Thursday, December 5, 2019

Steam Power on my Port Costa Layout - Epistle 1

Port Costa was one of the final outposts of steam on the Southern Pacific and the small 2-8-0 consolidations and 2-6-0 moguls lasted well into 1956. This is one of the primary reasons I chose this location to model. 

But good HO SP consolidation models are not easy for me to come by. New ones are very rare and cost over $1000. I am reluctant to buy older models I will have to paint and wire for DCC.   I was fortunate to find the locomotive numbered 2575 in a private sale at a reasonable price.  It is a Sunset model that had been professionally painted, DCC installed along with a Tsunami sound system.  I am not too keen on the sound and as I now have to wear a hearing aid in one ear and the other ear almost profoundly deaf, it is not my highest priority. It doesn't sound right so I resort to F8 to silence the locomotive.  The tender is still unlettered and after researching the C-9 series in "Southern Pacific Consolidation 2-8-0. Pictorial Album Series Volume 1"  I decided to renumber it 2568 as the running boards on that engine matched the model with a high step. 2575 had a lower stepped running board at the front running around the cylinder pipe. I would like the new C-9 or 10's to have Vanderbilt tenders. Interesting enough I spotted 2568 in an 1950 photo of Port Costa with a whaleback tender.

The Bachmann heavy Baldwin consolidation is an interesting story. I understand Bachmann based this 1990's model on an Illinois Central 1920's Baldwin prototype. There was a plan a while ago for Owl Mountain to produce 3 D printed slanted cylinders, valve gear and domes to match the common SP locomotive style which unfortunately did not go anywhere. I then found a picture of a series of Cotton Belt 2-8-0's transferred to the Coast and Western Division in 1956 to use up their remaining boiler time before being scrapped. These it turns out were almost identical to the Bachmann model with similar dome shape and positioning, cylinders and valve gear. The tenders were similar but with different heavier tender trucks. They were numbered 2861-67 on the Pacific Lines but lasted a only a few months before scrapping.  I had given the Bachmann model the open number 2870 and a fictional background as one of a pair of Oregon lumber company locomotives acquired by the SP in the late 1940's. I planned to add 2869 later. They were fictionally assigned class C-13, a class vacated by scrapped 19th century consolidations by the 1950's.  

But suppose 2869 and 2870 were purchased by the SP from the SSW/Cotton Belt about 1950 during their early dieselization for the specific purpose of adding muscle to the helpers needed to move very heavy eastbound trains up the grade east of Martinez to the Carquinez Strait/Benicia bridge and still fit on the turntable at Port Costa.  A not entirely implausible fiction. I no longer need to do the surgery. I am looking for a good deal on another soundless but DCC wired Bachmann Baldwin heavy 2-8-0. 

Both 2870 and 2568 need to be fitted with a keep alive so they can navigate Peco electrofrog turnouts without having to wire the turnout frog. The diesel switchers work fine through these turnouts. Oh for that glorious day to come of bluetooth/wifi dead rail and no reliance on track wiring for power or control.

I could do with at least 2-3 more C-9 and/or C-10 locomotives to populate the Port Costa ready tracks and roundhouse.  And I would love to add a pair of M-6 moguls (or an M-6 and M-9) to represent the engines used on the San Ramon branch line based at Port Costa. The station at Walnut Creek is still in my long range planning .

I have a pair of IHC 2-6-0's that are sort of representations of M-4's. But to my knowledge the M-4's were based at Fairfield and worked the very light Calistoga branch along with local switching.  The IHC moguls will take a lot of work to make into good robust working models. I had just started on one of them just before the ceiling collapse in February 2019 took my office/train room and caused me to scrap my old Padstow layout.  I had just worked a bit on a shorty Vanderbilt tender built from a  Bachmann sort of UP like switch engine before the deluge.

The only other SP steam power that may yet grace the turntable at Port Costa is a pair of MDC 4-6-0's that represent T-28 locomotives. I built these in the early 1980's and spent a lot of time removing cast on details and replacing them with brass castings. They never worked very well and will need a complete new approach to the chassis, drivers and everything else to bring them up to any level of working on a DCC layout.

