Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Behold a Virgin Baseboard

At long last I have the infrastructure for the Port Costa layout nearing completion. The benchwork for sections A-C and stub to begin section D have been completed and the foamboard surface has been fully fitted to the area available. 

A few more pieces of 1 X 2 poplar as joists are needed for section B to support the 1 x 1/2 inch wood trim that borders the foamboard sheets to protect it and make it look a little neater. All joists that support the trim border will need to be trimmed to a uniform length.   There is a piece of the 1 x 1/2 fir trim along the back of the baseboard.  At some point this will be used to support a backscene of the strait and the Benicia shore across the water. It will be a vague and misty scene about 18 inches in height with the aura of the fog creeping through the strait from San Francisco Bay obscuring any detail.  I haven't tried any scenic painting in over 60 years.

Section A at the far left looks huge from the perspective of looking through the door. Its not as it is only 16 X 42 inches. I will have to erect a barrier at the end of the tracks in that section to avoid trains flying off the end

The next phase is to prep the 1/16 thick polycarbonate sheet that covers the foam board.  I found out today that Home Depot does not sell Krylon spray paint or any matt or flat spray can paint. So it means a visit to Lowes, a big box I like even less than Home Depot. I am looking for a matt light shell color that Krylon advertises. Their camo colors are too dark. 

After that I will start the tracklaying phase. The first task is to finalize the location for the turntable and roundhouse. I have the Banta kit for the Port Costa roundhouse on order and once that is on hand will be able to locate the structure and cut the turntable pit. Interestingly Peco has just this week announced a turntable motor and control as a separate item at a reasonable cost. I am tempted to order one and see if I can abandon my planned manual armstrong method of turntable control which while prototype for Port Costa would present constant problems with all the overhead steam lines that criss crossed the engine service area. Once the location of the turntable is finalized and a pit constructed I can finish the turntable.

No fancy lighting or shadow boxes are planned. This is more a diorama than an operational model railroad. Just a place for me to run my kit bashed boxcars, reefers and a few other models back and forth.

Tuesday, September 17, 2019

Slowly and Unsurely we plot along on the Port Costa Layout

What you see is the Port Costa trackage that I am shoehorning into my available space. This is more of a diorama than an operations type layout designed to show of my kit building and bashing efforts. It will be DCC for now as true deadrail with no rail power is not yet at a RTR drop in stage. 
This is based on photos of Port Costa in the early 1950's. The period I am modeling is 1952-54 during the time I first lived in San Francisco.  I was only 8-10 years old so did not visit Port Costa at that time. My parents were evangelical teetotalers and would have considered Port Costa at that time a den of iniquity. 
The Bull Valley Roadhouse just a few feet from where the last station building sat is an excellent restaurant with a large and innovative cocktail menu. Unfortunately one has to limit consumption as the windy twisty little road in or out of Port Costa is dangerous sober. 
Starting from the back tracks in order are
  1. Carquinez strait side storage siding
  2. Westbound SP main from Martinez in direction of Crockett
  3. Eastbound SP main from Oakland in direction of Martinez and then splits to Sacramento and Tracy
  4. Track 1 Port Costa switching
  5. Track 2 Port Costa switching
  6. Engine service track 
Then the turntable and in front of the turntable the Port Costa house track with the non-passenger station and freight house.  At the far right there is a siding for the oil and diesel delivery to the engine terminal. The curving track to the far right should continue with the other trackage to Martinez but I am putting in the branch connection for the San Ramon branch that should be 10 miles further on the Tracy line at Avon.  My module for Walnut Creek depot will go behind the desk/workbench.
Note that this will be DCC for now as true deadrail is not yet ready to just drop into HO locomotives. I long for that blessed day when all the electrical wiring will go away.
Left corner with the bend in the mainline towards Crockett
 The west side of the Port Costa layout
 The east side of the Port Costa layout

Sunday, August 25, 2019

Foamboard Follies Continued

I was concerned from the start on the durability of the Elmer's foam board when exposed to wet scenery or even spraying a latex paint coat. This is why I have it covered in 1/6 plastic. I next plan to remove the plastic and paint it with a flat latex sand color to form the earth colored underlay for the Port Costa yard. When that step has been completed I can begin to lay track. Port Costa is only 18 miles away from my home and I been there many times.
Track will not be laid directly on the foamboard/plastic surface. I am using Woodland Scenics dense foam roadbed underlay for all trackage. I have used this in the past on a previous layout with good results. Ballasting track is a long way into the future but the layers should provide protection to the foam board layer. 
This layout is being built before the advent of true dead rail so there will be some wiring. Much of it will be "trenched " on the surface in true prototype utility fashion rather than under the table. I detest under the table wiring with great passion. I currently use DCC to eliminate the necessity of any block style control. If I could eliminate the need for electrical power flowing through the trackage I would.
I will be cutting into the foam board layer to build a turntable pit. The pit needs to be 20 mm or 3/4 inch deep. The benchwork has been designed with that in mind.
I checked on Gator Board and Gator Foam board availability. I could not find retail sources that would sell it in large enough sheets in small quantities without special ordering. In hindsight I probably could have gotten away with 1/2 inch plywood much cheaper than the route I have taken but it is in my nature to take the less trodden path or try to find a new way.
Current as of 8/25/2019. More turnouts have been ordered to replace Peco Code 75 stand-ins.

