tight at ten and a half inch radius, but the trains handle them well.  Gotta love On30!

@$%!@#$%@!!!!   I thought I had a LEFT HAND turnout but every On30 turnout in the box was a RIGHT HAND.  That sucks.  I IM's my buddy Jim Wanlass at Jamestown Trains to see if he had one laying around.  He didn't but he offered to build me one from scratch.  What a great offer, but I need to get the track down tomorrow, so I had to pass.  When I got through crying I just grabbed an HO scale #4 and put it down until I can get a Peco or ME turnout to fill in.

I cut and fit and filed and fit.  Pieces are being prepared.  This could take a long time as you have to have the track on a display layout run ABSOLUTELY PERFECTLY.  There are no shortcuts.  We'll do some more on the track tomorrow.  Want to get a running loop going!!!

Saturday, November 28, 2015

004 Mammoth Cave RR - Benchwork The Sequel

Let's take a look at some things I did on the benchwork...

While the benchwork is all painted flat black, I did paint optic orange where the legs go.  This makes it easier to see when the layout is covered in scenery, and helps keep me from mounting anything to these areas.  This is Testor's Orange.

Here you can see it better when I lift the frame.

The corner round molding is about 2 1/2" long, just short of the three inch height of the board.  Its glued in but no other fasteners are required.

Here is the interlocking "waffle grid" on the outside beam.  It is sanded flush.

The legs come in just short of the top of the layout so that they won't interfere with the foam surface.  Does that sound like experience?

With most every joint glued and reinforced the layout is very strong and still lightweight.

Here is the valley "depression" for the river or lake.

This front board can be removed to make the canyon even deeper (negative benchwork) if I so choose.

 This board can be cut or removed completely, then replaced by a profile cut plywood board if the canyon goes below the benchwork.  It may not happen, but its good to have the option.

I drilled to 1/2" wire holes in the table.  Not straight, but they will never be seen.

Here is the support for the layout.  The layout is lifted slightly so you can see where it goes.

The frame sits all the way across the beam for a good sturdy fit.  I'll then clamp them together with a strong clamp with the layout is on display.

The benchwork is level and straight, but the camera guy is a bit off center.  Ask his friends, they will tell you the same.

The cross beam has been cut out to handle the canyon.  It can't be removed as the layout rests on this beam.

I did put a piece of track down because I'm excited to get to work.  Business has been VERY stressful, and I've been away from the trains for a while.  Its cold outside, so this is the way I'll relax until Margarita season.

I'm going to use 2" foam for the base and the second layer.  It is heavier than you think, so I'll surgically remove some inner foam and scrape out some underneath to drop a few pounds.

The test caboose will always be present.  It is taller than most of my cars, and wider, has bad wheels and has been dropped a few times.  If it runs on the layout, the layout is perfect!

Ok, now we go to Home Depot and get some foam...