Answer to "Is Rolling stock prototype accuracy relevant to you?"

This was a response to a topic titled " Is Rolling stock prototype accuracy relevant to you?" in the MRH forum.
The concept of  accuracy has changed for me over time. I used to buy anything that was labeled SP or UP or PFE without much care for accuracy. But this cycle in my modeling (each cycle seems to last about 10 years) I have caught the reasonable accuracy bug. I don't expect any RTR manufacturer to be 100% accurate. These days if I need the specific item to support my layout concept and equipment collection and can get within 90-95%, it is usually good enough for mass produced items. I also have to balance affordability with my desire for accuracy. And I sort of love the challenge of tinkering and the additional work to create a 95-99% accurate model. 
Understand that I like building models more than any other aspect of the hobby. My a-building layout will be more of an accurate if compressed diorama where I can display, photograph and occasionally run the models I build.  A little bit of switching now and then is always enjoyable. It's just I hate wiring with a passion.
I love the new trends in resin and plastic kits towards higher standards of accuracy. Historical societies (SP, NP, UP and others)  have sponsored special runs of items that are closer than anything mass produced. Resin kits such as from Yarmouth,  Resin Car Works and Westerfield have enabled a higher degree of accuracy but at a fairly high cost.  (If I compare the cost of the recent Rapido NP boxcar to a resin kit and factor in the additional materials I and time I contribute the RTR is much cheaper.)  Owl Mountain and similar small manufacturers have achieved incredible results by making plastic kits with great attention to replicating accurate detail. 
And recently I received a highly accurate South Eastern and Chatham Railway 10 ton RTR OO scale van (small box car) from the UK that had been semi-mass produced through an new 3D printing process that enabled a run of 800 items at a reasonable cost. Hopefully this technology will come to the US and find a mechanism to organize, fund the building and distribution of RTR or kit for the rarer or railroad specific items mass manufacturers would shun or promise and never deliver. Clubs  and historical societies doing a go fund me sort of project might work.
The quest for accuracy goes beyond rolling stock. Structures and the civil engineering of the track and operating fixtures needed for service of steam and diesel locomotives and maintenance of way need just as much effort as my PFE car collection. Right now I am trying to build the 70 foot manually operated shallow pit turntable that is the central object in the small layout's scene. I will have to organize more detailed searches in archives and photo collections to start in the new year. I have gone through any number of Tichy windows to get the closest size match for the freight and operations office/station (there is no scheduled stopping passenger service in the period I model). Freight house doors I have to build from scratch. I am fortunate that there is an accurate laser cut kit for the "roundhouse" or engine shed that I have purchased to build.
I fully realize there are those who do not share my passion. There are Lionel operators and prototype operators and those who like the fanciful and mythical. I occasionally go a bit mythical to justify equipment that would not have appeared in the time frame of my modeling. For others the 3 foot rule is good enough. I love prototyping structures for my layout made from paper board as fill ins until I can build the accurate model. 

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

Structure Mockups

I like to mock up structures long before I get around to doing the detail buildings.  Sometimes it is a long time before I will get around to the detail construction but I really want something to give me a location and size.

So two important structures other than the roundhouse that I needed to visualize are the freight station and the enormous water tower/tank that loomed over the station and section house. Ron Pleis article in RMC indicated the water tank was 45 feet in diameter. However it was on a low wood platform (not steel) only about 14 feet high as it was also up a bit  on the slope of the hill to the west of downtown Port Costa.  The mock up is just some cardboard bent to form a 45 foot diameter tank. I covered it badly with black duct tape as it was on hand to give it the right coloration. It's mounted on blocks of wood and granite counter samples to approximate the height. I don't know if I will model the water treatment building(s?) behind the section house on some sort of angle where the very square corner of the two sections of the layout now join.