Saturday, July 20, 2019

More Benchwork Progress

I am finally test assembling the initail section benchwork for the layout. This gives me a 72X32 inch working surface that will underlie the most complicated trackwork and turntable. The tray table milk carton are there to support the test assembly. In order to get the legs and cross supports square and accurate, I will unbolt the L girders, build the supports and then re-assemble. There is a lower cross support to keep the leg assembies rigid. Like archeologists I will  carefully mark which leg and L girder now go together to ensure they go back the same way. The printer and PC are going on a lower stand before the final assembly.  I am working in fairly tight area hear so things have to move around for each step. The sections will have the 2 inch high full locking casters mounted after the legs are in place to bring the top of benchwork to bring the level height to 40 inches. This will clear the rolling storage carts that will go under the layout .
I am still playing around with baseboards. The advocates of foamcore over sheet extruded foam probably have the upper leg as I have no friends with an available pickup or large SUV to go 40-50 miles to the nearest Home Depot that sells 1 and 2 inch extruded foam. I can easily drive 10 miles to a Blicks Art Supplies and buy 40 X 60 sheets of 1/2 inch foamcore to form the baseboard in my mini SUV. I can laminate two sheets together to create a fairly sturdy 1" thick baseboard. The turntable pit depth problem will be solved by taking a 1/2 inch piece of plywood and mounting it under the lip of the L girder to support the pit and give me more than adequate depth. The turntable and engine shed are the focus or crown jewel of this layout representing Port Costa 1947-54 so everything must be designed around that feature.

2 40X60 sheets of half inch foamcore waiting for final completion of section C

I keep plugging along. I am designing the A section for along the wall perpendicular to the C section above and the connecting B section which may be suspended between the A and C sections.  See my earlier diagram posted in this blog. The A section will be similar to the C section in construction but only 20 inches wide.  It is about 56 inches long. 


Thursday, July 18, 2019

Benchwork Continued Part 2-Section C Almost There

It takes me about a week to do each major task in building the first section of the benchwork. I have now completed the two sides of the major section which I am tackling first. On my initial map it is section C. I intially thought it would be 30 inches wide but after laying out the trackwork using the free trial version of Anyrail I have had to conclude it will need to be 33 inches at the widest point. Fully assembled, section C will be about 32 inches wide. 1 X 2 screwed to the side for about 48 inches that need this width will probably work.

I finally bought a hand mitre saw for $11 at Harbor Freight so I could correct the mis-cut on one piece of the four poplar 1 X 3's  that will form the cross braces for the legs. I thought about how to attach the cross braces with my minimal toolset and working alone. It gave me a nightmare. So I will remove the legs from the L girders to attach the cross pieces and then somehow rebolt it together working slowly and carefully. I used carriage bolts for this very reason. I am carefully labeling legs and girders to ensure any minor offsets from perfect measurement will go together.
This is how it is supposed to go together when I test fit the legs after completing the L girders.
After the two leg and cross piece components are bolted back to the L girders I will raise the structure high enough to screw in the casters and raise the whole structure to the 40 inch planned height. 

I may work on the sub-roadbed after that and install the initial turnouts and connecting track for Port Costa to ensure my plans work. By then I also hope to have the turntable and pit built. Getting 1 or 2 inch pink extruded foam and transporting it from the nearest Home Depot that sells it (about 40 miles away) is proving to be a problem. No one I know has a pickup or SUV with the needed room to move the 96 X48 inch sheets. 

I am going to test using multiple sheets of 1/2 inch foamcore from Blick in 4 layers to give me the 2 inch base needed to accomodate the depth of the turntable pit. After I assemble section C I may find a way to provide a floor suspended from the L girders to handle the turntable pit depth problem and reduce the foamcore to 2 or 3 layers. I have some 1/2 inch plywood that may provide as suspended base.

Beyond that I have spent a lot of time thinking about section A which will be 66 by 20 inches. And also about section B to connect A and C. Currently this will not be a full benchwork structure with its own legs but rather a 1 X 2  structure supported from both A and C sections.  I have some 1 X 2 that was used to support the celotex baseboard of the old Padstow layout.

Sunday, June 30, 2019

Benchwork Continued

Some of the paralysis has subsided. I finally committed to wood for the first section of benchwork, section C which is the largest. I went to my local Rockler and had them custom cut poplar planks and 4 36" 2X2 cherry legs to get me going. Expensive, yes about $100. I am not sure the remaining modules will be built like this but I am following Fugate's MRH Tomar philosophy to get me started. 

The wood is beautiful. Almost furniture like. These are photos of the first two L girders and legs. I am debating how to attach the legs with respect to the cross braces. 

Work area. Using wood tray tables as saw horses. L girder top is glued and then screwed to top 

First Girder done

First leg cross piece option

second cross piece option

Friday, June 7, 2019

Benchwork Paralysis Continues

Actually I have been thinking again about the custom woodwork idea. The price of cabinet grade lumber is steep these days but I am coming around to that as possibly the only solution that I can get accomplished. 
Along those lines I started to do what a modeler does when frustrated and build a model of part of the benchwork to give me an idea of what I would need to have cut.  
The attached photo is a 1 inch = 1 foot concept model of the benchwork section C on my plan.  It would be the largest of the sections being 30 inches by 72 inches.  The plan would be (harder to get) 1 X 3 or 1 X 4 wood for the L girder and 2 X 2 legs.  The lower strengthening  pieces would again be 1 X 3 or 1 X 4.  Note that the L girder that is in back by the wall is reversed. This section is 6 feet long and 30 inches wide. The height is 36 inches which allows for up to 4 inches for 1 X 2 cross pieces and 1 or 2 inch foam sub roadbed to reach the maximum planned modeling surface height of 40 inches. 
There are no grades in my trackplan. I plan on using a 1 inch foam as the basic line and adding another 1 inch foam that can be cut out to provide a little surface elevation relief and allow for the turntable depth.  
I am looking for stability and rigidity more than mobility. All wood pieces would be attached by screws.  It could be collapsed back into a pile of cut lumber when I need to move out.