The backside of the freight station (the freight house is the smaller building next door) does not show up in most pictures of the station area. There was one tantalizing view from an angle in Ron's RMC article. Ron attributes the picture to Bob Morris, but Bob has indicated to me that he does not have that picture.  Because my layout is viewed looking north over the Carquinez Straits the backside of the station building will be highly visible. Anyway I analyzed that picture for window and door locations and made an assumption that the windows and doors were the same size as on the well documented track side. The mockup below is some cardboard covered with yellow frog masking tape with unpainted Tichy doors and windows tacked to it in the locations I guessed at. The freight door is scratch built and a test bed for SP freight freight house trim brown. The small 4 pane window is too large and will be replaced. 

Note: I recently found a picture of the backside of the station building on the Contra Costa County Historical website.  The backside of the building visible above will change shortly.

Tuesday, November 5, 2019

Quiet Please, Camera, Action

Just a brief note to say that last night an #1474, an Alco S-4 traversed 13 feet of track on the Port Costa layout. The wiring is somewhat temporary as is the track at the west end. But it is now a real operating model railroad.

Sunday, October 27, 2019

First trackage tentatively fixed down and away we go....

The Port Costa Engine house kit from Banta arrived on Thursday (10/24/2019).  I immediately opened the box and found the sub floor for the engine house and started really planning the trackage. Three days later this is the result:

This is looking westward towards Oakland from the east end of the layout. If you are at all familiar with the SP at Port Costa you will hopefully recognize the scene with the track to McNear's warehouse to the left, the open tracks, the round house tracks and east turntable approach track. Beyond to the right are the engine service track, two Port Costa yard tracks, the eastbound main, the westbound main and I plan one last siding to the north next to the wall.  I will probably permanently park a string of completed SP boxcar kits against the wall to cover up the unseen waters edge edge of Carquinez straits

This is an SP rough drawing of the track plan for installation of a new water crane to show you what I am aiming towards.

I have added the crossover turnouts to not shown on the plan and the orientation of the east end turnouts to access the fictional beginning of the San Ramon Valley branch line just to the right of Port Costa instead of 10 miles further east at Avon on the Mococo line.  Just got to do what ya got to do when you have no space and want to somehow attach a model of the Type 18 Walnut Creek depot somewhere on the tiny layout. I haven't redrawn my overall plan to you can go back a few posts to see what I intend. 

The crossovers are intended to allow a westbound train off the branch to enter the westbound main. The SP would never have contemplated a double or single slip turnout for a location like this.

I also finally received a set of ordered Tichy windows that will closely match the size of the freight station office building. Previous sets made the distances between windows too close. 

Photo from Bob Morris collection

Ignore the numbers on the side of the building photo, I was trying to calculate the height by the number of pieces of siding.  The windows are shown against a cardboard mockup of the 16 foot tall 85 foot long building.  

The freight door is scratch built as I could not find the correct one in anyone's catalog of plastic moldings. The 8 pane windows were Tichy 8028 27x62 single double hung, 8064 59x64 double double hung. and 8070 59x64 double double hung with some windows open to give it variety.  The small 4 pane window probably for a bathroom needs to be replaced with one about half that size.  I will now have to mock up the rear side of the building which is not well documented. 

Saturday morning I had a delightful 1 hour phone conversation with Ron Pleis who built the July-August 2000 RMC featured version of Port Costa. Learned a lot. I have a lot more research to do.

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.

Added 10/19/2019
Last photos before track and everything else gets built. I have sprayed the polycarbonate sheet with a matte primer. 

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. 

Tuesday, June 4, 2019

More on the Port Costa-WC layout design

More on the Port Costa-WC layout design
The design is a modeling display layout rather than an operations oriented replication of freight and passenger movements. Track arrangements at Port Costa an Walnut Creek replicate condensed track plans of actual locations. Avon is a bit more fanciful.  
I operate strictly with DCC fitted locomotives. Trackwork will be a mix of Peco Code 83 and Code 70, Micro-Engineering and possibly others. I have a good stash of Peco Code 75 that will suffice until their Code 70 turnouts are available. Turnout control is another issue. I am used to just hand throwing Peco turnouts. I feel it mimics a brakeman's job on a real railroad.  I certainly have no plans to power turnouts and create a wiring nightmare. Manual push pull controls are probably an adequate solution for me.
I am probably going to add a friends suggestion of a cart fiddle yard/staging connection at the end of Walnut Creek to allow for longer length and by making it double allow for turning a 3 foot train segment. One could look at that as a truncated homage to the original purpose of Port Costa as the southern terminus of the SP car ferry that moved all mainline trains across the Carquinez strait until a bridge was completed in 1928.  The ferry pier tracks would have been located coming off the outside of the curve in the lower right corner. I will possibly do a John Allen style bridge and mirror where it is marked Martinez, Sac , ROW (Rest of World) in the upper left corner.
Note the 5 sections/modules and their dimensions. These form the requirements for the benchwork sections.  Benchwork is my agony. Trying to find a way to create the support structure for the layout at a one meter height that will allow copious under layout storage space.  It is my big hangup and problem of commitment to one solution or another. 

Monday, May 27, 2019

My Port Costa-Avon SP Layout Soon to Start Construction

The ceiling in the previous blog post has finally been repaired and I am gradually moving back into the office/trainroom. 

This is the tentative drawing of a plan to fill a nine by eleven foot space of the eleven by eleven foot room with three of my favorite scences from near my home. The objective (and preference) is not to create an operations oriented pike, but model a set of scenes mostly for display of my rolling stock. Any SP Western Division trains Eastbound to Sacramento or Tracy and Westbound to Crockett and Oakland will be able to move only a few feet. What action there is would be moving a few cars to and from Avon and Walnut Creek.

This layout will be built on a series of removable tables not attached to the walls of my townhouse office and trainroom. The Walnut Creek module is freestanding with a two foot space between it and a wall completely covered with built in cabinets and bookshelves along with a wet bar. The design of the freestanding shelf/table like structures is still in flux. The height is limited to 40 inches at the sub roadbed surface. I plan to maximize storage of rolling stock, parts and painting supplies under the layout. I can no longer do any carpentry so the sub-roadbed will likely be a foam board of some type. Under the Avon side is a 28 by 48 inch workbench. That wall also has a 6 foot long window. and Avon yard will run in front of the window.

Port Costa with its 70 foot turntable small engine terminal is a favorite. I have tried to include as much of the trackage as possible but have had to resort to curved turnouts at both ends and considerable compression through shortened trackage. Outside the engine terminal trackage the turnout placement is fictional. The Martinez junction has been moved to the east end of Port Costa. Avon is a truncated small yard with the east wye leg omitted. Walnut Creek is shortened at the south end with about 500 yards missing. It is primarily to display the depot and railroad related structures I am building.

I have not sufficiently mastered any of the available free layout design or drawing software packages so my planning is stil pencil and graph paper.

Friday, March 15, 2019

The End of Padstow Mark 1

Rick Stein (of Padstein restaurant infame) is not involved that we know of. (UK joke.)

On the night of February 19, 2019 water from a rainstorm two days earlier had backed up on the flat roof of my townhouse and leaked through the roofing onto the sheetrock ceiling of my office and train room. A 4 foot by 4 foot panel of sheetrock detached from the ceiling and fell swinging down from the paper coating slowly. It did not hit the 2 foot by 11 foot layout based on the trackage at Padstow minus the long pier or my workbench. While the layout and workbench were intact, I was informed that the room would ultimately need to be cleared of furniture and fixings to repair the damage to the ceiling and repaint the ceiling after the external roof was repaired. It has been over 3 weeks since that disaster and unfortunately we have not had enough dry days in a row for the roof to dry out so it can be replaced by the roofers.

I have boxed and binned most of the train stuff from the room. But, alas, the time has come to tackle the rather poorly build layout. It was simpley a 2 X 8 sheet of fiber insulation board on top of supporting 1X2 boards supported by 3 wood TV tray tables. There was an 3 X 2 extension with a shallow manual turntable and locomotive storage tracks that did not exist at Padstow. Any actual storage or shedwork was done at Wadebridge where there was a Southern Railway sub shed.

The design really only afforded a place to pose or switch either my English prototype collection of postware Southern Railway and related 4 mm scale (00) scale or my growing collection of US 1947-54 US Southern Pacific passenger and freight equipment. It was built from an assortment of Peco Code 100 Streamline turnouts going back 15 years and older Atlas code 100 track with wider thicker ties. I have ripped out the turnouts. Much of the wiring was from a previous pre-DCC Great Western Brixham branch line terminal layout from 2003-2010.

It is not really a great loss and I feel no real regret at its demolition. It is almost and air of exultation that comes with an out with the old in with the new anticipation. The turnouts have been saved although their future is in doubt as new layout(s) when built will use more modern trackage components. If it is totally British in outline it will use new Peco Code 75 “bullhead” rail components when they become available. On the other-hand the first to be rebuilt could be to North American prototype track with Micro Engineering and new Peco Code 70 USA line components. I also have some Peco Code 75 flat bottom European HO track turnouts on hand now that have not really been used and may be used to augment the newer track. Flex track would be Micro Engineering code 70.

All the buildings from Padstow station area have been saved. If I get the energy I will build a separate 3 2X4 modular layout that can be stored when not in use to show of English Southern modeling efforts. This will happen only when there is a full range of Peco bullhead rail components available.

I am also thinking about how I can rebuild so that I can model the Walnut Creek station area on the Southern Pacific San Ramon valley branch and maybe the branch interchange at Avon Contra Costa. If I had the space I would start with the small engine terminal at Port Costa, the Sacramento/San Joaquin junction at Martinez and then the Avon yard with interchange to the US Navy Port Chicago terminal railroad as will as the San Ramon branch. Unfortunately this would probably depend on winning a substantial lottery prize. At my age (75) it is probably just a dream goal.

A more realistic proposal for my small 11 foot by 11 foot area is to remove the book cases in the office and put a new Avon/Port Costa shelf layout along the north wall at a 45 inch height. My office desk, PC and printer would go under the layout. The big chair will have to go and only a single roll-around office chair used. The office has to stay here as this is the location for the high speed ATT phone/data connection and the WiFi router. This modular shelf layout would have two tail tracks. One on the short 5 foot west wall and another extending 9-10 feet over the work bench on the east wall. This would be at the 45 inch height.

Along the South all in front of the built in cherry bookshelves, a new Padstow Mark set of modules would be built with a curve at the east end to get to a pair of storage/staging tracks in front of the windows and below the SP layout staging. The workbench desk would have to be replaced and move out.

As I do not anticipate full re-occupancy of the train room/office before the end of April, this construction effort will take place over most of the rest of the year with the goal of full operational track work by December 2019.

Sunday, January 13, 2019

SP Engine rebuild project

I actually have a new SP Engine rebuild project. I acquired 2 IHC pseudo SP M-4's for $19.95 each. I had thought about using the cylinders for a Bachmann C-9 rebuild.  However an M-4 or M-6 are more appropriate for my current SP modeling passion, the San Ramon Branch.  Time to work on these in 2019 while waiting for Intermountain 70 Ton covered hopper kits to show up. 

Any thoughts about re-motoring and DCC upgrade are welcome. I have a lot to do on this engine. I need to locate an MDC shorty Vanderbilt tender for one of the M-4's.  I plan to scratch a whale back tender too and may do that first to house the decoder.

I have ordered a Bachmann "shorty" Vanderbilt tender from Bachmann Parts that appears to resemble the short tenders M-4's had. It cost as much as the two IHC engines combined.  And now I need a new decoder as I have none in stock at home. This is rapidly getting to be an expensive project.  Well my other pre-orders are not looking like they will arrive in the near future.